The evolution of Shang Tsung and Reptile

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 back in Deadly Alliance's Game Boy Advance version and its 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 


  • EffinChrys - April 14, 2011 11:48 p.m.

    I kan't wait for the new MK!
  • wampastompa - April 15, 2011 12:02 a.m.

    The amount of work and research you guys have put into these articles is staggering. Bravo sirs
  • paganpoet - April 15, 2011 12:12 a.m.

    Hoping y'all do Kitana and Mileena tomorrow.
  • thedonut - April 15, 2011 12:38 a.m.

    I want to play as old guy Tsung from the first. He looks more awesome. :/
  • FETALJUICE - April 15, 2011 3 a.m.

    Reptile has always been a complete badass in my book.
  • Synchronatic - April 15, 2011 3:16 a.m.

    I've gotta say, I preferred Reptile when his reptilian nature was more hidden. The mysterious green ninja kicked ass! Anywho, great article! I can't wait to see more! Kombat Week!!!!!
  • TheWebSwinger - April 15, 2011 3:28 a.m.

    1st: These two characters are AWESOME for another "Evolution of" Feature. Especially reptile. 2nd: "Wizard and Lizard". Nice. 3rd: I much much preferred Reptile when he was just a pallette swapped Sub Zero. I hate the more lizard-y costumes.
  • XLGirthMan - April 15, 2011 3:58 a.m.

    I'm pretty excited because I preordered from Amazon, so I get Reptile's original appearance and fatality
  • MrSuitMan - April 15, 2011 4:29 a.m.

    Lovin these retrospective guys. Reptiles was always one of my favorite MK kharacters.
  • rottenpiggypie - April 15, 2011 4:30 a.m.

    I understand that Shang Tsung and Reptile have had a very strange history of evolution, but seriously GR....You couldn't have picked two more...uh...recognized characters for this subject matter??? *Cough-Scorpion & Sub-zero-Cough*
  • paganpoet - April 15, 2011 5:16 a.m.

    @rottenpiggypie, err, they did an article on Scorpion and Sub-Zero yesterday.
  • SilentTee - April 15, 2011 9:07 a.m.

    I'm loving all this Kombat week content! It's great! 1. I thought it was Henry Rollins not Hank... but I could be wrong. 2. Hoping for another one of these evolution features on maybe Johnny Cage or Kung Lao.
  • cyclone306 - April 15, 2011 9:25 a.m.

    so awesome! Fuck recaptcha.
  • jmcgrotty - April 15, 2011 9:29 a.m.

    "Sort of like Han from Enter the Dragon" Dumbasses! Han was in the Star Wars movies. (Relax, folks. I'm kidding.) Seeing all of these iterations of Reptile, I am torn. I like his original ninja appearance but absolutely hate when they acknowledged that he was a real reptile species by making him look like a reptile. I guess the latest version works for me, where it is apparent that he is still sort of a reptile (but not over the top), but that it's hidden behind significant ninja properties. I know I am in the minority with this, but I actually loved it when they kept adding more and more finishing moves. Except for babalities. Didn't like that one. Of course, Mortal Kombat doesn't hold a candle to Tattoo Assassins, which has 2,196 fatalities. Seriously. SilentTee: "I thought it was Henry Rollins not Hank... but I could be wrong". You're kinda both right and wrong. Most people call him Henry Rollins, but Hank is a shortened form of Henry. Isn't used often, though, and is more of a nickname. So, Henry Rollins = Hank Rollins. Much like how John F. Kennedy = Jack Kennedy.
  • NightCrawler_358 - April 15, 2011 12:18 p.m.

    Reptile looks cool in the new MK, but I liked Shang Tsung's PS2 era look. not the alternate outfit one though... Hope to see profiles for the rest of the characters. *cough*Baraka*cough*
  • philipshaw - April 15, 2011 2:18 p.m.

    Another great retrospective Mikel
  • GamesRadarMikelReparaz - April 15, 2011 11:40 p.m.

    @SilentTee: Cool, glad you're liking them so far. Kung Lao was one I strongly considered, along with Raiden, since they've been through a lot of changes as well. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time this week to do a third evolution feature. Johnny Cage, though... apart from his moves and the actors playing him, I think that would just be me going, "Uh, in this one, he wore these pants and sunglasses... and in the next game, he had slightly DIFFERENT pants and sunglasses, and also bigger hair."
  • marioman50 - April 16, 2011 5:01 a.m.

    I'm really liking these "evolution" features, Mikel. I didn't even know about Reptile's secretive origins, or the boss battle with Shang Tsung in MK1, as I've honestly only played MK3 and Deadly Alliance.
  • SilentTee - April 16, 2011 11:52 a.m.

    @MikelReparaz I do hope you guys find the time to do more these. I think I would like it for any of the characters honestly.
  • TheElephantManchurianCandidate - April 16, 2011 2:32 p.m.

    Awesome article! For some reason these two have been my favorite characters for like ever. Can't wait to play them as a tag team together in the new MK

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