How Capcom ruined Sean in Street Fighter

sean street fighter

Street Fighter 3 New Generation released in early 1997 as a direct sequel to Street Fighter 2, it's roster featured 10 unique characters, and one of those characters was Sean, a dark skin teenager with a shoto fighting style, dreads fade hairstyle and yellow gi.

Sean is introduced as a novice martial artist who is being taught by Ken Master in shotokan. He wants to improve his skills and ability, ultimately becoming the strongest fighter in the world.

As a Shoto, he uses the same fighting style as Ryu and Ken, although not as effectively, due to his inexperience. Leading to notable differences between his moves and theirs.

What's also interesting is that Sean was originally gonna be the only Shoto in the Street Fighter 3 series, but fans quickly expressed their disapproval.

As a young fighter representing a new generation, Sean's character design was fresh, hip and full of potential, a look which embodied Black urban culture from the 90s. His hair, melanated skin and love for basketball was practically a testament of this.

Street Fighter 3 Second Impact gave Sean the ultimate underdog story, which made him easy to root for, but at the time sealed his fate as somewhat of a weakling compared to the top dogs.

In summary, Sean entered the World Warrior tournament to prove he is worthy of training with Ken Masters, after repeated unsuccessful attempts to get the veteran fighter to train him. Sean advances through the tournament, until he is stopped and defeated by Ken himself.

sean ken

After beating Sean, Ken (finding Sean to be an annoyance) commands him to look for Ryu and not come back until he has defeated him. 

Sean locates Ryu and challenges him to a fight, but is beaten over and over again regardless of his unwavering resolve, to the point of serious injury when Ryu hits him with only a basic hadouken. After healing from his casualties, Sean spends an entire year training alone.

What began as a promising introduction to Ken's protégé quickly descended into despair, when Capcom double downed on his weakness in the third game, Street Fighter 3: Third Strike, turning the hungry fighter from an underdog into a complete joke.

In the third game, Sean enters the U.S Martial Arts tournament to prove that he has become a much better student since his previous encounter with Ken. In his ending, Sean is the winner of the U.S. Martial Arts tournament but it turns out to only be a dream because in actuality, he loses to a random fighter in the qualifying rounds.

street fighter 3

Ken tells Sean he did not prepare properly and needs to train harder next time. Ken decides to avenge Sean by winning the tournament. In this moment, Sean becomes demoralised but claims that he will win someday.

Sean's ending did more harm than good because it essentially turned him into a joke character and destroyed his credibility as a serious contender.

It wasn't just the fact he was easily beaten by a random fighter, but also how comically bruised his face was. It made him look extremely weak for a dude who had been training in solitude for an entire year. 

This comical angle didn't match Sean's character design or playstyle because in contrast he looked badass and had an unorthodox yet flashy moveset, which also made him extremely fun to use. Unfortunately for fans of the character, Capcom had a completely different perception of Sean.

Nerfed to hell

ryu street fighter

Sean was a unique take on the "shoto" archetype and was among the top characters in the game’s prior iteration, Street Fighter III: Second Impact. Though, Sean’s nerfed abilities in Third Strike left him much weaker than his prior state.

This drastic change somewhat turned him into the Dan Hibiki of Street Fighter 3. If you didn't know, Dan is widely regarded as a joke character and not recommended to be used for any serious competition. Which is ironic because Sean hates being compared to him.

Second Impact and Third Strike Sean are two completely different characters. Imagine Third Strike Ken with greater combo damage, way more versatility, a much better uppercut, and you've basically got Second Impact Sean.

sho ryu ken

Sean being so good in Second Impact but yet becoming awful in Third Strike was a terrible decision on Capcom's part, which left a bitter taste in everyone's mouth. It's really frustrating to just see how hard Sean had fallen. He wasn't just neutered, he was purposely made into a bad character.

To summarize, The Dragon Smash was nerfed in effectiveness and damage, reducing his most dangerous move to a standard attack. Sean's other moves and combos were adjusted until he had nothing about him that stood out.

To make you realize how annoying this was for players, let's briefly focus on the main protagonist of Street Fighter. Ryu is often considered the best fighter in the SF series. Now, visualize the developers removing Ryu's hadouken and making his combos cause half the damage they used to. That's how much they dialled back Sean. 

The character looked so cool and had a lot more flash, however ever since Third Strike, he has been treated like a complete dork, in terms of both story and fighting ability. Unlike his female counterpart Sakura.

