Street Fighter Week: The evolution of Ken and Ryu

Table of Contents
Street Fighter | Street Fighter II | Alpha series | Street Fighter III | EX series | SF: The Movie and Gem Fighter | Marvel vs. Capcom series | SNK vs. Capcom series | Misc. games | Sprite comparison | SSFIITHDR and Street Fighter IV | Comics, films, and more 

Street Fighter III: The New Generation - 1997

Street Fighter III is a direct sequel to Street Fighter II, pitting Ken and Ryu against a host of brand new characters. But it might not have been that way - rumor has it that Ryu and Ken were originally going to be shut out of the game. Capcom did, in fact, cast Alex as the main character, but our infamous heroes returned regardless, if without the spotlight.

SF III was released on Capcom's new CPS-3 arcade board, meaning that the graphics are significantly improved over Alpha and Super SF II. Ryu's hair is now black - something we'll explore further later. Ken's hair has returned to its Street Fighter II length, as his ribbon was handed over to Ryu in the Alpha series.

Ryu's ending involves his typical quest to continue his training and fight more battles. Ken returns to his wife, Eliza, and child, who promptly punches him in the nuts. No, even Street Fighter can't escape the nut punch gag.

Street Fighter III 2nd Impact: Giant Attack - 1997

The unfortunately named 2nd Impact: Giant Attack features a couple of new characters and a few gameplay tweaks. Like Alpha 2's relationship to Alpha, 2nd Impact isn't a sequel to The New Generation, just an update.

Street Fighter III Third Strike: Fight for the Future - 1999

Third Strike, the third of the three Street Fighter III games (say that three times fast), is a continuation of the story in the first two Street Fighter III games. Ryu is maintaining his wandering warrior schtick, this time on a trek through America in search of Ken, who is in the process of winning his third US championship in a row. In Alex's ending, he is defeated by the oh-so-powerful Ryu, but vows that "the show has just begun."


A sprite comparison between Street Fighter III and Alpha 3 shows off the refined animations and upgraded graphical capability of the CPS-3 games. The costume pallet swap in the SF III screen is in place merely to provide contrast.

The "ready" sprites maintain the "front-facing" pose of the Alpha series, with a little more bulk in the chest and arms. The below comparison makes the transition clear - the Street Fighter II sprite is much more forward oriented than the Alpha and SF III sprites. Also note the bent knees in Street Fighter are knocked the other way in Street Fighter II, and are then straightened out in Alpha and III.


Back on the subject of Ryu's hair color - if we trace it all the way back to the original Street Fighter, there is the appearance that it was originally dyed red and has since faded to black.

While it would be a stretch to assume that this was an intentional decision by Capcom, we've created a comparison (left) for fun, in chronological order as dictated by the storyline. Note that we've also seen Ryu with black hair in concept art for Super Street Fighter II Turbo, which further leads us to believe that his hair color has been generally assigned for aesthetic reasons rather than story reasons.

Trivia: Q, a bizarre character introduced in 3rd Strike, was voiced by Len Carlson, who also voiced Ganon in the animated Legend of Zelda series, which aired in 1989.


  • Ktown - January 23, 2011 4:09 p.m.

    This is very entertaining but most of this info is false. Ken isn't an actor, but his father is the worlds third richest man and Ken is an American martial arts champion. Second Ryu finished sagat with the Hadouken after the shoryuken and not the dark hadou. The shoryuken belongs goukens master not ryu. Third, ken fights ryu at the end because Ken has defeated every opponent he has come across, except ryu.
  • beoftw - March 2, 2009 2:23 a.m.

    lol street fighter 2: the animated movie shold have gotten alot more praise than it did. imo i thought it was alot better than the otheres.
  • Arukami - February 27, 2009 2:07 p.m.

    All beatiful recalls....aboveall th first SF! and SFII with that big pic with Vega with his hands open...i'll Kill you!!!!!! U understand me!!! I'll kill you Vega! XDDD! Great article!
  • Auron00 - February 21, 2009 9:31 a.m.

    Not that anyone will really care too much, but, just to keep this retrospective a bit more clear, Ken Masters was never an actor, he is a world famous martial arts tournament champion in america (multiple times over even) and his father is the third richest man in the world (in the SF world anyway).
  • jackrabbitslims - March 15, 2009 12:42 p.m.

    "and apparently a variety of nuts in his cheek to consume later" LMAO. Great article, I love catching up on the history of street fighter.
  • WiqidBritt - February 24, 2009 3:50 a.m.

    what? no mention of Violent Ken in SVC Chaos?
  • Sonneilon - February 21, 2009 9:18 p.m.

    Reading thru all these, feels like I should get a degree with all this SF knowledge now!
  • Bigpapa360 - February 21, 2009 7:27 a.m.

    Second. Man I love seeing how all these games get their start.
  • Grundler24 - February 16, 2009 4:29 p.m.

    First??? The arcade version of this is amazing, i've gotten the chance to play it at an arcade in china town and my friends grandpa owns it so i got free tokens and played it forever. SF never seems to end its reign of ass kicking.

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