The cast of Street Fighter have done their share of networking. They’ve crossed paths with nearly everyone under the sun. Akuma has thrown fireballs at Galactus. Chun-Li has traded kicks with Mai Shiranui. Zangief has manhandled Heihachi Mishima. E. Honda crushed obscure superhero The Ferret. Dhalsim has stretch-kicked Duke from GI Joe in the face for the sake of selling action figures. Hell, Ryu has even punched Mario in his stupid, mustachioed face.
Yet there’s one property people have wanted to see them go up against since 1992: Mortal Kombat. While Japan thinks little of the blood-soaked franchise, US pop-culture has always seen Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat as rivals. The Coke and Pepsi of fighting games. For decades, there’s been countless speculation, fan-art, fan-fiction, arguments, animated mock-ups, YouTube videos, and so on about putting these two worlds together.
Will we ever see Akuma vs. Shao Kahn or Dan Hibiki vs. Mokap? Probably not, though never say never. When money is the outcome, there’s always a chance. Regardless, there was that one time Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat officially had a crossover!
NO, IT WAS NOT WRECK-IT RALPH!
Listen, as much as that guy was blatantly Kano with the cyber face and the heart-ripping, he’s not actually Kano. His name is Cyborg. While the Street Fighter cast is the Street Fighter cast, Cyborg is more of a reference. Ergo, Wreck-It Ralph does not count.
What I’m talking about is more obscure. It’s the story of this man, the Warrior King.
I can assure you that that’s an orb he’s holding and not a dinner plate.
It was November 16, 1996. Saturday morning cartoons were still a thing and USA had quite the lineup of oddball shows. Without any advertising hype or any kind of explanation, they decided to jumble up their schedule for one day only because four of their cartoons would work together as part of the same narrative. These shows were Street Fighter: The Animated Series, Savage Dragon, Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, and Wing Commander Academy.
None of the episodes really advertise each other and on their own and in reruns and DVD, they’re mostly remembered by viewers as, “That weird episode when that Thor guy showed up. The hell was that about?”
So let’s look at the history of the Michael Dorn-voiced Warrior King and his two-hour block of adventure:
PART 1: STREET FIGHTER
Season 2, Episode 9: The Warrior King
Written by Kat Likkel and Will Meugniot
Street Fighter: The Animated Series is looked upon with embarrassment by the fandom, although Richard Newman absolutely killed it as M. Bison. The show was mostly based on the Jean Claude Van Damme movie, but used designs from the games. It was about Guile leading a team of world-class martial artists against M. Bison’s terrorist organization Shadaloo. As shown in the opening credits, Guile, Chun-Li, and Blanka are considered the stars while everyone else – including Ryu and Ken – are relegated to Gilligan’s Island “and the rest!” territory. The second season is comparatively less terrible. At the very least, they started to realize that Ryu was supposed to be the protagonist and gave him a bigger role.
“The Warrior King” is an episode that I imagine looked great on the written page. All things considered, it’s a really well-written episode. Too bad you’d barely notice it due to the awful, awful animation. Street Fighter rarely ever looked great, but this episode is infamous from how gnarly everything looks.
We begin in the Warrior King’s world of…um…Warrior World. Warrior King’s warrior kingdom is under attack by a squadron of evil sorcerers riding dragons. Turns out that Warrior World is sustained by a magical orb of unlimited power that controls the weather. Warrior King wields it, but if these dark mages were to get their mitts on it – and it looks like that’s about to happen – then the world is doomed. Warrior King’s Merlin-like advisor tells him to escape through a portal, lay low in another universe, and come back to save the day when he’s good and ready.
Just in case the Warrior King loses the orb, the wizard enacts a spell that will intertwine their fates or some such. Which is for the best, since the bad guys breach the castle and Warrior King IMMEDIATELY drops the orb into the portal. He gives chase and travels through time and space to retrieve it as the one and only hope in saving his world.
It immediately lands in the Street Fighter animated universe, more specifically in a fictional Middle Eastern country. Or at least I hope it’s fictional or else I look like a real jerk. Let me look up “Kampfer” just to make sure… Ah ha. It’s a German word meaning “warrior.” Okay, that’s pretty clever.
