|Mortal Kombat character|
Liu Kang in Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks
|First game||Mortal Kombat (1992)|
|Created by||John Tobias (with brainstorming input from Ed Boon)|
|Designed by||John Tobias (early games)|
|Voiced by||Ron Feinberg (The Journey Begins)
Brian Tochi (MK: DotR)
Tom Choi (MKvDC, MK2011)
|Motion capture||Ho Sung Pak (MK, MKII)
Eddie Wong (MK3, UMK3, MKT)
|Portrayed by||Robin Shou (films)
Carmichael Simon, Jon Valera, Michael Li, Allan Sandoval (Live Tour)
Brian Tee (Legacy)
|Fighting styles||Jun Fan (MK:D, MK:A)
Pao Chui (MK:D)
Jeet Kune Do (MK:SM)
Choy Lay Fut (MK:SM)
|Weapon||Dragon Sword (MK4, MKG)
Nunchaku (MK:D, MK:A)
Liu Kang (Chinese: 劉康; pinyin: Liúkāng) is a fictional character from the Mortal Kombat fighting game series. He was introduced in the series' original video game installment in 1992, as a Shaolin monk who enters the Mortal Kombat tournament to save Earthrealm (Earth). Since his victory in the tournament, Liu Kang becomes the champion and chief defender of Earthrealm, guided by his mentor, the thunder god Raiden. He also becomes romantically involved with Princess Kitana, an adopted daughter of Shao Kahn, the evil emperor of Outworld.
Liu Kang appears in most of Mortal Kombat video games series as a playable character, including as the lead character in the action-adventure game Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks along with Kung Lao. Liu Kang has become the main hero of the series and his moves were designed to be easier to perform than the moves of other characters. He has also been featured as the primary protagonist of the Mortal Kombat film and comic book adaptations. Critical reception of the character has been generally very favorable, although various aspects have been criticized by some.
In video games
Introduced in the first Mortal Kombat game as a Chinese Shaolin Kung Fu fighting monk, Liu Kang enters the tenth Mortal Kombat tournament in order to protect Earthrealm from being destroyed for having lost several tournaments. During the tournament, Liu Kang defeats Grand Champion Goro and the host Shang Tsung, emerging as the new champion of Mortal Kombat. In the sequel, Mortal Kombat II, Liu Kang finds many of his Shaolin killed in a vicious attack by a horde of nomadic mutants under orders from Emperor Shao Kahn, Shang Tsung's master. Enraged, Liu Kang decides to travel to Outworld, backed by his friend Kung Lao to seek revenge. At the tournament, Liu Kang fights Shao Kahn, eventually overpowering the emperor. In Mortal Kombat 3, Liu Kang and his friends fight against Shao Khan's extermination squad which invaded Earthrealm. Liu Kang once again defeats Shao Kahn, causing him and his forces to retreat back to Outworld. By the time of Mortal Kombat 4, Liu Kang discovers that his lover and ally, Princess Kitana, has been captured by the Elder God Shinnok's forces and begins gathering Earth's warriors to defeat Shinnok. Eventually, Liu Kang confronts Shinnok and once again emerges victorious with Kitana and her people having survived to the attack. However, he is unable to commit himself to a relationship due to his duty while Kitana has to stay in Outworld as reigning princess.
In Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, the sorcerers Shang Tsung and Quan Chi join forces to kill Liu Kang, who is unplayable in the game. By the time of Mortal Kombat: Deception, his mentor, Raiden, reanimates Liu Kang's body and sends it on a rampage, causing his soul to attempt to control it. The undead Liu Kang appears as a secret character that can only be unlocked through the Konquest Mode. In Mortal Kombat: Unchained, the PlayStation Portable version of Deception, he is directly playable as the staff noted that it was very difficult to unlock him in Deception. From there, Liu Kang enlists the ninja Ermac to try to save his friends from Onaga who has been controlling them. He accomplishes this task in Deception, but by Mortal Kombat: Armageddon he is still unable to fully control his body.
Along with Kung Lao, Liu Kang is the lead character in the spin-off action game Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks. The game is a retelling of the storyline of 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 Khan, and rescuing Kitana along the way. Liu Kang also stars in the 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. 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.
