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FGC #528 Adventure

Let's go on an adventure!Adventure was released in 1980, and many claim it was the origin of what is considered to be gaming today. Without Adventure, we wouldn’t have a template for games that feature inventory juggling, dragon-slaying, or the entire Legend of Zelda franchise. But, while even major motion pictures pay tribute to the influence Adventure had on gaming and pop culture at large, no one ever asks what happened to the venerable cast of Adventure. As the VH-1 frequently asked when I had cable: Where are they now? Let’s look into it!

The Bat

Flap flapAdventure’s most hated foe was no dragon or daunting maze, it was the aggravating bat. Just when you thought you had acquired that valuable key or chalice, the bat would come swooping in, pinch it right from your paws, and leave for parts unknown. Would you ever reclaim your lost item? Only that winged terror knows for sure.

Where is it now?

Bats have had a long, illustrious career in videogames. Did you know that bats are responsible for 90% of all deaths in the territory of Wallachia? Or that Batman finds a new and exciting excuse to utilize actual bats in nearly every game he ever visits? But these fun facts don’t get to the heart of the real question: what happened to Adventure’s kleptomaniac bat? Thievery is a very particular skill for a winged mammal, so where did that individual bat wind up? Well, if you think about it for a minute, you’ll realize the answer is obvious:

THE BAT

Aero the Acro-Bat is the most well-known thief-bat in gaming. He stole all of our hearts in 1993, and then retired a happy, prosperous bat after a reappearance on the Gameboy Advance. A true success story for the ages, and everybody knows there are no other thief-bats in gaming. None. Now be quiet, and stop eying that chaos emerald.

The Sword

Stabbin'The hero of Adventure is no swordsman (and possibly not even a man), but they don’t need to be. Sometimes a sword is all you need, and waddling over to a dragon and giving ‘em a good poke is all that’s obligatory to clear the threats out of this dungeon. The sword makes it all happen, and, while you can’t wield the sword while carrying literally anything else (you’d think a key could fit in your pocket), it is the one-size-fits-all murder weapon of choice for any and all adventurers.

Where is it now?

Sword is second only to Gun in the world of videogame weapons. Adventure may not have invented the idea of a sword-wielding adventurer, but it certainly cemented the sword’s usefulness, and the general relationship between swords and dragons (they’re not fond of each other). As a result, swords have been synonymous with adventure games ever since, practically to the point that if you see a hero with a sword, you’re already expecting to look around every corner for a hidden Triforce. Whether it is because of Adventure or not, the sword has experienced an unquestionably successful existence.

The Keys

Unlock conditionsSure, other games may have had keys, but did they have color-coded keys dedicated to color-coded gates? Nope! That was all Adventure! It wasn’t enough just to find a key, you had to find the right key, and you’d never get anywhere without it. That bridge can’t save you now, you need a golden key for a golden gate, mister. No entry allowed!

Where are they now?

Keys are synonymous with adventures, so a better question may be where aren’t they now (the answer is “your inventory”, because you used them all). One might claim that the height of “key mania” occurred back in the Playstation/N64 era, when the 1-2 punch of the Resident Evil franchise and Ocarina of Time sent those 90’s kids into a bout of key-mania. Who didn’t have a set of key-themed pogs? However, while keys don’t get the headlines as much now, they’re still out and proud, and even in ways you would never expect. Want to “unlock” that swimsuit DLC? Then you’re going to need a special key called “your credit card”. Keys are just as popular as ever!

The Mobile Bridge

A bridge too far to carryAdventure was the first game to feature a full inventory of items for your adventure (oh, I just got that), and the very biggest of them all was the mobile bridge. Sure, you may need a key or sword to conquer doors or enemies, but the mobile bridge is a goddamn freakin’ bridge. You want to get across something? Anything? It doesn’t matter, you’ve got a bridge that is four times your size, so you’re going to make it. Way to save the day, bridge!

Where is it now?

