The 101 series is meant to help new players quickly get acclimated to a character and to give them the knowledge and tools to play effectively with a character as fast as possible. This series won’t be covering the complex aspects of each character, rather we will talk about the basic points of the character and what makes them strong. It is our hope that this series serves as a jumping-off point for you to more deeply explore the character.
What is he good at?
Ken is one of the basic, well-rounded archetype characters in SFV. While Ryu is geared a bit more toward the defensive side, Ken is the opposite, skewed toward pressure and mixing the opponent up. He’s got every tool someone needs to be an effective character; a fireball for play away, an uppercut to interrupt offense and a a myriad of other moves to keep him in your opponents face. While his length of his attacks isn’t stellar, if one of them lands the reward is heavily skewed in his favor. If you want to be a jack of all trades, but favor offense a bit more, Ken is the character for you.
Ken’s footsies and attacks at mid-range aren’t great, but his heavy attacks have massive reward if they crush counter an opponent. Though slow and punishable, you’ll want to pepper them into your arsenal to reap the rewards from time to time.
One of Ken’s faster and farther reaching attacks that is completely cancellable. While doing c.MK xx qcf.HP can be interrupted, Ken’s s.MP xx qcf.HP cannot, making it safer to use. Be careful as you must be standing to use this move and most characters often low hitting attacks at mid-range. There’s a good chance your legs could get hit. This also has some interesting uses with Ken’s V-Skill.
One of Ken’s big reward moves. Albeit slow to start and slow to finish, if Ken crush counter’s an opponent with this move, he can use his V-Skill attack or V-Skill run and follow up with a Shoryuken. Again, because of the time it takes to recover and the time for this move to start-up, it’s recommended you overuse this move, but rather carefully pick your spots.
As a basic “shoto” character Ken comes equipped with three things: A dragon punch, a hurricane kick, and a FIREBALL. While Ken’s isn’t as good as Ryu’s, he still has the option to use Hadouken’s when far away from his opponent. When the opponent cannot reach you is probably the best time to use this as the move is slow to recover, and if the opponent jumps in one time, you’re gonna be in for a world of hurt.
Good Anti-air and has the ability to crush counter opponents, although very unlikely. Works well if the opponent jumps and will land right in front of Ken or they are jumping over Ken. The forward range of this attack is pretty limited, so best not used if the opponent jumps from far away.
Ken’s tried and true, signature move, the Shoryuken. Has upper body invincibility and will not lose to air attacks. If you need to hit someone jumping in and can input the dragon punch motion fast enough, this should be your go to move, without exception.
While c.HP and dp.MP are good if the opponent is close to Ken, there are some cases where the character will jump and attack from far away. In such circumstances, the heavy version of Shoryuken is the way to go. It’s got some good invincibility but most importantly the forward range on this move is massive.
c.LK, c.LP, s.LK xx dp.HP
Ken’s quick, low damage, hit-confirm from a light attack. If the opponent is blocking, you can end the move at s.LK to stay safe, but if you’ve confirmed that you hit them, cash out with the heavy shoryuken for good damage.
c.MP, s.LK xx dp.HP
Always good to keep this in mind if during pressure you connect a c.MP. The s.LK will connect if you’re close.
c.MP, b.MP > s.HP xx qcb.HK
Great combo in terms of damage, stun output and moves the opponent toward the corner really really far, and leaves you the opportunity to mix up the opponent. Be careful if the c.MP is a counter hit as it will sometimes mess up the combo and your b.MP may not connect at all.
f.HK, qcb.LK, dp.PP
Ken’s overhead step combo. do the EX Shoryuken as quickly as possible, as the timing can be a little tight. This takes nearly a third of an opponents life from a single overhead, so always keep this in your back pocket, if the opponent keeps crouch blocking. If your opponent is in the corner when you land the f.HK, you can use dp.HP to save resources, but note that it will do less damage than using the EX meter.
c.MP, s.LP, s.MP
c.LP xx s.LP, s.HP
Ken’s medium punches are all great tools to pressure your opponent with. His first frame trap, c.MP, b.MP is a fairly tight frame trap which will catch any non-invincible attacks that opponents try to sneak in between your attacks. This does require a fair bit of concentration as you have to check whether the b.MP hit. If it hits, you can cancel into his target combo with HP afterward and follow up with a shoryuken [dp.HP] or tatsu [qcb.HK]. Be careful as if you accidentally perform the b.MP > HP target combo when the opponent is blocking, you can be hit afterward. You can make the string safe if you have some EX meter, by cancelling into EX fireball as a last resort.
c.MP, s.LP, s.MP is for opponents who try to attack back once there is some distance between Ken and themselves. On hit, you can follow up with MK version of tatsu [qcb.MK]. If you have really practiced it and can confirm the hit, I recommend learning to follow up with HK tatsu [qcb.HK]. Regardless of your skill level, You always have the option of doing EX tatsu [qcb.KK]; this does great damage and moves the opponent relatively far to the corner. If the opponent blocks the whole string, the final s.MP will miss.
