Welcome to the newest column here at Diehard GameFAN, “Hi-Technical Knockout”Â, in which two DHGF staffers or alums will face off in a contest of wits!
It shall feature Random Encounters, Twisty Passages, Virtual Abnormality, Battles to the Pain, Chewing of the Digital Fat, and the occasional Mutual Admiration Society!
Only here at Diehard GameFAN!
Feel free to suggest discussion topics to WBXylo@gmail.com
Topic #1: The Big Toe theory.
Sometimes in feet the second toe is longer than the big toe.
Sometimes in video games, the penultimate boss fight is more interesting/challenging/memorable/better than the ultimate boss fight.
Is this a problem?
First addressing this issue is Mark B. Mark reviews more video games than I play. He must constantly be playing video games with one hand and writing about video games at the same time with the other hand. This would require at least two faces.
Therefore I am thoroughly convinced that he is the Bi-beast.
I would say that it depends on the intent; that is, if the developer intentionally does this thing, that’s honestly not an unreasonable thing, if done correctly.
See, here’s the thing: video games, for all of the debate about this concept, can on some level be considered a form of artistic expression, not unlike a film, play or novel in some respects. While the expectations for the medium are different, in that gameplay and interaction with the product are an important part of the medium, the narrative flow is, in this day and age, often an equally important part of the experience, if not sometimes more so. Games like Mass Effect 2, 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors, Persona 4 and so on wouldn’t have been half as enjoyable if their narrative had been complete trash or completely ignored, and in the case of something like Bioshock the narrative is pretty much the main thing that players remember over anything else.
So, suppose in your narrative, you have a “final boss” who is exceptionally powerful insofar as his or her connections and money are concerned, but is weaker than, say, The Incredible Mister Limpet. Now, obviously he should have a member of his staff to act as “The Dragon” to his “Big Bad”, so there’s some sort of challenge to be had, but it’s entirely reasonable for the final boss to be a complete waste of carbon in that context. Dude, he’s busy running a city/country/world/galaxy spanning criminal empire and reaping the benefits, of course he’s a shitty fighter. He has oodles of money and more heavily trained badasses working for him than you could count without taking off someone else’s shoes, why WOULD he need to learn nine different ways to make someone stop living with his fist? No one’s ever made it past the armies of relatively loyal and stupid goons in his employ, he has no reason to believe someone would be able to do so now, right?
So in that respect, this isn’t a terrible idea. A few games have done this thing with reasonable success, like Urban Reign, The Darkness and Bully, as it stands to reason that those particular bosses would, well, suck out loud. From a narrative standpoint, beating them is the most important thing. We know they’re complete losers, and the challenge isn’t important here, it’s all about the boss getting what’s coming to them, whether they’re all-powerful or not.
If this is unintentional, however, IE the boss sucks because the developers ran out of good ideas, then that’s generally not so acceptable. Take DOOM, for instance. Now, DOOM 3 had the good sense to move the Cyberdemon battle to the very end of the game (and make the bastard fifty stories tall, but whatever), but in the original game, the end segment hierarchy of bosses came together perfectly well, all in all. At the end of “Knee Deep In the Dead”, you faced down two Barons of Hell, both of whom could hit hard and make you wish you could avoid them entirely. At the end of “The Shores of Hell”, you faced down the Cyberdemon, a massive demon who fired rockets like crazy and pretty much was capable of completely ruining you if you weren’t paying attention. This was all really awesome and gave a great lead-in for “Inferno”, the final chapter of the game… and the Spider Mastermind, who was a major letdown, boss-wise, from the Cyberdemon.
Woo, he has a chaingun. I have the BFG 9000 and enough plasma energy to make shit dead fifty times over. Come on, really?
It’s an intent issue, not a difficulty issue. If your final boss is a complete loser because, in the confines of the game world, he’s supposed to be, then, great, awesome, make him a complete loser. But if he’s supposed to be a destroyer of worlds and you make him a complete pushover, then yeah, in that case? THAT’S unacceptable, because that means someone didn’t bother to actually pay attention, and that’s terrible.
Next up is Sean Madson. Madson is, of course, a famous actor, poet, and photographer. He is best known for his starring roles in such films as Reservoir Dogs, Free Willy, and Species.
It’s all about context. If it works to the benefit of the story, why limit yourself to having the final boss be the toughest guy all the time? Think of it like this: you’ve already done all the hard work clawing your way to victory and without a break get thrown into another battle. What is going to be more satisfying? Getting your ass handed to you within minutes, forcing you to redo the whole encounter all over again, or to have the source of all your troubles quivering in front of you, trying fruitlessly to avoid an end that he/she/it knows that’s coming? Example: the end of Final Fantasy VII. (SPOILERS) After an epic battle consisting of Super Novas and Knights of the Round played against the One Winged Angel song, you are thrown into a one on one duel with Sephiroth (sort of). This dude has been riding your ass the entire game, trying to blow up the world. AND HE KILLED AERITH! And you have one move at your disposal to give that guy what he deserves: Omnislash. (/SPOILERS) Satisfying, right?
It doesn’t always have to be a one hit blow kinda thing either. It can be disguised as a regular battle, much like the fights that are impossible to win. How about a fight that’s impossible to lose? Such is the case with the conclusion of Final Fantasy X. (SPOILERS) So after defeating Jecht/Sin/Braska’s final summon you are thrown into combat with Yevon, the little parasitic bastard that started all your troubles. This final battle is nothing more than a token boss fight since you are revived even if you fall, but they added it in there to be an emotional scene for Yuna. She has to kill all of her Aeons in order to prevent them from getting possessed by Yevon, even though they helped her every step of the way just to get to this point. (/SPOILERS) So yes, even though it’s far easier than the fight that came before and you can’t lose, it serves a purpose to the story and is effective at that.
Notice the examples I gave of beneficial moments were all RPG’s? Outside of that genre, it becomes more difficult to justify. I remember the first time I played the original Mortal Kombat. The main villain in that game was Shang Tsung, but nobody remembers their fight with him. Why? Because prior to your encounter with Shang Tsung you had to fight Goro. And that guy was a dick. He could pick you up and pound on your chest or throw you on the ground and step on you and THERE WAS NOTHING YOU COULD DO ABOUT IT. Because he was Goro. However, when you finally brought that behemoth down, it stands to reason that the next fight would be more difficult. You were quaking in your boots as your portrait slid its way up next to this terrifying old man. Only for the whole thing to be a total cakewalk. In fact, the guy was so flimsy that the only way he could pose any threat to you is if HE TURNED INTO GORO HIMSELF! Sure, it usually ended in a flawless victory, but where’s the pride in roughing up someone who probably needed Life Alert to pick himself back up?
Tricky. Both contestants had the basic thesis of “it depends on context”Â. A wishy washy answer that is probably true.
Let’s start them off with 100 points each.
Mark B. backs up his arguments with TVTropes style labels and talking about Doom. This is worth an extra 15 points.
He also gets a 30 point bonus for referencing Don Knotts.
Mark B.’s total Score: 145 points
Madson receives an 85 point bonus for bringing up how rad Goro is. He is deducted 15 points for not mentioning Kano.
Unfortunately, the strength of Sean’s argument hinges on Final Fantasy games that many people have played. Due to a previously existing condition here at DHGF known as “Lucard’s Rule”Â he is docked 100 points.
Sean’s Total Score: 70 points
Winner: Mark B
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