Mortal Kombat 1 acting as a reboot of the long-running fighting game franchise is a bold stroke, but looking at one of the changes made to a classic character shows off just how much potential lies in the overhaul. This isn't the first time the series has gone back to the drawing board, with 2011's Mortal Kombat returning to the first several tournaments while linking the narrative to its predecessor in the mainline saga, Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. This approach of maintaining some form of continuity while going back to the start is echoed in Mortal Kombat 1, although the results might be a little less convoluted.
Mortal Kombat 1 follows the good ending for Mortal Kombat 11's Aftermath DLC, in which Fire God Liu Kang gains power over the complex timeline of the series and returns to the past to mentor the Great Kung Lao. This reset offers a way for the Mortal Kombat tournaments to begin anew and provides an angle for new takes on classic characters in this reborn world. Although some character designs and concepts maintain the fundamentals of past iterations, others have taken the opportunity to explore new directions.
Mortal Kombat 1's Reptile Is A Great Evolution
Mortal Kombat's Reptile has been in the franchise from the very start, but Mortal Kombat 1 may be the first time that this character has truly gotten his due. His appearance in the first Mortal Kombat was a landmark inclusion as the first secret character in any fighting game, kick-starting a tradition that spread to many franchises and encompassed a number of iconic appearances. Originally created as a fusion of Scorpion and Sub-Zero in both color and playstyle, Reptile's long-standing Mortal Kombat presence has earned him a place that's fully his own.
Reptile's appearance in the series has traditionally been inconsistent, sometimes appearing with a human design and sometimes a humanoid, reptilian one. In Mortal Kombat 1, these two takes finally merge in both story and gameplay, with the character having the ability to shape-shift between forms. Not only does this make for exciting combat possibilities, but it also honors all of his prior appearances and offers something for fans of both approaches. Although Mortal Kombat 2 was the first game to give Reptile a unique fighting style, this ability marks Reptile as a truly distinct fighter from his origins as a Scorpion and Sub-Zero more than any other change to date.
Reptile Has A Better Story In Mortal Kombat 1
Reptile's changes in Mortal Kombat 1 aren't only centered on looks and gameplay. The shape-shifting concept of Reptile's new iteration also has narrative relevance, serving as the cornerstone of a new backstory for the character. Reptile's backstory has typically had some element of pathos, with most of his fellow Saurians being destroyed in Shao Kahn's invasion of the planet, although the extent of annihilation has varied across the years. However, it's also been submerged in some of the more distractingly chaotic elements of the Mortal Kombat narrative, like the Deadly Alliance ending that sees a laser firing out of the Great Dragon Egg to turn him into the Dragon King.
Mortal Kombat 1 finds a new center in the concept of Reptile as an outcast. His ability to turn human sets him apart from other Saurians, resulting in ostracization that made him ultimately leave Zaterra behind of his own accord to seek his fortune off-world. This gives Reptile more individuality and agency than the character ever possessed as a loyal lacky of Shao Kahn and a personal motivation that extends beyond his traditionally delusional view. The focus on shape-shifting also ties Reptile's personal struggles to his actual gameplay in a way that helps enhance the cohesion and relevance of the Mortal Kombat story.
Other Mortal Kombat 1 Characters Have Good Changes
Reptile might make the clearest case for the advantages of Mortal Kombat 1's fresh approach to the characters and story, but he's not the only one with a thoughtful redesign. Mileena is one great example of this that reflects a similar move toward an independent backstory. Rather than boasting a toothy Tarkatan maw as a result of being a genetic experiment conducted on Shao Kahn's request, Mileena is now struggling with a lethal disease that causes this horrifying side effect. Like Reptile, Mileena now has motivations independent of Shao Kahn's meddling and a more grounded, personal struggle to overcome.
The new iteration of Kitana also seeks to protect Mileena's secret so that her sister can take the throne one day, replacing their initially complicated genetic relationship with that of siblings. Even more radically, Scorpion and Sub-Zero become brothers in Mortal Kombat 1, upturning the nature of a rivalry at the core of the franchise. Starting the story again with relationships in place of long-running rivalries paves the way for new and interesting tensions to emerge, and there's little doubt that the violence and bloodshed that are sure to come in Mortal Kombat 1's story will shake things up as always.
Why Reptile Represents A Good Approach To Mortal Kombat
The changes to Reptile have implications beyond his own arc, as they point to an overall approach to the complete Mortal Kombat reboot that seems healthy for the franchise. Streamlining and grounding stories that have grown complicated, messy, and sometimes weightless over the years helps make Mortal Kombat 1 stand on its own, but core concepts behind characters aren't getting thrown out the window. While new avenues for relationships are being re-examined, elements like Reptile's exile or Mileena's unusual appearance are being maintained, bolstered by a new focus on human struggles.
Overhauling any aspects of a long-running franchise is sure to court some controversy, and the changes made in Mortal Kombat 1 will undoubtedly have some detractors. On the whole, however, the game seems to be taking an approach that honors key Mortal Kombat ideas at the same time as it strikes out on its own. Reptile may only be one character in Mortal Kombat 1, but his changes point to a number of possible strengths for the reboot of the series.