Tag Archives: sub-zero

MKK: Cyrax & Sektor


Cyrax and Sektor, the yellow and red (respectively) robots of Mortal Kombat 3 were named Mustard and Ketchup during production. This has proven to be rather prescient, as the two bots have consistently been the condiments to the main plot’s hotdog (And, yes, I am absolutely stating that, like all hotdogs, the Mortal Kombat storyline is primarily made from randomly assembled rat and pigeon meat).


Mortal Kombat 3 is all about Shao Kahn’s invasion of Earth, but there was also a side story that featured Sub-Zero. Separate from literally everything else that was happening, Sub-Zero was disowned by his assassin clan when they decided to “upgrade” their elite ninja into cyborgs. The first three cyborgs created were Sektor, Cyrax (both of whom volunteered), and Smoke (who very much did not volunteer). Smoke had general issues from his activation, so he wandered off to be a hidden kharacter. Sektor and Cyrax, though, were tasked with hunting and killing (or at least maiming) Sub-Zero. And, because Shao Kahn decided to suck the souls out of every human on the planet, Cyrax and Sektor were the only robot-people standing when all the people-people dropped dead. So, basically, there were four Lin Kuei left on the planet, and three of them were programmed to kill the fourth. That’s screwed up!

Now, unlike the other “clone” characters in previous Mortal Kombat titles, Cyrax and Sektor were, from a plot perspective, effectively interchangeable. Sub-Zero and Scorpion were bitter rivals from opposite clans (and one is a ghost). Mileena and Kitana were sisters cooperating just long enough for one to murder the other (and one is a monster). Cyrax and Sektor were just two robots with the same origins and goals. Even their endings were two variations on the same theme: Sektor’s non-kanon ending saw him “winning” the tournament through a massive self-destruct at Shao Kahn’s base, and Cyrax wound up getting lost and trapped in the desert. Basically, these robots were born to die, and neither actually defeated Sub-Zero, even in the fantasy world of fighting game endings. Poor ol’ cyborgs…

However, they were fairly popular kharacters, and it was only natural that they would show up in future installments. They could only Wile E. Coyote after Sub-Zero for so long before that got old, though, so it was time to separate the bots and give them individual stories. And, as any graduate of the David Cage School of Writing knows, there are only two stories about robots:

1. Can a robot learn to be human?
2. Skynet

And, conveniently enough, we’ve got two robots here! Hooray!

Beep Boop

Cyrax actually wound up with a kanon ending in Mortal Kombat 3. Sub-Zero was attacked by Cyrax, but he fought back with ninja ice powers and hitherto unknown and rarely seen again l33t haxxor powers. Actually, maybe Sub-Zero wasn’t so l33t, as his reprogramming led to that previously mentioned “Cyrax wanders into the desert and is lost within the sands” ending. Whoops! Luckily, Cyrax was collected by either the Lin Kuei or Sonya’s Special Forces. Mortal Kombat 4 was a confusing time! However, it’s agreed that by the end of MK4, Cyrax was starting to reawaken as a “human”, and decided the guys who turned him into a mechanical abomination weren’t all that great, so could someone restore my body, please? The Special Forces were happy to oblige (reminder: Jax is already kind of a cyborg, so they have a little experience), and Cyrax became… well… he was technically already a cyborg that was mostly robotic, but some Special Forces procedures were able to make Cyrax a cyborg that was now mostly human. Or at least mostly human on the inside. He needed his mostly robot on the outside parts for his next adventure.

By Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (MK5), Cyrax was working for the Special Forces, because Uncle Sam don’t restore your humanity for free. Cyrax was on a routine patrol (or something) in Outworld when he was attacked by Reptile. Reptile managed to damage Cyrax’s go-home thingy, and, without that thingy, Cyrax could not go home. Oh no! But Nitara the Vampire appeared, and made a deal with Cyrax: retrieve a magical orb from a lava pit, and she would send the poor bot home (and never mind the fact that Nitara had Reptile attack Cyrax in the first place). Cyrax decided to cooperate, and, since he was apparently lava-proof thanks to his robotic enhancements, he was able to retrieve the mystical ball. Nitara was true to her word, and Cyrax was sent home. Thanks Nitara! Since the sphere was actually the Dragon King’s soul-egg, this technically means Cyrax was responsible for the revival of Onaga and all the death and destruction he caused… but, if Cyrax knew that, he moved that information straight to his recycle bin.

Cyrax took MK: Deception off, and then returned in MK: Armageddon to try to gain Blaze’s power and completely restore his own humanity. He didn’t succeed. He died. And isn’t that the most human thing of all?

Don't missile

But what was Sektor up to during that timeline? Well, Sektor was the one cyborg that was not reprogrammed by Sub-Zero, so he was still on the Lin Kuei payroll after Mortal Kombat 3. He spied on Cyrax and/or Sub-Zero during Mortal Kombat 4, but then the Lin Kuei had a change of management. … Mostly because Sektor tried to kill the old management. The official story is that Sektor’s programming became “corrupted” after having to fight mutant hordes and centaurs and whatnot, but it’s probably just that Sektor finally had it with being the least effective robotic assassin in history (reminder: Sub-Zero is still alive). Sektor signed his resignation with the Lin Kuei Grandmaster’s blood, but Sub-Zero was able to freeze Sektor’s attempted coup in its tracks. This was the exact moment that Sektor decided he was going to start his own stupid assassin clan, and it would be all ninja robots, because ninja robots have been working out so well for everybody up to this point. He even came up with a cool name (The Tekunin), and probably made his own logo and uniforms and everything. Unfortunately, when he participated in Mortal Kombat: Deception: Tournament Edition, he didn’t really get anywhere, and wound up just getting jobbed by Sub-Zero (again). That’ll teach you to unionize, you damn robot!

