The ultimate problem with Sindel is that she was made for one game and one game only.
Mortal Kombat 3 was the story of Shao Kahn reclaiming his undead bride, Sindel, and… Actually, let’s just use her Mortal Kombat 3 biography to start here:
“Sindel once ruled the Outworld at Shao Kahn’s side as his queen. Now 10,000 years later after her untimely death, she is reborn on Earth with evil intentions. Sindel is the key to Kahn’s occupation of Earth."
So… you can kind of see where the character came from with that description, right? Shao Kahn was a giant, spike-riddled king that wore bones as random ornaments, so he had to have a matching queen. While the idea of an equally gigantic bruiser lady was likely ignored because we do not live in the best of all possible worlds, it seems the plan was to make Shao Kahn, employer of many a wizard, married to a literal witch. As such, Sindel is in possession of some distinct features:
1. She can fly, and does so often as not only a special move, but also her victory stance
2. She can hurl fireballs from her mouth, a very common villain trait
3. She possesses a super-sonic scream like a banshee
4. She has long, black & white hair that seems to function like a lizard’s tail
5. She is more goth than Starbucks’ ill-fated Fall promotional drink, The Hot Gothlette.
Couple this with the fairly standard Mortal Kombat feature of pupil-less eyeballs (usually used to denote a kharacter is dead/undead), and Sindel does look like an appropriate match for Shao Kahn. Shao Kahn is basically the barbarian king archetype, and Sindel is his concubine-sorceress. It’s not the most original coupling in the world, but if it works for Skeletor, it can work for Mortal Kombat.
And then it was all undermined before Mortal Kombat 3 even ended.
The ending of Mortal Kombat 3 revealed that Sindel was not Shao Kahn’s witch queen, but yet another one of his unwilling victims. Sindel had been a queen, but she was queen of Edenia with her beloved king/husband, Jerrod. Jerrod, unfortunately, sucked at Mortal Kombat, failed against Shao Kahn, and lost fifty cents, his kingdom, and his life. Shao Kahn thus conquered Edenia, and took Sindel and her infant daughter, Kitana, as his own family. Sindel took this entire event poorly, and killed herself as a result (SIDE NOTE: the original MK3 ending simply notes that her death was part of Shao Kahn’s plan, and not noted as suicide. The suicide seems to be a retkon or “interpretation” of the ending that is generally accepted, and, well, yeesh. Right?). Shao Kahn, ever not one to let anything in his life not lead to an evil scheme, struck up a deal with the fallen Elder God Shinnok, and managed to snag Sindel’s soul in some manner of purgatory for 10,000 years, which would allow Sindel to be reborn on Earth, thus allowing him to conquer the place. This had the added benefit of Sindel being revived in a brainwashed, murder-banshee state, so, hey, willing queen as a bonus. Saves Shao Kahn some time on having to score with the Queen of Earth (who, in 1995, was probably… who? Mariah Carey?).
This immediately created a strange dichotomy: Sindel was not Sindel. Or, at least, the undead queen of evil was not who Sindel was supposed to be. Sindel’s MK3 ending even showcased a Sindel with proper human pupils, entirely white hair, and a much more modest gray, 80’s style blazer. She… kinda looked like X-Men’s Storm. Basically, Sindel was intended to be the benevolent leader of a bunch of wannabe elves, and not the demon queen of Shao Kahn. Clearly, when next we saw Sindel, she would be “good” Sindel, and not the version that might manage a Hot Topic with an iron fist.
And the only problem with that would be that absolutely no one would recognize a “good” version of Sindel.
Sindel was benched for Mortal Kombat 4 (Edenia was momentarily conquered by Shinnok and Sindel’s own Ambassador of Boomerangs, and queenie was tossed in a dungeon with Kitana on rescue duty) and Mortal Kombat 5 (again, Kitana was the point princess, and Sindel decided to chill), but she did return in time for Mortal Kombat: Deception (6). And did she look any different? No! If anything, with the graphical glow-up available, she looked more like The Evil Queen of the West. Which makes perfect sense from the perspective of “this is Sindel”, but feels pretty weird for a woman that has supposedly been hanging back and defending her realm from Shao Kahn’s mutant forces for a game or two. And even better news? She got worse!
