This article discussing ninjas in Mortal Kombat will contain some mild spoilers as pertains to ninjas in the story of Mortal Kombat.
But before I even talk about ninjas, I’m going to talk about Kenshi!
Kenshi: Kenshi Takahashi is a swordsmaster who is blind, but psychic, and has telekinesis. His motivation for joining the Mortal Kombat is revenge for the death of his wife who zzzzzz
Oh, I’m sorry, I just nodded off there for a second! I actually totally dig this dude’s fighting style. The combination of the soul sword and telekinesis dickery is super-fun. I also like the look with the beard and the blindfold. I’m just, like, so over the dead wife thing as a motivation to do stuff in a video game. The blind but not really because psychic thing is a bit overdone too. Mortal Kombat usually does better than this! Kenshi has a a son, whose story is more interesting to me.
Takeda: Takeda is a younger ninja-type kid with a fire sword. He’s Sassy. He’s Kenshi’s son, but apparently he wasn’t really raised by Kenshi as much as he was raised by Scorpion, who started training Takeda in the art of murder at the age of eight.
This is a pretty great little story. Because we all knew that deep down, Scorpion was kind of secretly a big teddy bear, right? That under the right circumstances, of course he’d raise an abandoned child, and that knowing no other skills in particular, of course he’d tutor said child in the art of murder.
When I originally read this in Takeda’s supplemental material, having not actually gone through story mode in the game yet, I imagined this as actual undead Scorpion trying to raise a young man and do the occasional dad thing. The very image of it made my heart half-explode with glee, imagining the continued adventures of Little Takeda and Zombie Dad. I want an entire comic of JUST this. Perhaps drawn in the same style as “Vader’s Little Princess.”
Now that I’ve been through the story mode, I’m a little disappointed, because (here’s those spoilers) Scorpion comes back to life in MKX due to Shenanigans. So actually Takeda was “just” raised by Ninja Master Hanzo Hasashi. I guess that’s cool, but not nearly as cool as Dead Skullface Dad.
So… yeah, Takeda. I like the whips and the headband, and his general story arc about learning telepathic powers along with the general heroic Reconciliation with the Father thing. But who I clearly wanted to talk about was:
Scorpion: Scorpion has sort of emerged as the “Ryu” of Mortal Kombat, by which I mean he’s the signature character who appears on the front of the box. He’s the default character the Player One cursor hangs over in this game, and the character that one is forced to use in the tutorial. He’s also the favorite of most of the scrubs online.
Scorpion was my Favorite in the first Mortal Kombat. His original Fatality was reasonably easy for me to pull off, and sufficiently satisfying. And he has that Sweet Tragic Backstory that all the ladies love. Murdered! Out for revenge! Ambiguously evil, but sometimes a good guy maybe! Swoon! I know he’s a skeleton man, shush.
The backstory given to Scorpion in the Mortal Kombat novel, which, yes, I own, added to him an entire family who was murdered by Sub-Zero’s clan, making him pretty much an innocent man who was brought back to life for bloody revenge. This, at least to my young self, was long before “my wife was killed by ninjas” was such a big cliché, and he himself was also killed by the ninjas, so, points for equality I suppose. In the Sub-Zero Mythologies game, Scorpion is more straightforwardly a ninja assassin asshole. In this version of Mortal Kombat, the writers seem to have settled on him being a fan-favorite and sympathetic after all, so now the wife and son are back, and the Mythologies stuff was kind of semi-retconned. Then Sub-Zero and Scorpion sit down and have tea.
Scorpion stops being undead in this game. Now instead of “seeking revenge for his own death” he’s “seeking revenge for the death of his family” which yeah zzzzz
Living Scorpion is not as much fun as Dead Scorpion. Spear move is still cool though.
Sub-Zero: As a Scorpion Fangirl I used to find Sub-Zero kinda over-rated.
This is merely my memory of childhood, but I seem to recall it kind of going down like: The hero of Mortal Kombat was designed to be Liu Kang, but Sub-Zero turned out to be super-popular, so instead of him being just a random bad guy they decided to make him the hero as well. First they brought in a newer, younger, sexier Sub-Zero model to be the less-evil Younger Brother Sub-Zero, and then, to keep the momentum, they had Original Sub-Zero star in his own game, where he was out to kill evil and save the world. Except the Sub-Zero game, a Mortal Kombat platformer, wasn’t particularly good as a game and after that Sub-Zero kind of officially sucked again for a while. The older Sub-Zero also got turned into a cyborg at some point. The younger Sub-Zero showed up in the second terrible movie, where he briefly appeared and went “no no I am the GOOD Sub-Zero.” Then it was time for Scorpion to shine, so they had to rewrite the story again a second or third time.
MKX Sub-Zero is pretty cool, I guess (druuh huurr ha ha puns). He’s older now and thus beardy (many of the men in MK have beards now; this is a very Lumbersexual Mortal Kombat). He has a neato fighting style where he can create shields of ice to block attacks. He can pick up his ice clone and throw it at you.
I kind of ship him with Elsa.
Ermac: Just proof that the MK designers will go pretty far for a joke, Ermac was originally added to the game because obsessive fans saw the word, short for “Error Macro,” in a debug menu and thought instead of being for error handling it instead indicated a secret character of some kind. Ermac was, at first, just yet another palette swap ninja, but now he’s the Silver the Hedgehog of Mortal Kombat.
I didn’t really talk too much about the other ninjas visually. Scorpion and Sub-Zero are really close to the iconic designs, with some additional particles and flair. Ermac, though, drifted a lot, and has more of a sorcerer-mummy look now. I haven’t played him much so I don’t know if there is a “Klassic” skin. I don’t know if I like the mint green and crimson color scheme, but it feels like it was something the artists were just stuck with to some degree. It’s interesting that they seem to lean more on the green than the red.
Rain: Rain isn’t playable in the game . He shows up as an opponent in story mode, though. He’s actually another joke character (lol Purple Rain) but MKX plays this totally straight, playing up the Prince of Outworld aspect with 100% conviction. I must say that this makes his new design classy as hell.
Reptile: Ermac had a little design drift, but holy heck Reptile what happened here. Reptile went from being yet another pallet swap ninja (whose original name I’m convinced was an afterthought) into a straight up dinosaur man. He used to have a human face he peeled off sometimes, but now they aren’t bothering with that at all. He is all covered in scales and looks like a leaner Killer Croc.
I had to actually think about it, but… I like it. I kind of miss the emerald green, which Ermac stole, but it’s nice that Reptile has his own thing going. I also appreciate the straightforward backstory (“Dinosaur Man”).
Next time: a bunch of assorted.