Monday, May 19, 2008

A looming threat promises a destructive Final Crisis for the DC Universe, but for this dark prophecy to come to fruition, there'll need to be a DC Universe! Such is the threat posed by the upcoming Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe video game, that pits the champions of both worlds against one and other in one-on-one combat!

During the week readers of the Official UK Playstation Magazine got the first sneak peak of the Man of Steel as he appears in the game. For everybody else, keep your eye on the official website for promised updates that will probably include the rendered image, as well as one of the other confirmed characters; Batman, or Sub-Zero.

Last week we got our first glimpse of a retro-inspired Scorpion, which was disappointing, to say the least. Fortunately the iconography of DC's greatest icons leaves little margin for error. Superman is exactly as you would expect him. Bold in blue and red; Midway's sculpt is a contemporary-classic representation of the hero with enough detail to appease old fans; such as a very strong Ed McGuinness-esque jawline.

EDIT: Midway officially released their Superman render, along with backgrounds of a ruined Metropolis and the Netherealm. I dare say the Superman model looks somewhere between Byrne and recent Kubert. Lighting isn't great on the image, giving it a very flat look, but it looks like it could do with a deeper colour palette. Shades of Brandon Routh (or maybe Reeves) are hard to escape.

As a fan of both franchises, the Infinite Wars are paying homage to the characters potentially matching-up in the upcoming video game.
We've been pulling out a whole range of names to give both camps a chance to better acquaint themselves with elements in enemy universes, all the while counting down to the big names everybody knows, and wants to see!

I have to admit, I'm starting to suspect a subconcious DC bias, given that the bulk of these match-ups were pre-scheduled mere hours after the announcement of the video game. As mentioned, it's fair to say the two sides would be more than competitive, but there is a reason behind my concluding leanings.
For better or worse, Mortal Kombat's cast is notorious for being characterized under fairly shallow conditions. Often traits of naivity or stupidity are magnified, while many of the DC characters boast the maturity of of forty-years of publication, and characters dependent on intelligence.

Basically, there's a pecking order, and MK factors pretty low on it. However, fret not! The half-way mark brings a colourful and eclectic group of characters to respond to last week's fairly mediocre line-up. You can find it, as well as weeks one, two, three, (four), and the recent Blood & Thunder review, in links provided!

[#367] :RANKING
[40%] :ODDS

ODDS: [65%]
Strength: Amazo 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Amazo 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Amazo 6 (Mach Speeds)
Stamina: Draw 6 (Generator)
Agility: Cyrax 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Cyrax 5 (Martial Arts)
Energy: Amazo 6 (Mass Destruction)

The Battle...
Last week the issue was raised regarding the nature of Mortal Kombat's characters. It's worth remembering that this is a world of gods and monsters, not just quaint martial artists.
Most of the characters have some sort of extraordinary skill or power, even if it's only the summoning energy of their spiritual chi. So, while Superman might give everyone a run for their money, and I might have a leaning toward the DC heroes, don't think these franchises aren't potentially on the level.

A prime example of power is the cybernetic additions from Mortal Kombat 3!
When Shao Kahn launched an assault on the realm of Earth, the Lin Kuei opted to convert their fighters into souless robotic warriors. Fighters like Sub-Zero opted to flee the corrupt clan, but the conveniently named Sektor and Cyrax were not so lucky!

Cyrax and Sektor were stripped of their humanity, programmed to hunt their former clansman (Sub-Zero). Defeat left Cyrax malfunctioning and trapped in the desert, only to be discovered by Special Forces agents. Though irreversibly mechanized, part of Cyrax' humanity was restored by the group, allowing him to join icons, Jax and Sonya, in the top secret Outerworld Investigation Agency.

Amazo has far less noble origins as an android created by Professor Ivo to combat the combined might of the Justice League. Built to harness and imitate the various powers of the League's greatest champions, there are many different versions of the robot, but Amazo commonly possesses the abilities of; Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter.

