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Mortal Kombat 12 teaser appears to blow up the timeline

NetherRealm hints at what’s next with a grain of sand

A giant Shang Tsung looks down at Raiden and Fujin in a cutscene from Mortal Kombat 11 Aftermath Image: NetherRealm Studios/WB Games
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

What appears to be a teaser for the next Mortal Kombat game makes the most of a tiny grain of sand. Tucked at the end of a 30th anniversary “thank you” video message from NetherRealm Studios, developers is a hint of what’s coming in Mortal Kombat 12, a game that’s been announced but not officially revealed in a substantive way. It’s short, but hints at what NetherRealm plans to do with MK’s decades-old lore and complicated history.

At the end of the video released on Monday, Mortal Kombat series co-creator Ed Boon says, “Thank you Mortal Kombat fans for 30 years of amazing support. [...] We’re not quite done yet.” The video then cuts to the inside of an hourglass, zooming in on a single grain of sand, which dramatically explodes.

Mortal Kombat 11 fans will recognize that hourglass as the powerful device controlled by Kronika, the Titan known as the Keeper of Time who is at the heart of that game’s time-bending tale. Kronika has the power to alter time, change the course of history, and bring people from the past into Mortal Kombat lore’s current era — that’s how young Johnny Cage and older Johnny Cage meet in MK11.

Kronika’s hourglass represents the countless timelines she has crafted and altered in her pursuit to balance Mortal Kombat’s various realms. At the end of Mortal Kombat 11’s story expansion Aftermath, after Kronika is defeated by Shang Tsung, Kronika’s abilities — powered by her hourglass and crown — are stolen by MK’s evil, shapeshifting wizard. But Liu Kang pulls a time-travelling trick on Tsung, defeating him, taking Kronika’s abilities for himself, with plans to create a New Era of the Mortal Kombat timeline (and bring back his dead friends). Liu Kang travels back in time to train the original Kung Lao, preparing him for Mortal Kombat contests to come.

At least, that’s what happens in one of the endings to Aftermath. In the other, Shang Tsung remains victorious, defeating Liu Kang, stealing his fire and thunder god powers, and ultimately defeating Earthrealm, Outworld, and Netherrealm (with Chaosrealm and Orderrealm next on the chopping block). Shang Tsung’s plan — he’s a giant at this point, by the way — is total realm destruction and domination.

Liu Kang’s ending in Aftermath seems like the more logical canonical choice for NetherRealm Studios. If the developer plans on establishing a new trilogy and resetting the MK timeline, one of Kronika’s existing timelines forever being destroyed seems like a good start for another trilogy of games.

NetherRealm has plenty of space and familiar characters that it can bring to a setting far in the past of the Mortal Kombat story many players are familiar with. If Liu Kang and (The Great) Kung Lao are living 500 years in the past, there’s no reason Elder Gods like Raiden and Fujin can’t be there, or the ancestors of Scorpion, Sub-Zero, and Reptile, for that matter. Millenia-old characters like Kitana and Goro would exist in that time period too. Anything can happen when you have a magical hourglass.

Mortal Kombat 12 is due sometime this year. Surely, NetherRealm plans to actually show it off soon.

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