Sektor successfully creates a spare ninja robot or two while no one is looking before Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, and even manages to buy some Final Fantasy surpluss on eBay and winds up with an airship base. He’s kind of a general threat to humanity in Armageddon, but even his warship filled with robot ninja isn’t enough to rank a threat higher than the dude with an entire dimension full of sword mutants. As a result, he’s little more than a mid-boss-level kharacter in the grand scheme of things, and I don’t think Sub-Zero even has time to deal with his nonsense this go-round. Subs was too busy with his undead brother and the other robot attempting to turn the Lin Kuei into another, different army of demon robot ninja. Damn, Sektor, some other guy stole your bit!

Sektor, like Cyrax, eventually winds up at the final battle of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, and gets his red butt murdered in the melee. He probably got taken out by, like, Stryker or something.


The universe reboots back to a Mortal Kombat 1 backup, so, hey, we get to see Cyrax and Sektor as “unmodified” humans for the first time in the franchise. It turns out that Cyrax was from Botswana, and Sektor was apparently the son of the Grandmaster of the Lin Kuei. Wow! That sure does make his future/past actions that much more ironic! Or something! Also, like Sub-Zero the Original, Cyrax and Sektor participated in the original Mortal Kombat 1 tournament. At this point, the two humans were basically in the employ of Shang Tsung/Outworld, and were spoilers meant to weed out any worthwhile candidates for championhood. This is a diversion from the original timeline, where the Lin Kuei were hired to kill Shang Tsung, but, hey, Shang Tsung is a pretty freaky dude, maybe he just wanted to see if he could take out a ninja assassin, too. Regardless, Sektor and Cyrax (naturally) fail, but they do reveal differing personalities before their inevitable cyberization. Sektor is a dedicated child of the Lin Kuei, and relishes in his kill-based vocation. He is all in when asked if he wants to also become a heartless robot. Cyrax, meanwhile, has some reservations about the whole “lose your autonomy and soul” thing, and even spares Johnny Cage’s life after winning a match. The general impression here is that Cyrax was probably going to hang up his wrist-mounted buzzsaws and magical bombs if given a chance… but that ain’t gonna happen. Sektor and Cyrax return as robots before Nu MK2 is out, and successfully capture Sub-Zero the Younger to create a new robot buddy. Unfortunately, the bots have to pledge loyalty to Shao Kahn in exchange for Sub-Zero, so they spend reformatted MK3 as Baraka-esque Outworld stooges. Sektor and Cyrax definitely assist in Sindel’s final battle against the forces of good (which, incidentally, is very successful at killing the forces of good), but they’re not seen again after the fight. They probably snuck out the back when Nightwolf exploded.

BEEPS LOUDLY

The Mortal Kombat X comic is kind of murky on the whole kanon front, but it does dovetail into what actually happens in Mortal Kombat X, so we’ll go ahead and call this next part 100% kanon. At the end of Mortal Kombat 9, literally all named Lin Kuei kharacters were either dead, a robot, or both (see Sub-Zero, Cyber). Shao Kahn was dead, too. Seeing a marvelous opportunity, Sektor took over the Lin Kuei. He tossed out any dissenters, robotocized everybody else, and the Lin Kuei was reborn as the new Tekunin. Score! But Sub-Zero eventually gets over being a robot/dead, and returns to screw up the Tekunin with his rarely seen stealth ninja abilities. And he’s a master hacker again! He drops in a virus that spreads to the majority of the clan, and, before Sektor has time to react, Cyrax has been “infected” with remembering his own soul. Sub-Zero then defeats Sektor in mortal kombat, decapitates the bot, and wins back control of the Lin Kuei. Cyrax, now completely aware of his humanity/love of all the little critters of nature, massively self-destructs in an effort to wipe the Tekunin off the face of the Earth. He succeeds, and Sub-Zero goes on to lead the new Lin Kuei… which is still an assassin’s guild, so, uh… I mean, they might still murder people, but at least they use less fossil fuels than the robots? Sub-Zero also keeps Sektor’s head, and occasionally uses it as a projector when he can find Sektor’s HDMI cord.

Of course, aside from a head cameo, Cyrax and Sektor do not appear in the actual plot of Mortal Kombat X. Their comic adventure must have impressed somebody, though, because, while C&S are not playable kharacters in MK11, they do get the exact same comic plot again. Kronika the Goddess of Time is committed to her master plan of generally annoying the good guys into forsaking the universe, so she brings Cyrax and Sektor forward in time from some unspecified “the past”. Sektor goes to work immediately, and gets an assembly line going on converting the Lin Kuei into robot ninja. And, again, Sub-Zero infiltrates his base (this time with a buddy!), uploads that “free-will” virus (good thing he kept those files! Saved him hours of coding!), and “awakened” Cyrax, again, sacrifices himself to see the Tekunin deactivated (again). Sektor actually escapes death this time, though, and is remodeled thanks to some assistance from Kano. And then Kano blows him up. Because you don’t trust Kano, stupid.

Please look forward to Mortal Kombat 12, where Cyrax and Sektor will not be playable, but the all new Relish menaces Sub-Zero to fill out a scene or two.


Next time: Witchy Women

FGC #450 Mortal Kombat

MORTAL KOMBATMortal Kombat was one of (if not the) defining games of the 90’s, a time when gaming was just starting to stand on its own two feet. And, for better or worse, it changed gaming forever (M for Mature… or just “Mortal Kombat”? Makes ya think!). Mortal Kombat, with its spine-rips and death kisses, left an undeniable mark on the face of gaming, and whether it’s a rad scar or festering wound is up to the beholder.

But… why was Mortal Kombat popular?

It’s all about Originality

Street Fighter 2 is easy to understand. Street Fighter 2 is a damn fine fighting game with unique characters that can appeal to any (well, probably male) player. Don’t like generic karate guy? Here’s a green beast man, and he plays totally differently. There’s the lithe and nimble woman versus the gigantic, hairy grappler man. There are bosses that are carefully calibrated to drain your credits, but there is also a two player mode that is a significant draw. Take out your favorite sumo for a date with a yoga master, and battle all night long. Learn those special moves! Master one character, and move on to the next! Maybe one day you’ll beat Red Hitler and his stupid scissor kicks!

