Tag Archives: shinnok

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: Cassie Cage

In retrospect, it is very important that “Mortal Kombat 9” was officially titled simply “Mortal Kombat”. MK9 was a return to form for the franchise in one particular department: it was just Mortal Kombat. MK9 contained no kart racing, puzzle kombat, chess kombat, questionable JRPG/beat ‘em up hybrids, Hotaru: nothing. Mortal Kombat 9 was simply dudes punching dudes, a story mode featuring dudes punching dudes, and various “missions” that included slight (but interesting) variations on dudes punching dudes. The only mini games available where the “test your might”-style challenges found in the original Mortal Kombat, and… that was it. Some believed that this was all Mortal Kombat ever needed, and that hypothesis did seem to bear fruit when Mortal Kombat 9 wound up being possibly the most popular MK title since… ever. It didn’t introduce anything particularly new to the franchise, but it was capital M Mortal Kombat. And that’s how the franchise once again claimed a flawless victory, earning the swagger that had been missing since Mortal Kombat 4.

So somebody had the bright idea to do Mortal Kombat 4 all over again.

Dammit!

Cassie!

But wait! We are adding new things this time! For one thing, Liu Kang, the original victor of Mortal Kombat 4, is dead. In fact, he’s so dead, he’s fighting on the other team. This means that Shinnok, Lord of the Netherrealm and commander of demon hordes, decides to drop the subterfuge angle he employed in the original MK4 timeline, and just wholesale invades the realms with an army of monsters and zombies. So that leads to a lot of punching, right? Wrathful wraiths Sub-Zero and Scorpion can battle good guys like Sonya Blade, Johnny Cage, and… Oops, all the rest of the heroes are dead. So when the final battle finally happens, it’s Cage vs. Shinnok. Sonya would love to help, but she winds up damseled pretty early in the battle, and Johnny is forced to summon up all his green glowy power to beat Shinnok back into his own magical amulet. The world is saved by Hollywood star power, but, more importantly, Sonya gets all hot and bothered for Mr. Cage. And you know what that means?

Offspring! Meet Cassie Cage!

Cassie (and her whole “kiddy” entourage) is something of a first for the Mortal Kombat series. Likely due to the superviolence on display, the MK franchise never really focused on a neophyte or “child” style character. While kanon ages vary across the board, the general “feeling” of most fighters in MK is that we’re dealing with adults with jobs, families, and health insurance. Jax doesn’t leave his gig at McDonald’s to raid his mini fridge for the last pizza bite; he’s a goddamn major in the United States military. Johnny Cage is an established movie star. Scorpion had a wife and child before he became a vengeance skeleton. Even the outworlders feel “adult”: Baraka is a soldier, Kitana is an established assassin, and Goro has been at the top of his field for literally centuries. The second Sub-Zero is about as close as the original crop gets to being inexperienced, but even he immediately displays his vast knowledge of ninja powers and robot programming (so he’s clearly already completed a double major). Once we include the later MK games, we can see a few attempts at a “new to this whole thing” kharacter, like Frost or Li Mei, but both of those ladies became cutthroat and murderous almost instantly. In short, Mortal Kombat resisted the existence of a Sakura or Noel Vermillion in its universe for a very long time, and Cassie seems like an abnormality as a result.

Rude much?

But, to be clear, Cassie is not some fighting preteen or something similar. Mortal Kombat X officially starts about 25 years after the events of its prologue, Reboot Mortal Kombat 4, so she’s in her 20’s by the time the story begins in earnest. Compared to other franchises, she’s practically an old lady for admitting she’s past her teens. But Cassie’s story is continually one of a neophyte and child: she’s good, she knows she’s good, but her parents literally repeatedly saved the world, so is she that good? Can she save the world, too? Where does she fit in in this crazy, uppercut-based universe? Give or take some specific parental issues, it’s the dilemma of a number of young adult-aimed protagonists across fiction across centuries, and it is, incidentally, the only plot available to roughly 95% of anime produced since Neon Genesis Evangelion. So, again, it’s a little bit strange that Mortal Kombat decided to introduce the story of Katniss Evercage now, nearly 25 years after launching the series. It would be like if Street Fighter 6 focused on E. Honda hosting a hot dog eating competition featuring Sakura and Karin. Who would ever claim that could be the best thing to come out of the franchise in years?

