Mortal Kombat 1 hit shelves on September 14, 2023. The game has received some mixed reviews from longtime fans but, it has an overall nice reception. One of the features that’s caused quite the audience split is the story mode. Some loving it, others have a few critiques, and others still think the timeline reset was more NRS shenanigans. If there is one aspect of story mode we could’ve dived deeper into, at least according to this MK fan, it’s the difference between Liu Kang and Raiden as Earthrealm’s protector. Be warned as there are spoilers ahead.
In story mode, Liu Kang is clear as a crystal of the fact that he is not interested in being the keeper of time. The reason is that the pressure of watching over the timeline drove Kronika mad. Something he knew he would fare no better at. This is understandable, it’s important to know our limits. Although Liu Kang has another role he needs to worry about driving him over the edge. Let’s think back to the previous two timelines. Who had a job that over time drove them to lose sight of the bigger picture? Oh, that’s right. It’s our newly mortal, non-demi-god Raiden.
First Timeline – The Birth of Dark Raiden
In the first timeline, Raiden released a large blast of power in a last-ditch effort to defeat Onaga. In doing so, his physical form was destroyed. Once he could put himself back together, something was different about Raiden. It wasn’t just the new red and black aesthetic, though that was a vibe. It was his new demeanor and mission statement. Protect Earthrealm at all costs, even if he has to get his hands dirty to do it. And get his hands dirty he did. He dug up Liu Kang’s body and reanimated his corpse. He tried to wipe Shujinko off the map for trusting Onaga in the first place. Not to mention he vowed that anyone who dared put Earthrealm in danger, accidentally or otherwise, would be jump-started like a failing engine. Raiden had quite a busy schedule in Deception.
Now, Armageddon is where we see all the newly acquired darkness rear its head. Taven finds Raiden colluding with an entire group of big bads. Raiden for some reason thinks that all of the evil villains of Mortal Kombat are going to somehow protect Earthrealm if they acquire the power of Blaze. This is how you he came back wrong, that doesn’t make any sense. Verdict: Pre-reboot Raiden buckled under the pressure of his job.
Second Timeline – Raiden and Liu Kang’s Clash
Now let’s talk about post-reboot, second timeline Raiden. The demi-god sees visions sent by his future self about things to come and instead of taking a moment to think before he acts, Raiden decides to jump off the porch and over-correct. He got Sub-Zero turned into a cyborg, he got Kung Lao killed, and he most egregiously killed Liu Kang by losing his temper. Now he wasn’t full Dark Raiden at this point but the signs were there.
After the time skip he seemed to have learned his lesson but by the time Shinnok was defeated once and for all, history repeated itself. Raiden’s time in the Jinsei Chamber had once again corrupted him. The post-credits scene showed us Dark Raiden taking up a vow of violence towards anyone who dared endanger Earthrealm. Though NRS kind of backtracked in the next game and erased Dark Raiden, the writing was on the wall. He’d had enough of being nice and now he wasn’t taking no for an answer. Earthrealm would be safe or no one was safe. As said before, we didn’t get Dark Raiden but he almost went there. If not for him and Liu Kang deciding to break the cycle of violence, Raiden was about to smite Liu Kang.
Current Timeline – New Protector of Earthrealm
Being the protector of Earthrealm is not a stress-free job. Liu Kang rightfully fears what being the keeper of time could do to him but Raiden didn’t fare much better in his role. There’s a moment in MK1’s story mode where Liu Kang makes a comment that could seem like a dig at Raiden’s leadership. “I would never send my champions unwittingly into Mortal Kombat”. Liu Kang might judge Raiden for his carelessness with his fighters, but Liu Kang is not infallible.
He could just as easily reach the point of anger and frustration that Raiden did. There will always be forces at work who will put Earthrealm in danger. If Liu Kang is so sure that being the protector of Earthrealm is one he can do without losing his patience or decorum, he could easily find himself in his predecessor’s shoes.
May the Elder Gods protect Lord Liu Kang’s peace of mind. He may very well need it.