A final crisis may be brewing in the DC multiverse, but after last week, fans of the company learnt a new threat will attack in the unlikely medium of video games! Worlds collide as Midway and DC confirmed what the gamers were waiting for; their shock joint venture: Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe!
Well, what do you know? Here we are again, regrettably taking another look at the meeting of franchises a week late. Of course, running late has it's benefits, and it means we can confirm the first new additions to the previously announced quartet of; Sub-Zero, Batman, Scorpion, Superman.
Chances are they were sitting pretty high on most people's prediction lists, but thanks to the UK Xbox Magazine, we now know for sure that MK's Sonya and DC's Flash will be joining the interdimensional battle! As far as this fan of the two franchises is concerned, that's a very good thing, although, I'm not without my gripes... New in-game screenshots contain not only that still disappointing Scorpion costume, but also a glimpse of a Flash costume mysteriously sporting golden bands around the arms, and a red that is a little on the bright side (not unlike Superman in the recently released render).
In-game lighting seems to be doing very little for the colour palettes selected for characters, but for the time being, we'll put that down to the developmental process. On the plus side, Sonya sports a stylized but grounded outfit - a cropped white t-shirt (exposing the belly, natch) and camouflage pants. We could probably do without the beret, but it's a step-up from 2002's build!
If you've been with us from the start, you know this will be the second-to-last tour through the heroes and villains of the respective universes. It's been a lot of fun to join you through so many rounds [that's: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine] and I've appreciated hearing from many of you! With any luck fans unfamiliar with one side, or the other, will have been able to extract some sense of familiarity with some of the names, and been able to track down more info in anticipation of the game's release.
We've got twelve major league characters to roll out here, but you won't want to miss next week as we take a look at some of the most anticipated pairings of the pre-game hype! Speaking of hype, I don't like my chances, but I'm doing my best to abuse all available contacts in the interest of bringing you something a little bit special. But what am I talking about? Scroll on for something special right now! FIGHT!
Elder GodsRAIDEN versus CAPTAIN MARVEL
Strength: Captain Marvel 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Captain Marvel 5 (Professor)
Speed: Captain Marvel 5 (Superhuman)
Stamina: Raiden 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Raiden 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Raiden 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Raiden 6 (Mass Destruction)
Pet peeve: Thunder is the rumbling sound you hear, not the flashing light you see. That is lightning. I don't know about anybody else, but I certainly feel better!
Yes! He's the elusive "thundergod" that plays mentor to Earth's greatest heroes of Mortal Kombat, and though the laws of the Elder Gods prevent him from personally interfering, Raiden is also the deity deemed Protector of Earthrealm!
In trying to think of a suitable parallel for the ill tempered sometimes-human-sometimes-elder-god I tossed around the idea of pairing him with the wrath of god - the Spectre; but that would probably just be stacking the decks!...
Those following along at home will know that Billy Batson is the pint-sized junior who, whence proclaiming the name of the Wizard Shazam, turns into his red and gold champion, Captain Marvel! When the aforementioned Spectre went a little nutty (without any host to watch him) he decided magic was more trouble than it was worth, and set about killing it off, claiming the scalp of one of magic's most powerful icons, the also aforementioned, Wizard Shazam!
It was all very sad and unfortunate, but for Cap, a promotion was in order, thus he became Earth's magical lightning-themed protector! Presumably you can see the parallel. Lightning, lightning, protector, protector. Good, good.
Although thematically comparable; Cap and Raiden actually have very little in common. Captain Marvel remains one of the lasting relics of the Golden Age, embodying the innocent charms of the post-Comics Code era with a squinty-eyed naivte. Raiden, on the other hand, has a penchant for getting a little dark, and when he isn't threatening to deepfry misguided heroes (Shujinko!), he's exploding and sizzling emiseries of evil! Sworn to indifference but always sticking his nose in -- anyone would think he was a Watcher!
Demeanor isn't the only thing seperating these two characters. Captain Marvel plays a power game bringing Superman-grade physical strengths, while Raiden represents godly electrical energy and traditional martial arts fighting skills. They really are a stark contrast, but we've got to name a winner here for the fantasy league, and that means hammering out some broad standards.
Ultimate, even though Captain Marvel traditionally takes his powers from a pantheon of gods, Raiden is a god. As much as MK's questionable story dynamics have painted him with a mortal brush, it's fair to say Raiden's got the capacity to take all the physical punishment in the mortal world! When it comes to the lightning ambush, if we're taking ye olde standardized Cap, there's the question of whether magical lightning can hurt a god of lightning.
