Tag Archives: raiden

MKK: Kronika & Cetrion & Geras

Netherrealm’s own Injustice (1) does not get enough credit for having the best damn concept for a fighting game Story Mode ever. Fighting games are wonderful for story telling in videogames because they don’t really have “mooks”, and your hero du jour can reach a heroic finale without having to incidentally kill millions of anonymous randos. Cloud Strife is a moral paragon that has saved the world in multiple ways… but he still slaughtered a healthy 90% of Shinra’s security staff across the planet. Most of those guys were just making minimum wage, saving up gil to buy some Cura material for their sick grandma! Guile, meanwhile, saved us all from the tyranny of M. Bison, and he’s only marginally morally compromised because he once had to punch a green, electrified orphan. Basically, fighting games, almost as a matter of course, follow much more cinematic through lines, and incidentally don’t have to waste time with Big Bad Sol Badguy grinding rats for experience.

Kanon!
This is kanon!

Unfortunately, this is terrible when your roster doesn’t meet the demands of a complete story experience. Skullgirls launched with a cast of like 1.7 playable fighters, so, in order to integrate actual gameplay into its story, every skullgirl had to fight every other skullgirl like 16 times. And, given you saw the same fights with generally the same excuses over and over again, it gave the initial impression that the whole of the Skullgirl Universe was a city street measuring about five feet wide. Similarly, anyone that read the Mortal Kombat comic adaptations could tell you that the MK universe had this problem for a while, as a host of incidental fighters had to be introduced just so Liu Kang didn’t win every last tournament in a single issue. Later Mortal Kombat games/stories filled these holes with larger rosters of various Order Realm denizens, but their necessity to the plot was… dubious.

But Injustice! Now there was a clever story! In short, it featured the roster of Earth 1 fighting their intermittently murderous duplicates from Earth 2 (not actual designations, shut up, nerds). And that’s amazing! It immediately doubles the “roster”, and all you have to do is get Batman a slightly different suit (and that man loves to have a complete wardrobe). Now you can have Flash fight Green Lantern all you want, and it makes perfect story sense, because this is the evil version of the Green Lantern. And you can have the good Green Lantern fight the other Flash, and it doesn’t seem redundant, because this Flash prefers Shadow the Hedgehog to Sonic. He’s a totally different character! You can even make the final battle a fight between Superman and Superman, and it works! Street Fighter can never come up with a decent reason for a bad guy to fight a boss character (Vega got bored? Is that his whole ending?), but Injustice can use its narrative conceit to justify a canonical mirror match! It’s a thing of beauty!

Theoretically identifying their own greatest trick, Netherrealm dabbled in this concept for Mortal Kombat X. In arcade mode, there were a number of “alternate” fighters that seemed to exist in a separate kanon where the likes of Liu Kang or Kung Lao grew old and became the creepy uncles to the next generation. In story mode, meanwhile, there were the undead revenant versions of these same fighters, and here Cassie identified the zombies with unusual blades (“does that lady have a lethal fan?”) as threats. So, while it was completely outside of the usual kanon, you technically could play as a pair of different Scorpions in Mortal Kombat X. Hooray for variety!

She seems nice

But Mortal Kombat 11 decided to take it all a step further. The basic plot of Mortal Kombat 11? Kronika, Titan of Time, has decided that Raiden has overstepped his authority, and now Kronika is going to mess with all of time in order to put the lesser god in his place. But who cares about that? It means we get two kanon Kitanas! Hooray!

Though I suppose we should talk about Kronika, Mortal Kombat’s first female final boss. Give or take the duo of Quan Chi and Shang Tsung, she’s also the first final boss in the franchise that is…. How to put this… Quietly all powerful? She can control all of time, she can “rewind” your movements, and she can even perform a fatality that is essentially an eternity of suffering, but… but she’s not very swole. MK final bosses are traditionally hulking monstrosities, and even when they’re on the smaller side, they have a tendency to command all the powers of the roster’s souls or some other such thing. Kronika mostly just floats there, and doesn’t really knock around your fighter with anything but sand(s of time) magic. Her greatest attack is tossing a t-rex at ya, which, yes, that’s pretty rad, but it’s more on the dinosaur than the titan to do the damage. Basically, the point here is that, as a final boss and the theoretical source of all despair in the Mortal Kombat universe, she comes off as a little lacking compared to the likes of unstoppable foes like Shao Kahn or that immortal dragon dude. She’s a mage in barbarian world, and Skeletor is definitely more fondly remembered than Evil-Lyn.

And it doesn’t help that her dastardly plan alternately portrays her as all-powerful and marginally brain dead. It’s always a problem when you have an immortal that has clearly not learned even basic lessons about evil plan caretaking, but here we have a woman that theoretically lived through multiple iterations of the universe, and she still doesn’t have a friggen clue how to stop one karate man. Here’s how this all goes down:

1. Raiden kills Shinnok at the end of Mortal Kombat X. … Okay, he doesn’t kill him, because he can’t be killed, but he does leave the former elder god a sputtering, decapitated head.

2. Unfortunately, Shinnok’s removal from the board goes against Kronika’s grand scheme for the universe, so Raiden must be stopped.

3. Kronika summons various Mortal Kombat stars through time from the era of roughly Mortal Kombat 2. This includes bad guys (that she will recruit for future plans) as well as good guys (that she will assume are going to hang out at Denny’s and not interrupt any evil plans).

4. MK2 Raiden is among the summoned good guys. As part of a “rule” that has never come up before and will never be explained, there can only be one Raiden at a time, so “present” Raiden (MK10 Raiden) is blinked out of existence. This leaves us with only MK2 Raiden, who has all the powers of MK10 Raiden, but does not have all the plot baggage of having spent the last two games occasionally crossing into Dark Raiden territory.