The bridge itself hasn’t seen much use in its original form since The Legend of Zelda saw a Link that occasionally had to ford rivers. But the spirit of that mobile and completely inexplicable structure is now more popular than ever. Want to play Minecraft? Fortnight? The most popular, universal titles in gaming right now all have a root in the simple joy of carrying an enormous bridge around the world, and we wouldn’t have people programming supercomputers in Mincecraft without it. The humble contribution of the mobile bridge has defined gaming in the past as much as in the modern era of lugging around an entire Home Depot in your virtual pocket.

The Magnet

It's magneticWhile there are other important items in Adventure, the magnet might be the absolute most useful. The other items are generally all “keys” (see!) that “unlock” specific conditions, like how a “sword” unlocks “a dead dragon”. The magnet, meanwhile, has unlimited utility. It, as one might expect, magnetizes any other item to your person. This makes the magnet simultaneously unnecessary and absolutely the most important thing in the maze. You can carry any item, sure, but you can’t carry any more than one item at a time. But if you’ve got a magnet, then the world is your oyster, and you can drag a parade of bridges and swords along for the ride. Bless you, magnet, you make a pause inventory completely superfluous.

Where is it now?

You hate to see it happen: the Magnet’s meteoric rise to fame happened fast and furious, as it seemed like every game after Adventure included a magnet. The peak of magnet-mania was likely Magnet’s appearance as a sentient robot in Dr. Wily’s Robot Master army in 1990. However, shortly thereafter, magnets severely dropped in popularity. Whether it was because “real” inventories gradually dropped the need for a “magnet-style” item, or because a posse of insane clowns claimed magnets couldn’t logically work was immaterial, the end result is that the once-ubiquitous magnet is now little more than a has been. Sure, magnetism sometimes appears as an innate or equippable “ability” nowadays, but being an abstract concept doesn’t pay the bills on that “Magnet Mansion” it bought with the advance from the Yu-Gi-Oh money…

Dark Areas

It's dark in hereIs there anything more important in a videogame than your field of vision? From the time Man progressed past the text adventure, Man was also encumbered by the need to see everything at all times. In Adventure, if you could see the whole of the maze from some glorious, mountaintop view, you would have no issue at all navigating its every twist and turn. But, no, you are damned to walk on the Earth, and finding your way to the sacred chalice is always a challenge. What’s more, some areas are dark, thus hampering progress with an inability to see even inches in front of your dot’s face. Oh, Dark Areas, you make simple walking a challenge.

Where are they now?

Bitch is everywhere! The darkness has crept into all of our lives, and now you can’t skulk around the labyrinths of Mars without bringing a danged flashlight. The Dark Areas of Adventure might be the single most enduring thing in gaming, as even Mario has to deal with a dark planet full of Boos every once in a blue (power) moon. Now, an attentive reader may notice that encroaching, unstoppable darkness being the greatest success story in Adventure is a bit… dark. And to that witty observation, I’d like to ask you a simple question: have you been alive this year? No further questions at this time, thank you.

The Dragons

Maybe it's not a duckThree dragons will stalk your hero, and, like Pac’s pals before them, they all have their own personalities. Or maybe they don’t! I’m not really going to test which dragon is the most angry when the end result of their collective tantrums is being devoured. I don’t want my little dot to live the rest of their days being digested, so I’m going to go ahead and hold off on the scientific studies until after this sacred chalice is retrieved. You’ll thank me later.

Where are they now?

One member of this trio was already established before Adventure. Eagle-eyed players noticed that Yellow Dragon was tucking a few extra heads behind his neck during filming, and, yes, Yellow Dragon was King Ghidorah slumming it in some videogames all along. The Godzilla money was running kind of dry in the early 80’s, and this “King” wanted to see if he could conquer a foreign market. It didn’t exactly set his career on (atomic) fire, but dude does have three mouths to feed, and a gig is a gig.

Red Dragon has similarly had a hard time establishing himself, but he has been “that dragon” in multiple projects over the years. The logo for Dragon’s Age? That’s Red Dragon. Dragon’s Crown resting on a dragon’s head? You know the dragon with that headwear. The fire dragon in any given Final Fantasy? Almost always Red Dragon (he was briefly in rehab opposite Final Fantasy 6, but it’s considered impolite to point that out). Red Dragon is well aware that red is second only to green in general dragon popularity, and all humans seem to think dragons look alike, so he’s always going to have a part. You might not always know it is him, but his IMDB page is longer than some wyrms.

