Mortal Kombat 1’s release has made for an interesting time in the franchise’s longstanding history. With this new game, we’ve seen the return of many iconic characters from its more experimental era. With the Kameo system included, MK1 truly feels like a love letter to fans of the classic Mortal Kombat 3D era.
Speaking of that era, there’s one character that hasn’t really received much love from the creators, and it’s no surprise if we are being honest. Shujinko was once the man destined to replace Liu Kang as the protagonist of Mortal Kombat. Even his name translates to the protagonist. With the amount of backing he got as the new face of the game, his arrival in Mortal Kombat: Deception was truly disappointing.
Shujinko is riddled with a lot of problems, but at its core, he’s a character that feels like watching paint dry. He barely has any reactivity towards the world around him. He’s a goody-two-shoes that is easily swayed by a quest for justice. Throughout his time in Deadly Alliance, he gullibly followed instructions from mysterious sources. Even if he was well-rounded, his interactions and ability to draw intrigue also fell flat compared to the characters he was supposedly leading in the franchise. From ninjas like Scorpion and Sub-Zero to monks like Liu Kang, Shujinko lacked any leading man flare in comparison.
Now, with the release of Mortal Kombat 1, characters like Tanya and Havik are present. These were characters that debuted in the same period as Shujinko, and they’ve been revitalized in this new era led by Fire God Liu Kang. As for Shujinko? At least he’s remembered by Netherrealm Studios in the form of a Kameo role. His Kameo mechanics are quite decent, and he retains his kit from typical games in the form of mimicry of his opponent’s fighting style.
Shujinko is a good Kameo character to have on your side. His design is reminiscent of classic martial arts movies, so if you’re a fan of that old, wise aesthetic, you won’t have a problem with him. Besides, there’s a cool fatality he has in MK1 which is the Five Palm Strike. It’s based on the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart technique from Kill Bill: Vol. 2, which was used by Beatrix Kiddo to kill Bill.
From a bigger-picture perspective, it’s hard to find a real place for Shujinko in Mortal Kombat. Even if he gets a soft reboot, there’s not much to do with his character that truly feels like his own. The elderly Shujinko could have received more development towards the ending of Mortal Kombat: Deception, but we barely got to spend any time with that version of him before the story ended.
In contrast, an older character that is done well in Mortal Kombat is Shang Tsung. He has always managed to find a way to ruin Liu Kang’s life no matter the timeline. He’s the purest definition of an arch-nemesis, and we love seeing his dynamic with Liu Kang continue in Mortal Kombat 1.