The Street Fighter II series hadn’t long hit home consoles before ridiculous and long-winded methods of unlocking secret characters began to do the rounds. It turned out that Sheng Long wasn’t a real character but for the final arcade incarnation of their fighting phenomenon, Capcom went ahead and gave players what they wanted: a secret boss that could only be reached by winning every single round (rounds not to be confused with stages). Fulfil this requirement and the (then) enigmatic Akuma (known as ‘Gouki’ in Japan) would glide in from off-screen and dispatch M.Bison before tossing him aside and getting ready for you.
At first glance, you might think that Akuma was another lazy palette swap of Ryu but despite sharing the same Shotokan fighting style as Ryu and Ken, Akuma is a completely different beast. He’s faster, hits harder and his familiar special moves hit multiple times but Akuma can also teleport across the screen (gaining several frames of invulnerability in the process) and launch fireballs from the air. Holy crap. Let us also not forget his hugely power super move – Shun Goku Satsu a.k.a the ‘Raging Demon’ – which sees the screen go black while Akuma presumably brutalises the opponent.
|The Shun Goku Satsu in all its glory. Be afraid.|
The downside is that Capcom wisely chose to handicap Akuma with low vitality meaning that he takes damage a lot faster than the other characters in order to balance his superior offensive. Of course, this means that there’s a nice risk/reward factor to playing Akuma at a higher level since you need to be well versed in blocking and evading attacks in order to preserve his health bar. It’s also worth noting that Akuma can be an infuriating adversary under the control of somebody who likes to spam his range of fireball attacks from a safe distance.
In terms of Street Fighter lore, Akuma is the brother of Gouken (master of Ryu and Ken). He and Gouken were once students of Goutetsu before Gouken went his own way after deciding that he didn’t agree with the violent life-threatening skills taught by his master. Akuma however accepted everything, especially the Satsui no Hado (killing intent) and the Shun Goku Satsu (Instant Hell Murder) technique. Fully embracing the Satsui no Hado and becoming demonic in the process, Akuma killed Goutetsu (taking his prayer beads which became a signature piece of Akuma’s design) and later attempted the same with his brother Gouken although Gouken managed to survive the Shun Goku Satsu and return years later (as seen in the Street Fighter IV sub-series).
|Cyber Akuma...just say it to yourself again.|
Akuma wanders the world searching for the strongest of fighters to challenge in battles to the death. He has also tried to corrupt Ryu in the past and unleash the Satsui no Hado within Street Fighter’s most recognisable protagonist in order to see him reach his full potential. He also has his own secret island called Onigami Isle where he trains in between scouring the globe for worthy fighters. Some games feature an even stronger version of Akuma called ‘Shin Akuma’ which is basically Akuma no longer holding back. As if regular Akuma isn’t bad enough, Shin Akuma is faster and stronger still with the ability to throw double fireballs from the air. In Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition meanwhile, a further ‘unleashed’ version of Akuma called Oni is a separate playable character. With his blue colouring, image reminiscent of Dragon Ball’s Super Saiyans and OTT Ultra Combo moves, Oni is an extremely cool addition to the series.
Outside of the Street Fighter canon, Akuma has appeared in his fair share of Capcom Vs fighting games as a secret character and also a boss. In Marvel Super Heroes Vs Street Fighter for example, he appears as Cyber Akuma, a stronger robotically-enhanced version created by Apocalypse. Capcom Vs SNK sees Akuma absorb Rugal’s power and transform into a new (insanely strong) form of Shin Akuma. Proving his strength, Akuma manages to defeat Galactus in his Marvel Vs Capcom 3 epilogue and in SNK Vs Capcom: SVC Chaos, he ascends to the heavens to challenge God himself when earth holds no warriors strong enough to match his power. More recently, Akuma battles the main character in Asura’s Wrath via a DLC episode.
|Oni takes Akuma to a whole new level.|
A lot of Akuma’s appeal is derived from his design which marks him out as the definitive bad-ass karate master but his strength, abilities and darkness undoubtedly contribute. There’s also the fact that his roles outside of Street Fighter have seen him topple massively powerful foes and continuously push the limit of what’s possible. Perhaps though, it’s simply because he’s just so fun to play as. Teleporting around the screen and ruining opponents with big, damaging combos is akin to a graceful dance of death and never seems to get old. In any case, it’s hugely impressive that a secret character has managed to become so endearing to gamers and one of the most iconic faces in fighting games. Thankfully, it looks like Akuma isn’t going anywhere soon. Shoooosh!
Darkstalker90 Says: “Akuma is one of my favourite gaming characters of all-time and the first I play as whenever I get a new fighting game with him in the roster. While Ryu and Ken are easy to get to grips with, their fighting style has never really excited me but somehow Akuma changes everything with the way the player can string together combos of multi-hit special moves. The teleporting and trademark Shun Goku Satsu super move are also very cool. Being able to battle the likes of Ogre and Kazuya with Akuma in the recent Street Fighter X Tekken was just too awesome!”