She seems nice

5. But eliminating one Raiden is not enough, Kronika wants to reboot the entirety of the universe to revive Shinnok. In pursuit of her goals, she has her team of time displaced baddies (and Jax) generally mess with the good guys.

6. This is because Kronika needs to tap into some raw power reserves to reset the universe. For instance, Shang Tsung had a well of souls that would help, and she has to collect the power from there. The good guys try to stop her, but fail. No one stops to consider the fact that Shang Tsung apparently had enough power on tap to obliterate all of time.

7. Eventually, it is revealed that Kronika only fears one thing: the combined power of Liu Kang and Raiden. Thus, Kronika has pitted Liu Kang and Raiden against each other in every iteration of the universe. This has happened dozens of times before, if not hundreds. Raiden already killed Liu Kang once in this universe, so it shouldn’t be a problem, but, wait… did Kronika just bring another Liu Kang from MK2 back with the other time-displaced losers? Oh crap! She did!

8. Okay, okay, don’t worry about it. This shouldn’t be a problem. MK2 Liu Kang was killed by MK2 Raiden a few years back during that version of MK3, so Kronika can probably just nudge Raiden into doing that again. Raiden, just let the rage take over and…

9. Dammit! MK11, Undead Liu Kang just kidnapped and absorbed all the powers of MK2 Liu Kang. Now he’s Liu Kang². Okay… okay… we can still deal with this. Liu Kang² doesn’t like Raiden, so unless “good” Liu Kang overtakes “bad” Liu Kang…

10. Fudge! Liu Kang² and Raiden have literally fused into one being. That was the one thing Kronika didn’t want to see happen! I’m sure she can handle…

11. Liu Kang-Raiden (Liuden?) defeats Kronika, and is now the God of the Universe.

So, yeah, Kronika basically ushered in her own destruction. But at least her time travel powers effectively doubled the roster, making the story mode a lot more interesting! Good job, stupid!

But why did Kronika care so much about Shinnok and his “grand place” in her various schemes? Well, because she was Shinnok’s mama. And you know who else is Kronika’s brood? Cetrion, the Elder Goddess of Virtue and Nature.

Pretty butterfly

Cetrion is another character that has theoretically been bumping around the universe since the first Mortal Kombat. She’s the Elder Goddess of Virtue and Nature, and, given how much punching takes place in this universe, she’s essentially the combo god of war and peace like the Grecian Athena. Also like Athena, she can actually handle herself in a fight, and has an interesting fighting style that involves a whole lot of elemental magic. Fireball, tree branch, rocks, strong gust, fireball again, repeat until the other guy falls down. So, yeah, she might be literally the most benevolent deity to ever grace Mortal Kombat, but she’s still going to kick your ass.

Unfortunately, Cetrion doesn’t kick much ass in the actual story of Mortal Kombat 11. She’s literally a god-level threat, and she’s at least generally annoyed by the death of her brother/mortal enemy, but she mostly spends her time being Kronika’s lapdog. What’s worse, her whole “deal” appears to be being a goddess of “good” that is continually committing heinous acts, and the best she can do for pathos is occasionally note “oh, maybe eating the souls of all those innocent monks was… morally gray?” She does wholesale murder the entirety of the rest of the Elder God Pantheon (off-screen), though, so she takes the stage with a healthy body count, at least.

For a divine being that is meant to be the opposite number to a main villain from the franchise, Cetrion seems almost entirely like an afterthought that could be dropped from the story without losing a single beat. And you know what? She probably is an afterthought. Kronika, Titan of Time, is currently the only fighter in all of Mortal Kombat that is a boss that is in no way playable. Granted, that’s likely just an accident of being the last boss currently in MK kanon, as many other bosses started as unplayable before being selectable in later titles. But that quirk of design was likely noticed during MK11, so Kronika’s finer points were split among two selectable fighters. Cetrion is the “all powerful” goddess that can use divine attacks with a predominantly haughty demeanor, and Kronika’s time abilities drifted over to our final MK character, Geras.

Nice gauntlet

Geras is Kronika’s Goro. However, rather than being a hulking monster, Geras is meant to be “unbeatable” in a completely different way. Geras’s defining ability is that he exists “at a fixed moment in time”. What does that mean? Basically, he’s unkillable. Chop off his head, gouge out his eyes, or even just inflict a particularly nasty papercut, and he’ll revert to an earlier point in time when it never happened. And, taking a page from Injustice again, he has Doomsday’s signature ability to remember and react to whatever killed him the first time. So, basically, Geras is a dude that has been killed hundreds of thousands of times over the course of multiple timelines, and now he’s here staring down a 20-something with a pointy hat. Who do you think is going to win?

And, since the whole regeneration thing is a completely boring power for arcade mode (Sonya Blade is a generic human that is still fighting after surviving 6,732,601 fatalities and counting), Geras also seems to possess a baby version of Kronika’s time powers. He can freeze his opponents in place, create a time clone, or just manipulate literal sands of time because why not. He can even screw with the fight timer, because, ya know, time. Honestly, it’s a pretty innovative way of incorporating “time attacks” into a franchise entry that is all about time travel. Double points to Geras because we’re dealing with a fighting game where the entire plot is about fighters being plucked from across the time stream, and the best anyone could come up with is “what if the guys from Mortal Kombat 2 came back?” You can do better, MK! You could have Abraham Lincoln battling Socrates as guest fighters, and it would make total kanon sense! Follow the excellent and creative example of Geras!

