Ken Masters (ケン・マスターズ, Ken Masutāzu?) is one of the main characters from the Street Fighter series of fighting games alongside with Ryu, having made appearances in all major incarnations of the main series. He has also appeared in various installments of the Versus series.
Ken was born in the USA and is a proud member of the multi-billionaire, Masters family. He trained in the martial arts alongside Ryu under Master Gouken as a young boy. Ryu is Ken's best friend, training partner and later a friendly rival. Ken has entered all kinds of martial arts tournaments and won many titles from his tours around the world. He has dyed blonde neck-length hair and a bright red uniform, which he uses to intimidate his foes in the ring. Unlike Ryu, who tries to learn new things from fighting to become a better warrior to help rid himself from the Satsui no Hadou, Ken has a loving relationship with his wife Eliza, with whom he has a son named Mel. Although his core fighting techniques are similar to Ryu's, their current training methods and overall personalities create subtle differences between them. While Ryu specializes in using his Hadouken based ki attacks, Ken has mastered and has enhanced the ki of the Shoryuken to a powerful effect. His improved Shoryuken ki techniques, mixed with the many other attacks at his disposal, make him a very capable and unpredictable opponent.
While Ryu is the serious, nice and stoic of the two, Ken is the complete opposite. He is flashy, unorthodox, and unpredictable. He can also be very egotistical and short tempered at times. But he is actually a good person who tries to help people with problems and very easy going. He never backs down from a fight no matter how difficult it is. He always gives his opponents a fair fight, whether it be his master Gouken when training, his main rival Ryu, the utmost respect. He is also a worrywort when it comes to his family; he nearly didn't enter the tournament in Street Fighter IV because he didn't want to leave Eliza so close to her due date when their son is born, and only entered when she assured him she'd be fine. He still called her to check in and tell her to be careful on stairs.
Ken concept is loosely based on American, martial artist Joe Lewis. He is most easily recognized by his sparring gloves (yellow in the Alpha Series, red or brown elsewhere) and bright red karate gi with the arms ripped off, similar to Ryu's (Capcom has said that a red gi was chosen to stand out and to reflect his more flashy style of fighting). His gi is usually seen in better shape than Ryu's, since he can easily afford to keep up with and/or own spares. He has long blonde hair (some sources indicate that his hair may in fact be dyed; evidenced that some of his sprites and official artwork depict him with black eyebrows) and has long eyebrows. He wears a black belt at his waist and fights barefooted. In the Street Fighter Alpha series, he had longer hair that he tied back with a red ribbon into a ponytail. The official explanation for the loss of the ribbon is that he gave it to Ryu to wear during the events of Street Fighter Alpha 2 (as stated in Ken's own ending); Ryu was distracted and unfaithful during his fight with Ken because he had just fought Akuma before he found out he had the potential to harness the ki of the Satsui no Hadou, and ended up losing, Ryu, filling depressed from his last battle with Akuma and not being able to avenge his death. Ken gave Ryu the headband to remind him of their fight.
By the time of Street Fighter V, Ken's appearance has undergone the first major design change in the character's history. Ken's gi top now hangs around his waist and he wears a black v-neck training shirt with several red linings in its place. He sports black sparring gloves and has his hair tied back in a topknot instead of hanging loose which it was grown into medium length after the events of Street Fighter III series and now wears black ankle wraps with red linings instead of barefoot.
When Ken was only 12 years old, his father, a rich hotel tycoon, thought that his son should learn about more discipline from the outside world. He was afraid that his son would become a spoiled brat later on in his life and try to leech onto the Masters' family fortune. In order to do so, the elder Masters sent Ken to Japan to train under his best friend, the mysterious karate master Gouken. At first, Ken was very scared to learn from Gouken, wanting to go back to the United States, but shortly started to like him after seeing how nice he was. He even enjoyed the company of Gouken and his adopted son, Ryu, since he had a foil to finally pull pranks on to make him laugh, although Ken could not get him to do so at times. Ryu and Ken would later become best friends and each other's principal rivals.
When Ryu was 23, Gouken decided that both of his pupils had grown up to be fine fighters and decided that their training was over and could now leave the temple. Ryu decided to travel the world in order to continue to learn new things, whereas Ken was finally happy to be going back home to the United States after his years of straining his back for master Gouken and finally learning the meaning of humility. After coming home, Ken competed in many different Martial Arts tournaments held in the United States, winning most of them.
Ken did not participate in the first Street Fighter tournament; instead, he fought in (and won) the premiere U.S. Martial Arts tournament that had been previously won by Charlie, as well as meeting a very attractive girl named Eliza, who became his girlfriend.
After winning the U.S. martial arts tournament, Ken returned to his training ground to tell his master Gouken the good news. There he witnessed his master's death at the hands of Akuma. Enraged and grief stricken, he attacked Akuma, only to be defeated.
