A Brief History of Tremor: Mortal Kombat’s Lost Ninja
From Tremor’s MKX in-game bio:
“Tremor has the powers of an Earth elemental. He can create earthquakes, form stone and lava projectiles and shape the ground to suit him. His current status with Kano’s Black Dragon clan of arms dealers is unknown, as a recent mission seems to have created much animosity in Tremor toward both Special Forces and Kano.”
As I brushed up on both my Mortal Kombat lore and the real life situations surrounding the games, I was reminded of the bizarre circumstances under which we got our latest character, Tremor. Hardcore MK fans have been lobbying for his inclusion in game after game, and it’s taken him nearly 20 years to go from concept to playable character.
The franchise has always been known for its secrets (well, that and its controversy), with one such super-unlockable myth dating back to the very first game and the alleged inclusion of Ermac. (Click here to see the original photo and announcement of Ermac in an issue of EGM.) It turned out that all of this was 100% fabrication, but nonetheless, oddities like Mortal Kombat II’s “Ooooh Nasty!” and “Fergality” fueled the issue.
For Tremor’s origins, let’s go back…way back…to 1995 and the release of UMK3. There’s not much of a story to tell here, but the rumor is that Tremor was intended for home versions instead of Rain. As most of you may know, the home versions of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 were substantially different than the versions contained in arcades. In the arcade’s attract mode, there was a short clip of a purple ninja going up against Shao Kahn, identified by his health bar as “RAIN.” This led to furious searches and debate on a fledgling internet about who this guy was and how to play as/against him.
It turned out that the arcade version had no such character, and it was all a big joke from Ed Boon, a pun on Prince’s song “Purple Rain.” (Rain himself would go on to be identified as a prince.) However, this made it all the more surprising when, out of nowhere, Rain popped up on the home versions of UMK3 with an original moveset. Was this slot intended for Tremor? It’s hard to say and there doesn’t seem to be much proof of such plans. That proof would take a couple of years to get to us…
In 1996, the series’ first true compilation title was unveiled, Mortal Kombat Trilogy. This was perhaps the most amazing fighting game for the next couple of years and stood as a true celebration to the games before it. Sadly, it also marked Mortal Kombat’s final digitized title (but thankfully, it also signaled an end to impossible AI opponents). At the time, Trilogy was ported to several systems, and like others of its ilk, the developers had to cut some corners when it came to cartridge-based ports. The N64 version of MKT was certainly the black sheep, though it was absent the atrocious loading times. It is here, in the N64 instruction manual for Trilogy, that we get our first indisputable proof of “Tremor,” or at the very least someone who would become Tremor.
It takes a second to put it together, so I’ve put these two misprinted bios side by side. Notice anything? Well, first of all, Rain has some bizarre backstory about being a renegade Lin Kuei member. Second of all, he’s red, which ought to be Ermac’s color. If we look at where Ermac should be, he’s now turned into an orange ninja, and I think it’s safe to say that orange is pretty damn close to brown as well as Tremor’s first “true” appearance in Mortal Kombat: Special Forces.
For whatever reason, this error was corrected in other ports of the game, including the PlayStation version. Unfortunately, due to the lack of color and the way in which the warriors are listed, we don’t have any visuals for the PS ports. We do appear to get Rain’s correct bio though, for what it’s worth.
Moving on to the year 2000, we were properly introduced to Tremor as an unplayable boss in MK: Special Forces along with other members of the Black Dragon clan. This really doesn’t have anything to do with the backstory we were previously offered, and the instruction manual offers up little more than a skimpy and unspecific description, though I suppose a defected Lin Kuei could decide to link up with the Black Dragon. Here’s where the fan intensity heated up. Why not Tasia? No Face? Or Jarek? Who knows. But Tremor is who the people latched onto (probably because he was a palette swapped ninja).
Special Forces might be where the story of Tremor really begins, but he doesn’t make much of an impression during the lackluster gaming experience. Aside from some standard martial arts attacks, a fireball, and what is essentially a ground pound, he isn’t all that interesting as a character (and nothing else was all that interesting about MK:SF either). As the story goes, Tremor was killed by Jax along with the rest of Kano’s gang, and for several years, there was nothing more to be told of our rocky warrior.
Now and then a rumor about Tremor appearing in an upcoming game would appear, but these would quickly and quietly fizzle out. Mortal Kombat: Armageddon seemed like the perfect vehicle to debut him and fan speculation and excitement probably reached its peak in the months beforehand, though he still never made it off the drawing board. He was one of the most common candidates for Kreate-a-Fighter, especially after Khameleon finally appeared in the Wii version.
After 2006’s Armageddon, it took 5 long years for another proper Mortal Kombat game to drop. (Ok, we did have MK vs DC in the interim, but it was hardly a real Mortal Kombat game.) In 2011, Midway, now known as NetherRealm Studios, hit the reset button on the MK continuity and gave us a game which was essentially a more modern and slightly altered version of what MKT had been. Not unexpectedly, we weren’t introduced to any 100% new characters apart from the DLC Skarlet. There was no reason to think Tremor would be reintroduced at this juncture, but then something interesting happened…
About a year later, an exclusive version of MK 2011 was released for the PlayStation Vita. Not only did it feature all previous DLC, but it had a couple of brand new challenge towers, more than one of which has the player fighting as or against a brown UMK3-style ninja named Tremor! We don’t get much solid information on this “lost ninja.” Mainly we’re treated to a number of meta-jokes about his supposed existence, but it was fun to see that he hadn’t quite been forgotten after so many years. There is one comment about being locked up in Goro’s Lair. He didn’t have much of a moveset either, instead borrowing Jax’s Ground Pound and a fairly generic fireball; not all that dissimilar from his previous appearance 11 years prior.
Most recently we saw the release of Mortal Kombat X, which takes everything from MK 2011 and does it better. It looks great, plays great, and gives us what is easily the most immersive Mortal Kombat experience ever. Tremor didn’t make the main roster, however, once the first DLC was announced near the time of release, fans could finally rejoice. Tremor would finally be one of four characters scheduled for release. Apparently we have the fans themselves to thank for his inclusion after an online petition caught the attention of NetherRealm Studios. Boon’s response: “Wow, you guys really want Tremor!”
So now Tremor is here for those who pre-purchased MKX’s DLC and will make his debut to the general public in just a couple of days. The wait may have been a long one, but he couldn’t be joining the playable roster at a better time. In games past he could’ve very easily fallen through the cracks to be remembered as a sort of “junk character,” though the depth and detail of MKX ensures a level of distinction. My only fear is that MKX will be his one and only appearance; after all, it seems like the myth-turned-reality Skarlet fizzled out all too quickly. Then again, characters with less than reputable origins such as Ermac and Reptile have become staples of the franchise. Let’s hope that his story isn’t over just yet.
Written by The Cubist
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