Ken Masters is a martial artist who appears in every major Street Fighter game to date, along with Ryu. Ken, with Ryu, trained under Ansatsuken master Gouken. Similar to Ryu, Ken seeks the best fighters in order to test and improve his fighting style.
Ken serves as one of the most recognized and beloved characters in the franchise. His fiery personality and his unpredictable style is distinctive from the silent and solitary Ryu. When they meet through every Street Fighter tournament, their matches are considered friendly.
Ken made his appearance in the inaugural Street Fighter serving as a clone to Ryu. While both have the same moveset including the ” Hadouken” (fireball), ” Shoryuken” (dragon punch), and the “Tatsumaki Senpuu Kyaku” ( hurricane kick), what differentiated Ken was his characteristic red gi and blond hair. Although unchanged gameplay-wise, Ken makes a return to Street Fighter II with more distinguishable traits which would show in every following game in the series.
Originally perceived as a Japanese with dyed blond hair, the translation of Ken’s name was “fist.” The idea was later dropped in favor of having Ken as an American with three-quarters of Japanese ancestry. His surname Masters wouldn’t be in effect until used in Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie and the anime Street Fighter II V where it became canonized to the main Street Fighter storyline.
Ken Masters was the son of a wealthy hotel tycoon in the United States of America. Ken was a spoiled child from birth, a trait which angered his father. At the age of 12, Ken is sent to Japan to learn discipline and the ways of the martial arts by his father’s friend Gouken. Gouken’s adopted son Ryu served as a training partner and later best friend to Ken. Satisfied with their performance, Gouken sends his older students off into the world as a continuation of their training. As Ken returns to the United States, he competes and wins in many fighting tournaments.
Although Ken is playable in Street Fighter, he does not serve any importance to the main canon.
Ken participated and won the U.S. Martial Arts tournament which featured former champion and active U.S. Air Force lieutenant Charlie Nash. During his participation, Ken met and became romantically involved with Guile’s sister-in-law Eliza.
Following his win, he traveled back to Japan to tell Gouken of his victory. Upon arriving at his master’s dojo, Ken witnessed his master’s death first hand and almost endured a similar fate at the hands of Akuma. Ken then travels to tell Ryu of Gouken’s death, as well as warn him of the danger Akuma poses. Ken ultimately finds a very troubled Ryu (who has fought Akuma) and challenges him to a fight. After defeating Ryu in a spar, Ken gives Ryu his red headband in hopes to give him focus.
In his journey to grow stronger, Ken encounters Karin Kanzuki, a wealthy Japanese girl who has been a fan of Ken’s performance. She tells Ken about her admiration and hopes to beat her own rival Sakura Kasugano (whom Ken meets with later for a friendly match). Both Ken and Sakura then begin their search for Ryu. In their search, they discover Ryu has been brainwashed by Shadaloo leader M. Bison. Ken, Sakura, and Sagat help Ryu get back to his senses and defeat Bison. Upon freeing Ryu from Bison’s control, Ken promises Ryu a rematch in the future.
Ken enters the second World Warriors tournament. Nothing of story importance happens with his involvement, though he is known to have fought Ryu in the tournament. It is around this time that Ken marries Eliza.
Prior to the game, Eliza was pregnant which almost prevented Ken from participating in the S.I.N.-hosted tournament. His battles in the tournament include another friendly rematch with Ryu and one with new challenger and self-appointed rival Rufus.
Following the defeat of S.I.N. leader Seth and the destruction of the BLECE machine, Ken and Ryu discover that Gouken survived the attack by Akuma during Street Fighter Alpha. Satisfied with both Ryu and Ken’s skills, Gouken leaves his pupils to continue their training.
Ken’s son Mel is born after the tournament.
As the third World Warriors tournament begins, Ken acts as the reluctant teacher of Brazillian student Sean Matsuda. He and Sean were matched during the qualifying rounds with the teacher defeating the aspiring student. Ken would later leave the tournament after discovering that the hermit Oro defeated Ryu. With free time on his hands, Ken told Sean to find and challenge Ryu, giving Ken opportunity to show his son Mel some fighting moves and relax with Eliza.
