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MKK: Shujinko & Onaga

Transition!

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance revived the Mortal Kombat franchise, but it was still a game lost in time. Fighting games never truly went away (Tekken bore the burden of an entire genre longer than anyone would have ever expected from a game featuring a panda), but there’s a reason the Playstation 2 era of gaming is known for so many one-player experiences. You couldn’t heart a kingdom or cry up a devil with a buddy, and that was just fine by the public at large. The very concept of an arcade had withered and died, and online play was still a generation away from being stable on consoles (and never mind the internet connections available to most players). In short, multiplayer experiences in MK: DA’s generation were few and far between, and, while there were a few obvious outliers (come and join the Melee!), you couldn’t expect a 2-player fighting game to survive on the meager premise of humans competing.

Make no mistake, the following MK title, Mortal Kombat: Deception is a fighting game through and through. The producers looked at Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, kept what worked (fighting styles, general gameplay, Kenshi), made some tweaks to the formula (added uppercuts across the board, dropped boring arena barriers for death traps, gave Raiden a new hat), and added a few fresh features to keep things interesting (combo breakers and the sensational kharacter find of 2004, Havik). MK: Deception is, of course, a new Mortal Kombat fighting game.

It’s also the game that includes Puzzle Kombat and Chess Kombat.

Look out!

I’m not going to pretend to know what Mortal Kombat’s curators were thinking during the creation of Mortal Kombat: Deception, but it sure seems like the plan was “We’ve got one of the most popular IPs of the last decade, but it’s tied to a genre that is currently dead. Can we try… everything?” Thus, Mortal Kombat incidentally included a puzzle game. Thus, Mortal Kombat incidentally included a strategy game. And, thus, Mortal Kombat included an entire “adventure mode” that could have been a whole game onto itself.

“Konquest Mode” seems like a loose combination of two of the most popular genres of the PS2 era. On one hand, it’s basically a JRPG, seeing the player steer a chosen one through multiple towns and realms, on an epic quest where “random battles” are swapped for the occasional fighting match. On the other hand, it’s a Grand Theft Auto 3-style clone, with a huge, open world begging to be explored and maybe you can punch a random townsperson in the face for no reason. And, in PS2-era Mortal Kombat fashion, it’s in this mode that you unlock half of the roster and many of the alternate costumes (and other goodies), because you can’t spell “Mortal Kombat” without “You’re going to need a FAQ for these unlockables”.

But if you’re going to have an epic Konquest Mode, you’re going to need an epic story to go along with it. You’re going to need a battle between good and evil the likes of which the Mortal Kombat universe has never seen. You don’t need just a hero, you need the hero. And to match said hero, you’re going to need a villain so incredible, so immense, he’s apparently been hiding in the logo since the first Mortal Kombat tournament.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Onaga, the Dragon King.

Roar

Now, to be clear, all of this kanon was retconned just in time for Mortal Kombat: Deception, but these changes have become “permanent” in the (mostly rebooted) Mortal Kombat universe, so let’s all just accept this story like it’s been there since Mortal Kombat 1. Remember Shao Kahn? The biggest bad of Mortal Kombat that has been a threat to Earthrealm again and again? Well, turns out Shao Kahn is clownshoes. In a time long forgotten, Shao Kahn was merely a minor deity of Outworld, and Onaga ruled the realm. We know it was eventually Shao Kahn that conquered Kitana/Sindel’s home realm of Edenia, but it turns out Onaga was the biggest bruiser in the realms, and many of the universes that were conquered and folded into Outworld were Onaga’s conquests. What’s more, Onaga is a literal dragon, and dragons in the MK universe are literally magic incarnate. As a result, Onaga could regenerate any damaged body parts, and, more importantly, he had the innate ability to revive literally anyone from death. So, Onaga had an army, and that army was literally immortal, because he could just CTRL+Z a bloody battlefield, and all his mans would be alive again. Onaga was an invincible warlord that played on Casual Mode and thus could not be stopped.

Well, until Shao Kahn poisoned him and stole all his stuff.

But Onaga had foreseen that being the most hated person in the universe might lead to an untimely end. As such, he set up something of a contingency plan: the last dragon egg in existence could potentially revive a dead dragon man, so Onaga got a cult together to protect said egg in a lava cave (Shao Kahn famously hates diving in lava [it’s bad for his skin]). Additionally, said cult mummified the Dragon King’s entire army, freeze-dried ‘em in a hidden temple, and basically kept the Dragon King’s seat warm for a few centuries. Onaga was coming back to menace the realms once more, it was just a matter of when…

Toasty!

And when Onaga did return, he would be more powerful than ever (yes, even more powerful than an already unstoppable reptile that can revive the dead). Onaga had learned of the Kamidogu, six (or seven) mystical trinkets that existed in the six main (i.e. plot relevant) realms of the MK universe. If one were to collect all of the Kamidogu, they would be able to go Super Sonic summon Shenron go to the moon finally release Mega Man Legends 3 conquer the whole of the universe and become a god among gods. And, since death is more or less a general inconvenience in the Mortal Kombat universe, Dead-Onaga was now free to flutter about the realms and locate the Kamidogus. Spirit Onaga couldn’t physically do anything, but that could be easily rectified by finding the right kind of idiot to do his dirty work.

And that idiot is the protagonist of Mortal Kombat Deception and its Konquest Mode, Shujinko.

protag!

Wait, crap, I shouldn’t say “protagonist”, because Shujinko literally translates to “protagonist”. I should have saved that trivia/wordplay for later! Dammit!