In the 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot video game, Liu Kang reprises his role from the first two tournaments as Raiden who has visions from the future in which Shao Kahn remained as the last warrior believes him to be the warrior which his future self chose as the saviour. Liu Kang and Kitana enagage romantically with each other in this timeline too. When Shao Kahn is preparing to invade Earthrealm, Raiden electrocutes Liu Kang before he could face him as he realized Shao Kahn had to win and merge the realms in order to avoid the events of the future, killing him.
Liu Kang was originally going to be a Japanese character called Minamoto Yoshitsune, but John Tobias stated that they could not "deal with the name". According to Tobias, Liu Kang "was originally going to be a traditional monk – bald and in robes – but he wound up resembling Bruce Lee." 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. According to Tobias, Liu Kang was purposedly the only character voiced his finishing move in the original game, and was "the best" in the first sequel. 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." 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.
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. 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. 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. 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". Nevertheless, his alternate outfit for both games featured him as a living person in order to contrast his undead form. 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.
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. 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. After Mortal Kombat II, he gains the ability to perform this while crouching and in the air, same for Deception and Armageddon.
Liu Kang's first finishing move is the Fatality "Shaolin Uppercut"; he performs a butterfly kick (often mistaken for a cartwheel) on his opponent, before hitting an uppercut that knocks them into the air for several seconds. 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. 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. Another famous Fatality of Liu Kang has him vanish and a Mortal Kombat arcade game machine drop down and crush his opponent. According to GameSpy's MK2011 walkthrough, Liu Kang "inflicts better damage by jumping around like a lunatic and kicking the crap out of everything he sees."
Liu Kang was the main protagonist of the comic book adaptation of the Mortal Kombat series Malibu Comics. In the first miniseries, Blood & 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. 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.
Liu Kang is the primary protagonist 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. 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. As a result of the film's style the relationship between Liu Kang and Kitana is more of a metaphysical than a romantic nature. Shou, along with Talisa Soto (Kitana), was one of only two actors to reprise their roles in the sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (Keith Cooke, who played Reptile, returned as well, but as the new Sub-Zero). In the sequel, Liu Kang joins the Earthrealm warriors to stop Shao Kahn's menace. 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.
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 main protagonist therein as opposed to the game storyline, instead sharing this role with several other Earthrealm heroes.
Liu Kang appears in the 2013's second season of the web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy, portrayed by Brian Tee. 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. 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.
Liu Kang's 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. GameSpot featured him in their 2009 poll for the title of "All Time Greatest Game Hero", in which he lost to Yoshi. 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. 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." In 2014, Jack Pooley of What Culture ranked him as the second greatest ever fighting game character.
Like all the characters from Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Liu Kang was selected to be a playable character based on his popularity. 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. 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. In 2011, Bright Hub ranked Liu Kang as the second best character in the series. In UGO's 2012 list of top Mortal Kombat characters, Liu Kang was given first place. 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." That same year, the readers of Dorkly voted him the series' sixth greatest character.
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. 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. GamesRadar featured him the article about "kickass Bruce Lee clones" citing his similarities with Bruce Lee and with one of his shouts featured in famous quotes. His redesign in Mortal Kombat: Deception was praised by GameSpot for being one of the best ones from the title, and was featured in GamesRadar's list of the "greatest zombie triumphs" in 2009, but was also ranked as the ninth worst Mortal Kombat character by ScrewAttack in 2011. Additionally, GamesRadar used him as an example of a stereotype of gaming heroes who reveal an evil alter-ego which ruins the character's appealing traits.
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, but his cartwheel Fatality from the original Mortal Kombat was ranked by ScrewAttack as the second worst in the series. 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, as well as by Complex in 2013. 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, even as GamesRadar listed it among the reasons of Liu Kang being "boss".
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," adding that his shouts were "annoying" yet "strangely pleasing." GameDaily also complained about his voice, saying that "Liu Kang screams out like a chicken," and GamesRadar wrote that "the strange squeals he emits during his trademark Bicycle Kick move are unforgettable."
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- Midway (1993). Mortal Kombat II. Midway. Level/area: Liu Kang bio. ("After winning the Shaolin Tournament from Shang Tsung's clutches Kang returns to his temples. He discovers his sacred home in ruins, his Shaolin brothers killed in a vicious battle with a horde of Outworld warriors. Now he travels into the Dark Realm to seek revenge.")
- Midway (1993). Mortal Kombat II. Midway. Level/area: Liu Kang ending. ("With his Shaolin temple in ruins, Liu Kang journeys into the Outworld, enters Shao Kahn's tournament and unleashes a fury that does not end until the defeat of Shao Kahn. Liu Kang then returns to the seclusion of his Shaolin temple. He pays his respects to his lost brothers and finally realizes that the events which have taken place were all fulfillment of his destiny.")
