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By Thomas Wheeler

I continue to be amazed at the video game world, and how, with all the astounding diversity of games out there, from cutesy stuff featuring characters like My Little Pony and the Smurfs, to savage battlefield games of war and combat on worlds real and imagined, that any single concept can manage to rise above this cacophany of electronic entertainment and become a truly established part of the pop culture world.

But happen it does, and certainly one of the most enduring video game concepts of all time is MORTAL KOMBAT. It's been around now for something like twenty years, and has certainly achieved an astounding level of popularity shared by very few others.

In my opinion, one of the hallmarks of the success of a video game concept is its ability to go beyond its source material and to achieve popularity in other aspects of the pop culture world. This is something that Mortal Kombat has certainly done. It's had an animated series, two live-action movies, a television series, a fair number of comic books, and -- action figures. Although it hasn't been quite as prolific in the action figure world as some other concepts.

The first Mortal Kombat action figure line was produced by Hasbro, in the mid-1990's. On the heels of their successful Street Fighter line, which was based on the 3-3/4" G.I. Joe action figure format, Hasbro followed suit with Mortal Kombat. This presented not only the very intriguing ability to team up entirely compatible versions of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat characters, something that wasn't possible anywhere else, but throw in the forces of G.I. Joe and Cobra, if one so desired.

Unfortunately, the line was fairly short-lived. After a second assortment that was semi-based on the first live-action Mortal Kombat movie, the line faded, and it never really got past characters from the first video game. A sincere shame, although it remains a very decent action figure line, and is to date the only Mortal Kombat action figure line to offer a figure of the four-armed monstrous warrior known as Goro!

Years later, a larger-scale line of Mortal Kombat figures was produced by a company called JazWares. Although impressive in appearance, the quality was quite frankly dreadful. The figures were made from a rather poor quality, lightweight, fragile plastic, and tended to fall apart rather readily, especially around articulation points. It didn't last long, nor did it especially deserve to.

Now, there's a new Mortal Kombat line, featuring both 4" and 6" figures of the popular characters, in their most recent as well as more iconic classic (or "Klassic", as they're spelling it) incarnations. My initial thought was "Cool!" Then I learned that the maker was once again JazWares. And my enthusiasm was watered down with a measure of concern based on previous experience.

As before, the figures looked impressive. But how were they really? I ultimately purchased a set of figures, the three cyber-ninjas: Sektor, Cyrax, and Smoke (see separate review), figures which Hasbro had never gotten around to back in the 1990's, and as it turned out, I was pleasantly surprised. Most of the quality issues from the previous, larger line from years prior had been dealt with. The figures were far more solid, and articulation problems were certainly minimized. So, I decided, as I was able, that I would bring a few others in.

Certainly among the most popular characters within the Mortal Kombat universe are the ninjas, and there's certainly no shortage of them. Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Reptile, and others, have been among the top characters in the concept. Sub-Zero even warranted his own video game at one point. Although these days, they tend to have very individual likenesses, back in the "Klassic" days of the earlier video games, they all pretty much looked alike, except for whatever primary color their ninja costume happened to be.

I've always liked the various Mortal Kombat ninjas myself, and JazWares decided to make it possible to obtain most of them in a six-pack that featured Sub-Zero, Rain, Smoke, Noob Saibot, Ermac, and Reptile.

But -- there was somebody missing from that group -- one of the most prominent and popular ninjas and characters in the entire Mortal Kombat concept -- SCORPION!

Fortunately, he was available separately (as were some of the others) in the individually carded assortment, and he was entirely compatible with the others, so I was ultimately able to add him to my collection, as well.

Let's briefly consider at least some of the history of the Mortal Kombat games, and then of Scorpion himself.

Mortal Kombat was created by Ed Boon and John Tobias. The first four renditions and their updates were developed by Midway Games and initially released on arcade machines. The arcade titles were later picked up by Acclaim Entertainment for the home console conversions. Beginning with Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, Midway Games exclusively created home versions of Mortal Kombat up until Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. Following Midway's bankruptcy, the franchise was picked up by Warner Bros. in July 2009 and became a part of the Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Branch.

The original three games and their updates, Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II, Mortal Kombat 3, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, and Mortal Kombat Trilogy, were styled in a 2-D fighting fashion, especially noted for its realistic digitized characters, based on live-action footage, which differentiated it from its contemporaries' hand-drawn characters. Mortal Kombat 4 brought the series into 3D, replacing the digitized fighters of previous games with CGI models.