Anywho, if it sounds like I’m saying Cassie is somehow a poor fit for Mortal Kombat, that is not my intention. Cassie’s whole deal is by no means bad, it’s simply weird that this type of character/story is being introduced to the franchise this late in the game. The adults were talking this whole time, and now lil’ Cassie wants to sing a song she learned from the Teddy Bear Brigade. It… presents a slightly different tone than the usual.

… Which is probably why Mortal Kombat X has a background plot of Outworld-based political intrigue… but I guess we have to wait for Kotal’s bio to cover that one.

Regardless, Cassie’s story is basically the story of Mortal Kombat X, so let’s see what we have here. Mortal Kombat X takes place a solid two decades (and change) after the finale of Reboot Mortal Kombat 4, which happened about two years after Reboot Mortal Kombat 1-3. This leads to a neat trick where Mortal Kombat 1 (and MK9) took place the same year MK1 was released, and MKX takes place roughly the same year as its release, too. Cassie is just about as old as Mortal Kombat! So Cassie has decided to follow in her mother’s footsteps, and join the Special Forces, a big ol’ American armed forces joint that sees our brave men and women fighting against the demon hordes (or whatever happens to step through a big, swirly portal). The Special Forces have been instrumental in the years following MK9 as, in Shao Kahn’s death/absence, there’s been a bit of a power vacuum in Outworld, and everyone from Mileena to a particularly irate three-headed turtle has ruled that realm at one time or another in the preceding decades. Cassie is assigned to some kind of general reconnaissance team with the rest of the new class: Jacqui Briggs (daughter of Jax), Takeda Takahashi (son of Kenshi & Scorpion [you heard me]), and Kung Jin (third cousin twice removed of Kung Lao). Together, they are Mortal Kombat: The Next Generation, and their first mission is investigating Sub-Zero (now alive again) and the Lin Kuei (not robots this week). They get their collective asses kicked, and learn a valuable lesson about teamwork and how they will never succeed if they don’t work together. Thus, it should be absolutely no surprise that the finale of this story is Cassie saving the entire universe by fighting completely alone. And that’s why Sub-Zero is a terrible dad.

Rude much?

Anywho, Cassie and her team then proceed to act out the general plot of about 9/10s of JRPGs, as there’s this magical medallion out there that sealed Shinnok away, and they have to reclaim it, or at least make sure the bad guys don’t get it, or at the absolute very least make sure the bad guys don’t get it and run it into the malevolent endzone of a magical temple and summon a Shinnok that is a million times more powerful than they could ever imagine, bwa ha ha and whatnot. As you might expect, the whole team puts in their best effort, but, what, did you expect the final boss to be Cassie’s crippling self doubt? Of course not. It’s revived Dracula from the prologue, and now Cassie must behold his true form and despair. But Cassie eventually succeeds because, in a lovely parallel to the prologue battle, Cassie taps into the glowing green power of her father, and defeats Shinnok in order to rescue a damseled Johnny. Does this mean Johnny is now going to fall in love with his daughter? Ha ha! That would be ridiculous! Johnny Cage isn’t president!

Anywho, the moral of Mortal Kombat X wound up being “don’t worry about measuring up to your parents, because you are your parents.” And that isn’t a horrifying parable at all!

