In the final article in this series, I’m going to discuss those characters that burn brightest when we think of who could return for MK11. Not characters who we know will be there and are always there, like Scorpion or Raiden or Sub Zero, not characters we need this game to rework, not even necessarily characters who can advance the story or massively alter the direction of the game, but characters who are just beloved and whose absence was felt in MKX
Honourable mentions: Stryker (who just doesn’t have the groundswell of support), Cyrax (who can sit out a game for Sektor for once in his goddamn life), Kabal (who can sit out indefinitely until NRS prove he can be in a game without being S tier) and Rain (who just didn’t make it onto the list. I’m sure his notoriously calm fanbase won’t throw a tantrum at this.)
Sindel was the queen of Edenia before the conquest of that realm by Shao Kahn and wife of King Jerrod. Following the conquest of Edenia and it being absorbed into Outworld by the Emperor, she was taken as a trophy of war and made Shao Kahn’s Empress, with her infant daughter Kitana raised to believe that Shao Kahn was her true father. Sindel eventually committed suicide to escape her monstrous husband, but she was later resurrected by Shang Tsung in an ingenious scheme to help Shao Kahn bypass the protections of the Mortal Kombat tournament and claim Earthrealm.
Initially brainwashed by Shao Kahn, her daughter quickly broke through this brainwashing and Sindel would go on to rule a free Edenia briefly before fleeing first before Shinnok and then the wrath of the Dragon King, Onaga.
WHY SHOULD SHE COME BACK
Sindel, as a character, is one I’ve never warmed to but it’s not hard to see why people do. With long, black and white prehensile hair (one of the few ‘powers’ in the realms of Mortal Kombat that seems genuinely unique), glowing white eyes and her customary colour being a deep purple, she immediately stands out in any roster.
Speaking of unique powers, in a roster full of dashes and fireballs, Sindel has one of the more interesting ‘powers and abilities’ section: in addition to her prehensile hair, she can spit fireballs and scream at such pitch and volume that her opponents are rendered helpless.
From a gameplay perspective, Sindel could be taken in some really interesting directions: she was a strong zoner in MK9 but the real selling point of Sindel in MK9 was her flight cancels. Just like Spectral Ermac was the ‘flying’ character of MKX, Sindel had that role in MKX.
Story-wise, it’s hard to see what Sindel contributes in addition to her role as a revenant and lieutenant of the new Netherrealm regime, but really her inclusion would have a more ‘meta’ aspect: this is something I’m going to repeat throughout this article but the inclusion of certain of these characters in MK11 would be an acknowledgement from NRS that a large swathe of the MK fanbase was unhappy with the roster of MKX. Similar to Deception, seeing characters like Sindel included and redesigned outside of a Trilogy/Armageddon style game would represent a sign from NRS that the roster for MK11 is, at least to some degree, slightly ‘riskier’ than MKX’s ultra-safe plus new characters roster that many of us found lethally dull.
Sindel had probably the strongest NPC showing in MKX: she nearly killed Fujin and, unlike the other primary NPCs, didn’t get rekt repeatedly. She has a strong, vocal fanbase, although lesser than the likes of Kitana, Mileena and Jade, a lot of gameplay potential and could be an extremely ‘showy’ character, with prehensile hair, spitting fireballs and flying.
In terms of viability for bringing her back, Sindel is now technically the Empress Mother of the Netherrealm, given that her daughter Kitana is now Empress of the Netherrealm. This gives her a nexus and connection to primary characters of the franchise (in Kitana and Liu Kang). Plus, with the fracturing timelines story, there’s plenty of opportunity for pathos by showing Sindel in the (apparently few) timelines where she actually gets to rule Edenia, either by herself or by her husband’s side.
Gun to my head, yeah I actually think Sindel has a really good chance of being in MK11. In fact, I’d be surprised if she wasn’t.
The shaman and guardian of his people’s knowledge, Nightwolf is centuries old, having been alive to witness the coming of European colonizers to America centuries ago. One of the few Earthrealmers fully aware of the truth of the realms at the beginning of the saga, and one of the very few aware of the truth and not a member of the Shaolin, White Lotus, Lin Kuei or Shirai Ryu, he is one of Raiden’s strongest acolytes and advisors.
