Ryu. The first character I think of when it comes to a man among men: the very image of hard work, discipline, and pushing oneself to the absolute brink in order to achieve your goals.
When it comes to well-known names and faces within the world of video games, Ryu is one of the most recognisable — even if someone doesn’t know who Ryu is, I can guarantee they have heard of a “Hadouken!” or “Shoryuken!”
Ryu is not only an awesome character, he is also one of the greatest contributors when it comes to learning the genre that is fighting games. For the things this man has taught me, it is only right that he deserves an entire piece dedicated to him. He is, after all, the eternal challenger who has made his way into so many games. And not just Street Fighter games, either.
Who is Ryu?
Ryu is the main protagonist of Street Fighter, the most well-known and famous fighting game franchise in the world. Ryu’s design and fighting style was inspired by Masutatsu Ooyama and Yoshiji Seono from Karate Master, a 1970s manga that told the events of real-life martial artist Mas Oyama.
Ryu is a silent, respectful, and humble man; which is a complete contrast to Ken, his fellow karate practitioner and childhood best friend. Ryu’s only goal is to seek further strength through his own efforts and he has completely no use for any material attachments that come as a result of said efforts. For example, completing the arcade mode with Ryu in Street Fighter 2 shows Ryu leaving to continue his travels without claiming his awards for winning the tournament.
Ryu’s entire character is that of learning, growth, and adaptation — a perfect mirror to the lessons taught in fighting games. Throughout the first Street Fighter title, we follow Ryu as he journeys to Thailand to take on the greatest Muay Thai fighters, and it’s here that a legendary rivalry between Ryu and Sagat is born.
Ryu saw some design changes when character designer “Akiman” took over and revamped Ryu; this gave him the signature look that he still retains to this day.
Ryu is Japan’s representative on the massive roster that Street Fighter has today, and as such his fighting style is based on “Shotokan” karate, a traditional and massively influential form of martial art.
Why we love him
Ryu is, as previously noted, the very image of a man among men. I don’t say this because he’s overtly masculine, it’s because of everything else about him. His humility, his sense of respect and his kindness are all aspects of Ryu’s personality that, in addition to his unbreakable resolve, are what make him such a great character.
Where Ryu almost transcends just being a video game character, however, is when you start diving deeper into the fighting game genre. As someone whose journey into fighting games started with Street Fighter, Ryu is the character who essentially teaches you everything about the game. The way the character has been constructed is almost too well done, as you can learn almost everything through this character.
Ryu’s playstyle is very well-rounded; neither rush-down and fast-paced nor slow and defensive. However, should you wish to do so, you can play the character in either of those ways. Ryu is equipped with his signature Hadouken — this will teach players to understand projectiles in a fighting game. Not only will you learn how to use them and their strengths, but you will also learn (the hard way) the weaknesses that they also pose.
You can’t have a Hadouken without a Shoryuken, and it’s through this technique that you will learn how to cover the area above you. Street Fighter requires fast thinking and good reactions and the Shoryuken as the classic anti-air attack will hammer these lessons home. Not only that, but they will force you to learn some fairly awkward special attack motions (Forward, Down, Down+Forward) and before you know it, you’ll be able to perform this without even thinking. (30 years after playing Street Fighter II for the first time, I still can’t do it reliably – Ed.)
Why you’ll love him
If you’re looking to get into fighting games, specifically Street Fighter, then you too will adore this beautiful man. No matter the game and no matter the character, the lessons you will learn from Ryu will in some way translate into your chosen character.
Ryu has some really endearing relationships and rivalries as well. His best friend Ken is just like Ryu but much more loud, confident, and explosive, and all of this is reflected in his gameplay as well; Ken is also a student of Shotokan, but his playstyle is extremely different from Ryu. Sakura is Ryu’s somewhat self-proclaimed disciple, and she is an extremely keen and energetic young girl who aspires to be just like Ryu.
Then he has his rivalry with Sagat, Thailand’s strongest Muay Thai fighter. In the beginning, Sagat was overcome by dark influences and lost his way along the path of martial arts, and it’s his encounter with Ryu that brings him back from that place and gives birth to an incredible fighting game rivalry.
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