For Mortal Kombat 11, Cassie seemed poised to be queen protagonist again. The top of MK11 sees Cassie and Sonya raiding the stronghold of the forces of the Netherrealm, but Sonya is left behind, and, on Sonya’s own orders, Cassie must detonate some explosives that leave Sonya slain (and if you die in the Netherrealm… uh… um… I really have no idea how the MK afterlife works… it’s probably not great). But Cassie barely has time to mourn her lost mother when a time-displaced version of Sonya walks straight out of a time hole. And she’s a Sonya from roughly when she was the same age as Cassie! Gasp! And now they have to compete in a mother/daughter cook-off for the mortgage to the orphanage! How are they ever going to get out of this one!? Unfortunately for Cassie’s reputation, MK11 winds up having bigger fish to fry, and the whole Cassie/Sonya/Other Sonya relationship is sidelined almost immediately by warring gods and zombie kings. I guess they both learn something new about each other? Before they’re wiped from existence? Something like that.

Rude much?

But that’s basically how Cassie’s life goes down: she’s a “child” character in a story full of adults, and it feels like her starring roles are constantly usurped by more interesting, adult stories. I’m not saying “the Aztec god wants to beat up that ninja lady from the Playboy” is Melville here, but I’m moderately certain people don’t play Mortal Kombat games to further explore their daddy issues. You want a dedicated story about a chosen one blonde with a ponytail that has to save the world on a routine basis while dealing poorly with authority figures, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is right there.

…. Now I’m imagining a Buffy the Vampire Slayer crossover fighting game.

… And it’s pretty great.

Bah, I’ll get to the rest of the new kids next week. I need to work out all of Willow’s special moves right now.

Next time: “So… is your dad a zombie?” “No, he’s just depressed.”

MKK: Taven & Daegon

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (5) reinvented Mortal Kombat gameplay. Mortal Kombat: Deception (6) refined and distilled the essence of that new system. It was only natural that Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (7) reinvented Mortal Kombat yet again… as a kart racer!

Watch where you're going

Wait, no. Take two.

It was only natural that Mortal Kombat: Armageddon carried the changes of MK: Deception to the finish line, and created the new Mortal Kombat Trilogy of its generation. Mortal Kombat Armageddon’s greatest achievement was that it featured literally every fighter that had ever appeared in a (fighting-based) Mortal Kombat title up to that point. This meant that kharacters that had not appeared in the “new trilogy” had to be re-created in 3-D and granted movesets appropriate to the new normal. These returning kombatants were mostly forgotten fighters from Mortal Kombat 4 (Fujin, Jarek, Kai, Reiko, and Shinnok), a few low-tier MK Trilogy “stars” (Chameleon, Khameleon, Rain, Sheeva, Stryker, and Sektor [edge-case, long story]), and a handful of bosses/hidden kharacters that we never thought we’d see again (Meat, Kintaro, Sareena, and Motaro). Some fighters, like Motaro, were drastically redesigned to “fit” with the rest of the bipedal kast, but, by and large, everybody was here for a good fight.

Of course, with the entire, bloated MK roster in attendance, there were a few… concessions. If you tally up the old geezers that are new to the Armageddon generation of the franchise, you’ve got fifteen new models that had to be created for the fight. Somehow, 46 legends had already appeared between Deadly Alliance and Deception, so we’ve got 61 dudes and ladies that all need unique moves, fighting styles, and fatalities. That’s pretty daunting for a development team that was pumping out a new MK title every other year! So, corners were cut (kut?). Previously, every fighter had two fighting styles and a weapon style. Now, everyone simply had one fighting style and one weapon style, the end. Many of the “discarded” fighting styles from the earlier 40 fighters were distributed amongst the newbies, and one hurdle was quickly vaulted. And unique fatalities? Right out. Everyone worked off the same “dial a fatality” system that allowed for some gruesome ends, but nothing distinctive for a fighter that may or may not be able to summon hellfire. And all the “boss” fighters were limited to very narrow, singular move-sets, ostensibly to balance their hulking frames and ridiculous super armor. Oh, and the majority of the roster didn’t get biographies in game (websites and later titles eventually filled in the blanks), and everyone’s ending was just text over a recording of your dude doing calisthenics on top of a pyramid (exactly the same as the endings of Battle Arena Toshinden 3, which is a really weird thing to ever have to say). As a result, Armageddon did seem like the bloated, simple descendant of its previously lean and focused ancestors. Don’t get me wrong, I was one of the people shouting about how it all doesn’t matter if we still get to play as the centaur/satyr again, but the whole experience did feel a tweak compromised to compensate for that full roster.

