In kinder, gentler times, children would gather each and every Easter Sunday, enjoying the simple pleasures of an annual hunt for chocolate eggs. These days, you probably more readily identify the tradition of "Easter Eggs" by pop culture's appropriation of hidden extras, and nestled nuggets of reference.
Mortal Kombat has made legendary use of easter eggs, milking a rich canon for hints and allusions, sometimes going so far as to hide kombatants themselves, deep within the game. At the beginning of the week, we talked about the impossible characters who existed in rumor and foolery [full story], but this Easter, the Mortal Kombat Online staff have crammed The Nexus to pick our Top 10 Secret Kharacters!
We found Reptile in: Mortal Kombat (1992)
When it comes down to it, you simply cannot go past the original!
Still famous for having haunted arcades, twenty years later; Reptile is the character who set the tone for mystery and easter eggs in Mortal Kombat forevermore! Combining the powers of Sub-Zero and Scorpion, Reptile was also ultimately the original "palette swap," posing a legitimate challenge to any player clever enough to decypher his taunting clues. Delivered sporadically at the beginning of rounds, Reptile's clues remain a beloved piece of MK history, "Look to La Luna" a lasting phrase familiar to gamers worldwide. Each clue was key to unlocking the secret battle, fought on The Pit after a double flawless fatality.
Singlehandedly programmed into the original game by Ed Boon, Reptile is the product of one KFC-fuelled weekend and a lasting moment of brilliance. MKO affiliate, tabmok99, loves everything about Reptile, but notes of his creation, "Blue + Yellow = Green. Boon's name for the character pretty much singlehandedly determined his storyline..."
Introduced as a fully realized character in Mortal Kombat II, albeit, still using the equivalent colour changed sprites as a foundation -- Reptile became an integral piece of the MK canon, vital to the elaboration of Outworld and the villains it spawned. ~Crow~ regards this as a defining quality, "I generally think of him only behind the original two ninja, in terms of popularity. His story arc has always been progressive (or regressive, in [the] case of appearances), and that's a rarity; with secret characters of any sort." It was this story derived from the character himself, of a survivor undergoing a strange metamorphosis, that ultimately won Ninja_Mime over, too, "I was never really a fan of Reptile until they finally fully embraced his reptilian side, in Deadly Alliance. There aren't enough characters with tails and non-stop flapping tongues in MK."
We found Ermac in: Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks (2005)
Widely misreported as a glitch from the first Mortal Kombat, Ermac was one of the rumored characters featured in our look back at another proud MK tradition, the fake character [read more]. Actually a hoax based on internal coding references ("Error Macros") -- Ermac didn't make his first official appearance until Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, but when he did, it was the beginning of a wonderful relationship.
The popularity of the character has supported a revisionist history that not only incorporated, but welcomed Ermac into the canon of the first game! Fan support culminated in his inclusion in the MKII inspired adventure retelling, Shaolin Monks, where he was hidden in the Warrior Shrine to be accessed by interacting with the statues therein. An unlikely source for one of the greatest easter eggs, but a worthy addition, no doubt.
Having filled the void of red on the increasing spectrum of palette swapped characters, Ermac finally blossomed into his own man in Deception, receiving the basic costuming he still wears today. Nephrite was won over by the review, "He was always fun to play as, but now he also got a brand new (amazing) design which to this day remains my all time favorite MK design (his MKD primary costume)." The change was enough to make Ermac a favourite for ~Crow~ and Mick-Lucifer, too. Fitting, ultimately, that a character comprised of multiple souls could represent the dichotomy of a design low and high for the MK series.
#3 Noob Saibot
We found Noob in: Mortal Kombat II (1993) & Mortal Kombat 4 (1997)
Receiving the award for most frequent secret character, Noob Saibot made his debut in Mortal Kombat II, appearing again in the two sequels that followed. Famously named after series co-creators Ed "Noob" Boon and John "Saibot" Tobias, Noob is another fine example of a character created from the most basic premise, starting life as a black palette swap of Scorpion.
Each appearance would add something new to Noob, until the black clad ninja was revealed to be a "wraith" of the Netherrealm, representing the mysterious Brothers of the Shadow -- emissaries of Shinnok. The masterstroke of the Noob story would ultimately come from his first appearance, however, when it was decided MKII's plot-twist of a new Sub-Zero would be the direct result of the previous Sub-Zero's death -- and rebirth as Noob. Alluded to in Shaolin Monks and clarified in Deception, the alteration sparked controversy within the fanbase, but ultimately made Noob a better character, adding brilliant new context to his MKII debut.
We found Smoke in: Mortal Kombat II (1993) & Mortal Kombat 3 (1995)
Another palette swap from the second game, Smoke proved perfect fodder for creating a throughline in developing plots into MK3. While Sub-Zero was fleeing his former masters, it was Smoke who played the role of victim in the story of the Lin Kuei forced automation, a pre-existing name opposite Cyrax and Sektor. This vital history has made him an ever evolving character, most recently reverted to human form, after teasing the concept of a living nano-cloud in Deception.