At this point, you can probably see where the conclusion is going.
Given the penchant for compilation characters in fighting games, particularly Mortal Kombat, it's not hard to visualize a character who borrows from his heroic counterparts. Though certain to be maligned by fans, Amazo could make for an interesting visual, if nothing else. At this point, I probably want to qualify that I'm strictly speaking about the burly android from the comics, and not the Silver Surfer-esque tangent from the animated series.

Cyrax has attacks ranging from net projectiles, buzz saws, bombs, energy blades, and lots of other neat tricks, but I've got to believe Amazo would win nine times out of ten. Sorry guys.

The Math: Amazo Our Winner: Amazo

[#226] :RANKING
[75%] :ODDS
Injustice League

ODDS: [20%]
Strength: Havik 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Joker 5 (Professor)
Speed: Havik 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Havik 6 (Generator)
Agility: Havik 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting: Havik 5 (Martial Arts)
Energy: Havik 3 (Explosive)

The Battle...
With a movie on the way it's a big year for the Joker. He's front and centre for the upcoming Batman RIP story, and was a must for the speculative DC line-up.

When it came to pairing the Joker with a character there were a few vague options. On the surface Havik, purveyor of (dis)organized chaos, doesn't seem like a very obvious opponent, but that quickly changes when you start talking about the character. He's a decaying anarchist from the Chaosrealm whose allegiance can be bought in the name of greater chaos, almost a contradiction in itself. Like many inhabitants of the Chaosrealm, Havik also appears almost incapable of dying, defying the laws of logic that govern natural life.

A chaotic character with a penchant for avoiding death?
I think you can probably see why these made all kinds of thematic sense.

I don't know whether to expect the Joker in DC vs MK.
Arguably one of the most recognised villains in superhero fiction, and a foil to one of the most popular heroes (Batman); the Joker isn't especially suited to the combative arena of beat 'em up video games. When you consider the expected tally is unlikely to tip twelve, it seems an injustice to believe the Joker could steal a spot of so many other deserving characters.

Iconic is the word being used to describe the final roster.
The Joker himself is perhaps the most iconic reference of the trickster archetype, and certainly stands out as one of the most enduring villains in the impressive Batman rogues gallery. In-game, I'd expect a gangly but proficient fight style, devoid of grace or majesty, but deceptively powerful.

Acid spewing collar flowers, electric joybuzzers, and maybe even a gun that shoots a BANG! flag for a finisher gag, make a logical line-up of special moves for the clown prince of crime. Is that enough to secure him a spot? I don't know at this point. So far we only have the obvious to go on, with bizarre rumors of inclusions like Poison Ivy defying logic beyond the already unlikely meeting.

The Math: Havik Our Winner: Joker

[50%] :ODDS

ODDS: [50%]
of Shadow
Strength: Brainiac 5 (Superhuman)
Intelligence: Brainiac 7 (Infinite Wisdom)
Speed: Smoke 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Draw 6 (Generator)
Agility: Smoke 7 (Infinitely Malleable)
Fighting: Smoke 5 (Martial Arts)
Energy: Draw 5 (Lasers)

The Battle...
Though not the first secret character to grace the mysterious side of the Mortal Kombat gaming franchise; Smoke might just be the best known.

As the most accessible character to tempt fans with his appearances in Mortal Kombat II, Smoke went on to develop a strong following even into MK3, where he joined Cyrax and Sektor in the Lin Kuei's conversion to cybernetic warriors.
Also like Cyrax, Smoke eventually malfunctioned, but unlike his yellow counterpart, was never rescued after being reprogrammed as a drone in Shao Kahn's army. This cyber-warrior was left to ruin in the dungeons of Outworld, inactive until discovered and reprogrammed by Noob Saibot.

Brainiac was a Coluan scientist that found himself in need of a human host when he was destroyed by the planet's computerized rulers. In posession of the illusionist, Milton Fine, Brainiac became a powerful telepathic villain, combatting Superman with cybernetic enhancements that gave him even greater mentalist capabilities.