Regardless, Geras’s contribution to the overall story is right there with that lack-of-Abraham-Lincoln boring thinking. He’s Kronika’s Goro, and, rather than using that level of intimidation to actually do anything memorable, he’s mostly just a go-fer. It’s established that he is effectively invincible and scary, but he doesn’t actually kill a single fighter. No kills! In Mortal Kombat! Hotaru at least messed up Sub-Zero, and the best Geras can manage is threatening Cassie Cage. And when he finally comes to blows with Raiden, he is instantly and effectively neutralized by the thunder god dropping him into a mystically bottomless ocean. Geras is supposed to be an unstoppable monster, but two separate versions of Johnny Cage manage to outlast him.

They're friends!

But it’s not like that matters, as the universe at large doesn’t last much past Geras’s defeat. Kronika is defeated by Fire God Liu Kang, and, given Kronika messed the universe up but good in her misbegotten attempts to reboot existence for the hundredth time, Raikang is left with the job of recreating the Mortal Kombat universe. What shape will it take? What fighters will we see in the inevitable Mortal Kombat 12? Who knows! But there is one thing I know. This is the end of this iteration of the Mortal Kombat universe, so, having covered every last kombatant, I can safely say that this has been a komplete guide to Mortal Kombat kharacters.

… At least until the next DLC.

Thanks for reading.

MKK: The New MK Universe & Skarlet

In the beginning there was Midway, and it was good. In seven days and seven nights (or maybe, like, thirty years), Midway produced some of the most amazing arcade titles on the planet. Midway distributed Space Invaders. Midway distributed Pac-Man. I’m moderately certain Spy Hunter was somewhere in there. Tapper. Gorf. Smash TV. Journey: Not the Journey You’re Thinking Of. Let’s skip ahead to NBA Jam. NFL Blitz. Revolution X: Music is the Weapon. War Gods. Happy Feet for Nintendo DS. Ozzy & Drix for the Gameboy Advance. And, of course, through it all, Midway was responsible for Mortal Kombat and its many, many sequels.

Get 'em George
Happier Times

Unfortunately, Midway blew all its development money on Ozzy & Drix, and they went bankrupt in 2009. This, as you may expect, impacted the Mortal Kombat series. Specifically, this whole “goin’ bankrupt” thing started back around when Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe was happening, so planned DLC for the game, Harley Quinn and Quan Chi, got cancelled due to a complete lack of interest in Quan Chi (and the bankruptcy thing, too, I guess). But! Possibly because Midway Chicago was already working with Warner Bros. Interactive, the WB purchased the remains of Midway Chicago and its IPs. This meant that, finally, Yakko, Wakko, and Dot could cross over with the lucrative The Suffering franchise. It also meant that Mortal Kombat and its kast of kharacters that once uppercutted Superman are now the property of the same dudes that owned Superman, so… hooray? Go ahead and add Sub-Zero to the Arrowverse Multiverse map, nerds.

Watch your nethers

But, crossover opportunities aside, the important result of the end of Midway was NetherRealm Studios. NetherRealm Studios technically started its WB time as WB Games Chicago, but, before that, this team was basically Midway Games Chicago. And who has been the consistent lead of this team? Ed Boon, one of the original four men that created Mortal Kombat. And why is it “NetherRealm Studios”? Well, because NRS predominantly only makes Mortal Kombat games (featuring Scorpion, popular denizen of the NetherRealm). They’ve also got the Injustice franchise, but that is, at its core, MK with a Batman skin. Beyond that, NetherRealm Studios has only ever produced one mobile WWE game and a mobile Batman Arkham City spin-off. The point here? We now have an entire videogame developer devoted to Mortal Kombat, and it doesn’t have to waste resources on maintaining the CarnEvil extended universe.

This is a great situation for Mortal Kombat! Finally, its team can take some time, breathe, and get back to designing the new legends of the Mortal Kombat franchise. We went through some lean, Hotaru-based years back there, and now we’re ready for the titans of a whole new generation. Show us this year’s Sub-Zero, NetherRealm Studios!

DESTROY

Oh, snap, he’s a robot? …. Didn’t you already do that? No? But, didn’t you already do all of this?

Mortal Kombat 9 (officially titled simply “Mortal Kombat”) was the first game produced by NetherRealm Studios (then officially titled WB Games Chicago). At its core, it is little more than a Star Trek 2009-esque reboot of the franchise. As a result, it introduced exactly zero new kharacters (until DLC, where we got one), and the best anyone could hope for was seeing some cyborgs take off their robot suits. From the perspective of someone expecting to make some new friends (and then roundhouse them), Mortal Kombat 9 was a complete disappointment.

On the other hand, Mortal Kombat 9, appropriately enough, was a return to form for the Mortal Kombat franchise. Did you enjoy all of the fighting styles of the previous three (non crossover) Mortal Kombat titles? They’re gone now! Back to four-button face-punching (or kicking). 3-D? Not in this timeline! Back to two dimensions! And do you like fatalities? Because the design team apparently put a premium on its finishers for the first time in the franchise’s history. After two games of “Heroic Brutalities” and supremely generic finishers, we’ve got some really specific buckets of blood being tossed around. There’s also a stage that contains a literal blood fountain! And it has nothing to do with Johnny Cage slashing an artery!

And, while the cast is wholly familiar, the story is appropriately Mortal Kombat bonkers, so we scored another goal there.

Mortal Kombat 9 has been tangentially referenced in the other recaps, but, because your stupid ape brain can only quantify events in a linear fashion, and all future kharacter spotlights will be firmly in this new timeline, let’s review how Mortal Kombat 9 went down.

