Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks is the ninth game in the Mortal Kombat series. It was developed and published by Midway for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox and was released September 16th, 2005 in the United States. In October 2004, the president of Midway, David F. Zucker, called the release of Shaolin Monks the "first step toward delivering something that Mortal Kombat fans have been calling for: a new game set in the Mortal Kombat universe every year."
The events of Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks takes place between Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat II, with the opening scene of the game depicting the final moments of the first Mortal Kombat tournament. Shang Tsung, Goro, and other enemies escape to Outworld while Liu Kang and Kung Lao, warriors from The Order of Light, are in close pursuit. Unfortunately, the warriors are left stranded within Shang Tsung's crumbling island.
The game centers on Liu Kang and Kung Lao as they travel through the different realms in order to stop Shang Tsung. In addition to Liu Kang and Kung Lao, there are characters for the player to unlock in both the co-op and versus modes. Several other characters appear in order to help, including Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, Jax and Raiden while many others must be defeated such as Goro, Reptile, Mileena, Kitana, Jade, and Baraka.
Also included is a Ko-op mode where two players can work together to get through the game. Special team attacks become available only in this mode as well as some areas and items. Sub-Zero and Scorpion can be unlocked as playable characters in the Ko-op mode. In addition to these two and the two main characters, four other characters can be unlocked in the versus mode: Reptile, Kitana, Baraka, and Johnny Cage.
Shaolin Monks has a gameplay device called the Multi-Direction Fighting Engine which allows the player to deal with many enemies surrounding the player fluidly while maintaining the ability to link combo attacks across multiple enemies. The engine also allows the player to continue their combos after launching an enemy into the air through a powerful attack or a throw. Various other moves can be performed against an enemy including using one as a shield against other attacks and propelling the player off the back of one into another enemy. The environment also plays a vital role in the game as there are several hazards that will instantly kill an enemy which range from a mere pit in the floor to rotating wheels of spikes. Many hazards also play a part in solving a puzzle in a specific area.
Included are some Fatalities from the original Mortal Kombat II game that get some updates with new technology in the 3D world. There are also some more new Fatalities for the characters to give the players variety in regards to the one-Fatality per character in Deadly Alliance. The player can unlock the ability to do Multalities, which is a Fatality performed on multiple enemies at one time. The concept of Brutalities from Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 have also been brought back, though with a different function.
A good contribution to this game is the unlockable version of Mortal Kombat II, whilst not the complete original version of the game (the Random Character Select trick and the method to access the hidden character Smoke do not work due to a programming error), opening this is not difficult, all that has to be done is complete the 5 missions given to you by Smoke in a hidden section of the living forest and is accessed in the main menu's Kontent screen (note: although Smoke's missions are available in the European release, Mortal Kombat II is not unlockable). The original backgrounds of Mortal Kombat II were used as the basis for the areas and environments of Shaolin Monks.
Throughout the game are coded messages written vertically, translatable through the references of Concept 86 and 87, unlockable pieces of Concept Art via Ko-Op, exclusively. The text on the tournament victories wall in the Portal (later leading to the Foundry) reads "LIU KANG WILL DIE", obviously referencing (though technically predicting) Liu Kang's death during Deadly Alliance. Several banners surrounding, and en-route to Mileena's arena in the Living Forest treetop area read "TOASTY" once translated. Two glowing symbols above the entrances to the alternate routes in the Soul Tombs read "FIRE" and "WIND", respectively. The symbol for "LIZARD" is repeated several times within Reptile's Lair in the Living Forest, most notably as the activator of the statue challenges.
Survival Mode, remaining hidden for close to a year, was discovered by two Mortal Kombat Online users on the 21st of April, 2006. Survival Mode comprises of nine challenges which vary in difficulty, featuring recurring bosses and enemies, as well as exclusive arenas. The process for unlocking Survival Mode is featured on several MK-related websites.