Brainiac's history is a garbled mess leading to various incarnations dependent upon, or working in unison with, technology. The theme here is obviously cybernetics, but in the MK canon Smoke's original association with his namesake was redeveloped by the device of nano-technology. That's right! The Lost mystery is over -- the smoke monster is just a nano-cyber-warrior from Mortal Kombat!

By his recent thirteenth numerical incarnation, Brainiac was entirely cybernetic and similarly capable of sustaining himself as a collective of nano-tech particles. Thus revealing the all-important theme behind the meeting of metals!

I tend to think it's this very confusing history that makes Brainiac a less than desirable character for a game like this. I don't tend to think of Brainiac as a character particularly suited to hand-to-hand combat, even if his many incarnations boast superhuman strength, speed, endurance, and a plethora of tech or mental capabilities for special moves.
Certainly iconic, but historically handicapped, this villain with baggage will always be the bridesmaid to Lex Luthor.

As is becoming common, I tend to think intelligence and experience is key to Brainiac's victory, but you never know.

The Math: Smoke Our Winner: Brainiac

[#238] :RANKING
[20%] :ODDS

ODDS: [20%]
Outworld Armies
Strength: Draw 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Motaro 2 (Average)
Speed: Equus 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Draw 6 (Generator)
Agility: Equus 2 (Average)
Fighting: Motaro 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Draw 3 (Explosive)

The Battle...
To hell with introductions! Mortal Kombat fans rejoice! A battle where MK victory is assured!

Don't get me wrong, though! Equus was an exciting new villain introduced in Brian Azzarello's, For Tomorrow. Though not particularly unique or brilliant; Equus had the distinction of coming organically from an intelligent story exploring Superman's psyche and character; distancing him from less admirable comparisons, such as Doomsday. This firm base lends weight to a character who since went on to appear in the pages of Countdown as an unlikely sparring partner for Karate Kid [who was featured in MK vs DC Week 1!].

Motaro is an equally uncomplicated character, defined as much by appearances, as his surly demeanor and conquests as a warrior. A raging centaur, Motaro was realised in 2006's Armageddon reimagined as a minotaur, a result of design malaise as much as in-story rivalries with the four-armed Shokan fighters.

It's technological restraints like that, combined with the MK team's legendary laziness and ambitious deadlines, that make Motaro all but excluded from the potential roster. Likewise, Equus offers very little originality at an exchange terribly low given the obscurity of the character. As much as I'm reluctant to support it, a Doomsday makes a lot more sense, if you're going to pull from Superman's brawling super heavyweights.

While I think the bucking brute strength of Motaro would be too much for the genetically engineered mercenary, I still have a real soft spot for Equus. If there were ever an opportunity to introduce more obscure contemporary references from the DC world, I'd definitely enjoy seeing him among them.

The Math: Draw Our Winner: Motaro

[25%] :ODDS
League of

ODDS: [50%]
Lin Kuei
Strength: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Batgirl 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Draw 4 (Athlete)
Agility: Draw 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Draw 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Batgirl 3 (Explosives)

The Battle...
The convention of the redeemed badgirl is a storied archetype in popular fiction. It's a theme I think we'll probably see at least once more in our DC/MK fantasy fights, but for this week, it's the exclusive distinction of Sareena and Batgirl.

Today's Batgirl comes from a far more impressive pediree than the yellow and purple heroine depicted famously, but dubiously, by Yvonne Craig.
The daughter of assassin David Cain, and the unstoppable fighting machine that is, Lady Shiva [another week one]; Cassandra Cain became Batgirl in the wake of an earthquake that devestated Gotham City, after serving as an agent of crippled former-Batgirl, Barbara Gordon.

Cain's childhood training to interpret physical language as a means of predicting and countering an opponent's movement in combat left her incapable of speech or language. Though she was soon granted language at the cost of her inate skills, she has since remained one of the most impressive fighters in the DC Universe, clashing successfully with senior rivals such as Shiva and Deathstroke.

