Street Fighter: The Strange Legacy of Sheng Long

It started innocently enough with a translation error. Street Fighter II had post-match quotes where the winner would deliver a one-liner to their bloodied opponent. Chun-Li would call herself the strongest woman in the world. Guile would tell you to go home and be a family man (the hypocrite). Ryu would tell you that, “You must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance.” But what he was supposed to say from the original Japanese version was “If you cannot overcome the Shoryuken, you cannot win!” As you might expect, this mistranslation left many players wondering what the hell this was supposed to mean.

Then Electronic Gaming Monthly decided to make things worse with an April Fools’ joke published in the April 1992 issue. The article in question, found in the Tips and Tricks section, claimed that Sheng Long was in fact Ryu and Ken’s badass master. In order to fight him, you had to select Ryu, get a perfect in every round, then get a draw against M. Bison for ten rounds without the two of you ever hitting each other. Then, and only then, would Sheng Long appear, throw Bison off-screen, and annihilate you with his impossible AI, insane speed, and what seemed like moves taken from various other characters.

While there were certainly readers who recognized the joke right away, there were many more who stumbled over themselves to try and find the ultimate fighter. In EGM’s defense, this infamous issue teased an April Fools’ joke on the VERY SAME PAGE as the Sheng Long article, so I guess this one’s really on us.

Needless to say, Street Fighter fans went to great lengths to try and unlock the enigmatic master. I even found this video of somebody following all of the steps in Street Fighter II for SNES. But even after the hoax was discovered Sheng Long never really went away. In fact, he became an accepted part of series canon.

The manual for the North American SNES port straight-up namedropped him as Ryu and Ken’s master, and when Malibu Comics published a short Street Fighter II comic run (infamously cancelled early by Capcom due to its brutal depiction of Ken being murdered), Sheng Long showed up in a couple scenes. M. Bison’s ending in Super Street Fighter II reveals that he’s surprised that not even “the ancient one” had appeared to challenge him. Many assumed he was talking about Sheng Long.

It wasn’t until a year after the hoax that we actually met Ryu and Ken’s canon master. In 1993, Japan’s Family Computer Magazine published a Street Fighter II manga by Masaomi Kanzaki that ran for three volumes and featured a very loose but entertaining take on the game’s story. A flashback in the series revealed Ryu’s master to be a man named Gouken, who in this continuity was murdered in a battle against M. Bison. Capcom would later adopt Gouken as an actual character in the games, but even that couldn’t truly kill Sheng Long’s legacy.

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