Ken would later participate in another iteration in the U.S. Martial Arts tournament. Claiming victory, Ken won his third consecutive victory in the tournament and celebrated with his family and the returning Sean.
Much like Ryu, Ken is playable with his moveset mostly intact. Both characters’ moves are identical (performed with quarter circle motions and various punch and kick buttons) albeit being mostly aesthetically different. Their form of gameplay has been referred to as the “Shoto”-style which is considered a staple in modern 2D fighting game history. There are also unique moves that are exclusive including Ken charging step forward kick in Street Fighter IV for example.
Ken’s performance of the Hadouken, Shoryuken, and Tatsumaki Senpuu Kyaku are similar to Ryu’s own version but what makes them distinguishable is the unique execution of the attack. Ken’s Hadouken is slower and weaker than Ryu’s. Ryu’s Tatsumaki Senpuu Kyaku is one hit based and can knock down an enemy while Ken can land multiple hits while the opponent stands. Ken’s Shoryuken can hit at a wider arc and can make enemies burn when performed with the strongest punch.
Super moves/Ultra moves
Throughout the Street Fighter series, Ken utilized an upgraded Shoryuken called the “Shoryu-Reppa” which allows Ken to perform a strong group of Shoryukens at once. Ken also has another Shoryuken super called the “Shinryuken;” allowing Ken to perform one single yet powerful Shoryuken. In Street Fighter IV, the Shinryuken is one of Ken’s Ultra Combos. There is another super move that Ken can utilize called the “Shippu Jinrai Kyaku.” The move allows Ken to perform multiple rapid kicks before ending in a vertical Tatsumaki Senpuu Kyaku.
In Super Street Fighter IV, Ken’s second Ultra Combo called the “Guren Senpukyaku” presents a charge of flaming kicks before ending with one final devastating kick to the head.
In SVC Chaos: SNK vs. Capcom, an alternate version of Ken emerged similar to Evil Ryu. Violent Ken served as a sub-boss on Capcom’s side. This version of Ken has him succumbing to the effect’s of The King of Fighters’ Orochi power, similar to that of the instinctual Orochi Iori Yagami but more controlled. Ken at this state has a very similar moveset with some additions like a teleport ability and an alteration of his super moves. One of his super moves bears similarity to Ken’s Ultra Combo the “Shinryuken” in Street Fighter IV.
It is believed that Violent Ken was inspired by the brainwashed Ken in Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, where M. Bison uses Ken to absorb Psycho Power as well as lure Ryu into the open.
Street Fighter 2010
A futuristic non-canonical spin-off to Street Fighter titled Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight had a North American localization featuring a character named Ken. The Japanese version starred a main character named Kevin Straker who was an intergalactic police officer. The localization changed Kevin Straker to Ken with implication that he was from the main series.
Along with appearing in many other Street Fighter gam
es, Ken is a playable character in other Capcom games. Ken is subject to many franchise crossover games including Marvel vs. Capcom and the SNK vs. Capcom games. During the release of Street Fighter: The Movie, actor Damien Chapa who played Ken in the film reprises his role in the video game adaptation. Ken was also used in many non-Capcom products including SVC Chaos: SNK vs. Capcom and the role-playing game Namco x Capcom.
Ken’s Win Quotes
- ” See? The stronger fighter always wins! As easy to understand as a flowchart! “
- ” The whole American champion thing seems petty. I should aim even higher! “
- ” I could really improve if I could find someone strong enough to beat me! “
- ” Uh-oh! I’d better check with Eliza! “
- ” Phew! I bet that would make for one exciting replay! “
- ” Get back up and I’ll just knock you down again! “
- ” Not bad! Looks like I just earned myself a new rival! “
- ” You know my moves, don’t you? Why’d you just walk into ’em like that? “
- ” Natural ability is great, but it takes work to use it! “
- ” Yeah! “
- ” Got it! “