YOU GOT KANGEDMortal Kombat features four offensive buttons: High Punch, Low Punch, High Kick, and Low Kick. This is two less buttons than Street Fighter 2’s six button layout. If you’ve ever paid attention to Street Fighter 2’s jabs, you’ll note that every single Street Fighter has a different “light punch”. Same for medium. Same for every damn offensive option available. This is absolutely not the case in Mortal Kombat. “High Punch” is exactly the same for Liu Kang as Johnny Cage. Sonya’s got a jump kick, but it may as well belong to Kano. And you better believe Sub-Zero and Scorpion have the exact same animations, because, ya know, they’re the same person.

Ultimately, the only difference between characters in Mortal Kombat is the special moves, and, bad news, they’re all almost exactly the same, too. Liu Kang has a fireball that flies straight and true. Johnny Cage does, too. And Kano. And Sonya. And Raiden. Oh! Sub-Zero’s fireball freezes the opponent in place. And Scorpion’s fireball freezes the opponent and requires less walking. No wonder he’s the most popular character! Now give everybody a special that helps ‘em get across the screen, and… are we done here? There may be a few outliers, but, by and large, all of these unique characters play about as “uniquely” as White Bomberman and Black Bomberman.

Though maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree there. Maybe people are more interested not in what the characters do, but who the characters are. Maybe…

It’s all about the Characters

RAIDEN!Mortal Kombat has produced some very iconic videogame characters. There’s vain but heroic Johnny Cage, inordinately heroic Liu Kang, generally heroic Sonya, and… wait a tick, all those characters are just the same obvious traits plus one tiny quirk. Maybe they’re physically dissimilar? No, Sonya, Liu Kang, and Johnny Cage all just look like regular dudes that showed up in their gym clothes. Johnny and Looey didn’t even remember to pack a shirt. And it’s pretty clear that Sub-Zero and Scorpion totally botched their twin day fashions.

Am I just looking at the superficial? Well, when Mortal Kombat was lighting the arcades and home consoles ablaze, there wasn’t much more than that, anyway. Like with most fighting games, you got a character profile, and an ending, and that was it. There was the accompanying Mortal Kombat comic book, but its razor thin characterization didn’t exactly fill in the blanks on why Kano was a cyborg (eventual answer: why not?) or how Johnny Cage came to participate in this deadly fighting tournament (answer: he got a letter). Sub-Zero hates Scorpion, Sonya hates Kano, and I guess Goro killed Liu Kang’s ancestor. These razor-thin motivations don’t support characters, they simply support reasons for punching.

So, okay, punching is kind of the point, though. So does that mean…

It’s All About the Gameplay

mortal kombatMortal Kombat is a fighting game, so characters don’t matter past how much fun the game is to play. And is Mortal Kombat fun? Of course it is! I just said it was a fighting game! Pay attention! Fighting games are always fun, because punching some other dude in a digital arena is top shelf entertainment. Even the worst fighting games are fun for a little while.

But does the fun of Mortal Kombat last? At all? Well… uh… We already covered how every character is practically the same, so 2-player battles are going to get pretty predictable pretty fast. Maybe one player mode is more interesting? That has some fights against CPU opponents, the always popular mirror match, and then endurance matches. Endurance matches are kind of cool, right? Like, the same fight, but double? Who could say no to double the fighting? Aside from everyone that just finds it grueling and unfair, of course. And while we’re on the topic of unfair, we have Goro, the penultimate boss that in no way plays by the rules, so he absorbs your punches like they’re being thrown by some pasty nerd standing over an arcade cabinet. And the final challenge is just all the other fighters mixed together with a fireball barrage that can bleed off about 75% health.

The gameplay is pretty damn limited. It’s not necessarily bad, but it’s not the kind of gameplay that should make Mortal Kombat a perennial favorite that dominated the arcades and home consoles.

But maybe it was never about actually playing the game at all, maybe…

It’s All About the Blood and Gore

BLOOD!My dear, dead granny knew of Mortal Kombat, and she knew its name for one simple reason: blood. As was reported by a million moms clutching a million pearls, Mortal Kombat was unerringly violent, and a gross, disgusting mess of blood soaked through every interaction in this so-called vidya game. Mortal Kombat was such a blood orgy that the United States Senate had hearings showcasing the uncivilized ferocity on display for a mere half a buck in every arcade across the country! Could this epidemic of violence ever be stopped after Mortal Kombat opened the floodgates?!

Except… Mortal Kombat isn’t all that bloody.

Yes, there is blood (how else would we be able to tell the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo ports apart), but is Mortal Kombat inherently violent? Well… yes… but not anymore than any other videogame! Contra saw Bill tearing through a thousand poor dudes with backpacks, but Congress never so much as uttered the word “Contra” in its hallowed halls. And Mario! Think of how many poor goombas he led to the slaughter! Is that game inherently less violent simply because it featured a tubby guy picking on chestnuts? Well, yes, but still! Mortal Kombat might have included a coupon for a few globs of blood with every roundhouse, but was it really the bloody mess described by so many Liebermans? Absolutely not.

THE PITBut what of the infamous fatalities? Yes, the scandalous spine-rip is bloody (awesome), but arguably the most famous fatality in the franchise is Scorpion’s “Toasty” finisher, and there isn’t a speck of blood in that ghastly inferno. Sonya’s heated kiss is on the same level, and Kano’s heart rip is about as bloody as a certain Spielberg movie. And the decapitations of Johnny Cage and Raiden are more “yes, that’s right, you do need a head to live” than anything approaching what you’d see in a horror movie of the time.

We may be looking at Mortal Kombat 1 through the lens of jaded 21st Century gamers (“I just watched Samus Aran drink the blood of her enemies six times this morning”), but the violence of Mortal Kombat was often less “bloody gore” and more a literal joke.