Originally American

Sean's bonus stage in Street Fighter Third Strike

In New Generation, Sean's nationality and ethnicity was unmistakable. He rocked a dreads with fade haircut, loved to play basketball and to top that, his stage being set in New York whilst sharing American Wrestler Alex's Jazzy NYC theme was a dead giveaway. 

However during Street Fighter 3: Second Impact's development, Capcom decided to turn him Brazilian, which was an odd decision. Because for one, the name Sean isn't a common name in Brazil and neither is basketball. 

To add, Street Fighter is all about stereotypes. The characters always have some strong features from the country that they represent. Why would Sean play basketball and not football/soccer? Again, why is his stage set in NYC? 

In February 1997, an article from the now defunct Next Generation describes Sean as an American Ryu/Ken clone, pretty much confirming his original nationality. Sean being from Brazil was cool, but at the same time apart of his identity was erased.

black characters

If Capcom had intended to make Sean Brazilian from the get-go, then this wouldn't even be that big of a deal, but that wasn't the case. The company practically removed traces of what would essentially become the second playable African American character in the series' history and that didn't feel right.

But Capcom didn't stop there. Not content with changing the young fighter to Brazilian, the developers also made sure to confirm that Sean's paternal dad and grandfather was Japanese. This was cemented in stone when they gave him the last name Matsuda. A far cry from NYC inspired Sean.

If Capcom had intended to make Sean a Brazilian character with Japanese ancestry from the beginning, then it wouldn't have been an issue, but that obviously wasn't their intention. 

Capcom keep dropping the ball 

16 years later and Capcom had the chance to reinvent Sean's character in Street Fighter 5, but that didn't happen. Instead he now acts like a wuss on top of everything, and constantly gets outmuscled by his older sister, a newcomer who felt like an unnecessary add-on and replacement to his story arc.

Sean could've done without a bossy sister who emasculates him every chance she gets. Laura is a cool addition to the game, but her involvement with Sean has already been botched beyond repair.

Although Street Fighter V is a prequel to Street Fighter III, (meaning Sean is younger in age), it doesn't excuse the fact that he is still treated with little to no respect by Capcom. 

Let's not forget, Sean's character design also took a nose dive, especially when you compare it to his Street Fighter 3 art style.

In Street Fighter V Arcade Edition, an updated version of the game, Sean managed to regain some dignity. In the ending of Laura's Arcade ending, Sean is seen winning a fighting Tournament, which was a cool, but the damage had already been done.

The future

street fighter 6

With a current influx of black excellence making its way into the gaming industry with blockbuster gaming titles like Spider Man Miles Morales selling over 4 million copies, it's disappointing to see how Capcom have such a great opportunity on their hands to make Sean an icon of the Street Fighter series, yet have been unwilling or unaware of the potential.

The jigsaw pieces are literally set in place for Capcom; Sean is a young teen who uses the same fighting style as the two main protagonists of the franchise. The idea writes itself. He could literally be the face of the younger generation of Street Fighter characters and players.

Sean's chances of returning as a playable character in Street Fighter 6 seems good. He's one of the few characters from the 2D era of Street Fighter who didn't return in a playable sense, his forthcoming story in SF3 has been established and there's a slim chance that Street Fighter 6 moves past the SF3 timeline.

Though if Capcom does pull the trigger on Sean's return, let's hope the company manages to mature and treat Sean with the respect previous developers within the company never awarded him.

Sean is truly the personification of untapped potential, because in a world where Black Panther and Miles Morales have made it big in the eyes of the world, bringing Sean Matsuda to the forefront as an actually good and relevant character, would be a major win for Capcom, the Street Fighter franchise and fans.


Your thoughts?

  1. Great Article I agree with everything youve said,hopefully capcom realizes how impactful sean can be and brings out his full potential.

  2. Excellent article. I always remember how Capcom hasn't exactly represented Black people respectfully in the past with their caricatures. I mean hell, it's subtle but just look at how the original Japanese intro to SFII: World Warrior starts. I actually don't remember seeing the "altered" one is US arcades; it was always the Black man who got punched by a blonde White dude in every version I saw as a kid.

  3. Meanwhile Were introduced to his Sex positive sister and that damn walking abomination known as Elena makes it into SF4

  4. Then again at this point you should already know capcoms track record of portraying black characters your poof shouldve been there during the arcade intro of STREET FIGHTER 2

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