Ermac

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Ermac
Mortal Kombat character
ErmacMKXrender.png
Ermac in Mortal Kombat X (2015)
First game Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (1995)[1]
Created by Ed Boon and John Tobias
Designed by John Tobias (UMK3/MKT)
Steve Beran (MK:D, MK:A)[2]
Mark Lappin (MK:SM)[3]
Atomhawk Design (MK2011)[4]
Justin Murray (MKX)
Lynell Forestall (MK:DotR)
Jennifer L. Parsons (Annihilation)
Lisa Tomczeszyn &
Christien Tinsley (Legacy)[5]
Voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson (MK:DotR)[6]
Michael McConnohie (MK2011)[6]
Jamieson Price (MKX)[7]
Motion capture Carlos Pesina (MK:D, MK:A)
Chris Mathews (MK2011)
Stephan Scalabrino (MKX)
Portrayed by John Turk (UMK3/MKT)[8]
John Medlen (Annihilation)[9]
Kim Do Nguyen (Legacy)[10]
Fictional profile
Origin Outworld
Fighting styles Choy Lay Fut (MK:D, MK:A)
Hua Chuan (MK:D)
Weapon Axe (MK:D, MK:A)

Ermac[note 1] is a fictional character from the Mortal Kombat fighting game series. Originating as an imaginary character born of rumors by players and fans over an audit-menu listing and alleged glitch in the first game, which were never explicitly dispelled by Midway Games and were further perpetuated by video game magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM), he transformed from urban legend to a player character in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, as a red palette swap of Scorpion with his own special moves.

A mysterious psychokinetic combatant composed of multiple warrior souls, Ermac made his series debut as an enforcer to evil Outworld emperor Shao Kahn in the two-dimensional games, then played a central role in Mortal Kombat: Deception by gaining a distinct design and breaking free of Kahn's control to ally with main series protagonist Liu Kang. He has had lesser roles in subsequent game storylines, including returning to his series roots in the 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot, while in Mortal Kombat X, he serves in the guard of new Outworld ruler Kotal Kahn.

Ermac has appeared in other Mortal Kombat media such as the animated series Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, the web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy, and on official series merchandise. Critical and public reception has been mainly positive, with appearances on multiple lists of the top characters and Fatality finishing moves in the Mortal Kombat franchise from video game and mainstream publications, while his origins have been rated among the most-memorable legends of general video gaming.

History and conception[edit]

The name "Ermac" has been a controversial subject that dates back to the beginning of the Mortal Kombat series. In the 1992 original game, an audits screen on the arcade machine's diagnostics menu displayed a macro written by series co-creator and programmer Ed Boon in order to catch coding errors,[16] a practice that was employed by series developer Midway Games since their 1990 release Smash TV.[17] It was spelled as ERMACS—a pluralized contraction of error macro—as in how many times the program would execute.[18][note 2] First seen on the audits screen below a counter titled "Shang Tsung Beaten" (in reference to the game's final boss fight) in early revisions,[21] it went unnoticed by players and fans until Boon added the hidden character Reptile into the third revision of the game.[22] ERMACS was now listed with "Reptile Appearances" and "Reptile Battles" on the audits menu,[21] which provoked players into searching for what they believed was a second secret character named Ermac hidden in the game.

In the fifth and final update, dated March 1993, Midway removed the ERMACS listing from the menu,[21][note 3] but it failed to quell ongoing speculation about the character that intensified after Electronic Gaming Monthly published a submitted screenshot from the first Mortal Kombat in the "Tricks of the Trade" column of their October 1993 issue (#51),[24] along with a letter from "Tony Casey" that claimed he had played against a red ninja named Ermac with a low-quality Polaroid of the screen as evidence.[25] Unbeknownst to the magazine, the photo was a doctored image of yellow ninja character Scorpion in a victory pose on the "Warrior Shrine" stage from the Super NES version of the game, tinted red and with a superimposed center-screen phrase that read "Ermac Wins."[25] Two issues later (#53, December 1993), EGM claimed that Boon had personally confirmed Ermac's existence in the game.[26] Reader responses to the picture and letter contained overly complex instructions for accessing the character, such as first finding Reptile, achieving a double flawless victory (winning two consecutive rounds in a match while taking no damage) with only punches, and then performing a Fatality in a specific area of the Warrior Shrine.[20][26][27] With the still-nonexistent character now visualized as a red ninja, players claimed sightings of a random glitch that would cause Scorpion's or Reptile's graphics to flash red with "Error Macro" or "Ermac" appearing in their energy bar.[28] However, such occurrences were not possible, as the macro counter could not increase in the event of a genuine glitch while no red palette for the character existed.[28]

The audits screen in the arcade version of the original Mortal Kombat, with the ERMACS listing (bottom) that led players to believe Ermac was a hidden character. Mortal Kombat co-creator and programmer Ed Boon explained that the listing did not represent a character but "how many times this error macro, or 'ermac,' would execute."[18]