When I said Sindel was created for exactly one game, I damn well meant it. Sindel possessed two abilities that were practically her signature: flight, and magic hair. Bad news? Both of those abilities absolutely did not work for Playstation 2-era fighting games. Flight was right out, as we’re all doing 3-D kung-fu fighting now, and those fighters barely even jump, left alone float around the battlefield. And magic, snake-like hair? Forget about it. Dude, we could barely render a buzzcut back then. Realistic hair that also has its own skeleton? Sorry, but Kabuki Quantum Fighter 3-D was not happening. So, whereas Sindel was able to return as a fighter, a healthy chunk of what made her unique was cut out between sequels. But at least she still looked like Queen Goth of Gothania!
Anywho, Sindel was imprisoned by Zombie Kitana during MK: Deception, eventually was freed by Jade, but then managed to accomplish exactly nothing over the course of the next two games. She was there, but she didn’t do anything. And that’s kind of impressive on its own, as, come on, she commanded an entire dimension. She could have at least gotten, like, Goro Jr. on her side. Whatever. She died during Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, and that was that.
But she returned for Mortal Kombat 9! And, good news, Mortal Kombat 9 contained Mortal Kombat 3 again! The game she was made for! Hooray! And the story actually did right by her! Double hooray!
So, first of all, Sindel received the retkon that her suicide wasn’t just some “oh woe is me Romeo is dead I’ll never love again” move, it was a distinct sacrifice of her life energy to guarantee that Shao Kahn had to conquer Earth through honorable Mortal Kombat, and couldn’t just roll in with a centaur murder squad. Thanks, Sindel! And Sindel’s eventual revival was less “10,000 year old Plan B”, and more “Quan Chi, Shinnok’s rent-a-lackey, has a whacky idea”. Quan Chi revives Sindel as an unwilling zombie bride, her suicide-magic is undone, and Shao Kahn invades the planet. Then, when Shao Kahn’s number one horsey man takes a dive, he decides he needs a super-powered zombie queen, so the good emperor sucks the souls right out of Shang Tsung, deposits them in Sindel, and Sindel becomes Juggernaut Sindel.
Thus, Sindel finally earns the part she was meant to play in Mortal Kombat 9. She’s an unstoppable (incidentally goth) force of destruction used against the heroes. She wipes the floor with practically everyone, straight-up rage murders/soul-eats her own daughter, and is only defeated when one of the good guys (kinda ironically) suicide blasts her to the Netherrealm. Naturally, she then becomes one of Quan Chi’s zombie grunts, and spends the rest of her existence as an undead enforcer, presumably never learning (or at least caring) that she used to be a benevolent queen. And that’s good! … I mean, not for her… But it fits her archetype better! She started as an evil zombie queen, and she’ll end as an evil zombie queen.
Oh, and she got her special moves back, too.
So just remember: some characters have an expiration date of one game.
In a perfect, more interesting world, Shao Kahn was a “regular” playable character in Mortal Kombat 3, Sindel was made the final boss (“She proves too much for Shao Kahn to handle, and conquers Earthrealm for herself”), and Sheeva was her corresponding sub-boss. Then Sheeva might have made an impact on the mythos. As it is… well… Seems like nobody cares about Sheeva.
Sheeva really should have made a big splash. She was the first (deliberately) playable Shokan character in the Mortal Kombat franchise. And that was huge, considering people had been begging to play as the likes of Goro and Kintaro literally since the first Mortal Kombat. Unfortunately, everything that made the four-armed badass characters such badasses was dropped for Sheeva. She did not have their levels of super-armor, she was not invulnerable to projectiles, and, most disappointing of all, she was able to be tossed around like any other fighter on the roster. Obviously, these changes were made to the Shokan so that they could actually be used during a typical fight without completely unbalancing the entire match, but it did leave the (theoretically) unintended impression that female Shokans were dramatically weaker than their male counterparts. Sheeva could tear a man’s flesh off, but there was no way she could have ever stood up to Goro.
Oh, and Sheeva was the kharacter most often cut from the various forms of the Mortal Kombat 3 home ports, so it’s entirely likely there are people out there who loved playing MK3 as a kid, but never even knew she existed.
All of this likely impacted what wound up being her kanon Mortal Kombat 3 fate. All that is established in MK3 proper is that Sheeva is assigned as Sindel’s bodyguard, and the Shokan really hate Motaro’s centaur race, which is currently being favored by Shao Kahn after Goro and Kintaro whiffed it for two solid tournaments. What happened beyond those facts was established by other fighters’ bios in future titles, and what we learned was that…
1. Jade and Kitana teamed up to take down Sheeva. They succeeded, because Sheeva sucks for Endurance Matches, and they “freed” Sindel by restoring her memories.