The orb hits the desert ground and immediately makes plant life grow. Nearby farmers are pretty stoked and decide to bring it to their prince. Word spreads extremely quickly and this news is relayed to Shadaloo leader M. Bison via Sagat, who hilariously checks the internet while shirtless and with his hands taped up.
This is an artistic choice that’s always silly. Characters are rarely ever shown without their in-game fighting garb, outside of Chun-Li because she has a day job. There’s even a scene in another episode where Balrog has gone full-on Strong Bad by typing around on a computer with boxing gloves on.
Kampfer has become a paradise, and because of movie continuity, Chun-Li is there to cover the story as a reporter. Bison has strong-armed his way into being in charge of the country and goes into full Wilson Fisk mode. He acts like a good dude in front of the camera, but we all know the truth. Wielding the orb, he claims that Kampfer can spread its nature-changing powers and make the world a better place…for a price. Chun-Li isn’t pleased to see her father’s killer and the world’s biggest terrorist is now lauded and nothing can be done about it.
The best she can do is show up at a function and gather intel, which means we get a rare costume change. Rather than wear her trademark blue slit dress, Chun-Li shows up wearing this!
Another blue slit dress! All the while, Zangief is wandering around in his wrestling speedo.
She cuts to the chase and insults Bison. As Zangief holds her in place, Bison shows off the orb’s power by, um, splashing light onto Chun-Li’s boobs. Yeah, I don’t know. The Warrior King shows up, disarms Bison, and we get a really ugly fight scene where Warrior King and Chun-Li fight Zangief and Sagat. On one hand, Bison still retains the magical orb. On the other hand, a camera guy was filming this and the world is reminded that, oh yeah, Bison’s human garbage.
That’s when he goes full-on Bond villain and terrorizes the world with (not-so-)natural disasters unless they pay his ransom. Guile, Ryu, and Ken are sent on a mission to stop him, but find themselves unable to even get close to Kampfer. It’s all up to Chun-Li now. Chun-Li and her new boyfriend.
See, during that earlier fight, Warrior King started hitting on Chun-Li and her “Seriously? You’re really doing this now?” reaction was pretty priceless. After escaping Bison, they talk about their own backstories and why they’re out to stop Bison. Warrior King goes on a dramatic rant about how angry he is over Bison killing Chun-Li’s father and how he’s going to straight-up murder him for such an insult. Chun-Li’s all, “Yeah, I can take care of myself, thank you very much. Stillllllll, you can totally get it.”
As they make their way through Kampfer, fighting Shadaloo goons, they start bonding. Chun-Li sees Warrior King put his neck on the line for a child in danger and realizes that he’s more than just some barbarian lunkhead. Similarly, when Chun-Li goes out of the way to get her in-game costume despite being under enemy fire, Warrior King for some reason thinks that makes 100% sense.
Around this time, Warrior King shows off his sweet belt laser attack, which is never brought up again. Otherwise, he just uses his magic laser staff and inherent brawn.
They sneak up on Bison and knock the orb out of his hands again. Chun-Li goes gung ho on him, Warrior King and Zangief argue over whether it’s more badass to train fighting bears or dragons, and Sagat just farts around in the background doing nothing. Warrior King gets the orb, summons a portal, and the orb accidentally gets knocked in there. Warrior King sort of wants to stick around and be with Chun-Li, but she begs him to leave and save his people. Reluctantly, he leaves Chun-Li behind while she gives him cover.
An international airstrike shows up to drop bombs on Shadaloo, causing Bison, Sagat, and Zangief to run away like something out of Benny Hill. Guile, Ryu, and Ken show up in a tank and compliment Chun-Li’s survival. While Ken jokes about how Chun-Li needs a boyfriend, she wistfully looks into the distance and thinks about how awesome that laser belt was.
For real, it was.
Okay, not the best start, but let’s keep it going.