And as for Green Dragon? Well, she recently got a gig with Nintendo…

THE BOTTOM

… Which makes her current popularity a real come from behind victory.

The Sacred Chalice

You can be a winnerIt’s not enough to simply find your prize in Adventure, you have to actually shlep it home. The goal of Adventure is to uncover a magical, strobing chalice, and then take it to a specific castle that may or may not be protected by cantankerous dragons. It’s a difficult quest, as you can only really carry one thing at a time, and apparently the concept of hanging onto a sword and a cup at the same time is the sort of fiction reserved for playing cards. But make it through the danger with your charmed sippy cup, and you’ll win this Adventure soundly.

Where is it now?

After decades of being replaced by every stupid glowing bauble that instantly ends your protagonist’s adventure (in a good way), we finally saw the return of the sacred, difficult-to-carry chalice in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. It was everything Adventure had promised! Carrying a chalice was boring and unrewarding! And it made for a pretty fun game! It was confusing! And now there’s a remastered edition that can actually be played without the dreaded Gameboy Advance cable? Everything is coming up chalice!

Warren Robinett

There is a mysterious room/wall in Adventure that, should you pay attention to some very particular pixels, reads “Created by Warren Robinett”. What does that mean? Nobody knows.

Where is he now?

He’s not in the local phone book, so there’s really no way of knowing. I’m not certain who this Warren Robinett character is supposed to be, but he can’t be that important. His name doesn’t even appear in the game’s end credits (of which there are none)!

But every other thing in Adventure seems to have gone on to have illustrious careers, so most of Adventure is remembered fondly.

FGC #528 Adventure

  • I like purple, tooSystem: Originally for the Atari 2600, but also available at your local mall kiosk on one of those Chinese bootleg devices. It’s also on modern consoles in the Atari Collection, and that’s a pretty fine way to play.
  • Number of players: This is a solo adventure.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: This is the granddaddy of the Zelda-esque adventure genre, and it is downright amazing how much of this was repurposed for the genre we all know, love, and endlessly debate. That said, if you’re playing this in anything but random mode, you can probably finish easy or hard mode in all of three seconds. Were people not capable of making maps back in the day? Adventure is an amazing time capsule, but, as one of the first games with a true ending, I find it hard to believe it had to compete directly with Space Invaders.
  • Favorite Item: If you can’t figure it out from the article, the magnet is the best thing ever. I didn’t even know “magnet physics” were possible on the Atari!
  • Did you know? It never ceases to amaze me that Steven Spielberg directed Ready Player One, a film that hinges on uncovering the “credits” easter egg of Warren Robinett, and the damn overarching story or its themes don’t take a goddamn minute to consider why that easter egg exists at all. It was because Atari was trying to hide the names of the people making their games! It was a huge blow for the idea of games as art! And the people that create them being identified as artists! Switch itThis is still a huge problem thirty years after the release of Adventure, left alone in a bad future that is ruled by corporations that are clearly not crediting the creators of an army of virtual mods. But, no, it all has to be attached to a movie that is so rock stupid, it posits that no one could ever accidentally hit reverse at the start of a racing game. Bah!
  • Would I play again: Adventure is important to gaming as a whole. Will I bother to boot it up again? Nah. I can spend that whole two minutes elsewhere.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Banjo-Kazooie! Bear and bird are at it again for the first time! Please look forward to it!

MKK: Taven & Daegon

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (5) reinvented Mortal Kombat gameplay. Mortal Kombat: Deception (6) refined and distilled the essence of that new system. It was only natural that Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (7) reinvented Mortal Kombat yet again… as a kart racer!

Watch where you're going

Wait, no. Take two.

