For fighter info, see Ken (SSBU).
Ken Masters is one of the main characters of the Street Fighter series alongside his friend and rival Ryu. He first appeared in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U as a downloadable trophy through downloading Ryu, until he made his playable debut in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as his friend’s Echo Fighter. He is the tenth third-party character, following Solid Snake, Sonic the Hedgehog, Mega Man, Pac-Man, his best friend and rival Ryu, Cloud Strife, Bayonetta, Simon Belmont and Richter Belmont.
Ken serves as the secondary mascot of the Street Fighter series along with Ryu. He usually finds himself entangled in the game's plots as a result of tagging along with Ryu. Ken is usually brash, haughty and tends to run his mouth against his opponents compared to the more reserved Ryu but Ken can be respectful and friendly towards tougher fighters or those who give him a good battle. Ken is willing to accept a challenge from anyone, even someone as comical-looking as Rufus, as seen in their interactions in Street Fighter IV. Ryu and Ken are also firm friends, with their interractions usually featuring a good deal of friendly bantering before and after battle.
Ryu and Ken were nicknamed "shotoclones" along with other similar fighters, after an old mistranslation of their Ansatsuken fighting style instead tried to name it Shotokhan.
Ken first appeared alongside Ryu as the second player character in the original Street Fighter. Only player 2 could use Ken, and he merely served as a full moveset clone of Ryu. As a kid, Ken was sent to train at Gouken's dojo by his wealthy father to learn discipline. Although Ken tended to pull pranks on Ryu, the two soon became good friends and sparring partners and set out on their own journeys, with Ryu taking part in Sagat's World Warrior tournament and Ken returning to America to claim the US Martial Arts title. When Ken returned to tell Gouken of his accomplishment, however, he found Gouken seemingly dead at the hands of the sinister Akuma, who defeated Ken.
Ken returned alongside Ryu in Street Fighter II, serving once again as a moveset clone in the first verison of the game, The World Warrior. It wasn't until the update, Champion Edition, that the two began to differentiate from one another, with the most notable difference being the way their Tatsumaki Senpukyaku specials functioned; Ryu's did only one hit but would knock the opponent down while Ken's did multiple hits with the opponent remaining standing. By the time of Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers, their differences were far more pronounced. In particular, the CPS-2 revisions introduced Ken's signature version of the Shoryuken with his fist wrapped in flames. In story, this is explained as Ken gearing more towards the Shoryuken move as opposed to Ryu preferring the Hadoken. In Super Turbo, Ken gains the Shoryuken-focused super move Shoryu Reppa, and the close-ranged roundhouse kick special moves. SF2 also introduced Ken's girlfriend Eliza, who Ken marries in his arcade ending. In this game's backstory, Ken and Ryu had a friendly rematch, in which it wa simplied that Ken was the winner.
Street Fighter Alpha, a series of games set between the first and second games, shows a younger Ken continuing to hone his skills as a fighter, as well as meeting Eliza for the first time. The Alpha series also portrayed Ken with longer hair tied with a red headband. The series itself took inspiration from Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, including the scene in which Ken gives his red hairband to Ryu as a bandage for a head wound Ryu accidentally took mid-spar. The Alpha series has Ken give it to a troubled Ryu as a reminder to keep focused on the heart of battle. In terms of gameplay, Ken and Ryu's different attributes continued to grow, with Ken having higher speed than Ryu's and the Shinryuken and Shippu Jinraikyaku added to his arsenal of supers.
When Ryu is either temporarily brainwashed by the evil warlord M. Bison, or has a curse known as Satsui no Hado as Akuma, Ken is one of the first three warriors who helps snap Ryu out of them (along with Sakura and Sagat.) The two once more go their separate ways, with Ryu finally donning the red headband Ken gave him.
Ken and Ryu were initially the only familiar faces to be seen in Street Fighter III: New Generation, and even then were added mid-development to address tester complaints about the all-new cast. Throughout the further two revisions the game received (Second Impact and the now-famous Third Strike,) Ken enjoyed a consistent top-tier spot in tier listings, particularly in Third Strike. Indeed Ken served as the central point of the infamous "Evo Moment #37" where professioan player Daigo Umehara, who played Ken at the 2004 Evolution Fighting game Championship, parried every hit of Justin Wong's Chun-li's Hoyoku-Sen before retliating with Shippu Jinrai Kyaku.