Actually, maybe that was the point of Mortal Kombat, maybe…

It’s All About the Humor

Back in the 90’s, it was hard to claim that Mortal Kombat was “funny”. But let’s be real here: the humor was there all along. Right the start (or maybe a particular revision), there was a certain green hidden character that had unlock conditions that seemed designed to be little more than a playground rumor. If “you have to earn a double flawless victory and perform a fatality and never block all while E.T. flies across the moon” isn’t a joke, then I’m turning in my comedian license (issued and signed by Yakov Smirnoff himself!). Speaking of which, what appears to be Peter Pan, an alien, a witch, and Santa Claus will fly over the moon at certain points. That sounds a bit humorous! And there’s certainly a reason skele-face Scorpion faces the screen with his hollow eyes after every fatality. He’s mugging for a laugh!

This became much more evident in later games, when Mortal Kombat introduced such silliness as babalities, friendships, animalities, and fatalities that were clearly just some random dude on the staff playing with Claymation (see Kabal for more details). But even back at the beginning, the humor was there, even before we saw Toasty Dan pop up to announce it was time to fight Smoke.

But it’s pretty clear that this wasn’t a selling point for the original Mortal Kombat. The humor was there, but nobody was feeding those cabinets quarters just because they wanted a laugh.

So what was the secret to Mortal Kombat’s success? It seems like we’ve ruled everything out, except…

Yeah!

Oh man, we have an answer.

Mortal Kombat was successful because it’s all about the sweet uppercuts.

Yeah!

Yeah, that’s the stuff.

FGC #450 Mortal Kombat

  • System: Arcade first and foremost, but then Mortal Monday came, and we had it on Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Sega Game Gear, and Nintendo Gameboy. Oh boy! Mortal Kombat on a portable!
  • Number of players: 2 kombatants.
  • Preferred System: Genesis might have the blood, but Super Nintendo has graphics that don’t look like the butt end of a butt. And I’m a Nintendo kid, so here we are.
  • Favorite Character: It’s obviously Sub-Zero, as he can freeze his opponent and slide. Amusingly enough, my first “main” for Mortal Kombat was Sonya Blade, but I drifted away from her when I realized she reminded me way too much of Jane Fonda.
  • FIGHT!Did you know? An NES port of Mortal Kombat was planned, but was cancelled fairly quickly (before they even entered the programming phase). For any young’uns out there, this was back when two generations of videogame hardware could be supported by Nintendo simultaneously, and not like today, when the WiiU was publically executed the moment the Switch made the scene.
  • Would I play again: Probably not. Mortal Kombat, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t all that fun nowadays as anything more than a novelty, and is 100% supplicated by its sequels. If you’re getting Mortal Kombat today, it likely comes with Mortal Kombat 2 anyway…

What’s next? It’s Mortal Week! Mortal Kombat sure hit the big time with its release, and it had a number of imitators. We’re going to look at a different wannabe fighting game Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of the next two weeks, and examine how some games did their best to copy the Mortal Kombat formula (and generally still failed). First up on the list: Eternal Champions. Please look forward to it!

MIGHT!

MKK: Smoke & Blaze

Here’s your ninja cowboy robot demon cyborg for the franchise.

He's human!

Smoke was introduced as Hidden Ninja Male #2. Like Reptile, he was intended to be little more than a playground rumor, and could be battled by pressing down + start on both controllers when the digitized head of Dan “Toasty” Forden appeared on the screen (a random occurrence usually prompted by an uppercut). –Look, it was the 90’s. There was weirder stuff in NBA Jam. It had Hilary Clinton.– Anywho, Smoke was simply a gray palette-swap of Scorpion, and his defining trait was that he was enveloped in the “smoke” graphical effect that was usually reserved for a few toasty fatalities. Like when his fellow hidden characters initially appeared, there was no real explanation for Smoke’s existence.

And then things got real complicated, real fast.

It was revealed that Smoke, like Sub-Zero, was a member of the Lin Kuei assassin’s guild. And, like Sub-Zero, he was bumming around Mortal Kombat 2 to complete a hit on Shang Tsung. But, as everyone noticed Shang Tsung continued to be alive after two separate tournaments, the Lin Kuei started to lose face on account of their blemished kill count. Lin Kuei leadership decided that robots were the answer, and, after “cyberizing” two willing participants, Smoke and Sub-Zero were next on the chopping (off flesh) block. Smoke and Sub-Zero attempted to escape, but only Sub-Zero was successful. Smoke was captured, and transformed into a vaguely blue-gray robot in need of a decent muffler.

He's a robot!

Smoke was different from the other metal boys, though. Smoke, unlike Cyrax and Sector, retained his soul and some level of autonomy. He was still programmed to hunt and kill Sub-Zero the (fleshy) traitor, but, upon finding his former blood brother, he broke free of Lin Kuei control, and officially joined the forces of good. Hooray! Unfortunately, Smoke was still kind of a crappy ninja-robot, and he was defeated by Shao Kahn’s hordes somewhere along the way. He was dragged back to Outworld (maybe as a trophy, or maybe so Kano could have a new robot buddy), and Sub-Zero… kinda forgot Smoke ever existed. Maybe he just assumed the poor ‘bot exploded while no one was looking? I don’t know. Point is that Smoke was deactivated and left in Shao Kahn’s tower for a solid number of games.

While Smoke’s robot brothers saw a few more adventures over the course of the franchise, Smoke himself did not return until Mortal Kombat: Deception (basically MK6). By this point, Noob Saibot (the original Sub-Zero and another hidden character of Mortal Kombat 2) was unemployed and looking for a new startup opportunity. He decided robots were the future, and stumbled upon the deactivated Smoke. Noob decided he was going to start his own robot ninja army, and chose to revive Smoke with a new, demonic upgrade. What is the kanon explanation for how the undead ninja transformed and resurrected a long-dead cyborg? I think you know!

NANOMACHINES!