It was only natural that Mortal Kombat: Armageddon carried the changes of MK: Deception to the finish line, and created the new Mortal Kombat Trilogy of its generation. Mortal Kombat Armageddon’s greatest achievement was that it featured literally every fighter that had ever appeared in a (fighting-based) Mortal Kombat title up to that point. This meant that kharacters that had not appeared in the “new trilogy” had to be re-created in 3-D and granted movesets appropriate to the new normal. These returning kombatants were mostly forgotten fighters from Mortal Kombat 4 (Fujin, Jarek, Kai, Reiko, and Shinnok), a few low-tier MK Trilogy “stars” (Chameleon, Khameleon, Rain, Sheeva, Stryker, and Sektor [edge-case, long story]), and a handful of bosses/hidden kharacters that we never thought we’d see again (Meat, Kintaro, Sareena, and Motaro). Some fighters, like Motaro, were drastically redesigned to “fit” with the rest of the bipedal kast, but, by and large, everybody was here for a good fight.

Of course, with the entire, bloated MK roster in attendance, there were a few… concessions. If you tally up the old geezers that are new to the Armageddon generation of the franchise, you’ve got fifteen new models that had to be created for the fight. Somehow, 46 legends had already appeared between Deadly Alliance and Deception, so we’ve got 61 dudes and ladies that all need unique moves, fighting styles, and fatalities. That’s pretty daunting for a development team that was pumping out a new MK title every other year! So, corners were cut (kut?). Previously, every fighter had two fighting styles and a weapon style. Now, everyone simply had one fighting style and one weapon style, the end. Many of the “discarded” fighting styles from the earlier 40 fighters were distributed amongst the newbies, and one hurdle was quickly vaulted. And unique fatalities? Right out. Everyone worked off the same “dial a fatality” system that allowed for some gruesome ends, but nothing distinctive for a fighter that may or may not be able to summon hellfire. And all the “boss” fighters were limited to very narrow, singular move-sets, ostensibly to balance their hulking frames and ridiculous super armor. Oh, and the majority of the roster didn’t get biographies in game (websites and later titles eventually filled in the blanks), and everyone’s ending was just text over a recording of your dude doing calisthenics on top of a pyramid (exactly the same as the endings of Battle Arena Toshinden 3, which is a really weird thing to ever have to say). As a result, Armageddon did seem like the bloated, simple descendant of its previously lean and focused ancestors. Don’t get me wrong, I was one of the people shouting about how it all doesn’t matter if we still get to play as the centaur/satyr again, but the whole experience did feel a tweak compromised to compensate for that full roster.

Look at 'em all

Oh, and another chief complaint about Mortal Kombat: Armageddon? There were only two wholly new kharacters added to the mythos, and they both sucked.

Pull up a chair, and I’ll tell you the sad tale of Bob and Doug.

Wait, those were just their production names. Meet Taven and Daegon.

Actually, let’s take another step back and talk about Mortal Kombat: Deception again. There were two significant complaints about the “adventure mode” of Deception:

1. The gameplay felt more like Fable than Mortal Kombat. Where is all the fighting in this fighting game?
2. Shujinko, the protagonist, was an enormous tool.

With these complaints in mind, it seems obvious where Armageddon’s Konquest Mode originated. First of all, aping the recent (though non-kanon) Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, MK:A decided to drop the JRPG-inspired bits, and make its Konquest Mode more akin to a beat ‘em up. Less exploring, more punching. Unfortunately, this meant that all the bad guys of the MK universe (or at least the dudes popular enough to host levels) had to hire some mooks for Taven to punch through. This would be exactly why Sektor, previously an independent, homicidal robot ninja, suddenly owned a flying airship filled with disposable, other robot ninja. And Scorpion got his clan restored to “life”, but his wish was genied to the point that all his buddies are now fire skeletons. Oh well, means that Taven is going to have a fun time roundhousing various armies full of identical opponents!

