Ask the Kliq #15
Every once in a while, you will think about video games and then ask yourself a question that has no rhyme or reason, but that just happened to pop in your head at that exact moment. In some rare instances, not even Google or Wikipedia can provide the answer you need. Sometimes you wouldn’t even need an answer to that question.
This is where we come in.
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This Week’s Question
This week’s question comes to us from Steve, a man from Montreal who has been playing a lot of God of War III lately, and has been fantasizing a lot about its epic boss battles ever since. While Steve’s answer to his own question is pretty obvious, he would still like the rest of the staff to answer it:
“What is your favourite boss battle of all-time?”
Let’s see what DHGF’s diverse roster of writers has to say about this.
Mohamed Al-Saadoon: Man it seems boss battles these days are predictable or easy quick-time events that inspire no fear, awe or awesomeness at all, so I really need to pick up a copy of one of these God of War games to see what the fuss is all about.
My most memorable boss battle is “True Andross” from Starfox 64. At that time 3D graphics where still in their infancy and something like the huge size of Andross’ brain and eyeballs floating around were nothing short of jaw dropping for kids used to simple 2D sprites.
And the final touch? The ghost of your dead father leading you out of the exploding base. Classic.
Christopher Bowen: Two words:
Let me set the stage for those that aren’t familiar with Suikoden II‘s story (MID-GAME SPOILER WARNING): Luca Blight is everything one could imagine in a truly evil person. The first time you see him, it’s as a member of your country’s youth brigade, and it’s because you and your friend are the only survivors of a double-cross meant specifically to politically justify a war for the sake of annexation. In short, picture everything the most paranoid 9/11 truther has said about that day, and that’s how the game starts. The next time you see him, he’s burned down two villages. He hasn’t done this for tactical reasons, or because these villages were hiding enemies and Luca was being like Sgt. Barnes. No, he did it for shits and giggles; to keep his soldiers entertained. Later, he attacks your makeshift home fort, and is about to strike down a five year old orphan you’ve taken in before she – and you – are saved by bombardment from outside, but the orphan is shocked into muteness for most of the rest of the game due to this incident. Eventually, he’ll have his father killed to take over the country.
To summarize: the whole game is spent showing both Luca’s power and insanity.
Eventually, your army gets its chance: they’re told of his position after saving Ridley, who relays information to them, and your strategist decides on a night raid with your entire party. You’re told to pick out eighteen people – your normal max party of six, times three – to surround him.
When the raid starts, your army’s archers take out all of his soldiers, Luca’s horse, and put a few into him as well. This just pisses him off, so he gets up and fights the first of your three armies. Holy shit! He attacks three times per sound, and most of those take on either a row or a column! After awhile – either when he’s taken enough damage or you have – he casually walks away, into the second group. After THAT is done, he finally is taken on by your main party. After that’s been won, he walks away again! Injured, he is distracted by an amulet, which he opens, letting out fireflies. This tips off your archers again, who pump dozens of arrows into this already wounded man. HE IS STILL NOT DONE YET, so he takes on your character in one more duel battle where, despite being badly wounded, he’s still quite capable of killing you.
After you win, he STILL has the energy to thrash about, taunting you with the fact that it took hundreds to kill him, but he killed thousands indiscriminately. His last words are to the effect that he is truly the embodiment of evil, until he finally falls, dead. Even with that, your party can do nothing more than wonder if it’s truly over. While this is happening, your friend Jowy – by now working for the enemy – and his strategist stand on a precipice; Jowy finally got what he wanted all along.
It literally took two armies, four battles, a duel, and hundreds of arrows to kill one man. Best of all? This is in the MIDDLE of the game.
God of War fans, you can keep your visually stimulating QTE fests. No battle before or since has been set up as well, or executed as well, as the battle against Luca Blight in Suikoden II.
Aaron Sirois: Wiegraf/Velius battle from Final Fantasy Tactics.
Throughout the entire adventure beforehand, you always had a group of soldiers to work with and could overcome any one enemy with numbers if need be.
At this point in the game, you have already fought Wiegraf multiple times. Both were tough battles, but in the end he just wasn’t a match for your squad. You could take him out, leave the other guys alone, and win. Here, you realize that you are stuck with just Ramza against the toughest version of Wiegraf yet.
And he is simply better than you.
He can use Crush Sword like no tomorrow. He can counter any melee attack with an even stronger blow. His speed is so high that there are going to be times when he gets two turns in a row and you’re left helpless. To top it all off, you just decided to have Ramza be a damned cleric.
Still, somehow, someway, you manage to take him down. You finally exhale, thinking that the worst is over. Then a thought pops into your head: “But before the battle began, I had to place all five of my guys on the board. What gives?”
Then you notice the glowing stone that hovers over Wiegraf’s body. You stare in horror as he becomes one of the legendary Zodiac Braves named Velius. The rest of your party comes in and you think you’ll be OK. He then decides to even the odds by bringing forth four of his own demon henchman. And the true battle is on.
