Pitchfork's KoF Extravaganza (Part 6 of 25) - Page 1
by Pitchfork

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It's probably no secret that I have 2-D fighters on the brain. I can't get enough of the damn things. We've already gone over how Street Fighter III: Third Strike is undoubtedly the best the genre has to offer and how I've thought about Guilty Gear during sex, but what we'll be discusssing today is an entirely different beast: the ancient and venerable King of Fighters series. I'll save the story of how I was introduced to SNK's flagship series for another time: all you need to know is that it has been steadily boring deeper and deeper into my brain and has got to the point where it's become a higher priority in my life than, say, preparing the GRE's (starting with figuring out what they are). Clearly not healthy. I don't know what it is about KoF that makes it so addictive. The staggering number of characters, maybe? The dizzying speed of the matches? A storyline with the complexity of that of any JRPG? Shermie, May Lee, and Vanessa?

Well, whatever the cause, I'm clearly obsessed with the damn thing. And if there's one thing I've learned in all my years of writing shit down, the best way to get something off your mind is to type words about it until you're too sick of thinking about it to go anywhere near it for a while.

The topic of our little soiree today is going to be the long, disgunished line of KoF bosses. Unlike Street Fighter, which pretty much only has M. Bison and Gill, KoF usually introduces a colorful new boss character with each new installment. If you're not that familiar with 2-D fighters, there's probably something you should know about: SNK Boss Syndrome. While fighting game bosses are usually challenging, SNK is notorious for going the extra mile and making each of its boss fights a hopeless uphill battles against a vastly superior foe who, for example, will respond to your throwing a fireball by teleporting behind you, throwing you, then using a super move that fills up the entire screen that hits you as you're falling. The standard SNK BOSSMAN (as Spydak likes to call them) won't kill your ass fifty times over because of a well-programmed AI or a lack of skill on your part -- an SNK BOSSMAN is created to overcome you through sheer uncompromising cheapness.

So without further ado, let's bring on the bosses.


RUGAL BERNSTEIN
Appearances: Endboss of KoF '94; playable character in KoF '98.
Signature move: Genocide Cutter

Storyline:
Wanted by governments worldwide, the notorious and elusive arms dealer Rugal is also recognized amongst certain other circles as one of the world's deadliest fighters. By combining moves derived from some of the world's most powerful martial artists (including Geese Howard and Wolfgang Krauser) with several techniques of his own design, Rugal has perfected a personal fighting style designed to overcome all known forms of unarmed combat. He'll gladly accept all challengers, and keeps a growing collection of his opponents' bronzed corpses aboard the Black Noah, his personal aircraft carrier.

Rugal carried on undefeated for long time, but eventually comes up against an opponent he can't beat: a mysterious man named Goenitz. The overconfident Rugal is devastated by a single attack from Goenitz and gets his right eye ripped out in the process. Goenitz, impressed that Rugal managed to survive at all, decides to reward him with a small portion of his own strange power. Afterwards, Goenitz vanishes.

Some time afterwards, Rugal decides to hold an international fighting tournament in order to soothe his bruised ego and calls it "The King of Fighters" after the one held recently by German noble Wolfgang Krauser (who himself based it off the annual fighting tournament held in Southtown, USA by his half-brother Geese Howard). Rugal sends invitations signed with "R" to twenty-four of the world's strongest fighters with instructions to participate in eight teams of three, confident that single-handedly defeating the winning team and adding it to his collection will more than make up for his loss to Goenitz.

SNK BOSSMAN rating:
EXTREMELY HIGH. Rugal is a jerk. He's the first definitive SNK BOSSMAN and still probably king of the hill, give or take an Igniz. His first form is tough enough: not only do all of his attacks have ridiculous priority, but he also suffers from Street Fighter II AI Syndrome, which basically means that the computer is allowed to do whatever the hell it wants. If the computer thinks you should be thrown, you WILL be thrown, even if you happen to be half a screen away at the time. But this is nothing compared to his second form, when he actually starts using his special moves. In designing Rugal, SNK has stated that they were trying to create the baddest-ass fighting game boss ever, and the end result makes M. Bison's Psycho Crusher and insta-throws look quaint by comparison. Damn.





SAISYU KUSANAGI
Appearances: Midboss of KoF '95; playable character in KoF '98.
Fights: Like a PCP-crazed Kyo.

Storyline:
Father of Kyo Kusanagi and current patriarch of the Kusanagi bloodline. After instructing his young son in the ancient mysteries of Kusanagi martial arts, Saisyu skips town to travel the world and hone his own skills by seeking new opponents. Saisyu actually makes his first appearance in KoF '94, when his estranged son and his teammates discover him aboard the Black Noah, beaten to a pulp by Rugal. When Rugal loses against Kyo and his teammates and blows up the Black Noah in an incredible display of poor sportsmanship, Kyo doesn't have time to rescue his father, who sinks with the aircraft carrier's flaming wreckage.

But this isn't the end for Saisyu. He is revived by Rugal and then brainwashed by Vice, one of Rugal's secretaries. Rugal intends to use Saisyu in his revenge against Kyo Kusanagi by forcing the young warrior to defend his life against his own father. Low, man.

SNK BOSSMAN rating:
HIGH. He's no Rugal, but he's still a pain in the ass. I don't have a whole lot of experience with him in KoF '95, but he was the bane of my existence when people would use him against me in KoF NeoWave before I tossed the XBox disc out the window in a fit of rage. (Around three in the morning that night I was outside looking for it with a flashlight. Probably better that I didn't find it, though.)