Worshipping Raiden as ‘Haokah’, the spirit of thunder in his tribe’s mythology, Nightwolf first appeared as a chosen warrior of the Thunder God’s in MK3, where he functioned as the leader of the defenders of Earthrealm in Raiden’s absence. He would next appear in MK Deception, where he would play a crucial role in the defeat of Onaga and again in MK9, when he served as Raiden’s second-in-command.
WHY SHOULD HE COME BACK
Nightwolf is a tricky one. On the one hand, I don’t think his gameplay has ever been particularly interesting: now, any character can have their design altered to be interesting to play in this era of Lord God Paulo, but Nightwolf’s most interesting design aspect in MK9 was his ability to essentially shut down footsies with his shoulder charge. MK9 was a game built around footsies, and his ability to shut them down safely made playing a good Nightwolf a unique, challenging experience. His combos were also swag as hell.
His design itself is quite striking and I’ve always liked the expansion of the mythological aspect of MK outside it’s far eastern origins: a Native American shaman is a natural inclusion and he works well in the wider spiritual realm of MK. With that said, I wouldn’t mind seeing him take a few cues from Thunder or even T-Hawk and be somewhat more imposing physically.
I do think his story ramifications are potentially quite interesting: a powerful shaman and fighter, he was one of the more noble, admirable characters before his reincarnation as a revenant and would be one of the more immediate choices should we see characters recruited from alternate timelines.
On that point, he could benefit as much as almost any character from the contrasting of his noble original character with the corrupted, evil revenant he ultimately became in MKX.
Oooooh Nightwolf is such a tricky one, he really is. I’d love to see him back: he makes every game he’s in feel very distinct and he himself stands out a mile in the roster. But that’s not the real reason I want him back, nor is it for his gameplay or even his design: it’s what he’d represent. Not dissimilar to Sindel, Nightwolf would be a radical departure from the MKX roster.
MK hasn’t had a roster that feels different in over 15 years. This is somewhat understandable, given the games in that period have been a crossover in MKvDC, a trilogy remake and an ‘all-in’ game, but that to me is why MKX’s roster was such a deep disappointment: at a time when the franchise, to me, needed to really change things up, we got the MK2 roster with Baraka swapped for Kenshi, Shinnok and Quan Chi thrown in and the new characters and it felt so bland. It didn’t help that, like many people, what drew me to Mortal Kombat was the alien, otherworldly feel of MK2, monsters and freaks and gods and demons. Over a third of the starting MKX roster is associated with the Special Forces.
Nightwolf is totally different: he’s almost a throwback to another time of fighting games, when every character brimmed with personality, brought something entirely different to the table and stood out from everyone else. With MK11’s seemingly brighter colours (witness how Raiden’s lightning pops from the screen in the screenshots), Nightwolf would represent, if not a repudiation, then certainly a walking back from MKX’s bland colour scheme and bland, safe roster.
Ultimately, therefore, whether we see Nightwolf depends largely on what kind of roster NRS are putting into MK11. A lot of us, including me, expect MK11 to be something of an ‘apology’ for the roster in MKX. If MK11 is to MKX as Deception was to Deadly Alliance, diving into the series beyond the usual suspects with an exciting new-look roster, Nightwolf is virtually a shoe-in, in my view, for that roster. If, however, NRS decide to stick with the MK2+New Characters template that served in MKX, he may struggle to even make it as DLC.
**** it, this is the time for optimism: yeah I think Nightwolf will be back.
The warchief of the savage Tarkatans, Baraka was one of Shao Kahn’s chief lieutenants and, while never rising to the rank of general under the Emperor, was one of his most powerful and important servants by dint of the unquestioned authority he wielded over his kin and his own savage butchery. He served Shinnok in his uprising before allying with his erstwhile lover Mileena before she tried to kill him when they both served the Dragon King. In the new timeline, he supported Mileena as the heir of Shao Kahn and refused to turn from her side even to the point of death: ultimately, he was slain by D’Vorah on the command of Kotal Kahn.
WHY SHOULD HE COME BACK
As I said above, one of the things that most attracted me (and others) to Mortal Kombat, was the ‘horror’ feel, the feeling of Outworld as an alternate Earth where everything was very wrong. The geometry was non-Euclidean, the skies and seas were purple, the trees had faces and seemed distinctly unhappy about something, and it was filled with these monstrous, sadistic barbarians with nails for teeth and gigantic metal blades sticking out of their forearms.