Playable in Versus Mode only
- Sonya Blade
- Jax Briggs
- Shao Kahn
- Shang Tsung
- Quan Chi
- Noob Saibot
- Kurtis Stryker (Name Mentioned)
- Cyrax (Name Mentioned)
- Kenshi (Name Mentioned)
- Sheeva (Name Mentioned)
- Oni Warlord
- Orochi Hellbeast
- Mileena (Secret)
- Shang Tsung
- Shao Kahn
- Ermac (Secret)
- Kano (Secret)
- Dead Pool
- Goro's Lair
- Kombat Tomb
- Living Forest
- Pit I
- Pit II (Smoke mission only)
- Shao Kahn's Arena
- Warrior Shrine
- Wasteland of Outworld
- Wu Shi Academy
At the end of the first Mortal Kombat tournament, a battle raged furiously on Shang Tsung's island fortress in the Lost Sea. While the demon sorcerer watches from his throne, several fights occur: Sonya Blade vs Kano, Johnny Cage vs Reptile, and Sub-Zero vs Scorpion. The Shaolin monk Liu Kang confronts Shang Tsung and is met instead by two of his masked guards. Liu Kang defeats them and fights the sorcerer. Shang Tsung gains the advantage and proceeds to consume Liu Kang's soul but is rudely interrupted by Kung Lao. Kung Lao fights Baraka and Liu Kang continues fighting Shang Tsung. Although the sorcerer tries morphing into various fighters, Liu Kang punches him several times and finishes him with the Flying Kick, sending Shang Tsung through a pillar. Weakened, Shang Tsung tries to get up, but the room quakes. Emerging from a hallway, Goro appears and moves in on any fighter he sees. With Goro distracting everyone else, Shang Tsung creates a portal to Outworld and retreats. He's soon followed by Baraka, Goro, Reptile, Kano, and strangely Scorpion. Raiden appears afterwards and warns the remaining fighters to get off the island palace for it's collapsing into the sea. Everyone evacuates by Baraka and the Tarkata launch an attack on the Wu Shi Academy and capture Sonya. Raiden confirms that Shang Tsung is trying to lure Liu Kang and his allies to Outworld where he can unleash his henchmen on them and bide his time for power. If he's successful, Shang Tsung will conquer Earth without winning a Mortal Kombat tournament which is cheating. The Shaolin Monks, Liu Kang and Kung Lao, journey through the nightmarish realm of Outworld to stop the sorcerer's plot. They are guided by Raiden and assisted by Johnny Cage. Throughout their journeys, they are joined by a mysterious princess named Kitana, meet familiar foes and eventually save Sonya and stop Shang Tsung. But the sorcerer is not the only person who wants Earth; the Emperor of Outworld wants Earth for his realm and he will stop at nothing until he gets it.
Throughout Story Mode, there are Red Koins that are hidden throughout the game. These Koins can unlock concept art, stage art, multiplayer stages, characters, movies and Fatality inputs.
Differences from MKII storyline
- Kung Lao's original story was that he did not want to be the Champion of Mortal Kombat and was more of a quiet, brooding, reluctant hero who only fought when he had to. Instead, Kung Lao is depicted as being arrogant and shows resentment towards Liu Kang for winning the Mortal Kombat tournament and desires to be Champion himself. On the contrary, Kung Lao's Armageddon ending, most likely influenced by Shaolin Monks' concept, also mentions him having a rivalry with Liu Kang.
- Kung Lao was not present in the original tournament, explaining that he didn't want to be the Champion of Mortal Kombat. But in Shaolin Monks' story, he sneaks into Shang Tsung's island and poses as a guard of his troops. In MK 2011 Raiden reveals his disguise. Kung Lao then joins and loses the tournament.
- Liu Kang was not present when the Tarkatas attacked the Shaolin Temple, as his Mortal Kombat II bio made this very clear. In the game, he is present and helps fight off the Tarkata.
- The MKII comic in its entirety is contradicted by the story as presented in Shaolin Monks. While the fundamental basics remain the same (Shang Tsung's island crumbles, the Shaolin temples are destroyed, Shang Tsung regains his youth, the Earthrealm warriors are lured into Outworld etc.), the details and order of many events and who fought whom are largely different between the two. They are two wildly different versions of the same basic story.
- The Elder Sub-Zero was originally killed by Scorpion at the end of the first Mortal Kombat tournament. In Shaolin Monks, they both survive the tournament itself, and Scorpion doesn't kill him until the tournament's aftermath.
- Kitana is shown having had full knowledge of what Shao Kahn did to her family for quite a while (and, thus, have been fighting against his rule during that time), and is put under a holding spell by Mileena and Jade (herself under the same spell) by Kahn to gain her loyalty. In Mortal Kombat II, it is only recently that she learned the truth, having grown up completely loyal to Kahn and ignorant of her past, and only feigns loyalty to the Emperor during the tournament, with no spell involved.
- Kung Lao and Liu Kang were somewhat portrayed as naive. Neither one nor the other of these qualities were demonstrated in the character storylines of previous games. They were also portrayed as somewhat immature at times (eg, Kung Lao constantly refers to Kitana as the "girlfriend" of Liu Kang and he sharply responds with "Kitana is not my girlfriend!").
- Kitana hints at a relationship between Mileena and Reptile, saying that if they find Mileena, they would surely find Reptile, since they apparently are "inseparable". This is most likely taken from the Malibu Comic series, where both characters are portrayed as sharing a love-hate sort of relation.
- There is no mention of Sub-Zero's mission to complete his brother's failed assignment to assassinate Shang Tsung, though it could be argued that just because it isn't mentioned doesn't mean it's been invalidated as it's never contradicted, just noticeably not brought up. More of an oddity than a difference.