But while the gameplay of Konquest Mode seemed much more Mortal Kombat appropriate, it’s debatable on whether or not Taven was an adequate replacement for Shujinko. On one hand, Taven’s quest is a lot more straightforward, and doesn’t require a masters in MK mythology to fully grasp the century-long history of a dude punching across the universe(s). And, important bonus, Taven is not inadvertently and obviously following the advice of the main villain of the piece, so he immediately comes off as smarter than Shujinko (granted, we could apply that same description to a marginally bright species of mollusk). On the other hand, Taven might not be a complete idiot, but he is still the kind of guy that starts his epic quest across the land by demanding to speak to the manager.

But daaaaaaaaad

What’s Taven’s beef? Well, Taven’s daddy is Argus, a major deity in Edenia (the realm of Kitana and Sindel before Shao Kahn conquered the place and merged it with Outworld). Argus was basically Edenia’s Raiden, and, hundreds of years ago, he decided to get his Zeus on with Delia, a sorceress with fire powers and questionable fashion choices. Delia also had the ability to see the future, and determined that one day in the far future, Mortal Kombat rosters would become unsustainable, and there would be too darn many people in the universe that can easily chuck fireballs around the place, so the realms would be obliterated in the biggest Mortal Kombat ever. Argus’s response was a resounding “kill ‘em all, and let me sort them out”, but Delia claimed that some of the kombatants shouldn’t be obliterated for the minor sin of being great at uppercuts, and the good fighters should be spared (even if, at this point, the last surviving non-zombie good guy was, like, Kenshi). Thus did Delia come up with the most convoluted plan ever.

Here was how it was all supposed to go down:

1. Delia and Argus screw like rabbits until at which point they have two (2) sons.
2. When both of the sons are old enough to know right from wrong (legal drinking age), they will be put in suspended animation for potentially centuries.
3. Each son will also receive one (1) guardian dragon.
4. The sons, protected by their dragons, will sleep until which time that the Mortal Kombat franchise has too many ninja running around.
5. At that point, both of the sons will awake and partake in a quest to acquire some divine items (armor, weapons) that were scattered around Earth for some reason.
6. Then both sons will scale a magical pyramid that houses a fire monster that Delia created for this exact purpose.
7. Whichever son slays the fire monster will be crowned the victor and most morally developed (because… uh… swordplay is the true judge of moral superiority), and will be responsible for using his newly acquired god-like powers to sort the good guys from the bad guys.
8. The divine victor will thus obliterate all the evil fighters, and the good fighters will, I don’t know, get to ride on the dragon or something.

Mom, really?
Don’t judge Edenian fashion

Unfortunately, not everything went according to plan. Despite the fact that the creator of this proposal was a friggen’ sorceress with precognition, Nostradamus here didn’t foresee that Blaze, her pet fire god created for one stupid task, would be kidnapped, brainwashed, and reemployed by the forces of Onaga, the Dragon King. This unbalanced the whole stupid contest, and caused Daegon, technically the younger of the two brothers, to awaken centuries before Taven, who had mastered the art of the snooze button. Daegon woke up, assumed his quest had already begun, and enlisted the help of Shinnok, the God of Evil. Poor choice, Daegon! Apparently, this was all a misunderstanding, as Shinnok was a god in well-standing before Daegon took his little nap, but, whatever the case, it did lead to Shinnok manipulating Daegon into killing his own parents. Whoopsie! Since Daegon already crossed the moral event horizon with his bout of deicide and matricide, he decided to form an entire clan of thieves/assassins, and enslave his guardian dragon as a handy teleportation device for his new buddies. Oh, and he found the magical swords intended for him and his brother, and decided why not take both. Thus, before Taven even had time to shake off the morning sleepies, Daegon pretty much had this whole contest wrapped up.

What is happening here?

