Sunday, December 09, 2007

RYU versus KEN
The Deadly Phantom Faceoff: The Battle Spirit Hidden Between Body and Soul
(Group TAC/Capcom/Manga)
Street Fighter II V Ep. 12 When: July 1995
Why: Gisaburō Sugii How: Kōji Tsujitani/Skip Stellrecht & Banjō Ginga/Peter Spellos

The story so far...
On a journey to hone their fighting capabilities, old friends and martial arts brothers, Ken and Ryu, embark on a journey across the globe to encounter different techniques and practises of the fighting arts.

These world warriors encounter and study men from China, Hong Kong, and the United States, but it's the advice of the fallen emperor of Muay Thai; Sagat; that leads the pair to jump aboard Ken's private jet to seek a secluded village in India. There, they hope to learn the teachings of the mysterious yoga master, Dhalsim; master of hadou.

Their arrival proves expected as Dhalsim denies the prophecized beasts the teachings he bestowed upon Sagat. Determined to prove themselves as more than mindless brutes, Ken and Ryu remain in the village despite Dhalsim's distance, and endear themselves to the villagers and children.

When bandits arrive at the village seeking the fabled treasure of the forbidden Cave of Ancients, Ken and Ryu rush to their rescue. It is here they face their greatest test as Dhalsim emplores them to not endanger the lives of the villagers unnecessarily. At the order of the surviving bandits, Ken and Ryu enter the tample that claimed the lives of other tomb raiders, walking in with Dhalsim's warning that the monster hidden within is merely a reflection.

Previous Form:
Ryu (#15): High rating victories over Balrog, Sagat, Zangief, & Vega.
Ken (#31): Victories over Sodom & Sagat; with ties against Fei-Long and Ryu.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Ryu 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Ken 3 (Straight A)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Draw 4 (Athlete)
Agility: Draw 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Draw 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Draw 3 (Explosives)

- Ryu is a Japanese fighter who was orphaned and raised by the master of the mysterious unnamed ansatsuken fighting style,
Gouken. A life of training would develop Ryu into one of the greatest fighters in the world, utilizing Gouken's fighting techniques and mastery over the hadou ki energies.

Ryu is an incredibly well rounded fighter capable of harnessing his ki for trademark attacks such as; the Tatsumaki Senpuu Kyaku hurricane kick, Hadou-ken fireballs, the Sho-ryu ken dragon uppercut, along with an array of variations of each.

- Ken Masters is a practitioner of the same unnamed ansatsuken martial arts technique mastered by Gouken, Akuma and Ryu.

The style is heavily identified with the mastery over ones ki energy, allowing them to summon powers by methods of hadou. Ken has mastered the hadou-ken fireball and sho-ryu ken rising dragon punch, with a particular flair for the latter.

Ken is a well respected United States tournament champion, having won many tournaments and gained many accolades in his native America. It is this encompassing success that drives him to seek new challenges across the world.

Additonal: Essentially identical in their earliest fighting appearances; Ken and Ryu have been the subject of fan-debate for decades. In previous encounters on the Infinite Wars, they have only ever tied against one and other, representing the continued struggle for superiority that traditionally is said to favour Ryu's power and dedication, despite Ken's highly regarded skill.

History: Draw (0-0-2)
The Math: Ken Masters The Pick: Draw

What went down...
Reluctantly Ken and Ryu enter the Cave of Ancients under the order of the ruthless armed bandit, who already witnessed the effects of the temple's "monster" when it claimed the lives of his two fellows.

With Dhalsim's warnings ringing in their ears, they wander into the darkness where they find themselves engulfed in smoke. Without warning the two are seemingly yanked from their physical bodies, experiencing an astral projection that sees their spirits careening out of control toward a cliff face.

When they awaken, each fighter believes himself to be alone. That is, until a beam of light ushers the entrance of the legendary guardian monster, who protects the treasures contained within the Cave.