Okay, as you can likely tell by the name, Shujinko was intended to be the “new” lead of the Mortal Kombat franchise. Liu Kang died last game, Kung Lao, Kitana, and Raiden bit it during the finale of Deadly Alliance, and MK was left without a hero. Shujinko was created to fill that spot, and be a true Mortal Kombat protagonist (dammit): the entire point of the story of Deception was that we would see how Shujinko was not the pure and unerringly good Liu Kang, he was a man that trained all his life to be a martial artist, and he meant to do good, but he was also tainted by a literal lifetime of making hard, “evil” choices in the name of what he believed to be a greater good. By the finale of Deception, Shujinko would be a champion appropriate for the dark Mortal Kombat universe: a man that has nearly brought the world to destruction thanks to his own pride, but one now trying to atone (with uppercuts).

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out quite that way, because the whole of Mortal Kombat: Deception makes Shujinko look like an idiot.

Which is fine! Shujinko is an idiot! Konquest Mode is a broad, sweeping story of the Mortal Kombat universe that starts when Shujinko is just an overeager boy anxious to be the next MK Champion, and it ends when Shujinko is old and gray (or white). In that time, Shujinko ventures across the realms, battles untold horrors, and learns the fighting styles of many different heroes and villains. But you know what he doesn’t do? Go to goddamn school. Shujinko has, at best, like a third grade education, and then he spends the rest of his life learning how to effectively punch skeletons. And, don’t get me wrong, it is great to know how to properly palm a skull after tearing out an opponent’s spine, but it’s not something that is going to impress college admissions (at most schools). And, of course, it’s not something that is going to teach you that you’ve spent literally your entire lifetime being deceived by a disembodied lizard king.

The protagonist!

So here’s the soup to nuts story of Mortal Kombat: Deception: Konquest Mode. Shujinko was a young monk with big dreams and no other defining features. He lived in a small, pastoral village of other aspiring MK NPCs. One day, a spirit calling itself Damashi visited Shujinko, and claimed that Shujinko was now tasked by the very gods themselves to collect the Kamidogu of the six realms. To aid him in his quest, Shujinko was granted the magical ability to be able to instantly copy any special move that the programmers decided to grant him. Score. This also meant that Shujinko never really had to train or put any effort into anything. Double score!

Shujinko has a generally bad time on his quest. The whole thing kicks off with him being expelled from his idyllic community when he uses a mystical sword to battle a gigantic mantis. Or something. Then he winds up joining a group of assassins just so he can steal the kamiwhatsit of Earthrealm. Then he ventures through Chaos Realm and winds up stuck in some stupid hedge maze for like a decade. Then he literally goes to Hell, and you would think that would require years of therapy, but it just means he has to visit a friendly magical Native American to get his taint removed. And then there was some nonsense where he kinda started a war between Outworld, Edenia, and Order Realm, but it all worked out well (aside from the part where Shujinko spent many of his autumn years in jail). In the end, it wound up being a big, stupid quest that took nearly a century, about twenty game hours, and somehow involved literally every fighter that had ever appeared in Mortal Kombat up to that point (except the Chameleon/Khamelon twins, because we have enough lizards in this plot, thank you). Fun times for everybody! And Shujinko did wind up collecting the kamidoggies, so the Elder Gods are going to be so pleased when he shows up with…

Oh no! This whole quest where Shujinko repeatedly chose the darkest path available on a mission from “god” turns out to have been a ruse all along. Undeterred by the sheer number of orphanages that had to be burned down on his way to collecting magical objects of abject power, Shujinko never suspected that this whole adventure was a sham. A deception! There never was a “Damashi” at all, it was the Dragon King all along! And Dr. Robotnik is really trying to steal the Chaos Emeralds for himself! Who could have foreseen this eventuality!?

The protagonist!

Shujinko hands the sacred items over to “Damashi”, who reveals himself as Onaga, and is all of five seconds away from turning Shujinko into Shujerky when -simultaneous action- Nitara revives the physical Dragon King by accidentally hatching the baby dragon egg and transferring Onaga’s spirit into Reptile’s body. Yes, I know that sounds kind of confusing, but that’s what happens when you weld the ending from one game onto the “new” story of the next game. So now Onaga is physically alive again (thanks to Nitara, not Shujinko), and he (I guess) walks over to where Shujinko stowed all the Kamidogus, grabs ‘em, and then decides to steal the secret seventh Kamidogu, which turns out to be Quan Chi/Shinnok’s amulet. Onaga stomps over to the Deadly Alliance, kills ‘em all (more or less), and kicks off Mortal Kombat Deception: Proper Arcade Mode wielding all seven god gems.

(And, just for funsies, he revives the good guys that were killed by the Deadly Alliance, and reboots his undead army with a few extra warriors. Quan Chi thought this was a great idea.)

So, with the Story Mode of MK: D done, the “real” story of MK: D is that Shujinko gathered all the dorks that he ran into during Konquest Mode, got them all in one loosely defined tournament, and then pulled off one actually smart move: Shujinko has the ability to absorb the powers (and soundbites) of fighters. If you got, like, every fighter all in one room, he could absorb the power of every fighter. So, basically, the tournament that is Mortal Kombat: Deception was all an excuse to power up Shujinko to the point that he could manifest some kind of glowy, rainbow fist, shatter the Kamidogu that were empowering Onaga (you can just… break divine objects?), and then literally punch the soul right out of Onaga’s body. This frees Reptile to just be Reptile again, and Shujinko is now the once and future protagonist of Mortal Kombat. He might have endangered the whole of existence, but at least he fixed it (eventually).

Look out!

