Street Fighter’s Ryu is this week’s exciting selection of Character Spotlight.
Having premiered in the first “Street Fighter” in 1987, Ryu appears as the lead character from the game along with his best friend Ken Masters participating in the Street Fighter tournament. Further games from the series show Ryu to be highly focused on his training, aiming to become the strongest he can. However, his powers also attract several criminals who want to use him for their plans. In some games, Ryu has an alternate form known as Evil Ryu. Ryu has arguably become the most famous character in the fighting game genre, starring in early fighting games such as Street Fighter, but really got well known in Street Fighter II, where he was considered a “basic” character. He, along with Mega Man, is considered one of Capcom’s unofficial “mascots”.
REAL NAME: Ryu
In many of his appearances, Ryu carries around a large, white duffel bag containing items important to his travels, such as clothing, plane tickets, passports, and local currency.
In some official Street Fighter II artwork, Ryu’s belt has four kanji emblazoned upon it: kaze (風 wind), hayashi (林 woods), hi (火 fire) and yama (山 mountain); these four kanji make up the furinkazan. The same four kanji can be seen on a sign on the left-hand side of Ryu’s stage inStreet Fighter II. The four words are based on chapter seven of Sun Tzu’s Art of War, which dictates how one should conduct battle: “as fast as the wind, as quiet as the forest, as daring as fire, and immovable as the mountain.” These kanji are again visible on his belt in Street Fighter IV.
Ryu is usually a silent, humble, serious individual whose severity is often juxtaposed against the light-hearted, fiery persona of his best friend, Ken. He travels the globe with a stern nature, often appearing to others as boring or detached. On rare occasion, Ryu shows a very bad sense of humor. Ryu’s overarching goal in Street Fighter is to become a total master of his fighting style. To this end, Ryu plays the part of the wandering warrior, and takes both his travels and his training very seriously. Although he appears to be aloof and unemotional, Ryu is actually a kind and good-hearted person. He respects others with skills equal to his own and holds heroic figures like Captain America, Spider-Man and Cyclops in high regard, as seen in the Marvel vs. Capcom series. However, by the time of Street Fighter III, it seems that Ryu has developed a somewhat more friendly personality. He is still very quiet and reserved, but is willing to greet people with a smile and some kind advice, very much like his master Gouken.
There is, however, a dark side to Ryu. His drive to improve himself, no matter the difficulty, can sometimes develop into a drive to win and to be the best, no matter what the cost, as these two goals are so dangerously similar. This darker drive is fed by, and in turn feeds, the Satsui no Hadou within him, an influence which Ryu must constantly fight to suppress (at least until the time of Street Fighter III). Ryu’s desire to be better can sometimes make his advice to his defeated opponents seem more arrogant and judgmental than Gouken’s, though he is fundamentally well-intentioned. In times when his inner darkness threatens to overcome him, Ryu relies on his friends – primarily Ken, Chun-Li, and Sakura – to keep him grounded and snap him out of it.
Ryu’s techniques are the “Hadouken” which has become a staple projectile among fighting referred to as the “Fireball”, the “Shoryuken” which is a favorite among many players to use, referred to as a “Dragon Punch” and is an uppercut maneuver that hits once, and the “Tatsumaki Senpuu Kyaku” or “Hurricane Kick” as most refer it to. In early versions of Street Fighter 2, Ryu could only use all attacks on the ground, however in later versions, he is able to perform the Tatsumaki Senpuu Kyaku in the air. Also he has the ability to use a more powerful version of the Hadouken known as the “Shakunetsu Hadouken” where the Hadouken is a variation of fire and deals more damage. In the Alpha series, he has a tactic known as the “Hadou no Kamae” which is a tactic of trickery, fooling the opponent into a potential counter. More variations of Ryu’s attacks came in the form of his medium punch, kick, and heavy punch moves where holding forward and pressing any of the 2 punch buttons enables different attacks which deals two hits but has a delayed start. In Alpha, The Medium Kick action performs a weaker version of the Tatsumaki Senpuu Kyaku, which deals less damage but is quicker to perform. In the ‘Street Fighter 3series, Ryu gains one new special move called the “Joudan Sokutou Geri” which is a powerful side kick that shoves opponents away with great force while its EX version is powerful to bounce the opponent off the arena wall. In the Street Fighter EX Series, his Tatsumaki Senpuu Kyaku is replaced with a flying kick attack which can be done in succession by inputting the same command twice or three times.
While Ryu and Ken follow the same martial arts discipline, as the Street Fighter series evolved, the differences between the two characters was portrayed by their attacks: Ryu focused on technique while Ken opted for stylish unpredictability.
Ryu’s normal attacks are slightly slower than Ken’s, albeit straightforward. His special moves are more focused; Ryu inflicts damage with individual strikes rather than combinations. His Shoryuken does only one hit, so Ryu can effectively use this move at full power against airborne opponents. Ryu can dodge projectiles at the start of hisShoryuken maneuver and knock an opponent down with one hit.
Ryu focuses more on the Hadou principle of the fighting style, which translates to him being very skilled with his usage of ki – Ryu has the most concentrated Hadoken between him and Ken, and is surpassed only by Goukenand Akuma (in their “Shin” forms) in both gauge and concentrate in certain instances. However, both Gouken and Akuma have a generation’s worth of experience over him. Ryu is the only student of this martial art capable of using the Shakunetsu Hadouken with the greatest of care—ensuring that the surge still burns bright with flames, but won’t result in immolation.
Ryu and Ken have a comparable duality with Akuma. There are two philosophical approaches to Karate, and Japanese martial arts in general. Do and Jutsu, or The path/way, and method/technique. One is more for personal development (as in judo) and the other is more for practical application (as in jujutsu).
Capcom USA originally referred to Ryu’s fighting style as “Shotokan”, despite bearing little resemblance to the discipline. Because of this, Ryu and other characters who use similar styles (such as Ken and Akuma) are still called “Shoto clones” or “shotos” by fans. Although as the Ryu character is based on the real life events of Yoshiji Soeno, who was a practitioner of kyokushinkai karate under Masu Oyama, the traditional kyokushinkai techniques can be clearly seen in the character’s fighting style, as with Makoto, who’s fighting style and techniques are based off shotokan karate.
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