|Mortal Kombat character|
Nightwolf's alternate costume in Mortal Kombat (2011)
|First game||Mortal Kombat 3 (1995)|
|Created by||John Tobias|
|Voiced by||Tod Thawley (DotR)
Paul St. Peter (MK:D)
Larry Omaha (MK 2011)
|Motion capture||Stephan Scalabrino (MK 2011)|
|Portrayed by||Sal Divita (MK3, UMK3, MKT)
|Origin||United States (Earthrealm)|
|Fighting styles||Vale Tudo (MK:D, MK:U, MK:A)
Tae Kwon Do (MK:D, MK:U)
Nightwolf is a fictional character in the Mortal Kombat fighting game series. He debuted in Mortal Kombat 3 as a Native American shaman and historian who is chosen as a warrior of Earthrealm during Shao Kahn's invasion. As one of the main characters, he was also featured in the game's companion media, such as the live action film Mortal Kombat Annihilation and the animated series Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm.
He is also playable in the updates Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat Trilogy. After being absent from Mortal Kombat 4 and Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, he reemerged as a player character in 2004's Mortal Kombat: Deception and also appeared in the follow-ups Mortal Kombat: Armageddon and the 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot. Response to the character has been mixed, with some citing Nightwolf as an example of a Native American stereotype.
In video games
Although introduced as a historian and a shaman, Nightwolf does not live in the past. He is a proud and fierce warrior dedicated to the cause of good, and is in contact with Raiden through visions. As such, he draws both on internal and external spiritual energy to enhance his strength. Although his patch of tribal land provided a vital shelter territory for the Earthrealm warriors at the time of Shao Kahn's invasion, it seems Nightwolf prefers solitary work to companionship. Nightwolf had been warned of the coming invasion of Earthrealm by a vision from Raiden. As such, he was fully aware and prepared for the events as they occurred, including the attacks of Kahn's extermination squads. His own homeland protected through shamanic magic, he would soon be joined by the other chosen warriors. Together, they then travelled back to the East Coast, prepared for battle against the Emperor and his minions, and won.
Nightwolf made his return during the events of Mortal Kombat: Deception. In the events leading to Deception, Nightwolf viewed images of the Dragon King and his resurrection in his dreams. These nightmares recurred constantly, and Nightwolf came to recognize them as a warning. He knew that a new evil threat was about to arise from the ashes, and in view of Reptile's transformation into Onaga, his predictions most assuredly came true. The method that Nightwolf would use to destroy Onaga was one passed down to him by his forefathers. This method was that of the "Sin Eater", which involved absorbing the sins of his tribe. However there was a terrible consequence to be considered in taking on such a role. If he were to do this, he would be a danger to all that surrounded him, including his allies. Hence, he made the decision to destroy Onaga on his own, keeping his allies out of harm's way. His role as a Sin Eater would involve entering the Netherealm, drawing Onaga's soul to him, and releasing the absorbed sins of his ancestors, which would bind Onaga to the spot. His method was successful and he managed to separate Reptile from Onaga, and bind the Dragon King to the Netherealm.
After completing his quest, he was guided back to Earthrealm by his spirit guides - a pack of wolves. Nightwolf began to receive visions of a battle, where an unknown power was forcing the participating warriors to fight each other. His visions started to become reality, when he spoke with Johnny Cage and their allies, and agreed to assist them in battle against Shinnok and his forces. Eventually, Nightwolf was met by Kitana and the spirit of Liu Kang. The bond that the two of them shared was enough for Kitana to keep Kang's spirit whole, until a way was found for him to rejoin with his body. Still drained after using his shamanic powers on Onaga, Nightwolf used what magic he could to relieve Kitana of her burden, and took on the responsibility of looking after Kang's spirit. In his Armageddon ending, he defeats Blaze, allowing him to absorb his power. Nightwolf is catapulted into the spirit world, where he becomes the ultimate shaman, a living ghost. He finds Liu Kang's spirit and guides it back to the physical world. There, Liu Kang is able to reunite with his body, becoming human once more.
