What are your thoughts on the latest Mortal Kombat game? It’s giving me lots of mixed signals; many of its character designs seem to have improved, even though some of them remain problematic.
What stood out to me was Frost’s cameo in the story. Here’s her outfit in Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance:
Eugh, it’s some kind of awful cleavage suit that has somehow been superglued to her sternum. But here’s her outfit in her cameo appearance in Mortal Kombat X:
Even when her lack of sleeves in a cold environment is explained by her having ice powers, I’m really glad they didn’t use that as an excuse to make her outfit even skimpier. Her costume is more or less exactly the same as Sub-Zero, her closest male counterpart. It’s a really simple design choice that more designers could go with.
The story also introduces some new main characters:
It’s not all the way yet – Cassie’s catsuit and Jacqui’s armour are still vaguely boob-shaped for no good reason – but in my opinion it’s remarkably non-sexualized compared to the previous games.
Still, we get cases like Kitana and Mileena; in the back are their appearances in the previous game, and in the front are their new outfits:
While neither of them are doing the boobs-and-butt pose while wearing a square foot of cloth any more, their new outfits are still bingo-worthy – Kitana’s weird metal boob clasps look really painful and seem like they’re bolted right onto her skin, for example, and neither of these outfits would offer any kind of breast support in a fight.
The juxtaposition of relatively reasonable outfits for the new characters combined with strange halfway measures for the major returning ones gives me the impression that the designers wanted to move in the right direction, but were seriously held back by their legacy or by fan expectations. What do you think?
I feel that the problem is not with fan expectations, but rather . At this point, the Mortal Kombat universe has a lot of characters:
But the vast majority of the female characters are derivative. Some examples:
- Frost is Sub Zero’s distaff apprentice
- Jacqui Briggs is the daughter of Jackson “Jax” Briggs
- Cassie Cage is the daughter of Sonja Blade and Johnny Cage
- Mileena, Jade and Kitana were all color swaps on the same sprites (Tanya was so similar people thought she was a clone of Jade)
- Sheeva was distaff Goro
- Sareena was Quan Chi’s distaff apprentice (who borrows bits and pieces from pretty much everyone)
Even when they do introduce totally new characters who have an interesting concept – like horrific insect attacks – they go out of their way to make her look like a generic sexy lady. (x)
Basically just like Blizzard and many other developers, they don’t want to leave their comfort zone. The franchise has been making a lot of money for twenty-three years by focusing on a variety of male characters first then on sexy female characters as an after thought.
Trivia: Sonya Blade was only added during beta testing due to an overwhelming demand for at least one female character. This is what she looked like in 1993:
It wasn’t until Mortal Kombat 3 that Elizabeth Malecki (professional dancer, aerobic instructor, actress) was replaced with Kerri Hoskin Branson (glamor model and actress with some martial arts experience).
The real problem is that key figures like Ed Boon, the man who has had the most to do with the shaping of the Mortal Kombat franchise, believes that so long as the female characters are “empowered” (ie not completely helpless all the time) then there’s nothing to criticize:
“I really believe that Mortal Kombat represents empowered women more than almost any game, I hold that up against almost any franchise at all.”