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MKK: Jax

What you have to understand here is that, even before he existed, Major Jackson “Jax” Briggs had the absolute worst luck.

No metal arms

First of all, Jax was originally supposed to be in Mortal Kombat 1. The character that would become Jax was initially named Kurtis Stryker (bad sign), and was supposed to be a military dude that entered the tournament to hunt down Kano. However, one day Ed Boon was sitting in his parlor smoking a pipe, and a woman crashed through his open window. Boon exclaimed, “A woman! That’s it! Gamers are a superstitious, cowardly lot, and this shall strike terror into their hearts. I shall include a woman!” Thus, Stryker/Jax was replaced entirely with Sonya. Why not just include both? Well, likely because that would cause the roster to include eight playable characters, the same number as Street Fighter 2. And no one wanted a world where arcade rats compared Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat. That would just be silly.

Regardless, Jax saved his debut for Mortal Kombat 2. But Jax production issues did not stop! Jax’s signature bionic arms were intended from the beginning, and the designers had apparently already worked out a cool personal sound effect system for Jax pounding on opponents with metal fists. However, the design necessitated a Jax that was mostly covered in long sleeves, because no one had an idea on how to make the full “metal arms” effect look decent. And, further bad news, the motion capture actor for Jax, John Parrish, was a bodybuilder that was swole as hell. So, in a move that is surprisingly 100% not a lie, it was determined that it would be a goddamn waste of a beefcake to cover Parrish in a lame hoody or whatever, and Jax’s metal arms were dropped. Thus, Mortal Kombat 2 Jax was forced to enter the tournament without what would become his signature armament (and a shirt), because he was hella ripped.

Totally metal

Let’s back off behind the scenes bodybuilding and focus on kanon Jax. Jax is a member of the same Special Forces organization as Sonya, and, yes, he entered Mortal Kombat 2 to rescue Sonya from Shao Kahn. And he did! It was probably pretty easy! She was right there in the background of that one stage, and she can naturally shoot lasers out of her hands, so they probably had a simple time escaping while Liu Kang was fighting a multi-armed tiger man. Jax returned to the Special Forces top brass, explained that there’s a centuries-old fighting tournament featuring dudes with swords for arms fighting ninja reptiles for the fate of our world in another world… And nobody bought it. So Jax did the only logical thing: he equipped metal arms. And then he looked like a real (vaguely metal) champ when Shao Kahn did invade Earth with his knife-arm based hordes, and Jax was all ready to go. As an apology, Jax was allowed to punch one (1) horse man.

Jax was involved in his silly rehash plot in Mortal Kombat 4. Once again, Sonya was dispatched to hunt down a Black Dragon thief. Once again, Sonya went missing. Once again, Jax equipped the ol’ metal arms to save Sonya and defeat a Black Dragon member. In the end, Jarek the Thief accused Jax of brutality, but, no, it was a fatality. And scene. Neither worked in Hollywood ever again.

Nice beret

And then some really bad stuff happened to Jax.

Jax earned a starring role.

As has been stated before, the Mortal Kombat franchise has long desperately wished it wasn’t all fighting games. Despite being one of the titles that defines the genre, Mortal Kombat has, again and again, attempted to branch out in “new” directions. Mortal Kombat: Special Forces was going to be one of those new directions. Hot on the heels of Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero (a game successful enough to sell seven whole N64 units, doubling N64 sales for 1997), MK: Special Forces was intended to be the next big spin-off title. This Playstation 1 adventure would see Sonya Blade and Jax fight their way around the Mortal Kombat universe, and squash threats to Earthrealm with fists, guns, and probably a fatality or two. It would be a thing of beauty, and a fine extension of the greater MK mythology.

Unfortunately, Special Forces never came together. Almost literally! First of all, Sonya was completely dropped from the project at one point, so Jax was forced to go the whole adventure alone. Second, apparently the level design budget was cab fare and half a pack of Oreos, so a game that could have featured the titular Special Forces (aka just Jax) venturing across the many realms of the Mortal Kombat universe instead included such amazing levels as the warehouse, the building, and (everyone’s favorite) the sewers. And, while Kano and Jarek are prominent players, the entire rest of the incomparable Mortal Kombat kast is ignored in favor of new and exciting kharacters like Tremor (a poop-brown recolor of Scorpion) and No Face (a living monument to how difficult it was to render believable faces on the Playstation 1). The plot isn’t any great shakes either, as it is simply the story of Jax battling the Black Dragons, and, aside from one eensy trip to Outworld at the end, it is basically nothing more than an unusually violent episode of GI Joe. Kano was once a man!