In the 2011 reboot, Nightwolf is responsible for destroying Shao Kahn's Soulnado and is one of the few Earthrealm warriors to survive Sindel's initial onslaught. Ultimately, Nightwolf sacrifices himself to destroy Sindel, resulting in his soul being among those claimed by Quan Chi. Nightwolf, a Revenant of Quan Chi, is present during the events of Mortal Kombat X.
Design and gameplay
During an early development of Mortal Kombat 3, the character was known simply as "Indian" before his name was determined. Ed Boon described him to VideoGames magazine in April 1995 (issue #75) as "a very nontraditional Indian. He doesn't swing an axe that he's always holding, like Chief Thunder from Killer Instinct. He doesn't have all of the stereotypical Indian-type things like T. Hawk or Chief Thunder; he doesn't go 'Hoya! Hoya!' and all that." Nightwolf uses a mystical set of weapons (a tomahawk and a bow and arrow) in battle.
According to guides by both Mean Machines Sega and SuperGamePower, the best part about him in the original MK3 was his then-unique ability to deflect any projectile back towards an opponent. Total 64 opined that, once mastered, Nightwolf "is one of the brightest stars" of Mortal Kombat Trilogy, as "none of his moves are seemingly useful at the start, but stick[ing] with him [might] get some great results."
Prima Games' official guide for Armageddon gave Nightwolf a poor overall rating of 4/10, stating: "Nightwolf is a punishing character type, but he is almost forced to punish using ranged attacks. Unfortunately this means that Nightwolf, while being a solid punisher character, has a difficult time inflicting heavy damage on opponents." In Prima Games' official guide for the 2011's Mortal Kombat, Nightwolf was judged to be a much improved character, especially since his player "can play the aggressor or the defensive force based on the fact that his Shoulder and Power Charge moves knock down and are instantaneous" if the former is blocked; his Uppercut is also "an excellent move to counter jumpers." Nightwolf's best matchup is against Reptile, and one of the only few characters that will give him serious problems is Noob Saibot.
In other media and merchandise
In the 1996 cartoon series Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, Nightwolf (voiced by Tod Thawley) serves to offer both spiritual and technical help to the Earthrealm warriors, having experience with computer technology. He only fights a few times, spending most of his time back at base monitoring the Earthrealm looking for dimensional rips. Nightwolf has a pet wolf named Kiva, who could merge with Nightwolf to increase his power.
Nightwolf briefly appeared in the 1997 live-action film Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, played by Native American rapper and actor Litefoot. Nightwolf has no fight scenes, although he attacks Liu Kang in his wolf form and strikes him unconscious with a hatchet in order to put him in a "dream state," during which he is shown sitting at a campfire in Liu's dream and teaching him how to use his Animality. Nightwolf was described in the shooting script and movie novelization as wearing a Stone Temple Pilots T-shirt and a pair of Oakley sunglasses, which was ultimately aborted in favor of his in-game outfit.
Nightwolf has since featured in no other MK alternate media, but stunt coordinator Larnell Stovall said in a 2011 interview with ShogunGamer that he had wanted the character for the 2013 second season of the Mortal Kombat: Legacy web series, describing him as "too cool due to his powers, knives and that axe!" An action figure of Nightwolf was released by Jazwares in July 2012. It came in two versions, 4-inch and 6-inch.
Nightwolf has often been unfavorably discussed in the context of the portrayal of Native Americans in video games. Boon's 1995 description of the character to VideoGames provoked a comment from the magazine: "For a character described by Midway as a 'nontraditional Indian,' he certainly has all the trappings of one. Let's see, he wears feathers and war paint, swings a hatchet, shoots arrows...could there be a 'Scalp' Fatality?" In 2011, Dorkly included Nightwolf among their selections of the seven most stereotypical Native American fighting-game characters. "Instead of carrying around actual axes, Nightwolf is so in touch with spirits and elders and, you know, energy, that he can form tomahawks out of green ectoplasm." Complex, in 2012, deemed Nightwolf the top stereotypical character in all video games, describing him as "the epitome of every red-skinned, feather-wearing sports mascot and old cowboy movie serial ... [he] has warpaint on his face, a feather in his hair and the sleeveless vest as if Geronimo himself just gave it up." David Wong of Cracked included Nightwolf as an example of an ethnically-stereotypical game character in a 2012 feature about racial prejudices in video game design.