And what did our proud protagonist go on to do after his victory over his former patron? Well, Shujinko was still an idiot, so he got tossed in a dungeon by Mileena posing as Princess Kitana. Shujinko claimed that he was doing this to spy on Mileena and the revived Shao Kahn, but all evidence points to Shujinko absolutely not pulling off such a ruse. Shujinko was released in time for the final battle of MK: Armageddon, but, despite every warrior in history being there for the absorbin’, Shujinko still managed to bite it with everybody else. Shujinko was not to be revived for the rebooted universe (give or take a very out-of-character comic appearance), but he was killed in one ending from Mortal Kombat X, and was then again claimed to be killed by an entirely separate kharacter in Mortal Kombat 11. The message is clear: Shujinko is not the protagonist you are looking for.

And what of Onaga? Well, after his defeat, he was revived almost immediately by Shinnok. The “new” Onaga was now inhabiting his revived, “old” body, which was simultaneously a wonderful way to free up Reptile and explain why Onaga was now only super powerful, as opposed to godly powerful. Onaga fought with the official Forces of Evil at the battle of Armageddon… and died with everybody else. You’d think his magical reviving powers would have come in handy there, but, hey, guess his old body just wasn’t quite up to reviving shape. That’s one less cold-blooded emperor Edelgard has to worry about.

Ouch
Double Ouch
Nobody survives the reboot universe

Onaga is referenced repeatedly in the rebooted universe, but doesn’t actually make an appearance. The writers seem to be sowing some interesting plot beats with implications that Shao Kahn and Liu Kang are both using portions of Onaga’s legendary power (whether they know it or not), but the big guy hasn’t popped up yet. This makes sense, as Onaga’s revival was only thanks to basically the accidents of Shujinko and Nitara doing exactly what they were supposed to do exactly when they were supposed to do it, and asking for Shujinko to be successful in two different universes stretches credibility a bit much. Presumably, Onaga is still sleeping under the hill, waiting for the time of Mortal Kombat’s greatest need.

And if anyone else from Mortal Kombat: Deception shows up in future MK games, you know the franchise is in desperate need…

Next time: I will give you $20 if you can tell me who Dairou and Darrius are right now. (offer void in Earthrealm)

MKK: Bo’ Rai Cho & Li Mei

People have a tendency to underestimate how important “special moves” are to fighting game characters. The original Mortal Kombat only had five actors to go around, but they managed to squeeze another two characters onto the roster by dressing Johnny Cage up like a ninja and painting him various colors. And “Blue Ninja” and “Yellow Ninja” could have been forgettable roster-filler, but they wound up as arguably the most recognizable dudes in the franchise. Why? Well, who doesn’t like ice magic? And Scorpion’s distinctive “Get over here!” and fiery skull head leave an impression. Two quickie photocopy characters became the faces of the franchise almost entirely because of their iconic special moves.

BARF

Bo’ Rai Cho has a number of iconic special moves. They mostly involve puking and farting. And he’s the last kharacter from the MK5/6/7 trilogy to see a revival past Mortal Kombat 9.

According to interviews, Ed Boon wanted to see some new body types in MK: DA, and demanded a “slobby” fighter to contrast with the rest of the MK kast (which, yes, all appear to be rejects from the popular film Invasion of the Ab-ulons from the Planet Swole). This makes a certain amount of sense, as Mortal Kombat literally had more reptile fighters than tubby guys. And, while we’re still working on the technology to render anything but a slim, buxom woman on modern consoles, Bo’ Rai Cho’s meaty frame premiered back on the PS2.

And if you’re going to make a character a “slob”, you can’t just let the dude be “thick”, you have to go full hog.

“Borracho” is Spanish for “drunk”. Bo’ Rai Cho predominantly practices drunken fist style martial arts. His most distinctive special move involves vomiting on the floor and causing his opponent to slip. Another of his special moves is the “bump ‘n dump”, and it’s exactly what you think it is. He has a fatality that involves a combustible fart, and it is finished with an exclamation of “That was a wet one.”

Are you not entertained?

But he’s not just one stereotype! Bo’ Rai Cho is not a drunk, but a drunken master. BRC fills the previously unoccupied position as mentor to a number of different fighters (well, at least three), and basically hangs out with Raiden on the “Dad Tier” of Mortal Kombat kharacters. That’s… something?

BARF

To get into the details of Bo’s general existence, we’re looking at an Outworlder that is (for once) not an angry mutant. Like many quasi-humans in the franchise, he’s hundreds of years old, and has been training warriors for centuries. However, he does not train fighters for Outworld, but realms that oppose his home dimension. Why? Well, Bo’ Rai Cho opposes Shao Kahn’s rule, but, were he to compete in an MK tournament himself, he would technically be winning for Shao Kahn. This is because, a while back, his buddy was running for city council, so he registered to vote in his local Outworld municipality, but now he can’t figure out how to change his residential status. It’s a pain in the ass.

But Bo’ Rai Cho did train Liu Kang. It was Bo’ that taught the hero of Mortal Kombat his iconic bicycle kick, and it was that very bicycle kick that saved the Earth on four separate occasions. However, a bicycle kick can’t solve all your problems, and Shang Tsung murdered Liu Kang at the start of Deadly Alliance. Because the events of Deadly Alliance weren’t technically a sanctioned (by the Elder Gods) Mortal Kombat tournament, Bo’ Rai Cho decided to get off his butt and do a little fighting/vomiting of his own to avenge his fallen student. He also trained Kung Lao to defeat Shang Tsung during this time. That worked out really well, because Kung Lao went on to fight Shang Tsung, and only died once. That’s pretty good for Kung Lao!

