Kabal (Mortal Kombat)
|Mortal Kombat series character|
Kabal in Mortal Kombat (2011)
|First game||Mortal Kombat 3 (1995)|
|Created by||Ed Boon and John Tobias|
|Designed by||John Tobias (UMK3/MKT, MK:SF/MK:SM)
Atomhawk Design (MK2011)
Lynell Forestall (MK:DotR)
|Voiced by||Kevin Michael Richardson (MK:DotR)
Jarod Pranno (MK:A)
David Lodge (MK2011)
|Motion capture||Carlos Pesina (MK:D, MK:A)|
|Portrayed by||Richard Divizio (MK3, UMK3, MKT)|
|Fighting styles||Sun Bin (MK:D, MK:A)
Goju Ryu (MK:D)
(all media except DotR)
Kabal is a fictional character in the Mortal Kombat fighting game franchise, created for Midway Games by Ed Boon and John Tobias. Kabal was introduced in Mortal Kombat 3 as a former member of Kano's Black Dragon criminal organization who had reformed as a force for good and thus became one of the chosen defenders of Earthrealm, while notably suffering an attack by Outworld emperor Shao Kahn's extermination squads that left his face disfigured and thus concealed behind a mask. In the three-dimensional Mortal Kombat games, he returns to the side of evil by reforming the Black Dragon and feuding with Mavado, leader of their bitter rival, the Red Dragon. Kabal returns to the side of good in the 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot, again having quit the Black Dragon and fighting alongside Kurtis Stryker to defend Earthrealm against Kahn's forces.
Considered one of the most powerful characters in Mortal Kombat 3, Kabal has received mostly positive fan and critical reception in this regard, but response to his Fatality finishing moves has been decisively mixed. He has played a fairly scant role in both the overall series continuity as well as in alternative Mortal Kombat-related media and merchandising.
In video games
Making his debut in 1995's Mortal Kombat 3, Kabal was a member of the Black Dragon crime syndicate alongside Kano, until Outworld emperor Shao Kahn's invasion took Earthrealm by storm. Kabal's soul was spared, meaning he was now one of Raiden's chosen warriors who would defend Earth. This consequently made him a target of Kahn's extermination squads, who subjected him to a vicious attack that left Kabal badly maimed and forcing him thereafter to rely on artificial respirators for survival, all while wearing a mask to hide his newly disfigured face. However, the assault had also resulted in a change for the better as Kabal abandoned his life of crime in order to fight alongside the Earth warriors in successfully thwarting Kahn and his forces.
As was the case with the debuting characters from MK3 and onwards (save for Quan Chi), Kabal is not playable in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (2002), but he has a small role in the game's storyline when he is ambushed in battle by series newcomer Mavado—a leading member of the Red Dragon, who seek to eliminate their bitter rival, the Black Dragon—and is believed killed; Mavado then steals Kabal's hookswords to keep as his personal trophies. This angle briefly continues in Mortal Kombat: Deception (2004), when Kabal hunts down and defeats Mavado, and takes back the swords. Beforehand, Havik had brought Kabal back from the brink of death, then instructed him to restore the same Black Dragon that Kabal had long tried to disassociate himself from. Kabal complies, first recruiting Kira, who had impressed him by being able to do business with extremist terrorist organizations despite her gender (she had posed as a male arms dealer in Afghanistan). Next is Kobra, a martial artist turned killer who knew he was "among friends" when he, while handcuffed in the back of a squad car, notices "some chick and a masked guy with bloody hookswords" engaged in a standoff with police. At Havik's request, Kabal brings his raw recruits to Outworld, and as depicted in his ending, he assigns them to distract the Earthrealm heroes while Havik slays the Dragon King Onaga and takes his heart, which has the power to raise the dead. However, Kabal then kills Havik from behind and takes the organ for himself.
Due to never receiving an official biography in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (2006), neither Kabal nor the other connected characters play any significant role in the game's plot, though in Kabal's ending, he confronts Mavado for a third and final time in order to end their rivalry once and for all; he emerges victorious in battle, resulting in Mavado killing himself, and Kabal hoists Mavado's disembodied head skyward as a symbol of the Black Dragon's superiority.[note 1] Kabal does make an appearance with Kira and Kobra in the game's Konquest Mode when he confronts the game's main protagonist Taven after the latter defeats Kobra and several fellow Black Dragon thugs (minus Kira, who abandons him during the fight). Impressed, Kabal offers him a chance to join the Dragons, but Taven refuses; Kabal challenges him to combat in response but is defeated.
