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LONG BLOG

Challenger Approaching: The Arch Nemesis Ninjas

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Quick! Name the two most recognizable video game characters.

Mario and Pac-Man. Obviously.

Besides them.

Probably Sonic and Pikachu. Maybe Donkey Kong.

No no no. Well, yeah, probably. How about, name the two most recognizable fighting game characters.

All of those characters are fighting game characters. You should know that. This is a Smash Bros. blog, after all.

You know what I mean. Dedicated fighting game characters.

Oh. In that case, Ryu and...

No no no! We're talking about Scorpion and Sub-Zero!

Mortal Kombat is one of the most famous games in the medium. They say it began its development based on Jean-Claude Van Damme. That didn't quite pan out, so the brainchild of Ed Boon and John Tobias became its own beast. Released in 1992, it took the game world by storm. Its ultra-violent approach to fighting games would not only make it a formidable rival to then-genre king Street FIghter, but also to concerned parents. In addition to spawning tons of sequels and spin-offs, Mortal Kombat can also count the ESRB rating system as part of its legacy.

The series has created an entire cavalcade of memorable characters, but there is no question that Scorpion and Sub-Zero are its most popular. Two ninjas, garbed in yellow and blue respectively, have captured fans hearts since the beginning, my own included. It's not hard to see why. I can't be the only one for whom the appeal was "come for the cool outfits, stay for the aweseome powers." The relationship has only cemented itself from there. The two ninjas are pretty much the de facto mascots for the series, and when they're not around, they are sorely missed.

With Mortal Kombat being such a beloved game, it's only natural that its fans would like to see somebody join Mega Man and Snake among SSB's third party lineup. It makes sense that the most suited character for the position would be the most recognizable, and in that regard, there's not question that it would be one of these two.

WHO ARE SCORPION AND SUB-ZERO?

If you're unfamiliar with Mortal Kombat's plot, it tells of an interdimensional war. The warlords of Outworld long to invade Earth. In order to keep things fair, the Elder Gods have forced the realms to settle their differences in a martial arts tournament, pitting the two sides' best warriors against each other. The original trilogy follows Raiden's chosen heroes as they battle to ward off invasion from Shao Kahn's forces of darkness.

Despite being the most popular characters, Scorpion and Sub-Zero are only tangentially related to the main plot. Their story arc has more to do with each other. The plot puts them in their own conflict, which only occasionally intersects with the conflict between the realms.

Shortly before the first Mortal Kombat, Sub-Zero of the Lin Kuei would attack and wipe out a rival ninja clan. One of these warriors would rise from the grave. Calling himself Scorpion, the undead ninja vowed to avenge his family's murder so his soul could rest in peace. He tracked Sub-Zero to the Mortal Kombat tournament, in which he would enter and successfully get his revenge. (It should be noted that Sub-Zero and the Lin Kuei's role in the tournament is unclear, as it has been retconned in different games.)

Scorpion's peace would be short lived when word reached him that Sub-Zero, somehow alive and well, had entered into the second Mortal Kombat. This new warrior was actually the younger brother of the original Sub-Zero, who had entered the tournament to bait out his brother's killer and - of course - have revenge. It soon became obvious to Scorpion that this new Sub-Zero was not the same person; they reconciled and formed an alliance to help Earthrealm.

In the events of Mortal Kombat 3, in which Shao Kahn uses some good ol' fashioned loophole abuse to invade Earth despite losing the tournaments, Scorpion continued to ally himself with Raiden and his pals. Sub-Zero was caught up in the drama unfolding within his own clan. The Lin Kuei had developed the technology to convert their warriors into cyborgs, something they had already done with two of Sub-Zero's compatriots. Sub-Zero and his friend Smoke chose to retain their humanity, creating a feud among the Lin Kuei. Smoke was forced to become a cyborg, but with coaxing from Sub-Zero, kept his true self alive, and the two defeated their former clan.

Also during this time, another warrior would appear on the scene. A shadow-like assassin named Noob Saibot, he would linger in the background, remaining a mystery until after Shao Kahn's defeat. Noob Saibot was in fact the original Sub-Zero who was killed by Scorpion, now serving the rulers of the Netherrealm. The warriors would clash again during the conquest of Earth by Shinnok and Quan Chi. During this time it was revealed that one responsible for the massacre of Scorpion's clan was actually Quan Chi, who had orchestrated the event in order to manipulate the fighters for his own cause. This revelation would further put to rest the harsh feelings between Scorpion and Sub-Zero.

After Earthrealm's victory in MK4, the characters would go on to have further adventures throughout the rest of the series. History would repeat itself after and before Armageddon, when the world's doom inspired Raiden to send a message to his past self in hopes of preventing catastrophe. In this alternate timeline, most of these preceding events would remain the same. However, this time around, it was Sub-Zero who would be transformed into a cyborg rather than Smoke. Now the two continue their adventures in the recently released Mortal Kombat X, now available on PC, PS4, and X-Box One.

Whew. That was a lot to type.

