In previous articles in this series, I’ve discussed the most likely 3d era characters to return and what to expect from them (https://testyourmight.com/threads/op-ed-likely-returning-3d-characters.67549/) and the least likely to 3d era characters to return and what could be done to redeem them (https://testyourmight.com/threads/op-ed-how-to-redeem-the-forgotten-characters-of-the-3d-era.67567/).
Here, I’ll be discussing those 3d era characters crucial to the story aspect of the game. Characters who, unlike say Hotaru or Havik or Nitara, can’t just slot into the story on grounds that they’re doing their own thing and it happens to intersect with the main plot. No, if these guys are in, they’re either the main focus of the story or they’re non-canon DLC.
Onaga was the first being to rule all of Outworld, uniting the various tribes under his banner (though he did not begin the conquest of other realms, which was the province solely of his usurper, Shao Kahn). A legendary warrior and sorcerer, either descended from dragons or a dragon himself, he possessed the capability of raising the dead, rendering his army unbeatable. He was also a cheap ****** of an arcade boss in Deception.
Appearing here on the cover of his upcoming debut album: "Chicks Dig Omnipotence"
When Onaga returned in Deception, it was very much as the capstone of the series’ mythology. His return to power came at the expense of the Deadly Alliance but had been in the offing since before MK1: from whatever vestiges of life remained to him in his existence inside the dormant dragon’s egg in the Lava Shrine, he projected himself as ‘Damashi’ to Shujinko. Informing the naïve young warrior that he was the champion of the Elder Gods themselves, he dispatched him to gather the six Kamidogu, granting him the sole ability to absorb the skill and abilities of other warriors. This was to ensure that, when Onaga did indeed return, he possessed the power to make war on all the realms and even the Elder Gods themselves, once he used his dread sorcery to merge the Kamidogu.
Deception is generally lauded by us lore-nerds for its intense mythology: alongside Deadly Alliance, it’s the part of the series where the primary draw was actually the story and mythology, with the art design a close second and the gameplay an incredibly distant twelfth.
Should he return in MK11, it’s hard to see what role he would fill for the story. Given everything we know and have seen of MK11 thus far, the central crux of the story is the fracturing timelines with the story finally paying off the groundwork laid in MK9 with Jade and MKX with Kitana (who may be called Oracle or Khronia, according to the latest leaks). There just doesn’t seem to be a place for Onaga, unless he walks out of a portal to another timeline to serve as a last minute surprise boss fight or is similarly unleashed by the fracturing timelines.
Onaga has, largely to my surprise, been name checked in several leaks: in the most prominent and notable roster leak, he’s been identified as the final boss of the game (and you can check out an amazing analysis of that leak here https://testyourmight.com/threads/mk11-leaks-a-case-by-case-analysis.67553/page-3#post-2408608). According to that leak, in this timeline he has once again possessed Reptile (who just can’t catch a goddamn break) but also Goro, with his boss fight progressing from Onaga-Reptile to Onaga-Goro a la Ogre and True Ogre from Tekken 3.
In my view, I would be absolutely shocked to see Onaga back: the very specific set of circumstances which led to his return, from a story perspective, have not repeated themselves in the new timeline, though the fracturing timelines of MK11 may allow NRS a workaround in that regard, as noted above.
Moreover, however, if we are to take the MKX Comics as canon, the ‘quest’ he placed Shujinko on was waylaid, with the Kamidogu now largely in the possession of the Gods or beings who would know them for what they are and prevent them going astray. Even if the MKX Comics are not canon, the direction taken by Kittelsen would indicate that he had permission from NRS to essentially negate the circumstances which led to the return of Onaga.
In addition, his design wasn’t really the strongest, though I did like the concept of destroying the Kamidogu during the fight to weaken him, albeit the execution left a lot to be desired (you could copy paste that for a lot of the 3d era to be fair). Ultimately, I really don’t expect to see Onaga in MK11.