Bo’ Rai Cho did rescue Li Mei during Deadly Alliance, though, and we’ll cover that little bit of failure during her section. After earning another loser student, Bo’ Rai Cho worked to amass the good (relatively speaking) forces of Outworld against The Dragon King and Baraka’s knife-boy hordes. He was successful in stopping the Tarkatans, at least, but mostly thanks to the reappearance of Liu Kang’s ghost. So, once again, Bo’ Rai Cho’s greatest victory was hanging out with Liu Kang. It apparently doesn’t matter if he was alive or not.

Bo’ Rai Cho… uh.. participated in MK: Armageddon. He helped out the good guys. He died. Then the universe died. I’m probably going to type that a lot in the coming biographies.

BARF

But Bo’ Rai Cho did make a return in the rebooted universe!

Bo’ Rai Cho wound up as playable DLC in Mortal Kombat X. Technically, his “arcade mode” story/bio takes place before the events of the MKX’s story proper. Bo’ is concerned that Shinnok might revive, and is looking for Raiden. That’s a good plan! Unfortunately for Bo’, though, his presence in story mode picks up after he has found Raiden, helps for like ten seconds, and is then mortally wounded by Shinnok. Bo’s current status is unknown, but it’s generally assumed he’s death-farting on the pile of corpses that is labeled “Raiden’s allies”.

And, yes, of all the fighters introduced in Mortal Kombat 5,6, and 7, only Kenshi, Frost, and Bo’ Rai Cho ever make another playable appearance. Though we do get one extra Deadly Alliance story cameo in Mortal Kombat X. Let’s look at Li Mei.

Look away!
(Face modeling was not easy on the PS2)

As far as conception goes, Li Mei is Bo’ Rai Cho’s polar opposite. It seems she was designed to present well (a conventionally attractive woman that looks fit and prepared to fight), but her story positions her as a novice in the world of martial arts (which is the only thing that matters in the Mortal Kombat universe). Unfortunately, unlike Bo’ Rai Cho, her designers forgot to hang any sort of hook on that setup, and Li Mei’s special moves (and general moves, for that matter) are wholly forgettable. She comes from the hazy “fireball and a jump kick” school that saw so much success for Johnny Cage and Liu Kang, but, as a random “support” kharacter (and not one of the towering heroes of the piece), that just isn’t going to cut it. Without a flaming skull or the ability to puke on command, Li Mei almost instantly fades into the halls of forgotten Mortal Kombat fighters.

Li Mei at least has a moderately interesting origin concept: she’s supposed to be your average Outworlder. After a series of games where it seemed like the only residents of Outworld were sword-mutants, lizards, and filthy wizards, Li Mei was introduced as simply your average Outworld villager. And, as you might expect, that’s a pretty crappy situation to be in. Li Mei and her entire village was enslaved at the start of Deadly Alliance, but, knowing exactly how prisons work, Li Mei knocked the tar out of Kano on her first day. This drew the attention of Quan Chi, who decided that Li Mei would gain her freedom if she won the loose tournament that was the Deadly Alliance epoch. She got a little training from Shujinko (we’ll get into that goober next game), and went on to do pretty well! She did so well, in fact, that Quan Chi and Shang Tsung decided to transfer her soul into a random immortal corpse for use in the Dragon King’s army. She was not happy with that outcome. And that, in the business world, is known as the Peter Principle.

Going down?

But Li Mei was rescued from her lethal promotion by Bo’ Rai Cho, because MK is not going to let a sexy lady model go to waste in a corpse Bo’ Rai Cho is a good guy. Li Mei’s soul is returned to her body, but it seems some of the dragon soldier taint came along with the transfer, so now Li Mei is less “naïve neophyte” and more “bloodthirsty revenge monster”. This didn’t change a thing about her boring special moves, but it did mean she traded in her old duds for some (sexy lady shaped) armor. And she got a sword! And her MK: Deception ending revealed that, had this version of Li Mei been allowed to flourish, she likely would have gone all-in on the whole “evil and serving the Dragon King” thing. That never happened, though, as Li Mei earned the dubious honor of being kanonically the first fighter to die at the start of MK: Armageddon. This was the event where literally everyone died, but, hey, good to have someone designated as first in line.

Li Mei does pop up in Mortal Kombat X, though. She’s not a fighter, but she does lead her village from Outworld to Earthrealm when a magically empowered Mileena threatens her people. Cool! And, in a weird dimensional echo, she once again jobs Kano, this time by ratting him out for being a weird, shifty dude with a robotic eye. This leads to the Special Forces capturing the fugitive Kano, so thanks, Li Mei, you didn’t even need a battle bikini to be useful in this rebooted universe. Cheers all around!

Still not great with faces

Of course, most people probably didn’t even recognize that Li Mei was supposed to be anybody when she made her little cameo, so she really only gets partial credit. Maybe if she had some more special moves that involved farts she’d have made the DLC cut.

Next time: Dragons of a different color.

MKK: Quan Chi

This is going to be difficult to explain to people in the year of our Raiden 2019, but Mortal Kombat went through the strangest metamorphosis between its initial release and the finale of Mortal Kombat 3 four years later. At launch, Mortal Kombat (1) was a revelation that not only lit the arcades ablaze like a thousand flaming skulls, but also was featured nigh-nightly on the evening news during segments that warned us all of “mature content” and the vicious seduction of our innocent children. Mortal Kombat was an arcade smash and the scariest goddamned thing in the world. Contrast this with 1996, when Mortal Kombat Trilogy was hitting home consoles. At this point, we had…

He's on fire!

