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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: Sindel & Sheeva & Motaro

The ultimate problem with Sindel is that she was made for one game and one game only.

GOTH!

Mortal Kombat 3 was the story of Shao Kahn reclaiming his undead bride, Sindel, and… Actually, let’s just use her Mortal Kombat 3 biography to start here:

Sindel once ruled the Outworld at Shao Kahn’s side as his queen. Now 10,000 years later after her untimely death, she is reborn on Earth with evil intentions. Sindel is the key to Kahn’s occupation of Earth."

So… you can kind of see where the character came from with that description, right? Shao Kahn was a giant, spike-riddled king that wore bones as random ornaments, so he had to have a matching queen. While the idea of an equally gigantic bruiser lady was likely ignored because we do not live in the best of all possible worlds, it seems the plan was to make Shao Kahn, employer of many a wizard, married to a literal witch. As such, Sindel is in possession of some distinct features:

1. She can fly, and does so often as not only a special move, but also her victory stance
2. She can hurl fireballs from her mouth, a very common villain trait
3. She possesses a super-sonic scream like a banshee
4. She has long, black & white hair that seems to function like a lizard’s tail
5. She is more goth than Starbucks’ ill-fated Fall promotional drink, The Hot Gothlette.

Couple this with the fairly standard Mortal Kombat feature of pupil-less eyeballs (usually used to denote a kharacter is dead/undead), and Sindel does look like an appropriate match for Shao Kahn. Shao Kahn is basically the barbarian king archetype, and Sindel is his concubine-sorceress. It’s not the most original coupling in the world, but if it works for Skeletor, it can work for Mortal Kombat.

And then it was all undermined before Mortal Kombat 3 even ended.

The ending of Mortal Kombat 3 revealed that Sindel was not Shao Kahn’s witch queen, but yet another one of his unwilling victims. Sindel had been a queen, but she was queen of Edenia with her beloved king/husband, Jerrod. Jerrod, unfortunately, sucked at Mortal Kombat, failed against Shao Kahn, and lost fifty cents, his kingdom, and his life. Shao Kahn thus conquered Edenia, and took Sindel and her infant daughter, Kitana, as his own family. Sindel took this entire event poorly, and killed herself as a result (SIDE NOTE: the original MK3 ending simply notes that her death was part of Shao Kahn’s plan, and not noted as suicide. The suicide seems to be a retkon or “interpretation” of the ending that is generally accepted, and, well, yeesh. Right?). Shao Kahn, ever not one to let anything in his life not lead to an evil scheme, struck up a deal with the fallen Elder God Shinnok, and managed to snag Sindel’s soul in some manner of purgatory for 10,000 years, which would allow Sindel to be reborn on Earth, thus allowing him to conquer the place. This had the added benefit of Sindel being revived in a brainwashed, murder-banshee state, so, hey, willing queen as a bonus. Saves Shao Kahn some time on having to score with the Queen of Earth (who, in 1995, was probably… who? Mariah Carey?).

This immediately created a strange dichotomy: Sindel was not Sindel. Or, at least, the undead queen of evil was not who Sindel was supposed to be. Sindel’s MK3 ending even showcased a Sindel with proper human pupils, entirely white hair, and a much more modest gray, 80’s style blazer. She… kinda looked like X-Men’s Storm. Basically, Sindel was intended to be the benevolent leader of a bunch of wannabe elves, and not the demon queen of Shao Kahn. Clearly, when next we saw Sindel, she would be “good” Sindel, and not the version that might manage a Hot Topic with an iron fist.

And the only problem with that would be that absolutely no one would recognize a “good” version of Sindel.

Hairy

Sindel was benched for Mortal Kombat 4 (Edenia was momentarily conquered by Shinnok and Sindel’s own Ambassador of Boomerangs, and queenie was tossed in a dungeon with Kitana on rescue duty) and Mortal Kombat 5 (again, Kitana was the point princess, and Sindel decided to chill), but she did return in time for Mortal Kombat: Deception (6). And did she look any different? No! If anything, with the graphical glow-up available, she looked more like The Evil Queen of the West. Which makes perfect sense from the perspective of “this is Sindel”, but feels pretty weird for a woman that has supposedly been hanging back and defending her realm from Shao Kahn’s mutant forces for a game or two. And even better news? She got worse!