Midway denied the character's presence in Mortal Kombat II (1993) by way of a scrambled message that appeared on the bottom of the screen after beating the game (CEAMR ODSE NTO EXITS; "Ermac does not exist"),[29] and a random pre-match appearance of hidden character Jade with the message "Ermac Who?"[29] But when GamePro asked Boon about the character, he was coy about the issue. "I can't tell you if it's in MKII. ... I can't say it's a bug, but it's an event that happens in the game that shouldn't happen."[30] Midway marketing director Roger Sharpe took a similar route: "If you're one of the fortunate few to ever encounter [Ermac], fine. Savor the moment, because it could never happen again."[30]

In October 1995, two years after the EGM incident, Ermac was added to the playable roster of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (an upgrade of Mortal Kombat 3),[31] because, according to Boon, he "became this urban legend thing, and ... we [Midway] just decided to make it real."[18] In January 2011, Boon clarified the rumors on Twitter,[32][33] and when interviewed the next year during the Evolution Championship Series, he admitted that he had kept the meaning of the ERMACS listing secret in hopes of stirring up fan speculation about the character.[28]

Legacy[edit]

GamesRadar executive editor Eric Bratcher, in a 2009 Electronic Gaming Monthly retrospective, credited the magazine hoax with the character's addition into the Mortal Kombat series. "The biggest, most respected, important gaming mag in the country ... had run a picture of Ermac, and nobody reads corrections."[24] Steve Watts of 1UP.com said in 2011, "Most glitches are regarded as mistakes, and swiftly corrected. Some, like Ermac from Mortal Kombat, go on to live as legends until the creators have no choice but to make it a reality."[34] The staff of GameTrailers unsuccessfully attempted to access Ermac in the first game, per the reader instructions published in the magazine, in an episode of their PopFiction web series that premiered at PAX Prime 2012.[28] Cracked considered the hoax one of their "5 Random Coincidences that Invented Modern Pop Culture", labeling the search for Ermac "gaming's most hilarious and/or saddest treasure hunt" and opining that Boon "thought it was funny watching players drive themselves nuts trying to unlock a secret that didn't exist."[35] WatchMojo ranked it sixth in their 2014 selection of the top ten video game myths.[36] According to Mental Floss, Midway was "impressed with the fans’ passion for the character" in adding Ermac to the games.[37] The Escapist's William Bloodworth considered Ermac a "reward" for Mortal Kombat fans, and likened the fan reaction to the character to that of the MissingNo. glitch from the Pokémon franchise.[38] Kyle LeClair of Topless Robot remarked that the fabricated screenshot "made him into the video game equivalent of Bigfoot", but he was added to Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 "at which point no one really cared about him."[39] ScrewAttack cited the MKII scrambled message as an example of Boon "using puzzles and playing word games rather than confirming or denying rumors."[40]

Midway (now NetherRealm Studios) has paid tribute to the fan rumors and the hoax, starting with their 1994-published Mortal Kombat II comic book written and illustrated by series co-creator John Tobias. An unnamed red ninja was seen therein with Smoke piloting Sub-Zero's Lin Kuei hoverjet; Tobias revealed on Twitter in 2011 that the ninja was Ermac.[41][42] Mortal Kombat: Deception's Konquest (training) mode contained a message that read, "It is a little-known fact that 'Ermac' is short for 'Error Macro'",[43] an homage to his origins that was revived in Mortal Kombat X for a pre-match introduction sequence with Ermac and series newcomer Takeda.[44] He was an Easter egg boss hidden at the Warrior Shrine level in Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, a 2005 beat 'em up spinoff title that spans the events of Mortal Kombat II.[45] Despite not appearing in the original Mortal Kombat, Ermac was included with Scorpion, Sub-Zero and Reptile in a bundle of downloadable classic costumes for the 2011 reboot,[46] and inspired the series debut of Skarlet, a fan-fabricated character from MKII with a similar background.[47] Tobias, who left Midway in 2000, said in a 2012 interview with fan site Mortal Kombat Online, "I really like the revisiting of our old palette-swapped characters like Ermac and Noob Saibot. It's great to see them get proper treatment."[48]

Appearances[edit]

In video games[edit]

The enigmatic Ermac is a conglomerate of the souls of deceased Outworld warriors, constructed with the sole purpose of serving as an enforcer to Outworld emperor Shao Kahn.[1] The imposing concentration of these souls gives him considerable telekinetic powers and causes Ermac to refer to himself in the plural form.[49] In Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, which expanded on the plot of Mortal Kombat 3 to accommodate the upgrade's new characters,[1] Ermac has been in hiding since the first Mortal Kombat tournament, and participates in Kahn's invasion of Earthrealm and the third tournament in order to prove his existence,[1][note 4] but the Earth heroes emerge victorious, and Kahn and his minions are driven back to Outworld.[51] Ermac's UMK3 backstory was unchanged in the 1996 compilation title Mortal Kombat Trilogy, but his endings varied in both games.[52]

Ermac disappears from the series continuity thereafter until Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (2002). After Kahn and Liu Kang are slain by the eponymous pairing of Shang Tsung and Quan Chi,[53] Ermac remains under Kahn's control and, as such, wanders Outworld aimlessly without instructions until a chance encounter with the blind swordsman Kenshi, who breaks him free of Kahn's spell out of pity. As a token of gratitude, Ermac teaches Kenshi the Telekinetic Slam.[54]