So Cyborg-Ninja-Demon Smoke was reborn as Noob’s slave, and the duo became a tag team that wound up dominating the coveted “sub boss” rung on the ladder of Mortal Kombat: Deception. However, technically, they had nothing to do with the big bad of that adventure (The Dragon King), and, aside from generally menacing Sub-Zero (II), they didn’t really do much together. They returned as separate characters with similar goals in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, and Smoke started to regrow his own conscience/consciousness when Sub-Zero once again appealed to his cyber-humanity. Smoke was theoretically free of Noob’s influence by the end of MK:A… but then the universe reset, so it didn’t matter a puff.
He's a demon robot!

Mortal Kombat 9 was “only” a modified retelling of Mortal Kombat 1-3, but the title also decided to provide a complete backstory for Smoke. Smoke has always had smoke-based magic, and, like Sub-Zero’s ice or Liu Kang’s fire, it was always kind of assumed this was just some special power, and, who cares how he got it? I saw a yogi breathe fire once, it doesn’t matter if it was because he ate too much curry or was blessed by a god. But, for whatever reason, Smoke was granted a backstory that apparently went back to his infancy. Smoke was once a wee baby named Tom, but was abducted by a cult (it’s the MK Universe, so we’re going to assume this was a cult of ninja), and sacrificed to some generic demon. Tommy Boy died, but his physical form returned as an enenra (a “real” Japanese mythical creature/yōkai), a sort of smoke monster. The enenra killed everyone in the room, and then returned to simply being baby Tomas. Some Lin Kuei were in the next apartment over, heard the carnage caused by one hell of a baby, and decided to adopt and raise the demon child. Couple in some random amnesia that was caused by the whole situation, and Tomas grew up believing he was simply a normal boy ninja that incidentally possessed magical smoke powers.

He's human!  Kinda!

So, to be clear, Smoke has apparently been an undead smoke demon from day one. This will be important in a minute.

Back to what actually happens during Mortal Kombat 9. During this iteration of Mortal Kombat 2/3, Sub-Zero is captured by the Lin Kuei, and Smoke escapes (mostly thanks to Raiden attempting to stymy the annoying unlock conditions for Cyber Smoke). So, on the surface level, their roles are reversed: a human Smoke revives the humanity within a Cyber Sub-Zero. Cool! Then, just when things are looking up for Smoke (for once!), he gets his fool ass killed in a battle with Sindel, Queen of the Banshees. Like all of the other defeated heroes, Smoke is revived by Quan-Chi as an undead servant in his armies.

But… wait.

Smoke was already an undead demon, he just happened to possess a human form thanks to what appeared to be an unholy clerical error. And we can’t even claim this was some kind of unintended retkon, as this whole “undead” thing happened in the very title where his demonic origins were introduced. And, while Smoke is not a playable character in Mortal Kombat X, he returns during story mode just long enough to claim he will no longer be known as “Smoke”, but is now “Enenra” (dude is not great at coming up with interesting codenames). So the Mortal Kombat writers are leaning completely into this “revelation”.

He's demon human!

What does this mean? Basically, Smoke is a former-robot ninja undead smoke demon that died and came back as a double-undead demon from hell.

He’s one of Mortal Kombat’s more straightforward kharacters.

Next time: We’ll cover the four-armed subboss of… Wait. There’s another hidden character? No, that can’t be right. We just covered Jade and Smoke, and Noob Saibot appeared during the Sub-Zero I rundown. There’s another one? Can I get a picture?

Look closer...

No. We already covered those doofs. What? Zoom in and enhance?

There he is!

Oh! Right! It’s 4:20 somewhere, let’s cover Blaze.

Blaze’s backstory goes way back to the beginning of the MK Universe, and we’ll cover the finer details of that story when we cover Edenia’s two large adult sons in a few game’s time. For right now, we’ll look at the basics: Blaze is a fire elemental (shocking, I know), and it was his job to be involved in the single stupidest idea the gods of the MK Universe (who already base dimensional conquest on fighting tournaments) ever devised. When the time was right, Blaze was destined to “awaken” and battle some random dudes to determine the fate of the universe as we know it.

Unfortunately, Blaze got kidnapped like seven seconds into this plan, and, geez, you’d really think someone would have made sure that wouldn’t happen. Come on, gods, could you guys have set up like one firewall for your firedude?

Toasty!

Anyway, Blaze got brainwashed, and was forced to guard the egg of the Dragon King, the only way for Onaga to revive after his untimely death of being poisoned and smacked around with a hammer by Shao Kahn for a solid two days. Blaze was stuck hanging around some lava and guarding the egg, but he did get a brief sabbatical during Mortal Kombat 2 to go out and play in the background of the Pit II stage. Incidentally, some versions of Blaze’s story claim that he was kidnapped after that fight in Mortal Kombat 2, but MK: Armageddon clearly states that Blaze got stuck guarding the egg hundreds of years ago (when the antagonist of that tale awakens and founds the Red Dragons), and MK Kontinuity would never have such a glaring error. It just isn’t done!

Onaga’s Egg becomes a plot point during MK: Deadly Alliance, and Blaze becomes an actual playable (though extremely hidden) kharacter. This was all meant to be a lead-up to the finale of the PS2-era MK trilogy, and certainly wasn’t an excuse for Boon to once again introduce a hidden kharacter that he could claim was “there all along”. Blaze is distinctly introduced as an amnesiac, and, having been freed from his egg-duty by completely failing to guard the egg against a vampire, lizard, and robot, Blaze was free to roam the countryside and beat up random kombatants. He also returned for MK: Deception’s PSP-based revision, Unchained, and, since the plot of MK: Annihilation was starting to coalesce, Blaze finally remembered it was his job to fight dudes to find the dudest of them all. Sweet! He’s been kind of doing his job all along!

He's fiery!

Blaze became the final boss of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation when he happened to remember that he had nigh-infinite, literally godly power. Blaze was only supposed to test the mettle of a pair of cranky brothers, but, since he had spent the previous two games getting pistol-whipped by the likes of Kano and Kobra, Blaze decided to invite literally everybody in the Mortal Kombat universe to his special fighting ziggurat. Everybody killed everybody else for the glory of finally battling Blaze, and, in the end, Shao Kahn managed to win the tournament after nearly killing Raiden. This would have led to Shao Kahn gaining Blaze’s nigh-omnipotent (though apparently easily forgotten) power, so Raiden called a do-over on the whole universe.