Look at 'em all

Oh, and another chief complaint about Mortal Kombat: Armageddon? There were only two wholly new kharacters added to the mythos, and they both sucked.

Pull up a chair, and I’ll tell you the sad tale of Bob and Doug.

Wait, those were just their production names. Meet Taven and Daegon.

Actually, let’s take another step back and talk about Mortal Kombat: Deception again. There were two significant complaints about the “adventure mode” of Deception:

1. The gameplay felt more like Fable than Mortal Kombat. Where is all the fighting in this fighting game?
2. Shujinko, the protagonist, was an enormous tool.

With these complaints in mind, it seems obvious where Armageddon’s Konquest Mode originated. First of all, aping the recent (though non-kanon) Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, MK:A decided to drop the JRPG-inspired bits, and make its Konquest Mode more akin to a beat ‘em up. Less exploring, more punching. Unfortunately, this meant that all the bad guys of the MK universe (or at least the dudes popular enough to host levels) had to hire some mooks for Taven to punch through. This would be exactly why Sektor, previously an independent, homicidal robot ninja, suddenly owned a flying airship filled with disposable, other robot ninja. And Scorpion got his clan restored to “life”, but his wish was genied to the point that all his buddies are now fire skeletons. Oh well, means that Taven is going to have a fun time roundhousing various armies full of identical opponents!

But while the gameplay of Konquest Mode seemed much more Mortal Kombat appropriate, it’s debatable on whether or not Taven was an adequate replacement for Shujinko. On one hand, Taven’s quest is a lot more straightforward, and doesn’t require a masters in MK mythology to fully grasp the century-long history of a dude punching across the universe(s). And, important bonus, Taven is not inadvertently and obviously following the advice of the main villain of the piece, so he immediately comes off as smarter than Shujinko (granted, we could apply that same description to a marginally bright species of mollusk). On the other hand, Taven might not be a complete idiot, but he is still the kind of guy that starts his epic quest across the land by demanding to speak to the manager.

But daaaaaaaaad

What’s Taven’s beef? Well, Taven’s daddy is Argus, a major deity in Edenia (the realm of Kitana and Sindel before Shao Kahn conquered the place and merged it with Outworld). Argus was basically Edenia’s Raiden, and, hundreds of years ago, he decided to get his Zeus on with Delia, a sorceress with fire powers and questionable fashion choices. Delia also had the ability to see the future, and determined that one day in the far future, Mortal Kombat rosters would become unsustainable, and there would be too darn many people in the universe that can easily chuck fireballs around the place, so the realms would be obliterated in the biggest Mortal Kombat ever. Argus’s response was a resounding “kill ‘em all, and let me sort them out”, but Delia claimed that some of the kombatants shouldn’t be obliterated for the minor sin of being great at uppercuts, and the good fighters should be spared (even if, at this point, the last surviving non-zombie good guy was, like, Kenshi). Thus did Delia come up with the most convoluted plan ever.

Here was how it was all supposed to go down:

1. Delia and Argus screw like rabbits until at which point they have two (2) sons.
2. When both of the sons are old enough to know right from wrong (legal drinking age), they will be put in suspended animation for potentially centuries.
3. Each son will also receive one (1) guardian dragon.
4. The sons, protected by their dragons, will sleep until which time that the Mortal Kombat franchise has too many ninja running around.
5. At that point, both of the sons will awake and partake in a quest to acquire some divine items (armor, weapons) that were scattered around Earth for some reason.
6. Then both sons will scale a magical pyramid that houses a fire monster that Delia created for this exact purpose.
7. Whichever son slays the fire monster will be crowned the victor and most morally developed (because… uh… swordplay is the true judge of moral superiority), and will be responsible for using his newly acquired god-like powers to sort the good guys from the bad guys.
8. The divine victor will thus obliterate all the evil fighters, and the good fighters will, I don’t know, get to ride on the dragon or something.