Shujinko, although introduced in Deception, was retroactively worked into the series mythology from the before MK1, as discussed above. Throughout the course of his quest for ‘Damashi’, he trained with virtually every single member of the MK roster (as of Deception) and gleaned vast quantities of knowledge. Eventually, when he had gathered all six Kamidogu, Onaga revealed the truth and swatted Shujinko aside as he took the treasures for himself. Shujinko would revenge himself on Onaga, aided totally (albeit briefly) absorbing the fighting skills of dozens of warriors, though Raiden refused to abate in his vendetta against Shujinko for endangering Earthrealm.
Seen here on the cover of his debut album, "The Power of the Rainbow Fist"
Shujinko’s story is implicitly tied into Onaga: if, as discussed above, the Kamidogu-Onaga plotline has been discarded, it’s difficult to see what role Shujinko could play in MK11. With that said, he could reprise the role he played in the MKX Comics. There, he became aware of the truth of the quest halfway through it and instead retired to guard the Chaos Kamidogu in the Shaolin Temple of Liu Kang.
Is it racist to caption this "ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm"?
Unfortunately, he was brainwashed by Havik into following him and the ‘blood code’ and nearly slew Takeda when he and Scorpion came calling. If you’re spotting a trend, you aren’t the only one: it seems to be a distinct part of Shujinko’s character that, regardless of his vast experience and finely honed Shaolin temperament, he remains either hugely naïve or, frankly, dumb.
It would therefore not be beyond the realm of possibility for Shujinko to appear as a Shaolin Master, with the Kamidogu plot his backstory rather than his ongoing arc. He could be called upon to oppose Dark Raiden, Shujinko being nothing if not a helpful sweetheart of a man, should NRS go for an ‘Earthrealm Civil War’ storyline. This doesn’t appear to be part of MK11 or, if it is, it’s categorically subsumed within the ‘timelines’ story. It is possible that, as noted above, he strolls through a portal to an alternate timeline but that would seem somewhat trite.
Shujinko does appear in Cassie’s ending in MKX, as a Shang Tsung-esque soul stealer and primarily to get thoroughly caged, but I would be beyond shocked if this ever gets referenced ever again.
Shujinko is a great idea for a character. His backstory and redemption are actually really strong and ties him into the entire mythology of the franchise (albeit as something of a Mary Sue). His gameplay potential is also exceptional: it was appallingly executed in Deception but with the greater attention paid to the details of gameplay in the modern era, it could be something to behold, working cryomancy and spears and lightning etc into chain combos. The problem with Shujinko in Deception is that he just uses characters moves like they do: he should use them in different ways and combine them in different ways. For instance, using Ermac’s telekinesis to propel kori daggers towards an opponent. Tell me that would not be hype. Tell me.
Like most characters, the fracturing timelines could give NRS the excuse they need to bring Shujinko back if they want to but, given everything discussed above, I don’t think they want to. Certainly not from a story point of view: Shujinko was drawn from MK’s old love affair with Eastern tropes, given the Pai Mei inspiration in particularly. The protagonists NRS have gravitated to for the last decade are far more straightforward. It’s possible that Shujinko is a wild card for DLC and he would work amazingly with the customization options but I’m marking him down as unlikely but as significantly more likely than Onaga. The fact that he appears, albeit to get whalloped, in Cassie’s ending helps, but not by much.
Taven is the eldest son of Argus, Protector God of Edenia and his wife the prophetess Delia, the Lady of Flame. Millenia ago, he was imprisoned in a deathless sleep by his parents as part of their gambit to avert the Armageddon foreseen by Delia herself. Delia created a fire elemental named Blaze, whom Argus imbued with unimaginable godly power. The couple crafted two sets of armour and a sword for their sons to equip themselves with: upon the death of Blaze, the armour would channel his power to one of two outcomes depending on the armour: one set would murder all combatants to prevent Armageddon, the other would merely strip them of their powers. Taven was awakened late due to Blaze’s kidnapping by the priests of Onaga. His quest seemingly failed: though he was able to defeat Daegon (see below), Blaze would eventually be slain by the Emperor of Outworld, Shao Kahn.