Thor - a noted inspiration for Raiden - came off a little worse for ware when he clashed with Captain Marvel [Marvel versus DC #2] but that thundergod was able to control the Shazam lightning with his hammer. I'm inclined to think Raiden might go down, but as we saw in the opening scenes of Deception, it wouldn't be long before he'd be back up!
The Math: Raiden Our Winner: Raiden
Outworld ArmyKINTARO versus DOOMSDAY
Strength: Doomsday 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Draw 2 (Average)
Speed: Doomsday 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Doomsday 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Doomsday 7 (Born Fighter)
Energy: Kintaro 3 (Explosives)
Ugh! Y'know every time I defend the nineties [like last Friday] something inevitably snaps me back to reality: case in point - Doomsday.
Doomsday, both on and off the page, was created for only one thing: destroying Superman. Unfortunately for readers that's meant a ten-year affair with a character almost completely devoid of character or intrigue. Worse still, the one-note of an unstoppable killing machine got strummed even harder when it was decided to reveal an in-built resurrection gene not only capable of bringing Doomsday back from the dead -- but also instigating mini-evolutions that would prevent the same circumstance. Ouch.
Kintaro, a veteran of only two core games, has suffered a vaguely similar fate. After Goro blazed a trail for the iconography of MK's four-armed Shokan warriors; Kintaro emerged in 1993's Mortal Kombat II in his place, seeking vengeance for the apparently lost warrior. Vengeance amounted to a bulkier and more proficient poseable maquette for the digitized sprites used in the game, but beyond that, Kintaro was a character with tiger print on his back, and a penchant for growling.
Fortunate for Kintaro is his association with ideas much bigger than the execution of his brief, shoulder-padded appearances. Kintaro escapes negative association at the expense of being memorable, but don't tell his cult fanbase that, myself included. I like to think of Kintaro as a politically minded Shokan warrior whose allegiances shifted away from Prince Goro in the wake of his return and the signing of a Shokan/Edenian treaty, and resolutions with the Centaurs. Granted, MK's thinly developed characterization and plot means none of this is specifically contradicted, but yes, it's delusional at worst, fan-fiction at best...
Kintaro may be far less soiled and have far more potential than the villain who killed Superman, but this is still a total mismatch. I don't doubt that Kintaro's on a level capable of locking horns with the brute, but the Shokan's strength is impressive when measured against the mortals they combat. Not the super destroyers of the DC universe that shake planets when they battle.
I don't doubt Doomsday's ability to kill Kintaro.
In that respect he sort of is one of those characters that really quite easily slots into the conventional MK model - if such a model were available to properties licensed from DC, a subsidiary of Time-Warner.
For those lucky enough not to know, you might find it intriguing, if a little droll, that Doomsday was able to turn over a new leaf, if only for a short period. One of his many 'evolutions' resulted in the manifestation of a new defensive for the monster -- feelings! Yes, after observing a few tragedies and catching a glimpse of a prematurely aging Superman get the snot kicked out of him, ol' Doomsday decided to pledge to the good guys, and in a future negated, he actually spent a few centuries travelling through space and then pounding through rock just to save Superman from a distant prison.
Who cares about the stupid stuff though? Will Doomsday be in Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe? It's a tough question. Fan reaction, though a little embarassing, quite rightly claims Doomsday as a character quite easily intergrated into the world of Mortal Kombat. In fact, if DC really wanted to win this thing, they might even consider leaving Doomsday in the MK camp as sabotage for their already slightly naff branding.
Like Goro, Kintaro, Motaro, Moloch, Onaga, and Blaze before him, Doomsday essentially proposes the assumption of a boss character, requiring patience and determination, more than any tangible skill. He's all about brute strength, and while I'd cringe at the notion of seeing Doomsday leap into the air for a stomping special, I could easily see Shao Kahn-style charging incorporated to a spiney, poison-laced arsenal of in-game dash attacks and cheapery.
Will it happen? I really can't say.
In the land of fantasy scenarios I want this to be a story-driven affair, but as Midway has been as yet unresponsive to my requests to clear an interview with Jimmy Palmiotti [he's very nice!], I have absolutely no notion of what's in store for the story. Whether or not the meeting of these worlds is a contrivance of powers (Darkseid, Shao Kahn, Yo momma?), or just a wacky cosmic accident, is as yet unknown. Doomsday may be a perfectly logical inclusion, but without that kind of grounding, I'd be reluctant to pledge the character. If you already spied our odds, there's a better than even chance of seeing Doomsday in there, but I couldn't do you any better. He makes sense in this world, I'm just not sure if I'd sacrifice one of only a dozen-or-so slots for that.
