As you saw in our cover reveal yesterday, one of the most iconic characters is at the heart of Street Fighter 6’s story. Ken Masters, one of the two original playable Street Fighter characters, steps back into the spotlight with a brand new backstory. As soon as his new look was unveiled, the Street Fighter community had a big day reflecting on what happened to get Ken into the rough state he looked in, with memes popping up that labeled him “Hobo Ken”. held. At Capcom’s headquarters in Osaka, Japan, we spoke to Street Fighter 6 Director Takayuki Nakayama and Art Director Kaname Fujioka to get more details on what was going on in Ken’s life at the time of Street Fighter 6.
Returning World Warriors like Ryu, Chun-Li, Dhalsim, and Blanka all have new looks, but Ken is perhaps the biggest departure from his classic looks. Longtime Street Fighter fans have witnessed his evolution from Ryu’s rival to Eliza’s husband, Mel’s father and ex-Vice President of the Masters Foundation. Street Fighter 6 introduces the character to a new era with new motivations.
“Throughout the series, it seems like his life has become more and more stable, and the team felt like he lost the reason to fight,” says Nakayama. “But this is a way to create that reason for him to get involved. We want to create that kind of storyline that explains why Ken matters and gives him that purpose. The story will be connected to the other characters that are close to him.”
Ken, who normally wears a red gi and a clean-shaven face, is now rocking a jacket, boots, new red pants and, in some depictions, a little stubble. Capcom’s main goal, along with portraying an iconic character at a different stage in his life, was to bring back the passionate nature that differentiated Ken from Ryu in the early days of the franchise.
“The title that impressed me the most was the Street Fighter II series, and as I see Ken in the Street Fighter II series, I see Ken compared to Ryu, who is more stern and serious, a fiery and explosive character,” says Fujioka. “During the development of the series, there were also different types of kens. In the Alpha series, he was a bit more playful and light-hearted in a way. For 6 we wanted to bring that fiery explosiveness back in. In comparison , Luke in Street Fighter 6 could be more cheerful and kind of playful character. We wanted to be different from that, so we wanted to continue with that fiery type of personality. And there’s the story behind Ken and there’s a more serious tone to him that we wanted to convey through the character designs as well.”
Despite the various leads dropped during my time at Capcom, the studio remains closed on the specific narrative reasons why Ken is in this perilous state. “Players starting Street Fighter 6 can expect Ken to be on the run from something now and unable to see his son Mel for unknown reasons,” says Nakayama. “He’s in a difficult situation, which you’ll learn more about in the future.”
The curtain on Ken’s backstory is being pulled back by a special four-issue comic book series from longtime Capcom collaborator UDON Entertainment. The plot will give us many glimpses of what’s going on with Ken as it sets the stage for Street Fighter 6’s story. Luke will also feature prominently in this comic series, as will Ken’s son Mel.
“This is the first time we’re doing this type of comic series that is closely tied to the story of the main game,” says Nakayama. “We work very closely with our partners at UDON. We deliver the script and plot of what to expect before the events of Street Fighter 6. They will help us create the storylines. On top of that, they’re even working on possible spin-offs and working as a team with the screenwriters, so there might be more things to come than just the original comic book series.”
Putting clues together, it appears as if Ken is on the run in relation to a terrorist bombing. In a synopsis of the UDON comic series, I learn that Ken has lost both his status and reputation and is being sent on the run for a crime he didn’t commit. In the above still from the intro to Ken’s arcade story, authorities appear to have arrested him for questioning, raising questions about “the champion.” Ken apparently escapes the hairy situation portrayed in the first shot above and enters a temporary lifestyle to keep a low profile and stay off the police radar. This leads to the extraordinary circumstances he lives in during the Street Fighter 6 era.
We won’t know for sure what’s up with Ken until this comic book prequel series and Street Fighter 6 comes out, but for now you’re coloring me intrigued. As a Ken captain, I love seeing him in different situations, even as stressful as this one seems to be. In the walkout animation for Ken, it seems like he’s particularly emotional in this title. Fujioka told me he wanted to bring back Ken’s fiery personality and based on my time with the game it seems like they accomplished that mission. I’m excited to see what else the story has to offer when Street Fighter 6 comes out in 2023.
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