Taven is inherently tied to the prophecy of Armageddon. If he were to be brought back, there are only two ways in which NRS could do so (aside from the omnipresent hand-waving of ‘fractured timelines’ and DLC).
The first is to follow through on Armageddon, to have Blaze appear out of nowhere in MK11, sound the call to awake Taven and have the fracturing timelines story occur parallel with Taven’s quest to save the realms. This seems unlikely: trying to do ‘Krisis on Infinite Earths’ (a phrase I am absolutely making happen. I couldn’t make ‘fetch’ or ‘wizard’ happen, but I will make this happen) and Armageddon in the same storyline is trying to cram ten pounds of meat into a five pound bag.
The second would be to have Taven prematurely awakened, as in the endings of Takeda and Kenshi in MKX and join them in their quest to revenge themselves on the Red Dragon and Daegon. This would require some explanation as to how exactly this is possible without Blaze and how the Takahashi’s got into the cave without Taven’s guardian dragon scorching them to cinders, but would allow Taven to be more integrated into the new timeline and, indeed, give him his first real opportunity to exist in the MK universe as anything other than a protagonist coming out of the blue and being the winning-est of them all.
"No no Dad, I got this, you take five"
I think Taven is unlikely to return in MK11. He was surprisingly dull as both a character and in gameplay in Armageddon, and trust me, standing out as particularly dull in a roster of 64 characters takes some doing. While he has fans, Taven is no one’s favourite character and I doubt in the top 5-10 of anyone either.
The only thing that, to me, really recommends him for inclusion outside wrapping up Armageddon (and doing so properly this time), is his Konquest ability to stop time. This would play into the ‘time’ theme of MK11 but, given that one of the new characters (Oracle or Khronia or whatever the leaks say this week) seemingly specializes in time powers, this would appear a tad redundant.
Without any particular tie to the ongoing storyline, any significant fanbase or anything inherently interesting, I would be flabbergasted if Taven came back, though it would represent a bold step for NRS.
Also, does anyone else think he looks like a slightly brain damaged Ben Affleck?
But Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms, yo.
Daegon is the younger brother of Taven. Although the two were affectionate in their relationship, Daegon envied Taven his superior speed, his right to inherit their fathers position under primogeniture and believed his elder brother was the favourite of their parents. He was also placed into a deathless sleep by Argus and Delia but was prematurely wakened by Shinnok. As part of his scheme to engineer his domination of Earthrealm and eventually of all the realms, Shinnok manipulated the trusting Daegon into murdering his parents by telling him that they intended for Taven to succeed and sacrifice Daegon on the alter of Armageddon. Parricide accomplished, Daegon disappeared into the shadows and legends for millennia, founding the Red Dragon clan to monitor the realms and ideally slaying Taven before he could awake.
If she'd just taken off the hood, she'd have seen that coming.
His founding and control of the Red Dragon means that all the work done to establish the Red Dragon in Deadly Alliance, Deception and the MKX comic (yes, Hsu Hao and Mavado: they may suck as characters but they emphatically did not suck in the story) works to establish Daegon as a thing.
Although bringing Daegon back would present a similar dichotomy to Taven, in that his story could either centre around the Red Dragon or around Armageddon, Daegon has additional story flexibility over his brother. His pre-existing relationship with Shinnok could be used to advance the Netherrealm aspect of the plot or his position as essentially the capo di tutti capo of all organised crime through the realms could see him through.
I would be more confident of Daegon returning than Taven returning, to the point where I would not be surprised if we get Daegon as DLC and as a story mode cameo. He has much closer ties to the ongoing story with the Red Dragon and Takahashi rivalry being established and much more flexibility as noted above. He’s also, as of now, a more fully fleshed out and interesting character than Taven, a sanguine, considered villain but with the tragic underscoring of the audience waiting for him to discover Shinnok’s manipulation.
In terms of gameplay, Daegon was similarly as cookie-cutter as Taven but with an interesting aspect: all of his special moves began with a feint, jinking around the screen. Taking this aspect of his character, this intelligence combined with millennia of intense preparation, could make for an interest gameplay style focused around feints, cancels and stances.
