Thursday, August 21, 2008

Gaming Thread: Bosses

One of the things that I find really defines a lot of games: Boss battles. After you've gone through the trouble of storming the castle, taking down the seemingly endless waves of cannon fodder, and jumping through all the bladed, flaming hoops, you'd better have the experience capped off with a memorable showdown with the local Big Bad... Though those first parts sound pretty awesome themselves.

But anyway, few things can sour my mood faster than an anticlimactic boss battle. (I'm looking at YOU, Gradius!) So, readers, what do you love and hate about boss battles? Here's some of my thoughts:

Big Peeve #1: Playing Tennis with the Boss: You know, where he fires some shot at you, you bounce it back, and so on until it hits him and renders him vulnerable. The first time I did it in Zelda: Link to the Past, I thought it was innovative. Now it's just tedious.

Big Peeve #2: Bullfight Boss: Only works for intro bosses who are obviously nonsentient. If the Magnificent Bastard Chessmaster final boss drops to this animal intelligence when he charges around all scaled up in dragon form, it kind of ruins my suspension of disbelief.

Bonus Point #1: Make me hate the boss. Emotional investment in defeating him tends to help me out for some reason.

Bonus Point #2: If you can successfully fool me with a "He was Right There All Along," you're doing something right.

Ablative Bosses: Don't know if there's a TV Tropes entry for this: Essentially bosses that peel off in layers as you fight them, changing in attack ability. I like the idea, especially for shmups.

Sequential Boss: This is one tradition that stuck and one that I hope stays stuck in regards to final bosses.

Tragic Monster: Very helpful for getting Bonus Point #1. Responsible for about 99% of my ability to beat the regular final boss rush in Cave Story.

Puzzle Bosses: As long as you put some thought into the puzzle bit. I like thinking my way through a battle.

Colossus Climb: I loved Shadow of the Colossus. Think I could have used some more active efforts at being knocked off, though.

Wake Up Call Boss: Set the tone fairly early, so that I'm not caught by surprise later.


Anonymous said...

My most recent "Worst Boss" had to be in Bioshock.
Don't know if my releasing the kids throughout the game had anything to do with it, but you get told what to do my the loony scientist (drain) just before the battle.

When you step into the elevator you get a warning that you can't save past this point then go to the main room. Run in, drain, 3 grenades - he ports back to his 'throne' to regen and you just repeat twice more...


Flit said...

One boss that has stuck in my mind and always made me laugh as a kid is from Cyber Lip. It's basically a giant penis shooting fireballs. Check it out here. It's the second pic down.

I picked up a copy a few years ago when I got my Neo Geo cab. It still put a smile on my face but the game is worse than I remember it. No diagonal shooting, so frustrating.

AJA said...

I don't have a problem with anti-climatic boss battles generally speaking. I don't like it when there's no reason for it, like in the Gradius example, but I find them fully appropriate in other cases. I like them when they are used for humor, or in cases like FF7 I saw the final battle with Sephiroth is just a nice interactive cut scene, not a boss battle at all. I also find making the final boss in a mind screw sort of thriller fully appropriate. Showing how weak and cowardly this scumbag who was messing with you was sets up an interesting message.

Anonymous said...

I've always thought of the Saw movie series as aweful, but at the same time as showing amazing potential for a Wii game.

That would be the perfect place for an anticlimactic boss. The entire game would be wandering from room to room solving life or death puzzles, and the final room would end with a twist ending, the guy who put you in this place who's been taunting via recordings all this time, is already dead! On his own trap! The room's trap already sprung, you leave and that's the end. Then "another side, another story", you play as another jigsaw killer wandering through traps the "wrong way", having to literally "break" the puzzles to get through the place rather than true solutions, and you find out that this is the guy who killed the person who built the place by playing it. It's all here in this pamphlet.