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MKK: Baraka

Mortal Kombat 1 took place on Shang Tsung’s magical karate island, a wonderland of fists that you would likely see in any “kung-fu movie” from Kentucky Fried Movie to at least seventeen Bruce Lee features. Mortal Kombat 2, however, was meant to showcase Outworld, the realm of Shao Kahn, Shang Tsung and, most importantly, Goro. Outworld had to be a fantastic land to feature such fantastic creatures, so, naturally, the architects of the Mortal Kombat franchise quickly defined the realm as one giant toilet.

So purple


Outworld features fabulous purple, barren landscapes. It contains acid pits and flesh pits. There are deserts aplenty, pointed mountains, and forests full of freaky-faced trees. While it has never been confirmed in-game, it is naturally assumed that Outworld smells like the ass end of an ass. People ride giant bugs through the sky. There is, like, one Waffle House, and it’s been closed for “repairs” since 1997. You do not want to spend any time in Outworld.

However, a lot of different races live in Outworld. Shao Kahn may have been trying to conquer Earth for (at least) the last 500 years, but he was actually successful in conquering other dimensions. As a result, Outworld has become a veritable melting pot of eclectic cultures and people (all trying to kill each other). Residents of Outworld include:

· Outworlders – Your basic human-esque race, but extremely long-lived, and with a greater affinity for magic. Basically elves without the ears.

· Edenians- Same, but they’re officially the conquered race of Outworld.

· Wizards- Fuggin’ wizards are their own race in Outworld, and it’s illegal to not hire a wizard just because they’re a filthy wizard.

GORO!

· Shokan – Goro’s race of four-armed people that have not yet mastered the ability to produce shirts. They are occasionally described as half-dragon or half-tiger, but are all into ponytails.

· Centaurians- Motaro’s race of centaurs. Sometimes they’re satyrs, because they’re going through some stuff.

· Zaterrans- Reptile’s race of… uh… reptiles. They’re mostly extinct, but Reptile is right there, so I think they count.

· Vampires- You’re damn skippy this franchise has vampires running around. Apparently Mortal Kombat vampires are only allergic to Earth’s sun. It seems relevant at this point to ask if ol’ Purple Outworld even has a sun. That arena stage might just have really good lighting…

· Osh-Tekk- Oh, wait, they must have a sun, because they have kinda sun gods running around. The Osh-Tekks are basically the gods of the Aztec culture, and they gain power from the sun (apparently any sun) and blood (conveniently found all over in this universe).

My heart!

· Sub-Zeros- Sub-Zero and Frost’s ancestors come from Outworld. They’re not around anymore, but they’ll probably pop back up in MK Mythologies: Sub-Zero 2: The Next Day.

· Kytinn- Insect people that work pretty much like the xenomorphs of Alien, but are, like, bugs. This is my worst nightmare, and if it is not yours, I don’t want to know what’s going on in your head.

· Naknada- Like the Shokan, but six arms, and a lot more scrawny. Though we’ve only ever seen one Naknada. It’s possible the other Naknada are buff as hell, and Kollector is just the runt of the litter.

· Dragons- Onaga the Dragon King was the ruler of Outworld before Shao Kahn, so dragons are official denizens of the realm for tax purposes.

· Whatever the hell Ferra and Torr Are- A symbiotic race where a lil’ dude rides a bigger dude and together they fight crime. Or make it.

I don't like these guys

And then we have the Tarkatans, the race introduced in Mortal Kombat 2 to further cement the “Outworld is not a vacation destination” thesis of the title. Tarkatans are all over the place on the ol’ “what’s this race’s deal” map. On one hand, they’re generally portrayed as blood-thirsty monsters that are animalistic enough to be driven into murderous rages over bottled pheromones or a Black Friday sale on knife sharpeners. On the other hand, they have their own language, are capable of using “Earth weapons”, and are widely regarded as the absolute best soldiers in Shao Kahn’s army. And their origins are equally confusing: they’re either the result of human/demon breeding, or they’re their own thing from a realm Shao Kahn conquered long ago. Meh, let’s face it: the Tarkatans are whatever the plot needs right now.

And, true to his Tarkatan heritage, Baraka is equally mutable. Baraka appeared in Mortal Kombat 2 as a fine representation of Shao Kahn and his less-than-photogenic army… but didn’t really accomplish much. He killed some monks in the prologue, and apparently there were some rumors of Baraka attempting to overthrow Shao Kahn with Milenna, but Mileena wound up dead before that plan could go anywhere. Baraka then returned for Mortal Kombat (4) Gold (not coincidentally only being proto-retro-dlc in the final game that required a motion capture actor to don a skin-tight face mask), and did the exact same thing: worked for Shinnok, and planned to betray him, but never got around to it.