The crazy thing is that this battle isn’t the final boss of the game. He’s more like a mid point encounter. The challenge, story elements, and unique setting make this a battle that anyone who played Tactics remembers, whether it is with ire or fond recollection.
It is easily my favorite boss battle ever.
Sean Madson: In a twist that comes as an absolute surprise to no one, the most epic boss battle that I’ve ever encountered came at the end of Final Fantasy for the NES. Back in those days, you didn’t have save points in between dungeons. Hell, you couldn’t even resurrect your characters unless it was between battles. So after traversing floor after confusing floor of the final dungeon and fighting more powerful versions of the Four Fiends all over again, it was time to go head to head with Chaos.
What made it such a climactic battle was there was actually a lot on the line for me as the player. If I win, I officially beat the game. I will have saved the world. My first RPG: complete. But if I lose, I would have to start the final dungeon from the beginning, and lose all the progress I had made up to that point.
What made this feat even more challenging is that Chaos was equipped with all of the most powerful spells in the game, including a few that could instantly KO some of my party members. Also, the infamous Cure 4 spell could completely restore his HP to full. Luck played a huge part in this fight and I perspired heavily the first time I ever had to do it. Needless to say, my initial few attempts nearly crushed my spirit.
Mark B.: It’s hard to pick one boss battle as my favorite, just because there are so many I love for different reasons. I love the battle against Dark Force in Phantasy Star because it’s completely unexpected and hard as hell. The battle against Dark Dragon in Shining Force was awesome because it was against an enemy a million times your size. The final battle in Lunar: Silver Star Story is the culmination of hours and hours of work that really hits home perfectly, the boss battles in Shadow of the Colossus are impressive on so many levels that the game is basically made because of them, and on and on.
But my favorite boss battle is probably the final battle against Izanami in Persona 4, not for the battle itself, but for the execution of the battle.
So you’ve finally figured out who the serial killer is, and you’ve kicked his ass. He’s off in jail, the demonic entity who supposedly orchestrated the series of events has been put to rest, and everything seems to be in order… but something isn’t quite right. After piecing everything together, your investigation points you towards the REAL final boss, the one being who started this whole mess in the first place: Izanami, one of the two beings responsible for the creation of Japan in Shinto mythology.
In short: God has decided you need to die. It’s time to show this prehistoric bitch how you do things downtown. (Editor’s note: Aim for the flat top!)
The battle itself is no better or worse than anything in the history of Shin Megami Tensei games. The boss has no weaknesses and lots of strengths, you have to keep your party alive and chip away at her defenses, you know how it goes. Unlike the hidden boss battle against Margaret, it’s not especially challenging or no more so than one would expect, and it’s not a particularly engaging battle mechanically or anything. The reason why it’s my favorite, rather, is because of its execution.
In the beginning, you simply fight the boss, and while she’s huge and imposing and such, she looks, well, normal, comparatively. Once you wipe her hit points out, however, you find she cannot be killed until you use an item Igor handed you a few hours back, which suddenly reveals her diseased, rotting true form, as well as another long boss battle. When you get to the end of this battle, however, Izanami refuses to go into that good night, and decides she’s going to take your main character out by drowning you in darkness. Your allies knock you out of the way each time, sacrificing their lives for yours, until you are alone, and Izanami finally drags you into darkness…
One by one, the friends you’ve made come to you and encourage you, begging you not to give up, until at last, filled with the power of those who believe in you…
It’s obvious that the ending sequence here is cheesy. It’s dramatic in exactly the way it needs to be, but out of context, tossing away your glasses because you can now see through the lies is obvious and ham-fisted imagery. Having all of your friends come to you and tell you how much the world needs you is some straight-up Sailor Moon nonsense, and it’s not suddenly fresher ten years later. The fact that the battle ends with some deus ex machina manipulation is silly and tired. I get it.
But when I sat through the actual sequence, saw the entire thing in context, and watched the events unfold from beginning to end, damned if I didn’t flip Izanami off with a smile on my face when the main character tossed his glasses and summoned Izanagi no Okami to ruin her hardcore.
Sometimes, the obvious endings are the best ones.
Guy Desmarais: I have two favourite boss battles. I’ll start with the one from Super Mario RPG, because I like it more because of its nostalgia value, not because it was epic.
I was never a big RPG player. SMRPG was more or less the first time I tried to finish a role-playing game on my own, while my brother has always been a big fan of the genre and had already finished the game two or three times before I even started. He kept talking about the battle with Smithy, while I was not even past the Sewers. When I finally got to Smithy, it was my first RPG battle with big numbers flying out everywhere after each hit, but also my first big battle where I had to manage the health of my party members. I think that the only thing Peach did that day was heal people with group hugs because I was paranoid one of them was going to fall.
Finally defeating Smithy was a lot of fun, and the follow-up celebration with every character you have met in the game is the very meaning of “satisfaction”. However, my real favourite boss battle brought me even more satisfaction than defeating Smithy a hundred times ever could.
