Tag Archives: shao kahn

MKK: Reptile

Secret Ninja

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

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

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

Kisses!

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

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

And then things got weird.

Ugh

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

Dinosaur!

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

Reptile!

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

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

Kisses!


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

Kisses!
Such a looker

Next time: Hat Man

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.