The monster appears to both as a hulking, ancient clay warrior who towers over them phsycially and asthetically. Even so, Ken and Ryu both confront the demon with wanton regard for their own safety, concerned only for the fate of the villagers, and the lure of combat.

Ryu verbally assaults the monster with accusations of murder, before taking a ready stance that provokes the monster to break it's silence. The clay warrior sends a thundering echo through the ill-defined space as it charges toward it's prey, letting loose the roar of a warrior.

Elsewhere; Ken suffers the jab of his own monstrous opponent, who puts a halt to his charge with a stiff jab. Ken charges once more at the monster, leaping into the air with a flying kick, ultimately dodged by the surprisingly spry giant.

Ken follows with a barrage of secondary attacks that connect, while Ryu finds himself on the painful end of a combination of blows from the clay warrior.

The monster winds up, connecting with a harsh, direct punch to Ryu's face!
Wiping the blood from his mouth, Ryu refuses to back down, despite noting the guardian's speed and strength, surprising for his size. Likewise; Ken makes his own pledge with the commitment of his fist, which strikes at his foe.

While the pair of wandering fighters face their respective demons, Dhalsim grows despondent. Sensing their progress from outside the cave, he telepathically sends an echo of his cryptic warning, "Beasts, do not forget! The cave is only a mirror which reflects your own hearts!"

Too concerned with fighting, the pair of martial artists fail to ponder on the master's words, instead resorting again to the exchange of blows, over ideas.
To Dhalsim's dismay, the pair launch into another all-out attack.

The guardian(s) continue to show considerable fighting prowess, evading the competent strikes of both fighters, only to deliver it's own with devestating precision! Each fighter suffers a succesion of punches and kicks, culiminating in two seperate uppercuts that rock both Ken and Ryu, respectively.

Ryu unleashes a violent spray of retaliatory punches, finishing with a roundhouse kick that puts the guardian on the back foot, but fails to topple it. The monster comes back strong with a spinning combination of back handed fists that finishes with a diving kick that sends the Japanese fighter airborne!

Exhausted, Ryu pauses on his knee for a moment, digesting the severity of his situation. Strategizing leads only to thoughts of the monster's incredible power, and his skilled fighting style which almost resembles that of his best friend, Ken. Recalling his absent friend, Ryu summons a second-wind to attack once more, demanding to know what the monster did with Ken!

Meanwhile, Ken finds his front blocked, only to be sent through the air with a stiff punch that takes the wind out of him. On the floor, Ken nurses ribs that are broken, and has his own moment of thought, recognising determination in the guardian that mirrors that of his friend, Ryu.

After another explosive exchange of blows, Ken and Ryu each seek a finishing blow with the last of their energies. Alas, both fighter is struck down simultaneously by their guardian opponent with comparable force, leaving them both down for the count, and severely injured.

The pause gives both fighters opportunity to further consider their positions.
As they both lie injured and exhausted, they notice the same unlikely reactions in their seemingly inexhaustible monster opponent.

Though unable to stand and blinded in his left eye by the monster's powerful kicks, Ryu begins to see clearer than before. Likewise, Ken begins to ponder the words of Dhalsim, and the predicament his astral trip has placed him in.
Considering the keys to victory, Ken notices the monster adopt a meditative position similar to that which he and Ryu had imitated from Dhalsim when they sought to prove patience to the Yoga monk.

It is this finally beat that breaks the illusion, and reveals to Ken and Ryu both, the identity of their monster: Each other!

With the test over, the two injured fighters struggle to travel to their goal. Nursing broken ribs, blinded eyes, and severe exhaustian; the two badly beaten fighters retrieved the statuette they were to sent to find, and gingerly stumble their way back to the villagers whose lives are threatened.

The hammer...
Y'know, one of the things I find really fun about a site like this is the accumulation of data. Drawing upon that sports league connection, we get a scenario like this, where two characters have met in combat three times, and each has resulted in a draw!

Some might call that a little tedious, but not only does it provide a wonderful comparison between two characters, but also makes the next confrontation all the more dramatic! Because, really, what we do here isn't much different, in many ways, to what you find in any professional fighting sport card around the world. Which is but one of the many charms to our little experiment here.

