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Liu Kang (Chinese: 劉鋼; pinyin: Liúgāng)[8] is a fictional character in the Mortal Kombat fighting game series from Midway Games, introduced as one of the original seven player characters in the 1992 first game as a Shaolin monk who enters the Mortal Kombat tournament to save Earthrealm (Earth). Since his victory in the tournament, Liu Kang becomes the Mortal Kombat series' hero as the champion and chief defender of Earthrealm guided by his mentor, the thunder god Raiden. He also becomes romantically involved with Princess Kitana, the adopted daughter of evil Outworld emperor named Shao Kahn.

Liu Kang
Mortal Kombat character
LiuKangMKXRender.png
Liu Kang in Mortal Kombat X (2015)
First game Mortal Kombat (1992)[1]
Created by Ed Boon and John Tobias
Designed by John Tobias (early games)
Luis Mangubat (MK:D/MK:A)
Mark Lappin (MK:SM)[2]
Atomhawk Design (MK2011)[3]
Marco Nelor (MKX)[4]
Susan Mazer (The Journey Begins)
Ha Nguyen (first film)
Lynell Forestall (MK:DotR)
Jennifer L. Parsons (Annihilation)
Lisa Tomczeszyn (Legacy)
Voiced by Josh Tsui (MK4)
Tom Choi (MKvDCU, MK2011, MKX)
Randy Hamilton (The Journey Begins)
Brian Tochi (MK: DotR)
Motion capture Carlos Pesina (MK:A/MK:D)
Lawrence Kern (MKvDCU, MK2011)
Portrayed by Ho Sung Pak (MK, MKII)[5]
Eddie Wong (MK3, UMK3, MKT)
Robin Shou (films)
Carmichael Simon, Jon Valera, Michael Li, Allan Sandoval (Live Tour)
Brian Tee (Legacy)
Fictional profile
Origin Earthrealm (China)[6]
Fighting styles Pao Chui (MK:D)
Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do (MK:D, MK:A, MK:SM)[7]
Choy Lay Fut (MK:SM)[7]
Monkey (MK:SM)[7]
Dragon (MK:SM)[7]
Shaolinquan (MK:SM)
Weapon Dragon Sword (MK4, MKG)
Nunchaku (MK:D, MK:A)

Designed with special moves intended to be easier to perform than the moves of other characters, Liu Kang has appeared in many of the Mortal Kombat fighting installments, in addition to starring with Kung Lao as the title characters of the action-adventure game Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, and being among the eleven series characters representing the franchise in the crossover game Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. Liu Kang has extensively featured in alternate Mortal Kombat media and official merchandise, serving as the primary protagonist of the two feature-length films and the Malibu Comics comic book adaptations, in addition to supporting roles in other media such as the 1995 Mortal Kombat novel and the animated series Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm.

Critical and general reception of the character has been mainly favorable, although various aspects have been criticized. While some less gorier skills have been criticized for lacking the appeal of other characters' finishing moves and sounds he yells during regular attacks, Liu Kang's darker characterization in the later games has been praised.

Contents

DesignEdit

Bruce Lee and Minamoto Yoshitsune were the main influences of Liu Kang's character.

Liu Kang was originally going to be a Japanese character called Minamoto Yoshitsune,[9][10] but Mortal Kombat co-creator and character designer John Tobias stated that the staff could not "deal with the name."[5] According to Tobias, "Liu Kang was originally going to be a traditional monk – bald and in robes – but he wound up resembling Bruce Lee."[11] As stated on his Mortal Kombat: Armageddon bio card, Ed Boon mentioned that Liu Kang was designed to be the most easily "accessible" character, meaning that both casual and experienced gamers could play as him with little difficulty.[12] According to Tobias, Liu Kang was purposely the only character that voiced his finishing move in the original game, and was "the best" in the first sequel.[13] Liu Kang was the only character in the first game whose finishing move (Fatality) did not explicitly murder his opponent, and also without the background dimming. This was because Liu Kang was depicted therein as a Shaolin monk, who in general have strict beliefs regarding killing and murder. However, starting with Mortal Kombat II, he was given gory Fatalities as he was thereafter depicted as a renegade monk who decided to grow his hair back, and who had "strong Shaolin beliefs, but was no longer a part of the Shaolin monks." In response to rumors that Liu Kang would die in Mortal Kombat II and therefore not make it into Mortal Kombat 3, Boon said, "It'd be like doing part three of Star Wars and not having Luke Skywalker in there. You don't do that."[5] His eventual death caused Dan Forden, the music composer of the series, to make a "funeral song" for Liu Kang as he felt saddened for his death. The track titled "Liu Kang's Tomb" would be used in Mortal Kombat: Deception in the arena that shows his tomb.[14]

