Ken (ケン, Ken) is a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. He was announced as a newcomer during the November 1st, 2018 Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Direct, alongside Incineroar and Piranha Plant. He is an Echo Fighter of Ryu, thus being classified as Fighter #60ε.
Reuben Langdon, Ken’s English voice actor since Street Fighter IV, reprises his role in the overseas versions. His Japanese voice actor since Street Fighter III: Third Strike, Yuji Kishii, reprises his role in the Japanese version.
How to unlock
Complete one of the following:
With the exception of the third method, Ken must then be defeated on Boxing Ring.
Being the more aggressive "shoto" compared to Ryu, Ken shares most of his attributes with some slight tweaks. As a medium-heavyweight of average size and mobility, Ken has decent frame data and damage output, as well as a dependable ground game due to his decent traction and above-average dashing speed. However, other attributes are polarized in an attempt to replicate the physics of Street Fighter; Ken's walking speed is extremely slow, and while his air speed is average, this is counteracted by his moderately high falling speed and short jumps. Additionally, he has very low air acceleration, and his air friction is uniquely locked at 0 while jumping, causing his jumps to follow a fixed "arc" unless the player steers them manually. Finally, Ken's fast fall increases his falling speed by 40% instead of the usual 60%. Overall, this grants Ken effective burst movement through dashing and jumping, but forces him to commit when approaching through the air and makes it difficult to land or move short distances.
Despite his average attributes, Ken is one of the most unique fighters in Ultimate, as he has access to many variations of both his standard and special attacks (a trait only shared with his base fighter, Ryu). His jab and tilts can either be held or tapped; tapped attacks are faster and usually combo well into themselves, while held attacks have greater KO potential and can serve as combo finishers. This also applies to his special moves (other than Focus Attack), which gain different effects like increased power or altered hitboxes when the button is held; they also see an increase in power when used with the original Street Fighter inputs. This effectively gives Ken two movesets—one for starting combos and racking up damage, and the other for scoring KOs. This versatility gives him access to potent true combos and mix-ups, leading to a strong punish game overall.
Ken's standard attacks are also unique in that most of them (even his tapped tilts) have a freeze frame multiplier of at least 1.8x, making them surprisingly safe on shield given their poor range and average damage output. This grants Ken an effective means of applying shield pressure and make some of his combo starters difficult to escape.
Ken's grounded moveset boasts considerable utility. His tapped jab and down tilt both hit on frame 3, making the former useful for relieving pressure, and the latter excellent for extending combos due to its launch trajectory being useful for followups, such as grabs. Tapped up tilt's low knockback, high speed and active frames make it effective for combos, either into itself, Shoryuken, or even down aerial at high percents near the ledge. Held down tilt can be canceled on hit into a special move, making it effective for shield pressure and damage-racking even at high percents. Down smash is quite powerful for its speed, and up smash lowers Ken's hurtbox while charging. Both tapped forward tilt and held jab are altered at close range, both becoming very potent at starting combos into his special moves. Additionally, Ken will automatically face his opponent in 1-on-1 matches while standing on the ground, making it considerably easier to land his effective ground attacks.
Ken's aerial moveset is effective as well. Neutral aerial is a sex kick with low knockback and has only five frames of landing lag, making it useful for combos and kill confirms even at high percents. Forward aerial is quick, highly damaging and has good range; it can be chained into itself through repeated jumps, and its sourspot deals high shield damage. Up aerial has fast startup, a fairly active hitbox and decently high reach, making it useful for juggling. It is also reliably follows up into Shoryuken. Both up and down aerial are also able to auto-cancel from a short hop.
Complementing Ken's moveset and combo potential is his wide array of powerful finishers; some of his held tilts, smash attacks and aerials are very capable KO moves due to their high speed. Held up tilt grants upper body intangibility on frames 4-10 while hitting on frame 7, making it deceptively safe for KOs when combined with its speed and tapped up tilt setups. Up smash makes an effective substitute for held up tilt as a finisher, and its wide hitbox can catch aerial approaches. Ken's forward smash has long range, fast startup and is his strongest standard ground attack, making it useful for hard punishes. Back aerial is Ken's strongest aerial, and is fast and has good range despite its small hitbox. Forward aerial also serves as a decent KO move, enhancing its already impressive utility. Finally, down aerial is a powerful meteor smash with fast start-up and long duration, making it a deadly edgeguarding tool. Combined with his excellent combo ability, Ken's punish game is incredibly effective and versatile, being able to rack up damage or KO very easily after connecting with almost any attack.