Very special forces


Special Forces was great for featuring Jax and providing a backstory for why he hated Kano so dang much (it was because he was a bad guy who murders people, natch), but it was a massive failure as a videogame. It was also a significant failure for the very concept of fun. So, as one might expect, this all but buried the Mortal Kombat franchise for a couple of years. Nobody wanted to see anyone involved in this mess ever again, and, good job, Jax, you were the coverboy for that project.

While it has never been stated plainly, I always assumed this was the reason Jax was consistently featured in future Mortal Kombat games, but always had the absolute worst time.

(Incidentally, since Special Forces chronologically takes place before Mortal Kombat 1, it is apparently 100% kanon in two different timelines. Insult to injury!)

Mortal Kombat was allowed to return for Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. Jax returned, too, having his beloved Special Forces almost completely obliterated because he trusted Hsu Hao, a heartless double agent of the Red Dragons. Incidentally, I’m being completely literal here: Hsu Hao has a mechanical, strobing robotic heart that somehow did not tip Jax off to the whole “bad guy” thing (NOTE: if any readers have glowing, mechanical weak points, I apologize for profiling you as evil). Jax then ventured forth to avenge himself upon Hsu Hao, and successfully killed the dork. But kharma is a jerk sometimes, and Jax was killed shortly thereafter.

Jax!

Now, you may have noticed that Jax is not the only kharacter to be murdered during the climax of Deadly Alliance. Jax, like his other dead buddies, was revived as a malevolent zombie by the Dragon King at the start of MK: Deception. But! Jax was returned to “actual” life for Mortal Kombat: Unchained, the PSP enhanced port of MK: Deception. This “twenty minutes later” redux of the plot acknowledged that Jax had been an angry revenant like his buddies, but Liu Kang’s divine spirit returned him to life. However, he retained all the memories of the evil he did as a flesh puppet, so he basically had Dragon King-based PTSD. And, despite the fact that nearly every other “good guy” had the same back-from-the-dead status at the start of MK: Armageddon, Jax was the only one to develop a psychosis as a result of the trauma. This is not because Jax had some mental issues compared to the other kombatants, but likely simply because the universe at large hates the poor guy. Bad news: the universe rebooting did not help that.

The new timeline of Mortal Kombat 9 is rough on ol’ Jax. Now, Jax gets to participate in Mortal Kombat I. Kinda! He is kidnapped by Shang Tsung about twelve seconds into the tournament, and Sonya is forced to rescue her teammate. Good for Sonya’s agency, not great for Jax. Then Jax is back to rescuing Sonya for Mortal Kombat 2 Redux. That goes fairly well until Jax encounters Ermac, a telekinetic ninja that has no time to dawdle, so he immediately tears Jax’s arms off. To be clear, those are Jax’s actual, fleshy arms. Despite everything I understand about human biology and blood-loss, Jax survives being disarmed, and returns for Mortal Kombat 3 Redux with his new arms. Note that the metal arms were equipment in the original timeline, but the new timeline features a Jax that is a double amputee that is more or less DC Comic’s Cyborg (which, uh, also kinda happened in Jax’s MK vs DC ending). And Jax’s “upgrade” doesn’t do him much good, as he’s killed shortly thereafter by Queen Sindel jabbing her heel through his throat. Have fun being a zombie again, Jax!

Lookin' dead

Jax, once again, did his time as an undead monster for Quan Chi. During this time, Quan Chi took the mechanized Sub-Zero, broke down his cyber components, and re-grew an all new, all dead body for Sub-Zero. Jax did not receive the same courtesy, as he was stuck as a zombie reliant on metal arms. Odd choice, Quan. Then Sub-Zero, Scorpion, and Jax are all revived by Raiden’s “happy accident” magical powers. Sub-Zero and Scorpion go on to rebuild their clans and lead happy, productive lives. Jax, once again, is afflicted with PTSD, and retires from active duty. He also has a bitch of a time collecting his military benefits, as he was legally dead for a not insignificant period of time. And his dog died while he was dead, too. It died choking on his cat. The cat is also dead. And you don’t want to know what happened to Jax’s pet rock.

Jax met a wonderful woman (that is never, ever seen) during therapy, and they married and eventually birthed Jacqui “My dad thought I was going to be a boy, and he already bought a onesie that says ‘junior’ on it, so here we are” Briggs. He then came out of retirement decades later to hunt down Quan Chi, the evil wizard that really ruined his day for a few years, on behalf of the Special Forces. This, surprisingly enough, goes really well, and Jax is able to apprehend Quan Chi. Hooray! And then Scorpion kills Quan Chi for general revenge, so it wound up being all moot anyway. Sorry, Jax, better luck next time.