Mom, really?
Don’t judge Edenian fashion

Unfortunately, not everything went according to plan. Despite the fact that the creator of this proposal was a friggen’ sorceress with precognition, Nostradamus here didn’t foresee that Blaze, her pet fire god created for one stupid task, would be kidnapped, brainwashed, and reemployed by the forces of Onaga, the Dragon King. This unbalanced the whole stupid contest, and caused Daegon, technically the younger of the two brothers, to awaken centuries before Taven, who had mastered the art of the snooze button. Daegon woke up, assumed his quest had already begun, and enlisted the help of Shinnok, the God of Evil. Poor choice, Daegon! Apparently, this was all a misunderstanding, as Shinnok was a god in well-standing before Daegon took his little nap, but, whatever the case, it did lead to Shinnok manipulating Daegon into killing his own parents. Whoopsie! Since Daegon already crossed the moral event horizon with his bout of deicide and matricide, he decided to form an entire clan of thieves/assassins, and enslave his guardian dragon as a handy teleportation device for his new buddies. Oh, and he found the magical swords intended for him and his brother, and decided why not take both. Thus, before Taven even had time to shake off the morning sleepies, Daegon pretty much had this whole contest wrapped up.

What is happening here?

But let’s look at Daegon in the greater mythology of Mortal Kombat villains. Yes, Daegon has a beef with the main kharacter (he killed his parents!), they’re literally related, and he committed the unforgivable sin of grand theft cool sword. However, beyond that, Daegon is… just a dude with a scar. Nearly every previous Mortal Kombat made the effort to create a new and greater threat than the last (evil wizard was followed by his boss who was followed by his old, immortal boss, and there was an evil god in there for good measure), and later installments would eventually escalate things to fighting the God(dess) of All Time. Daegon is… a dude. He might be half-god, but he literally cannot stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the hulking Shao Kahn, left alone that enormous dragon that ruled the previous installment. And it appears there is an attempt to tie him to the greater MK mythologies by positioning him as the immortal founder of the Red Dragons… but do you, dear reader, even remember who the Red Dragons are? They’re Kano’s rival gang of thieves. They were introduced in MK: Deadly Alliance, and every one of them was kanonically killed during that adventure. The only Red Dragon in MK: Deception appeared as a corpse. At best, the Red Dragons only ever achieved threat level: nuisance. And this is their leader? Oh boy! Wonder who’s gonna instantly kill him?

It’s no wonder Blaze was the final boss of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon’s arcade mode, even if his role in the story is basically magical speed bump. Dude at least looked cool.

Lookit dem swords

Anywho, Taven eventually wakes up when he’s supposed to (after Shujinko defeats the Dragon King, causing Stryker to decide to rejoin the fray, so there’s too many fighters now), and, after some discussion with his stupid dragon, sets off on his quest to figure out what the hell is going on. Unfortunately, he’s immediately kidnapped by robot ninja (Delia, come on, girl, you couldn’t foresee that one?). He escapes, finds his way to Sub-Zero’s digs, and learns that, while his Master Sword may have been stolen by Daegon, his Blue Tunic is still available in the Lin Kuei temple. Bad news, though, as the Lin Kuei are currently dealing with Frost murdering everybody and another, different tribe of robot demon ninja are attacking the place. Busy day! Taven obtains his magical armor and saves Sub-Zero from Noob Saibot (aw, brother parallels), so Subs sends Taven on the trail of the Red Dragons. Taven takes about ten minutes to find the lair of the thieves that are supposed to have been operating in secret for centuries, and he finally confronts his malicious bro. Daegon filled his brother in on the plot so far (“Mom’s dead. I killed her.” “Bogus!”), and then teleported away to the final boss room. Taven was left to sulk and rescue Kano from some dungeon with a peculiarly sticky floor. And then he rescued Daegon’s pet dragon, which was much more of a win for everybody. Daegon’s dragon was rightly pissed off, so he stayed behind at the Red Dragon stronghold to wreck up the place while Taven went to Hell. Literally. Shinnok, evil god trapped in Hell, successfully tricked the other brother, and had Taven wander around Hell defeating illusions for a while. And every MK hero is contractually obligated to visit Outworld, so he wound up sneaking around Shao Kahn’s castle for the flimsiest of reasons. And when Taven finally found his way back to his home realm of Edenia, Scorpion of all people (wraiths) tried to stop him. And, naturally, Scorpion got nowhere. After that, Taven finally confronted Daegon, and, in the end, he defeated his brother, because…. Uh… Guess he was better at punching.