But let’s look at Daegon in the greater mythology of Mortal Kombat villains. Yes, Daegon has a beef with the main kharacter (he killed his parents!), they’re literally related, and he committed the unforgivable sin of grand theft cool sword. However, beyond that, Daegon is… just a dude with a scar. Nearly every previous Mortal Kombat made the effort to create a new and greater threat than the last (evil wizard was followed by his boss who was followed by his old, immortal boss, and there was an evil god in there for good measure), and later installments would eventually escalate things to fighting the God(dess) of All Time. Daegon is… a dude. He might be half-god, but he literally cannot stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the hulking Shao Kahn, left alone that enormous dragon that ruled the previous installment. And it appears there is an attempt to tie him to the greater MK mythologies by positioning him as the immortal founder of the Red Dragons… but do you, dear reader, even remember who the Red Dragons are? They’re Kano’s rival gang of thieves. They were introduced in MK: Deadly Alliance, and every one of them was kanonically killed during that adventure. The only Red Dragon in MK: Deception appeared as a corpse. At best, the Red Dragons only ever achieved threat level: nuisance. And this is their leader? Oh boy! Wonder who’s gonna instantly kill him?

It’s no wonder Blaze was the final boss of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon’s arcade mode, even if his role in the story is basically magical speed bump. Dude at least looked cool.

Lookit dem swords

Anywho, Taven eventually wakes up when he’s supposed to (after Shujinko defeats the Dragon King, causing Stryker to decide to rejoin the fray, so there’s too many fighters now), and, after some discussion with his stupid dragon, sets off on his quest to figure out what the hell is going on. Unfortunately, he’s immediately kidnapped by robot ninja (Delia, come on, girl, you couldn’t foresee that one?). He escapes, finds his way to Sub-Zero’s digs, and learns that, while his Master Sword may have been stolen by Daegon, his Blue Tunic is still available in the Lin Kuei temple. Bad news, though, as the Lin Kuei are currently dealing with Frost murdering everybody and another, different tribe of robot demon ninja are attacking the place. Busy day! Taven obtains his magical armor and saves Sub-Zero from Noob Saibot (aw, brother parallels), so Subs sends Taven on the trail of the Red Dragons. Taven takes about ten minutes to find the lair of the thieves that are supposed to have been operating in secret for centuries, and he finally confronts his malicious bro. Daegon filled his brother in on the plot so far (“Mom’s dead. I killed her.” “Bogus!”), and then teleported away to the final boss room. Taven was left to sulk and rescue Kano from some dungeon with a peculiarly sticky floor. And then he rescued Daegon’s pet dragon, which was much more of a win for everybody. Daegon’s dragon was rightly pissed off, so he stayed behind at the Red Dragon stronghold to wreck up the place while Taven went to Hell. Literally. Shinnok, evil god trapped in Hell, successfully tricked the other brother, and had Taven wander around Hell defeating illusions for a while. And every MK hero is contractually obligated to visit Outworld, so he wound up sneaking around Shao Kahn’s castle for the flimsiest of reasons. And when Taven finally found his way back to his home realm of Edenia, Scorpion of all people (wraiths) tried to stop him. And, naturally, Scorpion got nowhere. After that, Taven finally confronted Daegon, and, in the end, he defeated his brother, because…. Uh… Guess he was better at punching.

Unfortunately, Taven’s quest somehow psychically resonated with all the kombatants he encountered (or some other excuse), and literally every fighter gathered at the final pyramid in Edenia to fight every other fighter for the right to fight the fire dude. Thus, there was a fine excuse for the real “arcade mode” of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, and, specifically in the kanon of this one game, Taven defeated everybody, ascended the pyramid, defeated Blaze, and attained the Boon-given right to obliterate MK kharacters at will.

Swoosh

Except in the ongoing kanon of Mortal Kombat, Taven actually lost to Shao Kahn, ol’ Kahn obtained Blaze’s power, and he conquered the universe. Way to whiff it, Taven.

And, yes, in general, Taven certainly did whiff it. He wasn’t nearly as stupid as Shujinko, but if it seems like his “biography” is just a series of “he went there and did this thing” reports, then you see the problem. He might have starred in a modern (for the time) beat ‘em up, but Taven was a hero in the silent JRPG protagonist mold, and his only two settings were “confused” and “angry”. And when you’re supposed to stand proudly with other kharacters that have had seven games worth of development, you’re not going to shine like a star. In fact, Taven looks more like a tourist. He isn’t the hero! He’s just some yokel visiting Mortal Kombat Land for the afternoon! The poor, sweating park employee in the rubber Johnny Cage costume makes more of an impression.