But there would be no better luck for Jax. After MK:X, Jax’s wife (apparently named Vera? Is this a Cheers joke? In the year 2019? Please, please let that be the reasoning) dies. This, naturally, depresses Jax something fierce, and he apparently becomes an old man sitting alone in his lounger crushing beer cans with his mechanical arms. So Jax winds up an easy target for the big bad of Mortal Kombat 11, and is recruited to the dark side with a promise of time travel fixing at least 30% of his problems. But Jax of MK2 (er… kinda? Jax is supposed to get metal arms in MK3r, and he has them here, but Kung Lao is alive, and he dies at the end of M2r, so it’s assumed this group is from MK2, and… oh, I’ve just gone cross eyed) pops in, and aids his daughter on Team Good Guy. This comes to a head when Young Jax fights Old Jax, with Young Jax displaying the optimism of a man that has only lost both of his arms, and not the nihilism of an old man that was once responsible for the worst thing on the Playstation. Young Jax wins the fight, but loses the war (it’s easier to beat an old, depressed man than a pair of gods), and Old Jax continues to work with the baddies until Raiden reveals the crucial bit of information that the evil goddess that is attempting to destroy all of time doesn’t really care about Jax.

I can read lips, apparently

And then Jax won Mortal Kombat 11, and ended all slavery and racism forever. Really turned it all around at the end, big guy!

Next time: The guy with the other different arms.

FGC #276 Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers

Zip alongMuscle memory is a hell of a drug.

While I’ve become something of a videogame glutton over the years (now celebrating my 70th purchase of a port of Tetris), when I was a wee Goggle Bob, my inventory was severely limited. If memory serves, by the time the Nintendo was being retired (which, reminder for you young’uns, the NES kept on trucking well after the release of the SNES, as companies didn’t quite know when to stop back in the day), I owned a whopping thirty NES games, and considered that dirty thirty to be more NES games than anyone would ever need. After all, I had Mega Man 1, 2, and 6, why would I need anything else?

But the flipside to this titanic collection was the rolling “neighborhood” games. I was a Nintendo kid, and my best friend was a Nintendo kid, and that one guy down the street was a Nintendo kid, and… you get the idea. We had our collected collections, and, pooling our resources, we created a sort of neighborhood library of Nintendo cartridges. Ultimately, it was no different from trading baseball cards or…. What do kids today play with?… Pogs? It was just like trading pogs, only with videogames, and, ya know, there was a significant expectation that you’d get the game back. And if not, then it was time to tell mom, because I wasn’t the one that blew fifty bucks on Wizards and Warriors 2. And speaking of mom, it was clear the parents of the neighborhood were on to our little NES black market, so it was very common for birthdays and Christmases to see complimentary games across the region. I got Ducktales, and Jon got Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers. And when we’re both done, guess what’s going to happen? Trading time!

Of course, not all games are created equal.

Ducktales is a great game, but it’s a “kiddie” Disney game, and I have always been a totally, radically mature soul. So, right before Christmas, I changed my vote, claimed Ducktales was stupid, and convinced my parents (errr… Santa Claus) to purchase some other Nintendo game. I want to say it was TMNT: The Arcade Game, but it’s entirely possible it was any other videogame on Earth. Unfortunately, my best friend Jon’s parents didn’t get the memo (or didn’t care), so he still wound up with the “matching” Chip ‘n Dale. This, I figured in my young mind, was fortuitous, as it meant I got to play excellent Disney Capcom gaming just as easily when he was inevitably done with the game and I’d borrow it away to my Nintendo. Everybody wins! The only hang-up was a few months later when I discovered that he wasn’t ever going to let it go.

MeowChip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers is a two player co-op game. What’s more, it’s a two player co-op 2-D sidescroller on the NES, meaning it was released at a time when that kind of thing was almost completely unheard of. If you think about it, that’s really weird, as 2-D sidescrollers were all over the place, but I guess Super Mario Bros. was 2 player alternating, so that’s what everyone aped. In a way, this made CnDRR a magical unicorn in a field full of tubby cow ponies. But even more than that shining bit of rarity, CnDRR was just plain fun, and it was just as fun to play with a buddy as it was to play alone. Yes, two player “cooperative” might lead to a few more deaths by Chip scrolling Dale right off the screen, but it also meant instant respawning, which was fairly essential in some of the later stages/bosses. This all Voltroned together to make CnDRR the first “Smash Bros.” in my memory: if we were getting together (what today might be referred to as a “play date”), we were going to play Chip ‘n Dale, because it was fun for the whole (two people) gang. It didn’t matter if it was a joyous Saturday afternoon or ten minutes after Great Aunt Bernie’s funeral, it was time to hurl red balls at Fat Cat.

