Sunday, December 16, 2012

KOF Finales: 94

(For those who are just dropping into my blog, this is one in a series of posts I'll be doing that will go over the finale of each King of Fighters game.  It's supplementary material for a series of articles for those who want to catch up on the KOF plot while I go over every game in the main series.)

After you’ve beaten all the other teams, a lovely woman named Mature tells you that you’ve won this year’s King of Fighters tournament, and that the host would like to personally meet you.

The guy must use 100 dollar bills to light his fireplace, because he can afford to have you travel by chopper to his giant personal aircraft carrier, the Black Noah.  Once inside, you meet the sponsor face to face.

A museum and an aircraft carrier?  This place has everything!
He reveals himself to be Rugal Bernstein, an absurdly rich and powerful arms dealer who loves to fight others.  He tells you those statues around the room are all fighters he’s defeated and cast into liquid metal to make into trophies, much to the horror of your team.  You can probably guess where this is headed.

Do we still get the tour?
But since the statues will get in the way there, he instead takes you to his special arena, though it’s more a control room than a place for fighting, but that’s part of King of Fighter’s charm.  It doesn’t go for what’s practical.  It goes for what’s fun and what’s cool.

You may notice his pet panther in the background, in case his badass villainy wasn't apparent enough.
The final stage really shows off how grand Rugal lives.  The room has an overlooking view of his aircraft carrier (with a few planes on it), pictures of himself on the walls, and a holographic display I assume is an interface on a large table in the middle.  For an extra grandiose look, you can also see intricate carvings on the table, golden masks on the walls to the side of it, and outside there are two giant carvings of eagle heads sticking out from the sides of where the room is.  Combine that with the monitors and switchboards placed throughout, and you have one of the fanciest looking control rooms I’ve ever seen.  Rugal travels in style, and thanks to SNK's strong attention to art detail, that's excellently conveyed.

Too bad Rugal himself doesn’t look as good.  He looks better in his other appearances in the series, but starting out, his cutscene artwork and character sprite is awful, even if the concept of his design is actually quite good.  He looks like he’s always wincing in the cutscenes, and in battle, he lacks so much detail, his face looks like a muddy mess of pixels.  The fact that he's missing his right eye is one of his defining traits, but you could never tell here.

This is probably due to 94's messy psuedo-realistic art style.
You’ve got bigger things to worry about though.  When it comes to broken, inhumanly perfect AI, there are none that can match Rugal Bernstein.  He is notorious for being one of, if not the, hardest fighting game bosses ever made.  I try not to give him that credit in KOF 94 though, because it’s for all the wrong reasons.

Get used to those words, because you're going to be seeing them a whole hell of a lot.
Starting out, Rugal doesn’t use any special attacks.  He only uses basic punch and kick moves.  The fact that he can still brutally whomp you without his more powerful attacks is a testament to his omnipotent AI.  After about 10 continues, an expert-level player may get lucky enough to deplete his health after losing two teammates.  When that happens, Rugal gets serious.  The room starts flashing red, and the music gets intense.

After flinging his (presumably weighted) longcoat off and coming back at full health, Rugal becomes much faster and uses all his special moves: a projectile that travels along the ground called the Repukken, an undodgeable blast called the Kaiser Wave, and most notoriously, his overhead kick slash, the genocide cutter.  The repukken and kaiser wave are moves taken from Fatal Fury's Geese Howard and Wolfgang Krauser, respectively, so he may have some sort of connection to them.  They are all crime bosses, after all.
Rugal also has a powerful super move in which he slams you against the wall for massive damage, but it's pretty uncommon to see him use it, to be honest.  He doesn't need to anyway.

The genocide cutter is Rugal’s equivalent to the shoryuken.  If you get near him, he’ll use it in an instant and do a ton of damage.  Your next idea would be to just approach him with caution, but since he spams his repukken, you’re going to want to jump.  But you can’t block in midair, and if you jump toward him, you’ll get a face full of his sharpened foot.

"ジェノサイダ カッタ!"

He will never miss, I can assure you.  His perfect AI will always hit you.  The very microsecond you get within a single pixel of his genocide cutter’s attack range, you’ll be flying through the air.  It’s like a kid high on sugar is keeping one of his fingers expectantly on a “genocide cutter” button while a super soldier made specifically to master the game controls everything else Rugal does.

But that’s not even the worst part!  The worst part is that this fight continues exactly where the last one left off.  Any team members or health you lost stays lost for this second fight!  That is downright sadistic!  What a cheap and cheating way to mug quarters off of anyone who already spent a fortune getting this far!

That probably tops anything else he's done.
After you finally decide to cheat and beat Rugal, he gives you one last surprise.

What I don't get is how the self-destruct sequence is remote-activated.  If it is, what were all the flashing red lights earlier indicating?  I guess it was the carrier’s way of saying “WARNING!: Rugal has removed his jacket!  Shit has gotten real!”

The image of a battered Rugal is actually another thing that bothers me about this game.  There’s quite a bit of blood in KOF 94.  With all the different fantastical elements, outlandish character designs, and overall lightheated tone of the series, the blood feels very out of place.  It’s a good thing later games downplayed or otherwise removed it.  Gritty realism is not KOF’s style.

Luckily, your team is able to escape the exploding Black Noah.  Don't ask me how they're able to escape before Rugal twitches his thumb to press the button.  Maybe his flashing red lights finally got to him and distracted him with an epileptic fit....But how can that be if he's missing an eye?....  Who knows...

........ What happened to the crew?  Did the Black Noah even have one?
And that’s how KOF 94 ends.  It's a simpler, not-too complicated finale, but a good way to kick off a franchise.  Rugal’s moustache-stroking villainy makes him a fun opponent to fight against, the detailed Black Noah control room is a great set piece to have a fight in, and the music is a nice score for an action scene.  If it weren’t for all the technical problems with the game itself holding it back, this could have made for a decent finale.  As it stands, it just set a bar for the ones to come after it.

1 comment:

  1. I think the blood on Rugal is a nice touch.
    I mean,this is RUGAL MOFUCKING BERNSTEIN we're talking about here :P