Liu Kang was played by Ho Sung Pak in the first two games, and John Tobias stated in an interview that he originally intended for the character to be a traditional bald monk, but the actor refused to shave his head.[5] In the first game, Liu Kang was modeled after Bruce Lee, as he had short hair and went shirtless, with a threadbare outfit of only black pants and white shoes. In Mortal Kombat II, his outfit was enhanced with red stripes, and now included a red headband, black shoes, and studded wristguards (the intro of MKII shows the younger version of the character defeating Shang Tsung in the background, while the updated character is in the foreground). In Mortal Kombat 3, his hair was considerably longer, with the only alteration to his outfit being thin black leg strips wrapped above his ankles in order to give him a "sleeker" look for the game.[5] He was given a red tank top in addition to his usual costume in Mortal Kombat 4, but his alternate outfit was blue and featured him shirtless again.[15] His wardrobe from the third game was carried over into Deception and Armageddon, but due to his resurrection, his skin was ash gray, and he wore hooked chains around his wrists. This form is also known by fans and Mortal Kombat producer Shaun Himmerick as "Zombie Liu Kang".[16] Nevertheless, his alternate outfit for both games featured him as a living person in order to contrast his undead form.[17] In Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, he sported a slightly altered version of his third costume, in addition to a championship belt adorned with the Mortal Kombat dragon emblem. Although Liu Kang's design in Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks remains similar to his Mortal Kombat II one, Himmerick said that it was the most revised one from the game, along with Kung Lao's.[18]

GameplayEdit

 
A screenshot of Liu Kang's recurring Chinese dragon Fatality in its original version in Mortal Kombat II as seen in the canceled HD remake version for Mortal Kombat: Arcade Kollection. ScrewAttack, in 2010, deemed the finisher "the most iconic Fatality of the entire game."[19]

Liu Kang specializes in kicks, with his most common move being flying across the screen and connect with a kick to the opponent's torso.[20] Another such move is the "Bicycle Kick" in which Liu Kang flies across the screen with a series of multiple kicks to the opponent's torso resembling pedaling a bicycle, hence the name. A different kind of his signature abilities is the "Dragon Fire": with it Liu Kang sends a fiery flame in the shape of a Chinese dragon across the screen out of his hands at his opponent.[20] After Mortal Kombat II, he gains the ability to perform this while crouching and in the air, same for Deception and Armageddon.[21] The developers made Liu Kang immediately selectable in Mortal Kombat: Unchained, the PlayStation Portable port of Deception, as they noted that unlocking him in Deception had proved difficult.[16]

Liu Kang's Fatality from the original game is the "Shaolin Uppercut", in which he performs a butterfly kick (often mistaken for a cartwheel) on his opponent before hitting an uppercut that knocks them offscreen before landing.[20] In Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, there were two versions; one where the victim explodes to pieces upon impact and the original, in which the opponent is torn to pieces upon falling to the ground. In another signature Fatality, he morphs into a large dragon, chomping the upper body of his opponent.[22] This Fatality was turned into an Animality in Mortal Kombat 3 and back into a normal Fatality in Mortal Kombat 4. In the Game Boy and Game Gear versions of Mortal Kombat II, the dragon torches the opponent with fire instead. The series' composer and co-designer John Vogel noted it to be his favorite Fatality due to how much Liu Kang's appearance changes.[23] Another famous Fatality of Liu Kang has him vanish and a Mortal Kombat arcade game machine drop down and crush his opponent.[21] According to GameSpy's MK2011 walkthrough, Liu Kang "inflicts better damage" than Kung Lao "by jumping around like a lunatic and kicking the crap out of everything he sees."[24]

