Yes that’s right, today marks Ryu’s ( from street fighter) 50th birthday and I could not help but write up a an article that celebrates this master of martial arts. Those of you unfamiliar with fighting games might know him as the guy who wears a white karate suit and throws blue fireballs across the screen, which is technically accurate. But for me, Ryu means a lot more than that. His influence in the fighting genre is undeniable and his strength, along side his morals, are enough to call him one of the most iconic fighting characters of all time. Lets take a trip down memory lane and celebrate Ryu’s birthday by talking about his accomplishments as well as his influence in the fighting genre.
It’s no surprise that the average person’s initial memory of Ryu is not from this game but rather Street Fighter II. Well, if you’re a fan of continuity and are big on stories, then maybe checking out Street Fighter would be a good idea. This is still considered a fighting game but not in the traditional Street Fighter sense. You still had the ability to do special moves but you find yourself button mashing more often than not. Well this is Ryu’s first quest, and our introduction of the young hero, and this game sets the tone for an everlasting rivalry.
In Street Fighter you meet some characters that make more relevant appearances in later instances of the SF series; Birdie, Gen and Adon. The most notable of all characters is Ryu’s fiercest rival…. Sagat! In fact Sagat is the final boss in this game and this is where Ryu gave Sagat that ugly scar on his chest. There’s very little dialogue in this game and most players didn’t care for the story to begin with, but this is where it all started for Ryu, Ken and the whole SF gang.
Street Fighter II
This is what most people in the gaming community remember as their first experience with the birthday boy. Considered one of the best fighting games in the early 90’s, Street Fighter II took the idea of a world tournament and enlarged it on home consoles and arcades. This time around there was an actual roster of characters to choose from, each with their own style, story and background. Eyes were still on Ryu however, as he had Bison and Sagat to defeat in this one and made for some difficult matches. In all honesty the tale of Ryu is not what drew attention to this game, it was the fighting and Street Fighter II captured that almost perfectly. This is where Ryu’s legacy as a fighting game icon truly began.
Street Fighter Alpha Series
Alpha is probably the most confusing additions to the SF series but from a continuity stand point, they were much needed. If there were ever a person who had not played a single SF game in their life but wanted to dive into it for the first time, this would be the series I’d show them. The Street Fighter Alpha series, or SFA is I like to call it, has the fundamentals that almost every SF game that came after it uses. It comes with more than one super combo, dodge moves, custom combos and even a counter or “parrying” system. It’s also the birthplace of some of the toughest battles I’ve faced in any SF game ever.
Aside from this, the reason why this series confused many was because this serves as a prequel to Street Fighter II. So whenever you chose Ryu and he fights Bison as a Mid-Boss, it was confusing to hear him say he did not know who Bison was. Anyway, this serves as a way to bridge the gap between Street Fighter and Street Fighter II and was the first time I became obsessed with Ryu. It was so easy to follow his journey in this series and it was fun to watch as he went from a young man to a respectable warrior. This is also where his feud with Akuma sparked and his first time being consumed by the Satsui no Hado. If you don’t know what that is then you might be more familiar with the term “Evil Ryu”.
Street Fighter III
I will start off by saying that I love the SFIII series and it has a special place in my fighting game heart. The mechanics are some of the best in a fighting game and that holds true to this day. Parrying system is top shelf and the overall way the game works is just flawless. It is the embodiment of a fighting game masterpiece. Of course at this time, I was one of the biggest Ryu and Ken fans ever, so I dove into this game expecting nothing but greatness. As far as strength and fighting skill, Ryu was still top of the line and I was happy to see my fictional hero still had gas in the tank.
One look at him in the game and you can see that he is definitely older and, if you played SFIII right after the alpha series then you’d see how aged he looks. Maybe it was just me, but it seemed like the attention was drawn off of Ryu and more on new characters. Which is fine but I still wish he would have played a more important role than just an older warrior in this tournament.
Street Fighter IV
In another confusing turn of events, Street Fighter IV is said to take place between SFII and SFIII, making it seem even harder to keep up with the story. Nevertheless, this game still makes our Man of the hour look absolutely great. The new character designs and 3d look makes Ryu look tougher and stronger, compared to previous renditions. It was surprisingly easy to follow up with each characters individual story, thanks to the intro movies for each person.
Ryu was no exception and his story is probably my favorite of all. Not because he’s tough and can defeat anyone he faces but more because of how he’s displayed. Amongst all other attributes, the most overlooked aspect of Ryu’s character is his humbleness. Knowing he can defeat anyone and still being honorable enough to help people, as well as respect his opponent, is what makes Ryu so great. Street Fighter IV captures that the most and gives players a deeper look into my favorite fighting character of all time.
Ryu did what?
I know it may sound like a stretch but we have a lot to thank Ryu for. Obviously he is a fictional character but his likeness made many things possible within the Street Fighter and Capcom realm. The continuation of the series, for example, can be credited to him and his surrogate brother Ken. That may sound like a stretch but you have to consider that all of this, the world tournament, Sagat, the warriors dream, was all revolved around Ryu.
More personally I have to thank Ryu for being the inspiration that birthed a character that I have grown to love and use consistently over the years. This character, much like myself, idolizes the young warrior and goes as far as emulating his fighting style. I’m talking about Sakura of course! Sakura is better known for being the cute little school girl from Street Fighter, but trust me she packs a punch. She’s become one of my go to characters and for that, amongst many other things, I have to thank Ryu.
Ryu thank you for all the memories you have given young fighting game enthusiasts, like myself. I appreciate your character and what you embody. I promise to continue using you in single player matches and my main teams for as long as I live and breathe. Here’s to another 50 years! Happy Birthday Ryu, you deserve it.