Monday, 1 June 2009

Battling bosses

Bosses in games tend to be the big, burly characters that like to hang back and have the arrogance to think that they can take you out in a one on one fight in a deserted room, away from the main conflict.

It is very surprising to think that given your ability to slaughter hundreds of un-named soldiers, and then this boss’ equally powerful boss friends, that he would think that he would actually pose that much of a threat. Surely it would make more sense for him to wait around a corner and smack you around the back of the head with a plank of wood, before feeding your unconscious self in to a wood chipper. That’s how I would take care of Mario anyway.

Some boss characters however do play it very cool, and do make me very thankful that they have secured an arena to fight them in, purely because it is so fun to do so. Let’s face it, boss battles tend to be the very memorable set pieces from gaming. Whether it is fighting bipedal nuclear robots underground or throwing spiny dinosaurs into conveniently place bombs, they linger in your mind like nicotine on a curtain.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask may not necessarily have been quite as good as Ocarina of Time, but the boss fight in the second dungeon is the most memorable thing about it for me. The ‘Masked Mechanical Monster’, Goht, or an evil robot bull to you and me is the guardian to the second temple in the game. What’s more is that he starts off set in ice that you very helpfully thaw him from. In payment he decides to set off on a violent rampage around the circular arena.

Now the fun bit, you get to turn in to a Goron (huggable rock monster), curl up into a ball and roll around after him, trying to shunt his hind legs off. This was such good fun as it was a real refreshing change from *shoot arrow in weak spot, approach and slash* that most of the game’s larger enemies need to have done to them be taken down. Also, the rolling mechanic was fun to play with as well, and this was the perfect place to use it as an offensive capability, where you can reach F Zero like speeds.

Another boss that springs to mind is more of a general type of boss than the actual character itself as it does rely on a game mechanic more than anything else. The Scarab tanks from Halo are great fun to take down as generally you are required to buckle its legs allowing you to board it and take it down from the inside. This is really good fun, especially if you are still on board trying to take it down when it has recovered and is going back to murderising your fellow man.

This idea of mounting big things and travelling to their weak points was fully opened up in Shadow of the Colossus, a game which I sadly never played. The aim of the game here was to take down the 16 giant Colossi, massive hulking beasts that very often you would need to climb upon as they moved and slowly inch your way towards their weak areas whilst holding on for dear life, battling their every movement.

Such boss fights are great fun as it is not a case of shooting back at the big guy shooting you, but getting close enough, utilising cover, running and climbing abilities. The reward seems a lot better as well when crumpled at your feet is not a person two foot taller than you, but something that would have made king kong cower in fear, and wish that he was still in his mother monkey’s womb.

The final boss I will vaguely mention is encountered many times throughout a play session and can be a really bother during the zombie apocalypse. The Tank from Left 4 Dead is a real pain, especially on expert mode where the damn thing refuses to die. The best way to take one down is to set it on fire and then run, but this is not always a practical solution.

His main weapon seems to be the panic he can spread amongst a group, charging at each member individually, effectively splitting them up for the smaller hordes to deal with. That, and his massive tree like fists, that doctors recommend you keep away from your eyes and children.

There are many great bosses out there, but I seem to think these days they are getting a tiny bit thinly spread across games. With all of the Modern Warfare style battlegrounds, and everything striving for ultra realism, suddenly placing a giant man tank with robotic crab claws and rail guns in the mix might be a tiny bit off putting.

Never the less, boss battles can serve as fantastic crescendos and climactic moments, whether it is a tense sniper battle in the jungle with an OAP, or battling a big operatic poo.


t said...

The worst bosses I have encountered would have to be the bosses at the end of fighting games. "SNK boss syndrome" will always get a rise up out of me (and a few obscenities to boot).

Anthony said...

I remember crying and sweating streams of salty bloody trying to beat angry centaur, Motaro at the end of Mortal Kombat 3. Being half a horse just isn't sporting.