AppearancesEdit

In video gamesEdit

Introduced in the first Mortal Kombat game as a Chinese Shaolin Kung Fu fighting monk, Liu Kang's main fighting style is Jeet Kune Do and he has experience with Kung Fu. He enters the tenth Mortal Kombat tournament in order to protect Earthrealm from being destroyed after having lost the previous nine tournaments. He defeats Grand Champion Goro and the tournament host, the nefarious sorcerer Shang Tsung, and emerges as the new Mortal Kombat champion.[25] In the 1993 sequel Mortal Kombat II, Liu Kang finds many of his Shaolin brethren killed in a vicious attack by a horde of nomadic mutants led by Baraka under orders from the evil Outworld emperor Shao Kahn, Shang Tsung's master. Enraged, Liu Kang decides to travel to Outworld to seek revenge, backed by friend and fellow Shaolin Kung Lao. At the tournament, Liu Kang fights Shao Kahn, eventually overpowering the emperor.[26] In Mortal Kombat 3 (1995), Liu Kang and his friends fight against Shao Kahn's extermination squad which invaded Earthrealm. He once again defeats Shao Kahn, causing him and his forces to retreat back to Outworld.[27]

In the events of Mortal Kombat 4 (1997), Liu Kang discovers that his lover and ally, Princess Kitana, has been captured by the disgraced Elder God Shinnok's forces, and begins gathering Earth's warriors to defeat him.[28] Liu Kang confronts Shinnok and once again emerges victorious with Kitana and her people having survived to the attack, but he is unable to commit himself to a relationship due to his duty as Earthrealm's champion while Kitana has to remain in Outworld to rule her kingdom.[29]

Liu Kang becomes unplayable for the first and only time in the Mortal Kombat series in 2002's Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, in which the titular partnership of Shang Tsung and fellow sorcerer Quan Chi join forces to kill him in the game's introductory sequence.[30] In the events of Mortal Kombat: Deception (2004), an unknown party reanimates Liu Kang's corpse and sends it on a murderous rampage, causing Liu Kang's soul to attempt to control it.[31] He returns as a playable character in this game, albeit in undead form and as a secret character that can only be unlocked by completing the game's Konquest Mode.[32] His spirit enlists the reformed ninja Ermac to try to save Kitana and his Earthrealm allies—Johnny Cage, Jax, Sonya and Kung Lao—who had all been killed by the Deadly Alliance and then resurrected by the Dragon King Onaga for use as his slaves. Though they successfully accomplish this task,[33] Liu Kang is still unable to fully regain control of his body in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (2006), where he is playable along with the entire series roster and in which it is revealed that Raiden had revived Liu Kang's corpse in Deception.[34] Liu Kang's bond with Kitana had succeeded in keeping his power in check, with Nightwolf then assuming her position as Liu Kang's "spiritual anchor" in attempt to find a way to reunite his body and soul, which he accomplishes in his ending.[35] Liu Kang was among the many characters who were not given a biography for Armageddon, while in his own noncanonical in-game ending, his body and soul reunite on their own before he confronts Raiden and defeats him in combat to become Earthrealm's new protector.[36]

Along with Kung Lao, Liu Kang is the lead character in the 2005 spinoff action-adventure game Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks. The game is a retelling of the storyline of the events leading up to Mortal Kombat II, and features the two Shaolin monks traveling to Outworld to find and defeat Shang Tsung, later ending in a fight with Shao Kahn and rescuing Kitana along the way.[37] He is among the eleven characters representing the Mortal Kombat franchise in the 2008 crossover title Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, which features fights between characters from the Mortal Kombat and the DC Comics universes. In this game, Liu Kang appears as the protagonist of the first chapter of the Mortal Kombat story mode.[38] Tobias said that the fight he expected to see in the game was between Liu Kang and Batman as he noted their back-stories to be very similar, due to fact, both Liu Kang and Batman are fought in Raiden and Superman's chapters respectively, trying to snap their rage influenced respective leaders back to their sense from killing the leader's respective arch-enemies, Lex Luthor and Shang Tsung, reminding them that Dark Kahn is their true enemy.[39]

In the 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot video game, Liu Kang reprises his role from the first three tournaments as one of Raiden's chosen warriors. When Shao Kahn is preparing to invade Earthrealm during the third game's events, all his allies are murdered by a soul-infused Sindel. This, coupled with Raiden's failed attempts in changing the future, causes Kang to engage Raiden in combat. Liu Kang is killed by his mentor in the aftermath.[40]

Liu Kang returns in Mortal Kombat X. In the game's Story Mode, he is resurrected by Quan Chi and now serves him as one of the revenants until Sub-Zero, Scorpion and Jax are revived. He fights both Jax and Raiden in Story Mode, which he blames Raiden for his death. At the end of the story mode, he and Kitana become the new rulers of the Netherrealm due to Quan Chi's death and Shinnok's defeat. A now darker Raiden brings them Shinnok's disembodied head as a warning for them not to attack Earthrealm.[41]