Unfortunately, Taven’s quest somehow psychically resonated with all the kombatants he encountered (or some other excuse), and literally every fighter gathered at the final pyramid in Edenia to fight every other fighter for the right to fight the fire dude. Thus, there was a fine excuse for the real “arcade mode” of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, and, specifically in the kanon of this one game, Taven defeated everybody, ascended the pyramid, defeated Blaze, and attained the Boon-given right to obliterate MK kharacters at will.

Swoosh

Except in the ongoing kanon of Mortal Kombat, Taven actually lost to Shao Kahn, ol’ Kahn obtained Blaze’s power, and he conquered the universe. Way to whiff it, Taven.

And, yes, in general, Taven certainly did whiff it. He wasn’t nearly as stupid as Shujinko, but if it seems like his “biography” is just a series of “he went there and did this thing” reports, then you see the problem. He might have starred in a modern (for the time) beat ‘em up, but Taven was a hero in the silent JRPG protagonist mold, and his only two settings were “confused” and “angry”. And when you’re supposed to stand proudly with other kharacters that have had seven games worth of development, you’re not going to shine like a star. In fact, Taven looks more like a tourist. He isn’t the hero! He’s just some yokel visiting Mortal Kombat Land for the afternoon! The poor, sweating park employee in the rubber Johnny Cage costume makes more of an impression.

So, as you may expect, Taven doesn’t return after the Mortal Kombat reboot. He appeared in exactly one game, and that’s it. Technically, his whole stupid backstory did occur, though, as evil brother Daegon appears in the comics as the leader of the Red Dragons. He’s responsible for killing Kenshi’s wife/baby mama, but, since no one cares about Kenshi or his son past Mortal Kombat X, that thread is left unexplored.

So Taven and Daegon were MK: A’s only new kharacters, and they’re the most forgettable bros in the franchise. Kind of par for the course with this generation of Mortal Kombat kharacters. But have no fear! The developers realized this issue, and MK: A is the only MK with a Kreate a Kharacter option!

Make your own damn hero

You can set their moves, name their fighting style, and dial up a new fatality any time you want. And if you think this plot is so stupid, smart guy, you can just write your own ending that will appear at the end of your kharacter’s arcade mode. Yes, that’s right! Mortal Kombat is tired of making new kharacters, so why the hell don’t you do it!?

Next time: Or why don’t we just import a bunch of characters that are already established? Hmmmm….

MKK: Shinnok

You ever think back on old 80’s cartoons where there was some unstoppable evil force (think Cobra Commander, Megatron, Skeletor, or Ronald Reagan), but they got routinely trounced every week, so why were you afraid of them, again? Like Gargamel was a malevolent antagonist that was attempting genocide for monetary gain, but he was also routinely thwarted by a pack of brownies with names like “Happy Smurf”. Why was he at all threatening? He failed every single time! There was no stopping stopping him! He would always fail!

And here’s a villain cut from the same cloth.

