|Street Fighter character|
Ken in Namco × Capcom
|First game||Street Fighter (1987)|
|Motion capture||Damian Chapa (The Movie games)|
|Portrayed by||Damian Chapa (Street Fighter)
Christian Howard (Street Fighter: Legacy, Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist)
|Fighting style||Shotokan-style Karate
Martial Art rooted in the assassination arts (暗殺拳をルーツとした格闘術 ansatsuken o rūtsu toshita kakutō jutsu) (SF IV)
Ken Masters (ケン・マスターズ Ken Masutāzu), originally spelled in Japanese as 拳 (Ken), is a recurring character in Capcom's Street Fighter series. Ken is the best friend and rival of Ryu, who has also appeared in all Street Fighter games. Ken's goal is to test his power against many different fighters, and strives to become stronger. He uses improved Shoryuken ki techniques. The character has also appeared in other related media, such as the Street Fighter series and movie.
In video games
Street Fighter games
Ken made his first appearance in the original Street Fighter released in 1987, and is the only other playable character in the game aside from Ryu. He is characterized as the former sparring partner, best friend and rival of the main character, Ryu, who trained under the same master (a character whose identity would later be fleshed out as Gouken). The single-player tournament can only be played with Ken after the second player defeats the first player in a two-player match. Ken was also named one of the best fighters in the game.
Ken and Ryu, along with former final boss Sagat, would be the only characters from the original Street Fighter to return in the game's true sequel, Street Fighter II, first released in 1991. In Street Fighter II, Ken is invited to participate in the World Warrior tournament by Ryu, with Ken having already moved away from Japan to live in America. In Ken's ending, he ends up marrying his girlfriend Eliza. Street Fighter II was a breakaway hit for Capcom, leading to the production of revised editions of the same game which included Champion Edition and Hyper Fighting in 1992, Super Street Fighter II in 1993 and Super Turbo in 1994, which all follow the same plot. Numerous spinoff products were made as well during the game's popularity: when Capcom licensed Hasbro to produce a line of action figures, Ken was given the surname "Masters". The full name Ken Masters would be used in the animated Street Fighter II movie and in the Street Fighter II V series before being canonized in the video games with Street Fighter Alpha 2.
An all-new Street Fighter game would not be released until 1995, when Street Fighter Alpha was released. Plotwise, the game was a prequel to the Street Fighter II games which fleshed out the established Street Fighter II characters, as well as reintroduced characters from the original Street Fighter and the beat-em-up game Final Fight. Alpha features a younger Ken, who is searching for Ryu, having recently won the first "World Warrior" tournament in the events of the original Street Fighter. In Ken's ending in the original Street Fighter Alpha, he defeats Ryu and heads back to America, where he meets Eliza. Street Fighter Alpha would be followed by its own line of sequels: Street Fighter Alpha 2, which follows the same plot as in the original Alpha (with a revised ending for Ken); and Street Fighter Alpha 3, which takes place after the events in the first two games. In Alpha 3, Ken is featured in the numerous characters' storylines within the game.
Ken's following appearance is in the Street Fighter III in which he has a son (Mel) and his own student (Sean). In Street Fighter IV, Ken enters into the world tournament while waiting for the birth of Mel.
Ken appears in Street Fighter V with an updated moveset and a design overhaul.
In 1990, Capcom produced an action game for the Nintendo Entertainment System titled Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight. The Japanese version of the game starred an original character named Kevin Straker, a cyborg policeman who fought against alien creatures in the future. When Capcom released 2010 in North America, the main character's identity was changed from Kevin to Ken, with the game's story rewritten to imply that he was the same Ken from the original Street Fighter. Other than that, the game has little or no plot ties to the original Street Fighter and its part in the canonical Street Fighter series is disputed.
