Street Fighter first invaded our consoles in 1987. Beyond the first Street Fighter game, Capcom has develop several iterations of canon Street Fighter gameplay, from Street Fighter II: The World Warrior to the Street Fighter Alpha Series. Since its console debut, the original game has spawned several variations of the games that aren’t canon, as well as spin-off movies and comics and more. While there are several notable characters in the Street Fighter universe, such as Chun-Li and Ken, Ryu is one of the most notorious characters in the game. Although Ryu is the main protagonist in Street Fighter, he… well, he actually kind of stinks. Yes, he might actually smell from all the fights and tournaments, but we’re speaking more of his character than his olfactory output.
Throughout the Street Fighter timeline, the fighters have undergone a fair amount of interesting character development. Ken Masters might be determined to become a more adept fighter, but he begins to restrain himself so he doesn’t put his family at risk. Sakura, meanwhile, is constantly trying to learn. As Capcom’s first one-on-one fighter game has grown throughout the years, Ryu is one of the only fighters who’s remained relatively the same since 1987. While some of us might not play the Street Fighter games for the in-game plot or the dialogue, there are a few reasons that make us disconnect with him as a playable character. Don’t get us wrong: there’s a lot that we admire about Ryu, and we still shamelessly go back to him in Street Fighter V, but there are still some noticeable flaws in his character.
HIS BACKSTORY IS AS BLAND AS HIS MOVIE CAMEO
Overall, Ryu isn’t a memorable character. If you have any experience playing Street Fighter games, you’d know that he is devoted to the fight… but that’s about it. Obviously, his story arc revolves heavily around fighting — after all, the franchise is called Street Fighter for a reason. However, Ryu doesn’t have a discernible personality beyond that.
Ryu doesn’t even have an original story arc in the titular Street Fighter movie in 1994, which can seem strange since he’s one of the original characters in the franchise. The movie centers around Ryu and Ken going around and fighting, making the movie a glorified recording of a Street Fighter II fight scene. The 2009 Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li film also forgets that Ryu exists, as the film briefly mentions his name as an aside.
HE HAS PRETTY MEDIOCRE MOVES
We have to admit that in earlier Street Fighter gameplay, Ryu had some powerful punches. However, his moves and combos can be listless. In Street Fighter Alpha 3 particularly, his moves mirror a lot of Ken’s. However, aside from Ryu’s derivative moves, like the Tastumaki, his moves don’t exude too much damage.
Save for the Metsu Shoryuken in Super Street Fighter IV, which can throw an opponent into the air just from an uppercut, Ryu’s moves seem to mildly injure his opponents. Though you can amp up his performance with some combos, his moves are similar to a one-two-step performance, relegating him mostly to an entry-level player.
CAPCOM ATTEMPTED TO SHIP HIM WITH SAKURA
Since the dawn of Street Fighter, players have theorized that Ryu is secretly in love with Chun-Li. Granted, Chun-Li has been shipped with all of the male characters at some point in the fandom’s history. Even Capcom isn’t immune to shipping its own characters because the company included a scene in Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition where Sakura seemingly flirts with Ryu.
Although Ryu had no control over this attempted shipping, the situation is creepy to say the least. Since Sakura showed up on the street fighting scenes, she’s tried to convince Ryu to become her mentor. Shipping Ryu and Sakura makes their implied student-teacher relationship less sincere.
HE DISHES OUT MORE WISDOM THAN KICKS
If you’ve played any Street Fighter game, then you’d know that Ryu is fixated on becoming a better fighter. However, Ryu strives on a deeply flawed sense of perfectionism. While he might be obsessed with perfecting his craft, he spends more time in-game giving vaguely introspective monologues than he actually does fighting.
In the games, Ryu does a lot more talking than fighting. He’s notorious for his “inspiring” words of wisdom to other characters, such as, “This was a battle of spirits, not fists. Search your soul if you want to beat me,” in Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers. Since he isn’t an exceptional fighter, that can discredit his unsolicited wisdom.
