In the mid-nineties, when Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter were all the rage, both got short-lived animated shows. Mortal Kombat's, dubbed Defenders of the Realm in the US and, on these shores, simply Mortal Kombat: The Animated Series, lasted just one season before the plug was pulled.
But what a season!
Defenders of the Realm starred a number of Mortal Kombat characters, such as Raiden, Lui Kang and Sub-Zero. It also starred Nightwolf, and gave him an actual wolf sidekick called Kiba.
In the animated show, Nightwolf was the member of the team who operated the computers back at the base, calling out portals opening in EarthRealm for the others to go check out. But the shaman was handy in a fight too, and every now and then Kiba would jump into Nightwolf's chest, powering him up.
Onto Mortal Kombat 11, which gets Nightwolf as a DLC character soon. Developers from NetherRealm showcased the character in a recent video, and in the game he has the ability to call on Kiba in spirit wolf form to buff his damage. (Jump to the 16 minutes mark to see Kiba in action.)
This is a reference to Defenders of the Realm, the developers say. Alas, Kiba does not jump into Nightwolf's chest in the game and hack computers.
Instead, players can amplify Kiba so Nightwolf gains armour, which is a much safer way to use it. Handy!
Kiba's actually useful in the game, then. But his inclusion is also a reminder that fighting games were so popular in the nineties they got (terrible) Saturday morning cartoons - no matter how violent the source material.