In Mortal Kombat: Deception (2004), Ermac, free from Kahn's control and in charge of his own destiny, opts to become a force for good out of contrition for the past crimes he had committed in Kahn's name.[55] He joins forces with the spirit of Liu Kang, assisting him in freeing the souls of his friends—Johnny Cage, Jax, Sonya Blade, Kitana, and Kung Lao—who had been killed by the Deadly Alliance and then resurrected and controlled by the game's main boss character, the Dragon King Onaga.[49] Ermac handily battles all five warriors in Onaga's throne room on his own in order to keep them at bay while Liu Kang individually liberates their souls, and in a subplot that has not been explored further in the series, he additionally sensed that Onaga was being controlled by an unseen, more powerful influence.[49] Before these events, in the game's Konquest (training) mode, Ermac is still in Kahn's employ and dispatched to the Netherealm to defeat the demon Ashrah, but since he is bound by magic, the realm drains his powers.[56] He encounters the Earthrealmer Shujinko, who helps him locate the monolithic Soul Stone that restores his strength, and Ermac trains Shujinko as compensation.[56] Ermac then battles Ashrah, who wrongly believes he also is a demon and seeks to kill him, but she is defeated.[57]

During the massive battle royal among the combatants in the opening sequence of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (2006), Ermac and Nightwolf attack Sheeva on the steps of the Pyramid of Argus, but she overpowers them before Kenshi intervenes. After Quan Chi cuts Kenshi down, Ermac hurls Quan Chi off the pyramid and then stomps on Kenshi before revealing himself as Shang Tsung.[58] A computer-animated concept biography created by Midway showed Ermac performing a kata routine in a forest over the soundtrack of a voiceover of his Deception biography and a sample of George S. Clinton's score from the first Mortal Kombat film.[59] Midway went with still-image biographies (of which only seventeen total out of 63 were created) for the final product,[60] but Ermac did not receive one of his own and played no part in the storyline.[note 5] The test biography was hidden and unlockable in Armageddon's Konquest mode.

In Mortal Kombat, the 2011 reboot of the continuity of the first three titles, Ermac returns to his original role of Shao Kahn's enforcer,[62] and is introduced during the Shaolin Tournament from the first game, where he loses to Liu Kang in battle.[63] The ten thousand[64] souls comprising his being are those of slain Edenian warriors; Kahn used these souls to form Ermac and then programmed him to do his bidding.[62] In the story mode, he eliminates Johnny Cage from the second tournament and uses his telekinesis to obliterate Jax's arms[65] and throw Stryker down a stairwell onto a subway platform.[66] In his semicanonical ending, illustrated by Anna Christenson and animated by Daanish Syed,[67][68] one of the souls trapped inside him is that of King Jerrod, Queen Sindel's husband and Kitana's father. He asserts control of the warring souls inside Ermac after Kahn's death, and returns to his peaceful rule of Edenia while maintaining Ermac's physical form.[62] These events did not carry over into Mortal Kombat X, but lead series storyteller John Vogel confirmed on Twitter in 2015 that Ermac remained in possession of Jerrod's soul.[69]

In Mortal Kombat X (2015), Ermac remains loyal to Shao Kahn's successors to the Outworld throne, first Mileena and then Kotal Kahn[70] as they fight for the realm's rule in the midst of a civil war. He joins forces with Kotal Kahn, Reptile, Erron Black, and Ferra/Torr in the game's story mode, which includes a flashback sequence of him siding with usurper Kotal Kahn upon the revelation that Mileena is not the true heir to the Outworld throne, as she is a genetic creation and not Shao Kahn's biological daughter.[71] During a confrontation between the Outworlders and Cassie Cage's Special Forces unit, Ermac proves immune to Kenshi's son Takeda's telepathy due to the cacophony of souls inside his body, but he is then beaten by Takeda in battle.[72] Near the conclusion, he faces Jacqui Briggs, to whom he acknowledges destroying her father Jax's arms in the MK2011 timeline before he is again defeated.[73] In his ending, he returns to Shao Kahn's abandoned fortress searching for a voice calling to him, when his souls are suddenly consumed by a resurrected Shang Tsung, leaving Ermac in a weakened state.[70] He additionally appears in the closing panel of Kotal Kahn's ending as one of Kahn's chosen warriors (with Reptile, Erron Black, Ferra, and Torr) who fight in Mortal Kombat every decade in attempt to regain Kahn's Outworld sovereignty from Raiden.[74]

Design[edit]

Debuting in UMK3 as a palette swap of Scorpion,[75] Ermac received his own unique redesign for Mortal Kombat: Deception following an eight-year absence from the series