He's tiny!

Now Blaze is back to hanging out in Pit backgrounds and guarding dragon eggs in the “new” Mortal Kombat universe. Sorry, you not-so-human torch.

Next time: The boss(es) of the place.

MKK: Scorpion & Sub-Zero(s)

I covered Hanzo “Scorpion” Hasashi’s journey in great detail a couple of years back (man, 2015? Time flies in universes that don’t reboot), so I’ll just cover the highlights here:

Look out!


Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Normal ninja dude that gets murdered by Sub-Zero before the end of the first level.

Mortal Kombat 1: An avenging ghost skeleton from hell that payback-murders Sub-Zero. Mission accomplished!

Mortal Kombat 2: Still an avenging ghost, still trying to kill Sub-Zero, but learns that “this” Sub-Zero is actually OG Sub-Zero’s lil’ bro. Vows to become a protector skeleton for Baby Sub-Zero.

Mortal Kombat 3: An avenging ghost that is accidentally released from Hell. Kind of a free agent, but eventually winds up protecting Baby Sub-Zero.

Mortal Kombat 4: An avenging ghost that completely forgot what he was doing. Tries to kill Baby Sub-Zero again, but backs off when he is informed Quan Chi is responsible for the death of his family. Drags Quan Chi to Hell.

Aw, hell

Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance: An avenging ghost that spends a lot of his free time torturing Quan Chi. Eventually, Quan Chi gains the upper hand, and has his new oni buddies toss Scorpion into The Soulnado.

Mortal Kombat Deception: An avenging ghost that is made Defender of the Realms after The Soulnado accidentally spits Scorpion out in Heaven. The Elder Gods are even worse at their job than Raiden, so appointing a murder skeleton the guardian of reality apparently seemed like a good idea.

Mortal Kombat Armageddon: An avenging ghost that is really pissed off. The Elder Gods said they would bring back Scorpion’s family and tribe in exchange for helping out during Deception… but Scorps didn’t read the fine print, and his friends and family were returned to “life” as undead fire skeletons (just like dad!). Scorpion attempted to kill just about everybody in this contract dispute, and, considering the world then wound up in a reboot, he kinda did.

MK v DC: An avenging ghost that thought Batman was Sub-Zero in disguise. This ended… poorly.

Mortal Kombat 9: An avenging ghost that is living MK1-3 again.

They're friends now

Mortal Kombat X: A dad. Thanks to some unusual plot contrivances, Scorpion is revived as a perfectly normal dude who incidentally possesses hellfire-based magical abilities. Score! Scorpion reboots his ninja clan, and even adopts another fighter’s son as his own. And he’s best friends with (baby) Sub-Zero! He still sends Quan Chi to Hell, though, so everything isn’t completely topsy-turvy.

Mortal Kombat 11: A dad and an avenging ghost. Time travel grants us Diet and Original Scorpions, so you’ve got your choice of skeleton man or regular man. Take your pick!

So, tldr, Scorpion is the most popular character, and no one has a damn clue what to do with the damned soul.

And now for a different story…

Once upon a time, there was a man named Bi-Han. Bi-Han was an assassin of the Lin Kuei clan, and was regarded as their best and brightest. So, when an albino wizard with spikes on his neck came calling with a job, Bi-Han was hired. And Bi-Han, like a boss, made his way through some magical temples, killed a rival ninja, and ably completed Quan Chi’s tasks, despite the fact that this all had to be done with the handicap of taking place during Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero. Quan Chi then inevitably betrayed Bi-Han, and the two squared off for the fate of the world in the very bowels of Hell. Bi-Han was successful, but he also learned that he was only able to fight in Hell because his soul was tainted by evil. Maybe it was because he worked with an evil sorcerer. Maybe it was because it was literally his job to kill hundreds of people. Maybe it was because he did not delete downloaded roms after 24 hours. Whatever the reason, Bi-Han, aka Sub-Zero, was informed that if he did not change his ways, he would be damned for all of eternity.

Then Mortal Kombat happened, and Scorpion BBQ’ed Sub-Zero but good. Sorry, bud, we don’t all get to have a wonderful life.

That's our Sub-Zero!
This is kanon


But anyone that knows mythology knows that if you are killed by an undead spirit of vengeance, then you will rise again as an undead spirit of vengeance. Or maybe that’s vampires? Whatever, Bi-Han aka Sub-Zero was reborn as Bi-Han aka Noob Saibot.

So, a quick word about hidden characters in Mortal Kombat: We’ll talk about this more when we get to the relevant character, but Mortal Kombat more or less created the whole concept of a “hidden fighter” in fighting games when Mortal Kombat 1 V3.0 first unleashed Reptile onto the scene. By the time of Mortal Kombat 2, MK’s adoring public was already expecting crazy hidden fighters with even more ridiculous unlock conditions. A big ol’ question block became part of the game progression, and gray ninja Smoke and green ninja woman Jade were the obvious hidden characters of MK2. There was also Noob Saibot, an even more hidden ninja that was colored entirely black, and was so named because the franchise (and Noob) was created by Boon and Tobias (and read those names backwards if you didn’t catch that bit of wordplay immediately). Fighting Noob Saibot in Mortal Kombat 2 required a single player winning 50 consecutive versus matches. Assuming a credit cost 50¢ at the time, this meant that to even see Noob, at least $25 had to be deposited into a MK2 arcade cabinet.

Shadowy!

What am I getting at? Noob Saibot was trolling the audience from the very beginning.

