Some games treat bosses as the culmination of all your skills, others found out how much we like bosses and made them the only damn thing in the game, or close to it. Not a lot of people out there lauding the “fantastic fight I had with this one common enemy in a tunnel”, the efforts all go into making one large confrontation with the biggest guy around. Frankly I’m a lover of these kind of games, although I do notice it is very easy to turn the excitement down to maximum overbored if handled poorly and I appreciate it. Let’s appreciate it together.
The Megaman series has always be noted for a few things: music and boss battles. Every game after the first one sports 8 bosses as a minimum which is a good healthy number, however I personally never found much excitement in the classic Megaman bosses. No not until the Zero series did I ever find much joy in the engagements, I believe it was a new mentality to design when your only character is primarily an up close, melee weapon using hero. It turned engagements into what felt like trying to dodge a lion in a crate barely big enough for the two of you, ya scrape past each blow with only pixels to separate you.
Monster Hunter is too a series that saw the love for boss battles and made its entire premise to hunt big nasty creatures for lengthy periods of time in an epic battle. Of course it embrace a sense of humour enough that the epic battle can be you flailing your arms in the air as you try to escape a cruel fate as road-kill but the gameplay is still rather solid.
There is a myriad of play-styles, weapons and monsters with new patterns, ranging sizes and some odd shapes that spice up the endeavour. When you are given weapons that range from the simple to the ludicrous the only way to feel it’s strength is put to good use is to smack something very big and very hard with it. 1000 common enemies is nice, 1 behemoth is better.
I recently played Bloodbourne with a friend of mine and much like the other games from From Software the common battles are hard, the boss battles however are where the fun begins. Gone is the sense of overcoming a few blows with some well timed attacks and a heal afterwards, these guys are packing a buttload of health and are very upset upon seeing you.
Not only that, they come in some…vibrant forms such as a common man who turns into a werewolf thing and starts smacking you, things made of parts of other things as such is almost a staple of their work. I fear to meet the next 20 butt-cheeked monster but I revel the chance to cut that health bar down to size and watch it fall to pieces. To say in a single word, the bosses and the fights themselves are grand.
The idea of the highlight of any experience being turned into the only content presented is rather odd when you think about it. Sort of like how a movie might just become explosions and pretty colours, assuming that these moments are what usually draw the most applause and joy in the viewers. Except in video games the experience is an interaction rather than observation, while functionally similar in task and method, the nuances that can change one fight from the last and the next 20 or so are very important. Don’t want people to do a Dark Souls and just strafe around everything or lock their patterns.
When I play my games I’m often looking for moment to achieve glory and prestige, in-game or self given. Sometimes it’s just an enemy type or a small, emotional moment that makes me feel like someone fantastic, a meaningful and powerful player in the world. Perhaps it is because of this that I find a lot of boss fights to fail to give me the sense of grandeur I desire.
I am aware not everything can be a “fate of the universe” battle but what makes those battles is not the stakes so much as the ambience that falls upon victory. This is what can make a challenging opponent better more enjoyable than a fight to save the world from this guy who has mommy issues and hates the world blah blah blah, context is important but it is not the sole reason I enjoy toppling my foes.
With a boss fight slanted appeal there is clearly a better chance for me to find my rival when there are now 20 great lords or looming beasts to vanquish, the focus and likely larger application of resources and energy don’t hurt the chance either. It makes me remember the last big boss I fought, the “final” boss of Dragon’s Dogma. Yeah the music is playing, yes he is a large creature who can dole out the damage….but I don’t feel like my actions are doing much. He staggers every half a health bar or so but otherwise I’m smacking a wall till it gasps and falls to the ground, clutching it’s chest and throws me a medal. Weird thing for a wall to do I know.
What games do you love that put a large amount of focus or effort on the boss fights? What boss fights ave you really felt uninterested in despite the set-up? What makes a good boss fight for you? Thanks for the rad and I’ll see you later.