The idea behind a dream match game gathering fighters from different SNK IPs originated all the way back when Fatal Fury Special introduced a hidden guest character from another game; Ryo Sakazaki. I wouldn't be exaggerating if I say that thanks to Ryo that the King Of Fighters series was born. The influence of this character went beyond the closed doors of SNK and even triggered a reaction from their biggest concurrent at the time, Capcom Who mocked the creation of Ryo back then by posting an artwork showing Sagat holding a beaten fighter who looked like a mixed version of Ryo and Robert. This fighter will be further developed later as the joke character Dan.

Since he comes from another established franchise, it would be criminal to talk about Ryo's back story without diving into the series where he made his debut; Art of Fighting Especially that most of the events that happened in AOF are relevant in KOF and cannot be ignored. But it is important to keep in mind that KOF's timeline is different than AOF's. Art Of Fighting is a prequel to Fatal fury and shares the same universe with it. which also means that most of the characters in the former game are older than the ones in the latter. For instance, Ryo is 14 years older than Terry. This is one of the main reasons why KOF has its own timeline and why its characters never age. 

Everybody wanted to see who's the better fighter among Ryo and Terry while being relatively at the same age. Based on all this, this article will be divided into 2 parts the story of Ryo within the Art of Fighting's timeline and a second part focused on his adventure during the King of Fighters one.

Art Of Fighting Continuity

Art Of Fighting Continuity

1957, Ryo was born in Japan to a Japanese father and an American mother. Not too long after his birth, his family moved to the United States. Since his young age, Ryo was trained hard by his father Takuma to be his worthy successor and the heir of the Kyokugenryu Karate style

When Robert Garcia, the son of Takuma's best friend, was admitted to the Dojo, Ryo gained the perfect sparring partner, and soon enough, the two became rivals and best friends. The first tragedy in Ryo's life occurred when he was 10. His mother passed away in an unfortunate car accident.

Robert Garcia
Robert Garcia

However, Takuma had the feeling that someone was targeting his family and that his wife's death was no accident. He decided to go investigate after entrusting Ryo to take care of his younger sister Yuri who had just turned 6 at that time. ut days, Months, and even years passed without hearing from their father again. Ryo had to adapt to his new harsh life. In addition to raising his little sister while being a child himself, by partaking in construction work, He had to constantly protect his family's Dojo from the numerous thugs and criminals of South Town, The city that became the main hub of all sorts of outlaws. 

Luckily, his father's training proved to be most useful in Ryo's countless street fights. He established himself as a fearsome fighter and became to be known as the invincible dragon. 

During one of his fights, Robert, who had just returned from Italy to visit his friend, Informed Ryo that the Dojo was invaded by Mr. Big's gang during his absence. But the worst part was that his sister Yuri was kidnapped and was taken to South Town. Immediately, They both went after her trail, turning the city upside down in her search. Ryo and Robert had to fight many thugs who weren't' going to share what they knew unless they were beaten. Ryo met Mr. Big's personal bouncer, a skilled Muay Thai practitioner named King who, once defeated, was revealed to be a woman. King was forced to work for Mr. Big and hid her gender to defend herself from the dangers of South Town. Now that her secret was exposed, she decided to help Ryo finding his sister and guided him to her Boss's hideout.

King
King

Ryo finally reached Mr. Big and fought him. The kingpin was a tough opponent who put Ryo's skills to the test but in the end, was unable to win against the overwhelming strength of the invincible dragon. He told Ryo that Yuri was kept in a Karate gym near the harbor and that a much more powerful fighter awaited him there. 

Indeed, once Ryo arrived, he met his ultimate challenge in the form of a Karate master hiding his identity behind a Tengu mask. This mysterious fighter seemed to know all of Ryo's techniques and even used them himself with a higher level of proficiency. this man was the toughest opponent that Ryo had ever faced. 

