Monday, May 10, 2010

The Final Boss

The high point of any game, the culmination of all your hard work, the final test in your abilities....the final boss battle. The ultimate fate of every game will typically include this entity, one last battle to decide the fate of the world. We all have our favorite final boss battles, the one that stood out among the years of gaming. So what elements combine together to make the final boss such an event to remember?

  • Anything but Ordinary
    • Glados - (Portal)
    • Sixteenth Colossus - (Shadow of the Colossus)

Too many final boss fights take the typical approach of tacking on a health bar, maybe a form change, and fighting it out until their health is depleted. This tactic works fine most of the time if compensated accordingly, but there are the occasional final bosses that add on another element to make it a cut above the competition. In particular, the Glados fight in Portal provided one of the most hilarious boss battles ever encountered. Not only did it take more of a puzzle approach then a straight fight, but Glados spouted the best lines of dialogue ever uttered by a video game villain. A simple exchange of dialogue was all that was needed to make this a fight to remember.
  • It's Not Over till it's Over
    • Andross - (Star Fox 64)
    • Mother Brain - (Super Metroid)

Defeating a final boss is usually not enough, and some of the more memorable ones involved a daring escape. Much like the Predator, these guys do not simply lay down and die, but go out with a bang. The daring escape always made the fight even more enjoyable, and no game proves this better than Star Fox 64. Andross decides to finish himself with Fox, but a spirit from beyond guides you out of the fire. With a wall of fire closing in on you and the slight chance of taking a wrong turn, the player remains on the edge of their seat to escape the blazing inferno.
    • A Funky Groove to Kill to
      • Safer Sephiroth - 'One Winged Angel Theme' (Final Fantasy VII
      • King K Rool - 'King K. Rool Theme' (Donkey Kong Country)

      A boss must have his own music, a track not previously heard in the game. Just throwing in a typical beat will not cut it, this track must be incredible in its own right. A prime example of such a track is the One Winged Angel boss them from Final Fantasy VII. The introduction alone matched that feeling the player had of setting their eyes upon a giant and powerful entity beyond anything they have seen before. The rest of the song fueled the fight, with blaring segments and a full on orchestra driving every hit forward. The fight was a prime example of how something as small as the music that was chosen can impact the overall feel of a fight.

      •  It's Just You and Me....
        • Vergil - (Devil May Cry 3)
        • Final battle with Ganondorf - (Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess)

        Nothing beats the classic one on one face off. In a generation where co-op reigns king and bosses transform into something 20 feet tall, those moments when you finally get to go toe-to-toe in a fair battle prove most memorable. No AI party member assistance, no outside interference from minions, just the antagonist and protagonist facing off for the fate of the world. One fight that showcased this was the final duel between Vergil and Dante in Devil May Cry 3. The entire game built up to this one moment and instead of Vergil summoning some giant monster or drinking some elixir that made him above what he already was capable of, the fight was practically on level ground. He had a Devil Trigger, you had a Devil Trigger; he had a sword, you had a sword; he was super fast, you were...well....kinda slower. In any case, the fight was just how it should have been, a duel to the death with no outside interference.

        • When a Good Plan Comes Together
          • Ganon - (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
          • Bowser - (Super Mario 64) 

        A truly great final boss is one utilizing both presentation and a satisfying battle to end the game. Combining most of the elements above is all key in delivering some of the more memorable final boss battles. When asked which boss remains with gamers to this day, the response typically heard is the final battle with Ganon from The Legend of Zelda: OoT. After defeating Ganondorf in his castle, rescuing Zelda, and escaping a collapsing kingdom all seemed to be over. Just when all was expected to be finished, Ganondorf burst forth from the rubble, and transformed into one of the most intimidating bosses ever encountered, Ganon. With lightning raging in the background, you were surrounded by a wall of fire without your trusty Master Sword. It set the stage for a movie-quality fight between good and evil for the last time. Dodging huge blows, rolling under Ganon to get behind him and attack his tail, and landing one of the most satisfying finishing blows all made this a fight to remember.

        This blog is not necessarily listing the best final boss battles of all time, but simply what made most of them great. So now it's your turn: What is your favorite final boss battle in gaming history, and what made it stick with you to this day?

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