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The real story behind Mortal Kombat's Friendships

Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath is poised to be a very exciting DLC for MK fans. Aftermath will be doing more than expanding the story of MK 11 and introducing new playable characters Sheeva, Fujin, and Robocop. It will also be reinstating a curious piece of Mortal Kombat nostalgia: Friendship finishing moves. 

First introduced way back in Mortal Kombat 2, Friendship moves were a nonviolent alternative to the deadly Fatalities for which the series had already become infamous. They were initially extremely difficult to pull off, requiring players to use specific moves and take no damage in order to make them work. That perseverance paid off. Friendships showed off increasingly silly sequences in which Kombatants made up after their fights in various ways. For instance, Johnny Cage would hand his enemy an autographed photo. In another memorable Friendship, Kung Lao would pull a rabbit out of a hat.

A few years ago, Shacknews' Ozzie Mejia looked back at the evolution of Friendships through the franchise. Mejia explained that the origins for Friendships came from an unlikely place. Much like developers have found ways to troll critics and fans in the past, Friendships were created as a tongue-in-cheek response to the controversies surrounding the series' first installment. As Mejia explained, they were clearly meant as a joke, but "they provided an escape from the wanton violence that filled the game and helped keep players from getting overly saturated with gore."

Friendships were basically dropped from the series with the release of Mortal Kombat 4, but they hold a special place in the hearts of fans. When the news broke regarding the return of Friendships to the franchise, Mejia seemed to the very excited, mentioning how long ago he wrote that retrospective. The return of Friendships has been a long time coming.

At one point, Ed Boon had hinted at the inclusion of Friendships in 2011's semi-reboot, Mortal Kombat (also unofficially known to fans as Mortal Kombat 9). However, this ended up not coming to pass. That game was notable for its extreme violence and gritty tone, which probably would have made the Friendships stick out even more than they did in the original games. Aside from a reference to "Friendship" as a social media app that Cassie Cage uses in Mortal Kombat X, the series hasn't seen so much as a whisker of a rabbit being pulled from a hat.

However, there's a chance that the gruesome gore in the newer entries is a contributing factor to the NetherRealm's willingness to bring Friendships back to the fold. Late last year, it was announced that a member of the MK 11 development team was actually diagnosed with PTSD due to the long hours spent researching and designing the disgusting effects in the game. When the designers themselves feel overwhelmed by the graphic nature of the game, maybe it's time to inject the proceedings with a bit more levity.

Luckily, it appears that the new content in Aftermath aims to do exactly that. The Friendships that have been revealed as of this writing are all pretty hilarious. Noob Saibot splits into three versions of himself and they do a little jumprope dance routine. Kano dons a cartoonish chef's hat and barbecues some kebabs with his laser eye. Sub-Zero excitedly brings in an ice cream cart, complete with adorable music. Finally, as seen in the Aftermath announcement trailer, Scorpion uses his infamous harpoon trick to bring in a massive teddy bear and give it a big hug.

It's worth remembering that Mortal Kombat 11 previously flirted with the concept of Friendships, albeit in a dark and twisted way. One of the Joker's Fatalities in the new game involved him handing his opponent a cake. As the "Friendship" banner came down, the Joker would cover his ears. Then the cake would explode, revealing that the "Friendship" sign actually reads "Fatality." That was the closest Mortal Kombat fans had gotten to Friendships in quite some time, and now it looks like it may have been a purposeful tease.

The decision to include Friendships in the new DLC has been met with quite a bit of excitement by fans of the series. One fan on Twitter said that the addition of Friendships is now the best thing about the game. 

Another fan said that Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath is shaping up to be a return to form for the series. They wrote, "It is safe to say Mortal Kombat 11 is slowly starting to feel like Mortal Kombat again. A few more gameplay fixes, nostalgia content like friendships, skins and characters."

Mortal Kombat fans clearly have quite a bit of love for Friendships. It's a great reminder that the series can still be a ton of fun, even when it's not taking itself particularly seriously. Luckily, we'll get to see the rest of these silly finishing moves soon. Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath will be released digitally on May 26.