PART 2: SAVAGE DRAGON
Season 2, Episode 8: Endgame
Written by Richard Stanley
And now the one cartoon that’s not based on a video game. Eric Larsen’s Savage Dragon comic series got its own cartoon for a couple seasons. The show is about a big, green superhero guy who decides to use his powers by the book. Rather than being a vigilante, he’s a member of the police force and is in a constant state of talking like he doesn’t have time for this shit. His every waking moment is just Jim Cummings talking in his trademark gravel, acting like he’s yet to have his morning cup of coffee.
I honestly don’t know why this episode is called “Endgame.” It’s not the final episode, it’s not the final part of the Warrior King story, and nothing about the plot is more pressing than your average episode. I guess it just sounds cool, so why not.
Our villain of the week/half-hour is the Fiend. For those who have never seen Savage Dragon, the Fiend is one of the most annoying animated villains in history. His deal is that he’s an evil spirit who goes around sensing anger in people, possessing them, and feeding on that anger. All the while, he talks like he’s writing a five-star Yelp review.
“Yes… Such anger. Such hatred. Oh, how my mouth waters at how you seethe. Yes, you will be the perfect form of sustenance for me. So delicious. So exquisite. So filling. I must have you now.”
That’s every scene with him. Ever. It gets old real fast.
The Fiend notices an angry homeless guy ranting about how much he hates good people (sure, why not) and possesses him. Meanwhile, another homeless guy stumbles across the orb, which he digs because it’s able to keep him warm. The Fiend gets his hands on the orb and uses it to increase his power. No longer does he need to actively possess people. Now he just finds people being mad about stuff and devours the souls of everyone in the nearby area.
Warrior King shows up and he and Dragon have your usual superhero team-up. There’s a misunderstanding, the two fight it out rather evenly, and they eventually see eye-to-eye. While this seems to be the most low-key of the four cartoons, it does at least allow us to see the Warrior King in a down-to-earth setting. He gets booked in a police precinct, he’s fed his first chili dog, and so on.
There’s a scene where one of Dragon’s fellow cops shows up and her whole deal is that she’s over-the-top sultry at all times. She begins to come onto Warrior King and he turns her down because he’s spoken for. Huh. Rare piece of continuity between these shows.
The final showdown comes at the city’s prison because it’s an easy place to find a cluster of angry folk. Since the Fiend is too powerful to fight head-on, they finagle some plan to disarm him using Warrior King’s magic staff. It works, the Fiend loses all of his souls, and once again the orb falls into a portal. Dragon offers to join the adventure, but Warrior King tells him that he needs to stay and protect his own people.
After Warrior King leaves, Dragon starts beating up attacking convicts and shrugs off his wacky life as a superhero cop.
PART 3: MORTAL KOMBAT
Season 1, Episode 9: Resurrection
Written by Sean Catherine Derek & Joshua Weyler
You would think that the Warrior King would be the most at home in a Mortal Kombat story. It’s the one show in this four-parter where they wouldn’t look at him funny. He could tell Luke Perry Sub-Zero that he’s a barbarian ruler of another dimension that’s been overtaken by evil, dragon-riding sorcerers and is now on a world-hopping adventure to recover a nature-altering orb or else his planet will fall apart and Sub-Zero would just nod his head and offer him a soda.
But I guess the people behind this show thought the Warrior King was lame and all-but removed him from the episode completely.
Mortal Kombat: Defenders on the Realm is a cartoon sequel to the first Mortal Kombat movie. In a plot loosely based on the third game, but in a way that’s more about selling action figures and playsets, you have Raiden’s team of Earthrealm warriors (and Kitana) who hang out in a poor man’s Batcave, wearing the same clothes every day, and waiting for random villains to invade. From there, they fly off in state-of-the-art jets and beat up cannon fodder bad guys until it’s time to destroy the portals so no more evil can step through.
The team on the show is Raiden, Liu Kang, Kitana, Sub-Zero II, Nightwolf, Jax, Sonya, and Stryker. Johnny Cage is never mentioned. Being that it’s a Saturday morning cartoon, nobody gets torn apart or killed in general. So don’t expect any Fatalities or anything.