Played by John Turk in the digitized titles Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat Trilogy,[8] Ermac was physically identical to the series' other male ninjas, distinguishable only by his scarlet palette, and was one of ten human palette-swapped characters in both games.[75] His costume consisted of a black balaclava and sleeveless bodysuit worn underneath a red vest, fauld and loincloth, along with gauntlets, shin guards, and hard-shell face mask. He initially had the same bronze skin tone as Jade,[75] which was changed to the white of the other male ninjas (save for the wraith Noob Saibot) in Trilogy.[76] As a palette swap, Ermac had a standard fireball projectile while sharing Scorpion's teleport punch and Human Smoke's "Uppercut Decapitation" Fatality.[77] His characteristic ability was the power of psychokinesis, illustrated by the "Telekinetic Slam", which sent opponents airborne from any distance onscreen, then crashing to the ground and rebounding toward the player upon impact, setting them up for an additional hit. Ed Boon described Ermac as "magic-orientated" and one of the strongest characters in UMK3 on the basis of the maneuver.[78][note 6] It doubled as Ermac's second Fatality in UMK3 and Trilogy (in which he repeats the move until the opponent explodes)[77] and has become his signature special in the series. The "Uppercut Decapitation" is his lone Fatality that involves physical contact with his opponents, with his psychic powers thereafter serving as the foundation for his finishers.[77]

With the ninja swaps transitioning to the three-dimensional Mortal Kombat games, Ermac was given a makeover by series art director and character designer Steve Beran for Mortal Kombat: Deception, his first appearance as a player character since Trilogy.[2] He now wore a long-sleeved, looser-fitting red bodysuit that left no skin exposed, underneath a black tabard with red trim, while the loincloth extended downward from above the knee (in UMK3 and Trilogy) to ankle-length.[79] His mask was a series of black straps wrapped around his head,[80] and his palette was enhanced with touches of green, including a large gemstone planted on the center of his forehead.[79][80] Beran explained in 2006, "Generally when we remake an old character we focus on making the primary costume the most different."[2] For his "Hara-Kiri", a finishing move that appeared only in Deception, Ermac repeatedly bangs his head face-first into the ground until it explodes into a bloody mess.[81] Beran labeled it one of his favorites from the game due to its gruesomeness.[81]

The Deception template was maintained for the 2011 reboot with minor differences. Ermac's outfit was more form-fitting with the mask neater in presentation and conformed to the shape of his head, but emphasis was placed on black with the red palette a darker carmine and reduced to trimming on the tabard and on the underarm and outer thigh sections of the suit.[62] A new cosmetic addition was two long straps, similar to the ones that extended from the back of his mask, that dangled from his forearms, and the green gems and their placement remained unchanged, with the forehead mount smaller in size.[62]

In June 2014, after Boon's confirmation of Mortal Kombat X, NetherRealm Studios senior character artist Bernard Beneteau released several computer-generated Ermac illustrations to the public that he called "concept fanart."[82] The finalized designs (by Justin Murray) for the game bore no resemblance to Beneteau's images, as Ermac's primary costume duplicated his MK2011 alternate of a sleeveless hooded trench coat,[4] while character renders by NetherRealm Studios illustrated him with a slimmer figure and his mask exposing more of his face, revealing decaying skin.[83] According to the developers, his emaciated appearance was in order to "show signs of rot, of a loosening grip on the contained souls",[84] in addition to serving as a "hearkening back" to Deception, referring specifically to a metal talisman modeled after the tabard design from the game[79] and permanently attached to Ermac's chest, "holding the construct together."[84] His alternate costume[85] was further described by NetherRealm as a "raw" iteration of the character: "a starving monster, perpetually seeking sustenance."[84] A 2013 concept sketch from Murray displayed demonic faces protruding from a bare midriff as a depiction of the souls "warping" Ermac's skin "Freddy [Krueger] style", while the chest talisman was affixed to his face in lieu of his mask, "binding the souls to his body. Without it ... the hold would collapse and they would rip his body apart."[86] For his "Inner Workings" Fatality in the game, Ermac levitates his defeated opponent, breaks their spine in midair, and then telekinetically pulls their gastrointestinal tract out from their mouth.[87] The finisher was conceived by lead game designer John Edwards. "I remember sitting in the pitch meeting for it. People were like, 'That's hilarious and disgusting.' I'm pretty proud of it."[87]

Gameplay[edit]

Ermac was the lone selectable character in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 who had not appeared in any previous MK games, and was unlockable by players with the correct entry of a postmatch code ("Ultimate Kombat Kode") along with Mileena and Classic Sub-Zero.[31] Sega Saturn Magazine considered the "Telekinetic Slam" in UMK3 "perfect for setting up juggle combos", making Ermac "one character to be very worried about",[88] while GamePro called it "one of the most effective moves in the game" that was best utilized against downed opponents.[89] Ermac is not playable in Shaolin Monks, in which he is a boss hidden inside a statue at the Warrior Shrine whom players battled after unlocking him.[45] He was one of three post-MKII characters in the game with Kabal and Quan Chi.

