Fighting Masters – SNK Boss Syndrome

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Welcome to a possibly new weekly feature if I have the will to do it – Fighting Masters. The title is taken from one of the shittiest fighting games I ever played on the Genesis.

To kick this (possibly) weekly feature off, I’m going to start not with a fighting game, but with one character specifically and a “feature” of most SNK Fighters. The feature is SNK Boss Syndrome.

With the release of Street Fighter IV, which you may have noticed has taken hold of quite a few of us here at MWN, I’ve been reading through forums and posts here and there. The one thing I’ve heard constantly is that Seth, the final boss is cheap. Now, we all have our own definitions of cheap. To some players, there is no such thing as cheap. Other see throws as cheap. Seth gets this label due to his reactions to the player’s actions, throws on wake up or teleporting to throw you. Personally, while he can be infuriating, he’s not cheap in my eyes.


Let me make this statement before any comments come my way. While there are tons of SNK bosses that fit this description, I want to focus on one who has had the most appearances. That boss is Rugal Bernstein. You will hate him. Oh yes, you will hate him.

See, long before Seth, Capcom had Gill of SF3 fame. Gill was probably the closest Capcom ever got to SNK Boss Syndrome. But SNK long before had decided to make final bosses that were better than you. In every sense of the word. Let’s get the web definition of SNK Boss Syndrome:

  1. The characters having unusually high damage and priority in their moves.
  2. Annoying, repetitive A.I. which reads the input of the opponent’s moves in advance.
  3. Can only be beaten with the use of stupid patterns (most of the time).

Rugal is a great example of SNK Boss Syndrome. Even on their 10th anniversary, SNK said that Rugal was based on the idea of being the most evil boss character ever. Also mentioned is the fact that he’s the development team’s favorite villain which is why he gets to make so many appearances.

Rugal has been a final boss 4 times in the King of Fighter games: 94, 95, 98, and 02. 98 and 02 appearances are “dream matches” and not actually part of the true story/time line. Arguably the worst version of him to fight is the ’94 edition. Like Seth,you get a free round where he’s mostly passive and doesn’t do much. Once beaten, he becomes Omega Rugal and your remaining team and life are carried over to the next round where he proceeds to rape you. Badly. So let’s look at the points up above one by one, shall we?

1. The characters having unusually high damage and priority in their moves.Rugal and Omega Rugal have both of the above. Take the genocide cutter, Rugal’s Shoryuken style attack but with kicks. It basically negates any airborne move and nails you. Depending on the game you’re playing it can hit up to 5 times. In his final appearance, he even added one extra kick at the height of his jump to stop you from thinking about jumping up to punish him. And yes, the damage from the move is insane. His Gigantic Pressure (where he runs along the ground, grabs and slams you into a corner) is very fast and can catch a character who just threw a projectile. Add in two versions of the move (a normal and super version) and the damage piles on quickly.

2. Annoying, repetitive A.I. which reads the input of the opponent’s moves in advance. Going down the list, Rugal can reflect almost all fireballs fired at him, even up close. He’s got a magical ability to Genocide Cutter as soon as your character has jumped. Walking up and throwing if you’re blocking too much. You thought it, Rugal has already countered it.

3. Can only be beaten with the use of stupid patterns (most of the time).
This is true. No maybe to compensate for an overpowered character with insane priority, he was made slightly stupid. That means Rugal will fall for simple patterns and tricks. For example, jumping and landing just short of him causes Rugal to do a Genocide Cutter, whiffing completely and allowing you to punish him when he lands. In KOF ’02 the AI will allow Goro Daimon to do the ground pound move to knock him down usually twice before the AI decides to jump on the next try. Another thing to try is that he seems to allow a lot of air attacks based on commands to hit him (doing a move from the ground that goes airborne). You can also get lucky and use a character that trades 1 for 1 with the Genocide Cutter.

You also had one final option for dealing with him. Most SNK fighting games had a continue system in place which allowed you to choose from four options when you continue after losing. These ranged from lowering the difficulty to starting the fight with a full super meter. The easy way out however was the option that lowered the AI’s life bar to 25%. Funny enough, this still may not guarantee a clean win as Rugal could still take a character or two down even with that much life.

In summary, Rugal is a fucking beast. For anyone who’s never played an SNK fighting game, expect your first attempts at him to be frustrating. Once you see the AI pattern he’s much easier to deal with, but it’s not like you can make many mistakes due to the damage he pumps out. And just remember, Seth at his worst is still easier than Rugal (when you’re not using a pattern =P)

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