There was some confusion regarding Kingdom Hearts Explained and my general tone, so I feel like I should state this plainly: I love the story of Mortal Kombat. I love that, over twelve or so games, some very clearly crazy people have decided to foist a remotely coherent tale upon a group of murderers that occasionally (and seemingly incidentally) save the universe(s). Your Harry Potters and Songs of Ice of Fires all written by one author with one artistic vision are fine and all, but, for my money, give me a story where you have to account for how the last chapter included an undead skeleton from Hell that killed your ice magician and now you have to invent a new ice magician little brother that has to fight the previous ice magician that has become a magical shadow man ruled by a member of the KISS army from an incidental spin-off. It’s completely bonkers from top to bottom, and a minor miracle that it works at all, left alone as well as it does.
Which neatly brings us to Reptile. As nearly everyone already knows (not my mom. My mom does not know about Reptile), Reptile was introduced in Mortal Kombat I as the first hidden character in the series (if not the first hidden character ever in a fighting game). Reptile was not a selectable fighter under any (intended) circumstances, but could be fought as a hidden opponent if the most ridiculous of qualifications were met. It had to be at The Pit stage. You had to score a double flawless victory (aka never get hit). You had to never block. You had to perform a fatality. And, finally, a random shadow had to go across the moon in the background, thus adding just the tiniest touch of “playground rumor” to the proceedings. Assuming all of these conditions were met, you could fight Reptile, a green ninja that moved exceedingly quickly and used special moves belonging to both Sub-Zero and Scorpion. If you beat Reptile, you earned a crapton of points, and possessed bragging rights at your local arcade until the end of time.
Now, what’s interesting here is that the initial creation of Reptile apparently took seven seconds. While his “unlock conditions” were labyrinthine, Reptile was a green ninja with the abilities of the blue and yellow ninja. Blue + Yellow = Green. He was an afterthought. He was a random creation by a programmer that got bored and wanted to add a little extra fun to his game. Boon has literally stated that he thought of Reptile on a lunch break commute.
And then, because Mortal Kombat and Reptile in particular became so popular, someone had to actually do something with a character that existed thanks to a kindergartener’s understanding of color mixing.
So, for Mortal Kombat 2 and 3, the fans didn’t need very much. Reptile was explained (retconned) to be Shang Tsung/Shao Kahn’s personal bodyguard (presumably in the employ of Shao Kahn, but loaned to Shang Tsung as necessary), and any fights during Mortal Kombat I were obviously a toady’s attempt to squash any fighters capable of those flawless victories. Reptile was also revealed to be a lizard man in camouflage, capable of removing his human flesh disguise in much the same manner that Scorpion would pull off his “head” to reveal his shiny skull. Oh, and his new, unique special moves all seemed to play off his original status as a secret palette swap, as his orb projectile was a weird modification of Scorpion and Sub-Zero’s stun abilities, while his other skills, like spitting acid or turning invisible, lined up with his stealthy, reptilian origins. Reptile really was an interesting spin on “graduating” a hidden, mysterious character to the proper playable roster.
And then things got weird.
Mortal Kombat 4 went full polygons, and dropped the motion capture graphics forever. As a result, the “recolor” ninja (of which there were… eight at that point) were afforded opportunities for a little more graphical variety. Thus, Reptile maintained roughly the same silhouette, but gained scales over most of his body. This was kind of an odd change, as it had previously been established that Reptile was hiding the head of a green (Jurassic Park style) velociraptor under his mask, and this “unmasked” Reptile just looked like a dude with a particularly Batmanian skin condition. Mortal Kombat 4 wasn’t offering any answers (aside from “everyone looks like ass in this game, deal with it”), so fans were left to wonder what the hell was going on with Reptile.
Deadly Alliance decided to go full dinosaur with Reptile, and offered an explanation: Reptile was bad at his job. Apparently, Reptile belongs to a human-dinosaur race that was naturally dinosaur-looking, but could affect human-esque disguises with a little concentration. When Deadly Alliance starts, Shao Kahn is (thought) killed, and personal bodyguard Reptile is a little distraught that he failed so phenomenally that his master is straight up dead. Thus, we discover how Reptiles grieve: by turning into spikey lizard monster men and palling around with vampires. Look… he was going through some stuff, okay? And then that previously mentioned vampire tricks Reptile into reviving the Dragon King, who immediately possesses Reptile’s body, so Reptile spends the entirety of MK: Deception kinda-dead, kinda-the final boss. It was a rough time for everybody.
Somehow, Reptile and the Dragon King are separate entities in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, and it could theoretically be explained by Nightwolf separating Reptile’s soul while sending the ol’ Dragon King to Hell, but, whatever the case, Reptile returns with a more ninja-y form. Given Annihilation was a celebration of Mortal Kombats that came before, this “retro” version was basically a glow-up of Mortal Kombat 4 Reptile, though now with a proper head. There isn’t much of a kanon explanation for Reptile’s presence or purpose during this time, but, hey, here’s that reboot again, so nobody really has to worry about it.
Like some of the other villains, Reptile just gets a repeat of his Mortal Kombat 1-3 status during Mortal Kombat 9. This time, he looks a little more modern dinosaur/avian, but he’s otherwise back to his “green ninja” status. Here’s a lovely picture of him about to kiss Shang Tsung:
Mortal Kombat X then presents a Reptile that has gone to the spikey side of dinosaur-person land. This makes sense, as Shao Kahn is dead again by this time, and his new master, Kotal Kahn, just doesn’t do it for him like in the good old days. Reptile basically continues to be a professional minion throughout that adventure… which is all he’s ever done in the series. Reptile, disappointingly, does not return for Mortal Kombat 11, even though Kotal Kahn and the majority of the rest of his entourage is present. This marks the first Mortal Kombat title without Reptile appearing (give or take an initial MK3 version or whether or not you qualify The Dragon King “as” Reptile), which is kind of a shame. Reptile has been through a pile of permutations since his first appearance, and he’s a fine metaphor for the series itself. He’s wildly inconsistent, can apparently change his blood color based on his mood, and ping pongs around allegiances while somehow maintaining the exact same stooge status. He’s all over the place, and, sometimes, that’s just how we like it.
Such a looker
Next time: Hat Man