Hardcore Gaming 101 said of the character's role in the Mortal Kombat series, "In the mid-'90s, it was practically an unwritten law that every fighting game had to have either a Bruce Lee clone, [or] a Native American ... Nightwolf takes up the latter slot." This belief was concurred by Gavin Jasper of Den of Geek: "He seemed to be there [in MK3] because throwing a Native American into your fighting game series was the in-thing to do back in the '90s." In a 2008 feature on Native American stereotyping in video games, GamesRadar exemplified Nightwolf for the "Warrior" trope. "[W]hile this pro-Indian sentiment is certainly heartwarming, much of Nightwolf’s character is wide of the mark." The site added that the act of "sin-eating" (his role in Deception) was actually European in origin, and criticized his Animality in MK3 as being "for gratuitous shock value." Topless Robot said, "Nightwolf’s design and backstory are standard-issue for Native American characters in fighting games ... [but] his look is actually less stereotypical than, say, Chief Thunder’s from Killer Instinct." Eric "Woodyman" Vole of ScrewAttack offered a positive reaction by naming Nightwolf fourth in his 2011 ranking of the top eleven Native American game characters. "I was never a huge fan of Nightwolf in the older Mortal Kombat games...but that all changed from his appearance in MK9."
The character's presence in the 2011 reboot was better received. UGO ranked him 20th in their 2012 list of the top fifty series characters. "Nightwolf uses the magic of the shaman to ward off evil-doers and to bring peace to the realms...by kicking everyone's ass." Fans voted him the series' 28th-best character in a 2013 online poll hosted by Dorkly. Den of Geek placed Nightwolf 51st in their 2015 ranking of the MK franchise's 73 playable characters, calling him "the most ho-hum member of the Mortal Kombat 3 cast," yet lauding him for killing Sindel in the MK2011 story mode "when she went all John Cena" on the Earthrealm defenders. Complex ranked him among the MK series' most underrated characters, stating that "the fact that he can transform into a wolf and maul you to death should tell you he's nothing to play with." In 2012, Game Informer unfavorably compared the "uninspiring" then-new Soulcalibur V character Z.W.E.I. to Nightwolf in that he "summons a spirit wolf, and his move set is more annoying than practical."
His "Ascension" Fatality from MK2011 was ranked ninth in Paste's selection of the reboot's top nine Fatalities. Two of his Fatalities were included in WhatCulture's 2015 ranking of the "10 Worst Fatalities in Mortal Kombat History" for what the site considered their lack of originality, with his finisher from Mortal Kombat: Deception, where he throws a single tomahawk into his opponent's head, in the fifth spot, and his "A Little Off the Top" from MK2011, in which he again embeds one tomahawk in his opponent's head before decapitating them with the second, at number two. "Seriously, Nightwolf?! What is WRONG with you? You’re bringing this weak nonsense back to the party?"
As was the case with most of the cast of characters in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Nightwolf's appearance was critically panned. Newsarama dismissed him as "useless," and Maitland McDonagh of TV Guide called the character "dopey." Eric Snider of Film.com said of his opening dialogue exchange with Liu Kang, "I couldn’t hear the rest because my brain was exploding." 411Mania called his tutelage of Liu Kang "hippie Native American Yoda spiel." Patrick Coyle of Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension included Nightwolf among the film's "shallow, one-shot characters that serve little or no purpose." Kate Willaert of Game Informer sardonically remarked, "Nightwolf delivers the best line in the movie when he tells Liu Kang he must test his courage, and find his Animality. ... As a result, the film's final climactic battle turns into Primal Rage: The Movie." Io9's Alasdair Wilkins said of the character's depiction in the film, in particular the scene of Nightwolf knocking out Liu Kang with the hatchet, "Nightwolf isn't just a magical shapeshifting shaman who only exists to show the hero his destiny...he's also kind of an asshole." However, Doug Skiles of KillerMovies said in his 1997 review, "The only person putting forth anything resembling effort is Litefoot, who plays Nightwolf, at least for the whopping two minutes that he's on the screen."
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