Mortal Kombat started development in 1991 with only four people: Ed Boon, John Tobias, John Vogel, and Dan Forden. As to the game's name, Ed Boon stated for six out of the eight months while they were in production of Mortal Kombat, "...nobody could come up with a name nobody didn't hate." Some of the names suggested were "Kumite", "Dragon Attack", "Death Blow", and even at one point, "Fatality". Someone had written down "combat" on the drawing board for the names in Ed Boon's office and someone wrote a K over the C, according to Ed Boon, "...just to be kind of weird..." Steve Ritchie, a pinball designer at that time, was sitting in Ed Boon's office and saw the word "Kombat" and said to Ed Boon, 'Why don't you name it Mortal Kombat?' and according to Ed Boon, that name "just stuck."

The team switched from digitized actors to motion capture technology: "To make the characters in video games more realistic, actors are being recruited to serve as models. Midway, the video-game company that made Mortal Kombat, has created a special 'motion capture studio' for this purpose. A martial-arts expert with as many as 100 electronic sensors taped to his body sends precise readings to a camera as he goes through his moves—running, jumping, kicking, punching. The action is captured, digitized and synthesized into a 'naked' wire-frame model stored in a computer. Those models can then be 'dressed' with clothing, facial expressions and other characteristics by means of a computer technique called texture mapping."

Mortal Kombat title was released for Arcade during October 1992, having since been ported to over ten consoles. The sequel, Mortal Kombat II was released for arcades in 1993, featuring an increased roster and improved graphics; it was rereleased in 2007 for the PlayStation 3. Mortal Kombat 3 followed in 1995 in both arcade and console versions, later getting two updates which expanded the number of characters and other features from the game: Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, published in the same year, and Mortal Kombat Trilogy the next one. The following game, Mortal Kombat 4, was released in 1997, and ported to the PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and PC, while an update named Mortal Kombat Gold was released exclusively for the Dreamcast in 1999.

While to this point, Mortal Kombat games were only titled with their installment number, starting with Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, the series' naming scheme changed to favor the use of sub-titles instead of the previously usual numbering. It was also at this point that the series started being targeted at consoles only, with Mortal Kombat 4 being the last Mortal Kombat game to ever be released for the arcades and PC. Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance was thus released in 2002 for the Xbox, PlayStation 2 (PS2), and GameCube. Two ports for the Game Boy Advance were also released under the name of Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition and another port called Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance during 2003. The sequel from Deadly Alliance is Mortal Kombat: Deception developed in 2004 for the PS2, Xbox and GameCube.

A port for the PlayStation Portable, Mortal Kombat: Unchained, was released in 2006 by Just Games Interactive. Mortal Kombat: Armageddon was published in the same year for the PS2, Xbox, and in 2007 on the Wii. On September 29, 2008, Midway released the Mortal Kombat Kollection, an anthology of the 3 most recent titles to the main franchise: Mortal Kombat: Deception, Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, and Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. The eighth MK fighting game is Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, a crossover between the MK franchise and DC Universe released in 2008 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

A ninth main game in the series, a reboot known as simply Mortal Kombat was released on April 19, 2011. Personally, I hate reboots, and from what I read about this one -- I mean, come on, is it that hard to come up with a continuation instead? I'm glad to see the game and characters are still around, but -- sheesh...

The Mortal Kombat series takes place in a universe that consists of six surviving realms which, according to in-game backstories, were created by the Elder Gods. The Mortal Kombat: Deception manual described the six realms as: "Earthrealm, home to such legendary heroes as Liu Kang, Kung Lao, Sonya Blade, Johnny Cage, and Jax, and also under the protection of the Thunder God Raiden; Netherrealm, which fiery depths are inhospitable to but the most vile, a realm of demons and shadowy warriors; Outworld, a realm of constant strife and where Emperor Shao Kahn claims this realm as his own; Seido, The Realm of Order, whose inhabitants prize structure and order above all else; The Realm of Chaos, whose inhabitants do not abide by any rules whatsoever, where constant turmoil and change are worshipped here; and Edenia, which is known for its beauty, artistic expression, and longevity of its inhabitants." The Elder Gods decreed that the denizens of one realm could only conquer another realm by defeating the defending realm's greatest warriors in ten consecutive Mortal Kombat tournaments.

The first Mortal Kombat game takes place in Earthrealm where seven different warriors with their own reasons for entering participated in the tournament with the eventual prize being the continued freedom of Earthrealm. Among the established warriors were Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, and Sonya Blade With the help of the Thunder God Raiden, the Earthrealm warriors were victorious and Liu Kang becomes the new champion of Mortal Kombat.

In Mortal Kombat II, unable to deal with Shang Tsung's failure, Outworld Emperor Shao Kahn lures the Earthrealm warriors to the Outworld where the Earthrealm warriors eventually defeat Shao Kahn. By Mortal Kombat 3, Shao Kahn revives Edenia's (now a part of his Outworld domain) former queen Sindel in Earthrealm, combining it with Outworld as well. He then attempts to invade Earthrealm but is ultimately defeated by the Earthrealm warriors again.