And that role is still fulfilled by Baraka as well as any character, despite it being over two decades since his debut. It’s likely nothing Baraka ever does will reach quite the level of cool his debut did where, alongside Reptile, he best typified that terrifying feel of Outworld. On a personal level, his fatality where he impales you and looks you dead in the eye as you slide down his blades, bleeding your last in a strange world under uncaring skies, face to face with a monster who just beat you death….that encapsulates MK2 and that horror feel better than anything else.
Story wise, NRS would be obliged to dip into the fractured timelines to bring Baraka back in a canon way in story mode, given his demise in MK9. Gameplay wise, I’m not qualified to say as my only real experience of Baraka in MK9 was having 1man3letters smash me. Repeatedly. Without mercy.
But that’s not why Baraka should be back: he should come back because Baraka, to me, is a central character for the feel of Mortal Kombat. He makes everything feel darker and less human with his presence. If one of the primary failings of the MKX roster was the lack of ‘freaks and geeks’, Baraka would be one of the strongest candidates to rectify that while still giving MK11 a ‘classic’ feel.
Tarkatans rushing screaming out of a portal to wreak havoc, rip and tear on some poor misfortunates is something of a trope in MK. Given the fact that MK11 will feature fracturing timelines and the fact that Baraka’s whole gimmick is allying with the Big Bad of the moment, he’s a good candidate to be enlisted as the necessary disposable henchman who goes 0-4 in story mode and thus be included as main roster.
Even if that’s not the case, I can’t imagine Baraka not being in two games in a row (no, Tarkatan Alien doesn’t even kind of count). I don’t think he’ll make main roster but he’ll be the first DLC character released, bank on it.
Sektor was the son and heir of the grandmaster of the Lin Kuei. Intelligent, ruthless and supremely skilled, he was utterly loyal to the Lin Kuei but lacked the overtly superhuman skills of the brothers Bi Han and Kuai Liang, or of Tomas Vrbada. Alongside his fellow operative Cyrax, who also lacked true superhuman abilities, Sektor compensated by specializing in technology. Whereas Cyrax would focus on infiltration, utilising smoke-bombs, nets and small explosives, Sektor would focus on destruction, equipped with missiles, flamethrowers and personalised teleportation devices.
Sektor was the first Lin Kuei to undergo cyberization and, following the interruption of the process by Shao Kahn, assumed the leadership role over Cyrax. Following the defeat of Shao Kahn and Shinnok, he would kill his own father to assume the role of grandmaster but would be defeated almost immediately by the younger Sub Zero, who claimed the dragon medallion for himself. Sektor would go on to found the Tekunin clan, where he would finally achieved the dream of a fully cyberized clan and conquer all of Japan.
WHY SHOULD HE COME BACK
Sektor is, somewhat low key, one of the most evil characters in MK. His sole objective is power: his programming informs him that this is because his leadership (and cyberization) is necessary to ensure first the Lin Kuei and then the Tekunin become as powerful as they could be, but we see Sektor before his cyberization in MK9 and his personality is clear: ruthless, cruel and focused solely on the Lin Kuei.
Some villains in MK have an element of empathy about them: Shang Tsung fears death and oblivion, Reptile is an abused genocide survivor etc. But some are monstrous, almost beyond human imagining. Quan Chi is the smirking jester-necromancer of hell, Shinnok a death-worshipping Lucifer, Shao Kahn and Onaga otherworldly conquerors of unimaginable might. What makes Sektor so detestable, so evil a character is the fact that he is (or was) human: he isn’t a demon or a god, he is an archetype of humanity gone wrong. An emotionless, sociopathic being without a shred of mercy or conscience, likely even before his cyberization. MK needs that. It needs that coldness, that reminder that this isn’t “Earthrealm good, everywhere else evil”. Sektor is one of the most humanizing characters in all of MK because of the reminder he provides that humans are capable of genuine villainy as well as heroism.
Gameplay wise, Sektor has never been more than middling, though his zoning was temporarily hugely strong on the initial release of Triborg and he remains one of the strongest ‘beginner’ characters in MKX.
