Rugal Bernstein is an SNK character who made his debut in The King of Fighters '94, where he took the role of final boss, facing by himself whole teams of 3 fighters. Since then he's been in several King of Fighters games as a final boss as well as some crossovers. However, he was only allowed to be used in KoF 98 due to his other KoF appearances being overpowered as Omega/God Rugal.
According to his official biography, Rugal was born on February 10. His hobby was "resurrection." He had no favorite food or sport (claimed he's good at everything). His fighting style was an amalgam of various arts, including Hakkyokuseiken and House of Strolheim, the styles used by Geese Howard and Wolfgang Krauser. He has adapted several moves from each character, such as Geese's Reppuken and Krauser's Kaiser Wave, though he also uses his own techniques, like the Genocide Cutter.
The details of Rugal's early life are unknown, but by the events of The King of Fighters, Rugal had become an international arms dealer, operating out of his aircraft carrier BlackNoah, accompanied by servants and his pet panther, Rodem. Rugal was not only feared in international politics, but also in the fighting world; as a vicious combatant, Rugal took his defeated foes and dipped them in liquid metal, making them into statues to commemorate his battles.
Heidern, a mercenary leader, had been trying to infiltrate Rugal's operation, which prompted Rugal to kidnap his wife and daughter, daring him to try and mount a rescue. When Heidern brought an entire company of his best men to the BlackNoah, Rugal, by himself, wiped it out to a man, and would have killed Heidern if his family had not intervened. Instead, he killed them and left Heidern with one eye and grievous injuries.
Rugal later sensed a tremendous power in the middle of nowhere, and when he went to take it for himself, Goenitz appeared, took out his eye with one strike, and gave him a small portion of the power of Orochi for surviving the attack. Returning to the BlackNoah, Rugal had a bionic eye implanted, and recruited two secretaries: Mature and Vice. With their help, Rugal organized a King of Fighters tournament, in order to find worthy opponents. During the invitation phase, Saisyu Kusanagi came to the BlackNoah and challenged Rugal. Although Rugal won the battle, he did not subject him to his metal bath. When Saisyu's son, Kyo, arrived with his teammates, he defeated Rugal. Unwilling to accept defeat, Rugal blew up his ship.
Rugal was believed dead, but he used the Orochi power to survive. Replacing his destroyed right forearm with cybernetics, Rugal revived Saisyu, brainwashed him, and sent out invitations the following year for another King of Fighters tournament. Rugal used an abandoned missile silo as his base in 1995, and abducted the winning team (again, Kyo's team) to fight Saisyu, and then himself. Despite using the Orochi power and becoming 'Omega Rugal,' Kyo's defeated him. Again beaten, Rugal tried to use more of the Orochi power, possibly for Riot of the Blood, but it consumed him. As his body disintegrated, he saw Iori Yagami, who told him that only those "of the bloodline" could control Orochi's power.
It is said that Rugal once had a loving and caring heart and that one day a group of unknown people killed his wife. While he was trying to save his family he knocked over a music box, it started playing the tune "Mockingbird". The Unkown people restrained him and watched as they killed her, after they left the music box kept playing, he grasped with all his might and broke it. Blood began running from his hand and swore revenge on those who killed his wife. His evil ran from his head all the way to his soul and heart. When he has defeated his opponent or opening his match he gets down on one knee and hears the music box that was playing when they killed his wife. He has yet to know who did it and why. He challenges everyone in hopes of finding them that is one of many reasons why the King Of Fighters Tournament began.
On their tenth anniversary website, SNK has stated that Rugal in The King of Fighters '94 was originally based on the concept of the "mightiest (most violent) and most evil boss character ever." (Omega) Rugal is also the developers' favorite SNK villain thus far, which is the main reason why he is always the final boss in the dream match games.
Rugal is, by SNK's own claims, the prime example of SNK Boss Syndrome. Rugal as a Boss is typically very passive, waiting for the player to attack before unleashing one of his high priority attacks to punish them. The attack that typically fills this role is his signature move Genocide Cutter, a multi-hit, rising kick maneuver which has a large number of invincibility frames. Rugal's Dark Barrier can be used to deflect projectiles thrown by a turtling player. He also has access to a dashing command throw, known as God Press and a version of Geese Howard's Reppuken. These moves together make Rugal capable of sitting at the end of the screen and inflicting damage upon the player for almost any move they make. Rugal also has additional attacks depending on which game he is in, along with a several highly damaging Desperation Moves. Due to his waiting game, it's not uncommon for a player to try to get a time out to defeat Rugal, by dodging his Reppukens and God Presses after landing a few blows.
It is said that the original gameplay design for him in KOF 94 involved him being able to copy other characters special moves after they had been performed once by the player, but that this was canceled due to memory restraints. He instead got moves from two other SNK bosses-the above mentioned Reppuken and Kaiser Wave. The fact that he manages to use some of Akuma's classic moves (namely the Shun Goku Satsu and Ashura Warp, a teleport move) in his God Rugal form seems to hint at this.
Rugal's Gigantic Pressure was the first move in the KOF series to end with a pillar of energy with the image of a skull in its middle. In KOF95, the pillar also appeared around him when he was being destroyed at the end of the game. In later games, this was shown to be used in supers by other characters related to the Orochi bloodline (Mature in KOF 96, Leona Heidern in KOF 96 Game Boy, Yashiro Nanakase in KOF 97, and Vice in KOF 98), by his son Adel in KOF 2003 and by Violent Ken in SVC Chaos: SNK vs. Capcom.