The Math: Doomsday Our Winner: Doomsday
TekuninSEKTOR versus LEX LUTHOR
Strength: Sektor 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Lex Luthor 6 (Genius)
Speed: Sektor 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Sektor 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Sektor 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Sektor 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Draw 4 (Arsenal)
Does anyone get the impression I'm making up for lost time with a lot of words? Why, that almost sounds like the kind of thing Lex Luthor would do! Hey..!
You're probably wondering how Sektor escaped pairing with one of the many robotic or cybernetic fiends on file. Sure, I could've slapped him against Mister Atom and called it a night, but I value our friendship more than that. I don't know, maybe my problem is caring too much.
On the surface this might seem like an odd pairing: Sektor was once a member of the ninja-esque Chinese order of the Lin Kuei, who, upon learning of Shao Kahn's impending invasion of Earth, opted to forcefully mechanize their warriors to evade the manipulative powers of soul seering sorcerery. It worked, too! Chaps like Sektor, Cyrax, and Smoke all evaded detection from Shao Kahn's extermination squads, and were free to go about their business. Of course, now mindless husks waiting to be programmed by their corrupted, red-garbed masters [communism analogy?], they were pledged to hunting down Sub-Zero who, believe it or not, didn't fancy the notion of becoming a brain in an overgrown tin can.
You're waiting for the part where this suddenly makes sense, right?
Okay, so Lex Luthor's dangerously brilliant brain is still quite where it should be, and Sektor never served a term in the White House; but you've got to think of the big picture!
After Sub-Zero managed to evade the cyborgs that evaded the extermination squads, the Lin Kuei kinda dissolved and the three 'name' cyborgs went their seperate ways. For Sektor, this meant moving to Japan and dedicating himself to aspirations of world domination. Ah, now you see, yes?
Luthor and Sektor share more than the -or at the end of their names.
Both have lofty aspirations of world domination and in true megalomaniacal super villain vashion, would gladly force their own image on their human slaves. In fact, for Sektor, amounting an army of cybernetic warriors dubbed the Tekunin is exactly the method by which he hopes to claim such a victory!
As a combative character Luthor really needs to have his now-classic green and purple powersuit. This thing juices the industrial genius up in much the same way as Iron Man, and gives him the chops to go toe-to-toe with his arch-nemesis, Superman. In a punch-up this actually makes Luthor a viable character for a game like MK vs DC, but going up against Sektor outside the mechanics of a beat 'em up makes the powersuit a potential weakness -- because Sektor's got some funky tech-voodoo working over time, and there's a good chance a bulky powersuit could quickly become a hideously coloured, fully poseable coffin!
Last week we gave the sorcerers of the Deadly Alliance the benefit of the doubt when rating their mystically masterful intelligence. Sektor, however, even for his small triumphs, fares about average in the MK scope - which puts him somewhere in the realm of having some high school education.
Lex Luthor's one bad ass mofo. He's as cunning as he is brilliant, and when you consider it's only brains that have allowed him to compete with one of DC's most powerful superheroes, you can appreciate the value of those smarts.
As brilliant as Sektor must be to manipulate and grow technologies the way he does, MK's poor characterization makes it hard to really buy into it. It's certainly difficult to believe in the plausibility of Sektor out-thinking one of the smartest men in the DC Universe!
I only rate Luthor at a sixty-five because, really, he's a schemer, not a fighter. He could enter the fray and if "iconic" is to be considered anything more than a buzzword used to describe the overall asthetic, Luthor's got to be right up there for the villainous representation. In a strange sort of way, he should really be a good guy in a scenario like this. As we saw recently in Salvation Run, Luthor's dedication to the greater good (ie; what serves him) has a way of making strange bed fellows, and even if you flash back to Super Powers, we know that cheap marketting tie-ins are more than enough to bridge the rift between he and Supes!
With the powersuit a must for an in-game Luthor, it's hard to really imagine anything exceptional coming from the character's moves. Unlike others, fighting prowess isn't a priority, so gimmickery is going to be what sets the character apart, (as if that isn't always the case in MK). Lasers, bells, whistles, and missiles spell the typical nature of the powersuit, assuming super strength is restricted to piledrivers and powerbombs, rather than boss-style cheap tricks. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine!