When I said Sindel was created for exactly one game, I damn well meant it. Sindel possessed two abilities that were practically her signature: flight, and magic hair. Bad news? Both of those abilities absolutely did not work for Playstation 2-era fighting games. Flight was right out, as we’re all doing 3-D kung-fu fighting now, and those fighters barely even jump, left alone float around the battlefield. And magic, snake-like hair? Forget about it. Dude, we could barely render a buzzcut back then. Realistic hair that also has its own skeleton? Sorry, but Kabuki Quantum Fighter 3-D was not happening. So, whereas Sindel was able to return as a fighter, a healthy chunk of what made her unique was cut out between sequels. But at least she still looked like Queen Goth of Gothania!

Anywho, Sindel was imprisoned by Zombie Kitana during MK: Deception, eventually was freed by Jade, but then managed to accomplish exactly nothing over the course of the next two games. She was there, but she didn’t do anything. And that’s kind of impressive on its own, as, come on, she commanded an entire dimension. She could have at least gotten, like, Goro Jr. on her side. Whatever. She died during Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, and that was that.

Zombie Queen!

But she returned for Mortal Kombat 9! And, good news, Mortal Kombat 9 contained Mortal Kombat 3 again! The game she was made for! Hooray! And the story actually did right by her! Double hooray!

So, first of all, Sindel received the retkon that her suicide wasn’t just some “oh woe is me Romeo is dead I’ll never love again” move, it was a distinct sacrifice of her life energy to guarantee that Shao Kahn had to conquer Earth through honorable Mortal Kombat, and couldn’t just roll in with a centaur murder squad. Thanks, Sindel! And Sindel’s eventual revival was less “10,000 year old Plan B”, and more “Quan Chi, Shinnok’s rent-a-lackey, has a whacky idea”. Quan Chi revives Sindel as an unwilling zombie bride, her suicide-magic is undone, and Shao Kahn invades the planet. Then, when Shao Kahn’s number one horsey man takes a dive, he decides he needs a super-powered zombie queen, so the good emperor sucks the souls right out of Shang Tsung, deposits them in Sindel, and Sindel becomes Juggernaut Sindel.

Thus, Sindel finally earns the part she was meant to play in Mortal Kombat 9. She’s an unstoppable (incidentally goth) force of destruction used against the heroes. She wipes the floor with practically everyone, straight-up rage murders/soul-eats her own daughter, and is only defeated when one of the good guys (kinda ironically) suicide blasts her to the Netherrealm. Naturally, she then becomes one of Quan Chi’s zombie grunts, and spends the rest of her existence as an undead enforcer, presumably never learning (or at least caring) that she used to be a benevolent queen. And that’s good! … I mean, not for her… But it fits her archetype better! She started as an evil zombie queen, and she’ll end as an evil zombie queen.

Oh, and she got her special moves back, too.

So just remember: some characters have an expiration date of one game.

So many arms

In a perfect, more interesting world, Shao Kahn was a “regular” playable character in Mortal Kombat 3, Sindel was made the final boss (“She proves too much for Shao Kahn to handle, and conquers Earthrealm for herself”), and Sheeva was her corresponding sub-boss. Then Sheeva might have made an impact on the mythos. As it is… well… Seems like nobody cares about Sheeva.

Sheeva really should have made a big splash. She was the first (deliberately) playable Shokan character in the Mortal Kombat franchise. And that was huge, considering people had been begging to play as the likes of Goro and Kintaro literally since the first Mortal Kombat. Unfortunately, everything that made the four-armed badass characters such badasses was dropped for Sheeva. She did not have their levels of super-armor, she was not invulnerable to projectiles, and, most disappointing of all, she was able to be tossed around like any other fighter on the roster. Obviously, these changes were made to the Shokan so that they could actually be used during a typical fight without completely unbalancing the entire match, but it did leave the (theoretically) unintended impression that female Shokans were dramatically weaker than their male counterparts. Sheeva could tear a man’s flesh off, but there was no way she could have ever stood up to Goro.

