Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Best Boss Battles in Gaming History - Part Twelve


  • New Super Mario Bros. U
  • Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds 
  • Darksiders
  • Resident Evil 4

We all have them, boss battles that stay with us long after we've bested them and saved the day. Some argue that boss fights are antiquated, but we find them that when they are done right they can turn a good game into a great one. These are such encounters that have remained in our collective memory ever since we've defeated them. They can be challenging, they can be innovative, or they can just be plain old fun. Join us as we list the five new entries in our continuing Best Boss Battles in Gaming History series of features. After we're done, we'd love to hear your thoughts and recommendations.

If you've missed past entries of Best Boss Battles in Gaming History, look no further than the following links:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six 
Part Seven
Part Eight
Part Nine
Part Ten
Part Eleven

Bowser - New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U)

It's pretty much a given that the final boss in a 2D Mario game will be Bowser. It rarely isn't. Some encounters are particularly fun and memorable (see: Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Galaxy, New Super Mario Bros. Wii), while others aren't (see: Super Mario Sunshine and New Super Mario Bros.). Say what you will about the New Super Mario Bros. line of Mario games, but the development team consistently creates unique scenarios in which to tackle the king of the Koopas.

The Wii U launch title New Super Mario Bros. U creates one of the more memorable of these encounters, purely on the fact that you're actually doing direct combat with King Koopa, as opposed to being pursued and simply trying to stay alive.

Bowser's canonical son Bowser Jr. torments players in the last level of the game, riding around in his Koopa Clown Car. He returns to make life miserable for Mario and friends in their fight with his father. At this time, Bowser has grown to colossal proportions, looming tall over his rival.

Bowser spews forth giant fireballs in a high and low series of shots, while his son rides along the air in his Clown Car, Occasionally Bowser Jr.'s transportation will fall to the ground in an attempt to squash his father's enemies. Avoiding this attack allows Mario or whoever to take the opportunity of the Clown Car being temporarily grounded to kick Bowser Jr. out and control it. The aim here is to fly over Bowser's head and slam down on top of him, much like Bowser Jr. tried to do to the player.

After the first hit, Bowser hides inside his shell and spins across the arena, occasionally leaping high into the air for the player to quickly run under. Once he has emerged from his shell, Bowser launches a wave of fireballs into the air, which eventually fall from the sky, requiring evasion from the player. Meanwhile, Bowser Jr. throws out two Bob-Ombs from his vehicle to get in the player's way. Then the first part of battle repeats itself, only this time when the player grand-theft-auto's Bowser Jr.'s ride, Bowser shoots out three fireballs, each shot in a different angle. All it takes is two more hits, Mario and friends. Keep at it!

The New Super Mario Bros. U final boss might not be the most epic or memorable of all Bowser battles and encounters, but it is very much one that is higher on the list of the best Bowser battles than many others in the series' long history.

Raphael the Raven - Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (SNES)

With the release of Yoshi's New Island fresh on many Nintendo 3DS owners' minds, let's take a look at the game that it's very closely modeled after. We've touched upon a boss battle in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island in the past with the final climactic confrontation with Baby Bowser. This time we're going to take a peek at one of more creative clashes in the game. (Which isn't easy to choose from, as so many are clever and well designed!)

Raphael the Raven is the concluding battle of world five. Starting off as an ordinary Raven, Kamek enters the picture and does his usual enlargement magic on the enemy. If only that worked in real life, then we wouldn't have the need for Viagra...

Anyway, the now bigger Raphael the Raven charges into Yoshi, knocking him onto a small moon. Raphael pounces onto the moon, too, setting up this unique boss fight. Yoshi can move all the way around the moon, even appearing at the bottom of it, upside down!

Running away from the chasing, charging, jumping, and shockwave-producing Raphael, that wants nothing more than to turn Yoshi into dino-mush and Baby Mario into Baby Bowser's new playmate, the player must use various stakes sprinkled on the moon to ground pound into them. Doing this to one stake causes it to protrude out on the opposite end. The goal here is to use timing to ground pound the appropriate stake when Raphael the Raven is standing on the opposite end, where it will jut out and do damage.

Each stake drives Raphael into a frenzy, making him increasingly angrier, quicker, and redder in color. After a trio of stakes that successfully drive into Raphael, the creature leaves a permanent footprint in the galaxy, becoming a constellation in the starry sky. Quote Raphael the Raven, nevermore. It's too bad, too, as that is a very fun fight!

Stalblind - The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds received a perfect score when we reviewed it last year. It also won Game of the Year for 2013 at our awards ceremony. We would be amiss if we didn't include a boss from the game on our ongoing list of favorites.