And on that point, no, Triborg should not come back. Because Triborg was a gameplay necessity and an acknowledgement of how poor the MKX roster was, an attempt to cram as many recognisable characters and characteristics into the game as possible to excuse the abortions that passed for the DLC packs, where of the 8 characters, two were involved in the game and may be seen again (Tanya and Bo). Triborg was a sop to the ultra casual audience, the likes of Max who just want the “robots” in MK and are fine with the three of them being crammed into one with no regard for what makes each individual character special and beloved, with no regard for the shattering victimhood and tragedy of Smoke’s original arc, the difficult redemption of Cyrax and the phenomenal lack of nuance in Sektor’s maniacal obsession with power.
Triborg was fine and an acceptable placeholder (given his story as essentially Sektor’s new body) but MKX should have had Sektor. That was his game to, at long last, be the sole cyborg. Similarly, I would argue MK11 should have Sektor main roster. I wouldn’t object to Cyrax (although hands up, I do prefer Sektor) but I would object in the most strenuous terms to ******* Triborg.
I suspect we’ll get Sektor as DLC. I think Cyrax, the more popular of the two cyborgs (even if only by dint of the fact that he’s generally the one who returns), will be main roster but that we’ll have to wait a bit to get the ketchup to the mustard. Regardless, I would be shocked if either one does not return at all, DLC included.
If NRS want to work Sektor into the main story, my preference would be that the fracturing timelines open a portal to a realm where the cyberization process was fully implemented, with Sektor as grandmaster and Cyrax as his chief enforcer and have the cyborgs enter the standard timeline to expand their empire, as it were. If they want to pursue the Triborg ‘after-life’ for Sektor, it could work too, but I’d prefer to categorically dispense with any notions that Triborg could ever be canon.
4: SHANG TSUNG
Shang Tsung was once a man and a champion of Mortal Kombat on behalf of Earthrealm. He fought not out of nobility or sacrifice or duty, but to obtain eternal life, for Shang Tsung feared death with the fervour of the obsessive. When he was forced to cheat to attempt to forestall defeat, he relinquished his title and with it, eternal life. He then struck a bargain with Shao Kahn: in exchange for the eternal life that would come through soul stealing magics, he would serve the Emperor for all time.
He would go on to become the Grandmaster of the Tournament under Shao Kahn’s auspices while Goro reigned as champion, leader of Shao Kahn’s Shadow Priests and the greatest acolyte of the Emperor, who instructed Tsung in the black magics himself. Tsung would still souls for centuries before his defeat in the 10th and decisive tournament by Liu Kang, who had also defeated Goro. Kang would also foil Tsung’s plan to destroy the Earthrealm warriors in Outworld which was itself a plot to buy time for Shang to resurrect Sindel in Earthrealm to allow Shao Kahn to breach the barriers of realm.
After the defeat of Shao Kahn in the battle of Earthrealm, Shang Tsung would go into hiding (and seemingly retirement) before striking up the Deadly Alliance with erstwhile adversary Quan Chi. Before turning on each other and being decimated by the returning Onaga, the Deadly Alliance would kill Shao Kahn, Liu Kang, Kitana, Kung Lao, Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade and Jax, virtually ensuring their domination of Outworld and Earthrealm through the resurrected army of the Dragon King.
Arguably the greatest crime of MK9’s story mode, and such crimes are multiple and manifold, was in its utter emasculation of Shang, by giving virtually all of his plot points to Quan Chi, figuratively stealing his mojo and then literally stealing his mojo to give a power boost to Sindel in the most arbitrary “stake-raising” in the history of storytelling.
WHY SHOULD HE COME BACK
I don’t think there’s a good argument against Shang coming back. I really don’t. He’s been criminally underutilised and marginalized in the last decade (arguably since Deadly Alliance). His design is iconic, not necessarily in how he looks, but what he is: the idea of the shape shifting, superhuman sorcerer who steal souls (additional alliteration ahoy), his powers leave
Gameplay wise, Shang has never really excelled as a playable character. His peak clearly came in MK2, where his shape shifting was given full rein if you could remember the various inputs, but has always posed technical difficulties: most notably in UMK3, where you would have to preselect your morphs and in the 3d era, when it was dispensed with entirely. MK9 struck a solid compromise but one would hope that the attention lavished on MK11 by WB and NRS would lead to a way to incorporate Shang’s canonically unmatched shape shifting skill.