Outside the mainstream Street Fighter games, Ken appears in the Street Fighter EX games and in the mobile game Street Fighter: Puzzle Spirits. He also appears in crossover titles like X-Men vs. Street Fighter, Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter, Marvel vs Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes, the Capcom vs. SNK series, and Street Fighter X Tekken. (In the game Marvel vs. Capcom, Ryu is able to access Ken's moveset when the player enters a certain command.) He also appears in the home and arcade versions of the Street Fighter: The Movie. In SNK Playmore's fighting game SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos he has an alter-ego named Violent Ken (洗脳されたケン Sennōsareta Ken, lit. "Brainwashed Ken"), who later made his full Street Fighter debut in Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers. Ken is featured in the tactical role-playing games Namco × Capcom, Project X Zone, and Project X Zone 2. Ken also makes a cameo as a Trophy in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, as part of the Ryu DLC.
Ken was originally conceived as a palette-swap of Japanese lead character Ryu; as an alternate character to appeal to the emerging American player market, as well as likely continuing response to Japan natives interest in American culture fandom. Ken also seems to have been at least partially inspired in actual Karate fighter, Joe Lewis. Like Ken, Lewis was a blond American that studied traditional karate in Japan, went back to the U.S and proceeded to become the champion, then creating full contact Karate. Like many American karate fighters of his day, Lewis was also notorious for appearing on ads and magazine covers using differently colored karate uniforms, amongst them a red one.
Starting from the original Street Fighter, Ken has been consistently depicted with neck-length blond hair (actually dyed blond), black or dark brown eyebrows and wears a red sleeveless keikogi with a black belt. In the original Street Fighter, Ken fought barefoot and wore yellow arm bands without gloves (unlike his rival Ryu, who originally wore red slippers with sparring gloves, and began fighting barefooted in subsequent games).
In Street Fighter II his appearance remained mostly unchanged from the original, with his yellow arm bands replaced by brown gloves. The Street Fighter Alpha prequel series features a younger Ken than depicted in Street Fighter II and other games. He wears yellow gloves, similar to the yellow arm bands he wore in the first game, but has much longer hair, which he holds together with a red ribbon as a ponytail. The company Capcom stated both Ken and Ryu are closer to Western martial artists rather than Eastern fighters. For Street Fighter III, Ken was supposed to be given new techniques but the staff refrained from it as they found him overpowered.
By the time of Street Fighter V, Ken's appearance has undergone the first major design change in the character's history. Ken's gi top now hangs around his waist and he wears a black v-neck training shirt with several red linings in its place. He sports black sparring gloves and has his hair tied back in a topknot instead of hanging loose which it was grown into medium length after the events of Street Fighter III series and now wears black ankle wraps with red linings instead of barefoot. For this game, Capcom wanted to differentiate these two characters' moves since they have been seen as "clones". He added "Ken's more of the hothead. He's the one that's gonna rush you down and be in your face, so his V-Skill is a run move that can be used to constantly pressure your opponent."
In other media
He was voiced by Scott McNeil in the Street Fighter animated series. In Street Fighter II V, he was voiced by Jimmy Theodore in the Animaze dub and Jason Douglas in the ADV Films dub and in Street Fighter II: The Movie, he was voiced by Eddie Frierson. He was voiced by Kazuya Ichijo in Japanese and Steven Blum in the dub for the Street Fighter Alpha movie. In Street Fighter II V and the Street Fighter II animated movie, Ken is depicted with reddish hair.
Damian Chapa portrayed Ken in the 1994 Street Fighter movie, where he and Ryu (played by Byron Mann) are traveling con artists who steal money from wealthy crime bosses/lords and drug kingpins though various schemes such as selling modified toy guns. After the two unsuccessfully try to scam Shadaloo Tong leader Sagat, they are arrested by Allied Nations forces. Guile offers them their freedom in exchange for infiltrating Bison's base (whom Sagat works for as an arms supplier) and revealing its location so that the AN can make a military strike and free the hostages captured earlier in the film. When Guile eventually infiltrates Bison's base and chaos ensues, Ryu and Ken try to help free the hostages but split up when the AN forces arrive, Ken opting to flee for their lives while Ryu desires to stay behind and fight. Ken later comes to Ryu's aid when he is ambushed by Vega and Sagat. While Ryu defeats Vega, Ken defeats Sagat. In the aftermath, though Guile intends to free Ryu and Ken, they decide to stay in Shadaloo to help the AN clear up what Bison has left in his wake.
