Ken was around the middle of the pack in Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo (ST). Rather than give him any single big boost like Ryu’s fake fireball, I decided to juice up several small things about him.
Jab Dragon Punch
During a lot of development, I gave Ken’s jab dragon punch total invulnerability, just like Old Ken had in ST. (In ST, each character has an “old” version with slightly different properties.) I figured that a lot of people wanted that change and it wasn’t overpowered for Old Ken to have it, so why not. After playing with it that way for a long time though, especially in our online beta test, I decided that it was just too mindless. The jab dragon punch is safe on block, so making it totally invulnerable means it's almost always the right thing to do, regardless of what the opponent is doing.
For the final version of HD Remix, Ken’s jab dragon punch is exactly like it was in ST: invulnerable on the way up, but his head is vulnerable at the height of the move. This makes it possible for other characters to hit the dragon punch if they cleverly time their own dragon punch-like moves a few frames after yours. I think the ST designers had this one right to begin with.
Strong Dragon Punch
The strong (medium) dragon punch is another story. I was always frustrated with this type of move in ST. It’s one of several 2-hit moves that don’t knock down on the first hit, but do knock down on the second hit. The intent was that you’d always get that second hit and knock the opponent down, but in practice, it often fails. It especially fails if you dragon punch the opponent’s limb from far away because you’re usually too far to get the second hit. In this case, the opponent can easily hit you back, even though you guessed right. I consider this a bug and these types of moves don’t appear to be working as intended.
My first fix was to make the move a 2-hit attack that juggled, so either hit would knock down. During development we had a bug with juggling system that allowed a few moves (such as Ken’s dragon punches) to go beyond the usual 3-hit juggle limit. As everyone saw in the online beta test, this allowed Ken to do two medium dragon punches to get a total of 4 hits, and usually a dizzy, too. We fixed the bug, limiting this to 3 hits (and no dizzy), but even then the ability to get 3 hits so often from this move was very strong.
I went a different direction, and made the medium dragon punch a one hit attack that always knocks down and is totally invulnerable on the way up. It’s exactly like Old Ken’s medium dragon punch. This works out really well because if you want the most invulnerability in a dragon punch, you can use the medium version (not the jab version!), but it also means your committing to a bigger move and that the opponent will probably be able to hit you back if you guess wrong. Incidentally, this system of a safer, mostly invulnerable jab dragon punch and a totally invulnerable medium dragon punch is exactly like Street Fighter Alpha 2. It worked out well in that game, so I went with that for SF HD Remix.
Fierce Dragon Punch
I gave the fierce dragon punch much more horizontal arc, similar to the huge arc Ken had in SF2: Champion Edition. Unlike Champion Edition though, the fierce dragon punch is not actually invulnerable.
The fierce dragon punch in ST also suffered from that same bug where you hit the enemy but don’t knock them down, and it was even worse than the problem with the medium dragon punch. The fierce version is 3 hits and only the 3rd knocks down so it was very common to hit the enemy, not knock them down, and then get hit back. To fix this, I made all three hits knock down and juggle. This means that if the opponent jumps in, you can now use a deep dragon punch to juggle for three hits (in ST, this would only get you one hit) and it does quite a bit of damage. A deep jab dragon punch does a lot of damage too though, so whatever.
I also kept the fierce dragon punch’s property to hit on the first frame. Hardly any moves in the entire game are able to actually hit on the very first frame they activate, but Ken’s fierce dragon punch and Blanka’s horizontal and vertical rolls can. This property means they can beat safe jumps (see my advanced tutorial about ST to learn what that means.)
Even though some players pressured me to tone down the arc on Ken’s fierce dragon punch, I stuck with it and claimed that it wasn’t overpowered. And when problems arose (see below) with one of Ken’s combos, I wouldn’t back down on keeping the fierce dragon punch a first-frame hitting move. So it took a kind of iron will to keep Ken in the state that you see him in the final version.
In summary, each dragon punch has its own use now:
jab - safest on block
strong - most invulnerable
fierce - biggest arc, juggles, hits on first frame, but least invulnerable and most unsafe
Roundhouse Hurricane Kick
In ST, Ken’s roundhouse hurricane kick had almost no use. In HD Remix, I made it travel much farther and move much faster. This was a somewhat controversial change amongst playtesters because it seemed powerful, but in practice, it wasn’t all that powerful. It let Ken punish a few things he couldn’t before, but it really wasn’t that big of a deal.
