The Last of Us Show Made One Of The Best Game Moments Worse

Ellie and Riley play on a Mortal Kombat II arcade cabinet.

screenshot: HBO/Kotaku

In hindsight, it was pretty clear what HBO was up to The last of us wanted to eliminate one of the best moments of the source material. Back in episode threeJoel and Ellie find a deceased Mortal Kombat II Arcade cabinet, prompting the young girl to excitedly tell her grumpy guardian about Mileena’s iconic death, during which she eats her enemy and vomits their bones out. The game is a fictional arcade game called The turning she tells Joel, and for those of us familiar with the game and its DLC chapter, left behindthis was a pretty strong indication of it The turningHBO’s iconic moment in this DLC’s adaptation would also be altered. Sure enough it was. While the feel is still fun, the use of Mortal Kombat instead of The turning both brim with corporate synergies between PlayStation Productions and Warner Bros. Discovery, and miss a moment of tragic wonder that was a segment standout in the original left behind DLC.

The last of us Games are filled with in-universe media. As Joel and Ellie make their way through Naughty Dog’s version of a post-apocalyptic America, the two frequently stumble upon remnants of the world before the Cordyceps fungus destroyed polite society, and talk about it at length. Wild Starlighta comic series that functions as a collector’s item The Last of Us Part I, is a personal favorite of Ellie’s. It’s a science fiction series based on a character named Dr. Follows Daniela Star who goes on adventures across the galaxy. As you collect these comics throughout the game, you’ll get bits of the story from the blurbs on the back of each volume, but the real value of them is in the way they expand on Ellie’s character in both games. She develops a fascination with outer space and wishes she could have been an astronaut in a world not destroyed by infection, and Dr. Star’s catchphrase “to the edge of the universe and back, endure and survive” is a thematic touchstone.

Ellie holds a copy of Savage Starlight in the back seat of a car while Joel drives.

screenshot: Naughty Dog / Kotaku

Elsewhere, Joel and Ellie find an advertisement for a movie called Dawn of the Wolf this is clearly a tribute to the dusk Series that Joel watched with his daughter Sarah just before the outbreak. Both Wild Starlight And Dawn of the Wolf appear in the seventh installment of the series, which serve both as a knowing nod to old fans and a talking point about how characters like Ellie and her best friend and first love Riley, who were born after the apocalypse, lack much cultural context for that what the world was like before.

However, the show also includes a few more real-world brands to illustrate these concepts. During Ellie and Riley’s mall date in episode seven, they pass a Victoria’s Secret and realize how ridiculous and impractical lingerie seems in a world where they live in military boarding schools and join revolutionary groups like the Fireflies. It’s a beautiful scene and allows for a little flirtatious banter for Ellie and Riley as they continue to explore the abandoned mall, but it also underscores the reality that TV shows are more likely to enter into product placement deals with real-life brands than games, leading to a departure from that Source material in an episode that their adaptation mostly plays pretty straight forward (heh).

But while the Victoria’s Secret scene is more of a passing moment added to the original left behind Story One of the show’s biggest departures from the game in this episode occurs when Ellie and Riley go to an arcade on the top floor of the mall. When they arrive, Riley opens a token machine so the girls can actually play some of those games that no one has been able to play in decades. This contains Mortal Kombat IIand while Riley trains Ellie pretty hard at first, we see our girl come over and end up winning a match.

Ellie and Riley prepare to play a round of Mortal Kombat II on an arcade cabinet.

screenshot: HBO/Kotaku

In a vacuum, the scene is very cute. We love a comeback story, and Ellie is clearly a quick study on a fighting stick. But unlike the original scene in the game, something is missing. Due to some key differences in the way this scene plays out, it serves as a more poignant case study of how so much of humankind’s culture, art, and tradition has been lost, and how people born after the eruption have found themselves could only imagine what these are things were like.

Instead of playing Mortal Kombat II In the game, Ellie and Riley find a useless arcade cabinet for a fighting game called The turning. At first, Ellie is depressed because she can’t play, but Riley tells her she still can, all she has to do is close her eyes and listen to her narration. The camera zooms in on Ellie’s face as she closes her eyes and listens to Riley narrate a fight between characters named Angel Knives and Blackfang, with the player making fighting game inputs reminiscent of real fighting games like street fighter and, yes, even Mortal Kombat, as it ends with a Fatality finisher with complicated button prompts. As Ellie imagines the fight, light from the game screen illuminates her face and we hear what she thinks the fight would sound like. Although she’s never played a video game before, the recreation in her mind, aided by Riley’s descriptions, seems pretty accurate. But after Ellie wins the imaginary fight, the two have to return to the real world where they can’t actually play a round The turning.

left behind is full of those moments where Ellie and Riley are walking through stores at the mall not quite sure what the practical use was for the goods they are playing with. The show combines two scenes from the game with Ellie and Riley dancing wearing game-accurate Halloween masks just before things go bad for the couple, but in the game the girls spend quite a stretch browsing a Halloween store and I wondered why people bought masks of scary clowns and wild werewolves. This is a motif throughout the series that leaves younger characters wondering what the world was like before the outbreak and can only imagine what it would have been like to live in a place where an infection hadn’t ripped everything down around them. So Ellie imagines playing The turning hits differently than watching her play Mortal Kombat.

Ellie is seen with her eyes closed imagining playing a fighting game with health bars and on-screen button prompts.

screenshot: Naughty Dog / Kotaku

But the original scene is also used outside of the world structure and thematic coloring Mortal Kombat feels special like a corporate fucker not a good match for me. Mortal Kombat is owned by Warner Bros. and HBO Max is a streaming service provided by Warner Bros. The next game in the series was was unceremoniously announced during a conference call on Thursday, and now you have presented the fighting game series to millions of people to get their interest. That is practical The last of us would have a scene that Warner Bros. could easily turn into a bit of product placement, and although it’s a fun reference for much of the audience who will have their own memories of playing the game Mortal Kombat In an arcade to draw from while watching Ellie and Riley play, it feels like pushing aside what made the original arcade scene so great for a bit of cheap publicity.

We are nearly finished The last of us‘ first season, and while the show was fairly consistent in quality, there was a lot of back-and-forth in between staying true to the source material and coming up with new ideas. If Changes are big or small, I caught myself examining the show through that lens and theorizing about why each change was made. Some feel single-minded, like they have what appears to be one Dina appearance in the Jackson segment as a way to plant seeds season twoor complete reinvent the story of Bill and Frank to more directly lead to questions the show will ask in its finale. Others have felt mean, like them Changes to Tess’ last scene in episode two. But this? One just turns around left behind‘s best moments in an ad. At the very least, if Joel tries to give Ellie a similar experience in a museum in season two, it will likely feel a lot more special for viewers and Ellie.

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