BUT! Remember, this is a follow-up to the movie and in the movie, people did die. Goro, Reptile, and Kano’s demises were ignored by the show because they could just use similar characters for replacements, but Shang Tsung is Shang Tsung and can’t really be swept under the rug. Dude died and there’s a reason this episode is called “Resurrection.”
The opening moments are genuinely dark for a kids’ show and feature a handful of minor things that come close to going over the line. Shao Kahn’s priests use a magic elixir on Shang’s bones that causes them to reform into a standing form. Muscle, nerves, and skin reform over it, and we see enough of him to be reminded that the dude’s naked (more like Schlong Tsung, am I right?). He puts on a robe and is immediately pimpslapped by Kahn, who is pissed about his failure to secure Earthrealm in the movie. Tsung then talks about how he paid for his failure by suffering in Hell. While he doesn’t outright mention Hell, he does say “damnation” and there’s a flashback to him being tortured by demons with a fiery backdrop.
Kahn has come into possession of the orb and points out how it can control the weather. Apparently, its power is stronger the more evil the wielder and he figured, hey, Shang Tsung’s pretty evil! If he is able to kill Raiden and the Earthrealm brigade, then he’ll be redeemed. If not, more damnation. A great plan until you remember that Shang could just use his newfound power to snuff out Kahn when the time is right. I mean, Shang’s figured that out easily enough, but Kahn just goes about his business.
Snark aside, this is the one episode of the show I remember from my childhood that I considered genuinely good and it still holds up. It even takes the crossover and uses it logically to give us some good drama. The orb has power over nature, right? Then what does that mean when Earthrealm’s mightiest hero is a god whose main power, nay, existence is control over nature?
Raiden starts feeling the effects of Shang Tsung’s weather rampage and Jax notices. Jax tries to understand and help him, but Raiden’s feeling frustrated over losing his power and feeling ill, so he acts like an asshole in return. While the others go take care of this invasion, Jax sticks with Raiden and keeps an eye on him.
The Defenders of the Realm face Shang Tsung and it doesn’t go well for them. It sucks for Liu Kang because this episode isn’t about him, so he’s not even allowed to be important despite being the guy who killed Shang in the first place. Shang simply sends everyone running with the orb’s power, causes them to fall into a chasm, and they wait it out while the heat from nearby lava causes Sub-Zero to slowly die. Now it’s up to Raiden and Jax to save the day with neither having it in them to tell the others that Raiden’s been nerfed.
On the way to fight Shang, Raiden is all grumpy because he’s resorting to traveling in something as slow as a jet and we get a really great scene of actual pathos. Luckily, Clancy Brown’s Raiden is supposed to be based on the personable Christopher Lambert version take from the movie, only without the distracting accent. Jax asks him why he chooses to protect Earthrealm when he’s capable of doing whatever the hell he wants as a god. Raiden’s take is that he believes in the good of mankind, is fascinated with their actions, and considers them worth fighting for. At the same time, he’s always had it in his heart to root for the underdog.
Raiden comes to realize that despite his behavior, he’s become like the mortals he’s admired and is currently the underdog. As Jax points out, he and the others have always pulled out miracles and Raiden shouldn’t be any different.
As expected, Raiden gets his ass handed to him against Shang. While Shang plays with him, Jax attempts to rescue the others. Shang notices this and turns his attention to Jax. With the distraction, Raiden springs to life, shoulder blocks Shang from behind, and knocks the orb out of his hands. Jax catches it, hands it to Raiden and he’s back to full power. That leads to a wonderful exchange between Raiden and Shang Tsung.
“Now, Shang, let’s see how you do without nature backing you up.”
“You’re nothing without YOUR powers!”
“Oh, my. It appears I’ve gotten them back. Tell you what, though. I won’t even use my special talents. I’m gonna kick your sorry tail mortal-style.”
And he does. Even with Shang using his fireballs, Raiden casually evades them and overwhelms him purely with martial arts. Rather than kill him, Raiden decides to send Shang back to Outworld because whatever Kahn has planned for punishment will be way worse than death.