Other appearancesEdit

Liu Kang was the hero of the comic book adaptation of the Mortal Kombat series Malibu Comics. In the first miniseries, Blood and Thunder, his backstory was mostly kept intact as a Shaolin monk out to restore the tournament to their righteous owners, with the only difference being that he was not the chosen one to defeat Goro, which instead fell on twin monk brothers named Sing and Sang, two original characters created specifically for the comics; after they are killed by Goro in the third issue, Liu Kang becomes the Shaolin's only hope in defeating Shang Tsung.[42] The following miniseries, Battlewave, stated that Liu Kang won the first tournament after defeating Goro, which never appeared in the first miniseries. He returns to his normal life as an architect in Chicago, having left the Order of Light before the events of the first series. However, he suffers from constant attacks by an unknown force of ninjas and later receives help from Johnny Cage's bodyguard Bo when Goro ambushes him in an office building. Eventually he decides to travel to Outworld, realizing that he cannot avoid Mortal Kombat.[43]

While Robin Shou portrayed Liu Kang as an Earthrealm hero in the live-action films, Brian Tee played him as an antagonist.

Liu Kang is the primary hero of both Mortal Kombat movies, where he is portrayed by Robin Shou. Director Paul W. S. Anderson wanted Liu Kang's character to be "really engaging" and chose Shou, noting his skills with martial arts.[44] In the first film, he takes part in the tournament out of guilt over his brother's death at the hands of Shang Tsung (portrayed by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), and defeats Tsung in the final battle.[45] As a result of the film's style the relationship between Liu Kang and Kitana is more of a metaphysical than a romantic nature.[46] Shou and Talisa Soto (Kitana) were the only two actors to reprise their roles in the sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. In the sequel, Liu Kang joins the Earthrealm warriors to stop Shao Kahn's menace.[47] In the animated film Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins, serving as a prequel to the first film, Liu Kang appears as one of the main characters.[44]

Liu Kang is also one of the lead characters in the 1996 animated series Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, voiced by Brian Tochi. He is not the protagonist therein as opposed to the game storyline, instead sharing this role with several other Earthrealm heroes.[48]

Liu Kang appears in the 2013's second season of the web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy, portrayed by Brian Tee.[49] Liu Kang in Legacy is portrayed as an anti-hero and fighting on the side of Outworld rather than that of Earthrealm in the web series. In this version, he is shown to have left a monastery to live a normal life working at a diner with a fiancée. After watching a pair of thieves kill her in a robbery attempt, he becomes consumed with anger and revenge, and further distances himself from Kung Lao and the ideals that were taught to him. After working as a freelance assassin for a few years, he is approached by Shang Tsung, who convinces him that humanity is not worth protecting and asks him to join the realm of Outworld in the upcoming Mortal Kombat tournament, which he agrees to. During the tournament, he easily subdues Johnny Cage and Kurtis Stryker before being confronted by Kung Lao, who is surprised at his old friend's change of allegiance.

In 1996, Toy Island published a Liu Kang action figure which had a white shirt.[50] Two Liu Kang action figures from Shaolin Monks were released by Jazwares. Apart from being flexible, both figures included different types of weapons such as swords and axes.[51][52]

ReceptionEdit

Kang is sort of the Ryu of the Mortal Kombat roster. He's one of the easier and more straightforward characters to use, but that doesn't mean he's lacking in radness. Bicycle kicks. Fireballs. And let's not forget he was eventually able to transform into a freaking dragon and gobble people up as one of his fatalities. From Mortal Kombat II onwards Liu Kang was, and still is, an all-around badass.
GamesRadar in 2015[53]

The character has received mostly very positive response by gaming publications. His relation with Kitana was ranked fourth in IGN's list of best video game couples in 2006.[54] GameSpot featured him in their 2009 poll for the title of "All Time Greatest Game Hero", in which he lost to Yoshi.[55] UGO Networks ranked him as 94th on the 2008 list of top heroes of all time, noting his role in the Mortal Kombat series as well as character depth.[56] In 2012, GamesRadar ranked him as 51st "most memorable, influential, and badass" protagonist in games, adding that while "Sub-Zero and Scorpion may get most of the fanfare", Liu Kang "can shoot fireballs, whoops and hollers just like Bruce Lee, and pioneered the Animality with his dragon-transformation fatality--it’s no wonder that Liu Kang’s the chosen champion of Earthrealm."[57] In 2014, Jack Pooley of What Culture ranked him as the second greatest ever fighting game character.[58] DigitalSpy listed him as the 13th best Mortal Kombat character comparing him with Street Fighter character Ryu, stating they while both are "kind of dull", they develop appealing techniques across their respective series.[59] Complex listed Liu Kang as the third best character in the franchise based on his heroic traits, moves as well as his undead form.[60]

