What Makes a Shoto a Shoto

Who would believe there are some people who aren’t exactly ecstatic that Kazuya Mishima from the Tekken franchise is coming to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate? The game already has an extremely deep roster and, not only is it flooded with dedicated Nintendo characters, but most companies have put their differences aside to allow some of their franchise characters to join. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate already has the likes of Sonic from the Sonic the Hedgehog series, Solid Snake from Metal Gear, Cloud and Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII, Joker from Persona 5, the Hero from the Dragon Quest games and many more. All of them were welcomed with open arms. So what’s with the lukewarm reception to Kazuya? I mean, his trailer looks super good, doesn’t it?

Well, the main complaint I seen is the roster already has Ryu from Street Fighter and Terry Bogard from Fatal Fury. So, it doesn’t make sense to include Kazuya because he’s another Shoto. Well, no. Kazuya isn’t a Shoto. He isn’t even a Shoto in the loosest definition of the word. But I do see where some of the confusion lies because it became a catch-all term for a certain archetype. It’s an archetype Kazuya doesn’t fit but he does have some passing semblance of what a Shoto is. So let’s go break down what a Shoto is in the strictest sense, the defining features of a Shoto and even some characters that have those characteristics, which we call Shoto-clones.

Let’s go start with where the term Shoto originally came from. It was coined by the USA team of Capcom during the heyday of Street Fighter II. They originally mentioned that Ryu and Ken use the Shotokan style of karate, which is an honest-to-goodness real life offshoot of the martial art. Capcom then got their act together and used the canon story developed in Japan, stating that Ryu and Ken actually use a toned down version of an assassination martial art, taught to them by their master. Even after the correction, the name stuck and, even to this day, fighting game fans still call them Shotos even though they aren’t.

Also, Ryu is in his fifties, apparently.

So, strictly speaking, that means the only characters who can be called Shotos are the ones who have trained using Ryu and Ken’s martial art or have developed an offshoot of that martial art by adding their own moves to it. This means that only the characters who belong in the Street Fighter series can officially be called Shotos. These would be Ryu, Ken, Akuma, Dan, Sean, Sakura, Evil Ryu, Kage and Oni. As these are the only characters who practice the martial art, they should be the only Shotos in the world.

However, it’s not that clear cut anymore because, as more and more fighting games were put out, the term shoto became a catch-all for every other character who displays the Shoto-like archetype. In fact, there are even some characters who belong in the official Shoto family who don’t share Shoto traits.

But what is the Shoto archetype? Well, in general, the archetype is defined by its special movelist. In order to be a “Shoto,” the character must have some kind of projectile attack, a jumping anti-air attack and some kind of attack that moves them forward. For the “classic” Shoto such as Ryu, the projectile attack would be his Fireball or Hadouken, his Dragon Punch or Shoryuken and his Hurricane Kick or Tatsumaki Senpukyakku. There is another thing that most people fail to include in this list and that would be the special attacks have to be executed by using a controller motion and not a charge motion.

Now, you may notice that a lot of fighting games other than Street Fighter have used this as the foundation for most of their main characters. Why is that? Well, that’s because the Shoto movelist is balanced in a lot of ways. You have a projectile attack that allows you to attack from a distance. You have an anti-air attack which enables you to cover opponents trying to jump in on you. And you have a forward moving attack that will let you move closer to your foe. Not only that, all of these special attacks are available to you at a moment’s notice since you don’t have to pull the joystick back or down for a split second to charge up the attack. As long as you can execute the motion correctly, your character will do the attack.

All of these special moves combine to allow the player controlling the Shoto to adjust their playstyle to their liking, for the most part, anyway. If you want to keep your opponent at a distance, you can control their forward movement with your projectile. If you want to play more defensive, you can throw Fireballs and, once they jump at you, anti-air them with a Dragon Punch. If you want to rush them down and keep the pressure, you’ve got the Hurricane Kick to help you get in.

This is why most, if not all, fighting games have a character who has these moves. They’re built to be used by people just getting into the game to familiarize themselves with the game mechanics since, well, every fighting game has them! Shotos do have a reputation of being simple because of it but that doesn’t take into account of their particular quirks as no two Shotos are created equal anymore. The best example have to be Ryu and Ken. While they started out to just be basically the same character with slightly different appearances in the early Street Fighter games, they have altered in such drastic ways since, making them unique characters who just so happen to share the same special attacks.

Anyway, since all fighting games do have a character who does the Shoto special moves, I’m still okay with classifying them as Shotos. More specifically, they’re Shoto-clones. There have been many Shoto-clones out there. You have Ky Kiske from the Guilty Gear games. There’s Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia from the Art of Fighting series. Andy Bogard and Joe Higashi can also be considered Shoto-clones now as well. Even the Street Fighter series has Shoto-clones as you have Sagat who pretty much mimics the Shoto moveset!

Weirdly enough, some Shoto-clones even are more Shoto-like than some of the genuine ones! That’s because some official Shoto characters, such as Sean and Gouken, don’t have the traditional special moves Shotos usually have. Sean normally doesn’t have a projectile unless you pick is as his Super Art. Gouken has a couple of moves reversed as his anti-air is his version of the Hurricane Kick and his rushdown attack is a strong punch to the gut. They’re still called Shotos, though, but only because they train using the martial art.

This leads us back to Kazuya Mishima. So why isn’t he a Shoto or, at the very least, a Shoto-clone? Well, obviously he didn’t study the same fighting style as Ryu and Ken as he’s in Tekken and he follows the Mishima-ryu style. But doesn’t he have a projectile, a jumping uppercut and a hurricane kick type of move? Well, not really. You can say that his Devil Beam in Devil form is a projectile but it’s not really there to control horizontal space like a traditional fireball. His uppercut isn’t meant to be an anti-air as its main purpose is to launch the opponent into the air to allow for juggle combos. Finally, his spinning kick isn’t really for rushing down but used for hi-low mixups. Even in Street Fighter X Tekken, his moveset doesn’t fill the Shoto playstyle. And that should be the closest he should ever get to being a Shoto!

I would definitely say Kazuya is on a different level of a Shoto. He’s a totally different breed. I guess the confusion lies in, not just his moveset, but also his look and standing in Tekken as a whole. Like Ryu, Kazuya Mishima is one of the main characters in Tekken. He’s also a traditional karate guy, much like Ryu and Ken. So I do get why some people mistake him as a Shoto. However, he doesn’t have what makes a Shoto a Shoto.

Do you think Kazuya should be branded a Shoto-clone? Let me know in the comments section below!

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