At San Diego Comic-Con 2023, we were able to sit down with NetherRealm Studios’ Ed Boon, Thiago Gomes, and Dominic Cianciolo, along with voice actors Kelly Hu and Yuri Lowenthal, to discuss Mortal Kombat 1.
Hu and Lowenthal discussed a bit about their characters and the changes made to them as the next installment in the Mortal Kombat franchise serves as a reboot for the series.
The interview follows a big reveal that happened during the Mortal Kombat panel that took place yesterday, which revealed that Homelander, Peacemaker, Omni-Man, along with returning Mortal Kombat characters Quan Chi, Ermac, and Takeda will be available in the first Kombat Pack. Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon explains why the studio chose Homelander, Peacemaker, and Omni-Man as guest characters and how all three appropriately tie into the theme of the first Kombat Pack.
Read on for our full San Diego Comic-Con interview with NetherRealm Studios.
IGN: It’s been a while since we saw Li Mei. When was the last time we saw Li Mei in the series?
Ed Boon, Creative Director: I think it might have been Armageddon, was it? It was quite a while ago. Yeah, we’re very excited. One of the returning 3D characters, which has been requested quite a bit from our fans.
IGN: Where does Li Mei fit into the story here?
Dominic Cianciolo, Story Director: So Li Mei in the reboot of Mortal Kombat Universe is the first constable of the city of Sun Do, which is Outworld’s capital city. So she’s responsible for policing and maintaining order and that kind of thing. And before she had this role, she was the head of the Umgadi, which is the new palace guard for the royal family of Outworld. And so she’s got a lot of responsibility. She’s obviously a very tremendous fighter and she’s got a really enhanced position in the new universe.
IGN: Now, what’s her play style like in Mortal Kombat 1?
EB: We tried to incorporate a number of her signature moves that she’s had in the previous games, but nowshe’s got this fireworks effect thing. I don’t know, Tiago can elaborate on that.
Thiago Gomes, Art Director: A lot of her effects are really these bright colors and they lean back into the aesthetic of the Sun Do city, and there’s a lot of really bright, awesome effects that are associated with it.
IGN: Very cool. I believe you’re also sure that Tanya and Baraka are both coming?
EB: Baraka we had to bring back obviously, but instead of, story-wise, just that being part of his race, it’s more of an infection and it’s like a disease. So both Mileena and Baraka have this disease called Tarkat, which causes them to have the growths in their teeth and all that. So a lot of these characters are coming back as you know them, but their origins are completely different. That’s the big draw of this game is characters that you know in completely brand new story.
IGN: So in terms of that timeline reset, what were the elements of Mortal Kombat lore that you’re most
excited to tweak and have fun with?
DC: I, there was a lot, I mean, when the decision was made, we wanted to reboot, wanted to do something
different. I was really looking at all of that great foundation that we had had before. And so in talking
with Ed about it, what he really wanted to do was take that foundation, but take the story in a
completely different direction so that we’re surprising people and adding that novelty to it. And so being
able to play with the classic Sub-Zero, Scorpion relationship, playing with Mileena’s origin and her
relationship to Kitana and Sindel, it was a lot of fun to be able to tweak all of those things and just push
them in a slightly different direction.
EB: There are hints of things that, again, there’s always a competition between Scorpion and Subzero, but
now they’re not deadly enemies who are trying to kill each other. They’re brothers and it’s a brotherly conflict. And so that’s one example of all the kind of things that we’ve twisted around with the characters, the relationships, and throughout the game. And again, Liu Kang and Raidon have literally switched. Liu Kang is like the God and Raidon’s the more common person, and so it’s great. To me, that’s one of the things I’m most excited about with this game story.
IGN: And you’re playing Smoke?
Yuri Lowenthal, Voice of Smoke: Yes.
IGN: So what is this version of Smoke like?
YL: I’m going to throw it back to Dominic just to make sure that he’s in the right place as far as the
lore goes. I mean, one of the things that really attracted me to this when I was originally cast was I said,
“I’m not really big into fighting games.” And then Dominic started going down this story path with me
and I’m like, “Oh, that’s something I can connect to.” That’s what got me excited finally about this in
particular, was all the story that’s coming into it and the story that’s being created, but now as far as
where he is in the Liu Kang and all the, yeah.
DC: Smoke. He’s very similar to what we’ve seen before? The big difference is that we are playing up the relationship that he had with Kuai Liang, Scorpion, and it is taking that relationship and deepening it and fitting that into that whole brother dynamic. He’s the adopted brother of Subzero and Scorpion, and it really levels up their conflicts and their relationships.
IGN: And as for DLC Fighters, I think you’ve confirmed now it’s official Peacemaker, Homelander and OmniMan. What a trio.
YL: When I heard that I thought it was a joke. The best.
IGN: Is there a theme? Because I think with Mortal Kombat X and 11, there were sort of a theme to your DLC characters, horror movies and action movies. What’s the theme here?
EB: Well, obviously it’s R rated or M rated heroes and villains more from the comic book genre. Again,
Peacemaker, Homelander, Omni-Man, they’re all in this hyper and violent category of guests. And that’s
the theme there along with the Mortal Kombat characters of Takeda and Quan Chi. And I’m drawing a blank, and Ermac. If you think of the Omni-Man and the Homelander, that’s the kind of category that is our guest characters.
IGN: I imagine for a lot of viewers of the boys watching fatalities being performed on Homelander will be cathartic.
DC: Oh, yeah.
EB: I think a lot of people just seeing Homelander and Omni-Man in the same frame will be just, again, one
of those classic who would win in a fight kind of scenarios that players will be able to see the result of.
IGN: So Mortal Kombat 1 is coming to PS5, Xbox Series X and S and PC and Nintendo Switch. First of all, how is that even possible?
EB: A lot of work, a lot of optimization, but we are very excited with how that version is turning out too.
IGN: I’m excited to see that one too. Let’s see. The Kameo Fighter system, there’s a lot of conversation in the community. How do you feel about the fan reaction to that mechanic coming out of the recent online stress test?
EB: Oh, we couldn’t be happier. The players have come up with, which is exactly what we wanted to
happen. They’ve come up with their own combos that we’ve never even seen before. And once
something like that happens, we really get excited because then we feel like we’ve thrown out the tools
for the sandbox for players to just come up with their own stuff. And that’s exactly what happened, and
I couldn’t be more excited about how players have embraced that feature.
Taylor Lyles is a reporter at IGN.