• Mortal Kombat cameos across the board
• The wildly successful Mortal Kombat movie
• Various Mortal Kombat comics, some directly from the franchise creators
• Mortal Kombat being the featured game on roughly every game/cheat magazine every other month
• The Mortal Kombat animated series, Defenders of the Realm
• Mortal Kombat action figure lines, including one set that was meant to scale with contemporary GI Joes
• And, of course, freaking events that accompanied every Mortal Kombat console release. It’s arguable that the release of the original Mortal Kombat on consoles, “Mortal Monday”, introduced a generation to the very concept of videogames having release dates (as opposed to weird hunks of plastic that were clearly just teleported into stores randomly from the future)

In short, Mortal Kombat went from being some dingy tech demo fighting game to the root of all evil to, eventually, a mainstay at toy stores across the country. Mortal Kombat had become arguably the face of gaming by 1996.

So you’ll forgive the curators of Mortal Kombat for believing they could do no wrong. You’ll have to forgive them for Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero.

On paper, this could have been a thing of beauty. The concept was simple: Mortal Kombat has a robust kast with interesting and complex “mythologies”, so why not produce some games that focus on non-fighting tournament based events? Not every problem can be solved by a round robin round of roundhouses, after all. And while we’re at it, let’s see if this “mythology” can tie into the inevitably convoluted backstory for the next “real” Mortal Kombat title. How much better would Shao Kahn be if you knew his whole deal before he popped out of nowhere in Mortal Kombat 2? So much better! One would assume! (Incorrectly!)

Unfortunately, MKM:S was not to be a beautiful unicorn, but more of a three-legged donkey that has been rolling in shit all day while another, fatter donkey stood there shouting MAGA slogans and various homophobic slurs. The gameplay of MKM:S was predominantly based on “what if exactly the same controls as a fighting game”, which could have worked for more of a beat ‘em up, but was absolutely abhorrent in what is essentially a 2-D platformer. Frankly, any game where you need to press a button to turn around should be fired directly into the sun (looking at you, Guilty Gear: Isuka). And couple the general stiffness that already exists in Mortal Kombat with a nigh-infinite gauntlet of instant kill traps, and the whole experience just…

That sucked

Falls flat.

And in further ill-advised developments, the good folks behind Mortal Kombat decided to go a step further past digitized human actor sprites, and hire for-real human actors to act out the important plot beats of Mythology. Regrettably, this created a sort of reverse uncanny valley effect. When you see Sub-Zero as a little digitized fighter, that’s cool, there’s Sub-Zero, he’s going to take someone’s head off, and it’s going to work out. When you see that “same” Sub-Zero as a real-life FMV person in a cutscene… uh… what am I looking at here? That’s not Sub-Zero! That’s just some dumpy dude wearing a Sub-Zero costume! And I don’t think I need to tell anyone that Playstation 1-era videogame actors were maybe not the best at selling a story. In short, in a time when “immersion” was starting to become gaming’s latest buzzword, Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero did its level best to practically insult the player for investing in Mortal Kombat (mythologies).

And amid all this, this is how we were introduced to Quan Chi.

This jerk

First of all, of all the kharacters introduced after Mortal Kombat 3, Quan Chi looks to be the most relevant and reoccurring. This seems to indicate that someone in the Mortal Kombatorium (where all Mortal Kombat games are made) really likes the guy. Maybe a member of the KISS Army saved Ed Boon’s life? I don’t know. Whatever the case, Quan Chi was the marquee fighter for Mortal Kombat 4, the star of MK:MS, and a frequently recurring antagonist in nearly every following Mortal Kombat title. He was slated to be DLC (with Harley Quinn!) in MK vs. DC, and he even technically premiered not in Mythologies, but as a guest villain on the animated series. He was a little off model (albeit like every MK: Defenders of Realm character), and he had a Megatronian plan to infect all the heroes with a rage virus or something to make them all fight for no reason (like… every Mortal Kombat… huh), but he was still essentially the “evil wizard” Quan Chi right from the get-go. Quan Chi is somebody’s favorite fighter in the franchise.

But you wouldn’t know that from watching MK:MS. Again, on paper, we’ve got a pretty cool customer. Quan Chi was a wizard, and, like most wizards, he needed some magical doodads for, I dunno, turning someone into a toad or whatever. Wizards are a naturally lazy bunch (you ever seen a wizard mowing the lawn?), so he hired a pair of rival ninja(esque) guilds to go and find his trinkets. Sub-Zero of the Lin Kuei not only completed the assigned task, but also murdered his rival along the way. As an extra special thank you for a job well done, Quan Chi completely obliterated the rival ninja clan, and maybe picked up a spare vengeance skeleton along the way. So, to be clear for future retkons: the final answer here is that Quan Chi murdered Scorpion’s family, and Sub-Zero only kinda inspired it. Please get your retribution right, Scorpion.

Anywho, Sub-Zero wound up with Quan Chi’s ultimate goal, a magical amulet, and dutifully handed it over to the wizard. At this point, the chalk-white wizard with freaking spikes growing out of his shoulders revealed that, gasp, he’s totally an evil wizard, and Sub-Zero was tricked into helping Quan Chi revive an ancient evil god known as Shinnok. Quan Chi escaped to Hell, and Sub-Zero followed after Raiden explained that an ancient evil god running around would be a terrible thing for the assassination business. People would be getting murdered for nothing!

So, naturally, Sub-Zero ventured down to the Netherrealm, eventually defeated Quan Chi and the divine Shinnok, and saved the day. How could an evil god empowered by his extra-special magical amulet be defeated by a mere ice ninja? Simple! Quan Chi kept the real magical amulet for himself! Oh, that rascally Quan Chi! He’ll be the death of us all!