Remember when I said you should pepper Ken’s high reward moves into your gameplay? The last frame trap is a great example of that. When doing c.LP xx s.LP, s.HP, if you do this move directly you can be interrupted before the s.HP, however if you hold back when you do s.LP and move back just a smidgen after the opponent blocks the attack before doing s.HP most quick attacks your opponent can do will whiff and miss you completely, and the s.HP will smack them.
For the frame trap above, if the opponent blocks the first two hits, the last hit won’t actually connect. It will miss completely. Because of this unique situation you can immediately press V-Skill afterward and if the opponent presses a button and gets hit by s.HP, Ken will immediately run forward. You can hold the V-Skill and actually combo into the V-Skill kick if done correctly. If the opponent blocks and the s.HP misses, the V-Skill run will not come out. This is an advanced technique known as an empty buffer. Talk about the best of both worlds!
If you’ve done it correctly, you can do s.HP xx V-Skill, qcb.LK, dp.HP
Okizeme [Knockdown Pressure]
Ken’s Knockdown pressure can be a bit tricky. He basically gets a great reward if he guess right and hits the opponent but if he guesses wrong or the opponent blocks, he has a hard time safely continuing pressure. Because he has a run [V-Skill] and a normal forward dash the set-ups for attacks can be a bit complicated. We’ve tried to simply as best we could using the flowchart’s below.
After the HK tatsu Ken can use his regular forward dash and work with a fairly straightforward mix-up as follows:
f.dash, c.MP or Throw [c.MP follows up into s.MP xx qcb.MK, dp.PP]
f.dash, s.HP [s.HP will be a crush counter if it counter hits, and you can follow up with V-Skill, qcb.LK, dp.HP]
After Shoryuken, Ken’s options are a bit trickier to remember. You can either follow up with:
V-Skill [MP+MK], c.MP or Throw [Like before, you can follow up c.M pwith s.Mp xx qcb.MK, dp.PP]
V-Skill [MP + MK], s.HP [Like before will be crush counter if it counter hits and you can follow up.]
As one of the more well-rounded characters Ken gets decent defense options for SFV. With meter he has access to his EX shoryuken which will pretty much blow through anything without fail. In addition to this, his V-Skill is fairly straight forward and leaves him with a bit of breathing room afterward.
Ken’s V-Skill is pretty useful as it allows him to close the gap between he and his opponent fairly quickly in order to continue offense or to continue combos. By continuing to hold the V-skill buttons down he can cancel the end of the run into a kick as a combo extender as well. The regular run is great to use if the opponent is hesitant to press buttons and attack at mid-range. It’s your chance to sneak in a throw here. Ken’s normal attacks can all be canceled into a run, with the safest attack into run being s.MP. Be careful as you can still be hit during this time. It’s best to use these kinds of tactics when the opponent is being overly defensive.
Recommended V-Skill Combos
s.HP xx V.Skill, qcb.LK, dp.HP
s.HP [Counter] xx V.Skill, b.MP > HP xx qcb.HK
Ken’s V-Trigger’s and their uses are easy to understand. You should ask yourself the following question when choosing V-Trigger: “Is my opponent Rashid or Guile?” If the the answer is yes, pick V-Trigger II, else V-Trigger I.
V-Trigger I is a basic power up on all of Ken’s kick attacks, adds new properties to his special attacks and allows him one combo extender from many of his moves upon activation when he automatically runs forward. The difficult part here is that it takes longer to fill than V-Trigger II. You may have to give up the option to use V-Reversal to use V-Trigger I in a match.
Recommended V-Trigger I Combo:
s.HP xx V-Trigger, s.HP xx V-Skill, qcb.LK, dp.HP
V-Trigger II isn’t very impressive if you’re using it for the damage. At best it adds about 50 damage to his regular combos which all things considered is bad resource management. That being said, it is a great way to interrupt characters with relatively tricky or safe fireballs. In Rashid’s case, if Ken has V-Trigger II, and Rashid tries to do an attack canceled into his fireball, the Ken player just needs to mash HP+HK and it will eat through the attack and deal a good bit of damage. It also has a unique vacuum effect which pulls in enemies who are just outside of Ken’s range. Unfortunately using this does not grant Ken much knockdown pressure. While you can mash buttons to extend it and do more damage, it’s recommended you don’t, and instead conserve the remaining V-gauge to shut down your opponents options.