The evolution of Scorpion and Sub-Zero

Two ninjas, 19 years of Mortal Kombat, and one shared destiny

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe (2008)

Although we’re not the biggest fans of MK’s 10-years-overdue outing with the Justice League, it’s nonetheless an important precursor to the upcoming Mortal Kombat. Not only did it dump the last three games’ relatively clunky fighting system for something faster and more streamlined (and much more similar to the upcoming game), but it established the current appearances of a lot of the characters – including Scorpion and Sub-Zero. Apart from some obvious differences (mostly in their sashes and some of the detail on their facemasks), their designs are near-identical to the 2011 versions, with Scorpion trading in his skuill facemask for a bonier model, and Sub-Zero adopting a fiercer, slicker version of his old ninja look.

MKvsDCU also gave both of the ninjas a handful of fun new moves, like Sub-Zero’s ability to just haul off and drop huge blocks of ice on his opponents’ heads.

It also gave him a self-icing parry move – which, once again, appears to be just another stand-in for the ice-clone move. Seriously, guys, what’s wrong with the ice clone? Why can’t you make up your minds about whether you like it or not? Is it really such a divisive thing?


Above: SIGH


Above: At least this time Sub-Zero busts out the Kori blade when the trap is sprung

Finally – and this was overdue for those of us who like symmetry between fighting-game rivals – MKvsDCU gave Sub-Zero a teleport move of his very own, in which he turns into a creepy ice mummy, falls backward to the ground…

… and then pops up right behind his opponent.


Above: EEEEEEEEEEEE

Of course, Scorpion wasn’t about to be outdone, coming back with a teleport punch that would full-on uppercut his opponent into the air.

Also, in the interest of pulling the “opposite number” card, Scorpion could immolate himself – along with anyone else who got too close.


Above: Stupid, stupid Sub-Zero

Oh, and he had his slide-takedown move from Mortal Kombat II again, or at least a strange variation on it:

Also of mild interest is that Scorpion retained his iconic harpoon for the T-rated MKvsDCU, with blood effects intact – although if you look closely, his victims tend to put their hands over the wound, probably to hide it from the view of impressionable kids.


Above: Quick, Sub-Zero! Think of the children!

MKvsDC also featured something new for the franchise: close-up beatdowns, governed by a rock-paper-scissors-style counter system, which gave players a chance to better appreciate the damage that appeared on their characters mid-fight.


Above: Scorpion can’t keep his dopey Skeletor mug hidden if you kick his facemask to pieces

As toned-down as it was, MKvsDC still retained Fatalities (or, if you were playing as a DC hero, “Heroic Brutalities”). They weren’t terribly bloody, and in some cases weren’t even all that fatal-looking. In the ninjas’ case, however, they at least recalled some of the duo’s classic finishers, which is better than nothing.


Mortal Kombat (2011)

That brings us to the final and most current entry – and full circle back to the beginnings of the franchise (story-wise, at least). As the new Mortal Kombat’s plotline covers the events of the first three games (with some alterations), we once again get two versions of Sub-Zero, this time with given names. The older brother, Bi-Han, shows up at the beginning, only to eventually get toasted by Scorpion – and, eventually, to resurface as wraith-ninja Noob Saibot, which isn’t a spoiler if you’ve paid attention to the plots of earlier games. He’s soon replaced by his younger brother, Kuai Liang, who dresses identically and carries the Sub-Zero mantle through the rest of the game.

Meanwhile, Scorpion is the same rage-filled badass he’s always been, once again out for blood after the destruction of his clan. His moves appear to be similar to what he sported in MKvsDC, complete with the teleport punch, the ability to summon hellfire and – of course – his classic harpoon, now restored to its former bloodiness.

The relationship between the two (or three) ninjas hasn’t changed much in spite of the reboot, although the second Sub-Zero doesn’t seem terribly receptive to the idea of having Scorpion as a protector, seeing as he’s now intent on avenging his older brother’s death. There is, however, one new wrinkle that promises to skew any future interplay between the two ninjas…

The tidbit we’re about to reveal was leaked a while ago, and has been floating around on the internet for some time – but if you’ve been avoiding any spoilers relating to the new MK’s story, you should probably stop reading and navigate away now.

Because the new MK is an in-canon reboot that begins at the end of Armageddon and then rewinds to the start of the first tournament, there are a few notable differences in the new timeline. One of them is that – when the Lin Kuei begin turning their assassins into cybernetic horrors just before MK3 – Sub-Zero is captured and given a cybernetic “upgrade” instead of his ally Smoke. Finding this out unlocks Cyber Sub-Zero as a new, playable character, complete with a slightly different move set and a creepy robot body. It’s easily the most drastic evolution Sub-Zero has undergone to date, and it’ll be interesting to see how or if it alters his story down the road – and also to see how fans react to it once they’ve seen the transformation for themselves. .

At least we won’t have to wait too much longer to find out.

Apr 12, 2011


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.
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