Ken's signature special moves are also effective in their own ways. Hadoken is a large ki projectile, with three travel speeds based on input method; the standard version is capable of locking, while the input variation deals more damage. Tatsumaki Senpukyaku propels Ken forward, hitting multiple times throughout the attack, and potentially leading to followups. While Ken's signature Shoryuken serves as his main vertical recovery move, it is most well-known for its offensive utility, due to its sweetspot's high knockback, multiple powerful hitboxes, and brief intangibility (frame 5), making it both a powerful KO option and a potent anti-air. The input version of Shoryuken has increased KO power, even longer intangibility (frames 4-6, with arm intangibility frames 1-14), and lower landing lag, and can easily be chained into from Ken's other moves. Focus Attack grants Ken heavy armor against a single hit, and incapacitates opponents when at least half charged, allowing for followups. It can also be canceled on hit, after tanking a blow, or even while charging, allowing Ken to fake out with a shuffle that also provides horizontal recovery distance. His close held neutral attack, first two hits of tapped neutral attack, close tapped forward tilt, held down tilt, and all aerials can be canceled into special moves, allowing Ken to combo into Shoryuken for KOs, Tatsumaki Senpukyaku for extending combos, and Focus Attack for mixups and safety.
Outside of the standard special moves, Ken also has access to the Oosoto Mawashi Geri roundhouse kick and the Nata Otoshi Geri crescent kick using inputs only. The former is a powerful KO option at the edge with much more safety than his other special moves, while the latter is a combo extender that leads into either a forward smash, a down smash, or even a Shoryuken with proper reading. Furthermore, both attacks can be cancelled into Inazuma Kick, which deals heavy shield damage, further complementing his ability to pressure and deplete shields with his lengthy blockstrings.
Lastly, Ken has a long-distanced recovery and is surprisingly difficult to combo, traits not shared with most heavyweights. Tatsumaki Senpukyaku has large hitboxes and doesn't cause helplessness; this combined with canceled Focus Attack's armor and momentum boost grants surprisingly effective horizontal distance and protection. Shoryuken travels a good vertical distance, reaches above edges, and can stage spike reckless edgeguarders. Focus Attack also serves as an effective combo breaker, and neutral aerial and input Shoryuken both grant high speed and intangibility, and can even lead into combo or KO opportunities respectively. These traits allow Ken to survive to very high percents when used effectively, which also allows him to take full advantage of rage.
Despite his abundant strengths, Ken has his weaknesses as well, most of them shared with Ryu. Though his recovery travels a long distance, it becomes very short if extendable elements, such a Tatsumaki Senpukyaku, cannot be utilized. Focus Attack requires a brief charge before it can be canceled. Tatsumaki Senpukyaku's long duration and low damage makes it vulnerable to being interrupted by long-ranged attacks, and he can only use it once without landing or suffering hitstun. Ken's falling speed, low jumps and poor air acceleration make it difficult to recover from below the stage, as Shoryuken's recovery is almost strictly vertical and has high endlag, making Ken's vertical recovery easy to predict and interrupt. While Ken excels at shield pressure, his grab game is sorely lacking; his throws have high damage, but none of them have effective follow-up or KO potential. Down throw is his only combo throw at very low percents, and the extra utility of his throws (down throw instantly breaking shields, and up throw's kick KOing bystanders) does not apply in a 1-on-1 setting, making them situational.