Back to anti-reality: Bi-Han-now-Noob-Saibot became a nefarious shadow wraith, and the canon explanation (mostly a retcon) for his presence in Mortal Kombat 2-3 was that he was working for Shao Kahn, but secretly spying on everyone on behalf of Quan Chi and Shinnok, whom he was now damned to serve for eternity. He was released from duty when Shinnok was defeated during Mortal Kombat 4, and briefly went back to his old job with Shao Kahn during Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance (or at least the confusingly named GBA port of it, Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition). That ended when Shao Kahn died (or “died”), and Noob Saibot, after years of infernal enslavement, could finally collect his undead unemployment.

The throne of Hell was empty after Shinnok and Quan Chi wound up dead (damned? Vaporized? Just that general incapacitation that occurs to Mortal Kombat kharacters when they’re not directly involved in the plot?), so Noob decided it was time for a promotion. He got his own robot ninja, Smoke, and started a tag-team operation with the ultimate goal of grooming a robot-demon army. To be clear, that is an army of robots that are also demons, and not demons that are incidentally working with robots. Nanomachines are involved. Regardless, Noob and Smoke ambushed Noob’s brother, Other Sub-Zero, but Sub-Zero escaped. Quan Chi decided to resurface then, and Noob, Smoke, and Quan Chi all decided to storm Sub-Zero’s front gates together. It was kind of like The Wizard of Oz, except there wasn’t a Dorothy, and the Tin Man was an undead robot ninja demon that could turn into a gas. That motley crew failed, but Sub-Zero was able to restore Smoke’s consciousness. He attempted to do the same for his brother, but Noob continued to be a jerkass demon. There was some rumbling in Noob’s Annihilation ending that original, compassionate/alive Sub-Zero was going to resurface as a controlling force… but the universe rebooted about seven seconds later.

GHOST MAN!

So, good news, the universe is fresh and new again, and Bi-Han/Sub-Zero is alive and chill again. Bad news though, the world rebooted at about the start of Mortal Kombat 1, so, despite everyone’s best attempts to avoid such a fate, Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero is still kanon. This means that when Scorpion inevitably killed Sub-Zero all over again, he became Noob Saibot, again, just like last time. Unlike last time, though, since his big reveal as OG Sub-Zero was already spent back during Deadly Alliance, this Noob Saibot was out and proud, and basically became Quan Chi’s personal bodyguard for much of the story. And then he got tossed into The Soulnado. Whoops.

The Soulnado should have either torn Noob Saibot to pieces or made him Defender of the Realms (there’s precedent!), but it wound up doing exactly nothing. Noob Saibot laid low for the entirety of Mortal Kombat X, and, like in the original timeline, only decided to skulk out of the shadows when his bosses got murdered. In this case, he joined up with the bad gal du jour in exchange for a promised clan of shadow ninja. Every last kharacter in Mortal Kombat 11 fails, though, and the universe gets flushed down the toilet once again. So will Noob resurface as Sub-Zero again, or will he be doomed to be a Noob forever? Time will tell!

So let’s try this story again…

Frosty!


Once upon a time, Bi-Han aka Sub-Zero was a warrior that fought in the first Mortal Kombat, but was fatally defeated by his rival, Scorpion. However, Bi-Han was not the only cryomancer in the Lin Kuei. There was his younger brother, Tundra. There was also his sister, Ice, his other brother, Freezing, his estranged cousin, Frost, his weird uncle, Kinda Cold But I Guess You Could Turn Down The Thermostat If You Want, and his dog, Cool Joe Canine. But this story isn’t about any of them, this is simply the story of Kuai Lang, formerly Tundra, who decided to adopt the title of Sub-Zero upon the immolation of Sub-Zero I.

Sub-Zero the Younger is a very different person from his brother. Well… not technically, as they both looked identical between Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat 2, but, when Sub-Zero decided to avenge his brother by completing Lin Kuei’s contract on Shang Tsung’s head (oh yeah, that’s why Bi-Han showed up for MK1), he made two important choices. One, he brought backup in the form of Smoke, another Lin Kuei assassin who had control over… I don’t know… probably earth or something. Second, Sub-Zero proved himself to be less blood-thirsty than his bro. Despite being in the tournament for the exclusive purpose of murdering a dude, Sub-Zero did not needlessly murder some rando during Mortal Kombat 2 (probably Baraka. He’s always the chump), and this mercy conveyed to Scorpion that Sub-Zero II was certainly not the vicious Sub-Zero I. Never mind that an immortal vengeance creature should probably be able to tell two different people apart for all sorts of other reasons, but I suppose poor perception is one of the drawbacks of being a skeleton without, ya know, eyes. Regardless, Scropion and Sub-Zero became best buddies for a game or two as a result, and everyone went home happy.

Wait, crap, nothing happy ever happens in this franchise. So we had two Mortal Kombats, and a Sub-Zero was supposed to kill Shang Tsung in both of them. And, while the newest Sub-Zero at least survived Mortal Kombat 2, he didn’t actually complete the contract, as Shang Tsung still lived. This meant the Lin Kuei assassins had to make a difficult choice to regain their fallen honor. Options available included:

• Send more assassins to kill Shang Tsung
• Declare the contract null and void, as Shang Tsung proved to be an other-worldly sorcerer
• Find out who the hell kept putting out a hit on Shang Tsung, and offer a refund
• Launch a social media campaign that would convince everyone that killing Shang Tsung was for nerds
• Turn everyone into soulless robots

So the Lin Kuei, naturally, decided to go with the robot option. Look! They were going to try the social media option, but Bi-Han was the only one with their clan’s facebook password. It happens!

He doesn't look Asian...