HOW WOULD SCORPION WORK?

A key component of Mortal Kombat is the violence. It's filled to the brim with blood and gore, which is a selling point for fans. Obviously we can't have Scorpion and Sub-Zero ripping Mario's spine out, so that would tone down the violence factor quite a bit. That doesn't mean that Nintendo can't draw on the home series for inspiration. The good thing about having a fighting game character cross over to another fighting game is that all the base work is already done. All of the ninjas' basic moves and aerials could come straight from Mortal Kombat with few alterations.

From a design standpoint, I think that Scorpion and Sub-Zero should stick closer to their original outfits. That doesn't mean I don't like the recent versions, I just feel that the classic outfits with the plain ol' colored sashes would be a better fit for the aesthetic of Smash Brothers.

As far as Scorpion's moves go, I think it's about as straightforward as it gets. As mentioned, his basic moves would be hand-to-hand stuff taken more or less from the MK games. In terms of specials, Scorpion has three major recurring abilities throughout the series, each of which matches up pretty much perfectly with one of the special inputs from Smash.
The first is Scorpion's spear throw. He throws a spear (with a rope attached) at his opponent. When it hits, it ensnare's Scorpion's foe, allowing Scorpion to pull him into close range to commence a beat down. It's Scorpion's signature move and would be a perfect side special with almost no changes from the MK game.

The next big staple of Scorpion is his fire breath fatality. Scorpion takes off his mask to reveal that he's actually Ghost Rider. He then blasts flames at his opponent, burning them to a crisp. It's likely the most prolific fatality in the entire series, and has appeared in almost every game that has featured Scorpion. We're not going to let Scorpion murder his opponents in Super Smash Brothers, but that doesn't mean it can't make some kind appearance. Bowser and Charizard both have neutral specials that involve them breathing fire at a downward angle, pretty much exactly like Scorpion's fatality, minus the whole "agonizing death" thing. The same move would fit quite nicely as the ninja's n-special as well.

Scorpion's teleport punch would be the perfect up special. I imagine it working very similarly to Meta Knight's invisibility move. Scorpion would vanish in a burst of flame. In the split second before he reappears, the player would be able to input which direction they want him to go in, including up or down. This would allow it to work as a vertical recovery move in addition to being an attack.

That only leaves the down special. Scorpion has an entire arsenal of fire, weapon, and movement based attacks to draw on for that one. However, my favorite idea for that would be a Mortal Kombat mainstay, the ever present uppercut. It's a really popular move that's used by every character in pretty much every game. The reason I choose it for a down special is simply because the control inputs would be nearly identical to how it's used in Mortal Kombat, making it a perfect shout out to Scorpion's parent series.

On the other hand, it would also work very well as an up smash. The move's puprose in Mortal Kombat is to throw your opponent a long distance, so it makes sense to be a smash move in SSB. As a little bonus, it could be grouped with the classic roundhouse and sweep kicks as the side and down smash, completing the trifecta. As long as the uppercut is part of Scorpion's arsenal, I'd be happy.

There is a lot of room for creativity for Scorpion's Final Smash. Pretty much anything involving fire or bladed weapon or a ninja move. It stands to reason that his ultimate move in Smash would be based on a fatality. The problem is that MK's fatalities are, well, they're MK's fatalities. As much as I'd love to see Diddy Kong get what's coming to him, we can't exactly have characters dismembering each other. The aforementioned skull/fireball could work with a giant fire blast.

If it were my decision, I would probably have Scorpion open a portal to the Netherrealm. Maybe an entrapment type, where he sucks the enemies into a portal then launches them out. Another idea would be based on one of his MK3 fatalities. In this one, Scorpion summons a giant flaming skeleton hand to crush his opponent. The same concept was reused Shinnok in MK4. Maybe the hand would come out and smack or punch opponents around. Maybe it would have Master Hand's move set and stick around to help for a little while like an assist trophy.

Scorpion needs to have a joke taunt. His other taunts could be cool ninja or fire poses, but one of them has to be completely off the wall. For that, I have the perfect idea. Going back to MK3, the characters had a special kind of fatality called "Animalities," in which they would transform into an animal and maul their opponent. So what do you think Scorpion's was? Seriously, what animal do you think a guy named Scorpion would turn into?

Give up?

It was a penguin. If Scorpion was in Smash Bros., it would be completely unacceptable to not have him transform into a penguin for one of his taunts. It would be a great little shout-out for longtime fans, while everybody else would baffled by the sheer absurdity of it.

And finally, Smash would need to feature that classic Mortal Kombat Easter Egg, "Toasty!" My first thought was have it as a taunt, by why not make it the same as MK? When certain conditions are met, maybe when Scorpion KO's with a certain attack, a little face pops up in the corner and yells "Toasty!" It would have to be a rare occurence, lest it lose the novelty or get annoying. There are different possibilities for the face as well. Maybe it could be Mario's, or one of the Nintendo staff like Sakurai or Miyamoto. Maybe it would be the classed Dan Forden face but every once in a while be somebody else. I don't care, it just has to be there.

