My Strange Relationship with Mortal Kombat.
“Oh, thank goodness! Johnny Cage is coming back for Mortal Kombat 11!” I said this today. Out loud. With complete sincerity. Never in a million years would I have thought that Johnny Cage was going to become my favorite Mortal Kombat character. But stranger things have happened… like still being excited about Mortal Kombat games after all these years, and I say that with complete sincerity as well.
I remember when I first encountered Mortal Kombat. It was the first one. The old-school, upright arcade game. You had to go to the arcade to play it. It blew my mind. Sure, the Fatalities were a big deal back then (remember all the controversies they caused?), but what captured me were the characters. There was just something about that original cast that hooked me. Probably Scorpion’s spear.
My fascination only grew when Mortal Kombat 2 was released. The convenience store next to my high school had it, and my friends and I pumped endless quarters into that thing. If the roster of the first Mortal Kombat hooked me, the roster of the sequel got me addicted. Kung Lao and Reptile were my boys. I loved the Friendship system (I really miss that). But most of all, it was the story of Mortal Kombat 2 that hooked me. It was the first time I’d seen a fighting game follow a clear story progression from one game to another, picking a clear winner of the previous title and moving the roster’s relationships forward. I had to know more.
I enjoyed Mortal Kombat 3, and while that roster introduced some memorable characters, they didn’t hook me as completely as the previous two entries. I skipped MK4 altogether, and the attempts at non-fighting-game storyline games. For a few years, Mortal Kombat and I weren’t on speaking terms. I think I hopped back in around Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, where they made the bold decision to officially kill off a major member of the roster. And so I was back. I followed the story through Deadly Alliance to Deception to Armageddon, not realizing I had been following the gory adventures of these characters for decades. I didn’t directly play Mortal Kombat 9, but I followed the story thanks to uploaded clips. My years-long, on-and-off relationship with Mortal Kombat was continuing, but always with more amusement than excitement.
And then came Mortal Kombat X. This was, for me, the best entry in the game’s history. A great storyline, a robust cast, and a joy to play. It was this storyline that, as stated above, turned an aging Johnny Cage into my favorite character on the roster. I cared more for these characters than I anticipated. After all, this was a fighting game famous for its gory Fatalities! Why would there be character arcs in this game? But there they were, and there I enjoyed them. I played the hell out of MKX and enjoyed every second of it.
Mortal Kombat 11 will be out in about two months. I’ve been following the roster reveals with less-than-secret glee. Johnny Cage will be back. I’m crossing my fingers that my boy Reptile will return, too. I’m excited to continue my strange relationship with a gory fighting game whose cast of characters has become a staple in my nerd life.
Johnny’s new Fatality is funny as hell, too.