The Math: Sektor Our Winner: Lex Luthor
Outworld ArmyREPTILE versus KILLER CROC
Strength: Killer Croc 5 (Superhuman)
Intelligence: Killer Croc 2 (Average)
Speed: Reptile 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Draw 4 (Athlete)
Agility: Reptile 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Reptile 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Reptile 3 (Explosives)
I concocted this list of well over a hundred characters right after the game was announced, but now that we're nine weeks into the promotional campaign, the thought occurs that most of these final round fights are going to be on the obvious side.
Fans have had plenty of time to do their research and suddenly go from casual cartoon fans, to seasoned veterans in the world of comics, to come up with their own brilliant pairings. Funny how that tends to happen, isn't it?
Well, poseur or not, Reptile/Killer Croc is sure to have featured in lists across the globe. It's a no brainer. They're both reptillian villains. Look at the mugshots for crying out loud! Could it possibly get any simpler?!
As you'll see next week, there have been some notable omissions from our 100+ list. Aquaman will be one of the most obvious characters you'll note absent from the stack, even though he represents one of the classic 'big seven' of the Justice League. When Ed Boon answered tongue-in-cheek questions about the much mocked mariner, it sparked dunder-headed speculation amongst a crop of fans convinced Rain somehow translates into an iconic representation of swimmer-cum-fighter.
As much as I don't expect Aquaman to be a part of this game; had I opted to include him in our list, it probably would've been with Reptile. Sure, I know the difference between mammal, amphibian, and reptile, and I know that Ecco needs to periodically go up for air, but come on. Reptile's the closest thing MK has to marine life, and those who played through Shaolin Monks should be able to appreciate the need for a wet room when keeping Zaterrans as pets.
The official word says about a dozen characters will show-up from both franchises. I'd be willing to edge that up to fifteen-or-so, but even then, I'm not sure how Killer Croc really factors in. Mortal Kombat's tradition for flashy special moves in the absence of substantial fighting mechanics means burly brawlers like Killer Croc tend to fall by the wayside. Lunging [non-fatal] bite moves and boxing combinations seem about the extent of Croc's arsenal of flash. He's neither iconic, nor is he even particularly prominent in Batman's well known stable of villains. Lord knows he'd be much more welcome than Poison Ivy in a fighting game, but, I'm not convinced the street tough does any better than evens.
Reptile, on the other hand, has managed to develop beyond his humble beginnings as a secret character in 1992's first MK game. Little more than a bright green version of Scorpion and Sub-Zero, a process of de-evolution has seen Reptile gradually regress from cheap colour switches, to an increasingly reptillian stature, culminating in MKDA's Lizard Warrior styling.
Reptile's relevance in the plot is somwhat in limbo after sort-of, maybe, amost being turned into a living vessel for the resurrected Dragon King. That said, as the original secret character, he's developed a fiercely dedicated following punctuated by strong appearances in 1995's Paul Anderson directed film, and the spin-off TV series, Mortal Kombat Conquest. I think his chances for a shoulder-padded return are probably pretty good! If only they'd go back to the MK4 style!
The Math: Reptile Our Winner: Reptile
OIA Special ForcesJAX versus STEEL
Strength: Jax 5 (Superhuman)
Intelligence: Steel 5 (Professor)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Steel 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Jax 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Jax 4 (Arsenal)
Right up until the final hour I was quite ready to submit to convention by pairing Maj. Jackson Briggs up with the similarly outfitted Titan, Cyborg.
It's not especially popular to just come right out and admit it, but when working in fiction, superficial detail has a way of holding importance. Nobody likes to play the race card, but when it comes to developing a cartoon or video game franchise, it's just good business to be aware of minority interests.
Jax isn't the only cybernetically enhanced African-American in town. He's predated some ten years by Cyborg, and facetiously joined by TJ Combo from MK-copycat game franchise, Killer Instinct.
As much as Cyborg makes a lot of sense, he's a far more tech-savvy character than the physically enhanced Jax. Which is where, just before starting this diatribe, it occurred to me he has more in common with one of my personal favourite characters, Steel!
Steel's armor is far less sophisicated than the likes of Iron Man, but no less effective. The already powerful John Henry Irons benefits from the hi-tech design and metals used in his suit, but keeps fashionable additions to a minimum, option typically for a wrist-mounted rivet gun, collapsable sledge hammer, and a trusty pair of rocket boots. These lo-tech weapons match-up pretty well with the massive PSI of Jax' cybernetic arm enhancements, and the later addition of ammunition to said appendages.
