Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rufus, a Study in Character Design

"FuriousJodo wrote: 

I'll never main her, but I am totally obsessed with her (Chun Li) as a character for some reason.

Hiryu02 wrote: 

I'm like this about Rufus, for some reason."

 With the release of Super, I notice that I've been playing Rufus more and more. I wasn't a big fan of his in vanilla, mainly because he was considered to be OP, given the amount of damage he was able to put out, especially in conjunction with his easy-to-combo Ultra. Now due to the across-the-board damage nerf the entire cast received in Super, Rufus went from doing ridiculously high damage to only doing somewhat-high damage. Personally, I'm thrilled. I feel that it makes playing him require more effort, and you actually have to land stuff more than twice in a round to win it. But that's a discussion for another time, I digress. 

Anyway, I'm really beginning to appreciate the design that went into his character. I will be honest, and tell you that I'm not a big fan of his default costume, but I really love his first alternate. I think it's mainly because I can't figure out what the hell he's supposed to be wearing in his default outfit. Some kind of riding suit or something? His alternate outfit has more cool touches, I think, even with the pigtails. For example, take the "Wu" kanji on the back. Wu is the Chinese symbol that stands for "martial", as in martial arts or a martial way. I feel that it strongly fits his personality, and his backstory, which describes that he taught himself Kung-Fu by watching martial arts movies and reading kung-fu books! He also supposedly traveled through China to see the different Kung-Fu styles, and reinforce what he had learned.

I also notice more and more little details, like the way he shakes his head, Bruce Lee-style, after landing a palm thrust. The way he holds his hands when he does a cr mk, or the little light-footed shuffle he does when Spectacle Romance is blocked. Or even just the way he lands from a back throw. Little things, I know, but they add so much. Rufus isn't a character that looks good in still images, one has to see him in motion to really grasp the fluidity of his movement.

I especially like the Snake Strike animation. He leaps, stabbing furiously with each limb, and yet manages to land like a ballerina from a triple axel. Again, now that I pay attention, I see the multiple styles blended in his own, as befits his self-taught martial way. Bajiquan, Tai Chi, Snake style, Baguazhang, and more.

Of course, his effusive, motor-mouthed personality is great too. Win quotes that are so long you can't read them before they go away. Or the hilarious gestures and movements in his Rival cutscenes. I used to hate the fat man, but now I have a strange new appreciation of his design. 

Now I'm aware that the Rufus we see today is very far from the original idea for his character. He was originally supposed to be a slender black guy with a shaved head, wearing the "pimp gi" outfit that is now Ken's first alternate costume. He was going to be called "King Cobra" and was going to use a blend of breakdancing and kung-fu as a fighting style. However, at some point during the development process, one of the art directors suggested making him fat, an idea that the main designer (Daigo Ikeno) liked. Eventually, the design changed so much it bore almost no similarity to the original work. I'll be honest, at first I was totally turned off by the character and the grotesqueness of his physique. But over time, I've come to appreciate the originality of the design. 

It took me the entire life-span of the first game to realize this, but Rufus is a damn good character. Belatedly, my hat's off to you, Capcom.

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