- Midway (1995). Mortal Kombat 3. Midway. Level/area: Liu Kang bio. ("After the Outworld invasion, Liu Kang finds himself the prime target of Kahn's extermination squads. He is the Shaolin Champion and has thwarted Kahn's schemes in the past. Of all the humans, Kang poses the greatest threat to Shao Kahn's rule.")
- Midway (1995). Mortal Kombat 3. Midway. Level/area: Liu Kang ending. ("After thwarting Shao Kahn in the past, Liu Kang finds himself the main target of Kahn's extermination squads. But Kang is the reigning Mortal Kombat champion and proves it by easily defeating Kahn's minions. But the apparent death of his friend Kung Lao that enrages Kang and enables him to find the strength to defeat Shao Khan. Then before portal closes, Liu Kang is greeted by Princess Kitana and thanked for saving Earth and the Outworld.")
- Midway (1997). Mortal Kombat 4. Midway. Level/area: Liu Kang bio. ("Still the immortal champion of Mortal Kombat, Liu Kang finds himself venturing into the realm of Edenia to rescue the princess Kitana from the vile clutches of Quan Chi. Unsuccessful in his mission Liu returns to Earth and mounts an effort to bring together Earth's greatest warriors. He does it this time not only to free Kitana's home world but also to assist his mentor and Earth's protector... Raiden.")
- Midway (1997). Mortal Kombat 4. Midway. Level/area: Liu Kang ending. (Liu Kang: "The war is over. I've once again defended my title as the champion of Mortal Kombat, and defended the realm of Earth. But I've failed to save the realm of Edenia. In doing so, I have also lost Kitana... Forever." / Liu Kang: "Kitana?" / Kitana: "Yes, Liu Kang. It is I." / Liu Kang: "But I thought you were gonna lo-" / Kitana: "With Shinnok's destruction, you've not only saved the Earth, but you've also saved my own realm. For that, I can never repay you." / Liu Kang: "Knowing that you survived is all that I need." / Kitana: "As heir to the throne of my realm, I offer you the chance to rule at my side, as King of Edenia... Forever." / Liu Kang: "... I... cannot accept your offer. I belong here on Earth, as Champion of Mortal Kombat." / Kitana: "Then... I wish you good luck, Liu Kang. On all your journeys." / Liu Kang: "Goodbye, Princess Kitana...")
- Midway (2002). Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. Midway. Level/area: Opening sequence. ("[...] There they confronted Earth's mightiest warrior and Champion of Mortal Kombat, Liu Kang. It has been Shang Tsung's greatest desire to consume the soul of Earthrealm's greatest warrior. With Quan Chi's assistance, he achieved this goal... Liu Kang is dead. [...]")
- Midway (2004). Mortal Kombat: Deception. Midway. Level/area: Liu Kang alternate bio. ("The sorcerer Shang Tsung had killed me and consumed my soul. I remained trapped within his being, tormented by his evil, along with many other victims of his vampiric soul drain. Through Shang Tsung’s eyes, we witnessed the battle with Raiden, who sacrificed himself to stop Onaga. Raiden’s blast destroyed Shang Tsung, and our souls were free to ascend into the heavens. I remained in Outworld, however, to aid my friends in the fight against the Dragon King. Why someone would desecrate my grave and reanimate my body, I cannot say. Somehow my corpse retains my knowledge of martial arts and has killed many innocents. Though I am not the perpetrator of these slaying, I cannot help but feel responsible for the brutality committed by my corporal form. The battle between mind and body has begun.")
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- Midway (2004). Mortal Kombat: Deception. Midway. Level/area: Ermac ending. ("In an outer chamber of the Dragon King's throne room, Ermac did battle with Liu Kang's enslaved comrades. Ermac was more than a match for the five warriors, but their defeat was not his objective. Liu Kang materialized and, one by one, freed their souls while Ermac occupied the rest. Eventually, all five were awakened from their enchantment and freed from Onaga's control. Ermac was pleased that his warrior skills could for once bring about a noble outcome. He sensed, however, that an ominous force still shaped the destiny of the realms. It was everywhere. He could feel its influence on Onaga, though the Dragon King was oblivious to its manipulation. Time was running out. Ermac feared the celebration of this latest victory would be short-lived.")
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