He narrowly managed to defeat his formidable enemy after using all his strength and pushing himself to the very limit. Ryo was going to end his opponent's life when Yuri stopped him unveiling the true identity of the mysterious man in the most shocking revelation that nobody ever saw it coming It was Takuma of course. 

When he left them years ago to investigate the accident behind his wife's death, he discovered that Geese Howard, the corrupt police commissioner and the new crime boss of South Town, wasn't only behind the death of his wife, but also responsible for the rising criminal activities in the city. But before Takuma could do anything, Geese threatened him that he would kill his children if Takuma revealed his secret or took any action against him. Not only that, but he also forced him to become his most feared hitman for the purpose of eliminating his enemies. To preserve his honor, Takuma hid his identity behind the mask of a demon, creating his Mr. Karate persona.

Yuri Sakazaki
Yuri Sakazaki

But shortly before the events of the game Takuma, who grew tired of being used by Geese all these years, took advantage of his absence when he was on a trip abroad, and decided to rebel. But Geese ordered his right-hand man, Mr. Big, to kidnap his daughter which forced Takuma to come back to their organization and keep working for them. 

However, none of them expected Ryo and Robert to go on a total rampage in South Town in their search for Yuri fighting their ways among its thugs and finding Takuma in the process which put an end to his slavery by Geese.


Mr. Karate & Takuma

One year later, while he was training in the mountains, Ryo received an invitation to a fighting competition, the first King of fighters tournament ever and it was hosted by Geese. He intended to use KOF to recruit the best fighters in the world to complete his domination over South Town and at the same time, get rid of those who opposed him. 

In addition to Robert and Yuri who participated in the competition, Takuma also entered but without his Mr. Karate persona in an attempt to redeem himself as a master of Kyukogenryu Karate. The former bouncer of Mr. Big, King, was after the prize money of the tournament to pay for a surgery her younger brother needed, and So she enlisted herself in KOF as well. Ryo fought his way to the finals and faced Mr. Big, who participated for the purpose of defeating Geese and reclaiming his title as the boss of South Town. 

But he was defeated by Ryo again. It was then when Geese's men invited Ryo to a meeting with their boss. Once in the headquarters of the crime lord, Geese invited Ryo to join him in his conquest of South Town. Unsurprisingly, Ryo refused his offer, and the two engaged in a fight. After arduous combat, Ryo won. He had no intention of forgiving the crime boss for what he did to his family and was going to finish him. But Geese was saved by his men and succeeded to escape, promising that he would get his revenge. By defeating Geese, Ryo did not only foil his plans of taking over South Town, but He was also declared the champion of the tournament and thus was known as the first King of fighters. And to thank King for helping him in the past, he used his prize money to pay for her brother's surgery.

Few years after these events, Takuma decided to retire from fighting and entrusted his two Dojos to his son making him the new master of the Kyokugenryu Karate. Ryo took his duty very seriously and trained hard for years. He started having many students from different parts of the world. 

But staying in his family Dojos did not content Ryo he wanted to spread his martial discipline himself. After charging his most talented disciple, Kushnood, to take care of the gyms, Ryo traveled the world and participated in many tournaments to prove the strength of the Kyukogenryu Karate. And he did so while adopting his father's iconic persona Mr. Karate 2 was born.

King Of Fighters Continuity

King Of Fighters Continuity

Ryo was present in every edition of KOF since 94, always teaming up with his friend Robert. Sometimes, they're joined by Yuri in spite of Ryo always trying to keep her away from the tournaments. But he'd rather ally with her anytime than having to deal with his father in the same team. Takuma's eccentric personality always haunts Ryo and Robert even during KOF. 

Since they always seem to struggle financially, The Art of fighting team participates for the purpose of winning the competition's prize money. Although they never succeeded to be champions, they always ended up having new applicants to the Dojo thanks to their performance during KOF.