Oh, and Sheeva was the kharacter most often cut from the various forms of the Mortal Kombat 3 home ports, so it’s entirely likely there are people out there who loved playing MK3 as a kid, but never even knew she existed.

So many arms

All of this likely impacted what wound up being her kanon Mortal Kombat 3 fate. All that is established in MK3 proper is that Sheeva is assigned as Sindel’s bodyguard, and the Shokan really hate Motaro’s centaur race, which is currently being favored by Shao Kahn after Goro and Kintaro whiffed it for two solid tournaments. What happened beyond those facts was established by other fighters’ bios in future titles, and what we learned was that…

1. Jade and Kitana teamed up to take down Sheeva. They succeeded, because Sheeva sucks for Endurance Matches, and they “freed” Sindel by restoring her memories.
2. Sheeva eventually found that Shao Kahn planned to eliminate the Shokan, so she fought against Shao Kahn’s forces (besides, she was probably out of a job anyway). She lost here, too, but Liu Kang eventually won the day without her help.
3. Somewhere in there, Sheeva struck up a deal with Kano to kill Motaro. Cooperating with Kano is never a good idea! Kano did successfully distract horseyboy while Sheeva dealt some mortal blows, though.
4. However, Kano ratted Sheeva out to Shao Kahn almost immediately, so Shao Kahn stabbed Sheeva but good, and left the woman for dead.

And that was it for Sheeva for a solid few games. She even cameoed in Mortal Kombat: Deception as a corpse in Hell. That seemed to squash any future plans for Sheeva returning.

But Sheeva did finally return in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. And, like her old charge, Sindel, she didn’t really have a plot at all. She was introduced as “just as brutal as Goro or Kintaro”, and the rest of her biography was just how Mortal Kombat 3 went down. Her (non-kanon) ending was her ascending to become a “Goddess of Destruction”, which seemed a little… on the nose for a multi-armed woman named “Sheeva”.

So many arms

Sheeva doesn’t fare much better in the reboot. It’s revealed that she’s been bumming around the Mortal Kombat universe since MK1, but she’s basically at Baraka’s level on the ol’ organizational chart. She once again, technically, becomes Sindel’s bodyguard, but, since Sindel is a monster woman capable of defeating entire armies, it’s a pretty lackluster position. However, since Sheeva is really bad at her job, she is nowhere near Sindel when Nightwolf explodes, so she (unlike practically everyone in the story) actually completely survives nu Mortal Kombat 3. Way to go, Sheeva!

Unfortunately, Sheeva doesn’t have much of a future past MK9. She’s marginally important in the comics (which features a full redemption arc for Goro), but she doesn’t otherwise appear in anything Mortal Kombat 10 related. She then appears as Queen of the Shokan in Mortal Kombat 11… but that’s likely only because she was the last surviving named Shokan in this plot. Whatever the reason, she has about ten seconds of screentime, and joins a time-displaced Princess Kitana in defeating the time-displaced Shao Kahn, thus finally getting some revenge on her old boss. Hooray?

And that’s that for the final introduced Shokan in the franchise. Way to make your race not cool, Sheeva!

Smashing!

Motaro: If Kintaro thought he had a rough life for being easily forgettable, he should try being the poor horse that was completely impossible for future games.

Motaro was the impassable centaur sub-boss of Mortal Kombat 3. Likely in an effort to hide that the final boss of Mortal Kombat 3 was just the final boss of Mortal Kombat 2 (but with a shoryuken), the chief sub boss of MK3 was nearly impossible. Coincidentally, he was also the most limited of sub bosses. He had a punch, donkey kick, grab, projectile, and sweeping tail. That’s it! But, considering his very hide could reflect all projectiles and he took up about 75% of the screen, that’s all he needed. He was also the first playable MK sub boss on a home system that actually had color, so a lot of people have fond memories of the centaur.

And then he stopped existing.