Raiden gives a big speech about how the orb isn’t actually evil, and like nature itself, it’s perfect as long as it isn’t interfered with. It’s too dangerous to keep around in case someone evil gets his/her hands on it, so Raiden opens up a portal to outer space and throws the orb into it. He literally throws it with an exaggerated baseball pitch because Defenders of the Realm Raiden is kind of awesome.
There’s a bright flash that temporarily blinds everyone. During that, we get a very quick cameo by our – ahem – hero.
Yes. That’s the entire use of the Warrior King in this entire episode. A silhouette of him runs through a portal during the last thirty seconds. A reminder that there’s nothing in the episode that suggests that it’s part of something bigger. 99.9% of people who see this episode believe it to be shadowy Mortal Kombat villain Noob Saibot or someone else from the rogues gallery.
But we know better, don’t we?
It is a neat segue into the next and final installment, though. Raiden mentions how he threw it into space because the next show up is Wing Commander Academy. Warrior King’s wizard friend did say that the portals would send him through time and space, and while we’ve seen the “space” part, the first three cartoon realities have taken place in the present. Wing Commander is in the 27th century, so obviously Warrior King will go into the future in another reality, finally get his hands on the orb, and take a portal back to Warrior World in time to save the day and bring back peace and justice to his beloved home.
PART 4: WING COMMANDER ACADEMY
Season 1, Episode 8: Recreation
Written by: Mark Edens and Matt Edens
I’m going to level with you. I don’t know much about Wing Commander. Flight games aren’t my thing. I know that it’s about future space stuff where humans take on evil Thundercats via cosmic dog-fighting and the third game was groundbreaking for its use of cutscenes with real deal actors like Mark Hamill and Malcolm McDowell. That’s about as far as my knowledge goes on the subject prior to watching this episode.
The cartoon is a prequel, taking place when Christopher “Maverick” Blair (Hamill) is getting his start alongside Todd “Maniac” Marshall, who is essentially Guy Gardner without the Green Lantern ring. The fact that he’s played by Biff from Back to the Future is in no way surprising to me.
There are two big things I notice from the start. First, the animation is very crisp for this era. It makes the other three shows look all clown shoes. Second, it pulls no punches. Death happens on-screen and it’s important. Enemy ships are blown up in space and it’s not like GI Joe where we see parachute escapes to assure us. Those cats are dead.
The pilot Gwen actually goes through emotional turmoil from killing and openly talks about how she loses a bit of herself every time she blows up a Kilrathi ship. That’s really unique to me. I’m so used to seeing cartoons sidestep murder that seeing the ethical and emotional repercussions talked about is mindblowing. Even Batman: The Animated Series – the benchmark itself – stars a character known for being all “nobody dies ever” and I can’t think of any time when that’s been brought up. Maybe when the HARDAC Batman robot thought it committed murder and went haywire, but that’s pretty much it.
Anyway, they take out some Kilrathi and find out that they’ve been holding onto some mysterious, very outdated cargo. It’s the Warrior King in cryosleep. They bring him in to their base, let him thaw for a bit, and ignore him so they can talk about the main plot: there’s a nearby planet called Oasis that the pilots are going to hang out at for a while. It’s a beautiful, peaceful planet and is kind of a neutral “no fight” zone. Even when the Kilrathi do show up, it’s agreed that neither side is supposed to combat the other.
Oasis is a planet that defies scientific explanation. It’s about as close to its sun as Mercury is to ours, but yet it somehow sustains a complete paradise. The beings living there explain it with a myth about something called “The Maker” that came from the sky and I’m pretty sure we can all figure out what that is. And we can figure out what the Kilrathi have really shown up on Oasis for.
When the Warrior King awakens, he attacks the Wing Commander crew and tells them to stand down as he’s interested in commandeering one of their ships. What’s noticeable in this scrap is that he isn’t the same man we saw flirting with Chun-Li and working alongside Savage Dragon. Gone is the good-humored and honorable hero. Now he seems weary, frustrated, and coldhearted. He nearly kills Maverick on the spot, because it’s just one life in the face of an entire world, but hesitates when he realizes he recognizes him and the distraction is enough for others to open fire on him and bring him down with laser blasts.
