Ah, the boss fight. So much is put into making these set pieces to be memorable experiences, especially in this day and age of massive development and marketing budgets, and for the most part they succeed. Whether they’re remembered in a positive or negative light, however, varies case by case.
Either way, the surefire approach to imprinting these boss battles into the minds of gamers is by making these encounters bat-shit insane. Whether they cause you to incredulously gawk at the screen or bring you this close to whipping a controller at the wall, these are some of the craziest that come to mind for the current generation of games.
Oh, and while it should go without saying, this article obviously has its share of spoilers, so tread carefully.
Catherine – Take your pick
Sweet Georgia Brown, where to even begin?
Back when we first heard about Catherine we had no idea what to think. Despite a great art style and great music, we simply didn’t know what the hell was happening in that Japanese debut trailer. Almost a year later, we fell in love with the game’s handling of a mature story, where the word “mature” didn’t just mean “tits and/or blood” (though it had it’s fair share of that, too).
However, the game is still very strange, especially during the nightmare sequences that task players with guiding Vincent up increasingly complex walls of climbable and moveable blocks to escape a grisly death below. Each night is broken up into multiple stages, with each final stage throwing involving a monstrous realization of something that’s bothering Vincent in the real world, chasing him all the way up to the top.
Above: Or sometimes it’s a giant ass with a tongue. Obviously.
When Vincent’s long-time girlfriend Katherine talks to him about marriage, he’s chased by a giant, murderous bride that night. When she tells him she’s pregnant, it’s a chainsaw-wielding infant.
If I had pick just one … I really can’t. I think that they’re all nuts, and that they’re all great.
Shadows of the Damned – The Big Boner
Another Japanese game that just shoots weirdness (and dick jokes) at you like a gatling gun, Shadows of the Damned accomplished exactly what it set out to do: put out pure entertainment without ever once taking itself too seriously. Well, maybe not everything; the game sold like crap because EA seemingly forgot that they were publishing the game, which would be the only plausible explanation for the game’s total lack of marketing.
In a quasi-survival-horror game produced by Suda 51 and packed to the gills with dick jokes, you’re bound to run into some crazy stuff. Nowhere are these dick jokes more pronounced than when your floating skull companion Johnson transforms himself into the Big Boner.
The Big Boner is a special weapon, see. Normally, Johnson transforms into the Boner, then the upgraded Hotboner, but the Big Boner is needed to take down waves of gigantic enemies that are normally require a lot of effort to take down with your regular weapons, and it’s only used in one part of the game. How does Garcia Hotspur get his hands on such a, uh, tool? He calls a phone sex number, holds the phone up to Johnson, and next thing you know it’s time to take his new pole for a stroll. To top it all off, Garcia yells things like “Feels good!”, “Magnifico!”, and “Taste my Big Boner!” every time he fires at an enemy.
Now, you might note that this isn’t what you’d normally call a boss fight, as it’s just several enemies you’ve faced before coming to you all at once instead of one at a time. I’ll counter that with the fact that, like traditional boss fights, this is a unique experience within the game. You never put your hands on the Big Boner again after this.
Also, I wanted a reason to write “Big Boner” across several paragraphs, which is something I just couldn’t pass up.
Mortal Kombat – Shao Kahn (twice)
Sometimes a boss fight is insane because that happens to be the mental state that the game pushes you dangerously close to, and this year’s Mortal Kombat has the balls to do that to you twice during it’s story mode.
There’s a lot to love about MK9 and it’s story mode. It plays better than any MK has in years, if not ever, and the story mode is the most fleshed-out that you’ll find in any fighting game while also being a great way to familiarize yourself with the characters, as most of them are playable in this mode. There are plenty of instances where you’ll have your mettle put to the test, though, with several frustrating encounters against two opponents at once, or overpowered beasts such as Goro and Kintaro.
Absolute child’s play when compared to Shao mother-huggin’ Kahn.
For the most part, I’m pretty crap at fighters, so I was pretty proud of myself to make it all the way to Shao Kahn on normal difficulty. Unfortunately, it turns out that he’s the kind of dick in which almost every one of his attacks is unblockable, while also possessing predictive powers that make almost any plan of attack futile.
What I’m saying is that I had no chance of beating him until I knocked the game’s difficulty down to easy, in which I finally “earned” my victory. It was a shallow one because his intelligence on easy borders on brain damage, and it becomes easy to spam Liu Kang’s fireballs and bicycle kick in the first encounter, or Raiden’s flying attack in the second and final battle.
But, uh, yea! Otherwise, good game!
Batman: Arkham Asylum – Scarecrow
Picking my favorite part of Batman: Arkham Asylum is like picking my favorite part of a pizza — all of the pieces are individually great and work to make an amazing whole. For the sake of this article, though, the choice is clear: each encounter with Scarecrow and his fear toxin that drives Batman to the brink.
If I had to pick a favorite from one of those, the easy choice is the encounter that makes Bats remember the moment in time that changed him, and eventually Gotham City, forever. As he’s walking down a long hallway at the fabled Asylum, it suddenly starts to rain, which is weird because it’s a hallway. Then the hallway becomes an alley, Bruce hears his parents and their eventual demise, and next thing you know he’s a child again, kneeled over his parents’ bodies. By all accounts, it’s a perfect moment.
But that’s not really a boss battle, is it? Fortunately, this leads right into another one of Scarecrow’s fear-induced dreamscapes (not-so-fortunately for Batman). He’s mountainous in size, thugs become skeletons, and shit is just bananas all around. Guiding Batman successfully to the end is the game’s way of showcasing his iron-clad will to retain his sanity, which baffles Scarecrow by the end of it all.
What I love so much about these sequences is that they’re simply not possible to convey in Batman’s traditional comic form, which is saying a lot considering some of the classic series that have been written about the Caped Crusader. The entire game is a testament not only to what I love about Batman, but also to everything that video games have going for them as a medium.