The evolution of Shang Tsung and Reptile

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

Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks (2005)

Shaolin Monks was probably the most pleasant surprise the MK series has given us to date. After the previous offshoots, Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero and Mortal Kombat: Special Forces, we expected this to make a trifecta of awful. Instead, it turned out to be a surprisingly great brawler along the lines of God of War. And as a somewhat retconned retelling of the first two games’ stories, it features both Shang Tsung and Reptile in prominent roles.

Tsung first appeared as an old man in the game’s intro, which recasts the first Mortal Kombat as some kind of crazy battle royale, with everyone brawling at once for Tsung’s amusement.


Above: Apparently they don’t have TV on his island

Later in the game, he disguised himself as Raiden and tricked heroes Liu Kang and Kung Lao into gradually weakening Earth’s defenses. It wasn’t until after the damage had been done that he was revealed as an impostor, and after assuming his true form (in his costume from Mortal Kombat II), he spent most of the ensuing fight morphing into other characters.

This turned out to be a bad strategy. When the heroes won, they killed Shang Tsung in the exact same way he killed Liu Kang at the beginning of Deadly Alliance.

While Shang’s appearances stayed largely true to the arcade games, Reptile got a complete revamp, sporting a reptilian appearance and a dark face-wrap from the very beginning.

Able turn invisible and project force balls (and acid spit) once again, Reptile was a formidable enemy – but if found his hidden Koin in the Living Forest stage, you could unlock him for Shaolin Monks’ versus mode, which played a little like Power Stone with hazard filled arenas.

Having access to Reptile also meant being able to use his Fatalities, which this time around consisted of his venerable long-distance head-eating...

... as well as a slightly retooled version of his “cloak and bisect” Fatality from Mortal Kombat II. Here, Reptile turns invisible, confusing his opponent…

… whose upper body then simply explodes.


Above: As you do


Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (2006)

After years apart, Shang Tsung and Reptile were finally together in a fighting game again. Actually, it’d be pretty weird if they weren’t both in Armageddon, seeing as the whole purpose of the game was to throw everyone into one last knock-down, drag-out brawl to purge the MK universe of their silliness.

While Tsung’s appearance was more or less the same as it had been in Deadly Alliance, Reptile got a complete overhaul to match his appearance in Shaolin Monks – apparently the only returning character from Deadly Alliance or Deception to receive such extravagant treatment.


Above: With 62-plus characters to worry about, though, we can’t really fault them for not giving everyone else a makeover

He also got a couple of his old moves back, including the dashing suckerpunch from Ultimate MK3…

… and his familiar invisibility cloak, now accompanied by a puff of green smoke.

Again, like most of the other returning characters, Shang Tsung wasn’t overhauled for Armageddon, although he did come upgraded with a couple of new moves this time. While retaining his fireballs from Deadly Alliance (in both straightforward and 3D varieties), he now had a body stomp that let him run up his opponent’s body, and then stomp down on his or her head with his full weight from above.

He also had a soul-assisted dash called Mysterious Magic, which – like Reptile’s dashing punch – enabled him to get behind his opponent and knock them over with a slide kick.

Sadly, there isn’t much more to Shang and Reptile’s appearance in Armageddon than that, other than to say that Reptile’s ending finally saw him reunited with a female of his species, and that Tsung’s gave him the ability to change the forms of others, giving him absolute power at last.

With the advent of the Kreate-a-Fatality feature, Fatalities became gruesome combos rather than character-specific executions, so there’s not a lot there that’s appropriate for a character-specific article. The pair didn’t even appear in Motor Kombat, Armageddon’s bizarrely adorable take on Mario Kart. If, however, you really hated Reptile’s new appearance for some reason, you could revert to his lizardman form, tail and all.


Above: Shang had his old alternate outfit, too, in case you were missing it

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.
We recommend