Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Kitana Retrospective - Part III: Fall From Grace

As explained in Part I & Part II, Kitana—assassin & step-daughter of Shao Kahn turned rebellious & heroic Princess of Edenia—was a rich character with (for a fighting game) dimension, motivation, development, conflict, and agency who grew over the course of the series into a strong hero and leader.
Not surprisingly, combined with her striking look and memorable choice of weapons, she emerged as a beloved fan favorite and icon of the franchise.

Here's where things turn sour.

Now, as I've tried to keep clear, a great deal of Mortal Kombat's "depth" is reading between lines, connecting dots, and filling in gaps. In regard to Kitana in particular, I've tried to maintain a distinction between what is actually presented in the game's story and what is me putting pieces together.

Because Mortal Kombat is, first and foremost, a video game—meant to be played. For better and worse, the story is a low priority for the developers and they are pretty much making it up as they go along. This can be good when it leads the type of organic storytelling I talked about in the previous post, which is partly what made Kitana a solid character to begin with. But it also means there's likely little-to-no plan or deliberate consistency.

So when I talk about the thematic meaning of Kitana's battles with Mileena, the full implications of her internal conflict to redeem herself, and how her story can be interpreted with Joseph Campbell's Monomyth...that's me reading into the story, and no, I'm sure the developers of Mortal Kombat do not/did not have any of that in mind when making the game.

I'm pointing this out because, when I say things are going to go bad for Kitana, I'm sure some probably think it's because the developers did something or took the character in a direction that didn't sync up with my interpretations and I'm mad they've clashed with my personal head-canon.

Believe me...if only it was that simple. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Kitana Retrospective - Part II: Rebel to Princess

Welcome back to my retrospective on Mortal Kombat's resident assassin princess, Kitana.

In my last post, I covered her debut in Mortal Kombat II and went on at length about her motivation, conflicts, agency, and rivalry with Mileena. 
When we last left her in the story, she'd just fought and killed her demented clone, outing herself as a traitor to Shao Kahn.

And from here, things are really going to pick up as Earth gets invaded, friends turn against her, her mother returns, and Kitana grows into a Princess and leader.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Kitana Retrospective - Part I: The Assassin

Once upon a time, I was a huge Mortal Kombat mark. I was there in the beginning, and I stuck with the series through the highs and lows for a long time.

One of the things that kept me coming back was the storyline and its characters. If anything can be said about MK, it has probably the most ambitious—if not always coherent or consistent—story of any fighting game, and I was one of the idiots that obsessed with its lore.

The thing one must understand about Mortal Kombat's story is—at least until recently—it was like a puzzle. Every character had their little bio at the beginning of the game, explaining who they are and why they're there, and their little ending when you beat the game, explaining what might have happened to them.
These were your puzzle pieces—disconnected and with no inherent structure—and you wouldn't know which endings came true and which ones didn't until the next game, if you found out at all.

As such, how good (or not good) the Mortal Kombat story was depended on how you put the puzzle together. One person can look at the story for what it is and see an incoherent mess. Someone else might put it together into a simple, straight-forward story that—although not ground-breaking or terribly original—might at least make sense. And finally there are those who really try to put the story together and find something worth a damn.

I was one of the guys that always tried to make sense of the story, read between the lines, and make it out to be something grand and epic...within reason. There are some who go too far with that and find connections and meanings based on nothing. I always tried to stay within the bounds of confirmed canon.

What I'd like to do here is focus a couple of posts on one character that would emerge as my personal favorite—who also happens to be one of the franchise's most beloved and iconic characters: Kitana.

Credit: joshwmc
Kitana is a character with a rich history within Mortal Kombat's lore and is one of the few characters in the franchise to undergo an actual arc throughout the story. She's also, unfortunately, been the victim of some horrendous character derailment that has, in the eyes of many fans, tarnished her.

So strap in as I ramble on at great length about a fictional video game character, beginning with her rise: what made her such a stand-out character and, for my money, one of Mortal Kombat's best creations—then going into her fall: how and where it all went wrong.