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34 Cliches of Christmas
The Big Boss Battle
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on December 25, 2007   |   Episode 34 (Show Archive)  

   

It's that time of year again, a time when Defunct Games celebrates the holidays by posting a daily theme article that should inform and delight gamers all over the world. This year we're taking a look at the video game cliche, the type of thing we've seen time and time again in all generations of gaming. Is this cliche realistic? Does it need to go away? These are the types of questions Defunct Games will be asking over the next month. Join us as we celebrate this joyous season with the 34 Cliches of Christmas!



When Link first went toe to toe with the evil Ganon it was an epic battle. These days it's yet another common cliche in the Legend of Zelda series!
As Seen In: Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Ninja Gaiden, Darius Gaiden, Gunstar Heroes, God of War, Twisted Metal, Guitar Hero III, Street Fighter II, Sonic the Hedgehog, BioShock, Viewtiful Joe, R-Type, Metroid, Strider, Metal Gear Solid, Gradius, Mega Man, Alien Storm, Okami, Contra, Final Fantasy, Devil May Cry and every other game ever made ... I'm serious, it would be easier listing the games that DON'T have boss battles!

What Is It? It's the mother of all video game cliches, the one thing that has appeared in more games than anything else on our list. That's right, it's the boss battle! It's that moment in a game where all of your skills and patience are tested before you can move on to the next level. If done correctly a boss battle should act like a final exam of all of the gameplay techniques you have learned up until now. That is, if this level was all about wall jumping and dropping bombs, then chances are good that wall jumping and dropping balls is going to play into defeating this boss. In the 8-bit era bosses were the one time game developers could make enormous sprite-based characters that take up the entirety of the screen. Just look at classic 2D shooters like Gradius and Gunstar Heroes, these games features enormous bosses that never failed to impress. These days game developers don't have to worry about making their characters too large, so in effect we have an entire generation of games where the only difference between a regular bad guy and the boss is the difficulty level. It's not hard to determine whether or not you're in a boss battle, if all of the doors are locked and the exits are blocked, then you're probably fighting a boss battle. Another sign this is a boss battle is if that enemy character only has one weak spot (which is generally glowing red). You might also be able to figure out if it's a boss by listening to what they say right before the fight. Oh, and if you are burning through continues at an alarming rate, then I'm here to tell you that this is a boss battle. There's no reason to get pissy about it, just pick up that controller and aim for that one weak point ... it's better if you just fight the monster and get on with the game.

Is It Realistic? You can go a couple of different ways on this one, but the main point is that (thankfully) the real world is not set up like a video game. Most people don't need to survive a big boss battle at the end of each level ... unless you equate spending time with your dysfunctional family as surviving a boss battle. There are times when you might have

The trick to M. Bison is knowing that he's infinitely cheaper than you can ever hope to be. Defeating M. Bison is going to require a lot of luck (and Sheng Long)!
to beat a boss character, especially in the corporate world. But even then, when it comes time for a promotion most people aren't required to physically fight their superior for the spot. While someone might want to argue that in sports and other competitions you have to deal with bosses, but even that analogy doesn't quite fit the definition of a boss battle. Let's say your favorite baseball team made it to the World Series; wouldn't that be considered a boss battle? Not at all, unless you consider yourself to be something of a boss character, too. Even if it doesn't always work out like this, the World Series (as well as the Super Bowl and any sports play off) is a match-up between two similarly skilled teams. When was the last time you battled a boss character that was similarly skilled? Video game boss battles are, by their very nature, supposed to be difficult situations where you are the underdog and it's up to you to figure out how to win. There are things like this in the real world (taking a final exam at the end of school semester comes to mind), but it's just not the same as it is in the video games.

Is It Overused? These days there are a lot of people who seem to want to get rid of boss battles altogether. These people say that boss battles are unrealistic and rather antiquated. Worse yet, they hate the idea of spending three hours trying to beat some super difficult boss just to see what the next level is all about. I don't necessarily agree with this sentiment, I personally like the boss battles. These bosses don't need to be in every game (Guitar Hero III did NOT need boss battles), but when they're used correctly they add a lot to the game. I can't imagine playing a Metal Gear Solid game without some outrageously over-the-top bosses getting in your way. And how could you make a game like Shadow of the Colossus without featuring epic boss battles. I'm fine with the game developers toning down the amount of boss battles, but I don't want to see them stripped out of games completely.

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