Is that another Baraka?

Baraka then started working for the Dragon King in Mortal Kombat: Deception (once again, Baraka took a game off to wax his arm blades), and teamed up with Mileena (now alive again) to actually be a faithful minion for once. The duo attempted to deceive and exterminate Kitana’s forces on behalf of the Dragon King, but Liu Kang’s ghost and Liu Kang’s master beat back the Tarkatan hordes. Thanks to the overwhelming boredom of not betraying anyone for a solid thirty seconds, Milenna then attempted to kill Baraka, but Baraka sent another Tarkatan in his place, and Milenna is kind of racist anyway, so it all worked out (for Baraka, the other guy got gutted).

Baraka was officially killed during MK: Armageddon, as Kung Lao finally avenged his fallen monk buddies from Mortal Kombat 2 by slicing Baraka in twain.

Mortal Kombat 9 retkonned Baraka into being a Mortal Kombat 1 participant… but he was defeated by Johnny Cage almost immediately. Then he got beat up by the (still human) Cyrax. Then he was trounced by an old lady wielding a basket full of kittens. He got to kill those monks again, though! And then he got jobbed a few more times before not even bothering to show up for the rehash of Mortal Kombat 3. He went out for a pack of cigs while the other Tarkatans ran around with the centaur dude. Better use of his time.

Such nice teeth you have

In Mortal Kombat X, Baraka is a loyal servant to… am I reading this right? Oh, wow, Milenna actually finally got somewhere with her whole power lust thing, and she’s ruling Outworld with Baraka by her side. And then he gets killed by the bug lady. But it’s okay! He was replaced by a xenomorph with all his powers, so Baraka is still with us in spirit.

Baraka The Younger and Less Dead returns through a time-hole in Mortal Kombat 11. He learns that, since Mortal Kombat X, Kotal Kahn, the new ruler of Outworld, committed outright genocide, and every last Tarkatan is dead because Baraka supported Milenna. Ouch. Luckily (for Baraka), the Time Baddie of MK11 decides to timeport the Tarkatans back to the future, and Baraka has some buddies to hang out with between battles. And, recognizing a ruler he could almost certainly betray later, Baraka decides to join up with (time-displaced) Kitana to overthrow (time-displaced) Shao Kahn. Together, Baraka and his people join the final siege on the Time Boss that is the only reason his race even exists at all. Luckily, there is no reckoning, as the universe reboots yet again about seven seconds after Baraka gets off the boat.

In conclusion, if you need someone for your heroes to beat up, please remember the Tarkatan race. Baraka is here to help.

Like a porcupine

Next time: Mortal Kombat 2 means 2 playable ladies.

MKK: Reptile

Secret Ninja

There was some confusion regarding Kingdom Hearts Explained and my general tone, so I feel like I should state this plainly: I love the story of Mortal Kombat. I love that, over twelve or so games, some very clearly crazy people have decided to foist a remotely coherent tale upon a group of murderers that occasionally (and seemingly incidentally) save the universe(s). Your Harry Potters and Songs of Ice of Fires all written by one author with one artistic vision are fine and all, but, for my money, give me a story where you have to account for how the last chapter included an undead skeleton from Hell that killed your ice magician and now you have to invent a new ice magician little brother that has to fight the previous ice magician that has become a magical shadow man ruled by a member of the KISS army from an incidental spin-off. It’s completely bonkers from top to bottom, and a minor miracle that it works at all, left alone as well as it does.

Which neatly brings us to Reptile. As nearly everyone already knows (not my mom. My mom does not know about Reptile), Reptile was introduced in Mortal Kombat I as the first hidden character in the series (if not the first hidden character ever in a fighting game). Reptile was not a selectable fighter under any (intended) circumstances, but could be fought as a hidden opponent if the most ridiculous of qualifications were met. It had to be at The Pit stage. You had to score a double flawless victory (aka never get hit). You had to never block. You had to perform a fatality. And, finally, a random shadow had to go across the moon in the background, thus adding just the tiniest touch of “playground rumor” to the proceedings. Assuming all of these conditions were met, you could fight Reptile, a green ninja that moved exceedingly quickly and used special moves belonging to both Sub-Zero and Scorpion. If you beat Reptile, you earned a crapton of points, and possessed bragging rights at your local arcade until the end of time.