HE STILL CAN’T PUNISH ON BLOCK
Okay, Ryu can punish on block in the newer games, but his blocks aren’t effective. In Street Fighter V, it can take a fair amount of trial and error to get Ryu to effectively punish his opponents after they’ve used 15 moves.
Coordinating Ryu’s punish on block becomes exceptionally difficult against certain fighters like Laura. While it takes some street fighting mastery to get any character to avoid Laura’s choke hold, Ryu’s punish on block is another exercise of patience. Ryu needs to wait for Laura to overextend her moves before he can block, so he can accrue a lot of damage before he has the opportunity to block her.
HIS TIMING IS STILL HIT OR MISS
Because Ryu can become a more powerful fighter if you use Hadokens, timing is critical. It’s no surprise that Ryu’s Hadokens become stronger the closer his opponent is to him, so anticipating your opponent’s next move requires a great deal of patience. Outside of Hadokens, Ryu relies heavily on close-quarters combat, which can make it tricky to find the right pace for Ryu’s moves and combos.
While practice makes perfect, strategizing Ryu’s hit or miss moves feeds into his innately perfectionist traits. If we’ve learned anything from Ryu’s perfectionist nature, getting his timing just right might not help you become a skilled fighter.
HE’S EASILY DISTRACTED BY FOOD
For a character who’s canonically determined on becoming a better fighter, some grub can easily deter Ryu from that mission. Other than fighting, the only thing Ryu’s more passionate about is food, particularly meatloaf. While Ryu’s opponents haven’t caught on to the fact that they could win any fight if they strategically placed a meal nearby, his weakness to food shows that simple distractions can divert him from his main mission: to become the best fighter.
We can all be gluttonous when it comes to comfort food, but whenever Ryu’s offered a meal in-game or in his multiple comic series, he temporarily forgets his objectives. Seeing as Ryu’s easily swayed by a snack, this contradicts his canon perfectionism because he’s easily influenced by his stomach.
HE HAS CONTRADICTORY OPINIONS ABOUT HEROISM
From the beginning of Street Fighter’s legacy, we learn that Ryu is a committed hero. Ryu’s passion for heroism stems from his desire to be the best fighter in the Street Fighter universe, but sometimes he isn’t as heroic as he strives to be.
While Ryu wants to protect innocent and weak individuals from the big bads in Street Fighter, he constantly tries to fight the urge to fatally wound his opponents in his earlier story. Prior to Street Fighter III, Ryu’s obsession with fighting feeds the negative energy in the Satsui no Hado, which means Ryu is constantly feigning more violent urges in battle.
CAPCOM NERFED HIM
In Street Fighter, Street Fighter II and Street Fighter Alpha 3, Ryu’s combos were exceptionally powerful, which led to a lot of players decrying that it wasn’t fair to play as him. Capcom reformatted Ryu’s moves, strengths and abilities in the recent Street Fighter V, which helped balance his former Gary Stu status.
Although Capcom leveled the playing field, Ryu’s nerfing made him a lower-middle tier character, and it also made us realize that his character was dependent on his previously overpowered moves. While this nerfing helped balance his powers and stats, now, Ryu’s gameplay is overshadowed by his former glory.
HE’S TOO MORAL
Whether you’re playing a Street Fighter game or watching the movies, Ryu is always excited to deliver a monologue about how his opponents should learn to become better people. His constant drive to protect anyone, even those who might not need protecting, shows that he’s perpetually trying to one-up his moral endeavors.
In Marvel vs. Capcom, Ryu even delivers motivational speeches to the opponents he beats, including Marvel’s morally righteous hero, Captain America. The last thing the loser of a battle wants to hear is a noble lesson from the person who defeated them. Giving the loser of the battle praise and advice isn’t a bad attribute, but it appears that Ryu is just overcompensating with his moral compass because of Evil Ryu.
