News late last week of the shock passing of music legend Prince has inspired an outpouring of mourning and tribute from fans the world over. The global pop sensation was prolific throughout the 1980s and '90s: as remembered for his unique visual signature and fashion sense, as his provocative music and lyrics.
Purple was the color of choice; forever associated with the musician thanks in no small part to his 1984 record and film: Purple Rain. Rolling Stone call the soundtrack the second greatest album of the eighties. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song Score that same year.
The success of Purple Rain led Warner Brothers to apply the resident artist to Tim Burton's 1989 Batman film. An odd combination complimented by the madcap antics of the purple villain Joker. Mortal Kombat and Prince may seem an even more unusual combination, but as many fans know: Series co-creator Ed Boon is a self-professed long time fan, who stumbled into his own living tribute to the artist through the game series, in 1995.
Kotaku jumped on the connection, pulling a quote from a 2011 interview with PlayStation.Blog:
PSB: Speaking of Rain, he was originally hinted at in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. What was the genesis of Rain?
Rain was me being a jerk, basically. [laughs] When we were working on Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, I was thinking “what ninja color have we not done yet?” … and I’m a huge Prince fan, so I was thinking Purple Rain. I was probably still listening to the album. There was no time to actually make a character, because the game was done. So I hacked into the attract screen a quick little sequence of this purple ninja running at Shao Kahn. We didn’t even have the word “Rain” in the powerbar, so I manually built it using our font. So I included this quick glimpse just to drive people crazy. Once Mortal Kombat Trilogy came out, we gave Rain new moves and he finally became a real character. Later we brought him back for Mortal Kombat Armageddon. That’s one of the things about Mortal Kombat: many of the characters have these goofy development histories. Noob Saibot, Reptile…all of these odd origin stories.
The palette swapped purple Rain was first made playable in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat Trilogy, before a lengthy hiatus led to a fully designed character arriving a decade later in Armageddon [above]. The character had no royal ties himself, but his Prince inspired origins clearly indirectly influenced his future, described in 2007 in an official bio:
The Edenian race is descended from the gods. That is the reason for our longevity, our nobility, and our strength. But I am more than a distant relation to the deities of old. I am a direct descendant of Argus himself. Only recently have I discovered my royal heritage. Quan Chi, an emissary of Shinnok, revealed to me that I am entitled to great power — and control of Edenia.
Rain has grown in popularity to become one of the cult favorites of the series. He returned recently in Mortal Kombat X, still fighting to acquire greater power as a non-playable character in the game's story mode. Rain also featured as an Invasion Boss in the online mode.
The main roster omission of Rain came as a surprise: the character featured among Mortal Kombat Online's pre-release Top 10 Returning Kombatants and continues to be a popular request. Annual fan voting determined Rain the seventh most popular missing MKXL character [full story]!
Will Rain finally return in a future sequel? Much like the velvet universe Prince created around his music - anything is possible in Mortal Kombat! With or without future appearances, purple Rain remains a curious living tribute to the influential pop culture phenomenon that Prince created.