So Sub-Zero and Smoke were chosen to become soulless robots in the first of a line of robot assassins that clearly wouldn’t attempt to destroy all of humanity immediately. Sub-Zero and Smoke escaped, though. Well… mostly. Smoke was captured and automated, and Sub-Zero got away with a pretty significant (and bitchin’) scar. Then Shao Kahn invaded all of Earth, and Sub-Zero got stuck fighting the forces of Outworld and robot ninja programmed to hunt and kill exclusively him. This is when we all learned that Sub-Zero is not only an expert ninja, but also some kind of computer genius. It’s kanon that, during Mortal Kombat 3, Sub-Zero fought the forces of evil, reprogrammed Cyrax, reprogrammed Smoke and reawaked his soul, and found the time to reawaken the true soul of the Lin Kuei (or something). Basically, in one game, Sub-Zero went from a fledgling fugitive to nearly the leader of his clan. Though I suppose promotion opportunities were ripe as almost everyone else on Earth was effectively dead at the time…

Comparatively, Mortal Kombat 4 was a pretty chill time for Sub-Zero. Sub-Zero decided to fight against Shinnok because he read a plot synopsis of Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, and thought it was time to avenge his brother (or prove he was better than him). Scorpion plum forgot that this Sub-Zero had no input on his death or the death of his family, though, so Sub-Zero did have to deal with an angry skeleton during the battle. In the end, Scorpion and Sub-Zero made up, again, and Sub-Zero went home pretty satisfied when Liu Kang defeated Shinnok. Sure, Sub-Zero failed to kill the final boss again, but you really can’t get upset when Liu Kang saves the world. He’s good at it.

Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance presented a much worse time for Sub-Zero. One day, Sektor, the one robot that Sub-Zero decided not to reprogram, showed up, and murdered the Grandmaster of the Lin Kuei. Sub-Zero chased Sektor off with a broom, but the Lin Kuei was left without a leader. Sub-Zero, figuring that he was currently the only Lin Kuei member with a backstory and a name, decided to take up the mantel of leader. Literally. The position came with a rad dragon medallion, and, fun fact, it enhanced his ice powers a hundredfold. Sweet! It had the unfortunate drawback of making him look about 50 years old, though. The other assassins told him it made him look “distinguished”, but that was probably just because he wouldn’t stop making ice mirrors and sighing loudly. It was a rough time for Sub-Zero morale.

Sub-Zero then was the first Mortal Kombat kharacter to become a fake dad. Sub-Zero, now Grandmaster, took on a pupil, Frost. Frost was an unruly girl with ice powers just like Sub-Zero, so it only made sense that he would be able to help her to be a better person through training and whatever assassins do when they’re not assassinating people. Unfortunately, Sub-Zero completely failed, and, while everyone was supposed to be saving the world during Deadly Alliance, Frost betrayed Sub-Zero, and stole his rad medallion. This backfired immediately, and Frost was overwhelmed by her own overflowing cryomancy, transforming her into a comatose Frostsicle. Sub-Zero, not really anxious to ever see Frost again, decided to find the deepest ice box in Outworld to stow his treacherous protégé. And, score, he managed to find his family’s ancient land in Outworld, and, apparently, this was when he discovered his ice powers had some kind of origin story, and it wasn’t just a “Guile can throw fireballs because whatever” situation every time he shot snowballs at an opponent. Neat!

Chill Armor

With knowledge comes cool equipment powerups, so Sub-Zero donned the armor of his people in time for Mortal Kombat Deception. So, if you’re curious why Sub-Zero looked like The Shredder for a game or two, there you go. Sub-Zero then became super best friends with Kenshi, a blind swordsman, and the two had whacky adventures in Outworld that really didn’t have much to do with anything. They probably learned something about disabilities and tolerance and killing dudes with swords for arms. Sub-Zero then encountered his long lost brother, Evil Shadow Man, and Sub-Zero barely escaped with his life. He was also reacquainted with Smoke, who was now a robot demon that was none too pleased that Sub-Zero forgot he existed for like three games. Oh, and then Sub-Zero finally got home, only to discover that Frost had reawakened, got home before him, and murdered a healthy portion of his clan. Whoops!

Things only got worse during the events of Mortal Kombat Armageddon, when Smoke and Noob invaded the Lin Kuei temple, and converted anyone that wasn’t already killed by Frost into a robot demon. Sub-Zero technically “won” that battle, but the Lin Kuei were not looking too good by the end of Armageddon. Luckily, this was about when the universe rebooted, so no one had to dig out a manual on demon robot assassin clan maintenance.

DETECTED: Frosty!

The new universe of Mortal Kombat 9 started about the same: Sub-Zero took up the mantle of Sub-Zero after the death of Sub-Zero. But! This time, instead of Smoke being captured and transformed into a robot, Sub-Zero was captured, and automated into Cyber Sub-Zero. And that was kind of cool! Except he wound up having the same arc as Cyber Smoke (is robot, rediscovers soul, decides to fight for virtue) with the added handicap of being murdered about seven seconds into joining the forces of good. Cyber Sub-Zero then becomes an evil zombie robot, but Quan Chi immediately transformed Zombie Robot Sub-Zero back into simply Zombie, Fleshy Sub-Zero, because there was no way this albino sorcerer was going to deal with a zombie that required update reboots every three days.

So Undead Sub-Zero (but not Noob Saibot, he was already double dead at this point) served Quan Chi and Shinnok for a little bit, until Raiden (maybe accidentally) revived a group of revenants that included our favorite frosty buddy. Alive Sub-Zero then follows his old “destiny” again: he becomes grandmaster of the Lin Kuei, fights off Sektor and his evil robot ninja, and even begins a new friendship with Alive Scorpion. Frost, rather chilly in any timeline, nearly cocks it up, but Sub-Zero bonds with Scorpion over some footage of his entire family being murdered, and all is forgiven.

Great friends!

Mortal Kombat 11 continues the trend of Sub-Zero being vaguely tangential to the plot. The big bad of the game has recruited Frost and some time-displaced Cyber Ninja to her cause, and it naturally comes down to the all-star team of Scorpion and Sub-Zero to squash this threat. Sub-Zero, once again, reprograms Cyrax and more-or-less destroys the Cyber Initiative, thus ending the threat of this army of mooks that weren’t going to be useful in anything but a Musuo game anyway. When the universe is rebooted, Sub-Zero doesn’t distinctly have anything to do with the final victory (no Ice God Sub-Zero for you), and is vaporized having not ever found that sweet armor in this timeline.

Personally, I find that ending for a beloved kharacter to be a little… cold.

Next time: Six arms, two characters.