Kotal Kahn has his own gang of malcontents. Ermac and Reptile are his federally mandated differently colored ninja (red & green? It’s Christmas for Outworld!), but the rest are all newbies as of Mortal Kombat X. This serves the required function of being the MK “next generation” of villains to stand in opposition to the kids on the Light Side hanging out with Cassie. Unfortunately, they generally have the same issues as Cassie’s Crew: they’re very underdeveloped compared to their more established “ancestors”. However, almost by virtue of being villainous, they do fare a little better than the likes of Takeda and whathisface.
We already covered the turncoat D’Vorah, so Erron Black is our next featured player from Team Kotal. He’s a cowboy, baby, and, frankly, it’s kind of amazing it took this long for an actual cowboy archetype to show up on the roster. I guess it’s the guns thing? Maybe that’s the answer: Stryker ruined the concept of firearms for the franchise so thoroughly that it took an even twenty years before they tried again. It’s not like guns are much more lethal than routinely having a spear thrown through your chest…
Regardless, Erron Black is the “mysterious stranger” model of cowboy, but he only ever seems to work as a generic mook in the story proper. In Mortal Kombat X, it is revealed that he worked for Shao Kahn in the past, works for Kotal Kahn now, and is an actual cowboy from the age of cowfolk because he worked for Shang Tsung a few years (centuries) back, and got an excellent health care package as a reward. This was soft retkonned in Mortal Kombat 11, as it was revealed that Erron previously worked for (at least with) Kano and the Black Dragons around the time of MK2 (and nothing is mentioned in his interaction with Shang Tsung)… but that little plot thread was likely only added so there was an easy excuse for Young Erron Black to hang out with Kano and that gang of featured antagonists. And, in both games, while he is certainly an imposing figure, he… doesn’t do anything. He’s this generation’s Baraka: you know he’s tough and dangerous, but the good guys keep beating him down on the way to the final boss. From a story standpoint, he’s less of a cowboy, and more of a met.
But Erron Black’s lack of a story is rounded out by some excellent, good ol’ fighting game “fight-based” storytelling. After Mortal Kombat 9 (and MK vs. DC) dropped the fighting styles of Mortal Kombat 5-7 in favor of “simpler” battles, Mortal Kombat X reintroduced the concept of different fighting styles for each fighter. Now, unlike the old games’ styles, you cannot switch between styles during actual combat. Additionally, each “style” is not an entirely new fighting style, but more of a variation on some simple themes. However, each style does feel distinctive enough to make an impact, and Erron is an excellent example of how this works. Erron’s Marksman style relies on his guns and gaining advantages through being as far away as possible. Gunslinger is the “tricky” style that also relies on distance and firearms, but attacks from more unpredictable angles. But, if you want to get up close and personal, Outlaw grants Erron a sword, so it’s time to rush up and stab someone. All fighting styles are equally viable, so this obviously long range fighter (remember: guns. Have you gotten that yet?) has options if you’re a Cowboys fan but don’t like going the distance.
But regardless of which style you choose, Erron has style for days. The “sword” Erron uses for his Outlaw style is a blade stolen from a Tarkatan’s arm… and the skeletal arm is still attached! Reptile doesn’t appear in MK11, so Erron has a vial of his corrosive spit just for the purpose of fatalities. And he’s got some manner of bear trap (Goro trap?) that is fashioned from the jaws of an Outworld beast. In short, while Erron’s actual story may be slim pickings, his in-game moves and abilities reveal a man that is not just “a cowboy”, but a rather innovative survivor that uses all the resources available during combat. And, considering he lives in a world that has a strangely high concentration of free-standing acid, those resources can be remarkable.
But he technically doesn’t do anything like that during the “real” story, so Erron doesn’t make much of an impact outside of combat. We’ll see if he makes a return appearance past MK11 thanks to his “arcade mode” charm.
Ferra / Torr are the last of Kotal Kahn’s enforcers. Torr is a hulking brute that stands as tall as a sub-boss and wears a bag over his head, and Ferra is an impish little Twilight Princess that is voiced by Twilight Sparkle. They fight together, with Torr delivering crushing blows, and Ferra barking orders, slashing with some kind of Wolverine-claw, and occasionally being launched as a projectile like Uncle Jack. Most of the time, Ferra stays planted on Torr’s back, and you technically can’t harm the lil’ girl boss no matter how hard you try. She gets shot with an arrow once in story mode, and that’s it. She’s technically the most immaculate kombatant in the franchise.
