A villain from Mortal Kombat 1 steals the show
Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat 1 remains true to his iconic character, without significant alterations, unlike other characters in the game's newly reb...
Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat 1 remains true to his iconic character, without significant alterations, unlike other characters in the game's newly rebooted timeline.
Shang Tsung's playful and dangerous personality from the 1995 Mortal Kombat film is revisited in the Aftermath expansion of Mortal Kombat 11, once again rendering him an entertaining and captivating villain.
The new reinterpretation of Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat 1, voiced by Alan Lee, is practically flawless and should serve as the definitive version of the character to be utilized in the future. He steals the show with his ruthless yet simultaneously endearing and charismatic personality.
Every good fighting game franchise needs its fair share of captivating antagonists, and fortunately, the Mortal Kombat series is not lacking in this regard. Over the past 30 years, the Mortal Kombat franchise has built an impressive gallery of villains, including Elder Gods, bloodthirsty monsters, mind-controlled soldiers, warmongering emperors, and much more. However, while Mortal Kombat 1 brings back many of these iconic adversaries, one of them stands out prominently from the crowd.
Set in a different rebooted timeline, Mortal Kombat 1 brings a fresh new twist to some iconic and beloved characters. While this fresh twist alters the background story and role of the characters within the narrative of Mortal Kombat 1, it does not fundamentally change who they are. However, in the case of Shang Tsung, one of the main antagonists of Mortal Kombat 1, there are virtually no changes to his character, but everything has been taken to the extreme, resulting in a highly entertaining spectacle.
Mortal Kombat 1's Shang Tsung Strikes a Perfect Balance
Since the very beginning, Shang Tsung has been one of the most iconic and beloved villains of Mortal Kombat. He made his debut in the very first Mortal Kombat game in 1992, assuming the role of the final boss. While his visual design may not be overly impressive, Shang Tsung's shape-shifting abilities and his green magic attacks beautifully set him apart from the rest of the original character roster of Mortal Kombat. However, due to the lack of genuine dialogue or a proper narrative, he did not possess a real personality in this original game.
Although Shang Tsung would continue to appear as the main antagonist in both Mortal Kombat 2 and 3, it wasn't until 1995's Mortal Kombat film that he acquired his distinct personality that we recognize today. Masterfully portrayed by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, the film version of Shang Tsung quickly became the definitive interpretation of the villain. He didn't shy away from delivering countless cheesy lines, yet maintained an intimidating presence. While the tone of the Mortal Kombat film may be somewhat inconsistent, Tagawa's portrayal of Shang Tsung strikes the perfect balance between whimsical and dangerous, something that the series unfortunately did not revisit for quite some time.
During the disappointing 3D era of Mortal Kombat, Shang Tsung, like the rest of the ensemble, took on a much more serious tone. Alongside a noticeably more gothic visual design, Shang Tsung's fighting style lost many of its dramatic moves, and his personality was subdued to match the darker and gloomier atmosphere of that era. Unfortunately, this resulted in Shang Tsung feeling somewhat generic. While the rebooted timeline by NetherRealm injected some levity into the character, it wasn't until the Aftermath DLC of Mortal Kombat 11, featuring the return of Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, that Shang Tsung returned to his entertaining and whimsical self.
Although Tagawa doesn't return for Mortal Kombat 1, the same whimsical personality is retained in the new reinterpretation, and the new voice actor, Alan Lee, takes it up a notch. The portrayal of Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat 1 is practically perfect and should serve as the definitive version of the villain for the future. Every line delivery, every grin or pout, and even the way Shang Tsung walks in Mortal Kombat 1 is incredibly entertaining to witness. While Quan Chi and General Shao are great villains in Mortal Kombat 1, Shang Tsung consistently steals the show. He is utterly ruthless, yet simultaneously so endearing and charming.
Mortal Kombat 1 is now available for PC, PS5, Switch, and Xbox Series X/S.