Anywho, this cool and calculating wizard was played by the same dude as Kano, so maybe his real cunning didn’t exactly come across in his initial premiere…

This jerk

And then that brought us up to Mortal Kombat 4. Nobody liked Mortal Kombat 4.

Again, Mortal Kombat as a brand was riding high after the release of Mortal Kombat Trilogy. Unfortunately, this was also the era when games “had to” upgrade to 3-D. The old days of 2-D were dead and gone, and the mere concept that 2-D games could exist alongside their pointy colleagues was insane. Virtua Fighter, Tekken, and Battle Arena Toshinden (of all things!) were defining what fighting games could be, and Mortal Kombat wanted a piece of that sweet, polygonal pie. Thus, Mortal Kombat 4 forsook the realistic 2-D models of the olden days, and elevated the whole kast to the third dimension.

Unfortunately, nobody had a damn clue how to translate the actual Mortal Kombat gameplay to 3-D, so… woof, man. Just woof.

As previously noted, Quan Chi was the marquee kharacter of Mortal Kombat 4, as he was featured in all advertising and was plastered over the side of every Mortal Kombat 4 arcade machine. Oddly, though, he didn’t have much to actually do in Mortal Kombat 4. Shinnok was the final boss, and Goro popped up again as the sub-boss. Quan Chi was just kind of… there. He did feature prominently in a few endings, though, like when Scorpion discovered ol’ Quan was responsible for killing his family, or when Quan Chi stood over a defeated Shinnok and finally revealed that he had been holding on to the real, actually useful magical amulet this whole time. You’d think that last reveal would just be an excuse to explain why the toady defeated the master in a completely fantastical ending, but, nope, that winds up being kanon for the rest of the franchise. The finale of MK4 sees Shinnok and Quan Chi failing, but Quan Chi does manage to hold onto an amulet of unimaginable/ill-defined power. Score!

Unfortunately, unlike Quan Chi, Mortal Kombat as a cultural juggernaut could not survive its failures. Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero killed some good will. Mortal Kombat 4 killed even more. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation was a movie made specifically for fans of the convoluted Mortal Kombat Trilogy, but, give or take some horse punching, it was an abject failure for all but the most dedicated of ninja enthusiasts. The next attempted “Mythologies” title, Mortal Kombat: Special Forces: Starring Jax and Only Jax, was the final nail in the Mortal Kombat coffin (koffin). The Mortal Kombat franchise not only never saw a release on the Playstation/N64 console generation again, it also saw John Tobias, co-creator of MK and godfather to Noob Saibot, leave the franchise. Mortal Kombat as we knew it was gone. Mortal Kombat could return, but it would be a different animal. It would have to be.

And then Mortal Kombat returned in a totally new form on the Playstation 2 as Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. And, as if to tell us that nothing had ever been learned, there was Quan Chi with his bone-licking grin, smiling back at us as the final boss. You crash the entire franchise (twice!), and you get promoted! Clearly, Quan Chi is the whitest of the MK fighters.

This jerk

At least Quan Chi suffered a little for participating in some horrible titles. Scorpion’s MK4 ending turned out to be kanon, and he dragged Quan Chi to Hell for a substantial torture session. Given Scorpion isn’t all that great at psychological torment (he’s more of a zoning guy), you kind of have to assume this punishment involved a lot of uppercuts. A lot. Eventually, Quan Chi remembered, duh, he’s got an amulet of unspeakable power, and, with the aid of a pair of oni, he escaped the Netherrealm to discover the Tomb of the Dragon King. Thus, Quan Chi recruited Shang Tsung, formed the Deadly Alliance, and successfully killed Liu Kang, Shao Kahn (sorta), Kung Lao, Kitana, Sonya Blade, Jax, and probably severely wounded Stryker with an errant flaming skull. Having won literally everything, the Deadly Alliance inevitably fell apart when Shang Tsung gave Quan Chi the side-eye for like a second, and thus a big ol’ wizard fight broke out. Quan Chi emerged victorious, and likely would have ruled the realms had the Dragon King not shown up and wiped the floor with the survivors (who were not survivors for very much longer). Quan Chi himself saw Raiden powering up for an apocalyptic suicide blast, and decided to hightail it out of there to realms unknown. As a result, Quan Chi did not participate in Mortal Kombat: Deception, though in-game data shows that he was intended for the title, but must have been cut at the last moment. Someone finally acknowledged that we all needed a break from Quan Chi.

Quan Chi makes a comeback in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, though, and is responsible for the networking mixer that eventually pulls all the final bosses across MK onto the same side (though everyone was disappointed that Goro only brought a cheese plate). This, of course, leads to every villain betraying every other villain simultaneously, and Shao Kahn is the ultimate victor of that “alliance”. And, as we all know, this leads to everyone being dead, and the universe being rebooted again. (Though with a brief sojourn in the DC Universe, where, despite not being a playable kharacter, Quan Chi still manages to have a significant impact on the plot.)

This jerk

Mortal Kombat 9 was a reboot of the original Mortal Kombat Trilogy, so you might think we’d be free of Quan Chi, who did not appear during that time. And you’d be wrong! Quan Chi is the only (non DLC) fighter to appear in MK9 that was not in the original trilogy. Despite there being no explanation for such a shift in the timeline, Quan Chi has now been retkonned into being right there from the start, appearing as undead Scorpion’s manager in the original tournament. Yes, Quan Chi was apparently the Don King to Scorpion’s Mike Tyson. And when Scorpion has second thoughts about biting off Sub-Zero’s ear, Quan Chi is there to show Scorpion a PowerPoint presentation about how Subs called Scorpion’s mama fat. Thus, Quan Chi gains an undead Sub-Zero as his newest Noob, and everything is going according to plan, bwa ha ha and whatnot.