He began wandering the world in search of Akuma, and his friend and fellow student Ryu. He wanted to tell Ryu what happened to their master and also hoped to have a match against him. He eventually finds Ryu in seclusion. Ryu is dejected upon seeing his long-time friend, but Ken makes him go try out a spar anyway. Over the next few days, Ken realizes how stressed out his best friend is since his fight with Sagat and upset on his master's death at the hands of Akuma, unable to avenge him in the fight. Ryu explains to Ken that deep within him there is a demonic rage- a power trying to cast out his humanity.Giving Ryu his red headband, Ken tells him to stay focused, which greatly cheers Ryu up. Ken returns home and begins training harder. Knowing even with his recent feelings and heated that his friend felt for Akuma, that Ryu is always stronger than he looks.
Ken begins to wonder about his own life. Ryu seemed to be on the right track again, but what of him? Along the way to prove himself again, he encounters Karin who tells him she has followed his career and is trying to best her rival Sakura to prove she is superior in a fight. Ken advises her it's good to have a rival, but not for supremacy, but to keep on training harder and focusing. With this, Ken finds himself again and is focused once more. Going off to meet up with Sakura, they too have a friendly match and Ken finally realizes that Ryu has the right idea all along. Both he and Sakura begin to travel to find Ryu, but find out that he's being brainwashed by the dictator M. Bison. Ken and Sakura both take Bison on together to distract him as Sagat (who had come along to also find Ryu struggling against Bison's control took Ryu under control. Ryu over came Bison's power with the Satsui no Hadou and confronted and defeated Bison with it, making him retreat back to his base. Then Ryu talked to each of his friends and told Ken to wait for his rematch, knowing he still had much to learn. Ken himself promised to train harder.
Before Ken received an invitation to the second Street Fighter tournament Ken was taken by Bison to be brainwashed and sent to fight Ryu in the mountains of Thailand, Ryu explained who he was and defeated M.Bison and returned to USA. Ken received an invitation to the second Street Fighter tournament but since his last U.S. Martial Arts tournament, he had let himself spend most of his much time with his girlfriend, Eliza, rather than training. Only Ryu's personal challenge rekindled Ken's fighting spirit and persuaded him to enter the second World Warrior tournament. After the events of Street Fighter II, Ken is married to Eliza, something he vowed only to do after winning a decisive victory against Ryu. However it is unknown if the two fought during the tournament, or if Ken actually won. No details have been stated, although it is implied that Ken might have won the battle, after returning home, he finds out that Eliza is pregnant.
When a new tournament is announced, Ken is unsure whether to compete, as Eliza is now heavily pregnant and he doesn't want to leave her. Sensing his inner conflict, Eliza assures him that she'll be fine and that the baby isn't due for a while yet, so he should go meet up with Ryu and tell him she says hi. Ken enters, and in the absence of gas stations near the location for the final, he parks his SUV in a convenient spot, calls Eliza to check on her, and continues the rest of the way on foot. Over the course of the tournament, he encounters his self-appointed rival, Rufus, although the results of that match are unknown. After the tournament, it is discovered that Gouken is still alive and Ken and Ryu pursue him as he leaves. Ken is upset that Gouken has not said anything to them, but Gouken counters that they no longer need a master. Ken and Ryu head home on foot, and Rufus passes them by on his motorbike, calling them losers. Soon however, Rufus' bike runs out of gas and Ken and Ryu reach the SUV. Ken offers Rufus and Candy a lift, but Rufus refuses. Upon arriving home afterwards, he tells Eliza that although he did indeed get to fight Ryu, they had been so busy with the rest of the unfolding events that they hadn't been able to give it their all. Soon afterwards, their son is born and they name him Mel.
A few years later, Ken then entered the third Street Fighter tournament. By this time, a Brazilian teenager named Sean had been looking for him to become his student, and Ken reluctantly accepted, beginning to train him. He fought Sean and won against him in the tournament, however during the course of it, he drops out when realizing Ryu was defeated by Oro. Ken begins to train his son Mel in rudimentary fighting techniques. He also told Sean to go find Ryu and challenge him, giving him some free time with Eliza and his son.
Though he has nothing to do, Ken hears about a mysterious organization and goes to investigate, and may have confronted Urien. He does win his third straight U.S. Martial Arts tournament victory, which is a new record, and offers the trophy to Sean, although his student says he wishes to earn it for himself. He also learned that Ryu had sought him out and traveled all the way to New York from Oakland for their long-awaited rematch. Tossing some friendly jabs at each other, both have a good fight. Since then, Ken has continued to train Sean and Mel, handle his family and business, and keep up with his old friend Ryu.