Ermac was not included in Deadly Alliance aside from his brief mention in the game's Konquest mode. With his return in Deception, he became the second series character after Sindel with the ability of levitation, which itself led into other attacks. His main fighting style in Deception and Mortal Kombat: Armageddon is Choy Lay Fut, a martial art that specializes, as depicted in his Deception ending, in warding off multiple attackers.[90] GameSpy described his combo abilities as "strong", but countered that the character "isn't very versatile otherwise" in regards to his specials, which by themselves were "only somewhat useful".[91]

The 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot saw the "Telekinetic Slam" (renamed "Force Lift")[77] enhanced to include a reverse slam in addition to the regular front slam, all at an increased speed, and a new move involving his lifting an opponent and then telekinetically shoving them away ("Force Push") or piledriving them headfirst to the ground ("Telepush").[77] GameFront's Mitchell Saltzman described Ermac as "a great all-around character" who was "not too difficult" for beginning players, while "having enough potential" for expert gamers in inflicting heavy damage to opponents.[92] Prima Games stated that facing "an unforgiving character like Ermac" would "cause [players] to play a lot safer", while his juggle combos "do not take a great deal of practice and inflict a considerable amount of damage."[93]

Ermac's gameplay style in Mortal Kombat X is similar to the reboot in that it favors psychic attacks over hand-to-hand combat, but with a wider range of special moves that are split up into three fighting variations like the game's other playable characters, while he floats across the playfield instead of walking. The first variation, "Mystic", is geared toward defensive-minded players with enhanced telekinetic attacks best utilized at a distance, in addition to the "Force Lift" being able to suspend opponents longer in midair and thus set them up for combos.[94] The second, "Master of Souls", specializes in stealthy maneuvers that enable Ermac to turn invisible and therefore temporarily invulnerable,[95] while his incumbent green-fireball projectile doubles as a stun attack.[96] "Spectral" centers around an aerial offensive, including a variation of Raiden's "Torpedo" move,[96] while his projectile is disabled.[95] According to Bryan Dawson of Prima Games, Ermac "is a more complex version of Scorpion. The two have very similar tools, but Ermac ... fights better at a distance, while Scorpion generally needs to be in your face to start combos."[96]

In other media[edit]

Television and film[edit]

Ermac has featured in alternate Mortal Kombat media as an antagonist under Shao Kahn's command. He appears in the final two episodes of the 1996 animated series Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm; in the twelfth episode ("Abandoned"), he and his army of red ninjas work with an original character named Ruby (serving as a stand-in for Jade)[note 7] in attempt to capture Jax and trap the Earthrealm defenders in Outworld. Though they succeed, Ruby enables the Earth warriors to escape.[98] Ermac was voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson in this episode, but had no dialogue in the series finale ("Overthrown"), where he participates in the effort to stop Kitana's removal of Kahn from the Outworld throne but is defeated by Liu Kang.[99] Ermac was shown unmasked in both episodes, revealing a normal human appearance with a goatee, receding hairline, and silver hoop earrings; his one inhuman feature was his solid white eyes.[99]

Ermac is a supporting character in the 1997 film Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, and was played by assistant stunt coordinator John Medlen, who was the second unit director for the 1998 television series Mortal Kombat: Conquest.[9] He is not identified by name, save for the closing credits, and sparsely features as one of Shao Kahn's subordinates with Sheeva, Rain and Motaro. Ermac has one line of dialogue, when he unsuccessfully pitches himself as the new general of Kahn's extermination squads, and his lone fight scene occurs when he battles Sonya in the movie's climax, during which Noob Saibot spawns from his chest[100] and they team up to assault Sonya until Jax's intervention enables her to defeat Ermac with a headscissors takedown before snapping his neck. Though the script and print media publications such as SciFi Entertainment and Black Belt made mention of his telekinetic powers,[101][102][103] they were not used in the script (his only descriptive attack therein being a "flip punch"),[100] nor in the final print of the film or the movie novelization. The costume worn by Medlen during shooting was auctioned off on movie-memorabilia site ScreenUsed in May 2010.[104][note 8]

Kim Do Nguyen as Ermac in the promotional trailer for the 2013 second season of Mortal Kombat: Legacy, which made changes to the character's design and his backstory from Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance

His association with Kenshi from Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance was loosely adapted for the 2013 second season of the Mortal Kombat: Legacy web series. In director Kevin Tancharoen's version of the storyline, played out over the third and fourth episodes and first set in feudal Japan, Ermac (described as a "demon" with a "heart of stone") dwells in a dank cave where he guards "the sword of Sento" under Shao Kahn's orders, and has accumulated the souls of warriors who have tried over time to acquire it.[12] When Kenshi attempts to do likewise, Ermac strikes him blind on the spot.[105] The story then transitions to present day at the Mortal Kombat tournament and Kenshi now possesses the sword; Ermac reappears to reclaim it and they engage in combat. Ermac uses his powers for the first time in any form of alternate media when he psychically flips Kenshi onto his back and binds him with a pair of green tentacles shot from his hands, but Kenshi cuts himself free with the sword and then flings it into Ermac's chest, killing him.[105] Ermac was played by stuntman Kim Do Nguyen,[10] who has a background in taekwondo[106] and had appeared in the 2011 first season as one of Kano's Black Dragon thugs and the double for Peter Shinkoda (Sektor) in separate episodes, while performing stuntwork in season two for Ian Anthony Dale (Scorpion) and Brian Tee (Liu Kang).[107][108] Legacy fight choreographer Larnell Stovall called the Ermac/Kenshi fight a personal "geek-out moment", because "who would have thought we would see those two fight in a web series?"[109] Ermac's physical appearance in the series was a complete departure from the games, as he was outfitted in a ragged black robe and a hood that framed his unmasked decaying visage, which included a black substance staining his face.[110] He was the only character in the second season who required extensive makeup, which was designed by Christien Tinsley.[5] In November 2013, artist Jarad Marantz posted on his blog makeup concepts for the character that had been rejected due to Legacy's budget constraints.[5]