Look, we get it. In a fighting tournament where everyone has basic human skeletons, it’s hard to squeeze a horse into the proceedings. The official excuse for the longest time in Mortal Kombat kanon was that Sheeva outright killed Motaro during MK3, and, since the Centaurians were supposed to be better than the Shokan, that little homicide settled the issue. Four arms beats four legs, end of story, won’t be seeing one of those dudes again. We’ve got plenty of bipedal monsters running around, we don’t need an equine.

This sucks

But Mortal Kombat: Armageddon touted that it would involve every Mortal Kombat fighter, so someone decided Motaro had to return. And he did! Mostly! The Shokan had apparently cursed the hated Centaurians, and now Motaro was stuck in a less centaur, more satyr form. Hooves and tail can stay, but only two legs for Motaro. Oh, and he’s still huge. But, man, is he a lot less imposing now that he looks like he should be telling you to get up on the hydra’s back.

But at least Motaro got to appear in Mortal Kombat 7 in some hobbled way! Every fighter that appeared in the first three Mortal Kombat titles is available in Mortal Kombat 9… except Motaro. Motaro appears in the background of a few scenes in story mode, though! And then Raiden kills him to save Johnny Cage. The end.

Motaro, how do you feel about being so ignored throughout the franchise?

I don't like it


Next time: Ninja are no joke.

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!

MKK: Goro & Shang Tsung

Look out!

Back in the day, Mortal Kombat stirred up a lot of controversy. We were told the “fatalities” were beamed directly to Earth by space aliens in an effort to desensitize our youth, and, just when we had finally gotten over that “controversy”, there was the whole deal with Nintendo and Sega choosing different routes for censoring the home versions. While it seems almost insane to ponder now, ask any “90’s kid” what was the big deal about Mortal Kombat, and they’ll give you one response: the blood.

And somewhere in all of that controversy, people forgot one other important thing about Mortal Kombat 1: it was damn hard. Mortal Kombat 1 is the Dark Souls of fighting games from 1992.

As a quick reminder, beating Mortal Kombat meant you first had to beat the entire roster of fighters, including the iconic Mirror Match. That was followed by three Endurance Matches, which were a completely unfair set of 1 v 2 battles. Assuming you could beat opponents with technically twice as much health as your chosen fighter, the following match would be even more insane. Ladies and gentlemen, Goro lives!

Goro was pretty impressive for the time. In a game featuring motion-captured actors, he was a Claymation powerhouse meant to evoke monsters from the early days of cinema. Four arms, twelve fingers, a confusing number of pectoral muscles, an innate dislike for pants: he was basically The Incredible Hulk crossed with another Incredible Hulk (that had a lower set of arms). And he felt like an impassable brick wall, too. He was stunned very rarely, projectiles bounced right off those amazing abs, and when you got hit by Goro, you got hit by Goro. On paper, his moves were nothing special (a fireball and a jump stomp? Lame), but anyone that ever had a few quarters riding on defeating the half-man, half-dragon Champion of Mortal Kombat knew that all Goro needed was one good punch. Defeating Goro took skill, patience, and maybe a little luck. Goro is the Dark Souls of fighting game sub-bosses.

Unfortunately, Goro went downhill from there almost immediately.

Now he sucks!

Mortal Kombat 1 Goro was mute (save a roar or two), and his biography basically consisted of the fact that he was two millennia old (!) and had been the uncontested champion of Mortal Kombat for 500 years and nine generations (however that works out). He killed Kung Lao back in the day… and that was it. He was nigh immortal, he was going to kick your ass, and there are decent odds he beat your grandpappy’s ass, too. That is all Goro needed! But, when he surfaced for Mortal Kombat 4, he was literally back with a vengeance (for Liu Kang), and wound up being so lame, he lost to (this generation’s) Kung Lao (spiritually Liu Kang’s annoying little brother). Then he returned for Mortal Kombat Deception (or at least the Gamecube version), and there was this whole complicated story about becoming a general in Kitana’s armies, but he was back-attacked by Noob Saibot, and he was left for dead, and he was found by an injured Shao Kahn, and Shao Kahn shared his life force so Goro would live, so Goro decided to rejoin Shao Kahn, but first he had to fake his own death by putting his royal seal on a slain Shokan warrior, and now Goro lives, but in an effort to return Shao Kahn to his throne because he owes him a life debt. Got all that? I don’t mean to insult any wookies that might be floating around the forum, but, seriously, dudes? You made Goro the Unstoppable into friggen Chewbacca. Chewbacca is strong, yes, but he’s a giant teddy bear! Kinda literally! And, surprise, Goro’s return appearances after Mortal Kombat 1 were just about as threatening as fighting a teddy bear. By the time Armageddon rolled around, Goro was officially palling around with Shao Kahn and Shang Tsung again, and his former might was all but a memory…