In the original Street Fighter, and in the first iteration of Street Fighter II, Ken was identical to Ryu, in terms of game play, with only one attack (a throw) appearing to be aesthetically different. In later Street Fighter II editions, Ken's character was modified to be a variant of Ryu, using modified versions of Ryu's special attacks, though his animations and other attacks were still very similar to Ryu's, as Ken's sprite is always a head swap of Ryu. In the original version of this game, the only way to effectively have two characters with similar abilities fight each other was to have one player play as Ryu and the other play as Ken.
With the advent of "mirror matches" (same character vs.) in Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, Capcom needed to vary the two characters' playing styles a bit. Ryu was given a stronger, faster Hadouken and a one-hit knockdown Tatsumaki Senpuukyaku, while Ken was given a wider arcing Shoryuken and a multi-hit Tatsumaki Senpuukyaku (In the "Marvel vs. Capcom" series, the Tatsumaki Senpuukyaku went on an angle, making it effective against airborne opponents). In Super Street Fighter II, Ken began deviating from Ryu further being given a multi-hit flaming Shoryuken. In the next SFII installment, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Ken was given the super combo Shouryuu Reppa (which was simply Ken's Jab and Strong Dragon Punches chained together) and a number of different command kicks, plus a new jumping Forward and a Knee Bash hold. These command kicks would be incorporated as the standard move list in the Street Fighter Alpha series, but remain commands in all others.
Ken mainly focuses on the Shoryuken move, to the point where his Shoryukens set the opponent on fire. Ken's Tatsumaki Senpuukyaku does not allow him to dodge projectiles at the start of the spin, but spins faster, allows him to hit his opponent up to five times. Ken's Hadouken attacks are less concentrated than Ryu's, but Ken's Shoryuken is more powerful.
By Street Fighter III, Ken has two Shōryūken Super Arts (Shōryū-reppa and Shinryūken) and Shippu Jinrai Kyaku, and in Street Fighter EX 3, he has a "meteor combo" (a Level 3 super-combo) called Kuzūryu-reppa (九頭龍裂破, "Nine-headed Dragon Destroyer"), a mix of his other three Super Arts. Kuzūryu-reppa would be seen again in SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos with it being one of Violent Ken's supers this time.
Ken's super moves consist of the Shōryū-reppa ("Rising Dragon Destroyer"), in which Ken does two or three Shōryūken; the Shinryūken ("Divine Dragon Fist"), a spinning vertical flaming Shoryuken (dedicated to his master Gouken, who Ken thought was dead at the time) that lacks range, but does greater damage and more hits, especially if the kick buttons are pressed rapidly; and the most recent addition to his move-list since Street Fighter III — the Shippū-Jinrai-Kyaku (疾風迅雷脚, "Gale Thunderclap Kick"), which Ken does a flurry of kicks before ending with a vertical Tatsumaki-Senpū-Kyaku (a diagonally vertical Tatsumaki-Senpū-Kyaku in Street Fighter Alpha Anthology's port of SFA3).
Outside the mainstream Street Fighter games, Ken appears in 3D form in the Street Fighter EX games, in his Alpha incarnation in X-Men vs. Street Fighter, Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes and in a new form based on his Street Fighter II incarnation in Capcom vs. SNK and Capcom vs. SNK 2.
He also appears in SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos by SNK Playmore, where he has an alter-ego named Violent Ken. Violent Ken is an alternate version of Ken that has absorbed Orochi power from the King of Fighters series and thus making Violent Ken. He was inspired by Sennou Ken (Brainwashed Ken in Japanese), which was depicted in Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, which M. Bison induced a considerable amount of Psycho Power to transform Ken into a killing machine. Though Brainwashed Ken has little to do with the Satsui no Hadou, Ken, while fighting against this form in game, wonders if, deep down, he desires this.
However, Violent Ken also used purple flames instead of regular ones in his Shoryuken, which is a feature of Akuma's Hadoukens and Shoryukens from the Marvel vs. Capcom series, and a pillar of energy appeared at the end of his Exceed move, which is a feature of Rugal's DMs from The King of Fighters series.
While his original voice was a re-use of the Ryu audio samples, beginning with Super Street Fighter II Ken's voice was performed by Kenji Haga, who also did his voice in the Street Fighter II anime movie. Tetsuya Iwanaga did Ken's voice in the Street Fighter Alpha series, and Koji Tobe did Ken's voice in the Street Fighter III games. In SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos, he was voiced by Atsushi "Monster" Maezuka. He was voiced by Scott McNeil in the Street Fighter animated series. He was voiced by Kazuya Ichijo in Japanese and Steven Blum in the dub for the Street Fighter Alpha movie. In Street Fighter II V, he was voiced by Jimmy Theodore and in Street Fighter II: The Movie, he was voiced by Eddie Frierson. In Street Fighter IV, he was voiced by Reuben Langdon in the English version, who also voiced Dante from the Devil May Cry series.