Now, what’s interesting here is that the initial creation of Reptile apparently took seven seconds. While his “unlock conditions” were labyrinthine, Reptile was a green ninja with the abilities of the blue and yellow ninja. Blue + Yellow = Green. He was an afterthought. He was a random creation by a programmer that got bored and wanted to add a little extra fun to his game. Boon has literally stated that he thought of Reptile on a lunch break commute.

Kisses!

And then, because Mortal Kombat and Reptile in particular became so popular, someone had to actually do something with a character that existed thanks to a kindergartener’s understanding of color mixing.

So, for Mortal Kombat 2 and 3, the fans didn’t need very much. Reptile was explained (retconned) to be Shang Tsung/Shao Kahn’s personal bodyguard (presumably in the employ of Shao Kahn, but loaned to Shang Tsung as necessary), and any fights during Mortal Kombat I were obviously a toady’s attempt to squash any fighters capable of those flawless victories. Reptile was also revealed to be a lizard man in camouflage, capable of removing his human flesh disguise in much the same manner that Scorpion would pull off his “head” to reveal his shiny skull. Oh, and his new, unique special moves all seemed to play off his original status as a secret palette swap, as his orb projectile was a weird modification of Scorpion and Sub-Zero’s stun abilities, while his other skills, like spitting acid or turning invisible, lined up with his stealthy, reptilian origins. Reptile really was an interesting spin on “graduating” a hidden, mysterious character to the proper playable roster.

And then things got weird.

Ugh

Mortal Kombat 4 went full polygons, and dropped the motion capture graphics forever. As a result, the “recolor” ninja (of which there were… eight at that point) were afforded opportunities for a little more graphical variety. Thus, Reptile maintained roughly the same silhouette, but gained scales over most of his body. This was kind of an odd change, as it had previously been established that Reptile was hiding the head of a green (Jurassic Park style) velociraptor under his mask, and this “unmasked” Reptile just looked like a dude with a particularly Batmanian skin condition. Mortal Kombat 4 wasn’t offering any answers (aside from “everyone looks like ass in this game, deal with it”), so fans were left to wonder what the hell was going on with Reptile.

Dinosaur!

Deadly Alliance decided to go full dinosaur with Reptile, and offered an explanation: Reptile was bad at his job. Apparently, Reptile belongs to a human-dinosaur race that was naturally dinosaur-looking, but could affect human-esque disguises with a little concentration. When Deadly Alliance starts, Shao Kahn is (thought) killed, and personal bodyguard Reptile is a little distraught that he failed so phenomenally that his master is straight up dead. Thus, we discover how Reptiles grieve: by turning into spikey lizard monster men and palling around with vampires. Look… he was going through some stuff, okay? And then that previously mentioned vampire tricks Reptile into reviving the Dragon King, who immediately possesses Reptile’s body, so Reptile spends the entirety of MK: Deception kinda-dead, kinda-the final boss. It was a rough time for everybody.

Reptile!

Somehow, Reptile and the Dragon King are separate entities in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, and it could theoretically be explained by Nightwolf separating Reptile’s soul while sending the ol’ Dragon King to Hell, but, whatever the case, Reptile returns with a more ninja-y form. Given Annihilation was a celebration of Mortal Kombats that came before, this “retro” version was basically a glow-up of Mortal Kombat 4 Reptile, though now with a proper head. There isn’t much of a kanon explanation for Reptile’s presence or purpose during this time, but, hey, here’s that reboot again, so nobody really has to worry about it.

Like some of the other villains, Reptile just gets a repeat of his Mortal Kombat 1-3 status during Mortal Kombat 9. This time, he looks a little more modern dinosaur/avian, but he’s otherwise back to his “green ninja” status. Here’s a lovely picture of him about to kiss Shang Tsung:

Kisses!


Mortal Kombat X then presents a Reptile that has gone to the spikey side of dinosaur-person land. This makes sense, as Shao Kahn is dead again by this time, and his new master, Kotal Kahn, just doesn’t do it for him like in the good old days. Reptile basically continues to be a professional minion throughout that adventure… which is all he’s ever done in the series. Reptile, disappointingly, does not return for Mortal Kombat 11, even though Kotal Kahn and the majority of the rest of his entourage is present. This marks the first Mortal Kombat title without Reptile appearing (give or take an initial MK3 version or whether or not you qualify The Dragon King “as” Reptile), which is kind of a shame. Reptile has been through a pile of permutations since his first appearance, and he’s a fine metaphor for the series itself. He’s wildly inconsistent, can apparently change his blood color based on his mood, and ping pongs around allegiances while somehow maintaining the exact same stooge status. He’s all over the place, and, sometimes, that’s just how we like it.

Kisses!
Such a looker

Next time: Hat Man