And I could get into a lot more, but beyond this, the Mortal Kombat universe becomes very complicated, and since this Scorpion figure is from around the time of the second and third games, I don't see any real need to get into it that much. Now, let's consider the character of Scorpion:

Scorpion is a recurring character from the Mortal Kombat series. Scorpion is an undead ninja spectre looking for revenge for his own death, his family and clan. He is one of Mortal Kombat's most well-known characters and has been playable in all the games, with the exception of the original version of Mortal Kombat 3.

"Scorpion" is the code name of the ninja named Hanzo Hasashi, formerly one of the Shirai Ryu's finest warriors, who became a hellspawned revenant residing in the Netherrealm underworld and seeking vengeance against those responsible for the destruction of his clan and the death of his family. Although essentially neutral in allegiance, Scorpion will ally with anyone who can assist his plans of revenge. He was once manipulated by Quan Chi, whom he promised his life in exchange for his impressive combat abilities in order to defeat Sub-Zero. Since Scorpion is a spectre, sorcery and supernatural anomalies have proven effective against him in battle, although none of them had served to destroy him.

Scorpion is introduced in the first Mortal Kombat game as a dead warrior who enters into the Mortal Kombat tournament to kill Sub-Zero, the man who killed him. Scorpion manages to kill his target, but later learns that Sub-Zero plans to compete in the second tournament. Enraged at the idea that his nemesis has somehow returned, Scorpion tracks him down during the tournament. He realizes that this Sub-Zero was actually his killer's younger brother, who was sent to complete his brother's failed mission of assassinating the tournament's host Shang Tsung. As a result, Scorpion vows to serve as the new Sub-Zero's guardian in atonement for killing his older brother. He also appears as a boss character in Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks (set during the events of Mortal Kombat II), as he tries to kill the protagonists Liu Kang and Kung Lao. He appears in both masked and unmasked forms (the latter being named "Inferno Scorpion").

Scorpion returns to the series in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 when Shao Kahn tries to conquer the Netherealm after his invasion of Earth and enlisted the ninja in his forces. Scorpion's allegiance to Kahn quickly dissolved when he discovered that Sub-Zero was one of Earth's chosen warriors, with whom he then sided in their final showdown with Kahn.

Scorpion also appears in the crossover game Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, participating in the war between the two universes. In addition to the MK series, Scorpion has made appearances in four other Midway games: NBA Jam Tournament Edition, MLB Slugfest: Loaded, Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy and The Grid.

The guy gets around for an undead ninja spectre. Baseball and basketball? Not bad...

He's certainly popular enough. The background research I did revealed that listed Scorpion at number one on their "Top 11 Mortal Kombat Characters" article, describing him as their "favorite asskicker" while also stating approval for his augmented abilities and attitude with each title. They additionally noted his signature Fatality as one of their favorites in the series. He tied with Sub-Zero in the top from Game Revolution's "Top 10 Old School Mortal Kombat Characters", with both noted as the most popular characters from the franchise. Scorpion and Sub-Zero also shared the fifth place on the top video game ninja list by PC World in 2009. A GamesRadar article from 2011 discussed their evolution across the Mortal Kombat series, citing them as its two most popular characters. In Game Informer's 2009 list of "Top Ten Best Fighting Game Characters" Scorpion was third in response of his techniques.

He was also strongly featured in the live-action movies. Scorpion was played by Chris Casamassa in the first Mortal Kombat film. His spear was changed to a living metal snake-like entity that shot from a slit in his palm and could fly to a limited extent. Scorpion's rivalry with Sub-Zero is only mentioned in passing by Shang Tsung in the storyline, which instead had them both serving as his guardians, and he is defeated by Johnny Cage in the Netherrealm, in a fight in one of the wildest sets I've ever seen, a sort of massive, room-sized wooden framework, like a treehouse the size of an apartment complex or something.

Scorpion returned in the sequel film Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, played by J.J. Perry. In it, following a failed assassination attempt by Smoke and his extermination squad due to the unexpected interference of the younger Sub-Zero, Scorpion confronts the would-be victims, Liu Kang and Kitana, but is challenged by Sub-Zero to a duel. After incapacitating Sub-Zero, he successfully captures Kitana and escapes with his captive.

Scorpion's spear taunts were voiced by Ed Boon in the games and both films. However, only two of the taunts were included in the home versions of MK and MKII due to memory constraints; the now-famous cries of "Get over here!" played randomly whenever the spear was used. One of the phrases, "Get over here!", according to an interview with Ed Boon, originated because "I just thought it would be funny to have him yell out 'Get over here!' when he did it. So they just said 'Well, why do not you get behind the microphone and do it.'"