MK9’s Shang was a solid if technical zoner, with a high execution level and high fundamentals required. It was as Shang that WoundCowboy originally made his name, before going onto excel with the villainous zoner archetype with Sinestro and Shinnok.
Story wise, the return of Shang is an entirely open book and NRS could go any direction with it really. I’m a fan of the ‘eating Ermac’ angle but with the fracturing timelines, anything is open. Shang coming back from the dead isn’t a new trick: he did so between Deception and Armageddon, thanks to some help from Shao Kahn and Goro.
Oh he’s back. He’s gotta be. It doesn’t look as though MK11 will be to Shang what MKX was to Shinnok, the game he deserves to be built back up as a big bad (alliteration ahoy) but he’s one of the most requested characters for MK11, one of the most recognisable characters (if only through the whole soul stealing thing) and one of the few Trilogy era characters who categorically hasn’t been done justice to since the reboot. Plus, his return would give a serious classic “MK” presence without feeling stale thanks to the underutilisation of Shang in the past decade.
Hands up on this though: Shang Tsung is probably my favourite character. There’s something about “your soul is mine” which, to this day, sends chills down my spine. It, and Shang in generally, is just so goddamn cool.
3: NOOB SAIBOT
In life, Bi Han was Sub Zero, the foremost assassin of the Lin Kuei. After being killed by Scorpion in MK1 (having killed Scorpion in his life as Hanzo Hashashi), his soul was damned to the Netherrealm. He had been warned this would happen by Raiden and had been contemplating changing his ways, but his death came too quickly. Upon his descent to the Netherrealm, Quan Chi (who had manipulated events to ensure this outcome) quickly claimed it and stripped whatever humanity Bi Han had left, leaving only the cold, merciless killer Bi Han had been. Noob Saibot is not a corruption of Bi Han or the result of Quan Chi’s manipulative machinations, however: he is Bi Han, with any pretensions of mercy or pretensions to humanity removed.
Noob would serve Shao Kahn under orders from Shinnok before serving Shinnok himself before finally attempting to set himself up as a great power in the realms himself, by abducting the body of Smoke and using it to engineer a clan a demonic nanomachines loyal only to him.
It’s worth noting that Bi Han is canonically one of the finest warriors in the entire history of the realms: he’s beaten four gods in a row, including Fujin, killed Scorpion, defeated Sareena, Kia and Jataaka, defeated Quan Chi and escaped Shinnok in his own throne room at the height of his power.
WHY SHOULD HE COME BACK
I’m somewhat biased here, as Noob was my main in MK9. My poor, abused, low tier, useless Noob. All you had was half decent zoning, half decent portal traps and a really good D3. You’re the reason I had no shame about maining Superman in I2.
But even leaving that aside, it’s actually quite difficult to argue specific reasons why Noob should come back, as it’s pretty self evident that he should. He was the only ninja to not make any appearance whatsoever in MKX, his gameplay and presentation has endless potential with his use of shadows (and occasionally a kind of gloopy oil he first demonstrated power over in the MK comics, as well as finding a canon explanation for what the Disabler does to make people stop blocking) and his design has actually been kinda interesting.
As the ‘black’ ninja palette swap, his first playable appearance was actually as a blacked-out Kano sprite but his subsequent appearances have gradually got very interesting. The leather, S&M look from Deception wasn’t exactly my bag, but in MK9 they took a lot of inspiration from his MKG incarnation, where he was heavily influenced by the Grim Reaper. That kind of sepulchral look screams MK to me and could really help with the aesthetic MK11 seems to be driving towards.
Noob is something of a wild card and I kinda expect him to be DLC. I have no doubt he’s in the game one way or the other: he won several polls on both reputable and not so reputable sites for inclusion, benefitted hugely from his stylish presentation in MK9 (and such a style could look wonderful in the new graphics engine) and, for completionists, MKX was actually the first generation of Mortal Kombat that Bi Han did not appear in: be it as Sub Zero or Noob Saibot, he appeared in one way or another from MK1 through to MK9.
But I think that may be his downfall: he’s canonically dead as doornails and so is Quan Chi , so NRS don’t necessarily have to include him in the story. This could easily be circumvented, either with the fracturing timelines or by hand-waving along the lines of ‘well he’s already dead so…’. I’d prefer the latter: my dream pitch for MK11 would’ve been civil wars, between Raiden and Fujin, Kotal and Shang Tsung and Liu Kang and Noob Saibot, but it doesn’t look like NRS are going that way at all.