Quan Chi generally hangs around Shao Kahn’s posse, and is even responsible for reviving Shao Kahn and Sindel at the finale of nu-MK2. And then, during MK3, his big plan is finally revealed: he just wants to see the world burn. Or die. Apparently if you die in Mortal Kombat, you become a member of Quan Chi’s undead army, because QC set up a net on life’s drain or something. Quan Chi is thus now the leader of an army that includes practically everyone that died in the three Mortal Kombat tournaments… which, in this timeline, is practically everyone. Except Motaro. Motaro is dead, and he is going to stay dead. Forever.

At the point that he has literally won everything he ever wanted, Quan Chi bows out of Mortal Kombat 9, and a very lonely Raiden is left to deal with Shao Kahn. So Quan Chi returns in Mortal Kombat 10 for a redux of Mortal Kombat 4: Shinnok and Quan Chi are invading the realms, and the only hero left to oppose their tyranny is… Johnny Cage. Huh. But he (inexplicably) wins! Shinnok is beaten back into his own magical amulet during the opening of MK10, and Quan Chi is stuck (once again) trying to find a way to revive his master. At least he still has like 60% of his undead army to keep him company.

This jerk

Unfortunately for Quan Chi (I love typing that), it’s not easy being a masterless evil wizard. Quan Chi is soundly beaten by Sonya in a random raid, and loses control of (undead) Scorpion, Sub-Zero, and Jax. Then, he has to recruit a gross bug lady to sneak around Outworld and steal back his (kinda his) super amulet. Then he’s captured by the Special Forces, and it’s revealed that Quan Chi is now less “evil wizard” and is closer to “marginally magical hobo”. And then it’s all over when (currently alive) Scorpion gets wind of the fact that the dude that killed his family is locked up in a cell, and decapitates the sorcerer on sight. But! Gross Bug Lady did manage to get the amulet to Quan Chi just in the nick of time, and Shinnok is revived before QC completely loses his head. Quan Chi dies as he lived, wholly and unwaveringly dedicated to Shinnok. Which is only, ya know, the complete opposite of his personality in the other timeline. Maybe he read a particularly engrossing Shinnok Tract in this timeline?

Regardless, Quan Chi is dead and buried for Mortal Kombat 11, so he’s apparently not coming back. Good riddance to bad rubbish, you franchise-killing monster. Inevitably see you next game!

This jerk


Next time: Netherrealm politics

MKK: Kintaro & Shao Kahn

Never follow a dog act with a cat.

Feisty cat

Kintaro was intended to be Goro #2, and it seems literally everyone involved regretted this choice immediately. Kintaro was initially intended to be some manner of saber-tooth tiger creature-man, but this proved to be too difficult, so that “version” of Kintaro was tossed over to Primal Rage 2 (“There was a Primal Rage 2?” “Exactly”), and we basically got “Goro, but kind of like a cat?”. Tiger Goro wound up an incredibly cheap boss in Mortal Kombat 2, which, yeah, that’s par for the course with Mortal Kombat bosses. Basically, aside from being Goro’s fursona, Kintaro has no real defining features.

And then everyone forgot he existed for years.

Kintaro appeared in the Playstation version of Mortal Kombat Trilogy, but that was more of a dream match (for Kintaro) than anything. His next kanon appearance was in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, a game that featured (nearly) every MK fighter. Kintaro’s story in Annihilation… doesn’t exist. He’s just kind of there. Like in Mortal Kombat 2! He’s consistent! But at least… uh… his ending sees him earning magical swords. That’s… kind of something?

Ouch!

Kintaro returns for the reboot of Mortal Kombat 9, and he is defeated by Kung Lao moments after his introduction. This would be akin to being nominated for an Emmy, but then losing the prize to a kid in Mrs. Eckerson’s drama club. Kintaro did get to return for a rad endurance match with Goro against Sub-Zero, though, so his appearance wasn’t a complete waste.

And that’s about it for Kintaro. For a final denouement, he appeared in the kanonically dubious Mortal Kombat X komics, and had his head torn off by a magically-possessed Sonya Blade. It was meant to be a noble death for the Shokan warrior, but, like everything else in his cursed life, it didn’t quite land.
Kintaro, congratulations on being the first of many “forgotten” kombatants.

KAAAAAAAAHN!

But here’s a guy that no one is ever going to forget.

Not unlike over in the Street Fighter universe, the boss of the second title appears to be the one that stuck around the most. Shao Kahn isn’t always the final boss of the franchise, but he holds that honor most often. And he’s got a cool hat, too. That probably helps.

Despite being such a popular character, Shao Kahn’s origins are kind of murky. Apparently, he was originally a lesser deity of Outworld (like how Raiden is described before he ascended over the course of the series) back in the day when Onaga, the Dragon King, ruled Outworld. Shao Kahn grew jealous of the simplicity of being an interdimensional despot, though, and decided to take out Onaga with a healthy dosage of poison. Shao Kahn thus became the god-emperor of Outworld, and went on to conquer other realms. Edenia , the home universe of Kitana, was one of the earliest to fall, and Shao Kahn murdered Edenia’s king before taking the queen as his own. Queen Sindel didn’t last very long, however, as she offed herself after seeing her own prenup. This led to a germ of a plan that would eventually come to fruition a few centuries later, but, in the meanwhile, Shao Kahn primarily set his sights on Earth. Shang Tsung and Goro were dispatched to win ten generations of Mortal Kombat, and they came thiiiiiis close before Liu Kang cocked up the whole enterprise. This left Shao Kahn feeling rather lonely (he was really looking forward to marrying The Queen of Earth), so he invited the kombatants and all his closest friends to Outworld for a big party. It went… poorly.