The duo’s ending reveals that they are part of an Outworld Wastelands-based “forgotten” race, and they have a lifecycle that consists of a creature being born small and (relatively) smart, and surviving by riding/commanding a “brute”. Eventually, the diminutive dude or dudette metamorphoses into a brute, loses the majority of their intelligence, and is mounted by an all new lil’ creature. And the previous mount simply withers and dies. Circle of life! Ferra / Torr’s race is never named, but I guess we know their whole biological deal.
Ferra / Torr only appear in Mortal Kombat X, where they are Kotal’s all-purpose Goro. Like Erron before them, they don’t particularly accomplish much, and exist mostly to menace the Cassie Crew. They survive the adventure, but do not return for Mortal Kombat 11. D’Vorah claims to have “found their bodies” during some fight intros, but she’s a lying bug lady, and I don’t trust a single thing she says.
Regardless, Ferra / Tor, like Erron, are irrelevant to the plot, but an absolute blast to pilot in combat. The MK franchise has traditionally taken its sub-boss scale fighters very seriously, as they’re conventionally the last and most threating hurdle the player must face before winning a murder tournament. Ferra / Tor is a bad, rad monster that is absolutely played for laughs, complete with a tiny, sarcastic goblin that seems to exist exclusively to hurl poorly constructed insults. Ferra / Tor are a breath of fresh air for the typical MK archetype, and it is sad they’ve only appeared in one game. They deserved better than to be in the same castoff pile as Daegon.
Beyond Kotal’s gang… After Tanya, Tremor, Bo’ Rai Cho, and a host of (delightfully) horrific guest characters, Triborg wound up being the only wholly original DLC kharacter in Mortal Kombat X. However, “original” might not be the right word here, as Triborg’s whole deal is that he’s four established fighters all rolled into one (literally). Back before the first Mortal Kombat, the Lin Kuei Grandmaster had everybody duke it out, and he secretly digitized all the fighting data just in case he might have to program some fighting robots in the future. In this timeline, Sektor, Cyrax, and Sub-Zero all became robots, and Sektor wound up conquering the Lin Kuei for his own cybernetic purposes. Sub-Zero died, became a human again, and stole back the Lin Kuei thanks to ninja skills, computer science, and Cyrax’s love of warm puppies. This meant that the whole Lin Kuei “cyber initiative” went right in the trash compactor before MKX even got going. However! The Special Forces (government organization helmed by Sonya Blade) found some old Lin Kuei hard drives, and attempted to process the data into a spare robot body. This abhorrently horrible idea lead to the cybernetic data for Sektor, Cyrax, Sub-Zero, and Smoke (who was never a robot in this timeline, and is currently an undead demon) being downloaded into said body, coalescing into a gestalt personality, and murdering the living hell out of everyone in the immediate area. Triborg is loose, and he’s here to conquer the world on behalf of robotkind.
Incidentally, he’s Triborg and not… uh… Quartborg because the Sub-Zero personality is evidently entirely dormant. Cyber Subs is only a ridealong, and is just sleeping in the back while the big boys make all the driving decisions.
Triborg is the ultimate extent of MKX’s style system: he’s effectively four wholly different fighters for the price of one ($4.99). He has a base “gray” form, but his color and helmet shifts to match the moves of the kombatant he’s mimicking. How, you ask? Well, do you need Otacon to explain nanomachines again? Because it’s nanomachines. That’s also why he has “cyborg” internal organs when his backstory notes that he’s a wholly robotic being. It’s nanomachines all the way down!
Triborg is DLC, so he doesn’t participate in the “real” plot of MKX. Additionally, he doesn’t reappear for MK11, and he doesn’t seem to be referenced at all by the returning Sektor and Cyrax (granted, they’re both from the past), or the cyberized Frost (she at least lived through MKX) so it’s hard to say if he (it? They?) ever even kanonically existed at all. At the very least, when Cyrax and Sektor appear as non-playable story mode opponents in MK11, they seem to be recycling Triborg’s models and animations, so that’s at least something.
Poor Triborg, you were only ever an excuse for some sweet, sweet robot battlin’.
Next time: Something old, something new, something borrowed, and someone blue.