A Link Between Worlds has plenty of references to A Link to the Past. There's the obvious world map that is close to what was seen in the Super Nintendo classic, and there's also boss fights that resemble those from the game, but with a twist.

Such an encounter is against the boss of the Thieves' Hideout, Stalblind, an obvious reference to A Link to the Past's Blind from the fourth Dark World dungeon. However, Stalblind isn't as typical an encounter as his predecessor.

A Link Between Worlds uses a wall merging mechanic which presents itself as incredibly useful in exploring both Hyrule and Lorule. It's also advantageous to use in many battles. This battle with Stalblind is one such encounter.

Stalblind hides behind his massive shield, while using his other arm to slash his sword at Link. The trick to the first phase of this fight is to wall merge with Stalblind's shield. The boss will then open his arms, putting the shield's front behind him as he looks in befuddlement for the seemingly disappearing Link. By exiting painting form from the shield, Link can successfully strike Stalblind's back. This is an ingenious way of showcasing the wall merging mechanic in a fresh way.

After growing tired of being outwitted multiple times (seriously, you'd think the guy would wise up after at least the third time being tricked by Link), Stalblind tosses away his shield and begins slashing and slicing his sword relentlessly at Link, who must retreat while still attempting to do damage to the haphazard boss.

Finally, the last part of the fight begins once enough damage has been dealt to Stalblind. Taking a page directly out of Blind's playbook, Stalblind's head detaches from its body and begins flying around the room, emitting a hazardous black mist. This is all the while the boss's body continues to hack at the air, coming towards Link. After the final hit, Stalblind evaporates and Link returns to the surface, using his new key to unlock a storage shed where a sage's portrait is resting.

Straga - Darksiders (PS3, 360, PC)

A creature from the Abyss, Straga is encountered twice in Darksiders. The fight being described here is the second battle, taking place near the end of War's quest. Unlike the first battle, there is nothing in the way of automobiles to chuck at the demon to damage him. Instead, War must utilize his newly acquired Voidwalker to create portals to use to his advantage. For those uninitiated, the Voidwalker activates two portals at a time. The portals lead to one another, allowing War to leap through one to reach the other. This is the key to defeating Straga a second time.

On the battle stage there are two portals available for use on the floor. The most important portal is located on Straga's club. By making a portal on both the club and one of the pieces of floor, when Straga lifts his club behind his head, War can leap through the portal on the floor and land on the demonic creature's back. It is on the back of Straga where his weak point rests, a red eye. Striking this leaves Straga's ugly mug open to assault.

Of course, War must use some defensive smarts to complement his offense. Straga summons enemies after each round of being assaulted by War. He also slams his hand to the ground in an attempt to squash War. Finally, the two floor portals come into use in evading Straga's club sweeping attack, where he sets his club on one side of the battlefield and drags it across the room. Only by moving from one portal to the other to safely get past the club will War avoid damage.

While the dungeon featuring the Voidwalker was overly long and dragged on quite a bit, its use in the battle with Straga really made the fight all the more interesting and entertaining. It was a novel use of the device, and allowed a puzzle element to an otherwise ordinary encounter.

Del Lago - Resident Evil 4 (Multi)

Something is definitely fishy with the lake that Leon S. Kennedy needs to cross in Resident Evil 4. Actually, if you want to get technical and destroy our play-on-word, things are getting salamander-y. However, that doesn't roll off the tongue as well.

Del Lago (translating to Of/From the Lake) is the first major boss in Resident Evil 4. Leon hops aboard a small motorboat and heads out to cross a murky lake. It is then that underneath, something starts to move. The massive Del Lago unleashes its fury, emerging from the watery depths, causing Leon's boat to violently jostle around. The anchor falls onto the creature's scaly back. Thus, Leon's boat is dragged around at Del Lago's will.

This wouldn't be much of a battle if someone hadn't thankfully stocked the boat with a full supply of harpoons. It's with these that your aim must be true if you wish to inflict damage to the overgrown parasitic salamander. Fortunately, the creature's entire body is one giant weak point, so all that is needed is to make contact with a harpoon.

This might seem easy, but you're constantly being moved about the lake by Del Lago, using what little control you have over the boat to avoid debris in the water and the monster's own advances. If you get knocked out of the boat, you must quickly jam on a button in a QTE fashion to swim back to the boat before Del Lago gobbles Leon up.

It takes approximately a dozen harpoons to effectively eliminate the threat that is Del Lago. The fight starts a long line of awesome boss encounters, and it continues the perfect pacing that Resident Evil 4 has.

Also, a little Easter egg-- If you stand by the dock and start shooting the water, after a little while Del Lago will emerge from the water, swallowing Leon, resulting in a Game Over.

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