Literature[edit]

Ermac has a smaller role in the Mortal Kombat: Annihilation novelization by Jerome Preisler, which describes him as "still and unblinking ... without any discernible reaction" as Kahn grandiosely introduces his charges during the Earth invasion. He has an inconclusive fight with Kitana that he instigates as she is distracted by Sindel's unexpected appearance, but is uninvolved in the selection of Kahn's new general. He has no dialogue, only snickering at Sindel late in the story after she is threatened with death by Kahn, and he is defeated by Sonya at the conclusion with a simple uppercut. His outfit differs from that of the film in that it is fully red and identical to that of a traditional ninja.[111]

Ermac played a minor part in DC Comics' 2015 Mortal Kombat X weekly prequel miniseries, which was set before the in-game storyline. He first appears in the twenty-first chapter as Mileena's messenger informing her of Kotal Kahn's machinations in Outworld. Under her orders, he gathers a Tarkatan army for an invasion of Shang Tsung's island in search of her former ally Reiko and the Red Dragon clan after Mileena learns of Reiko's alliance with Havik.[112] In battle against Reiko and the Red Dragon on the island, Ermac assists Mileena in defeating Skarlet.[113] He then joins Mileena and Kotal Kahn in dismembering Reiko,[114] but is soon captured along with Kotal, Mileena, Sonya and Johnny Cage and held captive in Outworld by Havik, who is siphoning the quintet's blood as a "sacrifice" to newly appointed "blood god" Reiko.[115] After killing Reiko and acquiring Shinnok's amulet, and stabbing Cage, Sonya, Kotal and Mileena with cursed "Kamidogu" daggers, Havik then begins stealing Ermac's souls to fuel the amulet, a process that is interrupted when Havik is wounded by Takeda.[116] Ermac is absent from the ensuing three-way battle involving Takeda, Havik's cursed fighters, and Sheeva, Kintaro and Outworld reinforcements; he reappears three chapters later in the aftermath of Havik's death and the breaking of the curse, when he then turns against Mileena and sides with Kahn due to what he believes is her incompetence as ruler of Outworld.[117]

Promotion and merchandise[edit]

Ermac's official render for the Mortal Kombat reboot debuted front and center on the title page of PlayStation: The Official Magazine's "2011's Hugest Games" feature,[118] while he appeared in two additional screenshots, one of which showed him battling guest character Kratos.[119][120] For his May 2011 review of the game, Angry Joe Show host Joe Vargas dressed up as the character for a skit titled "Cooking with Ermac" (a parody of an unlockable "Cooking with Scorpion" short from Deadly Alliance),[121] in which he mocked his Puerto Rican heritage and "telekinetically" prepared a plate of tostones.[122] He reprised the role in August 2011 for his review of the Kinect version of Fruit Ninja, which was introduced as "Ermac's Dojo."[123] Vargas spoke in a loud voice and exaggerated Hispanic accent while in character on both occasions.

Ermac appeared on several common "attack" cards in the 2005 Epic Battles collectible card game that featured the Mortal Kombat: Deception roster.[124] He was part of a "Klassic Ninja" six-pack of four-inch action figures released in 2011 by Jazwares, in addition to being sold separately,[125][126] and a placeholder for a planned figure in his downloadable MK1 skin from the reboot was displayed by Jazwares at the 2012 American International Toy Fair, but the figure was never produced.[127] Ermac was displayed on a life-sized standing cardboard cutout produced in 2011 by Advanced Graphics,[128] and a 2.5" x 3.5" collectible magnet released by Ata-Boy Wholesale in 2011.[129] Syco Collectibles released a limited-edition (250 units) eighteen-inch polystone statue in 2012, complete with glow-in-the-dark eyes and gemstones, plus "green energy" accessories that detached from his hands.[130][131]

Reception[edit]

Cultural impact[edit]

In the 2006 metaphysical novel If You Don't Give Me Heaven, by Noel Rogers, the main character reads a fictitious self-help book that discusses historical hoaxes such as the Donation of Constantine and the Rosicrucian Manifestos, then he checks the book's index to see if the author makes any reference to Ermac.[132] In a feature on the series published online by Cracked in 2010, images of Street Fighter character Ken Masters and a Dexter-like figure were juxtaposed in a mock mathematical equation that ended with a UMK3 screenshot of Ermac performing the "Telekinetic Slam" Fatality and was captioned with, "Mortal Kombat. Creating serial killers before GTA was swimming in Rockstar's nutsack."[133] Ermac joined Shang Tsung, Jax, Scorpion and Raiden in a 2014 animated Mortal Kombat parody short produced by Comedy Central, in which he was renamed "Blood Ninja" and was briefly seen rejecting a request over the phone from "Yao Zhang" (Shang Tsung) to compete in his secret underground tournament against "Iron Shogun" (Scorpion) after all the other contestants are no-shows.[134]

Critical reaction and popularity[edit]

Ermac cosplayer Dave Todd plays MK2011 with NetherRealm Studios games marketing manager Brian Goodman at PAX East 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts.[135][136]