So, to be clear, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (MK7) happened. And the end result was that literally everyone died except Raiden and Shao Kahn. And, frankly, Raiden wasn’t doing so great against a now mystically-empowered Kahn. So Raiden came up with the bright idea to send a magical text message back to his past self, and the general assumption was that Past-Raiden would be able to instantly understand Future-Raiden because, hey, they’re the same guy, right? And he’s got god-level knowledge, too! Raiden is the guardian of the entire realm of Earth, of course he’s going to be smart enough to figure out a message from his future self.

Unfortunately, Raiden is a blithering idiot. Both of ‘em.

Look out!
Granted, most MK kharacters have had brain injuries at this point

Raiden told Raiden that “He must win.” Raiden assumed that a pronoun would work, but, other than completely disqualifying Sonya Blade, it didn’t exactly help the situation. In fact, Past Raiden following the “He must win” mantra nearly got everybody killed (including a good number of “he”’s). And it all turned out to be some stupid riddle to begin with, and the only explanation for that is that apparently at least one Raiden involved here is suicidal.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s what you need to know about the brand new Mortal Kombat universe:

• “Past Raiden” starts at the top of Mortal Kombat 1. Given he is involved in a fighting tournament featuring almost exclusively men, “He must win” isn’t exactly helpful. And, since Raiden doesn’t have any further future information, he assumes that Liu Kang must win Mortal Kombat. Given that is how MK happened the first time, very little changes at this point in the timeline.

• However, there are a few inconsequential retcons. For instance, Baraka, Nightwolf, and (the human versions of) Cyrax & Sektor participate. Also, Quan Chi, who previously did not appear until MK4, is part of Shao Kahn’s general entourage. He’s currently acting like Scorpion’s manager, and it’s never not weird that mundane karate man Liu Kang has to deal with King Goth of Gothania pirouetting around.

• Also, Raiden tries to bribe Scorpion into not killing Sub-Zero I. But, Raiden? My man? Scorpion is an unstoppable vengeance demon fueled only by his desire to avenge himself upon nebulously blue, ninja-shaped life forms. You would have had an easier time bribing the Kool-Aid man into dodging brick walls.

• Liu Kang wins MK1 like normal, but things start going south during the second Mortal Kombat tournament. For one thing, Jax is slightly more gung-ho about rescuing Sonya in this timeline, so Ermac meets Jax’s enthusiasm by tearing the guy’s arms off.

• Also, Raiden sees a vision of Smoke being captured and transformed into a robot, and rescues Smoke from his cybernetic fate. However, this leaves Sub-Zero II vulnerable, and he’s captured by Lin Kuei forces. So now we have a whole new robot to deal with!

Kitana discovers the dark secret of Mileena (she never got braces), but Kitana does not kill Mileena. In the original timeline, Mileena had to be magically revived to participate in every title past MK2, and Kitana was being pursued by Shao Kahn for her murder. Kitana’s hands are clean in this timeline, but she still winds up on Shao Kahn’s shitlist for being a general nuisance.

Mime!
Obviously, Johnny Cage’s seminal Ninja Mime still happened.

• Oh, and quite crucially, Raiden interprets “he must win” as a call for the brash Kung Lao, not Liu Kang, to win Mortal Kombat 2. Kung Lao does pretty well until Shao Kahn realizes he’s wholly in charge of the tournament, and, when you make the rules, you can break the rules. So Shao Kahn breaks Kung Lao’s neck. Kung Lao becomes the first “real” casualty of the rebooted universe.

• Liu Kang kills Shao Kahn in retribution, and, like before, wins Mortal Kombat 2. However, Shao Kahn is revived about seven seconds later thanks to the ever-pesky Quan Chi. Quan Chi also kicks off MK3 by reviving Sindel. In the original timeline, there was never an exact explanation for how Shao Kahn survived MK2 and revived Sindel for MK3 (a wizard did it… seriously!), so Quan Chi’s presence here is only marginally a retcon.

• MK3 is fast and furious with the retcons and timeline changes. Kabal is now a cop (!) and Stryker’s partner (!). Like before, Kabal is BBQed in the early days of the Outworld invasion, but now it is confirmed that his cybernetics and magical speed powers are the results of Kano and Shang Tsung.

• Raiden screws the pooch by killing the horse. Motaro was Shao Kahn’s dragon du jour for MK3, but Raiden receives a vision of Motaro killing Johnny Cage, so Raiden kills Motaro first. Johnny is saved, but in the absence of his beloved centaur, Shao Kahn decides to kill Shang Tsung, drain his soul bowl, and transform Queen Sindel into her super saiyan form. Queen Sindel is now a boss-class monster (for story purposes, she’s still pretty lousy in actual gameplay).

• Sub-Zero, now a robot, seemingly kills Noob Saibot, who was already dead. It was confusing. But what’s important is that now Noob Saibot is going to have to take a game off to recover. Robot Sub-Zero never gets around to “freeing” his robot brethren like in the original timeline.

• And, since it looks like the good guys are actually winning this war against Shao Kahn, Queen Sindel gets sent to take out Team Good. And she does! Sindel leads an assault on Earthrealm that leaves… let’s see here… Nightwolf, Sub-Zero, Jax, Stryker, Smoke, Kabal, and… probably some other guys… all dead. Oh! Kitana! She’s dead. So is Sindel, in the end. This leaves us with only Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, and Sonya surviving into the fourth quarter.

• This all made Raiden really frustrated with the situation, one thing led to another, and, blah blah blah, Raiden may have killed Liu Kang and left him a particularly well done corpse.

Sorry!
“Sorry about that.”