Ken also suffers from a weak neutral game. Despite his good frame data (especially for his tapped tilts and neutral aerial) and decent running speed, his slow walking speed and short range hinders the otherwise great utility of his tilt attacks, which gives him trouble against characters who possess disjointed hitboxes, especially when combined with his tall stature. Ken's only projectile, Hadoken, is punishable if used carelessly due to its long endlag, weak damage and low priority. Aside from the advantages granted his neutral aerial and Focus Attack, Ken's fixed arc jumps make his aerial approach highly committal and thus very predictable. These issues force Ken to play patiently and take advantage of any opening, as he has trouble against opposing camping. Focus Attack's utility is also match-up dependent, as it becomes much less effective against fast or multi-hitting moves (such as Roy's forward aerial or Cloud's Cross Slash, respectively). Because Focus Attack is also Ken's main method of escaping combos, this makes him susceptible to certain combos and juggles due to his high weight and quick falling speed, and his slower fast-fall compared to most other characters occasionally makes it difficult to land safely.
Finally, Ken struggles to "force" early KOs, as his KO potential relies heavily on executing combos. While Ken does possess some powerful moves, like back aerial and sweetspotted forward smash, these usually require hard reads to land, and most of his other moves have low knockback scaling due to being tailored for combos. Ken's superb combo ability does largely compensate for this, but without accounting for opposing SDI, or without full knowledge of Ken's moveset, setups and combos, he can have a difficult time taking stocks. Ken's multihit special moves can be fallen out of if not used properly, leading to him being unsafe, or even punishable if he is not careful. Finally, the emphasis on Ken's unique inputs means that his non-input special moves have lower power, and a mere slip of the hand can be more detrimental than usual, at worst even causing a self-destruct while recovering.
Overall, Ken is a combo-oriented fighter with a fearsome offensive ability, as his unique mechanics deliberately give him access to powerful true combos essential to the competitive success of most characters; his ability to trap opponents in hitstun or shield pressure, multiple options for escaping or negating combos, and dependable recovery all make Ken very rewarding and unpredictable. However, his polarized movement, mediocre vertical recovery, and lacking approach make him difficult to play optimally. His high learning curve in particular is perhaps his biggest issue; much practice is generally require for his input specials to use them reliably and consistently, rather than accidentally inputting the wrong move.
In spite of his weaknesses and high learning curve, Ken's results and representation are more notable than Ryu's. Some players choose to utilize both accordingly to play to either's strengths, whether it be reliable damage and zoning or massive combo opportunities and options.
Differences from Ryu
Ken is considered the original "Echo Fighter" in fighting game history, but unlike other Echo Fighters in the game, Ken's differences extend beyond visual changes and damage distribution, using the gameplay differences from Super Street Fighter II Turbo onward to distinguish him from his mirror character, Ryu. He primarily trades Ryu's stronger knockback from single hits and zoning capabilities in exchange for more combo routes and damage-racking capabilities, similar to their differences in their home series. His grounded movement is slightly faster than that of Ryu's, and a handful of his attacks have entirely different properties as well.
Since Ken has multiple entirely different moves from Ryu, he is near-universally accepted to be the most unique Echo Fighter, being the only Echo Fighter that is a semi-clone. As such, he, much like fellow Echo Fighters Chrom and Lucina, is not expected to share a tier list spot with his base fighter, and is expected to be legally allowed to be used with his base fighter in Squad Strike.
Like Ryu but to a much greater extent, Ken has been buffed overall in game updates so far, with most of his significant buffs coming in the 3.1.0 update. Many of his multi-hit moves connect more reliably and have a lower SDI multiplier, and more importantly, his moves that can be special-canceled have a longer window to do so, making his combos more consistent. His held, close neutral attack has completely changed for the better, now functioning as a reliable combo starter at a much wider percent range.
Update 7.0.0 buffed Ken even further. His overall shield is bigger, making it harder to shield poke him. His down tilt angle change was a mixed bag; it is now easier to combo into his Tatsumaki Senpukyaku, but it is now harder to combo into his Shoryuken. His pivoting leg is now invincible during his Tatsumaki Senpukyaku, making moves like Ness's PK Fire no longer work. The Tatsumaki is also stronger overall. The biggest change however, was to his down smash. It is now possible to cancel his down smash with a special move (at the expense of less shield damage), vastly improving his offense game. Another, albeit undocumented, buff to his down smash is that it is now possible to Kara Cancel the down smash charging animation. Kara Cancel was already possible but it could only be down during the first four frames of the down smash. Because of this, many players wonder if this change was an unintended side effect or intentional.