HOW WOULD SUB ZERO WORK?

Very similarly to Scorpion. As mentioned above, most of his basic attacks could come straight out of MK games. Furthermore, however the uppercut and kick moves were implemented with Scorpion, Sub-Zero's use would have to be identical. In Mortal Kombat, those moves are shared by every member of the cast, so it would have to be the same for our two ninjas in this game.

The real issue is how would freezing work? Super Smash Bros. does feature freezing in the form of a little ice item that, when thrown, encases an opponent inside of a glacier. This is a major effect, as it's very hard to break out of and takes a long time to cease, even if the entrapped fighter is taking a lot of damage. There are some characters who have stunning attacks, but these attacks are typically very close range, short lived, and have some kind of drawback. Even Ice Climbers and Lucas can freeze, but the effect is unreliable and not powerful enough to be an accurate reflection of Sub-Zero's ice powers.

If Sub-Zero could reliably and continuously freeze opponents from across the screen, it would break the game. All it would take would be a grab-throw followed by an n-special for an instant KO. A player with good reflexes could win the game in a matter of seconds. In order to keep things fair, SSB would have to feature a whole new freeze condition just for Sub-Zero.

His basic ice ball would be a charged projectile like Samus or Lucario's n-special. The longer it was charged, the stronger the freeze. A quick tap would be incredibly weak; it would break after one hit, dissipate on its own after a split second, and the entrapped player would be able to break out with only a couple button presses. On the flip side, a fully charged shot would be the same as hitting them with the ice item. Charging it up that far would have to take a long time to keep things fair.

Subby has no shortage of teleportation and flying kicks for an up special, but I would like to see him use the ice clone. He does a somersault in the air, leaving behind a blue afterimage that freezes opponents when they touch it. This would be subject to the same balance issues as above. It would not be a charged move, so the freeze effect would need a static amount of power, probably on the lower end.

The most obvious option for a side special is Sub-Zero's recurring slide move. My problem with this is that it would be too easy to dodge in Smash, and it also lacks any kind of visual flair. If it were included, it would have to be modified into a more impressive variation, maybe leavign an ice trail behind it like the enhanced version from MK9.

All of Sub-Zero's fatalities involve him freezing an opponent and shattering them or just flat out dismembering them. There really isn't much to draw on for inspiration of a Final Smash, so we have to look to his regular moves. I nominate a souped-up version of the Ice Shower. Normally just a vertical freeze move, in this case Subby could shoot a powerful ice blast into the air, which then rains down upon the arena like Ness's final smash, freezing anyone it hits.

Sub-Zero also needs at least one silly taunt. In keeping with his powers, Sub-Zero would conjur up a cute little snowman.
Unlike Scorpion, who pretty much looks the same in all of his appearances, there are several options for Sub-Zero to have an alternat costume. He could appear as both a masked and unmasked version. There's the cyborg version, a black Noob Saibot pallet swab wouldn't be out of place either.

WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENING?

I'd say they have...

(•_•)
( •_•)>⌐■-■
(⌐■_■)

...a snowball's chance in Hell. YYYEEEAAAHHH!!!

It's hard to imagine what Nintendo and Netherrealm studios actually feel about each other. In my overly dramatic mind, I see years of animosity given the radically different philosophies on gaming, the spotty system support on NR's part, and the censorship years ago. That's probably not true, though. I've Googled the issue and have seen radically different stuff on both ends of the spectrum, making it really hard to gauge where the companies stand. I doubt there's any real hard feelings there. Even still, though, the violent world of Mortal Kombat still doesn't seem like a good fit for a Nintendo crossover.

Then I think of Solid Snake. When third party characters started showing up in Brawl, there was plenty of potential, such as Mega Man and Pac-Man who made it into SSB4. But why Solid Snake? While not as gory as Mortal Kombat, Metal Gear is certainly a lot darker and more adult than other franchises represented in Smash. Other than a Gamecube exclusive MGS remake, it wasn't like the series had any major obligation to the Big N, either. The main reason that Solid Snake was featured in Brawl is because Hideo Kojima asked for him to featured. That's it.

And who can blame him? What creator wouldn't want to see their creations featured alongside Mario and Link? I doubt Nintendo would ever consider any MK characters for Super Smash Bros., but that doesn't mean they would be closed to the idea if somebody else brought it up.

So if anybody happens to talk to Ed Boon, tell him to give Sakurai a call.

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About Adam Pone of us since 10:34 PM on 04.28.2013

My name is Adam. I've been gaming as far back as I can remember, ever since the NES my parents owned when I was a wee lad. Writing has been a passion of mine for almost as long, and I've made quite a hobby out of combining the two pastimes.

I have a very wide taste in gaming. I'll give just about anything a shot, regardless of age, genre, or hardware. I like to think of gaming as an entertainment medium in the same vein as literature and film rather than a simple toy.

When I'm not writing or playing, you might find me in church, in the woods (probably on a four wheeler and/or carrying a gun), or in my room playing my guitar.