Later on, when Maverick goes to Warrior King’s cell to ask about what he meant about recognizing him earlier, Warrior King garners from the ensuing conversation that the orb he’s been searching for is on the nearby planet. He escapes, overpowers Maverick, and forces him to fly him there.
Through the earlier fight scene, the escape, and the flight over to Oasis, we get a pretty good idea about what Warrior King’s been up to since we last saw him sneak out of Mortal Kombat’s world. It wasn’t Maverick that he truly recognized but one of his ancestors from Earth. Warrior King has been searching for the orb for a long, long time. Even before being frozen, he had been on his quest for several centuries.
Warrior World is fucking gone, man. There is no rescue from the clutches of evil. There is no hope. It’s gone. If the sorcerers didn’t destroy it, the unbalanced ecosystem without the orb would’ve done it. All of his people are long dead. Holy hell. After all this time being invested in this guy’s adventure to save his home, we find out that not only did he fail, but ages have passed and he’s just a broken shell of his former self. Even his sacrifice of leaving Chun-Li so he could continue looking for the orb was a completely hollow gesture. The guy lost everything.
That is so harsh.
Now all he wants is to find the orb so he can bring back Warrior World. He admits that he can’t bring back all those who have died, but he can at least create a new beginning, and in his desperate mind, that’s good enough.
Cool thing here is that there’s a really clever double meaning of the episode title. “Recreation” initially seems to be a description of the cadets being able to cut loose on a paradise planet and enjoy themselves, but there’s also the idea of Warrior King recreating his lost home. Way more thought went into that than “Endgame,” I’ll tell you that much.
There’s a moment in there where Maverick suggests that Warrior World really died because the Warrior King was a dictator who drove it to destruction. Warrior King’s angry reaction makes it debatable whether Maverick had him pegged completely wrong or if there’s some truth to his assessment. He may have been well-meaning, but perhaps his decisions as leader led to the planet’s downfall in the end.
Everything comes to a head on Oasis. Warrior King gets the orb and uses it to wipe out the Kilrathi enemies with a big tornado. While we’ve already seen guys get blown up in space earlier, here we get one of the pilots struggling and then screaming in horror as his ship explodes. Granted, it’s no different than the end of the first Star Wars, but it just hits me so off-guard when seeing it on a Saturday morning cartoon.
The Warrior King has finally found what he was looking for, but our heroic pilots beg him not to take the orb. If he does, then Oasis will return to a barren rock planet like it was ages ago. Warrior King threatens to wipe them out, but Maverick finally gets through to him.
“You can’t destroy one world to create another. You can’t buy it back with innocent lives.”
“I have fought for so long…but I had forgotten what I was fighting for. One world has been destroyed. It must not happen again.”
He throws the orb back to its place on top of a mountain and warns the others not to forget why it is they fight. He steals a ship and flies off into space. When asked where he’s going, Maverick answers, “The same place we’re all going: forward.”
And that’s how his adventure ends. Not as a proud hero bringing salvation to his people through a two-hour crossover with other heroes, but with acceptance that he’s failed and how it nearly destroyed what’s left of him. He needs to find his new place in the multiverse, although it’s not like we’ll ever see him again. After all, even if someone really wanted to continue his story, who even has the rights to the Warrior King?
Despite appearing on some shows that aren’t really looked back on too fondly, it makes for a really great total package. His appearance alongside Chun-Li in the first installment is really goofy on its own (and again, the animation for this episode in particular has some serious issues), but it sets things up for the Wing Commander Academy gut punch. It really works that the first three shows are about villains commanding the orb and the only one who gets his hands on it in the last show is the Warrior King, becoming what he’s fought against and overcoming it.
But anyway, as I was saying, Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat crossed over one time. It was pretty cool. They should do it for reals some time.
Gavin Jasper would pay for Warrior King DLC in that hypothetical game, but only if there was a belt laser Fatality. Follow him on Twitter!