The evolution of Shang Tsung and Reptile

19 years of shapeshifting and face-changing from Mortal Kombat's resident wizard and lizard

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (2002)

When MK dramatically reinvented itself as a heavier, slower, more technical fighter five years after MK4, Reptile and Shang Tsung were almost completely re-imagined as well. Not only did Reptile go full-on lizardman, but Shang Tsung was put back into flowing robes (this time with some armor), given a less crazy appearance and a more complete move list, and was (gasp!) stripped of his ability to change into other fighters. (This was given backin Deadly Alliance's Game Boy Advance version andits follow-up, MK: Tournament Edition, but wouldn't return to the "main" series for some time.) While that begs the question of why anyone would want to play as him now, he at least got to accomplish his long-held goal of murdering Liu Kang during the game’s intro.


Above: So, uh,good for him, I guess

In addition to sporting a roster of not-so-special moves related to his new Snake and Crane fighting styles, Tsung also brought back his traditional fireballs, this time without an awesome skull inside. On the plus side, he complemented those standard fireballs with a close- or long-range “3D fireballs” move, which sent two flaming orbs in an outward arc that curved back to where his opponent was (hopefully) standing.

While he couldn’t morph into other characters anymore, his ability to steal souls wasn’t completely ignored. Instead of transformations, he could steal a portion of his opponent’s soul to refill his health a little bit.

Finally, while he wasn’t present when weapons were handed out in MK4, he still brought steel to the fistfight in the form of a straight longsword, with which he could execute combos.

Meanwhile, despite Reptile’s savage appearance, he was actually more sophisticated than he’d ever been in the series’ timeline, able to switch between martial-arts stances that included the absurd, elbows-akimbo Crab style.

At the same time, he still retained his acid spit – now a single green globe instead of a spray – but sadly lost his ability to turn invisible, replacing it with a Blanka/Kano-style ground-roll move that could knock his opponents over while looking much less eerie than the MK4 spider-crawl.

Like Shang, he also carried a sword for his third fighting style, although his was a jagged Kirehashi blade that could cut destructive arcs through anything that stood in his way.

If for some reason you decided that you didn’t like either fighter’s appearance, you could bust out their alternate costumes, which gave Tsung an outfit reminiscent of his MKII togs (and also the outfit he wore as a young man in the original Mortal Kombat comic book). Reptile’s alternate outfit, meanwhile, just made him look like a goddamn cave lizard.

That just leaves the duo’s Fatalities. As we noted in our last character retrospective, Deadly Alliance apparently wanted to be taken seriously as a fighter (in spite of spelling everything with a “K”), so it trimmed back the list to one Fatality per kombatant, to ensure that things didn’t get out of hand.

In Reptile’s case, his Fatality started with a familiar leap onto his opponent’s chest…

… at which point he unleashed a torrent of acid puke directly into said opponent’s face.

This, of course, reduced the opponent’s head to a mostly fleshless skull, which was apparently the only way Reptile would take an interest in eating it.


Above: Mmm, crunchy

When Shang killed, however, he didn’t just settle for consuming his opponent’s soul. Instead, he lifted them into the air with (otherwise unused) telekinesis…

… and then slammed them into the ground repeatedly until bloody chunks flew everywhere.

Once they were sufficiently chunked, Shang would execute a leaping stomp onto his opponent’s chest – and then he’d consume their soul.


Above: Man, all these guys ever think about is eating


Mortal Kombat: Deception (2004)

This one’s kind of an anomaly – apart from some cameos in the game’s intro, its Konquest mode, one or two endings and an arena, neither Reptile nor Shang Tsung really appear in Deception. Shang Tsung’s absence is explained away in the game’s intro, when he and Quan Chi are seemingly obliterated in Raiden’s last-ditch effort to stop the new villain, the Dragon King Onaga.


Above: He also looks a lot scruffier than normal

That said, he does appear in the game’s arcade mode, but only in the background of the newly 3D version of the old courtyard arena from the first MK.


Above: Also he’s old again for some reason

Meanwhile, Reptile’s disappearance is best explained by his ending in Deadly Alliance, wherein he becomes the vessel for the Dragon King’s spirit.

This comes into play again during Sindel’s ending, when she revives and destroys the Dragon King’s original body…

… after which you can see Reptile’s body, somehow restored to human form, laying in the background behind Jade.


Above: I just cropped this to make him easier to see, honest

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.
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