Ah yes. Fujin.
In the cosmology of the Mortal Kombat, the gods are formed by the Elder Gods out of the substances that form their realms. Thus, the Earthrealm gods are gods of earth, water, fire, lightning (Raiden) and air. Fujin is thus the Wind God of Earthrealm. He serves as Raiden’s chief lieutenant as Protector of Earthrealm though is notably more aloof than the Lord of Thunder and does not form emotional bonds with mortals the way Raiden has become accustomed to.
Nevertheless, he is a ferocious defender of Earthrealm and his power is second only to Raiden.
As the Wind God, Fujin possess total control of air. He uses these powers to effect flight, effective telekinesis, perfect control of projectiles (generally fired from his prized crossbow) and the manifestation of mighty storms, tornadoes and hurricanes. This could have huge gameplay indications, from zoning to fatalities to even something as simple as a ranged command grab where he stops air from going into the opponents lungs. The gameplay possibilities of a fully realized Fujin in MK11 are almost endless.
There are two ways Fujin could go in Story Modes.
The first is he serves as Raiden’s consigliere and chief fixer. The brief glimpses we’ve gotten of Fujin show him to be more sanguine and withdrawn than Raiden, which would make him less effective than (or certainly very much distinct from) Raiden as the Protector of Earthrealm. Therefore, if and when the timeline stabilizes or we return to the original era of MK1-MK3, Fujin could be shown as Raiden’s quiet second in command whom he entrusts to run the show when he’s elsewhere and is also capable of colossal destruction on a par with Raiden.
The second is the way Fujin was initially implemented: that, after millennia of serving as Raiden’s second in command, he was elevated to serving as the Protector of Earthrealm once Raiden himself was elevated to full Elder Godhood following the defeat of Shinnok in MK4. This trick was repeated following Raiden stepping down as an Elder God (where he never technically kicked Fujin out of office) and becoming corrupted in the process of Deadly Alliance and Deception but, on both occasions NRS pulled the plug, unwilling to depart with Raiden as a central character to the franchise.
It’s tempting to conclude that this is why Fujin vanished after MK4: NRS either didn’t have the confidence in him to take over from Raiden or were unwilling to let such a beloved character as Raiden go. Even when they turned Raiden into ‘Dark Raiden’ for Deception and Armageddon, Fujin only featured in the ‘gotta have ‘em all’ Armageddon. Admittedly, the story between Deception and Armageddon, arcane knowledge known only to the truly committed, did see Fujin step up alongside Johnny Cage and Nightwolf as the new leaders of Earthrealm but NRS have always shied away from giving Fujin centre stage.
The same pattern was repeated in MKX but to a greater degree: despite being one of the most requested characters in the lead up to the game and subsequently for DLC, Fujin was notably by his absence from the playable roster. NRS even lampshaded this in Cassie’s Selfie Fatality.
I think it’s almost certainly safe to say that if Fujin isn’t in MK11, we arE unlikely to ever see him again. The fact that NRS retold the fundamentals of MK4 without Fujin playable, expanding it into a story that sees Raiden turn away from his noble ideals without Fujin stepping into the role as Earthrealm’s Protector would lead one to the inescapable conclusion that NRS legitimately doesn’t care for Fujin.
Yeah, I don't get why either dude.
It’s really hard to see why: there is a serious groundswell of support for Fujin (not dissimilar to Rain or Martian Manhunter or Black Manta in previous games), his aesthetic fits right into the game (he’s one of the most eye catching characters in Story Mode despite being present primarily to get BTFO), his gameplay potential is absolutely top notch and, with the fracturing timelines presumably resolving into one, NRS can give him his time in the sun without having to impinge on Raiden as one of the Big Three.
At the risk of jinxing it….yeah I think he’s in. Don’t hurt me again NRS.
So what do you think? Do you think the MK11 will include any of these characters and will NRS make use of the potential massive impact any of them could have on the storyline?
Op-Ed: the potential story impact of returning characters