Like all the characters from Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Liu Kang was selected to be a playable character based on his popularity.[61] Jesse Schedeen of IGN said that "it just wouldn't be right having a game without [Liu Kang]," noting him to be as fierce as the DC Universe characters in this game.[62] In 2010, GamePlayBook ranked Liu Kang as the second best Mortal Kombat character, commenting that "his nimbleness and fighting expertise make him an ideal pick" and how he is as good as zombie as when he was alive.[63] In 2011, Bright Hub ranked Liu Kang as the second best character in the series.[64] In UGO's 2012 list of top Mortal Kombat characters, Liu Kang was given first place.[65] In 2013, he was ranked as the fifth-top Mortal Kombat character by Jon Hamlin of The Game Scouts for his popularity and "being incredibly important to the Mortal Kombat universe."[66] That same year, the readers of Dorkly voted him the series' sixth greatest character.[67]

Upon his death in Deadly Alliance, IGN's Jeremy Dunham noted that Liu Kang was killed as the series needed "'starting over' mentality", as he regarded Liu Kang as the series' strongest character.[68] While listing him as the 2nd best beat up character, What Culture also addressed Liu Kang's death in Deadly Alliance but praised his eventual return and his characterization in Mortal Kombat such as his relationship with Kitana.[69] Complex remarked that the Mortal Kombat developers "finally found their groove again with Deadly Alliance, which began by snapping Liu Kang's neck."[70] Game Informer listed his death in their article about "characters that died under our watch" calling it a "shock" as Liu Kang was stated to be one of the "most loved" characters from the series.[71]

His redesign in Mortal Kombat: Deception was praised by GameSpot for being one of the best ones from the title,[72] and was featured in GamesRadar's list of the "greatest zombie triumphs" in 2009,[73] but was also ranked as the ninth-worst Mortal Kombat character by ScrewAttack in 2011.[74] Additionally, GamesRadar used Liu Kang as an example of a stereotype of gaming heroes who reveal an evil alter ego that ruins the character's appealing traits,[75] and considered him to be "a little like the Shaolin version of Goku, in that he's saved his world countless times and come back from the dead even more frequently."[76] GamesRadar featured him, Fei-Long and Tekken's Marshall Law in the article about "kickass Bruce Lee clones" citing his similarities with Bruce Lee and with one of his shouts featured in famous quotes.[77] Liu Kang's darker characterization starting with Deception and in the reboot were received with good critical response as Den of Geek listed him as the 22nd best Mortal Kombat character due to this aspect.[78]

Gameplay and finishing movesEdit

Liu Kang's famous finishing move of turning into a dragon was ranked by ScrewAttack as the second best in the series, referred to as the most iconic Fatality in Mortal Kombat II,[79] but his cartwheel Fatality from the original Mortal Kombat was ranked by ScrewAttack as the second worst in the series.[80] Liu Kang's dragon Fatality has also been listed as one of the best Fatalities from the series by both Game Informer and UGO in 2010,[81][82] as well as by Complex in 2013.[83] On the other hand, his Fatality in which he throws a Mortal Kombat arcade were pointed by both Game Informer and GamePro as one of the worst from the series,[84][85] even as GamesRadar listed it among the reasons of Liu Kang being "boss".[57]

Some video game publications criticized his gameplay and shouts while others noted him to be entertaining. IGN's Douglas Perry wrote that he preferred Liu Kang over Kung Lao as a playable character in Shaolin Monks because of his "intuitive fighting moves,"[86] adding that his shouts were "annoying" yet "strangely pleasing."[87] GameDaily also complained about his voice, saying that "Liu Kang screams out like a chicken,"[88] and GamesRadar wrote that "the strange squeals he emits during his trademark Bicycle Kick move are unforgettable."[57] Nevertheless, Mary Shearman from 100 Entertainers Who Changed America: An Encyclopedia of Pop Culture considered that Bruce Lee himself used to make animal noises when attacking.[89]

ReferencesEdit

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  9. ^ Ok... I just found thee very first MK related art I ever did!!! You'll never guess which character it was... Archived 2014-01-14 at the Wayback Machine. by John Tobias on Twitpic.
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