BABY HANDS

Shinnok was an Elder God. The dedicated theology of Mortal Kombat is ever mutable and confusing on a good day, but we do have a general god hierarchy. There are gods of individual realms, and they seem to be based on elements and such. And then there are Elder Gods, who are gods that got promoted to the City Council of the Gods. However, what Elder Gods actually do is nebulous and unclear. We think they’re supposed to protect the realms? Probably? Well, whatever the case, Shinnok was a proud member of the God Squad, but then got demoted back in prehistory when he attempted to take the whole of Earthrealm (that’s our realm!) for himself. Raiden, (regular) god of Earth, led his own squad o’ gods against Shinnok, and eventually saved the day through a massive attack that unfortunately leveled nearly all life on Earth. In your primitive, human science, you refer to this event as the start of the Ice Age.

So, yes, it is Mortal Kombat kanon that a war between Shinnok and Raiden is what killed the dinosaurs. That’s f%#&ing metal.

Shinnok was punished for his transgression by being damned from the heavens to forever dwell in the Netherrealm, aka the Hell of the Mortal Kombat universe. Now, you might be thinking at this point that this whole mythology is kind of clever, and is arguably a retelling of the popular Christian interpretation of Lucifer/Satan, the fallen angel, waging war in Heaven and then being damned to Hell for his hubris. And that would be cool if not for the fact that “Lucifer” is already ruling in Hell. Yes, it is kanon that Shinnok was damned to Hell and then punished and tormented by the ruler of the Netherrealm, Lucifer. So, apparently, this kind of “fallen divine being” thing routinely happens in the Mortal Kombat universe.

BABY HANDS

Lucifer tortured Shinnok for a few thousand years, but eventually Shinnok made a pact with a demon-wizard, Quan Chi. Quan Chi would aid Shinnok in overthrowing Lucifer, but, in exchange, Shinnok would have to go out for ice cream with Quan Chi at least once every two weeks. Shinnok, ever the scheming god, managed to negotiate this down to once a month, but only because he convinced the vain Quan Chi that too many treats would make him “kinda paunchy”, which is not a good look for a bald guy. And so the two demon bros overthrew Lucifer, and Shinnok became the uncontested god of the underworld (and Quan Chi got Lucifer’s stash of black lipstick).

But Shinnok still wanted to rule Earthrealm, so he hatched a plan to eventually reclaim what he saw as his birthright. Back when Shinnok was still living it up as an Elder God, he transferred the bulk of his power to a magical amulet. Why did he do this? Why did he willingly concede his own power to a trinket that could be removed or stolen? Well, obviously, if we knew the answer to that, then we’d be as smart as Elder Gods, right? And do I see you ruling any mystical realms filled with multi-armed weirdos? No! So shut-up and just deal with the fact that there’s a magical amulet out there possessing all of Shinnok’s powers, and he managed to drop it on his way down to Hell. And Raiden nabbed this amulet, and, as one does, sealed its power in four elemental dungeons guarded by four elemental bosses. And, worst of all, Raiden didn’t tell Shinnok where any of those elemental temples were! Is the fire one in a volcano? But which one? Earth has so many! This left good ol’ Quan Chi to align himself with Shao Kahn and Shang Tsung, and set up a little tit-for-tat for the information Shang Tsung had gained from devouring a million or so souls over the years. Quan Chi discovered the location of the amulet, Shao Kahn gained the ability to revive his dead wife at the time and dimension of his choosing, and everybody was happy. Quan Chi eventually used this information to hire Sub-Zero, reclaim the amulet, and nearly free Shinnok from Hell… but Shinnok decided to chill and wait for a little bit when Sub-Zero fought back. Soon, my pet, soon we’ll have all the failure we can carry in our wee, skeletal baby hands…