The game is The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Unlike RPG’s, I have been playing Zelda games since the first one on the NES. I think I have already chronicled how long it took me to finish the first one, and how A Link to the Past actually helped me to learn the English language, so these games will always have a special place in my heart. However, I will admit that as bad-ass as Ganondorf sounds during the games, he often fails when comes the time to actually fight him. The battle in ALTTP is far from being a hard one, and while I would qualify the battle from Ocarina of Time as “epic”, it is only because of everything that goes with it: the meaning of finally finishing Ganondorf after he has destroyed Hyrule over seven long years, the escape from the castle, and the ensuing celebration.
However, in The Wind Waker, Nintendo finally threw a curveball at me and made me fight hard in order to get to the ending.
The fight starts with a Ganon puppet trying to pummel you while you must cut its strings and shoot its tail. Easy enough, nothing I have never done in older Zelda games.
Then, the puppet morphs into a spider which tries to body-slam you all over the place. A little bit tougher, but the floor is reflective and thus it is possible to avoid most of the hits. That silly Ganondorf, always leaving you with a helpful hint on how to kill him.
The third form is a centipede that moves quickly and erratically around the room, which you must shoot while trying to avoid its damaging attacks. This one is a bit tougher because you have to be both quick AND a real sharpshooter with the arrows. Just this form of Ganondorf has been one of my longest boss battles in memory, but even when you think you got it, Ganondorf retreats to the top of the tower, where you have to fight him with the flooding Hyrule in the background.
You may think you have seen this in other Zelda games, but oh no. This is a sword duel. A real, one on one duel between Ganondorf and Link. You’re not just trading magic orbs or swinging wildly at a blue pig. You are dueling with Hyrule’s embodiment of pure evil, and he knows all your moves. His moves look way cooler than yours. To beat him, you have to remember a sword technique you learned at the beginning of the game, but which you never thought would ever come in handy because it’s overkill against most baddies.
Then, when you think you have him, he starts blocking that attack too. You then need Zelda’s help, as she tries to have you deflect her magic with you mirror shield. The magic hurts you too if you don’t block it! Defeating the King of Evil used to be so easy, what has the world come to?
Finally, when you do bring him down, instead of slashing wildly at the off-screen Ganondorf like he did in OoT, Link decides to finish him off for real and plunges the Master Sword straight into Ganondorf’s skull. He puts it right between the eyes. That’s right, he stabs his brain. The only thing I could think was “holy crap”, as my brother, who was watching, thought that this is the one battle that might finally make Link a real bad-ass instead of a mute goof in a green hat. The game wants you to notice that fact too, as the look on Link’s face is not one of surprise, and the camera locks on the sword in Ganondorf’s skull in multiple occasions.
For pure madness, entertainment, length and difficulty, I have to give the title of “best boss battle” to The Wind Waker. The ending is just the icing on the cake.
Aileen Coe: Man, so many final boss battles to choose from, but one of the first ones to come to mind when I saw this question was Kefka in Final Fantasy VI (well, III when it was released on the SNES), so that’s what I’m going with. The man who causes the apocalypse that turned the world into the ravaged place it is and rules over it with an iron fist that shoots burning light atop the tower he built. After reassembling your scattered members and climbing up the tower that took three parties to successfully navigate, you finally reach him and attempt to reason with him one last time. Of course, the self help book talk fails, as the sociopathic clown only cares about lives insofar as how many he can obliterate, so it’s time for one last showdown. Before the final battle, you have to arrange everyone you brought into the tower into groups.
You then fight your way up this monstrous organic tower. Anyone who fell in battle was replaced by the next person on deck before you face the next enemy. You just had to hope you didn’t run out of people before you got to Kefka himself. Finally, you reach the man (now god) himself, his mind twisted with power and self perceived immortality. Watching him slowly dissolve at the end was immensely satisfying. The track that plays the whole time just makes it better, especially the parts where Kefka’s signature laugh is integrated with the music.
Of course, the villain hell-bent on destroying the world has been done many times over, but Kefka was a memorable and well executed example of that archetype.
I don’t want to make a generalization out of it, but judging only from the answers I got from the staff, it looks like RPG’s of all kind have a way to go overboard with their boss battles, throwing everything at you in order to make you feel all the despair and helplessness of your characters. While this may be frustrating at first, there’s nothing like an epic battle with a great ending to make you feel good about the 50+ hours you just invested in a single game and make it all look like it was worth your time.
I will also agree with the points made by Chris and Mohamed: quick-time events are no way to finish a game. I don’t want my battles to be all about pressing a button in time with a cinematic. Even Resident Evil 5 understood that, and every part of the game that was not the final battle was constantly sprinkled with QTE’s. After spending so much time on a game, I want to feel the satisfaction of ending the boss myself. I don’t want to feel like I am watching a glorified cut-scene.
Now it’s up to you, our beloved readers, to discuss your favourite boss battles in the comments section. If you would prefer to leave us a question to answer in a future edition, you’re more than welcome to do so. You can also click on “email the author” at the top of this article and add the subject line “Ask the Kliq”. We’ll put our team right on it.