OMEGA RUGAL
Appearances: Endboss of KoF '95, '98, and '02
Signature attack: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STOP KICKING ME

Storyline:
Upon his defeat at the hands of Kyo and his teammates in the first tournament, Rugal activated the Black Noah's self destruct mechanism and was thought to have perished, but manages to survive using the mysterious power that Goenitz gave him. After relocating to one of his secret underground bases, resting up, and bionically replacing a few destroyed body parts, Rugal is ready to enact some good old German Rache against Kyo and pals. To this end, he sends out another batch of challenge letters with the same "R" signature to participants of the previous tournament, thus establishing a recurring theme throughout the King of Fighters series -- a complete lack of pattern recognition on the part of its participants. Seriously, what the hell was Kyo thinking when he got this new invitation? Hey! This is exactly like last time, when me and all my friends were almost killed by the tournament's evil sponsor, but I'm sure EVERYTHING will be okay this time around!

Anyway.

During the tournament's late stages, Kyo and his team are gassed by Rugal's goons and taken to his underground base. Upon awakening, they are immediately forced into a battle with a brainwashed Saisyu by Rugal. When they manage to subdue Saisyu, Rugal decides to take matters into his own hands. He summons Goenitz's power by ripping off his shirt and messing up his hair, then attacks Kyo and his friends in full force. Rugal fails to defeat them (of course) is devoured alive by his own power and dies for real this time. What a way to go.

SNK BOSSMAN Rating:
VERY HIGH. This is an average, since he makes three different appearances as a King of Fighters boss. '95 Omega Rugal is more or less an encore of '94 Rugal, meaning that he's almost as much of a godmoding bastard. '98 Omega Rugal has a slew of different attacks from his other incarnations, including a teleport and a particularly nasty projectile, and somehow manages to be a complete wuss in spite of this. '02 Rugal, however, gets things back on track with new and improved Genocide Cutter and Kaiser Wave variations.





CHIZURU KAGURA
Appearances: Midboss in KoF '96; playable character in '97 and '98; secret character in '03.
Signature move: Attacking with mirror images of herself.

Storyline:
You might wanna get some snacks first. Chizuru and the next few guys on the list have backstory out the wazoo.

Japanese legend speaks of Yamato no Orochi, a dreadful god-beast in the form of an eight-headed serpent which terrorized ancient Japan and demanded virgin sacrifices. According to the stories, it came to pass one day that the next virgin to be sacrificed was a maiden named Kushinada. Her beauty was so great that it captivated banished god Susanoo-no-mikoto, who mounted a rescue mission. He destroyed Orochi and saved Kushinada by first tricking the serpent into consuming eight massive cups of wine, then cutting off each of its heads with the legendary Sword of Kusanagi as it lay unconscious.

Most legends are rooted in fact, and the tale of Orochi is no different. There was indeed a godlike entity called Orochi that terrorized the ancient world until he was vanquished 1,800 years ago, but his defeat occurred under much different circumstances than what the legends tell us. There was indeed a maiden named Kushinada involved, but she was much more than just an ordinary damsel in distress. She was one of eight special "sealing virgins" who each held a portion of Orochi's power in check. By seeking out and killing them, Orochi's power increased to near-omnipotence, and Kushinada was the only one left. And It wasn't a god who came to Kushinada's rescue and defeated Orochi -- it was the combined forces of the Kusanagi and Yasakani, a pair of clans who exorcised demons by wielding special hereditary crimson flames. Actual details of the final battle are hazy, but is known that the Yasakani debilitated Orochi while the Kusanagi delivered the final blow.

But there was also a third family involved: the Yata. Since Orochi was a god, killing it was simply beyond the power of man. The clans had to settle for the next best thing: sealing it away. This was left up to the Yata clan, who from that day forth have made it their duty to watch over and maintain the Orochi seal, lest the legendary serpent once again break free and ravage the world.

Several years ago, this generation's Yata guardian was murdered and the Orochi seal severely damaged. Chizuru Kagura, the slain guardian's younger sister, assumed the role of guardian when she grew up, and found herself facing an extremely daunting task. The seal was already broken and couldn't be restored unless Orochi actually resurfaced and was defeated again. Plus, her sister's murderer was still on the loose and actively trying to resurrect Orochi. Chizuru knew she wasn't nearly strong enough to deal with Goenitz on her own, let alone Orochi itself...what was Chizuru to do?

Then Chizuru somehow hears about Rugal's defeat in the previous King of Fighters tournament. She is shocked to learn that Rugal wielded (and was destroyed by) a portion of the Orochi power given to him by Goenitz, and ever more surprised to learn that a Kusanagi heir was involved in his final defeat. So Chizuru hatches a plan. She throws her own King of Fighters tournament and turns into a gigantic media spectacle in the hopes that she can attract Kyo and enlist his aid in her cause.

SNK BOSSMAN Rating:
Moderate. Chizuru has the potential to be a huge pain in the ass if you don't know what you're doing. However, as with many SNK BOSSMEN, defeating her can be as easy as outsmarting her AI. The easiest way to beat her that I'm aware of is with Clark. Step one: when the round starts, just walk backwards. Chizuru will follow you. Step two: When you hit the wall, keep holding back on the controller. Chizuru will continue walking forward. Step three: The instant that she is within range, pull an Argentine Backbreaker. Step four: Chizuru will now be in the corner. Start walking backwards. Repeat steps one through three until Chizuru croaks.




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