In a time when unlocking characters required increasingly elaborate sets of circumstances, Smoke became one of the most accessible and iconic hidden fighters from the first games. Teased in MKII's living forest, a well placed uppercut would be enough to trigger "Toasty" Dan Forden, and the means to fighting Smoke, in the Portal.
We found Blaze in: Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (2002)
The realization of a background detail featured in Mortal Kombat II -- Blaze was a simple and effective reward for players who went to the trouble of beating the games training Konquest Mode. Integrated into the Deadly Alliance plot by circumstances, rather than character, Blaze was allowed to remain a figure of mystery until Armageddon, when his secret history as an elementral construct created by the Elder God, Argus, was the catalyst for the entire game.
For his rise through the ranks, Ninja_Mime regards Blaze as a unique unlockable, "There aren't many characters in any series that have gone from an obscure background art element to a full blown boss character. This alone makes Blaze pretty notable." As a task oriented secret character who joined the plot, Blaze in many ways sums up a particular era for the MK secret.
We found Meat in: Mortal Kombat 4 (1997)
Incredibly silly, but a classically inventive and economic use of existing resources, Meat was MK having fun! Appearing first in MK4 as the composite construct of wireframe flesh skins, Meat later found his way into the completionists dream line-up in Armageddon. As a fun character created by Shang Tsung who serves Shinnok, you can't really fault Meat. He is what the name says -- Meat!
We found Jade in: Mortal Kombat II (1993)
Appearing with Smoke in the background of MKII's iconic Living Forest -- Jade has engendered a loyal following, but struggled to find lasting relevance in an increasingly expanding Kombat universe. Hinged on an affiliation with Kitana, she has sometimes been seen as superfluous, but with unique fighting gimmicks like her staff and boomerangs, Jade remains a character with immense potential, even if her first appearance is overshadowed by the other hidden characters.
#8 Khameleon & Chameleon
We found them in: Mortal Kombat Trilogy (1996)
A run through tournament mode would make fighting either incarnation a pinch, but for barriers to entry, Khameleon has the distinction of requiring the purchase of a Nintendo 64. Exclusive to the Nintendo version of Trilogy, Khameleon has been the more enduring of the "hidden treasure" fighters, both selectable rewards upon completion of the compilation title. The popularity of the console in the United States may bolster Khameleon, but her status has remained noteworthy, buoyed by specific plotlines tying her to Reptile and the survival of the "Saurian" race. Chameleon -- a translucent male with the powers of all the palette swap "ninjas" -- hasn't received that specific an induction into the canon, still a mystery, even after appearing as a late inclusion into Armageddon.
We found Raiden in: Unreal Championship 2 (2005), NFL Blitz (1997) & NBA Jam: Tournament Edition (1994)
Sometimes, MK secret characters find their way into completely unrelated franchises! As the protectoral god of Earthrealm, Raiden has been one of the enduring faces of Mortal Kombat, increasing in significance with each subsequent instalment. It makes sense, then, that he would be among the characters to have crossed over into other titles, the most memorable of them being Unreal Championship 2.
Notorious for indulging heavily in the success of their marquee franchise, former MK owners, Midway Entertainment, could always be counted on to include one or two Kombat cameos in a new title. NBA Jam was to have seen the creation of a special Soul Chamber basketball court, but controversy surrounding MK at the time led to distance between the two brands [full story]. Jam also featured the MKII palette swaps, Scorpion, Sub-Zero and Reptile. Shinnok joined Raiden in NFL Blitz, while the palette swaps had all the fun in The Grid, Scorpion, Sub-Zero and Noob, this time.
We found Skarlet in: Mortal Kombat (2011)
Like Ermac, Skarlet began life as a rumor, but in 2011, the red femme fatale burst onto the scene as the only new addition to the playable line-up. Not an unlockable character in the traditional sense, Skarlet arguably represents secret characters for the DLC generation -- a character that was teased virally and in gameplay previews, before being released later as downloadable content.
In an age where savvy gamers are able to dissect code and files from discs in a matter of hours, the classic video game secret is in fast becoming extinct. Many other developers have abandoned unlockable characters all together, describing them as old fashioned and redundant. It would take a truly conceited effort to hide characters on a disc in 2012, but Mortal Kombat persists, holding on to one or two surprises with each release. At some point, will this be the exclusive domain of purchases, or is it simply time to get sneaky, rather than creative?
Regarding Noob Saibot, tabmok99 submits, "... in MKII, he didn't have his own lifebar text; it was programmed specifically by extracting letters from other lifebars so that dedicated MKII fans who went through the extra step of hacking the arcade boards would not be able to find out about Noob."
These are our favourite unlockable characters. There aren't too many more, there certainly are others. Some are version-specific, others simply didn't make the cut. Share your favourite easter eggs and unlockable kombatants on the forums!
2012 marks 20 years of Mortal Kombat! Join the nostalgia by posting your memories in the Year of the Dragon thread. For more updates and stories, follow @MK_Online and like us on Facebook.