Like Batgirl; Sareena's origins stem from the side of evil.
Originally a demon of the Netherealm, Sareena was taken into bondage by the sorcery of Quan Chi. As one of his assassins she eventually developed a leaning toward Sub-Zero during his mission to obtain a powerful medallion. Redemption would came after that man's death, via the parallel sympathies of the succeeding Sub-Zero, who developed a similar romantic interest in the demon.

Though struggling with her darkside and the pull Quan Chi has over her, Sareena becomes an ally of Sub-Zero's new Lin Kuei.

There's a certain redundancy to a character like Batgirl, certainly when speaking in terms of a fighting video game. The bat-brand is already flagged by it's originator, and in terms of fight mechanics, only the details of her style would differentiate from the arsenal utilized by her mentor. In a better game I might like to see Batgirl's lifelong training interpreted in an interactive environment, but as is, I wouldn't expect to see her.

Sareena seems equally unlikely to appear, but remains a disappointingly under developed character. Her relationship with Sub-Zero seems to be regularly aborted, regardless of incarnation, and her association with Quan Chi continues to drag her to supporting status. With only twelve-or-so characters to choose from, I highly doubt Sareena to be among them, but if the realms were truly in peril, I can't imagine a logic that sees her leave Sub-Zero alone in battle.

The Math: Batgirl Our Winner: Batgirl

[25%] :ODDS

ODDS: [15%]
Strength: Prometheus 4 (Enhanced)
Intelligence: Prometheus 5 (Professor)
Speed: Prometheus 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Draw 4 (Athlete)
Agility: Draw 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Prometheus 7 (Born Fighter)
Energy: Prometheus 5 (Lasers)

The Battle...
I've been keeping an interested eye on some of the fantasy matches being cooked up by fans. I've seen a lot of names floated, some sure to appear in our own listing, but Prometheus has been surprisingly absent for the most part.

Having debuted only ten years ago; Prometheus is among the more prominent villains known for his fighting prowess. A uniquely designed helmet grants him Matrix-esque abilities to download skills and techniques stored on disc, many drawing inspiration from compilations of DC's best fighters!

It's his white elephant penchant for borrowing moves from DC's greatest fighters that leads me to pair him with the much maligned protagnist from 2004's Mortal Kombat: Deception. Shujinko, the subject of a forty-year mini-game, develops an arsenal over the ages that borrows techniques from Mortal Kombat's icons.

The embodiment of MK's naive and poorly developed characters; Shujinko really should have become an instant classic. Inspired by the mythological legend, Bak Mei, Shujinko fails to capture the world weary brilliance of an unbeatable martial arts master. His role should arguably make him one of the most powerful fighters in the Mortal Kombat universe, but it's hard to acknowledge that level of skill.

Shujinko borrows special attacks from the likes of Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Raiden, and Liu Kang. Again, this highlights the popular tradition of characters borrowing techniques from their opponents. A quality famously started by the sprite morphing boss, Shang Tsung, and continued with chagrin by subsequent characters.

Fortunately, Prometheus brings with him more than just the martial arts fighting techniques he's copied. Also in his arsenal is a baton capable of inflicting superhuman blows, a cosmic key to a pocket dimension that allows him to teleport, and a range of projectile weapons including darts, missiles, poison gasses, and a variety of incapacitating devices. A brilliant strategist, Prometheus is a formiddable fighter without his helmet, and a character tailor made for a fighting video game!

The Math: Prometheus Our Winner: Prometheus

NEXT WEEK: The second-half of the Fantasy Fights has everything from the iconic to the obscure! We've got Scorpion, Stryker, and everything in between as we continue to roll out some heavy hitters from the DC Universe! Be here!


Anonymous said...

You got "centaur" and "minotaur" backwards in the Motaro part.

Mike Haseloff said...

Cheers, anonymous!