If you've had the misfortune of joining the MK franchise in recent years, you'll be associating manufactured racial diversity with the embarassingly ghetto Jax. After debuting in '92s MK sequel, Jax' military background alluded more to something like Captain America than the jive-jibing flavor flav of later years.
Steel's known for a starchy personality himself, but his background overlaps with Jax' conveniently. Despite his physically intimidating presence, John Henry Irons was once a brilliant scientist, responsible for the design of hi-tech guns that eventually leaked onto the streets amidst gang wars.
Irons was inspired to become proactive in his penance when a near fatal accident on a construction site garnered a chance encounter with Superman. When Supes seemingly died at the hands of Doomsday, JHI was among a quartet of heroes seeking to fill the void of the Man of Steel.
Rivet gun, sledge hammer, flight. They're all pretty straight forward capabilities that lend Steel to the combative arena without repeating the presentation of his Man of Steel predecessor. Unfortunately, while Steel could certainly be described as iconic, he isn't terribly popular. An ill-fated Shaq film [Judd Nelson film?] did little to elevate Steel's flagging stocks which bottomed out to occasional guest spots in Action Comics. He's back headlining post-52 in the latest version of Infinity Inc, but it's far from a blue chip stock, and far from licensing gold.
When John Tobias left the MK team and a half-finished spin-off, Jax took sole spotlight in the Shaq-scale flop that was MK: Special Forces - a PSX exclusive title released to cut cost, rather than entice Sony sales. Even so, despite the game's significance, it represents the sense of a turning point that saw Jax eclipse his female counterpoint from the first game, which is why I had initially rated Jax as a surer thing than...
The Math: Jax Our Winner: Jax
OIA Special ForcesSONYA BLADE versus BLACK CANARY
Strength: Draw 2 (Average)
Intelligence: Sonya 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Sonya 4 (Athlete)
Agility: Draw 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Draw 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Sonya 4 (Arsenal)
... The quintessential cop character looking for vengeance through martial arts. It's one of the great traditions in this type of fiction, and it was the vehicle for a Cynthia Rothrock-inspired character that became one of the most empowered female characters in video game history: Lieutenant Sonya Blade!
The original Special Forces agent has hovered above the chopping block, absent from the sequel that introduced Jax, but has remained key to the Mortal Kombat mythology. Iconic on principle as much as credibility, the character hinges on a simple premise, enhanced only by the recognition factor of the feature film that thrust Bridget Wilson [-Sampras] into the spotlight as the hard-edged lawbabe who just needs to be loved. Condescending as her relationships may have been, it gave Sonya a credit Chun-Li could only dream of [at least, all-going well, until 2009's Legend of Chun-Li].
Black Canary's a character associated with a similar sense of forlorn green defined by teenage inexperience and an inescapable crush on notorious womanizer, Green Arrow. The Canary-bird is finally getting the push for maturity the character demands, exceeding her pre-Crisis counterpart leader of the Justice League senior even to Batman! It's that kind of strength, fighting prowess, and leadership that makes her the perfect feminist-flag-waving counterpart to MK's original ass kicking dame, Sonya.
We had Sonya rated at a comfortable eighty-percent (to Jax' eighty-five) prior to the Xbox reveal. The entire cast of the original game have to be among the most considered, but for my money it's the Special Forces that make some of the most sense as the responsive counterparts to the Justice League. As an organization, (that managed to pick-up Kenshi and Cyrax along the way), the Special Forces are cohesive in a way the traditional heroes aren't, when applying them to the crisis of interdimensional merging we're sure to see.
Black Canary has the added bonus of being a character firmly rooted in her martial arts capabilities. While she isn't the most iconic fighter you'll find from DC - maybe not even in the top ten - it's an opportunity to service not only the superhero requirements of the franchise, but to do so with some credibility.
From the in-game front, the canary cry offers up stun and attack possibilities, hopefully set distinct from Sindel, whose cry exhibits now archaic concessions afforded by in-game logics.
For the fantasy result house keeping, I'm going to bite the bullet and stick with Sonya for fighting prowess and experience. Even recent years of Birds of Prey had a habit of painting Black Canary with a green brush that just makes it hard to really buy into her fighting skills. I'm sure someone will object! This time it probably won't be the MK fans, though. Cheers!
The Math: Sonya Our Winner: Sonya