Despite the success of Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, a planned sequel revolving around Scorpion and Sub-Zero never saw the light of day.
By Marc Smith
Published Aug 29, 2020
Mortal Kombat?has singled itself out as the one the most consistent and enduring fighting game series today by changing and adapting to current market trends. However, like most long-running series, there are plenty of scrapped projects that never came to light. One such title, Mortal Kombat: Fire & Ice, continues to hold the attention of fans today.
Outside of standard one-on-one fighters,?developer Midway experimented with spin-off titles that existed in entirely different genres. These experiments resulted in the?infamous?Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero?and the woefully inept?Mortal Kombat: Special Forces, two titles that made admirable attempts at giving fans the chance to explore the?MK?universe but?were quickly relegated to the bargain bin.?Midway’s third effort, however, was?Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, a title that knocked it out of the park.
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Set during the events of?Mortal Kombat II,?the game put players in the shoes of either Liu Kang or Kung Lao as they brutalize their way across the realms to prevent the tyrannical Shao Kahn from conquering Earthrealm. Instead of a static brawler, Shaolin Monks?played like?Streets of Rage on steroids,?chock-full of crunchy combat, stunning fatalities, light puzzle solving and environmental hazards that could be used to disembowel your foes. It offered fans an entirely new experience that repurposed all the familiar Mortal Kombat tropes in fresh and exciting ways.
Despite the resentment towards previous spin-offs, Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks was a surprise hit for Midway, selling just over a million copies during its time on store shelves. Critics were especially kind to it too, with its current score on Metacritic sitting at a very respectable 7.7 from critics. The game also boasts a commendable 8.9 User Score, not only making it a highly-regarded spin-off title but one of the highest-ranked games in the series thus far. Even to this day,?Shaolin Monks is easily one of the finest co-op games of?its time.
Midway was quick to capitalize on this by ordering a sequel,?which would have been?Mortal Kombat: Fire & Ice. Not much is known about this project, although the title would suggest Scorpion and Sub-Zero would be front and center, something fans would be foaming at the mouth for. As well-loved as Liu Kang and Kung Lao are amongst the fandom, there’s no denying that Scorpion and Sub-Zero are the most iconic, even to those that have never played a?Mortal Kombat?game. Their inherent mistrust of one another, coupled with their ingrained similarities, could have offered a unique insight into their complicated relationship that the classic?MK?games could never have.
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There’s not much known about the game, though?it would have likely featured the long-standing rivals putting aside their differences to face a greater threat, most likely Quan-Chi or Shinnock, given their close ties?to the color-coded ninjas. Gameplay-wise, it likely would have expanded on the simple, yet surprisingly multi-layered combat system that?Shaolin Monks had, which utilized simple to learn combos with upgradeable special moves.
Much like with Shaolin Monks,?Scorpion and Sub-Zero’s special moves would have likely factored directly into the gameplay, perhaps by having Sub-Zero freeze water to create platforms, or Scorpion’s spear being used to activate switches in the distance. Ideas like this were briefly touched upon in?Shaolin Monks but could have been far better implemented a second time around. They could have even gone one step further and allowed Sub-Zero to freeze enemies in place?so Scorpion could wrap his spear around them, turning enemies into makeshift weapons, or he could melt them down with his firey attacks. The possibilities for team-based attacks are near-endless.
Development reportedly spanned from 2005-2006 before?Fire & Ice?was ultimately canceled by Paradox Studios, who cited financial constraints as the biggest contributing factor.?Only a prototype level was built and a few early character models crafted, but it sadly never got much further than that. The last mention of the project came when?Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon spoke about a failed Shaolin Monks HD remaster planned for both PS3 and Xbox 360, which stings that little bit more as a successful port of the game could have lead to?Fire & Ice being resurrected.
All of this is just speculation as to how the game could have turned out, but given how great?Shaolin Monks?was, Fire & Ice?may well have been an improvement in every way imaginable. Giving us an interesting dynamic between its two leads, as well as plenty of fresh and exciting locales to redecorate with blood and viscera. While we may never truly know how this game would have turned out, we can’t deny that we’re incredibly sad it never came to fruition.
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