- System/Platform: Multi-platform
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Date: August 1987 - Present
Street Fighter Preview (No Spoilers)
For nearly 30 years, Street Fighter has been the most dominant series in the fighting game genre. Players can freely choose a character from many parts of the world with a fighting style representative of their culture thus giving it an international appeal. You can play as a karate black belt from Japan (or a sumo wrestler), a Hong Kong action star (or a Kung Fu queen), an elite American soldier who emphasizes on power and efficiency, and as a British operative. You name it, there’s a strong chance they’re selectable.
Story wise, it is mainly how the main villain, M. Bison (or Vega in the Japanese version), wants to gain more power and take over the world. Some characters work as his minions, and there are others who have a personal vendetta against him. But when it comes to Ryu, he’s there to do the right thing and that is stop him but also prove his own strength against the best.
Seiyuu Name: Katashi Ishizuka, Wataru Takagi, Toshiyuki Morikawa, Hiroki Takahashi
If you know Street Fighter, then you’re likely to know the face of the franchise, Ryu. He is loosely based on some real life karate icons such as Mas Oyama, while his name takes inspiration from Takashi Nishiyama, the character designer. Another reading for the kanji of Takashi (隆) happens to be Ryu though the character’s name is always written in katakana characters as リュウ.
After losing his parents, he is adopted by Gouken and trains him in the physical and spiritual aspects of the martial arts. As he grows into his training, he befriends Ken Masters, the son of a rich businessman who enrolls him in his dojo to discipline him. Together they grow up like brothers and develop a rivalry. Ken and Ryu enter the inaugural Street Fighter tournament (as the only selectable characters, player 1 for Ryu and player 2 for Ken) to prove themselves. Ryu emerges triumphant but permanently scars the body of the first tournament’s host, Muay Thai champion Sagat with a devastating Shoryuken.
After the events of the first game, he becomes a target for M. Bison, the leader of Shadaloo, a notorious terrorist organization who wants to take his power. However, Ryu has the potential to be consumed by an evil power within him known as the Satsui no Hadou, the same power that consumed his master’s brother, Akuma, who he wishes to defeat.
Ryu Highlights (Spoilers Beyond this Point)
1. He Knows His Journey Is Never Over
As stated in the bio, Ryu is based on karate legend Mas Oyama, founder of the Kyokushin (or Ultimate Truth) style. In addition to Oyama, Ryu is also inspired by some of his students such as Sonny Chiba and Yoshiji Soeno. Like his fictional counterpart, Oyama dedicated his life to his training and strongly believed in the practitioner being one with their craft in search for the ultimate truth. Oyama even disappeared for years at times just to train in seclusion. Just like the real life master, Ryu goes on his own training journey to search for his ultimate truth.
Former UFC champion and Kyokushin black belt Georges St. Pierre once stated there is a clear difference between being a fighter and being a martial artist. A fighter just does it for a living while a martial artist does it to live. To some people not familiar with the martial arts and/or combat sports, getting a black belt may be the end of a martial artist’s journey when in fact it is only the beginning. A true martial artist never stops training and must always stay in shape. Ryu does this by traveling around the world and fighting other combatants of other styles. His journey is about finding true strength and finding out who he truly is.
Even when he defeated Sagat, he found new threats with the likes of Bison, Gill, and Seth, which further motivate him to stay in the game and save the world.
If you can look closely as Ryu’s belt (especially for newer games in HD), he has the kanji 風林火山 (fuurinkazan) printed on it. Each character means wind, forest, fire, and mountain. Philosophically, what does it mean? It is actually taken from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War meaning “as swift as the wind, as silent as the forest, as fierce as fire, and as unmovable as a mountain.” This 4-character version is historically taken from a Daimyo of the 1500s, Shingen Takeda, who was also a great warrior. This philosophy excellently represents Ryu’s overall approach to being a fighter and sometimes, having a visual reminder helps some to maintain motivation and mental and spiritual balance.
3. He’s Got the Moves to Get You Into the Game
Ryu himself is a black belt, but if you’re a white belt in the art of Street Fighter, he’s the perfect guy to start-up with. He’s got the perfect mix of speed, power, and timing. His moves and combos are easy to pull off and all follow the same patterns. For the simple Hadouken, just scroll down, down-forward, forward, and punch button in that order towards your opponent. For his Tatsumaku Senpuu Kyaku, scroll down, down-back, back, and any kick button.
The Hadouken takes inspiration from the Hadou-hou particle cannon of Space Battleship Yamato fame. As for the Shoryuken in its original kanji, it is written as 昇龍拳. The first two kanji can be read in Chinese as Sheng Long and due to this, a translation error was made in one of Ryu’s victory speeches from Street Fighter II, “You must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance.” In fact, the quote was meant to say the Shoryuken as opposed to Sheng Long. When the game was released long prior to the advent of the Internet, Capcom of America simply got around this by saying Sheng Long was Ken and Ryu’s master. Later versions would later correct it as dragon punch, a more accurate translation from the original Japanese.
4. His Unique Set of Rivals
Throughout the series, Ryu faces rivals such as Ken, Sagat, and Akuma. His rivalry with Ken is friendlier and goes back to their time training together in their youth. Some would argue that Ken is nothing more than an American clone of Ryu, but their moves have a difference of timing, speed, range, and power. In addition, he has Akuma (or Gouki in the Japanese version), the murderer and brother of his master, Gouken (though it turns out Gouken is alive after all). Though various media sources have created controversy of Akuma and Ryu’s relationship possibly being father and son, they certainly share many similar qualities that go hand-in-hand with the dynamic between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. While Darth Vader wants Luke to join the dark side, Gouki wants Ryu to embrace the Satsui no Hadou as his true power.
Another rival we cannot deny is Sagat, the boss of the very first game. The inspiration of the rivalry between Sagat, a Muay Thai fighter, and Ryu as a karate black belt goes back to Ryu being inspired by Mas Oyama and some of his students. Throughout their lifetimes, Oyama and his students actually engaged in challenges with Muay Thai fighters and emerged victoriously. Their rivalry also takes inspiration from a karate manga called Karate Baka Ichidai, where the main character goes to Thailand to challenge a Muay Thai champion whose design resembles that of Sagat (down to the shaved head and eye patch).
5. His Awesome Theme Song
Though Guile may have the most famous theme song, nobody can deny Ryu’s theme song introduced in Street Fighter II. It is one trait that defines him in a distinct way. Due to technological limitations from 30 years ago, video game soundtracks had to rely on strong melodies in order to stand out. The theme song is in use throughout many installments whether it would be Street Fighter or the versus series with Marvel. His theme song strongly resonates through other instruments (such as the guitar, the piano, and the violin), which you can see by fans all over youtube.
In the passion project movie Assassin’s Fist, the version played by a crazy old man on a Japanese flute gives a very traditional feel but resonates a different kind of beauty that reflects the nature atmosphere. The song has this very intense and heroic feel that gets the players’ adrenaline pumping and goes very well with the character’s setting on top of a Japanese temple by adding a flavor of drama.
It’s really crazy to think that upon Street Fighter III’s announcement, Capcom was considering not including Ryu (and Ken). Though it is undeniable to always do new things at times, familiarity and consistency are important to audiences. Ryu has been the face of the series since it started and it’s like having a titled Mario game without Mario. His inclusion is not only for veterans but also for new players alike that need characters like Ryu to have a universal gateway into the franchise.
With his battered karate uniform and red bandana, it gives players the ability to visualize that Ryu is the most sensible character to use in a game called Street Fighter. As long as Street Fighter is going to exist, so should Ryu regardless of the constant changes in character roster.