• But that gives Raiden an idea: why not just give up? “He must win” is revealed to mean that Shao Kahn must win specifically Mortal Kombat 3, because the fights of Mortal Kombat 3 are not an officially sanctioned tournament presented by Mortal Kombat Korp., and, when Shao Kahn “wins”, the Elder Gods call foul, and Shao Kahn is obliterated on a technicality. Shao Kahn is gone forever (thus he can never go on to win Mortal Kombat 7), and Raiden has won Mortal Kombat 3 by the two sweetest words in the English language: default.

• But everybody is still dead, and, thanks to Netherrealm (the realm, not the company) contract negotiations, enslaved by Quan Chi. Only Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage are left standing to represent Team Good.

• And that’s why Mortal Kombat 4 starts with a full-blown Netherrealm invasion featuring Shinnok, Quan Chi, and an army of undead fighters. But that’s a story for next time.

Anywho, what does it all mean? Well, to use up my last few bullet points (I got them on sale at Target, and I want to use them all before they expire):

• Most of the Mortal Kombat old guard is dead. This does not stop them from participating in future titles, but they’re going to be angrier when they do.

• To be completely clear, Shao Kahn, is totally dead. So is Shang Tsung. So they’re not coming back for future titles like in the good ol’ days (or at least not for a whole one game).

• This means that Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, featuring Shang Tsung killing Liu Kang, will never happen in this timeline. And given those events immediately led to MK: Deception and MK: Armageddon, Mortal Kombat 5-7 will not “reboot”, and are not remembered by anyone.

• However, Mortal Kombat 9-11 have confirmed that events from the “old games” could happen again under different circumstances, and any kharacters introduced in those titles are still legitimate… they’re just not participating right now. Hotaru is still out there living his best life.

• And, of course, the timeline veering off into this new direction means there will be all new kharacters introduced in these (mostly) all new storylines.

So get ready for new, never before seen kharacters! … You just have to wait a game for ‘em, because there was nobody new in Mortal Kombat 9.

Blood!

… Well, except Skarlet. She was DLC, and didn’t actually impact the storyline proper, but Mortal Kombat 9 did technically have one original kharacter.

Skarlet is the “red female ninja” to match Ermac (the red boy ninja). Like Ermac, she originally existed as the rumored “fourth female ninja” in Mortal Kombat 2 that could only be accessed by glitching out the Sega Genesis version while licking a dog’s nose and chanting the entirety of Yellow Submarine backwards. Unfortunately, this was only a rumor, and, if a certain dog still looks at me funny when I pick up a Genesis controller, that’s a coincidence. Given (real) Skarlet was introduced well past the point that color-swaps were all the rage in MK, she was designed from the start to merely “evoke” the concept of being another ninja twin, and is not intended to actually be another literal sister to Kitana and Mileena. She’s still one of Shao Kahn’s assassin women, though, so she at least has the same job as the other ladies.

As far as her history, Skarlet was a starving street urchin that was “rescued” by Shao Kahn, and transformed into a blood-mage assassin. Yes, “blood” is a magical element in the Mortal Kombat universe, and, frankly, that makes a whole lotta sense (in the MK universe, people are 80% blood by volume). Skarlet is not a vampire (that would be Nitara), but she does gain unsubstantiated power through drinking blood. But, again, not a vampire, so she presumably eats a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables when she’s not empowering herself with the blood of her enemies. She can also telekinetically manipulate blood, and transform it into projectiles, swords, and balloon doggies (though that last one rarely comes up).

Skarlet also has “bloodhound”-like tracking abilities, and, while you may think this trait would grant her some manner of bounty-hunting-based task for her premiere in Mortal Kombat 9, her official job was keeping track of Quan Chi and determining whether or not he was up to anything untoward. Fun fact: she failed. But her boss was dead by the time MK9 concluded, so she didn’t have to worry about a poor performance review. Skarlet does not appear in Mortal Kombat 10, but she teams up with Reiko in service of Havik for the MKX comics, and her ultimate reward is Milenna chopping off her legs (!) and leaving her for dead. And then she died.

Like most dead people, Skarlet returns as a playable fighter in Mortal Kombat 11. In this case, “future” Skarlet appears to still be dead, but a Skarlet from roughly Mortal Kombat 2 (MK9) steps through a time portal to serve Shao Kahn in her usual bloody manner. But, in a more Avengers manner, she just winds up being “the henchwoman”, and is forced to fight (good, time-displaced) Kitana and Jade a couple of times. She loses every time, and winds up impacting the plot at large slightly less than Baraka. Hell, if she didn’t show up for MK11, she could have been replaced by Reptile, and literally nothing would change.

But at least she came back for one game, thus legitimizing the one original fighter from Mortal Kombat 9. This makes a certain amount of sense though, as it appears the MK franchise had been stockpiling all of its kreative juices for Mortal Kombat 10…

Tasty!
Speaking of creative juices…

Next time: Kill the franchise before it breeds!

MKK: DC Universe and Guests (Part 1)

I’ve been writing about these krazy kombatants for the last six months or so, and, in all that time, you may have noticed I frequently reference nearly all the titles from Mortal Kombat 1-11. But you know what title is continually skipped? Mortal Kombat 8. And you know why? Because Lex Luthor stole it. And that’s terrible.

Let’s talk about Mortal Kombat 8, aka Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe.

Right in the kisser

Mortal Kombat Armageddon was the end of the line for the “PS2 era” of Mortal Kombat titles. After years of fighting styles, questionable character creation, and Chess Kombat, the stewards of Mortal Kombat decided it was time to get back to basics. 3-D? Well, you might be able to dodge sideways, but we’re going to stick to two dimensions moving forward. Multiple fighting styles? Naw, we’re going back to one basic set with plentiful special moves for each fighter. And speaking of fighters, it’s time to pare Mortal Kombat down to the titans that made this franchise famous in the first place, so wave good-bye to Daegon, Chaos Realm, and all the cruft that had accumulated over the previous six years. We are here for Kano uppercutting Raiden, and that’s what we’re going to get.