So the good news was that we had found a fun game that was going to dominate all of our play time for at least the next year, but the bad news was that Jon was going to continue to be the keeper of Chip ‘n Dale, and I could borrow the cartridge roughly around the same time that Monterey Jack gives up cheese. So I, poor wee Goggle Bob, was forced to only play this excellent game at Jon’s house, and never in the relaxing luxury of my own basement. Mine was a harsh childhood.

But this lead to an unusual phenomena.

Out!As previously mentioned, I had a collection of Nintendo games as a child. And, as you might expect, I am very good at these games. I’m not breaking any speedrun scores or however we judge Nintendo skill, but I’m pretty sure I can clear Quick Man’s stage on one life (don’t hold me to that). That said, many of the games from my childhood collection, whether through nostalgia or some manner of drive to learn the classics, I have played and re-experienced as an adult. To use Mega Man 2 as an example again, I’m likely to replay through the entire Mega Man franchise at least once a year, and most of the time that isn’t even because they just released yet another Mega Man collection. It’s just one of those things that happens, like an inexplicable urge to once again conquer Giant’s Imaginary Hallway in Final Fantasy.

But that never happened for Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers. Maybe it was because I played it so much in my childhood (and it’s not exactly a complicated game), or maybe it was a side effect of always considering the game to be “kiddy”, but, one way or another, I never really got back around to playing CnDRR. I don’t feel like this is something I have to apologize for, I mean, there are other games on my backlog that have been sitting unplayed since the late 90’s (I’ll complete you one day, Castlevania 64)… Though, on the other hand, I do feel a little bit of guilt at not playing a game that had so completely ruled my childhood. What’s that? There’s a new Disney Afternoon Collection by the same folks behind the most recent Mega Man collection? And it’s available now? Oh, let’s do this thing.

And that’s about when I learned that that game you played over and over when you were seven might just stick in your brain.

YummyI plowed through Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers in about twenty minutes. I didn’t get hit at all during the first stage. The majority of the bosses (save that damn caterpillar) never touched Chip. Gadget was rescued, Fat Cat was trounced, and the day was saved, once again, by the indomitable Rescue Rangers. Also, I got that P bottle, and I’m still not completely sure what that does.

And… should I be surprised? I haven’t played the game for twenty years (low estimate!), but it’s like riding a bicycle (sidenote: bad simile, as I am terrible at riding a bicycle. Don’t ask). I didn’t think videogame “skills” were that pervasive in my unconscious mind, but, just like I can still open my high school locker in a few twists (assuming they haven’t changed the combination in fifteen years), I can beat Chip ‘n Dale inside of an hour. One whole game condensed to some part of my brain that will always remember exactly when to duck into a box. My conscious mind boggles.

Muscle memory: horrifying and useful.

FGC #276 Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers

  • System: NES, and now, against all odds, available on the Playstation 4, Xbone, and PC. Yay!
  • Number of players: Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers.
  • Favorite Boss: Even though I usually skip his stage, this really is the game where Mega Man X3’s Volt Catfish got his start. Bless you, Capcom, and your unending reserves of electric catfish.
  • ChuggaUseless powers: Also, that same stage includes “the raft” and a hammer that may be used to clobber your way through dirt blocks. That makes two completely unique items in a completely skippable stage. What was going on there?
  • Chip or Dale: I always choose Chip, as he is the leader. And he has a cool hat. I decided to go with Dale for the FGC article, though, in the name of trying (absolutely not really) new things.
  • Further Childhood Memories: I remember being at Disney World when I was like five, and I asked my dad how to tell the difference between Chip and Dale. He replied that there was no way to do that, they’re just chipmunks, move on. Then a helpful Disney employee explained that Chip has a black nose “like a chocolate chip.” I was impressed with this knowledge, but even more than that, I remember my traditionally stoic father lighting up like an enthusiastic Christmas tree at this new information. See? You’re never too old to learn new facts about chipmunks.
  • Did you know? The flowers are supposed to provide 1-Ups after every 50 pickups (according to the manual), but it actually requires the more NES standard 100. There’s apparently a beta version of CnD floating around out there, though, where the fifty thing stays true. I can understand the change, at least, not like this game needed to be easier.
  • Would I play again? Probably! Just might take another twenty years. Let’s see how good I am at this game then.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the 3DS! Coins! All the coins for Mario! Please look forward to it!

DAMN BOXES