HE’S A FIGHT-O-HOLIC (BUT HE ISN’T GREAT AT FIGHTING)
Despite trying to become the best fighter, Ryu’s abilities are still lower tier. He might not be the weakest or least skilled character, but he’s definitely on the lower of the middle range. In the crossover game, X-Men vs. Street Fighter, Ryu’s story arc could be summed up with him talking about fighting or actually throwing punches. He was consumed by fighting.
In other games, his addiction to fighting led to his demise, which shows that, despite his love for persistent fighting, he still isn’t an apt fighter. In Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter, Omega Red beat Ryu, ultimately leading to his unorthodox retirement from the crossover game.
CAPCOM MADE HIM COMPLETELY UNRECOGNIZABLE
In Street Fighter V, Capcom revamped most of our beloved fighters. Naturally, Ryu still dons his bandanna in his Street Fighter V redesign, but there’s noticeably something different about his look. After Capcom released its fifth instalment, Ryu’s new appearance didn’t include a shirt like his previous character renditions, and instead, swapped it for a full and frankly quite lush beard.
While Capcom enhanced the graphics in the 2016 game, Ryu’s revamp was unnecessary. Given that the games focus on fighting, Ryu’s new shirtless wardrobe was distracting to a lot of fans, but Ryu’s personality seemed unscathed by the changes in the game.
HE’S A BAD FRIEND
At times, Ryu is defensive of his friends; however, he also deals with a lone wolf mentality where he tries to distance himself from his friends. Although keeping his distance — whether that’s physically or emotionally — might help him protect his friends, it also makes him unfriendly. Okay, fighters might not be the friendliest characters in gaming history, but it’s counterproductive to act cordial with someone and then avoid them.
However, it’s more counterproductive to kiss your friendly rival’s ex-girlfriend. In Malibu Comics’ Street Fighter series, Ryu and Chun-Li kiss. As we also learn in this particular rendition of Street Fighter, Ken and Chun-Li might have some romantic history. Given that Ryu kisses Chun-Li, this seems like a breech in the unspoken friendship moral code.
HE’S MEGA MAN WITH A BANDANNA
While there are a few parallels between Ryu and Ken in the Street Fighter franchise, Ryu mimics Mega Man in a lot of his ideologies and characteristics. Like Mega Man, Ryu is devoted to protecting everyone. Aside from their respective heroism, they both have a grandiose moral code. The only discernible difference between Mega Man and Ryu is their physical appearance.
Given that Capcom conceptualized Ryu and Mega Man at around the same time, there are bound to be similarities between the characters. Plus, both Mega Man and Ryu were vital protagonists in their early years, but are now currently outshined, and out-fought, by their fellow main characters. The parallels are infinite.
HE’S IN A CONSTANT STATE OF EXISTENTIAL CRISIS
Ryu is so vehement about becoming a better fighter that it’s redundant at this point. However, there are brief moments in Ryu’s life where he becomes self-aware that he might not become the best fighter — or even a good fighter. In the manga Street Fighter III: Ryu Final, Ryu comes to terms with the fact that he might not become a first-rate fighter after he battles Akuma.
While he finally recognizes that he might not ever be the best fighter, it still doesn’t give him closure because he continues on his self-imposed quest to become a better fighter. Sure, Ryu can still work to improve his fighting abilities, but this creates a paradox where Ryu is still obsessed with fighting while superficially noting that he won’t be the best.
HIS HESITANCE TO MENTOR ANYONE
Time and time again, Ryu refuses to mentor Sakura or take on a student at all. Though Ryu spends much of his time practicing and actually fighting, his reluctance to mentor a student indicates that he isn’t even confident in his own fighting abilities. Sure, Ryu’s self-doubt makes him a more relatable character, but it also demonstrates that he doesn’t know what he’s doing.
The archetypal quote from George Bernard Shaw says, “Those who can’t do, teach.” However, Ryu actually needs to know how to properly fight to feel comfortable enough to mentor someone. Although Ryu is eager to act as the problem solver among his friendly rivals, he’s less willing to act as a mentor to any of his cohorts.
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