And, as if offering a guide on enticing fans new and old with gameplay that would otherwise be labeled as regressive, it was decided that the gruesome and violent Mortal Kombat universe would crossover with the world of sunshine and rainbows that is the DC Universe. Superman lives there! And people only have limbs ripped off, like, once or twice a year!

So, from a strictly plot perspective, nothing that happened in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe actually happens. It’s a hoax! An imaginary story! And, frankly, there isn’t much story there to speak of, anyway. Shao Kahn was defeated in one universe at the exact same time Darkseid was defeated in another, and, since some whacky transporter accident was involved, the two villains were merged into the game’s only unique (“unique”) kharacter, Dark Kahn.

Really hot stuff

Dark Kahn… isn’t really anything. He doesn’t have a personality to speak of (he is, like, double evil), and his nefarious plan is the typical “conquer the universes” shtick. However, his mere existence threatens both of his home universes, which, thanks to dubious magical physics, are merging into one universe. This allows for whacky “first encounters”, like Scorpion mistaking Batman for Sub-Zero (dude, get some glasses), or Kano getting jobbed by The Flash (and, unfortunately, not teaming up with Ragdoll). There’s also a “Rage Virus” going around as a result of the realms merging, which serves the dual purpose of pushing some normally pacifistic fighters (wait a minute…) into battling, and evens out everyone’s power levels so Goku can fight Joker on an even keel. It all leads to a pile of crossover battles that culminate with “oh, what am I doing?”, and, in the end, Raiden and Superman team up to separate Dark Kahn into his component pieces. Grand finale: each interdimensional despot winds up imprisoned in the opposite, permanently separated universe. Shao Kahn is trapped in the Phantom Zone, and Darkseid is left to rot in MK’s Netherrealm. … He’ll be ruling the place within a week.

But, again, none of it really “happens”, because it doesn’t have an ongoing impact on either universe. The DC Universe doesn’t particularly note that time Sonya Blade stopped by (and it’s not like The New Gods lost Darkseid to another universe), and Jax isn’t staying up late chatting on pan-universal Skype with Cyborg. Neither universe was actually influenced by the events of the crossover.

Right in the balls

Which is unfortunate, because it’s clear that Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe dramatically influenced the next few Mortal Kombat and DC Universe titles. Midway died, Netherrealm Studios was born of the ashes, and, though it all, the next few MK titles would resemble MKvDCU a lot more than literally anything that had come before. This is the title that rebooted Shao Kahn’s career as the big bad of the franchise (for the first time since MK3), and set Raiden (not Liu Kang) as the big hero. This is where the Mortal Kombat 1 & 2 kast was cemented as the “real” MK roster (of the MK fighters in MKvDCU, only the villainous Shang Tsung and Shao Kahn were not represented in some way in every forthcoming MK title, and that was only for one game). And roughly 90% of the gameplay of MKvDCU went on to be the standard style for not only the Mortal Kombat franchise, but also the DC Universe-based fighting game Injustice. Basically, two whole franchises spawned from this one game that “never happened”.

So, in the grand tradition of the game that never happened being one of the most important titles in the franchise, let’s skip ahead a lil’ and look at every guest fighter in the Mortal Kombat universe. None of these fights happened. Or did they? (They didn’t.)

Hot stuff

We’ve already covered how Mortal Kombat didn’t really cross over with The DC Universe, but it’s worth noting that various MK fighters occasionally wind up in the Injustice universe. Sub-Zero, Scorpion, and Raiden have all guested in that franchise. If you’re curious what they were up to in that universe:

• Scorpion of roughly MK2 was summoned to the Injustice DC Universe by Trigon, the demonic father of Teen Titan Raven. Trigon runs his own hell-universe (though, to be clear, not DC Universe’s Hell, a place that is so delightfully complicated I could write an epic poem about its ridiculous mythology), and summoned Scorpion to join his army. This went poorly, as Scorpion defeated Trigon and took his realm for his own.

Sub-Zero of Mortal Kombat X bopped into the Injustice 2 universe by some cosmic accident, and fought against Brainiac because Sub-Zero hates nerds (even though, secret truth, Sub-Zero has a comp sci degree). Sub-Zero then chilled in the Injustice universe training the next generation of DC Heroes (to be… assassins?), and eventually wound up fighting alongside the good guys when there was a Phantom Zone jailbreak.

Raiden of Mortal Kombat X deliberately travels to the Injustice 2 Universe to defeat Brainiac, because some stupid robot alien dude is apparently a greater threat to the universes than the friggen’ God of Evil. Raiden decides to stick around this universe when Kent Nelson, aka Fate, dies, and reveals that The Lords of Order are trying to destroy everything. So Raiden joins Justice League Dark. He smells better than John Constantine and Swamp Thing, so the team is happy to have him.

During Injustice 2, Sub-Zero and Raiden make distinct references to knowing the DC Heroes, and how “Dark Kahn” was once a threat. This has led some to postulate that the Injustice Universe, a world where Superman went marginally insane and became a super-fascist after the death of his wife and unborn child, is actually the DC Universe that MK crossed-over with in DC Vs., and the reason that the Injustice Universe is doomed to be a fighting game universe full of misery is that the MK fighters tainted this “version” of the DC Universe. However, this hypothesis is absurd, as Injustice 1 clearly establishes that its Lex Luthor and Superman were best friends from their first meeting until the events of Injustice, so the Injustice Universe is entirely incompatible with the Vs. Universe that established that Lex Luthor was always his usual cuss of a self. On a related note, I am a giant, pedantic nerd, and Sub-Zero is coming for me.