BABY HANDS

Shinnok’s big day finally came after Mortal Kombat 3. Shao Kahn’s attempted merging of the realms was just enough to weaken everyone’s defenses, and Shinnok started his invasion with… Edenia, for some reason. In what must have been the first infernal invasion based on a Benny Hill sketch, Shinnok and his buddies disguised themselves as helpless refugees, snuck into Kitana’s home realm, and took over the place inside of an hour. Edenians are really good at being conquered. Then Shinnok turned his divine eyes on Earthrealm, and kicked off Mortal Kombat 4 with a fighting tournament (as this is how things are done). Unfortunately, things went south for Shinnok almost immediately. For one thing, Shinnok was only “empowered” during this time because of Quan Chi, who had stolen the real super amulet, and was kind of making a point of standing next to Shinnok at all times, letting the old god soak up ambient amulet rays, and hoping he wouldn’t notice the ruse. This plan fell apart when Scorpion dragged Quan Chi right back to Hell (which, come to think of it, wouldn’t it have been easier for Scorpion to get his revenge while everyone was already in Hell?), and Shinnok was left fairly defenseless against the combined might of the Earthrealm warriors. As ever, Liu Kang delivered the final jump kick to that dollar-store Shang Tsung, and Shinnok was sent right back down to where the goblins go.
BABY HANDS

Absolutely no one begged for the return of Shinnok, so he spent some quality time with his remaining infernal minions until Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. Shinnok was one of the many supporting villains in that tale, and he spent a little time allying himself with the protagonist of that adventure’s (literal) evil twin. But, in the end, Shao Kahn won that battle anyway, so Shinnok was left dead on the ground… which kind of shouldn’t be possible, but I’ll allow it, because it means there is one less Shinnok in the universe.

Take 2 on this story. When the Mortal Kombat kontinuity rebooted, it rebooted at the restore point of Mortal Kombat 1, so all of Shinnok’s complicated mythology remained firmly in place. However, this universe featured a Quan Chi that, thanks to a coin flip that went a different way, got two scoops of Scorpion Flamin’ Hot Crunch, and not Stryker’s Sundae Best. As a result, Quan Chi was in a much better mood in time for Mortal Kombat 4, and decided to give Shinnok the real amulet for this go round. Well, either that, or since Quan Chi had gained an entire army of superpowered undead karate wizards, he decided he didn’t need the stupid amulet anyway. Whatever the case, Shinnok kicked off nu-MK4 completely flush with power, and forsook his whole “Edenian refugees plan” for just flying in on an army of winged demons. Less evil masterminding, more shock and awe. But! Bad news for ol’ Shinnok again, just when the big bad was going to conquer the planet, Johnny Cage stepped up to the plate and magic-kicked Shinnok into next week. And next week is precisely when Raiden figured he could seal Shinnok within his own stupid amulet. So rebooted MK4 is over before it begins thanks to Raiden having not ever once played a JRPG featuring an ancient, evil god sealed into mystical jewelry (which, come to think of it, is every JRPG).

BABY HANDS

So the proper story of Mortal Kombat 10 is that, about twenty years after MK4*, most of the planet seems to be in a mad scramble to either release or permanently seal Shinnok from/to his amulet. As must inevitably happen in such a narrative, Shinnok escapes his bonds again, and… is immediately defeated by a teenage girl. Before Shinnok is Kim Possible’d into defeat, though, he does manage to obtain some kind of “devil form” by welding that amulet onto his tummy. Makes for a dude that at least looks like a decent final boss (finally!). But then Raiden chops off the former Elder God’s head. Shinnok is thus theoretically alive for the rest of eternity, but left as little more than a sputtering skull.

Shinnok isn’t technically consciously involved in Mortal Kombat 11 (some of his old zombie pals use his head as a mystical set of AAs), but his mom does show up, who turns out to be the Goddess/Titan of Time. And it’s revealed that Shinnok’s sister is also the Goddess of Good & Life, recontextualizing Shinnok as distinctly her opposite number, the God of Evil & Death. This really makes you wonder how Shinnok got a seat in the pantheon before his fall… but I guess it’s all about who you know, even when you’re a god of repeated failures.

NO MORE BABY HANDS

Next time: Some more gods and demons.