Capcom's iconic Street Fighter fighting game franchise has introduced dozens of memorable playable characters across its numerous installments since its debut in 1987. Among the two most popular fighters throughout the entire history of the franchise are original protagonist Ryu and the high-kicking powerhouse Chun-Li, first introduced in 1991's Street Fighter II: The World Warrior.
With both characters serving as long-running staples in the video game franchise, here is a quick overview of the two warriors and what has made them enduring fan-favorites for decades.
Ryu trained in martial arts from an early age, alongside fellow student Ken Masters, under the instruction of a veteran fighter named Gouken. After Gouken is apparently killed by his evil brother Akuma, who uses a soul-corrupting form of martial arts known as the Satsui no Hado, Ryu and Ken participate in a world martial arts tournament where Ryu defeats the reigning champ, Thai kickboxer Sagat, after briefly tapping into the Satsui no Hado himself. Afterwards, Ryu would attempt to avenge Gouken by hunting down Akuma as a new villain named M. Bison attempted to track down Ryu to use the young fighter as his new host body.
After continuing to test his might against new, powerful opponents throughout the events of Street Fighter II and IV, the growing dark Satsui no Hadou within Ryu threatened to take him over completely at the start of Street Fighter V to form the new, sinister warrior Evil Ryu, referring to himself as Kage. After an encounter with the new fighter Necalli, Ryu managed to completely seal the Satsui no Hado within himself, ending its influence over him and the existence of Kage before defeating M. Bison once and for all with the help of Charlie Nash. Sometime later, Ryu would continue to seek out new challenges during the events of Street Fighter III.
Ryu's Design and Special Moves
Created by designer Takashi Nishiyama and named after a common pronunciation of his own first name, Ryu was meant to be a sort of everyman as the only playable character for players in the original game, utilizing basic karate moves as a symbol of Japanese martial arts. His signature hadouken energy attack was inspired by laser cannons from the popular anime series Space Battleship Yamamoto while his soaring uppercut, the Shoryuken, and tornado kick were inspired by actual martial arts moves but heightened for the video game.
For the character's return in Street Fighter II, the designers decided to give him his usual white gi to underscore his Japanese heritage while increasing his musculature to match the other fighters and make it evident that he was a seasoned martial artist by the start of the sequel. While other characters would receive varying degrees of redesigns over the course of the franchise, Ryu's has stayed largely the same ever since.
Chun-Li was introduced as an undercover Interpol operative entering the world martial arts tournament of Street Fighter II to avenge her father's murder by M. Bison and dismantle his global criminal organization Shadaloo after rescuing kidnapped girls from the syndicate during the Street Fighter Alpha prequel trilogy. Following Bison's defeat in Street Fighter II, Chun-Li is unsure whether to abandon her law enforcement career and embrace her civilian life as she faces a resurgent Shadaloo in Street Fighter IV and V.
By the events of Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, Chun-Li has indeed retired from Interpol and leads a quieter life teaching a new generation of martial artists. After one of her students is abducted by the evil Urien, Chun-Li returns to her law enforcement career to recover the child and defeat the franchise's latest villains.
Chun-Li's Design and Special Moves
With only five weeks left in the development time for Street Fighter II, Capcom designer Akira Nishitani created Chun-Li as the franchise's first female fighter. Originally given pants, Chun-Li was redesigned to feature her familiar blue Chinese outfit with leggings at the end of development and given an increased musculature from her original designs to bring her to better physical standing among her male counterparts.
To differentiate her fighting style, Chun-Li incorporates Chinese kenpo with a particular emphasis on kicking attacks. Originally faster though weaker than other fighters, Chun-Li was rebalanced in subsequent installments of the franchise, including being given her own energy projectile attack, the Kikoken, as early as 1992's Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting. Since then, Chun-Li has become a major character in the resulting animated series and films based on the franchise and frequently makes cameos in Capcom spinoff titles.