Damian Chapa portrayed Ken in the 1994 Street Fighter movie, where he is a con artist alongside Ryu. After the two unsuccessfully try to scam Shadaloo Tong leader, Sagat, they are arrested by Allied Nations forces. Guile offers them their freedom in exchange for infiltrating Bison's base (to whom Sagat runs guns) and revealing its location so that the A.N. can make a military strike and free the hostages captured earlier in the film.
Ken and Ryu are forced to betray the vengeful GNT news-crew (Chun Li, Balrog and Honda) in order to gain Bison's trust but later try to free them and are captured. When Guile eventually infiltrates Sagat's base and chaos ensues Ryu and Ken try to help free the hostages but split up when the AN forces arrive (according to Ken the soldiers get paid and that they should not risk their lives). Ken later comes to Ryu's aid when he is ambushed by Vega and Sagat. While Ryu kills Vega, Ken defeats Sagat and drops a heavy golden statue on his hands parting him with the line: "If I hadn't met you, I might have become you".
Interestingly Ken and Sagat are portrayed as rivals, switching the usual scenario from the games where Ryu and Sagat are rivals, with Ryu's rivalry switched to Vega.
- Ken's likeness appears in the game We Love Golf! as an unlockable cosplay outfit for Mark.
- In Ken's stage in Street Fighter Alpha 2, cameo appearances are made by Pure from Capcom World 2, Felicia, Morrigan, Lord Raptor (in human form on the far left), Hsien-Ko and Mei-Ling from Darkstalkers, Unknown Soldiers 1 and 2 from Forgotten Worlds (next to Morrigan), Michelle Heart from Legendary Wings, Linn Kurosawa from Alien vs. Predator (coming out of the pool), Biff and Ortega from Saturday Night Slam Masters, Strider Hiryu, Captain Commando, Ginzu and Kenzou Sujimoto (a member of the Capcom Staff).
- As a result of possible lawsuits, Ken was given the last name "Masters" so he wouldn't be confused with Ken Carson from Barbie a Mattel owned franchise.
- Like Ryu, Ken has been playable in every Street Fighter game (A distinction that is unique to both of them) in both main series and spinoff, However, Ken was not playable in a few crossover games such as Capcom Fighting Evolution, Both versions of Tatsunoko vs Capcom, And Marvel vs Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds, and the updated ultimate version. He also isn't a playable character in Super Smash Bros 4 with Ryu being the only Street Fighter character in the game. (Ken's theme can be selected to play on Ryu's stage). This is likely due to a desire not to take up spaces in their rosters with characters that are too similar to each other. He does, however, appear as an echo fighter in the sequel.
- Ryu can use Ken's moveset in Marvel vs Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes by using mode change.
- When fought as a CPU opponent in some games (Namely the Street Fighter Alpha and EX series), Ken will occasionally do a light Shoryuken, Followed by a medium Shoryuken as soon as he lands, and then a strong Shoryuken. This AI behavior has remained consistent in most of his appearances.
- Ken is one of the eleven playable Street Fighter characters who are either married or in a romantic relationship
- In Street Fighter III 2nd Impact, If Ken defeats Sean, He says to him: "You must defeat Ryu to stand a chance"!, which is a reference to Ryu's infamous mistranslated Sheng Long win quote from Street Fighter II.
- In the Street Fighter III games, Ken seems to break the fourth wall in a win quote he has that he uses against Hugo or Gill when he says: "It's losers like you that make this game boring!"
- Ken was born on Valentine's day along with Kolin and Rival Schools character Natsu Ayuhara.
- Although he was born in the United States, Ken is actually one-quarter American and three-quarters Japanese.
- Ken's stage in Street Fighter Alpha 2 has cameos by several other Capcom characters, including ones from the Darkstalkers fighting game series and Captain Commando from the arcade game of the same name
- In the original Street Fighter, there's unused audio in the game files for a "Fire Kick", along with unused graphics that suggest Ryu and Ken were planned to have a fourth special move.
- In Street Fighter: Resurrection, Ken's birthyear is mistakenly listed as 1966 while his offical (former) birthyear is 1965.
- Street Fighter II suggests that Ken is from or around Detroit, Michigan as that location shows up on the map when he is selected as an opponent.
- Some fans have pointed out that Ken's theme sounds similar to the Cheap Trick song "Mighty Wings" from Top Gun. Street Fighter II composer Yoko Shimomura stated in an interview: "I have heard people say that,and I watched the movie before I composed the song, so I can't deny I may have been inspired subconsciously. But I didn't go into it thinking, 'OK I'm gonna make this song sound like Mighty Wings.'".
- It was also stated that Ken's theme was originally going to be Guile's.
For more images of this character, see their Gallery.