Sadly, they never stay for too long before they quit either because of Takuma's severe training or due to the Dojos busters who occasionally attack the new students. Because of that, the Sakazakis rely mainly on Robert's wealth to keep running the gyms and the hope of winning the prize of the next tournament. 

In the 2000 edition of KOF, Yuri begged King to take her place that year. Ryo welcomed King in the team as he had a lot of respect for her strength but Robert didn't like the idea of being separated from Yuri and accused Ryo of planning all this just to get close with King.

He challenged her in a kicking contest to prove her worth but when the match ended in a stalemate, he agreed to let her in the team. All this happened while Takuma was watching. He became convinced that there was something between his son and King. He totally supported this eventual romance. At the tournament's conclusion, when Zero launched a strike from his space-based canon at Southtown, King was about to be hit by the blast. But Takuma, in his most badass moment, single-handedly deflected the destructive beam while shouting that he cannot let the mother of his grandchildren die. He saved her life and embarrassed everybody to death at the same time. 

The Sakazakis would try again to hook Ryo and King up at the end of KOF 11. Yuri tricked both of them and set them up on a date, but it didn't go as they hoped. Since they were too curious to see what's going to happen between these two, Yuri, Robert, and even Takuma disguised themselves in silly costumes that fooled no one and pretended to be the restaurant staff. King understood what they were trying to do, got very mad, and flipped the table on everybody, including Ryo who had no idea what was going on. And he would continue to be oblivious about King and his family trying to hook them up As shown during the press interview at the end of KOF 13 when Yuri kept teasing King about becoming a member of the family. 

The financial state of the Sakazakis seemed to be improving recently mainly thanks to the new BBQ joint they opened. But Takuma, Yuri, and Robert became focused only on their new business during their private party which frustrated Ryo who believed that training should be the top priority. And so he expressed his desire to live in South Town to Kushnood who was ready to follow him.


Fighting Style & Powers 

As a practitioner of the Kyukogenryu style, Ryo can gather Ki energy from nature and use it as projectiles. His famous Kouken and Haoh Shou Kouken are the best examples of this. He can also use the said energy to empower his arm which allows him to deliver multiple punches at a high speed. Ryo can use 2 fighting styles, the first one was introduced in KOF 96 His Kouken ceases to be a projectile and becomes a close-ranged attack also his uppercut faces the camera. But when he uses his other fighting style, his uppercut faces the background instead and is considered as one of the strongest in the series with its large hitbox and fast recovery time. 

Ryo's famous desperate move, the Kyokugen-Ryu Ougi, or Kyokugen-style Secret Technique is a clear homage to Jotaro's Stand attack in Jojo's Bizarre Adventure and this is not the only time SNK took inspiration from this Manga. Arguably, Ryo's most feared technique is his Ichigeki his satsu, or Single strike special attack Although it doesn't deal a lot of damage in some iterations, once it's confirmed, it leaves the opponent in a stunted state and vulnerable to Ryo's deadliest combos. 

Unlike his stylish friend and trendy sister, Ryo is blunt, old-fashioned, and not very smart overall as he admitted himself but he is willing to overcome these flaws by training hard for if there is something that Ryo excels at and always serious about is training and discipline. Although he hates to team up with Takuma during KOF due to his goofy attitude he holds his father in high regard as he knows that he is a genius when it comes to combat. He loves facing him as an opponent and is always eager to test himself against the man that taught him everything. 

When it comes to Robert and Yuri, Ryo is very loyal and protective especially towards his younger sister. But he does want to see her grow up on her own and that's why he allows her to join other teams during some competitions. He has absolute trust in Robert and considers him his rival and best friend. 

Regarding his relationship with King, Ryo seems to see her only as a good friend although it's clear that the young woman has romantic feelings for him since the day he helped with her young brother's surgery. But, as mentioned earlier, Ryo is just too dense to notice. The next generation of the Sakazaki family isn't going to see the light of day anytime soon. 

I hope you enjoyed this article. Thanks again for reading.

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