Kabal is again a reformed defector from the Black Dragon in Mortal Kombat (2011), the alternate-timeline retelling of the first three games, only this time around he works with Kurtis Stryker in the NYPD's riot-control division. They confront and defeat Reptile and Mileena amidst the chaos of the Outworld invasion, but Kabal is severely burned by Kintaro, and is taken away by Kano while Stryker is preoccupied with Ermac. Despite Kabal's split from the organization, Kano (with the help of Shang Tsung) restores Kabal's health, but his lungs are damaged beyond repair, resulting in Kano outfitting him with his signature respirators and face mask. However, Kabal is horrified at his physical condition and therefore irate at Kano for having sold the weapons used in the Outworld invasion, and defeats Kano in battle. He then forcibly demands Kano take him to Shao Kahn, where they witness the emperor's promotion of Sindel to general of his armies before Kabal knocks Kano unconscious and then defeats Mileena in Kahn's throne room before escaping through a portal back to Earthrealm, where he then takes out the cybernetic Sub-Zero, then Sheeva after she mistakes him for a traitor of the Lin Kuei. Raiden invites him to join his band of Earthrealm warriors, but Kabal and most of his comrades are later killed by Sindel and then subsequently resurrected by Quan Chi in the Netherealm.
In the 2005 beat 'em up title Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, a retelling of the events leading up to Mortal Kombat II, Kabal is not playable but is the subject of an optional mission in the game, in which he spoke with a Southern accent and left the player his hookswords for use. He was one of only three post-MKII characters who were included in the game, along with Ermac and Quan Chi.
Design and gameplay
Kabal was nicknamed "Sandman" during production of Mortal Kombat 3 before his actual name was determined. According to Mortal Kombat co-creator John Tobias, Kabal's overall design was inspired by the Tusken Raiders from Star Wars, while the circular lenses of his mask were inspired by 1940s-style aviator goggles. Series co-creator and programmer Ed Boon described such character concepts like Kabal as being "very off the cuff." The developers had also been interested at the possibility of introducing a character with a disability into the series. Both of Kabal's Fatalities poked fun at his handicap with him exposing his scarred face and literally scaring his opponents to death, in addition to inflating his opponents' head like a balloon with an air tube from his respirator, causing them to float upward before exploding offscreen.
One of only two characters in MK3 featured with a weapon (the other being Stryker), Kabal was originally given wrist-mounted buzzsaw blades as his primary weapon before his familiar hookswords, while Boon cited his favorite comic book character as a youth, Flash, as the inspiration for Kabal's "Tornado" move, which dizzied opponents and set them up for a free hit. The swords were first included with one of several early concept designs for Baraka during preproduction of Mortal Kombat II, and were also used as generic weapons that were packaged with select characters in a line of 4" MK action figures produced by Hasbro in December 1994. According to Boon, Kabal was overpowered enough in MK3 in regards to his special moves that the developers had to tone him down in future updates. In Deception and onward, Kabal is seen with a long, sleeveless trenchcoat and a backpack (with antenna) that supported his breathing apparatus, the former which Midway had been forced to omit from MK3 due to memory limitations and the potential problem of the flapping of the coat interfering with gameplay, a similar issue also faced with Shang Tsung's long hair hanging loose in the game.
A pre-scarred Kabal was to be included in the 2000 spin-off title Mortal Kombat: Special Forces as a boss character, but he was cut from the game after it underwent many last-minute changes due to time constraints exacerbated by the sudden departure of Tobias from Midway. A character concept sketch was made public and the model that later appeared in Shaolin Monks can still be seen in Special Forces, though he was unnamed and was of no special significance to the game's storyline.
His masked face was the only telltale sign of his wounds in his series appearances up until the reboot, which now conspicuously featured the grotesque imagery of his charred skin. In an interview with Spike TV in March 2011 that revealed the first look at the character for the game, Boon explained that he wanted to keep all of Kabal's classic offensive moves while coming up with graphic Fatalities that the developers felt would be "crossing the line." Tobias, however, expressed his dissatisfaction with his original designs of Kabal and Stryker in a 2012 interview with The On Blast Show: "If I could go back and redo Kabal and Stryker, I would. I don't know if I'd design them differently or just come up with new characters [in their place]."