As SF3 is set a good few years after SF2, Ken is older and, with Eliza, has fathered a son named Mel, who he trains in martial arts (though as seen in New Generation, Mel's small size humourously leads to him punching Ken in the groin.) A Brazilian martial artist, Sean Matsuda, also pesters a reluctant Ken into training him, with Ken also attempting to unload him onto Ryu instead.
The two famous "shotoclones" returned in Street Fighter IV and its many revisions, with Ken now using Shinryuken as one of his Ultra Combos while receiving a second, Guren Senpukyaku, in Super Street Fighter IV onward. Ultra IV introduced the purposefully-overpowered Omega movesets, with Ken's Omega moveset reintroducing Shippu Jinrai Kyaku as an EX special and having him fire Hadokens with kicks instead of his hands. As SF4 is an interquel between II and III, the story shows Ken still expecting his first child with Eliza and worrying about taking part in the latest World Warrior tournament if it meant leaving a pregnant Eliza behind, though she convinces him to go for it nonetheless. He also discovers that his master, Gouken, is in fact still alive and happily reunites with him. During the tournament, Ken also meets another rival, the overweight and very egotistical Rufus, who is intent on dethroning Ken as the US' number one fighter. Though confused by Rufus' antics, he accepts his challenge without hesitation nonetheless.
Street Fighter V saw Ken given a new default costume, although the model quality drew quite a lot of mockery from fans due to the odd rendering of Ken's hair among other faults. The game includes Ken's Alpha appearance as an unlockable alternate, however. Ken also gained a more rushdown-orientied playstyle, an arcing Tatsumaki and a new super in the form of Guren Enjinkyaku. SF5 takes place just before 3, thus showing Ken as a proud father and husband. During the game's main story mode, Ken assists Ryu in their battle against the tyranical M. Bison, who hatches a new plot for world domination. After Bison's final defeat, the two later have one final friendly sparring match which Ryu wins. Though Ryu drops his red headband, Ken hands it back, figuring Ryu might still need it.
Much like Ryu, Ken also possesses an "evil" counterpart called "Violent Ken." Unlike Evil Ryu, who is possessed by the innate Satsui No Hadou force, Violent Ken is instead Ken brainwashed by M. Bison's Psycho Power. Violent Ken was inspired by a plot point in Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, where Bison captures and brainwashes Ken in order to lure Ryu into his grasp. Violent Ken first appeared in the crossover game SNK vs. Capcom: Chaos, and was later added to the most final revision of SF2, Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers.
As one of the series' most popular characters, Ken has also appeared in a large of number of alternate media such as manga, television shows and comic books, including the live-action 1994 movie where Ken was portrayed as a skilled conman who was nonetheless a skilled fighter, the web-series Assassin's Fist which covers Ryu, Ken and Gouken's earlier years in greater detail, and the most infamous being Malibu Comics' short lived Street Fighter series, in which Ken is seemingly killed and scalped by Sagat. Many believe this incident was what spurred Capcom into stepping in and having the comic cancelled. Luckily, the much more successful Street Fighter comics by UDON continue to feature Ken in a greater capacity than before.
Ken also followed Ryu into several crossover games including the famous Marvel vs. Capcom series, Capcom vs. SNK where Ken tends to be friendly rivals with SNK's Terry Bogard, and Street Fighter X Tekken, where the two are frequently shown in promotional material in battle with Tekken series mainstays Kazuya Mishima and Nina Williams. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate marks the latest game in which the two challenge fighters from a multitude of different franchises.
As a playable character
- He and Luigi are one of the original Clones/Echo Fighters within the video fighting game history, while Ken’s debut is behind the foundation of unofficial fighting game term “shotoclone” to date.
- As of Street Fighter II: Champion Edition and Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers onwards, Ken developed into much more of a semi-clone, which is soon also applied to the rest of clone fighters.
- Ken's last name was added to avoid lawsuits with Mattel's toy franchise Barbie which featured a character also called Ken.
- At one point in his reveal trailer, Ken is seen seemingly flirting with Princess Zelda before being hit away by Link. Which might be a nod to Ken's flirtatious nature as a youngster, as well as Zelda's resemblance toward Ken's wife Eliza.
- Ken's reveal trailer begins with him battling Little Mac in a boxing ring. This bears resemblance to his arcade ending in Street Fighter III: Third Strike in which Ken defeats an unnamed challenger in an official martial arts tournament ring.