- Originally Goro was supposed to have been thought killed in the original Mortal Kombat tournament until the events of Mortal Kombat 4 after Shao Kahn is defeated where he admits that he has been hiding in shame of his defeat years earlier. In Shaolin Monks, he survives the first tournament, but is "killed" shortly thereafter in Outworld.
- When the player meets Reptile for the first time on Shang Tsung's island, Reptile states that he doesn't serve the sorcerer, but his Mortal Kombat II bio states that he served as a bodyguard to Shang Tsung during the first game, and only came into Shao Kahn's service fully after the second game.
- In the game's mythology, Sub-Zero does not know about his brother's whereabouts and believes that he has "mysteriously disappeared", until he finally meets his brother as an undead wraith in Noob-Smoke's Mortal Kombat: Deception ending. However, in Shaolin Monks, Sub-Zero knows that Noob Saibot is his brother, and warns Liu Kang and Kung Lao that he will kill them should they try to harm his brother.
- Quan Chi getting the amulet at the end of the game spurred a huge controversy among fans of the series. It is believed that Quan Chi had it since the end of Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero. Here, it is rather strange that Shao Kahn has it and Quan Chi gets it from him.
- Shaolin Monks shows in a cutscene in the Soul Tombs Shang Tsung restores his own youth with a combination of fresh souls and powerful magic, however in Mortal Kombat II Shang Tsung's bio and the MKII comic state that Shao Kahn restores Shang Tsung's youth and strength.
Other controversial matters
- The reasons behind Scorpion's boss battle has been highly criticized by fans, who felt it was out of character for Scorpion to just go after Liu Kang and Kung Lao all of a sudden. This made it look like Scorpion had an evil alignment, even though Scorpion is meant to be a neutral character throughout the course of the MK timeline. However, this could be because Scorpion saw them with Sub-Zero before.
- The location of the Warrior Shrine has been changed. Originally the shrine was found on Shang Tsung's island, but now it's located near the Shaolin Temples.
- Jax's ability to open portals to Earthrealm, contradicting the whole reason why the Outworld Investigation Agency was created. If Shaolin Monks takes place during the timeframe in between the first and second Mortal Kombat tournament, Jax was not a member of the Special Forces and the Outworld Investigation Agency until Mortal Kombat 4. The technology to create portals from one realm to another didn't even exist, during that time, and Jax only entered Outworld through his accepting of the invitation to Shao Kahn's tournament and through Raiden (who opened a portal from Earthrealm to Outworld).
- Reptile appearing like a lizard even before starting his de-evolution in Mortal Kombat 4. This is more of an oddity than a real change.
- The deaths of Jade, Ermac, Reptile, Baraka, Goro, Kano, Shang Tsung, Kintaro, and Shao Kahn. The only character of the list that was close to death was Kano when he was thrown off the Rooftop by Sonya, though this occurred during the events of Mortal Kombat Trilogy.
- Goro being killed by Johnny Cage (much like in the movie).
- Quan Chi already bearing his tattoos, which were gained when he magically burned them into his skin upon the discovery of Onaga's grave, during Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. However, those tattoos could be an indirect reference to the Dragon King's existence.
- In the game, Kitana is stated to be a native of Outworld and that her father was overthrown by Shao Kahn. But Kitana is actually from Edenia, one of the realms that was made a part of Outworld. Though in the early years, fans often assumed Outworld and Edenia were one and the same. The cartoon stated the same thing.
- Quan Chi retrieving Shinnok's amulet from Shao Kahn's remains in the game's ending. Quan Chi obtained the amulet from the original Sub-Zero during the events depicted in Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero.
The game has received enthusiastic reviews from critics and gamers alike, especially in comparison with the previous two spin-offs (Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero and Mortal Kombat: Special Forces), which were critical and commercial failures. Among the game's strongest points include its efficient and simple gameplay and a well-received soundtrack (many songs are actually re-mixes of Mortal Kombat I and II tracks) as well as having a large arsenal of gruesome finishing moves that can be performed at almost any time.
Unlike Mythologies and Special Forces, which were prequels to the original Mortal Kombat, this one takes place between the first and second games, which gives experienced players a sense of nostalgia especially when venturing to familiar sights like the two Pits, the Kombat Tomb, the Living Forest, the Tower, and the Portal.
The PS2 version had few clipping problems for the enemies and causes the game to slow down; the only way to stop it is to defeat the enemy that's halfway through a wall. The Xbox version has similar issues as well as a bug that makes experience points go up at random times. The game also has a glitch where the map appears to show a series of slanted ones and "/" marks down many rows for a split second.