In other media and merchandise
Kabal appeared in the eleventh episode ("Amends") of the 1996 animated series Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, which followed his MK3 storyline of his betraying Kano and the Black Dragon, as well as his injuries suffered at the hands of Kahn's forces and the resulting aftermath. In a subplot original to the show, he rescues Sonya after she is injured in battle inside an old theater, and takes her to safety inside an abandoned subway, where he unmasks and she is shocked at seeing his mutilated face. Their friendship deepens after she expresses disgust over the prejudice he faces due to his disfigurement and is saddened at Raiden's explanation of Kabal's ordeal. After he helps the Earth defenders to victory, Kabal is extended the opportunity of a permanent position with the Earthrealmers but respectfully turns down the offer, opting to continue his battle against evil alone. He was voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson.
In the 1997 film Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Kabal is mentioned along with Stryker as "two of Earth's best warriors" who were captured by Rain, but neither actually appeared onscreen. Rain is then promptly killed by Kahn after he admits to sparing their lives. Kabal and Stryker both feature in more detailed roles in the first draft of the script, in which they are prisoners slaving away in an Outworld cobalt mine that is overseen by Baraka and where Kitana is being held captive. After Liu Kang later infiltrates the prison and rescues Kitana after killing Baraka in battle, Kabal and Stryker organize the revolting prisoners in fighting off the guards. This subplot was omitted from future drafts and was not included in the novelization.
In a September 2013 interview with Fearnet, director Kevin Tancharoen revealed that he had wanted to include Kabal in his Mortal Kombat: Legacy web series, but was hampered by budget limitations coupled with the complexities of the character's backstory and physical appearance. In June 2012, he posted on Twitter two snippets from his production-draft script of the reboot film, one of which featured Kabal addressing Jax as "Captain Briggs." Matt Mullins, who portrayed Johnny Cage in the first season, told Kamidogu in 2011 that he would have liked to play Kabal had he not been cast as Cage. "He has been influenced by both good and evil and we have not seen a lot of him in different storylines."
Kabal has featured very little in official Mortal Kombat merchandise, only appearing alongside Scorpion, Quan Chi, and Shao Kahn in a collection of 2.5" super-deformed figures released by Jazwares in 2012.
The character has received a mainly positive fan and critical response, gaining attention in some instances for being overpowered in Mortal Kombat 3. Complex ranked Kabal as the sixteenth-most brutal character in the series, and he placed nineteenth on UGO's 2012 list of the top 50 Mortal Kombat characters, while fans voted him as the 26th-best MK character in a 2013 online poll hosted by Dorkly. In 2010, Game Informer's Dan Ryckert named Kabal as a character that he wanted in the Mortal Kombat reboot. While discussing Sektor's "Compactor" Fatality in a 2011 feature on the series' most gruesome finishers, Fearnet described MK3 as featuring well-balanced characters, "except for that jerk Kabal." Armando Rodriguez of 411mania.com included Kabal fifth among his ten favorite MK characters due to the recreation of his origins in the 2011 reboot. An online article about kangaroos published by Cracked in 2011 described one of the animal's methods of self-defense as "a Mortal Kombat-style claw-first kick to the abdomen ... Go Kabal on his ass, Kanga!"
However, both of Kabal's Fatalities from MK3 together have faced negative critical reception; they were ranked among the series' worst finishers by Game Informer, as well as by David Saldana of 1UP.com and James Deaux of Earth-2.net, who added, "Kabal really drew the short straw on the Fatality front in the MK3 days. Such is the case when you are the most broken character in the franchise." Reception to his "Scary Face" Fatality on its own has proven more mixed; ScrewAttack included it among their top ten worst Fatalities in the series (ninth), while similarly opining that his MK3 finishers "pretty much blew" and were "a tradeoff" for his being "one of the most broken characters" in the game. Adam Dodd of Cheat Code Central provided a positive reaction, ranking it fifth in his list of the series' top ten Fatalities: "Kabal is one ugly dude. ... That's not an insult, in fact, for him it's a commodity." UGO ranked it sixth in their 2012 list of the top eleven Fatalities while describing Kabal as "a reject from The Road Warrior." Rodriguez called the finisher "one of the funniest things in the entire series." Kabal's "It Takes Guts" Fatality from MK2011, in which he uses his hookswords to rip out his opponent's intestines, has been well-received; it was rated by We Got This Covered as one of the game's top finishers and was included on the International Business Times' list of the top ten MK9 Fatalities. GameRant placed it sixth in their 2011 list of the game's best finishers.
- Despite Kabal having regained his swords back in Deception, Mavado, who did not appear in that title, is seen with them in his Armageddon versus-screen render.
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