What was a big deal was that Ken could reliably hit people with the hurricane kick after his knee bash mixup. That mixup allows Ken to switch sides (or not!) with the opponent, and go for a low attack, which he can then combo into a hurricane kick. Two things you should know here: first, Ken’s hurricane kick (unlike Ryu’s) has a first hit that works against ducking opponents and second, in the Street Fighter 2 series, getting hit by a special move while you’re ducking causes you to stand up. That means that Ken’s knee bash mixup can very easily lead to him hitting you with an entire roundhouse hurricane kick. With the increased speed and range in HD Remix, it was even more likely to get all the hits and dizzy you. To prevent this, I had to reduce the dizzy power of the move by half.
I really wish we could have ended it there and shipped the move in that form, but another problem arose. It was possible to combo a fierce dragon punch after hitting with a roundhouse hurricane kick. Ken could do this in ST as well, but only on certain characters and the conditions to set it up were impractical. The range and speed of the new hurricane kick made this very possible, but difficult. I think it required a 1 frame window of timing, and that sometimes it was literally impossible because that 1 frame is dropped because of the way the game handles game speed. Even still, experts were pulling this off way too frequently and it was devastating in real matches. I had to fix this somehow.
It’s really too much detail to go into why it was hard to fix this, but it was really very hard. The variable dealing with how fast the hurricane kick lands was tied to how fast it rises in the first place, so messing with it would change the height of the move. Adding some recovery after it touched down was technically very difficult because so many parts of the code activated the moment it touched down. Making the fierce dragon punch not hit on the first frame was another solution, but I wouldn’t allow it on principle. With limited programming time allotted for gameplay changes, I was left with no choice but to slow down the new roundhouse hurricane, just to prevent this devastating combo. The final version does travel farther and faster than before, so it does have at least some use in getting across the screen faster and punishing some moves you couldn’t punish before.
Forward (Medium) Hurricane Kick
The medium hurricane kick also travels slightly farther, but it’s hardly even noticeable. This was just to make the jump between short, forward, and roundhouse versions a little smoother.
Short Hurricane Kick
The short version of the hurricane kick now has a shorter duration. This makes it more useful in going over Sagat’s low fireballs or in general anytime you want to go over a sweep and land quickly to dragon punch. I always thought the short version stayed in the air just a little too long in ST.
In ST, Ken has three different so-called Crazy Kicks, each with a different joystick motion. These three motions made the kicks generally confusing and they would come out when you didn’t want them. In HD Remix, I changed the commands for these kicks to be similar to the commands in Capcom vs. SNK2. Quarter circle forward + either short, forward, or roundhouse gives you each of the three different kicks, and holding the kick button down makes any of the Crazy Kicks cancel into an overhead. The actual properties of the kicks (speed, hitboxes, damage, etc) are exactly the same as in ST.
They’re just a little easier to keep straight in your head now. Note that, like before, you can easily combo a normal attack into the qcf+medium kick version and with good timing you can combo a sweep after the qcf+short version.
Ken’s knee bash hold is very powerful. Afterwards, he can walk under most characters and end up on the other side. This means that he might do a low attack from one side or the other side, and then either try for another knee bash or maybe a jab dragon punch. Or, against many characters, he can jump jab right after the knee bash and the spacing is just right for him to “safe jump” (again, see the tutorials on Capcom Classics Collection 2), which lets him go for another knee bash.
The knee bash is, in my opinion, the third most deadly repeated throw trap in ST. This is a close call, but I left it in. Ken is not considered a top tier character, and we’re trying not to nerf the power level of anything unless it’s absolutely necessary. Also, Ken gets so much gameplay out of this mixup that he’d lose a lot of fun-factor if this were removed.
As a bit of a compromise, I reduced the damage on the first hit of the knee bash. I don’t mind the fun gameplay resulting from his mixups, but his ability to get as much as 25% damage off each one was just too much.
I also reduced the range of the knee bash, but by an extremely tiny amount. Because the knee bash has so many advantages over his normal throw, this gives you at least some reason to choose his other throws over the knee bash when you’re walking in from far away.
In ST, there is a bug that prevents Ken from doing a reversal super. That means if he’s knocked down and the enemy makes him get up into a sweep (or any move), he can’t do a super on the first frame he stands up. This bug is fixed in HD Remix, but it remains unfixed in HD Classic Arcade. There’s also a dipswitch setting that lets you play with this bug fixed or unfixed in either mode, if you like.
Ken was a viable, middle-tier character before and now he’s a bit better all around (except for the lower damage knee bash). His strong dragon punch has great invulnerability. The big range on his fierce dragon punch also has several uses, such as stopping a pesky off-the-wall Vega even moreso than before. And his 3-hit anti-air fierce dragon punch, his simpler crazy kicks, and his longer-range roundhouse hurricane kick give him some fun new toys.