Ken and Ryu are cultural icons. Legends in thier own right. Even most non-gamers, assuming they have at least a cursory knowledge of '90s pop culture, can recognize them.
With Its upcoming arcade DLC, Super Street Fighter IV is about to cement the formidable duo into the collective consciousness of a new generation. In celebration, we're taking a look at how they became legends in the first place.
It all started back in the 80's....
Street Fighter - 1987
Street Fighter, created by two fellows who would later move on to SNK, laid the foundation for a revolution in fighting games. The game itself, however, is merely a relic. Technological limitations prevented it from ever catching on, making it "that one game... before Street Fighter II." Nevertheless, our story of two aspiring warriors begins here.
As the story goes, Ken and Ryu are students of Shotokan Karate. Ken fights in the US martial arts tournament, while Ryu enters the "World Warrior Tournament." Ryu wins, branding Sagat with his signature scar in the process (but only after succumbing to "Satsui no Hadou" - more on that later). Ryu is born as the archetypal "wandering warrior," and his never ending quest for new battles begins.
The only playable characters in the game are Ken and Ryu. There is no character selection screen. In versus, the first player is automatically Ryu, and the second Ken.
Ryu makes his debut with oddly striking red hair, a white headband, black belt, red shoes. Ken appears roughly the same (in terms of physical characteristics, not style) in Street Fighter as he does in later games - a red uniform and hair yellow as the sun.
Above: We'd like to spend an evening at Block Heads, wouldn't you?
The sprites are obviously far simpler in the original than in any of its successors. One notable aspect of the characters is that their knees and chests are roughly forward-facing (facing the other character), something we won't fully see again in the series.
It has been asserted that the pairs' uniform colors are a direct reference to Karate Champ (right), an early arcade game and one of the first ever side-view fighting games.
Also notable is that non-Japanese versions of the arcade game contained English dubbed character voices, something that Capcom thankfully did not repeat. If it had, "Hadouken" may never have become the iconic battle cry that it did outside of Japan.
Trivia: In 1988 a port of the original Street Fighter arcade game was released on the TurboGrafx-CD under the name "Fighting Street." The developer, Alfa System, is still making games in Japan, the most recent being Phantasy Star Portable for the DS.