Look out!  He's got a skull!

But in Mortal Kombat 9, Goro returned as Champion of Mortal Kombat, and he was a generally mute threat again. Hooray! And then he came back in a non-kanon DLC role for Mortal Kombat 10, and he’s just kind of an almost-mute threat, too! And in the Mortal Kombat X tie-in comic, he has some weird redemption arc that goes absolutely nowhere! And in Mortal Kombat 11, he’s dead for some reason! Okay! Whatever! Truly, balancing Goro’s character arc versus his status as a threatening foe is the Dark Souls of plotting.

Meanwhile, Shang Tsung has a pretty significant backstory that goes back before Mortal Kombat even got going. First of all, he started out as a human of Earth, and fought in at least one Mortal Kombat tournament some 500 years back, but cheated through some unknown means. Considering this is a fighting tournament that routinely involves magical skeletons from Hell fighting dudes with four arms wielding four spiked knuckles, I would really like to know what could be considered cheating. Regardless, Shang Tsung was disqualified for being a jerk, but Shao Kahn, Emporer of Outworld, decided to adopt Shangy, because I guess every organization needs a guy who cheats ineffectively. Shao Kahn taught Shang Tsung how to become a sorcerer, and then, in a marginally unrelated incident, Shang Tsung was cursed by the Elder Gods to devour souls whenever he committed homicide. Given how the MK Universe works, this would be akin to being cursed to eat a delicious chocolate cake every time you got a coffee. I guess the Elder Gods were trying to curse Shang Tsung to be fat? Soul fat? It’s a confusing universe.

More skulls!

Anyway, this whole “soul curse” thing spectacularly backfired, as Shang Tsung grew strong by feeding on the souls of his enemies and inheriting their skills and memories. When Shang Tsung showed up for his next Mortal Kombat (possibly under a soul-stolen new shape/identity), he won the whole thing, and Shang Tsung was set to be new Champion of Mortal Kombat on behalf of Shao Kahn and Outworld. But Shang Tsung was defeated by Kung Lao, an ancient warrior and ancestor of Liu Kang. Kung Lao reigned as champion for at least a generation (fun fact: Mortal Kombat Champions do not age, which is a pretty sweet prize for punching people to death), but then Shang Tsung returned with a four-armed monster man. Goro became the official Mortal Kombat Champion for the following 500 years, and, somewhere in there, Shang Tsung, ever the Don King to Goro’s Tyson, built his own magical island for future Mortal Kombat tournaments. In earlier games, this was just a random island where Shang stowed his gold and various monks, but later titles have made the island a magical place with forcefields, zombies, and Shang’s own private Soulnado. It’s a pretty impressive island fortress, and the only drawback is that, thanks to yet another curse by the Elder Gods, Shang Tsung has to do all the landscaping himself.

So, by Mortal Kombat I, Shang Tsung was snug as a bug in an evil island powered by the souls of the dead rug. Liu Kang defeated Goro, though, and Shang Tsung was a last-minute addition to the tournament in an effort to trounce the forces of Earth. Unfortunately, the dude that can transform into any fighter isn’t really much of a threat for the guy that has already defeated every fighter, and Shang Tsung’s reign was ended with a swift kick to the face.

Look out!  The most skulls!