Much like the Sagat/Ryu encounter [Street Fighter II V Ep. 9]; this entry comes with an append-fix. After emerging from the Cave with their trophee; Ken and Ryu are met with a double cross by the raider who doesn't want to be identified by two city-slickers.

Having proven themselves worthy by surviving the test of the guardian; Ken and Ryu finally get a chance to witness the pacifist monk in action. Having stemmed the flow of ki in the bandit's last living cohort, Dhalsim goes about quietly disabling the armed men.

When the head bandit turns his guns away from the exhausted fighters to the meddlesome Dhalsim, he finds the Yoga monk holding his ammunition magazine with an eerie smirk. This precedes another pressure-point attack that paralyzes the bandit by restricting the flow of life energy through his body.

Much like the defeat of Nuchitt, we're going to tack this on as a bonus victory for Dhalsim. This may be a little generous, but heck, I have a real soft spot for the Yoga flamer, and it seems fitting, given that he has been announced along with screenshots of Ken and Ryu, for Street Fighter IV.

Despite noting the long standing unliklihood of a sequel, the Infinite Wars featured [apparently logical] speculation that a fourth instalment might finally arrive [The New Challengers!] came good. In October Capcom confirmed Street Fighter IV, accompanied by a brilliantly visual trailer for the game.

It was this week that the eager fanbase was finally privy to screenshots, answering many questions about visual direction, and the nature of the new generation's gameplay.

If anyone ever tries to tell you gamers are any different from [comics] fanboys, you can pretty comprehensively laugh in their face. The same kind of negatives exist in both realms, and they were out in full force with the release of images [like the above], which depict the new direction for the series.
Of course, as much as I'd love to act smug and superior, I'm not without my own minor qualms about recent developments.

First, I just have to say; the only thing more disturbing than Street Fighter fans desperately barking about keeping the games in the pixel arena of 2D fighters -- is the fact that a good many of them whole heartedly mean it!

Comics fans know all too well the perils of fanbases obsessively reluctant to progress. It's an attitude that can potentially render a company's attempts to move forward impotent, and given the odds that were put against SFIV ever happening, that's a concerning prospect. More so, considering that SFIV has revealed itself to be something many-a-fan, myself included, dreaded: another retread of the now classic (and devestatingly recycled) Street Fighter II.

Placing it in this era presumably gives makers not only a familiar place to start with, but also a cast of characters already well exposed to much of the purchasing portion of the public. If one was to read between the lines, SFIV's tagline, A New Beginning, mind indicate that this will at least mark the definitive account of SFII, paving the way for regular sequels that pay more attention to progession of story, and satisfaction of experience. [Yes, that's setting myself up for disappointment, but I can dream!]

Still, for a negative, getting the opportunity to play as characters like the confirmed Dhalsim and Chun-Li, is anything but a punishment. Sure, it raises a lot of mathematical questions, but it gives us a chance to reexperience these characters in the ever-popular domain of cell-shaded polygons, which in this instance, carry a more detailed render than many cartoony predecessors.
It's a textured look that seems to be becoming something of a hallmark of next gen games, but really, it's both unlikely, and far too soon to consider this the status quo. For Street Fighter IV, it's the happy medium between progress, and the classic depiction of characters.

Not wanting to delve into the mire of more negatives, I close with a few notes. I would agree with some fans that there's work to be done in better identifying the characters, particularly in facial structure. That said, for all the iffy artwork, it was kind of interesting to see a pseudo-realistic depiction of Ryu that actually made me think Japanese! This pastiche of grimey realism and manga sensibility is just further indicative of it's SFII origins, which a good many newbies probably won't recognise.

The Fight: 4.5 The Episode: 6

And just in case the SFIV made you forget what brought us all here, maybe you want to do some last minute Christmas shopping on Amazon! You'll again note the many episodes between each feature from SFIIV, making it an ideal series to explore further, if you've enjoyed these reviews!

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