So, as you may expect, Taven doesn’t return after the Mortal Kombat reboot. He appeared in exactly one game, and that’s it. Technically, his whole stupid backstory did occur, though, as evil brother Daegon appears in the comics as the leader of the Red Dragons. He’s responsible for killing Kenshi’s wife/baby mama, but, since no one cares about Kenshi or his son past Mortal Kombat X, that thread is left unexplored.

So Taven and Daegon were MK: A’s only new kharacters, and they’re the most forgettable bros in the franchise. Kind of par for the course with this generation of Mortal Kombat kharacters. But have no fear! The developers realized this issue, and MK: A is the only MK with a Kreate a Kharacter option!

Make your own damn hero

You can set their moves, name their fighting style, and dial up a new fatality any time you want. And if you think this plot is so stupid, smart guy, you can just write your own ending that will appear at the end of your kharacter’s arcade mode. Yes, that’s right! Mortal Kombat is tired of making new kharacters, so why the hell don’t you do it!?

Next time: Or why don’t we just import a bunch of characters that are already established? Hmmmm….

MKK: Mavado & Hsu Hao

Mortal Kombat Special Forces nuked the Mortal Kombat franchise. This fact was not lost on the producers of the next MK game to come down the pike, Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance. While Jax and Sonya were always going to be iconic heroes in the franchise, the villains of the piece, Kano and the Black Dragons, needed to be punished (why is Kano smiling?). Someone had to pay the price for leading that trash, and it may as well be the gang that was already a bunch of losers.

And if there’s one thing Mavado is good at, it’s punishing losers.

SPROING

To explain Mavado (original design name: Malvado Q. Badguy), we have to look at the two crime syndicates of the MK universe: the Red Dragons and the Black Dragons. The Red Dragons were started thousands of years ago by a wayward immortal godling that was starting his incredibly convoluted plan to eventually take over the universe(s) and show his brother that mom loved him best. That dork gets an entire game to himself, so we’ll cover that nonsense later, but for now just know that the Red Dragons have been around for a long, long time (and there was an actual dragon involved). And in that time, they earned a reputation of… not having a reputation. In a move that shows just how stealthy and professional they are (and is not at all a complete asspull used to explain why no one had ever heard of these dudes before MK: Deadly Alliance), the Red Dragons operate in complete shadow and subterfuge, so even entire organizations tasked with their eradication don’t know for certain that they exist. They are ghosts, and not big silly braggarts like all those ninja clans running around. Red Dragons are the real deal, and they’re so much better than any Black Dragons you may have heard about.

In fact, the Black Dragons used to be Red Dragons, but the two clans split sometime around the early 1900s (and MK lore actually claims this was thanks to real-life dude Morihei Ueshiba, who threw in with a [real] Japanese nationalistic political party… the Black Dragons). There isn’t much of an explanation for the split, but the official word is that the Red Dragons wanted to remain secret and elusive, while the Black Dragon faction wanted to be out and proud. So, basically, it was a managerial disagreement over the marketing department. It happens. Whatever the case, a hundred years later, Kano wound up leader of the Black Dragons, and Mavado was the leader of the Red Dragons. They had apparently maintained an uneasy truce up until around the time of the first Mortal Kombat when Kano kind of disrupted the alliance when… Okay, I’m not going to get into details, but long story short, Kano had this overweight St. Bernard, loaded it up with hotdogs and laxatives, and then invited the puppers to the Red Dragon HQ. It was unpleasant for everybody, and Mavado never forgave the wannabe cyborg for the transgression (and the fact that they had to buy a whole new couch, and Mavado really liked that couch). Mavado vowed to kill every last Black Dragon.

SPROING

And, ya know what? He didn’t have to try very hard at that. Turns out Mortal Kombat tournaments and Kano’s piss poor management style (uh, he literally pisses on poor subordinates) had whittled down the Black Dragon ranks to a mere two members. Actually, it was just one member, as MK3’s Kabal had officially left the organization of his own accord. This didn’t matter to Mavado, though, as he killed Kabal anyway, and took his signature hookswords as a prize. This left Kano as the only surviving Black Dragon member (/leader/treasurer/janitor), and Mavado decided to step out of the shadows to end the Black Dragons once and for all. Mavado struck up an alliance with Shang Tsung to kill Kenshi in exchange for Kano’s whereabouts (and, spoilers, Kano was also on Shang’s payroll).