He could be brought back in from another timeline, although a Bi Han Sub Zero skin would seem a certainty in that regard, but if NRS want a stylish, well known character who would sell gangbusters that they could leave out of the main roster without any controversy, Noob would be the ideal candidate.
When he was a child, Tomas Vrbada was abducted and sacrificed in a demonic ritual. The point and purpose was unknown but it is known that the demon slew all those who summoned it and, since that day, young Vrbada had a strange mastery of smoke, mist and vapour: he can summon it to teleport his opponents or himself, mask his movements or even transform himself into smoke. Vrbada would grow to become the closest friend and ally of the younger Sub Zero, Kuai Liang but fall victim to the Lin Kuei cyberization process before being taken as a trophy of war by Shao Kahn and then used as a pawn by Noob Saibot. In the new timeline, he escapes cyberization but is killed by Sindel and used as a revenant by Quan Chi.
WHY SHOULD HE COME BACK
Smoke is a strange character in terms of popularity: I suspect him to be alongside Sub Zero and Noob Saibot as one of the most universally popular characters amongst MK fans. Scorpion and Raiden (alongside Sub Zero) may be the public faces of the fanbase, but I would extremely surprised if anybody had significantly negative feelings towards Smoke. The appeal is easy to see: among the ninjas, he’s always been one of the most distinctive thanks to his ever-present smoke (grey attire notwithstanding), inherited Reptile’s ‘secret’ mantle, his story appeals to anyone with a heart and his potential, both gameplay and aesthetically, is phenomenal.
Nevertheless, at times it seems this wasn’t shared by NRS: strangely, Smoke was one of the last revealed characters for MK9. He was only seen when the select screen picture leaked, where his bouffant-looking hair caused much derision (although it looks better in game, I much prefer his hooded look) and towards the end of the marketing for MK9, there was much speculation as to whether or not Smoke would even be included. It seems strange now, but Smoke was clumped together with Sheeva and Stryker as characters MK9 could do without, Trilogy remake notwithstanding.
The tide has clearly changed, however: although Smoke only made a brief appearance in MK (some have argued that his seeming reticence in beating Raiden in story mode indicates a shred of conscience left), the initial reaction to MK11 has included Smoke as one of the most demanded characters.
Smoke’s gameplay has varied from game to game. In UMK3, his speed made him arguably second only to Kabal on the tier list, in MK9 he was a solid top ten character with one of the most enjoyable footsies games among the roster (to both watch and play) but his MKX incarnation as part of Triborg was a distinctly boring, if functional vortex.
Arguably the strongest argument for the return of Smoke, particularly in his enenra form, is that MK11 is moving to a new engine for the series, UE4. With the increase in graphical fidelity, particle effects, a new colour palette and absence making the heart grow fonder, a returning Smoke could be one of the single most impressive-looking characters in the game, perfect for hype-building. An argument could be made that this would actually indicate that Smoke would be best kept for DLC, to show off and attract interest in the additional content.
Surprisingly, Smoke is also the only canonically European character in Mortal Kombat. His being Czech is a well-done piece of inclusivity and surprisingly subtle: as an Irishman, I’d dread the inclusion of an Irish character for fear that he would shoot rainbows, puke green Guinness and have a fatality involving a pot of gold.
I would be hugely surprised if Smoke doesn’t return. His story since the reboot has lost its ‘tragic victim’ theme, his gameplay lacks a recurring theme despite its potential but his incredible visual potential and high fan demand, to me, makes him as close as you get to guaranteed. The only question is whether he returns as main roster or as DLC.
Jade is an Edenian and of roughly the same age as her closest friend, Princess Kitana. She grew up alongside Kitana and Mileena, with her noble-blooded Edenian parents having willingly given her to Shao Kahn as a slave to buy their own lives. Jade would join Kitana and Mileena as one of the Emperor’s most lethal assassins, though never grow close o Mileena, who treated her with contempt due to her enslavement. During the Battle of Earthrealm, Jade was dispatched by Kahn to return Kitana to him but sided with her old friend and fought off the assassination attempt of Reptile. She would later serve as Kitana’s closest advisor and as one of the foremost warriors of Edenia after it’s freedom: it would be in this capacity that Jade would swear a vendetta against the traitorous Tanya, after the sorceress betrayed Edenia into the clutches of the Dragon King.