Anywho, let’s just assume these MK fighters exist in some sort of micro-continuity where Shao Kahn was trapped in, and then eventually escaped, the Phantom Zone. Also worth noting that Sub-Zero and Raiden have at least one conversation in Mortal Kombat 11 that claims they mutually dreamed of a “strange and unjust world”. So… it was all a dream? Yeah, and Liu Kang is just a butterfly dreaming he’s a karate man.

BANG!

The Joker is the first DC “Hero” to cross back over and fight in the Mortal Kombat universe again. First of all, this isn’t The Joker from the Injustice Universe, because that Joker was killed shortly after tricking Superman into killing his wife and unborn child (man, that universe sucks). And the in-game bio for Joker confirms “he killed Robin and crippled Batgirl”, and… is that canon in any DC Universe at this point? Post-Crisis, Pre-Final-Crisis Joker? No matter. What’s important is that this Joker is distinct from Injustice Joker (another dimension hopper) from a gameplay and origin perspective, so… ugh… Does this mean he was in DC vs.? This gets confusing. What is important is that Joker was apparently used as a gateway to include, via his ending, Havik, Hotaru, and Hsu Hao…

He's back!

So I guess he has a thing for H’s? Is that a Joker trait? Bah! At least this is his first appearance in MK or MK-adjacent materials where he really gets to enjoy the fatalities.
Left handed?

Injustice crossed over with a few other comicbook franchises, and if Sub-Zero can punch ‘em, I’m countin’ ‘em. So let’s take a quick look at Hellboy. Hellboy is the creation of Mike Mignola, and (long story short) the Prince of Hell that abdicated his throne in favor of pancakes. In his home universe, he’s a member of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, which basically means that he would gladly beat down the majority of the supernatural MK kast any day of the week. Hellboy’s charm point is his Right Hand of Doom, which is not often used to dispense hugs. His official reason for existence in Injustice 2 is that Brainiac pulled him there from his own universe. That ended poorly for Brainiac. Hellboy then returned home, but got bored with that, too, and decided to go to Africa. This… uh… doesn’t have much to do with Mortal Kombat, but it’s good to know Hellboy could take a thunder god in any universe.

Toitles

Also guesting in the Injustice Universe are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The turtles distinctly hail from another dimension, too, and were accidentally delivered to Injustice Town by Krang. But which continuity of Turtles actually fought against Sub-Zero and Superman? Who the heck knows. There’s definitely some heavy influence from the original animated series here (they gain additional super powers from a pizza provided by Harley Quinn), but Krang is noted as an Utromian, so these are not the hero turtles of Turtles in Time (booo). Whatever the case, the way the individual turtles are all selectable as different “styles” is very similar to the main conceit of Mortal Kombat X (and particularly its DLC fighter, Triborg), so there seems to be more than a little MK DNA in this TMNT appearance. Oh? And their ending? They get super powers from their time in Injustice, return home, and then toss Shredder into a dumpster. Cowabunga.

But the fighters of Mortal Kombat weren’t limited to simply comic book crossovers. Next time, we’ll look at all the other guests in the Mortal Kombat universe. You know, all the ones that didn’t ever have to fight Green Lantern.

Next time: I just said the next time! Geez! Pay attention!

MKK: Fujin & Sareena

Mortal Kombat Mythologies splits Sub-Zero’s quest into two parts. First, Subs must venture through a temple of themed elements like some common Light Warrior, and defeat a quartet of elementally themed “guardians”. In the context of MKM, it appears these creatures are little more than themed boss fights, and not “for real” antagonists. They do not speak, they do not have personalities, and they’re simply a parade of stock fiends. Earth is represented by a golem of the Castlevania variety, Fire is a really obvious palette (body?) swap of Raiden (but on fire), Water is played by Tobias Fünke, and Air is just some dude in a cape that accidentally gets shredded by his own tornados. They’re more interesting bosses than the generic monks that comprise most of Sub-Zero’s opponents, but I don’t think anyone expected “wind guy” to ever make a comeback.

God of Farts
(not Thor)

So here’s Fujin, God of Wind, and Raiden’s secret best buddy.

Fujin wasn’t even named in Mortal Kombat Mythologies, but he popped back into the universe for Mortal Kombat 4. He’s also not just a “wind guardian” hanging out in some forgotten temple, he’s the God of Wind for the whole of Earth, and one of the last surviving gods after Shinnok decided to reinvade the planet. Sorry, rock guy, you didn’t make the cut. And, while it is nice to see another god participating in Mortal Kombat (is Raiden the only deity that finds to the time to work on his abs?), Fujin basically existed in the plot of MK4 to be Raiden’s sidekick. Fujin’s vaguely kanonical ending sees Raiden getting promoted to Elder God (which definitely happened), and Fujin moving up a rank to fill Raiden’s former position as Captain Planet.

God of Farts

And then Raiden returned to his old position a whole game later, so Fujin had to stand in the divine unemployment line. Don’t worry, man, you’ll be fine. You’re a wind god! And you have experience with Excel!

Fujin finally got his gusts together three games later in Mortal Kombat Armageddon. Here, Raiden was going through his goth phase, and hanging out with new friends like Zombie Liu Kang, so Fujin decided to step in and be the good god around town with his new buddy, Only Sort of a Zombie Kung Lao. The two technically didn’t do anything, but Raiden was back to good by the end of Mortal Kombat Armageddon, so maybe Fujin’s noble actually-doing-something-for-a-change turned Raiden’s frown upside down. And then everybody died.