So Mavado joined the fray for Deadly Alliance. As befitting a debonair and elusive criminal, Mavado attacked primarily with… slinkies. They’re fun for a girl or a boy! Okay, technically he’s supposed to have some kind of “grappling hook” thing going on for his signature moves, which is supposed to be evocative of cat burglars and alike. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite come across in his moves or animations, and what we have here is less Batman’s trusty grapple, and more like Dampé’s stretching, shrinking keepsake. Mavado, complete with black trench coat and most-competent thief ever backstory, seems like he was conceived to be the coolest cat in the franchise (after they ditched the whole “matador” angle that appeared in some design documents), but failed at the finish line when all his best moves were more appropriate for Clayfighter.

SPROING

So Mavado didn’t survive Deadly Alliance. He was successful in nearly killing Kenshi (at least wounding him to the point that he wouldn’t decapitate Shang Tsung this week), and the Deadly Alliance was true to their word, and handed over Kano. Mavado escorted Kano to his natural habitat (a dungeon), and then… died. Mavaod’s previous prey, Kabal, was revived by a random chaos cleric (is there any other kind?), and extracted a revenge on Mavado that was so complete, Mavado’s corpse appeared as part of Kabal’s bio screen. That really should have been the end of Mavado, but he did return for MK: Armageddon, as literally everyone returned for that game. There, he died again, for the final time.

Mavado hasn’t been seen since in MK proper, but he did appear in the MKX comics. He’s still got a major mad-on for Kano and all Black Dragons, and he largely sneaks around the borders of the story as a tricky, scheming criminal. And then he makes his appearance known to the heroes… and Cassie Cage bisects him with his own hookswords. Hey! Guess he still had one more death left in him!

While we’re talking about Black Dragons, we may as well cover Hsu Hao. Hsu Hao is one of Mavado’s subordinates, and the man tasked with infiltrating Jax’s Special Forces, and pointing any investigations away from Red Dragons, and squarely onto Black Dragons. So far, so good, right? Pretty typical story here: the mole. The viper in the garden. The criminal that is so good at infiltration and deception that he has successfully tricked the forces of good into believing that….

Wait a tick.

I’m sorry, it’s this guy?

Right in the glowys

Holy crap, Jax. You guys trusted a bloke with a glowing weakpoint on his chest? I mean, dude, I don’t want to sound racist or anything, but don’t do that. You hire a jackass with a shining, red cybernetic on his chest, and you’ve clearly hired a boss monster. And you know what boss monsters do? They fight you! They blow up your base! Who the hell is in charge of hiring at Special Forces?

Whatever. Hsu Hao, possibly because he was the worst double-agent ever, possibly because of his lame "wrestling" fighting style, or possibly because his design was kind of vaguely racist from the get-go (is he seriously yellow?), is one of the most hated and ignored kharacters in the franchise. John Vogel, half of the Johns that developed the first Mortal Kombat, almost pulled a Poochy by stating during MK: Deception’s development that Jax killed Hsu Hao, and that’s kanon, and he’s never coming back. He, of course, did return for MK: Armageddon, but he has literally no plot, and he’s theoretically only there for completion’s sake.

Hsu Hao did resurface in the Mortal Kombat X comic. He got in a pretty good sneak attack on Kenshi, and was then immediately speared in the weakpoint by Scorpion. Dude never had a chance. His corpse cameos in Mortal Kombat 11 as a head in a bag.

Right in the glowys

And, give or take the previously mentioned founder of the Red Dragons that is introduced in MK:A, Hsu Hao is the only other named member of the Red Dragons in the franchise. Way to establish that team of champions, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance! Let’s just stick to ninja next time.

Next time: Bloodsuckers and boogey men