2. Sheeva eventually found that Shao Kahn planned to eliminate the Shokan, so she fought against Shao Kahn’s forces (besides, she was probably out of a job anyway). She lost here, too, but Liu Kang eventually won the day without her help.
3. Somewhere in there, Sheeva struck up a deal with Kano to kill Motaro. Cooperating with Kano is never a good idea! Kano did successfully distract horseyboy while Sheeva dealt some mortal blows, though.
4. However, Kano ratted Sheeva out to Shao Kahn almost immediately, so Shao Kahn stabbed Sheeva but good, and left the woman for dead.
And that was it for Sheeva for a solid few games. She even cameoed in Mortal Kombat: Deception as a corpse in Hell. That seemed to squash any future plans for Sheeva returning.
But Sheeva did finally return in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. And, like her old charge, Sindel, she didn’t really have a plot at all. She was introduced as “just as brutal as Goro or Kintaro”, and the rest of her biography was just how Mortal Kombat 3 went down. Her (non-kanon) ending was her ascending to become a “Goddess of Destruction”, which seemed a little… on the nose for a multi-armed woman named “Sheeva”.
Sheeva doesn’t fare much better in the reboot. It’s revealed that she’s been bumming around the Mortal Kombat universe since MK1, but she’s basically at Baraka’s level on the ol’ organizational chart. She once again, technically, becomes Sindel’s bodyguard, but, since Sindel is a monster woman capable of defeating entire armies, it’s a pretty lackluster position. However, since Sheeva is really bad at her job, she is nowhere near Sindel when Nightwolf explodes, so she (unlike practically everyone in the story) actually completely survives nu Mortal Kombat 3. Way to go, Sheeva!
Unfortunately, Sheeva doesn’t have much of a future past MK9. She’s marginally important in the comics (which features a full redemption arc for Goro), but she doesn’t otherwise appear in anything Mortal Kombat 10 related. She then appears as Queen of the Shokan in Mortal Kombat 11… but that’s likely only because she was the last surviving named Shokan in this plot. Whatever the reason, she has about ten seconds of screentime, and joins a time-displaced Princess Kitana in defeating the time-displaced Shao Kahn, thus finally getting some revenge on her old boss. Hooray?
And that’s that for the final introduced Shokan in the franchise. Way to make your race not cool, Sheeva!
Motaro: If Kintaro thought he had a rough life for being easily forgettable, he should try being the poor horse that was completely impossible for future games.
Motaro was the impassable centaur sub-boss of Mortal Kombat 3. Likely in an effort to hide that the final boss of Mortal Kombat 3 was just the final boss of Mortal Kombat 2 (but with a shoryuken), the chief sub boss of MK3 was nearly impossible. Coincidentally, he was also the most limited of sub bosses. He had a punch, donkey kick, grab, projectile, and sweeping tail. That’s it! But, considering his very hide could reflect all projectiles and he took up about 75% of the screen, that’s all he needed. He was also the first playable MK sub boss on a home system that actually had color, so a lot of people have fond memories of the centaur.
And then he stopped existing.
Look, we get it. In a fighting tournament where everyone has basic human skeletons, it’s hard to squeeze a horse into the proceedings. The official excuse for the longest time in Mortal Kombat kanon was that Sheeva outright killed Motaro during MK3, and, since the Centaurians were supposed to be better than the Shokan, that little homicide settled the issue. Four arms beats four legs, end of story, won’t be seeing one of those dudes again. We’ve got plenty of bipedal monsters running around, we don’t need an equine.
But Mortal Kombat: Armageddon touted that it would involve every Mortal Kombat fighter, so someone decided Motaro had to return. And he did! Mostly! The Shokan had apparently cursed the hated Centaurians, and now Motaro was stuck in a less centaur, more satyr form. Hooves and tail can stay, but only two legs for Motaro. Oh, and he’s still huge. But, man, is he a lot less imposing now that he looks like he should be telling you to get up on the hydra’s back.
But at least Motaro got to appear in Mortal Kombat 7 in some hobbled way! Every fighter that appeared in the first three Mortal Kombat titles is available in Mortal Kombat 9… except Motaro. Motaro appears in the background of a few scenes in story mode, though! And then Raiden kills him to save Johnny Cage. The end.
Motaro, how do you feel about being so ignored throughout the franchise?
Next time: Ninja are no joke.