Mortal Kombat: Deception (2004)
Finally, a new look! While Scorpion remained more or less exactly as he had been in Deadly Alliance (albeit with a metal breastplate in place of his more leathery costume), Sub-Zero returned for Deception with a suit of fur-trimmed armor, courtesy of his newly discovered Cryomancer ancestors. And while he retained most of his moves from the last game, he at least got his old ice-clone maneuver back.
Meanwhile, Scorpion didn’t have any new moves to speak of this time around, although he did undergo a substantial shift in alignment. With his vendettas either dismissed or temporarily on hold, he became an agent of the Elder Gods, sent to save the various realms of existence by annihilating the newly introduced Dragon King, Onaga.
While the differences this time around were mostly cosmetic, however, that doesn’t make them any less interesting. Nor does it make Scorpion’s alternate costume (a return to his slick MK4 duds) any less cool, or Sub-Zero’s strangely monkish alternate outfit any less weird.
The redesigns didn’t stop there, either. If you took a look at Deception’s included “Puzzle Kombat” mode – essentially its own version of Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo – you already know that the two ninjas appeared as adorable, superdeformed versions of themselves…
… who, incidentally, were no less likely to kill each other, albeit in cuter ways.
Speaking of killing each other, Deception not only brought Fatalities back in force, but introduced suicidal new Hara Kiri moves meant to rob your opponent of the satisfaction of killing you. The number of -alities wasn’t quite up to the decadent-overkill standards of MK3, but they were nastier and more numerous than Deadly Alliances, and that was welcome – even if Scorpion did inexplicably rip off Sub-Zero’s signature kill this time around.
Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks (2005)
After the execrable horrors of Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub Zero and Mortal Kombat: Special Forces, Shaolin Monks was a shockingly non-shitty spinoff. Never mind that it single-handedly retconned huge chunks of Mortal Kombat’s storyline – as God of War-style beat ‘em-ups go, it was relentlessly entertaining. But it got really good if you could manage to unlock Scorpion and Sub-Zero as playable characters, thereby replacing silly Liu Kang and Kung Lao with their infinitely more awesome ninja counterparts.
For the first time, Shaolin Monks’ “ko-op” mode actually let the two rival ninjas work side-by-side, matching harpoon with ice blast to destroy the legions of Shao Kahn. Of course, if that’s not your thing (although we don’t know why it wouldn’t be), Shaolin Monks also featured a versus mode that turned the game into a Mortal Kombat-flavored take on Power Stone. Naturally, it also featured plenty of Fatalities for the unlocked characters – and while there were more to perform in the campaign, the ones on offer here were all that was needed for Scorpion and Sub-Zero to tear each other to ribbons once again.
Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (2006)
Call us suckers for anything old, but after seeing Sub-Zero and Scorpion go through so many changes in the last couple of 3D Mortal Kombats, it was actually kind of a relief to see them back in their more familiar costumes for the “final” MK. Moves-wise, Sub-Zero didn’t change too much for this iteration, although he did have a stunning close punch and a new, ass-chilling variation on the MK3 ice shower:
It was Scorpion who sported the most upgrades, however. Not only had his harpoon spear taken on a weird, clawlike appearance, but he could now knee-launch his opponents into the air and then yank them back to earth with it.
He also had a new variation on his old teleport punch, which came with a fake-out this time.
Perhaps best of all, the “new” Sub-Zero/Scorpion costumes were used to make giant-headed versions for Motor Kombat, Armageddon’s bizarre pack-in tribute to Mario Kart.
Then, of course, there are the Fatalities. Here’s the thing about Fatalities in Armageddon: rather than come up with unique ones for every last one of the insane multitude of characters, the developers came up with the “Kreate-a-Fatality” feature, which essentially turned Fatalities into gory, timed combos that weren’t unique to any one character. We’re not saying they aren’t interesting – they just aren’t interesting in a piece about specific characters. That said, though, here’s a picture of Scorpion tearing Sub-Zero’s brain out, just because we’ve always sort of wanted to see him do that.