Reuben Langdon provides Ken's voice and motion capture in the Street Fighter IV series, and plays him in the live-action short film Street Fighter x Tekken: The Devil Within.
British actor Christian Howard portrayed Ken in the live-action short film Street Fighter: Legacy, and reprised his role in the follow-up series Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist, Street Fighter: Resurrection and Street Fighter: World Warrior. Taking place to a time similar to Street Fighter Alpha, the younger Ken is shown to be arrogant and impatient, and was brought to Japan at a young age by his father (a friend of Gouken's) to Gouken's dojo following the death of his mother. He finds a book showing the techniques of the Satsui no Hado and is warned by Gouken not to use them. During a bout with Ryu, Ryu is taken over by the Satsui No Hado, forcing Ken to nearly kill him with a flaming Shoryuken. As Gouken sends his two students off, he trusts Ken to look after Ryu.
Promotion and reception
Ken has often been recognized as one of the best Street Fighter characters. IGN ranked Ken at number six in their "Top 25 Street Fighter Characters" article, noting his contrast to Ryu while subsequently questioning his lesser appeal, and stating "he's just as indispensable to the series as Ryu is. After all, could you imagine a Street Fighter game without him? Perhaps, but it probably still wouldn't be the same." GameDaily listed him at number six on their "Top 20 Street Fighter Characters of All Time" article, noting the contrast between himself and Ryu. The same site ranked him sixth along with Ryu in the Top 25 Capcom Characters of All Time with editor Robert Workman saying "It was just impossible to choose between one of these world warriors". Another feature, "Top 25 Gaming Hunks", situated Ken eighteenth, stating it was hard deciding between him and Ryu. In Gamest magazine in Japan, Ken ranked at ninth along with Blanka as "Best Characters of 1991" and at number 49 in "Top 50 Characters of 1996". In 2009 GamePro ranked Ryu and Ken as number nine in their list of the best palette-swapped video game characters, adding: "While some may have argued that Street Fighter 2's depiction of Ryu and Ken utilized palette swapping, a true palette swapping aficionado would know that only the original Street Fighter exploited the swapping of palettes." GamesRadar writer Tyler Wilde published an article focusing on Ken's and Ryu's development across the franchise under the title of "The evolution of Ken and Ryu." While comparing these two characters, IGN's Jesse Schedeen stated that Ken could "easily suffer from Luigi Syndrome" for his resemblance with Ryu, but thanks to the sequels, Ken gained his own fighting style separated from Ryu's.
Some sites have commented on Ken's techniques due to being relatively overpowered. The Guardian recommended Ken alongside Ryu for beginners in Street Fighter IV with Ken being better at close-up fights as a result of his powerful uppercuts. In a humor article by GameSpy, the Super Street Fighter II Turbo version of Ken was mentioned to have become unbalanced to the point he was the strongest character from the cast. In Street Fighter III: Third Strike, Ken was also noted to be one of the three more powerful characters from the game alongside Chun-Li and Yun. Similarly, Dave Cook from Now Gamer called him and Tekken's Eddy Gordo one of the most hated characters from their franchises due to their overpowered moves. In another article, Cook listed a fight between Ken and Eddy Gordo as one of the fights he wished to see in Street Fighter X Tekken calling it the "ultimate battle of super cheapness." UGO Networks placed Ken at #4 on their list of "Top 50 Street Fighter Characters", stating "If you're a fan of dragon punches, you play Ken.".
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