For a gallery of Ken's hitboxes, see here.
Note: All numbers are listed as base damage, without the 1v1 multiplier.
Unique to Ken, he has two additional special moves that are performed only by input. Both moves, each being a variation of roundhouse kicks, originate from Super Street Fighter II Turbo. These moves can only be used on the ground, with only the attack button.
Ken can perform a special move out of certain normal attacks, a mechanic known in his home series as special-cancelling. By pressing the special button or doing the command input after connecting with a normal attack on hit or on shield, Ken will cancel the endlag of the normal attack and perform the move. The normal attacks that can be canceled include the first two hits of neutral attack, tapped and held down-tilt, tapped up-tilt, and proximity forward-tilt and held neutral attack. He is also capable of doing so with his aerials. Special-cancelling allows Ken to perform blockstrings and hit confirms into Shoryuken for a kill, Tatsumaki for a combo, Hadoken for safety and pressure, and his roundhouse kicks for mixups and KOs at the edge. He can also bait the opponent out with a special cancel into a Focus Attack, further increasing mixup potential.
In competitive play
In the early stages of Ultimate, Ken and his original fighter Ryu barely had any representation. This was due to their high technical learning curve thanks to their fighting style inputs, and problems with approaching due to their mobilities and issues against projectiles. Due to the perception of Ryu at the time being lackluster from the nerfs he received from Smash 4, Ken was viewed more positively as he had access to his input kicks and slightly better mobility, though he was nonetheless perceived as a mid-tier at the time.
Patches slowly improved the perceptions of both Ryu and Ken, with most of their current buffs being shared between them. Patch 3.1.0. granted Ken some noteworthy buffs to encourage his close-quarters fighting style, with his held jab being retooled into an excellent combo starter, and giving more leeway for him to input special moves from many of his attacks. Ken's buffs widened the gap between his counterpart Ryu and significantly improved his perception in the metagame in comparison to him, as they granted Ken a newfound, formidable combo/damage racking ability that could end stocks from a single string of attacks. As a result, Ken gained more representation and was seen as a high tier character.
Following that, Patch 7.0.0. gave Ken even more buffs, with Tatsumaki Senpukyaku having intangibility on the legs and being able to cancel down smash into any special. Considering Ken's already high perception, this further improved him in the eyes of professionals, and he is often considered a dark horse candidate for a top tier or upper high tier. As with previous patches, Ken was commonly considered significantly better than Ryu due to his access to better mobility, a wider array of combos, a useful Tatsumaki Senpukyaku (which could initiate combos) and a feared KO tool in Shoryuken, which could KO as early as 90% and was easy to combo into. As a result of this, Ken has consistently been granted widespread representation from professionals especially when compared to Ryu, with players such as Riddles, Nito, Venom, Sandstorm, and takera earning good results with the character.
Any number following the Smasher name indicates placement on the Fall 2019 PGRU, which recognizes the official top 50 players in the world in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate from July 13th, 2019 to December 15th, 2019.
Classic Mode: Red-Hot Rivalry
All of Ken's opponents are rivals to the main character of their franchise of origin. Because Crazy Hand represents the destruction of Master Hand’s creations, Crazy Hand is encountered in Master Hand’s place on lower difficulties.
Role in World of Light
Although Ken does not appear in the World of Light opening cutscene, he was vaporized and later imprisoned alongside the rest of the fighters (sans Kirby) when Galeem unleashed his beams of light.
Ken's Fighter Spirit can be obtained by completing Classic Mode. It is also available periodically for purchase in the shop for 500 coins. Unlocking Ken in World of Light allows the player to preview the spirit below in the Spirit List under the name "???". As a Fighter Spirit, it cannot be used in Spirit Battles and is purely aesthetic.
In Spirit battles
As the main opponent
Character Showcase Video