Though not on the level of mainstream exposure as the likes of Scorpion, Sub-Zero or Kitana—while the Guardian Liberty Voice considered him among the series' "staples",[137] CBS News labeled him "obscure"[138]—Ermac's profile has increased since his role in Deception, combined with the legacy of the fan rumors and reception to his finishing moves from the series' later installments. He placed eleventh in UGO's 2012 selection of the top fifty Mortal Kombat characters, with the site opining that his powers made him "a very lethal foe" and likening him to Marvel character Venom due to his plural speech pattern.[139] Den of Geek placed Ermac sixth in their 2015 ranking of the series' 73 playable characters, but wrongly described him in Deception as "replacing Raiden [as] the series’ new wise-mentor character."[140] Geoffrey Tim of LazyGamer said in 2015, "He got his own real character in Mortal Kombat: Deception, and has since become quite a fan-favourite, thanks to his juggle-friendly telekinetic powers and otherworldly, gross fatalities."[141] In July 2014, before his addition to the game, GamesRadar named Ermac among the returning characters they wanted for Mortal Kombat X. "This red-clad ninja might not be as iconic as Sub-Zero or Scorpion, but it's hard not to love Ermac for his ... supernatural, Sith-like powers of telekinesis."[142] Joe Pring of WhatCulture ranked Ermac sixth in his 2015 selection of the twenty "greatest all-time" Mortal Kombat characters,[143] and in 2013, Complex placed him fifteenth in their selection of the twenty "most brutal" MK characters for his Fatalities and destruction of Jax's arms in MK2011.[144] Anthony Severino of GameRevolution ranked him eighth in his list of the "Top 10 Old School Mortal Kombat Characters" in 2011 due to his origins.[145] ScrewAttack rated Ermac seventh in their 2011 selection of the top twenty orange video game characters, calling him "one of the better characters in the Mortal Kombat series. Not bad for a palette swap of Scorpion."[146] Fans voted Ermac fifteenth in a 2013 online poll hosted by Dorkly that rated the series' full playable roster,[147] and he was voted the number-one character wanted for Mortal Kombat X, excluding the then-confirmed Sub-Zero and Scorpion, in a June 2014 vote hosted by Shoryuken.com.[148] After placing runner-up to Sub-Zero in the 2012 edition of the annual "Supreme Mortal Kombat Champion" polls held by Mortal Kombat Online, and finishing fourth behind Smoke, Raiden and Scorpion in 2013,[149][150] Ermac was voted the series' top character in 2014,[151] but was eliminated in the first round the next year.[152]

Finishing moves[edit]

Ermac's "Pest Control" Fatality from the 2011 reboot, in which he shrinks his opponent and then crushes them underfoot, was well received by critics for its perceived humorous elements. Complex ranked it second in their 2013 list of the series' twenty best finishing moves, calling it "brutal, funny and effective", and "all about the detail—the way he ground[s] his heel into the ground before wiping his feet clean."[153] We Got This Covered, in 2011, deemed it the game's "most imaginative" Fatality, adding that the shrunken opponents' "pint-sized screams make it even more worthwhile."[154] Cameron Koch of TechTimes ranked it the franchise's second-best Fatality behind Sub-Zero's "Spine Rip" in 2015. "For every gruesome, borderline gag-reflex inducing fatality in Mortal Kombat, there are an equal number of completely silly and downright funny ones."[155] Paste ranked it third in their 2011 selection of MK2011's nine best Fatalities,[156] while it made FHM's selection of the reboot's nine "most brutal" finishers.[157] Brazilian gaming portal UOL Jogos included it in their 2013 selection of the top fifty Mortal Kombat finishing moves, while rating his "Headbanger" Hara-Kiri with Bo' Rai Cho's "Fart of Doom" Fatality as Deception's top finishers.[158] Robert Workman of Prima Games ranked it 46th in his own selection of the series' top fifty Fatalities in 2014,[159] with Ermac's "Mind over Splatter" from the same game placing sixth in the list. "He tears off the arms and legs of his foes while they're still alive, then flips them upside down and smashes their heads into the pavement. Yikes."[160]

The "Inner Workings" Fatality from Mortal Kombat X garnered publicity for its graphic imagery[161][162][163] after NetherRealm Studios debuted a trailer of the finisher on YouTube in March 2015 that accumulated over 850,000 views in less than a month.[87] Chicago Reader spotlighted it in their April 2015 article "Has Mortal Kombat Finally Gone Too Far?", describing it as "an act of medieval torture as imagined by Tolkien."[87] Nathan Birch of Uproxx commented, "Ermac probably wins the 'most disgusting' prize for his slow-motion extraction of his opponent's entire digestive trac[t]."[164] The staff of Dorkly deemed it the "grossest Mortal Kombat Fatality we've ever seen."[165] Jason Fanelli of Syfy Games said, "Everyone talks about how brutal [Mileena's] Fatality is, but I cringe every time Ermac pulls some poor sap's internal organs out."[166] CraveOnline ranked it ninth in their selection of MKX's ten best Fatalities.[167]

Gameplay and other reception[edit]