So. how's the figure? Very impressive, a lot more than I expected, although after being impressed by the six-pack, I pretty much thought -- or at least hoped -- that the individual Scorpion would also be a winner.

Scorpion shares the same body molds as the other six from the set, which is entirely appropriate. Fortunately, it's an extremely accurate set of body molds for any of these "Klassic" ninja characters, so of course it works well for Scorpion.

Scorpion stands an even 4" in height. He is dressed in a black, sleeveless, fairly tight fitting uniform, including a headpiece that only leaves the eyes and part of the face around the eyes exposed. Covering his lower face is a fairly high-tech looking face mask, sort of a muzzle, really, in the designated color for Scorpion, which is yellow, with some black details painted on it.

Scorpion's uniform has flared shoulders, and what looks like segmented, padded body armor running down either side of the front and back of the torso, again in yellow.

Scorpion also has gauntlets that cover the entire lower arm, although leave most of the hands exposed, except for the backs of the hands. The gauntlets have a segmented pattern that blends black with the yellow.

Scorpion's outfit includes a belt, black with yellow trim, and a yellow length of "fabric" (plastic on the figure, of course), draped down in the front, to approximate knee level. The rear of the figure is yellow, as are the backs of the upper legs. The fronts of the upper legs are black, as are the lower legs and feet.

Scorpion is wearing shin guards that cover the entire front of the lower legs. These are mostly the yellow, with some black trim.

Scorpion's arms, face, and hands are a normal flesh tone in color. This is something of a disguise, perhaps, as in some of the games, he has popped off his headpiece, to reveal a skull underneath.

For the most part, Scorpion is molded in black plastic, with flesh-colored paint around the face and down the arms. However, to JazWares considerable credit, the actual articulation mechanisms of the arms were molded in flesh-tone plastic, which is a good thing, because they were also painted, but the paint along the rotation areas at the shoulders comes off rather easily. Not a big loss, fortunately, but it would have looked bad if it had those portions molded in black.

Most of the paintwork is done very well, and through proper stencils. Taking into consideration all of the ninjas in this line, one of the thing which sets each ninja apart from his colleagues are the eyes. This is even more interesting given that I believe the eyes have been hand-painted. In Scorpion's case, his eyes are a blank white, a rather creepy effect that he shares only with the all-black Noob Saibot figure.

Scorpion is surprisingly solid-feeling for his size, and has an excellent level of articulation. Scorpion is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, including a swivel rotation, wrists, mid-torso, legs, knees, including a swivel rotation, and ankles, including a swivel rotation. It sort of looks like the waist should move, but it doesn't appear to. At least I'm not going to try to force it. He also stands up on his own very nicely.

Any complaints? Not really. The strip of "cloth" hanging down in the front of Scorpion is more rigid that it really needs to be. It's not especially flexible, and it does hinder leg movement somewhat. But it's possible to get around it, as well.

Scorpion does not come with any accessories. This isn't a big deal to me at all. And if nothing else, the figure's hands are closed fists. He can't really hold anything anyway.

It's interesting to look at the other six figures, and realize just how much of an impact Scorpion's absence makes, even just from a color standpoint. Maybe as a graphic artist, I recognize this sort of thing more readily, but when you've got the other two primary colors -- red and blue in the form of Ermac and Sub-Zero, and two main secondary colors -- green and purple with Reptile and Rain, and then toss in Smoke's pale gray and Noob's all-black, you sort of recognize that something is missing. Ermac is a bright enough red to almost account for orange, as well, but the absence of Scorpion's yellow is really apparent.

And credit should also be extended to JazWares for a good paint job. In my toy collecting experience over the years, one of the single hardest things to do is to paint yellow over black and have it look decent. Scorpion looks very decent indeed.

So, what's my final word here? I'm sincerely impressed. More and more video games seem to be getting action figure lines these days. And it's about time there was a new Mortal Kombat action figure line, and at least in the 4" scale, JazWares is doing a very decent job this time around. I've rounded up quite a few of these figures to date, and have had no major issues with any of them. I'd like to think the line will be around for a good long while. At the moment, it's a little on the limited side, and I've only seen it at Toys "R" Us.

However, I have to say that if you're any sort of Mortal Kombat fan, and perhaps long enough of a Mortal Kombat fan to remember their earliest likenesses, then you'll be truly pleased with these figures -- and if you like the ninjas, don't limit yourself to Scorpion.

The MORTAL KOMBAT KLASSIC figure of SCORPION, indirectly joining his fellow spectrum of ninjas, definitely has my highest recommendation!