The Mortal Kombat 2 tournament may have ended badly for Shao Kahn, but it did wonders for his reputation. Shang Tsung was a fun end boss for MK1, but he is most remembered for being a whole cast in one fight, and little more than a fireball-slinger otherwise. Shao Kahn, meanwhile, was much more in the vein of Goro: a huge, imposing monster man that was going to keep you floored. And he was an even bigger jerk than Goro, too. Shao Kahn would repeatedly taunt his prey, and hurl any number of insults that were significantly bolstered by Kahn revealing he had been the omnipresent announcer all along. Beating the hidden kharacters of MK2 offered very few pride points, but eventually triumphing and beating down the final boss and literal voice of Mortal Kombat 2 was thrilling.

He has green power, too!

And I guess defeating Shao Kahn means you saved two different dimensions? That’s pretty okay, too.

But! Defeating Shao Kahn did not save any universes at all. Shao Kahn was immediately revived after his MK2 defeat (MK9 seemed to imply that Quan Chi was involved), and he decided to cheat the universe at large by reviving his Queen Sindel on Earth. This apparently granted Shao Kahn carte blanche to set foot on Earth and reclaim his bride. And since Shao was on Earth anyway, he may as well use dark magic to merge the realms, suck up the soul of literally everyone on the planet, and dispatch centaur death squads to round up any survivors. This was perhaps not in the spirit of the original “just swing by and pick up your zombie wife” plan, but it wound up working out for Earth, as Liu Kang again challenged and defeated Shao Kahn. This pulled a big ol’ CTRL+Z on Shao Kahn’s invasion, and everything went back to normal for a solid couple of minutes. Shao Kahn also managed to survive his encounter with Liu Kang, and skulked back to Outworld to chill for the entirety of Mortal Kombat 4.

Shao Kahn was on something of a losing streak, what with personally losing two MK tournaments and Sindel/Kitana liberating Edenia and turning the Shokan and other Outworld tribes against him, so it kind of made sense when Shang Tsung and Quan Chi killed Shao Kahn to kick off their Deadly Alliance. But it was all a trick! Shao Kahn was never dumb enough to just hang out and get murdered on his own throne, and it was just an after-image, ha ha, you fools, Shao Kahn lives. Thus, Shao Kahn and the similarly presumed dead Goro teamed up for the Gamecube version of Mortal Kombat: Deception. They marched on the Dragon King… but didn’t make it in time to re-kill Shao Kahn’s revived predecessor. As a consolation prize, Shao Kahn decided to take back his old castle, so Shao ‘n Goro reconquered Outworld, and started Mortal Kombat: Armageddon in the literal seat of power.

STILL KAAAAAAAHN

And then, in a surprise turnaround for the series, Shao Kahn won MK:A. He defeated everybody! He beat Blaze, earned nigh-omnipotent power, and the only other warrior left standing was the divine (and also recently resurrected) Raiden. Shao Kahn was on the cusp of conquering the whole of the universe (which, according to his MK:A ending, would eventually bore him to literal insanity), but that wily Raiden sent a message back in time, and Shao Kahn was forced to forget his greatest triumph in a rebooted universe. Boo.

The rebooted Mortal Kombat 1-3 of Mortal Kombat 9 is basically all the same for Shao Kahn. He gets a clean kill on Kung Lao and a powered-up demon wife, but, other than that, it’s pretty much more of the same for ol’ Shao. Damn that Liu Kang! Well, until Liu Kang is literally damned by Raiden accidentally barbecuing the would-be hero. This leaves Raiden to battle Shao Kahn alone, but (future) Raiden actually comes up with a pretty great idea. Remember how that whole “Shao Kahn conquers Earth while picking up his wife” plan sounded like a major slight against the rules of Mortal Kombat? Well it was! And all it took for the Elder Gods to notice was Raiden getting the thunder kicked out of him. Thus, for transgressions against the spirit of Mortal Kombat (or something), Shao Kahn was instantly dragged to Hell by the all-powerful gods of the universe. So Shao Kahn does not survive past Mortal Kombat 3 (redux), and can never go on to achieve his supreme victory during Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. Of course, a redux of Armageddon would likely go differently anyway, as Shao Kahn killed pretty much everybody over the course of MK9. C’est la vie.

Green is awesome

Being obliterated by divinity kept Shao Kahn down for Mortal Kombat X, but he returned for Mortal Kombat 11. In this tale, the Shao Kahn of MK2’s finale is sucked through a time portal to the present (incidentally thanks to one of those gods that eradicated him a few decades earlier), when Kotal Kahn has ascended to the throne. Shao Kahn is having none of that, so he decides, once again, to conquer Outworld all over again. He recruits some time-displaced Tarkatans (Barakas), and starts tearing up the place in a manner appropriate to a kahn. Unfortunately, this Shao Kahn kind of comes off as a stooge, as he’s distinctly working for a nigh-omnipotent time goddess, and he is eventually defeated by Kitana, who is one of those “assassins” that is only ever capable of killing like one person (and it was her own clone, so that was arguably more suicide than assassination). By the finale of MK11, Shao Kahn is left alive and still out-of-time, but blinded by Kitana’s vengeful fan swiping. A crippled, convalescing Shao Kahn might be an interesting next step for the tyrant, but the universe ends with MK11, so we’re unlikely to see the next phase in Shao’s life. But whatever happens next in the Mortal Kombat universe, you can bet this dork with a hammer will be there!

Love the hammer

Next time: Mortal Kombat 3! Let’s start the parade of forgettable kharacters!