Ermac joined Mortal Kombat's other male ninjas in ranking third on GamePro's 2009 list of the best palette-swapped video game characters,[168] but Game Informer did not want these characters, aside from Scorpion and Sub-Zero, in any future series installments.[169] WhatCulture criticized the series' inclusion of "various different colorized versions of Scorpion", such as Ermac, as "a trend [that] got out of hand."[170] Time described the reboot's costume updates as such that "Sub-Zero and Ermac don't just look like re-colored versions of the same characters."[171] Jeff Gerstmann of GameSpot called the unlocking of Ermac and the other secret characters in UMK3 "a hassle" and "supremely annoying",[172] but Robert Naytor of Hardcore Gaming 101 considered Ermac "a better fit" than Scorpion for guest-appearing in the 2004 Midway release Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy, "given how much telekinesis is used throughout the game."[173] 4thletter ranked his MK2011 ending 86th in their 2013 list of the top 200 fighting game endings. "[King] Jerrod is a fairly obscure name in the Mortal Kombat storyline, but one that makes perfect sense for this reveal. ... Him being a piece of Ermac fits and makes for a nice twist."[174]

Response to Ermac's alternate-media incarnations has been mostly negative. Due to his lack of development in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, he was dismissed as "useless" by Newsarama[175] and "some random ninja guy" by 411mania.com,[176] while Theodore Bond of Letterboxd faulted the similarity of Ermac and Rain's onscreen costumes: "I only had a slight idea of who they were and by no means could I tell them apart."[177] Eva Vandergelder of Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension described the character as "some scrub in another of those ninja suits" whose fight against Sonya "has the feel of a Tom & Jerry cartoon."[178] Uproxx ranked it fifteenth in their 2015 rating of the seventeen fight scenes from both Mortal Kombat feature films, calling Ermac "the eminently forgettable red Scorpion clone" and the fight itself "about as nondescript as you'd expect."[179] The character was named among those wanted for the next season of Mortal Kombat: Legacy by iGoGaming.net in 2011,[180] and Jake Morris of We The Nerdy considered Ermac's fight with Kenshi "the best" of the second season,[181] but his character design was panned. Carl Lyon of Fearnet wrote that Ermac looked "like some sort of black metal leper, a flailing mass of rags and corpse paint" with "little development outside of an opponent ... that gets quickly dispatched."[182] He was further described as "a goofy cave-dweller befit an episode of Goosebumps" by Kevin Pape of gaming site The Red Herb[183] and, by ScrewAttack, an "orc-like beast" with a "just flat-out strange" design.[184]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The name has been pronounced as both "AIR-mac" (UMK3/Trilogy and MK: Defenders of the Realm)[11] and /ˈər.mæk/ (MK: Deception—present, and MK: Legacy),[12] with stress placed on the first syllable in either instance. The latter is the standard "ur" pronunciation of the syllable, while the former is derived from the first syllable of "error", as in Ermac's namesake of "error macro"; an allusion was included in Cassie Cage's "Selfie" Fatality from Mortal Kombat X, in which a mock social media site displays the username "It'sNotAirmac".[13] In no relation to the character's origins, "Ermac" is a common Filipino surname.[14][15]
  2. ^ The contraction has been misinterpreted as being short for "Error Machine"[19] or "Earnings per machine."[20]
  3. ^ In the game's operations manual, dated February 1993, an illustration of the audit screen instead showed the entire character roster and counters representing the number of times they were chosen by players—which was listed on a separate screen in the game's diagnostics menu—followed by the macro that was written as "Error Traps."[23]
  4. ^ A 1996 Mortal Kombat issue of Brazilian magazine SuperGamePower described Ermac in UMK3 as being part of a secret "watchdog group" that spies on, and then attacks, Liu Kang's Shaolin temple in Kang's absence (the latter task had been executed by Baraka back in MKII), while making it appear that Shao Kahn was responsible for the attack.[50]
  5. ^ Ermac's noncanonical Armageddon ending sees his physical form shattered from the energy of the defeated Blaze and the souls within Ermac forming individual bodies of their own (simply called "the Ermacs") that are all linked together psychically in a collective conscience, making him no longer a single being but an entire army.[61]
  6. ^ Boon uses a malapropism in discussing the move; he refers to it as the "Teleport Slam."
  7. ^ A guide was produced for DotR's writers by Threshold Entertainment that contained, among its contents, biographies of characters shortlisted for inclusion in the show. Jade's role therein was as "a childhood friend of Kitana's but also works for Kahn at times. She is alluring, mysterious and exotic, yet she cannot be trusted. She use[s] her beauty to lure her unsuspecting prey."[97] Jade never appeared on the show and was instead converted by Threshold into this original character, her palette changed to red in order to connect her with Ermac (who himself is unmentioned in the guide) and his forces while her gemstone namesake was kept intact (jade to ruby). Ruby played Jade's designated role in this episode, though as a former ally, and not childhood friend, of Kitana.
  8. ^ Exact date of sale is unknown; May 5, 2010 is the last archived date when Annihilation appears in the pull-down film listing on the ScreenUsed.com site. The title no longer appears on the next archived date, May 27, 2010.

References[edit]

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External links[edit]