WHY SHOULD SHE COME BACK
Jade’s popularity is, to me, somewhat perplexing. Her design is interesting enough, with her signature shade of green being appropriately deep and her being the only ninja, male or female, who continues to have canonically dark skin. Sex appeal is undeniably attractive and interesting as a character trait, and this is a core part of Jade: alongside Mileena in Deception, she was billed as a bombshell character and, even among the DOA-esque ludicrousness of MK9’s “sex appeal” (if you’re into mannequins with water balloons taped to them), Jade’s ‘stripper’ mannerisms were quite….noticeable.
NRS have also decided that Jade’s manner should be inherently cocky and arrogant, while also remaining somewhat flirty, to go with these mannerisms: this makes sense if Jade is the ‘seductress’ of the kunoichi (although given that she herself is a slave, I would have thought her manner would have been more along the lines of angrily trying to prove herself). Finally, Jade has a canonical obsession with loyalty: she agonised over saving Kitana’s life at the cost of betraying Shao Kahn and seems destined to conflict with the treacherous Tanya over this matter, though Jade has never managed to even fight Tanya in canon. This is even referenced in MKX, albeit only through Tanya holding Jade’s decapitated head in a banner.
Nevertheless, I’ve never quite grasped what makes Jade so appealing. To me, she lacks the arc and nobility of Kitana or the tragedy and vileness of Mileena, yet her fanbase rivals her two fellow female ninjas: and is arguably second only to Kitana as the most obnoxiously vocal fandom in the community.
Gameplay wise, Jade never really stood out: her signature moves are her brief projectile invincibility, bladed glaive toss and a shadow kick (similar to Cage’s, later differentiated with Jade using her staff to propel her). Jade had the core of an interesting design in MK9. The seeming intent of Netherrealm with her design for MK9 was to build around her projectile invincibility but if this was the intent, it failed miserably and Jade is universally considered bottom tier, along with Sheeva, Kano and Noob (fight me, I mained him and he sucked). Ironically, the best incarnation of Jade’s gameplay was Kitana’s Mournful variation in MKX, which say much better usage of Jade’s signature tools than Jade herself ever managed.
It should be noted that, for fans of a certain vintage, the thought of UMK3 Jade is sufficient to send shivers down the spine. The arcade MK games were notorious, even for the time, for brutally unforgiving AI, designed to wring as many quarters as possible from the audience. Series highlights include the AI in MK2 being able to lock you into essentially a throw infinite from approximately sweep range but the apex of this was Jade’s AI in her playable debut in UMK3. She was categorically broken: because the exploits against the likes of Motaro and Shao Kahn were firmly established, often Jade would be the single hardest fight of any UMK3 Arcade Ladder. Two decades later, I still haven’t gotten an apology from Boon.
From a story perspective, Jade would seem to be key to the ‘fracturing timelines’ storyline (if, as we believe, it builds on her ending from MK9 and Kitana’s from MKX) and thus arguably poised to assume a far more central role in MK11 than she ever has before: in UMK3 and Deception, her role was for more circumspect (successfully saving Kitana from Reptile and unsuccessfully hunting Tanya respectively). Her non-role in MKX actually seems more a sop to how central she is likely to be to MK11: she was the only character who’s soul was stolen by Quan Chi to not be reincarnated as a revenant in MKX but her death was confirmed by Kitana’s Mournful variation.
Oh Jade is so back. Categorically, absolutely. Not only is she one of the most requested characters to return (confusingly, given that MK9 Jade was dull in the extreme), but she’s central to the ‘fracturing timelines’ story as we understand it or, at least, what we know of it: call her Oracle, call her Kronika, she first appeared in Jade’s MK9 ending and discussion of either character has engendered discussion of the other for seven years now.
She’s in, main roster guaranteed and almost certainly a large presence in story mode.
So what do you think? What fan favourites are we going to get back...or are we unduly getting our hopes up regarding seeing some of our favourites return? Will any of these characters be in MK11, maybe even revealed at the January Reveal Event? Well, the best place to find out is right here, the number one source for all things NRS and Mortal Kombat, TYM!
Op-Ed: The Returning Fan Favourite Characters