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 Alpha Warriors' Dreams - 1995

The Street Fighter Alpha series takes place before Street Fighter II, and after Street Fighter. Ryu and Ken return in the Alpha series, redone in the series' signature Anime style. Ryu is sporting a white headband, as in the original Street Fighter. Ken's hair is significantly longer, and contains a red ribbon.

We can see the "cell shaded" look of the sprites in the below screen. Ryu's hair, while still brown, has become slightly more red than it was in Street Fighter II. Ryu's uniform is whiter, and his torn sleeves and legs more jagged. Also notice that Ken's stance is more front-facing than in SF II.

Street Fighter Alpha 2 - 1996

Alpha 2 is not a continuation of the story in Alpha - it is an update of the game, and what Capcom had intended Alpha, which was rushed to release,to be. The only new character created for the game is Sakura (right), a spunky schoolgirl who's obsessed with Ryu. There has to be one of them in every series, doesn't there?

The story of Alpha and Alpha 2 (as well as a variety of films and comics) sets up most of Street Fighter's back story. Earlier in the series, Ken and Ryu began as students of Gouken, Ryu's adoptive father. Ken came to Japan as an undisciplined American to study under the master.

The Alpha series sees Ryu return home to discover that Gouken has been murdered by Akuma. He confronts, but does not defeat, Akuma on an island, which Akuma smashes after revealing the hidden power of Satsui no Hadou ("Evil Intent"), which is buried within Ryu.

Ken returns to America after the death of Gouken, where he becomes a famous actor and eventually marries his girlfriend, Eliza. Ken's Alpha 2 story ends with him defeating Ryu, who he claims "wasn't in it." Ken gives Ryu the red ribbon in his hair, which Ryu presumably wears from Street Fighter II forward, explaining the white to red headband transition.

In this scene from M. Bison's ending, we see Ryu being brainwashed, which allows Bison to discover that Ryu's Satsui no Hadou is not unlike his Psycho Power. We're pretty sure Ryu is wearing a white Speedo here, and is not, in fact, a Ken doll.

Trivia: The SNES version of Street Fighter Alpha 2 Gold lacks the hidden characters, the Venezuela stage, and generally sucks.

Street Fighter Alpha 3 - 1998

Alpha 3 is an actual sequel to Alpha and Alpha 2, and is a fully redesigned game. The anime style of the character art is a bit more pronounced, as apparent in the screen below.

In Ken's ending, he defeats M. Bison using Ryu's Shoryuken. Ryu's ending sees him struggle between Bison's mind control and Satsui no Hadou.

Also notable in the Alpha series is the introduction of "Evil Ryu," a version of Ryu who has succumb to his "Evil Intent" (below). This character is a "what if" scenario - Ryu doesn't actually give in to Satsui no Hadou, excepting during his battle with Sagat in the original Street Fighter.

Trivia: There is no one correct way to spell "Hadouken" in English. Not even official game manuals have been consistent, and we've seen various sources refer to the attack as "Hadouken," "Hadoken," "Hado ken," and "Hado-ken." We're most familiar with the "Hadouken" spelling, which is why we use it in this article.

Associate Editor, Digital at PC Gamer