Mortal Kombat 10 started with a retread of MK4, so Fujin at least got to cameo during the opening cinema scenes. Once again, he’s assisting Raiden as (unconfirmed) the last surviving god against Shinnok’s invading forces. He’s not seen in the “future” of MK10, but one would assume he’s blowing Quan Chi’s farts around just off camera. There’s no reason to believe he isn’t in good health.

God of Farts

… Oh, except Frost apparently iced Fujin off-screen sometime before Mortal Kombat 11. She won’t shut up about it. So, uh, sorry, Fooj. At least you had a better run than that fire guy.

The second half of Mortal Kombat Mytholgies sees Quan Chi run off to hell with an amulet that could destroy the universe. Sub-Zero is guilted into chasing after the sorcerer by Raiden’s incessant nagging, and the rest of the game is Sub-Zero’s Inferno. Here, Sub-Zero must battle Shinnok’s personal death cult, The Brotherhood of Shadow. And, because MK can’t name its organizations correctly (a bunch of white guys are the Black Dragons? Really?), the most prominent members of The Brotherhood of Shadows are… sisters.

I remember you

And it’s here that we meet Sareena, Mortal Kombat’s most forgotten female.

After stomping the elemental guardians, Sub-Zero needed some bosses to fight before making his way to Quan Chi and Shinnok. Thus, the mook sisters were dispatched by Quan Chi, presumably because Ed Boon wasn’t going to go to all the trouble of filming a live action movie if it didn’t include real women dressed up in skimpy leather. So Sub-Zero wound up pursued by Sareena, Regina, and Purina (uh… I think those are their names). Sub-Zero killed the two most forgettable sisters, but he also read the strategy guide for his own game beforehand, so he spared Sareena. This paid off just in time for the final boss fights, as Sareena teamed up with Sub-Zero to defeat her master, Quan Chi. Unfortunately, she was vaporized moments later by Shinnok. Wow, sorry Sareena, looks like you die even when Sub-Zero spares you. Guess you’re doomed to perish before the Mortal Kombat timeline technically starts just so our hero can have enough man pain to make it over the finish line. Sorry again.

But it turns out she was fine! Sareena is technically a demon (that is merely disguised as a sexy lady), and if you kill a demon in the Netherrealm, she’ll just respawn on some other level. Hooray! Sareena didn’t make it back in time for Mortal Kombat 4, but she did return for Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance. Sorta.

Apparently the developers of Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance put together a sort of “what if” mockup of Sareena, a fighter that had never actually been playable and only existed in Mortal Kombat Mythologies. The directors really liked what was produced… but MKDA was already practically out the door. These days, she’d likely wind up as a DLC choice, but that wasn’t so much a thing in 2002. The solution? She was the only completely original kharacter added to one portable version of MKDA (Sektor and Noob Saibot were also added, but they were palette swaps). The downside? This was still back when “portable version” meant “Gameboy Advance”.

I remember you

Her premiere was… not exactly inspiring.

Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition saw a Sareena that had a whole two special moves. She could fire a skull (pretty typical demon fare) and do a cartwheel (because she’s a lady). She had one fatality that involved some random punching. Her fighting style was a grab bag from three other female fighters (Sonya, Frost, and Li Mei, three kharacters that were cut from this version of DA) She was not very memorable.

But she was there! And she wanted her revenge on Quan Chi! Which she didn’t get! Naturally!

A lot of fans speculated that now, with her model all existing an’ stuff, she’d be a shoo-in for the next Mortal Kombat title, MK: Deception. Unsurprisingly, she didn’t appear at all.

But she did return as a playable kharacter in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon! And she was, oddly enough, one of the best fighters in the game, as her projectiles (now back to throwing knives she showed off in her initial appearance) were the fastest in the game. Was this a way for the kreators of Mortal Kombat to apologize for the oft-neglected Sareena, or was it simply the result of Sareena being one of the few wholly original, not completely reused fighters on the roster, and thus was unbalanced as hell? Who knows!

I remember you

Whatever the case, most of her history and backstory is filled in during this featured adventure. She’s a big scary demon, but she needed Quan Chi to maintain human form, but then she got over that, and she joined the Lin Kuei (Sub-Zero’s clan) after MKA, but she got lost or something, and is now back to working for Quan Chi like her sisters, but she’s planning on betraying him at the earliest opportunity. Got all that? It’s pretty much exactly her MK:M story, except maybe this time she’ll survive. Which she doesn’t. But at least everybody else died, too!

Sareena hasn’t been a playable kharacter in the new MK universe, but she did pop up during the story mode of Mortal Kombat X. In this case, she was fighting some of the (formerly good) undead hordes of Quan Chi, and claiming that there was a better way, and they could escape his control like she did. For anyone that remembered her from MK:M, this was a pretty cool cameo. For the vast number of Mortal Kombat players that never heard of that game, however, she likely just came off as some kind of deranged, gothic Jehova’s Witness (Raiden’s Witness?). Other than that, we haven’t seen… Oh, wait a minute, apparently Sareena returns as part of Kabal’s ending in Mortal Kombat 11 as…

I remember you

Okay, she’s unnamed in the text, but apparently Kabal’s dream of a better life is not ever being scarred, owning a mansion with attack helicopters, and having 2.5 kids and a dog with a noted demon from Hell. This is an odd choice, but, hey, at least someone remembered Sareena existed.

Next time: It’s time for the original Mortal Kombat 4 fighters. Oh no!