Mortal Kombat 11 has been a stellar success since its release. True, there have been slight hiccups along the way, but overall the presentation, polish, and nostalgic flavor in the game have been outstanding. Shang Tsung’s recent reveal in the upcoming Kombat Pack 1, the first DLC to be released into the game, brought with it a trove of callbacks from over two decades of film and games.
In 1995, Mortal Kombat made its way to the bring screen, and actor Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa took on the mantle of Shang Tsung in the film. In the DLC, Tagawa returned to lend his likeness and voice to the character. For the unfamiliar, Shang Tsung is a sorcerer who appears old at first in the reveal video, and in the very first Mortal Kombat game, but steals souls to attain youth and the ability to take on the form of the soul he possesses.
MK11 is filled with quips and Easter eggs as characters prepare to battle. Shang Tsung tells Raiden, “And now a taste of things to come,” which is straight out of the banquet scene in the 1995 film, where Sub-Zero makes icy work of a nameless henchmen.
Another reference to the classic movie? When facing Johnny Cage, Shang Tsung may say "Are you still eager to die, Mister Cage?" This is referencing the scene where Johnny Cage challenges Goro. "Challenging Goro, eh? You weren't supposed to fight him now. Are you THAT eager to die?"
Defeating an opponent as Shang Tsung brings about the all-too familiar saying “Your soul is mine!” YouTube creator Treybaile was good enough to put together all the times we heard that, or a variation of that from the film.
Defeating an opponent in a round will often result in a callback to the essence of Shang Tsung. From Mortal Kombat 2 onward, players had the option to insert a special move command that would allow them to turn into virtually any other character for a short while. This demanded far more memorization of move lists than any other character.
In MK11, Shang Tsung takes advantage of the downed opponent to steal a bit of their soul and transform into them, only briefly, before the next round begins.
These days, fighting games tend to come with a massive variety of cosmetic items for every character to use. Street Fighter V and Tekken 7 are the latest installments in their series to do so, and MK11 is no exception. We have not yet seen all of the outfits that will be made available to Shang Tsung, but this one here is a callback to the 1995 film, or Mac from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia with his leather duster and sunglasses to keep security tight with his ocular pat downs.
MK11 has mixed the old and the new when it comes to Shang Tsung’s special moves and combat style. As expected, our sorcerer is still flinging flaming skull projectiles at his opponents.
The fighting style given to Shang Tsung is really a nod to old-time gamers. From Mortal Kombat 3 onward players have used this unique Snake style of combat to strike in precise, brutal ways. Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance refined this further, and fans have always welcomed back the inclusion of it in the game.
Now onto our three seemingly identical-ninja’s in different colored outfits. Shang Tsung performs four special moves through the transformation of these different, but similarly-dressed characters. For Smoke, we see a projectile deflection and teleportation, which is sure to be useful in game.
The first pallet-swamped ninja is Reptile, though the animation of the attack is quick, so look closely! Here we see Shang Tsung turn into the green ninja to perform the often annoying slide and double-leg kick.
Ermac began as a alternate colored Scorpion from Mortal Kombat 3 and has always been known for this telekinetic slam, which Shang Tsung easily employs here against Lui Kang.
Rain was supposed to be playable in Mortal Kombat 3, but didn't actually appear until Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, and in that time it was revealed that this purple-clad ninja was a joke by Ed Boon, as his full name is a Prince of Edenia. Prince, Purple Rain. How delightfully silly.
Rain became known for his “around the world” roundhouse kick that defied logic in earlier games, kicking his opponent so hard that they fly away from him, and then as if we had a Portal Gun, back through the other side. Sometimes a Rain character could kick a character three times, sending them flying back and forth through some magic portal.
Overall, there is way too much to go over here, so take a look at this video to watch how the developers at NetherRealm Studios explored and created Shang Tsung for MK11.
Rather than needing to memorize a command move to turn into every opponent, Shang Tsung will instead steal a bit of his opponent's soul to turn into them for six seconds, with the time extending for damage done during that window. This is not so much a callback, but the very essence of the character. Shang Tsung steals souls, its his thing!
"Get Over Here!" Fatal Blow
Shang Tsung’s fatal blow is a lot to take in. First we see him transform into a power sliding sub-zero, perhaps one killed in an earlier timeline, along with a Scorpion (alongside the classic "Get Over Here!" likely voiced by Ed Boon), and finally a Noob Saibot. Each lend a hand in creating one of the most visually stunning Fatal Blows in the game.
Another fan favorite lies in the fatality we see performed against Raiden. Shang Tsung appears to hurl a soul into his opponent, and from within, the four-armed "Tigran" Shokan known as Kintaro bursts through and rips Raiden apart.
This is a big callback to Mortal Kombat 2, where this fatality was observed in one of two ways. First, as the second-last boss of the game, Kintaro would perform a Fatality if he defeated a player over and over again, uppercutting their entire torso off. It was rare to see, and literally the game’s way of saying “Have you not have enough?”
It could also be performed by Shang Tsung, but a player needed to hold down low punch for the entire round and release it exactly two seconds after being prompted to perform a fatality, so it was not only rare, but exceedingly difficult to do.
Once Shang Tsung is formally released as DLC, we are sure to find more callbacks to the older games and film!