Developments in the archaeological world aren't necessarily the first thing you'd expect to read about on Mortal Kombat Online -- or the first thing we'd expect to report -- but when it comes to uncovering the supposed bones of a vampire in Bulgaria [via Cosmic Log], well. That piques a certain MK interest.
Vampire Remains Discovered in Bulgaria [via MSNBC]
As we embrace the twentieth anniversary of the very beginnings of Mortal Kombat, we look back upon those early, seminal experiences with fond nostalgia. As important as those origins are, we mustn't forget that a mere ten years ago, in 2002, Mortal Kombat was undergoing another milestone of metamorphosis, with the release of the transformative Deadly Alliance.
Deadly Alliance did many things that arguably make it the beginning of an MK Silver Age. For the tried and true characters of the digitized '90s, it provided the first significant establishment of individual visual identity, bolstered by unique fighting styles that had eluded the series, even in its first 3D outing (MK4). Changing circumstances that utilized elements established in previous games, but weaved them in a whole new way, embellished and polished existing fiction to form the crux of a bold new game. Around these throughlines, new layers were added to a mythos that already stood out in the world of fighting games.
One of the unusual new elements added to Deadly Alliance was Nitara -- a character who still holds the distinction of being the first and only playable vampire in Mortal Kombat.
Twenty years later, it can sometimes be easy to overlook the fact that, like most enduring fighting games of the age, Mortal Kombat was very much a pastiche. Like Street Fighter II before it, the characters of Mortal Kombat represented familiar archetypes, if not literal living individuals. Borrowing heavily from the worlds of American and Hong Kong cinema, comic books, and mythology; Mortal Kombat was a pop cultural by-product, ready-made to incorporate established concepts with flair and ease.
Through tone and texture, MKII defined something identifiably Mortal Kombat, but it was inevitable that certain tried and true formulas would find their way back to the franchise, reacting with these trademarks. The incorporation of vampires was a natural fit. Afterall, Mortal Kombat had made its name on two visceral elements integral to the mythology of the modern vampire -- blood and death.
Nitara Battles Reptile in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (2002)
In-game mechanics defined vampires for Mortal Kombat, as much as any popular reference. For a game often perceived as being foreboding and dark, some of the more grim and morose elements of vampire mythology were left unreferenced, or at least, unspoken. Instead, the introduction of vampires brought with it a vague and simple MK twist, tying the species to another realm -- one of the many impacted by the machinations of Shao Kahn and Outworld.
As the MSNBC article describes, the Bulgarian skeleton was found with a piece of iron, conjuring images of irons classic occult properties, and the practise of iron rod impalements cited in other Bulgarian graves. Keeping the dead from becoming undead is a preoccupation found extensively in human superstition and pop myth, and is certainly an on-going concern for the heroes (and villains) of Mortal Kombat.
Ironically, MK vampires of the realm of Vaeternus (as it was revealed circa Armageddon), are quite the opposite of undead -- a romantic, elder species of bloodsucking immortals. The traditional concerns of elemental iron and impalement were brought to light, however, through the Ashrah wielded sword, Datusha.
Chinese for "massacre" -- the Datusha blade infuses a sense of Eastern mythology, along the lines of the Chinese taoist peach wood sword, used for slaying demons, or vampire equivalents. This particular sword [Datusha], we're told, goes so far as to possess its host, revealed in an online bio that expanded Nitara's participation in the compilation episode of Armageddon. This bio also introduced an ancient vampire martyr, Kahil Grigesh, responsible for slaying untold vampires before his redemption through ritual suicide, designed to trap the animate sword in the Netherrealm. A male vampire was revealed to have been in development for Deadly Alliance, but left abandoned by the final game [full story].
As a species noted to frequent Earthrealm, there's every implication that Nitara's people are the predecessors of Earth vampire mythologies, which may expand to accomodate branches of fanged human undead, bloodlusting impalers, or jiangshi hopping vampires. The latter, popular in martial arts movies of an appropriate vintage, remain apt fodder for the likes of Liu Kang and his kung fu brethren, should the option ever present itself.
Of the MK era just passed, there's a noted difficulty of relevance for characters who were, in part, created as part of tangent plotlines. Nitara may not have a stake in the battles between Earthrealm and Outworld, but with a universal grudge against Shao Kahn, and the recent introduction of his blood-borne assassin, Skarlet, you've got to think there's plenty of potential for some classic rivalry.
Nitara's Second Character Bio - Deadly Alliance (2002)
In this nostalgic Year of the Dragon, we're reminded, (via a strange bit of news), just how expansive the Mortal Kombat mythology has become over twenty years. As the newest saga of an alternate timeline fades, there remains a lot of unexplored territory for future instalments, and an elaborate canon to look back upon should the opportunity arise. Just as DC Comics has amassed an elaborate mythology, which NetherRealm Studios now commit themselves to; so too is MK a fact of the gaming canon, twenty years and running.
Nitara is one of the sixty-four characters featured in our unprecedented quest for a Supreme Mortal Kombat Champion! She faces Ashrah in tomorrows story fuelled grudge match of hunter and hunted! Make sure you're registered to add your vote to the biggest consensus ever pooled!