Rugal's somewhat odd Dead End Screamer DM debuted in KOF '98, and disappeared just as fast. The move caused Rugal to aim a jump kick at the enemies' head, and upon connecting, stomp them hard into the ground, and then quickly spin in place on the enemy for a couple seconds. The SDM version had him breaking the enemies' neck with his legs before stomping them down, not unlike the character Gato, who debuted much later.
Rugal has made non-canon appearances as a playable character in The King of Fighters '98 both as normal Rugal and Omega Rugal, in The King of Fighters '2002 just as Omega Rugal, and in the Capcom vs. SNK series as normal Rugal and a new version, God Rugal (Ultimate Rugal in U.S. versions). The latter version was designed by Capcom, not SNK, and is the result of Rugal having assimilating Akuma's abilities after defeating him in battle. His capabilities were also toned down in the Capcom vs. SNK series, to make him more balanced against the rest of the cast.
Rugal (usually as Omega Rugal) has retained the same theme song, Ketchaku R&D (Showdown R&D), in most of his King of Fighters appearances, though remixed differently each time, and titled differently in King of Fighters '98 (simply titled XXX). In the aforementioned game, Rugal's non-Omega incarnation had another theme song, titled The RR, which had no melodic link to Ketchaku R&D. In King of Fighters 95, his theme was Guitar, Omega, and Rugal, which was a completely different theme song. This was primarily because his soon-to-be signature theme was used in the previous game, and SNK did not wish to repeat the same song for the boss battle of the second KOF game. However, Rugal found himself with another new theme song in KOF 2K2 (possibly because it was developed by a completely different development team than previous games), entitled Last Dance. In Capcom vs. SNK 2, as God Rugal, his theme song was The Lord GOD. This was changed to The Lord ULTIMATE for the US version.
Rugal is generally believed to be dead since the events of KOF 95; however, the Rugal fought in that game is referred as "Omega Rugal", a cyborg version of the character; in one of the illustrations available in the PlayStation version of KOF 98 there's an illustration showing a series of human-sized test tubes with Omega Rugals in them, hinting that that the individual destroyed by the Orochi power in 95 may have been a guinea pig and not the original; it is also worth pointing out that the NESTS saga features themes including cloning, robotics, cybernetic implants and genetic manipulation as part of its universe, and that in KOF 2002, Rugal is shown sitting at a throne with several NESTS characters around him, hinting at some possible involvement (though it may simply be a send-off, of sorts, to the NESTS saga). Adding to the speculation that Rugal might not actually be dead, in KOF 2000, any striker called, who is dead, will flicker and vanish after performing their attack. Rugal, instead runs off, like any other normal striker.
- 'Scorpion Deathlock': Rugal grasps his opponent by the throat, lifts them, and strangles them while pulsing light blue ki into them.
- 'Scorpion Blow': Rugal grasps his opponent, turns around (so they end up switching sides), and strikes them with a straight punch.
- Reppu Ken (Gale Fist): Adapted from Geese Howard. Flings a blade of wind energy onto the ground, which then proceeds to rush forward.
- Kaiser Wave: Adapted from Wolfgang Krauser. Rears back a bit while charging energy, then fires a massive wave of ki almost as tall as Rugal himself.
- Genocide Cutter: Rugal leaps into the air while using his leg to create an arc of orange ki around himself.
- Dark Barrier: Rugal creates a shield of green ki in front of himself. Can reflect projectiles.
- God Press: May have been adapted from Mature's Heaven's Gate. Rugal dashes forward with his arm outstretched. If he hits successfully, he keeps dashing to the opposite wall, slamming his opponent into it.
- Gigantic Pressure: Essentially an upgraded God Press. His hand is suffused with dark power, and the ending wall slam includes his foe being blasted by a column of metallic white Orochi death ki. In the SDM version, he does two charges in a row, and the Orochi ki released is blood-red.
- Dead End Screamer: Rugal leaps toward his opponent. On contact (this cannot be guarded), he stands with his feet on either side of his opponent's neck, twists a little, then smashes his opponent to the ground while spinning at high speed.
- Genocide Heaven: Rugal lurches forwards, attempting to grab his opponent. If successful, he mauls them with a barrage of punches, kicks and slashes, ending the combo with a two or even three-hit Geneocide Cutter.
- G. END: Widely-regarded as Rugal's ultimate and most deadly attack, he lashes out and attempts to impale his opponent with his hand. On contact, he lifts them up into the air as a violent explosion of blood-red Orochi ki bursts around him, engulfing the opponent over and over again, until the final pulse blows them skyward.
- Adelheid Bernstein (son)
- Rose Bernstein (daughter)
- Rodem (pet black panther)
- Heidern (antagonist)
- Goenitz (took his eye and gave him part of the Orochi power)
- Geese Howard (from whom he copied Reppuken)
- Wolfgang Krauser (from whom he copied Kaiser Wave)
- Mature (secretary)
- Vice (secretary)
- Saisyu Kusanai (whom he beat, kidnap and brainwashed)
- Kyo Kusanagi (defeated him)
- Orochi (source of his power)
- Akuma (rival, he defeated Akuma and absorbs his power unto God Rugal in Capcom vs SNK 2)
- M.Bison (rival)