Ken Masters is probably the last person anyone would be surprised to hear about in Street Fighter 5. Ken and Ryu have been staple characters in the Street Fighter series, and it's hard to imagine a Street Fighter game without them in this day and age. However, the Ken Masters that was unveiled at San Diego Comic-Con last week is not exactly the Ken people remember from previous games in the series.
While many of Ken's trademark special moves return, he's far from the Ryu clone that he has been in the past. Most competitive players know the intricate differences between Ken and Ryu, and don't often refer to the two characters as clones, but at a casual level, most agree that Ken and Ryu have been pretty similar in the past. This time around that won't be the case as the two characters have completely different fighting styles outside of the handful of special moves they have in common. But enough with the foreplay, let's just right into what Ken has to offer in Street Fighter 5.
Ken retains his Haduken fireball, Shoryuken Dragon Punch, Tatsumaki Senpukyaku Hurricane Kick and the Step Kick from Street Fighter 4. Ken's main target combo is also present in Street Fighter 5 and you can cancel it into special moves as well. His Hurricane Kick has seen some minor changes. What used to be the light version of the Hurricane Kick is essentially gone, with the medium version taking its place and the heavy version now serving as the medium kick Hurricane Kick. The new heavy version is an arching Hurricane Kick that looks almost like an instant-air Hurricane Kick.
While Ken has always been known for his Dragon Punch, this time around it's been adjusted similar to how Ryu's was adjusted. It's now much slower than it has been in previous games and requires more precise timing to use properly. The heavy version is one of the lowest Dragon Punch attacks to grace a Street Fighter title and despite it being multiple hits, it's not uncommon to have the first hit connect and the next two miss, especially if you're not right next to the opponent when you use it. If you're trying to anti-air an opponent, the medium strength Dragon Punch should be your weapon of choice.
When it comes to the V-Trigger and V-Skill, this shows just how much of a close range pressure character Ken has become. His V-Skill is a forward dash movement. You can cancel normal attacks into the dash and cancel the dash into normal attacks. However, Ken can be hit during the dash if the opponent anticipates it's coming or has very good reactions. Despite this, the dash gives Ken huge pressure potential but canceling a crouching forward into a dash, then canceling it again into another crouching forward. You can mix in a throw instead of a second crouching forward and really start to mess with your opponent's head. It's something that will take some getting used to, but it's a powerful pressure tool in the right hands.
Ken's V-Trigger is similar to his V-Skill in that it involves a dash that Ken can be hit out of. However, after the dash the V-Trigger becomes active and Ken gets a buff to his special moves and normal attacks. Essentially everything Ken does becomes faster with less recovery time. His light Dragon Punch is very difficult to punish due to the faster recovery time, his normal attacks are all faster and his Hurricane Kick gets a larger hit box, making it much easier to land cross-up Hurricane Kicks.
Due to how unsafe Ken's V-Trigger activation is, you really have to be careful when you activate it. Your best bet is to land a combo and end it with a fireball, then immediately cancel that into the V-Trigger and continue your combo. If you try to activate after a blocked attack, chances are you're going to get punished for it. It's a great tool that can lead to big damage, but you really have to know when you can activate it.
Ken's critical art in Street Fighter 5 is very similar to his third super art in Street Fighter 3: Third Strike. It's basically his Shippu Jinraikyaku. You can combo into it, but Ken gets a lot of use out of his EX special moves, so you probably won't have a full super meter all that often. When you do and you combo into it, the damage is certainly worth the effort.