Shang Tsung then becomes the toady-based through line for the next two Mortal Kombat tournaments. First, in a desperate attempt to not be homicidally punished by his boss Shao Kahn for fumbling a five century-long play at the goalpost, Shang Tsung suggested having a better, slightly more purple tournament in Outworld for Mortal Kombat 2. Shao Kahn really liked this idea, so he restored Shang Tsung’s youth. Or he just didn’t want to smell old man Shang Tsung anymore. Whatever the reason, a vibrant Shang Tsung fought as a “normal” participant in Mortal Kombat 2, though he did retain his shape-shifting abilities from Big Boss College (he got a BS in weak point reduction). When that plan inevitably failed, he was instrumental in the revival of Shao Kahn’s undead queen on Earth, so Shang Tsung once again earned a tournament invite for the forces of evil. Unfortunately, he lost, repeatedly, and, by about the time the forces of Outworld were being beat back to their outhouse dimension, Shao Kahn had had enough of the sorcerer’s sass mouth, and Shang Tsung wound up in a dungeon (probably in Kano’s used shackles).

Shang Tsung spent all of Mortal Kombat 4 on the bench, but he returned in Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance to form the… Deadly Alliance. Neat! Quan Chi (the MK2/3 Shang Tsung of Mortal Kombat 4) had a plan to pilfer his boss’s magical amulet, revive the Dragon King’s Army, and conquer all of existence. Unfortunately, in order to reanimate an army of the dead, he needed a decent soulmancer on the payroll. Shang Tsung fit the bill, and, while Shang had had a rough year or so, he had been the king of Mortal Kombat for a solid few centuries. Shang Tsung and Quan Chi thus teamed up, and, first order of business: (kinda) kill Shao Kahn. Then it was off to (really) kill Liu Kang. After that, the duo set up shop at an all-new Soulnado, acquired some local real estate, fought the forces of good, and, in a surprise upset, Shang Tsung and Quan Chi actually won. With Liu Kang dead, the dastardly duo defeated all of Earth’s forces, and actually fulfilled their quest to revive the Dragon King’s Army. Sweet! Unfortunately, they also kinda sorta revived the Dragon King, too, who promptly killed everybody in attendance. So close!

No skulls...

Thus, Shang Tsung didn’t show up for Deception, but he did return for Armageddon, as, apparently, he had pledged his soul to Shao Kahn a few centuries back, and, so long as Shao Kahn lived, he could summon Shang Tsung back to life, too. Good thing Shang Tsung was so bad at killing Shao Kahn two games back! Shang Tsung wound up helping Shao Kahn regain the throne of Outworld, and, since Shao Kahn then went on to win Mortal Kombat Armageddon and thus prompt Raiden to reboot all of reality, Shang Tsung could totally note on his resume that he was partially responsible for the destruction of a universe. You know, if anyone could remember that universe…

Oddly enough, Rebooted Mortal Kombat 9 Shang Tsung had nearly the same Mortal Kombat 1-3 arc, though with one vital difference. When Shao Kahn revived his queen, he sucked all the souls out of Shang Tsung, and gifted them to his lady love. This had the side effect of making Sindel into an unstoppable monster, and making Shang Tsung super-duper dead. And he stayed dead! Mostly! Shang Tsung is Mortal Kombat 11’s first DLC character, and he’s a time-displaced version of his older/younger self. Apparently, it is kanon that the Goddess of Time identified Shang as too damn treacherous for her generally malicious schemes, so he had to be hidden in the DLC department until which time he was willing to play nice. But other than that, Shang Tsung Prime died a good two decades before the end of this universe.

Morphin' Time

WEIRD FACT: Shang Tsung’s ending for Mortal Kombat Armageddon sees Shang gain god-like power, and, when Shao Kahn objects, Shang Tsung transforms his old boss… “into a centaur slave”. Now I’m not going to jump to any conclusions here, but it seems very likely that Shang Tsung belongs to the loyal order of centaurphiliacs, and the writers have just not yet found a way to sneak that information back into the main kanon. Keep an eye out, true believers!

Next time: Cold-blooded ninja.