Much criticism is directed at the game's storyline because many feel it completely ignored and changed the majority of the events of Mortal Kombat II (ex. Jade, Ermac, Baraka, Reptile and Kano's deaths, Scorpion trying to kill Liu Kang and Kung Lao for no reason, and Goro being killed by Johnny Cage in the game even though in Mortal Kombat II it was stated that Goro was killed during the original Mortal Kombat tournament), and many feel that even with a person hired to write the script and check for continuity between games that many events were retconned.
There are also controversial matters in the game's story that don't necessarily pertain to alterations, so much as story elements that were never explained but had a long history of fanon behind them. Namely the origin of Sub-Zero's scar and Kitana being placed under a spell. Sub-Zero's scar has never officially been explained in the Mortal Kombat storyline until Shaolin Monks. Many fans were disappointed that he wasn't scarred by the Lin Kuei when he left the clan in Mortal Kombat Trilogy, but instead turned out to to be scarred in a fight with Kung Lao. His bio in Mortal Kombat Trilogy states that he was marked for death by the Lin Kuei. Ed Boon, co-creator of the Mortal Kombat series has stated in an online chat "Fight Night" held at the fan site Mortal Kombat Online that the term "marked for death" was meant figuratively because the Lin Kuei had placed a bounty on his head.
Shaolin Monks also introduced the idea that during Kitana's days as an assassin for Shao Kahn, she was placed under a spell to erase her memories of her original parents and what Kahn had done to them. This idea is not contradicted anywhere else in the MK series, however, many fans felt that this weakened Kitana's story.
Others have said that characters were not portrayed how they should've been. Such as, Scorpion being portrayed as a lunatic, Liu Kang as being very naive (fans believed that he was almost like poorly received Shujinko), and Kung Lao as an arrogant jerk. Others have also felt that the Liu Kang/Kitana relationship was poorly done and that there should've been more development to it. Also some felt it was out-of-character for Liu Kang and Kung Lao to randomly kill people (ironically the title of the game is Shaolin Monks and Shaolin Monks don't believe in committing murder).
By utilizing third-part cheating devices such as Action Replay MAX, it was discovered that there were a number of unused enemies that never had any appearances in the final stages of the game, most of them being very glitchy. One such example was a Ninja Wraith, which might have been a prototype or different class of creature for the Brotherhood of Shadow. Also reported were several elemental entities such as a Wind deity modeled after the Hindu god, Shiva (Not to be confused with the Shokan warrior Sheeva) as well as a Japanese Tiger deity capable of ice powers.
- This is the first game where Kabal is seen unmasked and unscarred. He is encountered at the Wastelands, the place where there are many Shokan throwing rocks (which is an homage to Donkey Kong). He seems to have a Southern accent as well, which is not present in any other iterations of the character.
- Oddly, Kabal seems to strongly resemble Jarek in this game.
- Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks was originally going to be a one player game featuring Raiden as the only playable character in the game. This was stated in the Electronic Gaming Monthly magazine #239 as well as being confimed by Ed Boon years later on Twitter. 
- Ironically enough, Raiden is not actually playable in any modes of the final version of the game.
- This game is the instance in all Mortal Kombat games and media where Scorpion says "Get the fuck over here!" or "Get over here, bitch!", as well as the normal "Get over here!"
- Moreover, Scorpion punching Liu Kang/Kung Lao from behind before their fight is a nod to the movie from 1995, where Scorpion punched Cage just after he saw him from behind before their fight begins.
- This game is also referenced in Mortal Kombat (2011) in both the Story and Challenge Tower modes.
- If the players choose to play as a character besides Liu Kang or Kung Lao, the story and dialogue does not change. In other words, even when playing as Scorpion or Sub-Zero, the characters in cutscenes will acknowledge them as Liu Kang or Kung Lao and will even have their voices.
- In 2008, Mortal Kombat: Deception, Armageddon, and Shaolin Monks were sold together in a box set called "Mortal Kombat Kollection"
- Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks is the third adventure game in the Mortal Kombat series.
- Scorpion, Johnny Cage, Kano and Sonya Blade were the only characters to have a completely different design in their cinematic/render and in-game appearance.
- The game was later appeared in Mortal Kombat 11 as an arcade cabinet in Tournament stage along with Deadly Alliance, Deception and MKX. The Shaolin Monks arcade cabinet also appeared in Liu Kang's Insert Koin Brutality.
- The Shaolin Monks is also a story chapter in Mortal Kombat 11 and the playable characters are chosen to be Kung Lao or Liu Kang.
- https://twitter.com/noobde/status/915295544515481600 Ed Boon confirms that Shaolin Monks was originally one player and only featured Raiden as the playable character.
- Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks at MobyGames
- Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks Comprehensive Strategy Guide at Kamidogu