Street Fighter Week: The evolution of Ken and Ryu

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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 II - 1991

Defying their humble beginnings in Street Fighter, the duo exploded into the mainstream in 1991 with the release of Street Fighter II. The Soviet Union was collapsing, Desert Storm was underway, and the World Wide Web was on the verge of realization - meanwhile, the kids were perfecting combos in the arcades. Street Fighter II made the fighting genre, with Ken and Ryu as its stars.

The first Street Fighter II game (of many) included eight playable characters. Ken and Ryu were initially the only playable characters carried overfrom the original Street Fighter.

Ryu's striking red hair is shifted to a muted brown, and his white headband replaced with a red one. Ken appears roughly the same as he did in Street Fighter, give or take a drunk character artist with an affinity for massive oval-shaped eyes and ridiculous snarls.

Street Fighter II Championship Edition (right) sees a redraw of our hero which features a much less passive expression, more refined hair, and even a puff of uber manly facial hair, possibly not seen since.

Super Street Fighter II (below), released on Capcom's next generation of arcade boards (CPS-2), represents a major conceptual jump for the characters. Ryu appears much more disgruntled, and his eyebrows have been toned down to match his hair. Ken gets a complete redraw - his spaghetti hair is now flattened and refined, his grimace modeled into a devious grin, and his giant black eyebrows are now giant and brown.

Each game in the Street Fighter II series represents incremental changes as Capcom attempted to perfect the game. Player feedback and time constrictions molded each of the updates, the most drastic being the jump from Street Fighter II to Super Street Fighter II, which introduced four new characters.

Above: Ryu and Ken spar in Street Fighter II Championship Edition

The story of SF II simply involves another tournament, but our heroes' back stories are truly fleshed out in the next series we'll explore - Alpha.

Trivia: M. Bison is not M. Bison! Capcom shifted the boss names around for the US version because they felt that M. Bison (who was renamed Balrog in the US) too closely resembled Mike Tyson and was thus a liability. In Japan, M. Bison was in fact meant to resemble Tyson - the 'M' stands for "Mike."

Associate Editor, Digital at PC Gamer