|The King of Fighters, SNK Vs. Capcom character|
Profile image of Rugal Bernstein in Capcom vs. SNK 2, illustrated by Kinu Nishimura.
|First game||The King of Fighters '94 (1994)|
|Voiced by||Toshimitsu Arai (KOF '94-98, Capcom vs. SNK series, KOF 2002: Unlimited Match)
Norio Wakamoto (KOF 2002)
|Portrayed by||Ray Park|
|Fighting style||A hybrid of numerous martial art styles he mastered.|
Rugal Bernstein (ルガール・バーンシュタイン Rugāru Bānshutain?) is a video game character created by SNK. First introduced in The King of Fighters '94, he is a recurring boss in the The King of Fighters fighting game series. As the host of the tournaments from The King of Fighters '94 and '95, Rugal plans to turn all the competitors from the tournament into stone statues as part of his collection. Despite his death in '95, Rugal is still featured in following The King of Fighters titles which do not contain a storyline (nicknamed "Dream Matches"). He has also been featured in the SNK Vs. Capcom as a boss character.
His character has also appeared in other media related to The King of Fighters franchise, including comic adaptations and The King of Fighters live-action film. As the first boss character from The King of Fighters, the SNK staff created him to be one of the most difficult characters to defeat. His Omega Rugal form from '95 has been noted by the staff to be their favorite boss to the point they added him in the Dream Match titles. Publications for video games and other media have provided praise and criticism for Rugal's character.
Conception and design
The concept for making Rugal in The King of Fighters '94 was to make "the mightiest (most violent) and most evil boss character ever". Despite the difficulties in defeating him, Rugal has become the boss character with the biggest number of appearances in The King of Fighters series as he has been liked by players and developers. Due to his multiple "deaths" in the series, developers have joked with him, adding to his official profile that his hobby is resurrection. Flagship director, Toyohisa Tanabe, states that his fighting style was created to emphasize Rugal's strength as the series' first boss character. He also comments "going a bit overboard" with his Genocide Cutter technique damage ratio in The King of Fighters '94. His Dead-End Screamer special move was originally a technique in which Rugal breaks the neck of his opponent and crushes it. However, it was seen as lacking drama, so it evolved into a move in which he breaks his victim's neck, crushes the victim, and then further spins the victim around to do more damage, striking a pose at the end of the move. In The King of Fighters '95, Rugal appears as an enhanced version named Omega Rugal; developers liked him so much that they added him as the boss character in dream matches (KOF games with no storyline), commenting "He's the only character who truly represents the ultimate KOF boss". His The King of Fighters '98 move set was noted to be strongest of all his appearances, becoming the developers' favorite boss character.
Rugal stands 197 cm (6 ft 6 in) tall and weighs 103 kg (227 lb). In his first appearance in King of Fighters '94, Rugal is shown wearing red formal clothes and with his right eye covered, having lost it in a previous confrontation. After his initial defeat, Rugal appears in a battle outfit composed of a sleeveless green shirt, but still keep his red pants. In King of Fighters '95 Rugal keeps his formal clothes but when he becomes Omega Rugal, they are destroyed. His body is much bigger in this form, his skin becomes darker while his hair appears gray. From his right eye it appears a red light, and is shown using a prosthetic in his right hand's place. In following games from the series, Rugal's Omega form appears wearing his battle suit from King of Fighters '94. In the SNK Vs. Capcom video games, he is featured in his formal clothes in both his common and God form. Original drafts from Rugal showed his character using black glasses and having several wires connected from his chest to his hands. His Omega form appearance had chains along his trousers and tattoos on his chest, one of which being a tiger.
In video games
Voiced by Toshimitsu Arai in most titles, Rugal makes his first appearance as the boss character from King of Fighters '94. The plot from the game introduces Rugal as an incredibly rich arms and drugs trafficker who organizes a King of Fighters tournament to reunite the strongest fighters from all the world. Once the player meets Rugal, he will reveal that he wants to turn his victims into stone statues to add them to his collection of fighters. Once defeated by Kyo Kusanagi and his teammates, Rugal self-destructs his ship to kill his opponents, but fails. In The King of Fighters '95, Rugal organizes a new King of Fighters tournament to take revenge on Kyo. To this end, Rugal brainwashes Kyo's father, Saisyu, to kill him. After Saisyu is knocked unconscious, Rugal proceeds to fight as the boss character, in an enhanced form named Omega Rugal (オメガ・ルガール Omega Rugāru?). However, once defeated, he is unable to control his new powers and his body is destroyed. Although Rugal is not featured in The King of Fighters '96, the new tournament organizer mentions that the man responsible for taking Rugal's right eye and giving him greater power is the game's antagonist, Goenitz.
Since appearing in King of Fighters '95, Omega Rugal has appeared in later SNK-produced titles, serving as the final boss for both The King of Fighters '98 and The King of Fighters 2002, destroying his ship in the former and disintegrating in the latter when defeated. Omega Rugal also appears as a boss character in several other King of Fighters titles, including The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match and The King of Fighters: Neowave, with different criteria for the character to appear in each. In The King of Fighters 2000, Rugal appears as a non-playable assistant character (dubbed a "striker") to Kula Diamond. Arai reprises his role as the character's voice actor in each appearance, with the exception of the original King of Fighters 2002 in which the character is voiced by Norio Wakamoto, who voices Igniz from King of Fighters 2001.
In Capcom vs. SNK 2, in addition to his normal form Rugal appears as a new, enhanced version of himself named God Rugal (ゴッド・ルガール Goddo Rugāru?), serving as an optional final boss. Renamed "Ultimate Rugal" in English localizations, the character is the result of Rugal defeating and absorbing Street Fighter character Akuma's powers. This version of Rugal later appears as a card in SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters 2 Expand Edition.
In other media
Aside from the main series, Rugal has also appeared in other media from the King of Fighters series. Rugal appears in the first chapter from the spin-off manga The King of Fighters: Kyo, showing his fight against Kyo Kusanagi from King of Fighters '95. In 1995, the character was voiced by Banjō Ginga in the Dengeki Bunko-produced CD drama The King of Fighters - King of Fighters '94, a retelling of the story from the video games. In the manhua The King of Fighters: Zillion, one of the stories is based on King of Fighters 2002, in which Rugal confronts another lead character from the series, K'.
Japanese magazine Gamest ranked Rugal 48th on their list of the top 50 video game characters introduced in 1994, sharing the spot with Chang Koehan. Video games publications have commented on Rugal's character, adding praise and criticism. Retro Gamer praised the character, stating he "rocks hard...harder than Street Fighter 's M. Bison". GameAxis Unwired compared Rugal with Street Fighter 's Akuma in regards to their significacies to their respective developers, with Rugal called the "cheapest [boss] in SNK's games." 1UP.com praised the introduction of Omega Rugal in KOF '95, noting him to be "one of the most stylish boss designs in fighting history", although players could hate him due to how difficult it is to defeat him. However, they mentioned that one of the good points from KOF '96 was the absence of Rugal. Eurogamer reviewer Matt Edwards also commented that Rugal was very hard to defeat and that he started "a trend in the KOF series of notoriously overpowered bosses who are hard to take down". IGN's Jeremy Dunhan praised Rugal, describing how his character developed the new rules for the King of Fighters tournament, and noted the difficulty in defeating Rugal himself. Listing him as one of the "12 unfair fighting game bosses that (almost) made us rage quit", GamesRadar claimed that Rugal's difficult as a boss led gamers to coin the term "SNK Boss syndrome."
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