What makes a boss battle memorable? Some say it’s a blistering and soul crushing difficulty that just makes you dread ever having to fight him/her/it again. Others might say it’s a unique presence that offers something inimitable from otherwise typical fight formulas. The truth of the matter is both are very important. A memorable boss battle is one that comes to mind above others when recalling your time with a certain game because something special made you remember its name or appearance. It is that time again where we take a look back and acknowledge some of the best boss battles in a year of gaming. 2012 was rich with quality titles, and many of them boasted some interesting and challenging encounters.
The Ur-Dragon of Dragon's Dogma – Dragon’s Dogma merged the ideologies of many proven past titles in game design and created the silver medal version of all of them at once. Mind you this is no insult when you consider such games Capcom has taken mechanics and inspiration from; Dark Souls, Baldur’s Gate, Shadow of the Colossus to name a few. It is not a negative to refer to a game as the next best thing when the first best are amongst the greatest titles created in all of gaming. One aspect Capcom’s surprisingly successful RPG excels in a league of its own however is how online play is implemented. Among the innovative ways players can take part in the online community involves a massive boss battle which combines the collective damage dealt to the Ur-Dragon by the entire PSN or XBL communities respectively. Only by slaying this goliath of dragons can the best gear in the game be obtained, and those who do not land the killing blow will also be rewarded for their contributions. Aside from being a conceptual incorporation of a massively multi-player raid encounter into a console game and yielding the best possible armor and weapons for your characters, it is just plain stunning how insignificant you truly feel when facing this massive boss. You could fight the Ur-Dragon four times over in one generation and not even chip away 2% of his life. That’s a beast if there ever was one.
The Reaper of Mass Effect 3 – When you think of the Mass Effect universe, The Reapers are your prototypical sci-fi world-beaters who are just above the human capability to vanquish. They are colossal in size, more powerful than any being in the universe, and do not suffer the durability weaknesses of the spongy flesh. In fact the entire plan to take this race of synthetic monuments down couldn’t have been more shrouded in doubt and uncertainty. If the general feeling of constructing an ancient weapon that could potentially put an end to The Reapers comes off as a galaxy swan song, imagine the feeling of being up close and personal with one. That’s what this battle is all about; epic scale. With elements of both survival and desperation, fighting The Reaper on Rannoch is not your typical elite boss encounter; there is a lot of story-telling involved here as well. With consequences greatly affecting the Quarian/Geth war you are doing more than just taking down a member of the baddest race in the world, you are holding the lives of entire species in your hands during the aftermath.
The Kayran of The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings– The Kayran is the first “real” boss encounter in The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings and it is a great example of the challenge players will face from that point on. Another member of the humongous bad asses of this list, you are forced onto the defensive for practically the entire battle while taking advantage of short windows of opportunity to take this menace down. It can be a taxing battle on one’s patience and one mistimed dodge can end your life in an instant. Conceptually this is a simple battle, but far from an easy one. Knowing how to best your foe and the actual execution of doing so is a dramatically different idea from one another, and this battle proves that in spades. Even making a mistake during the quick-time events will result in an instant death and force you to start from scratch. Not to mention if surviving this boss battle doesn’t get you used to the somewhat awkward movement controls, nothing will.
Slagged Bloodwing of Borderlands 2 – In a game not particularly full of intense boss battles it’s easy to pinpoint one that really stands out; the mutated pet of everyone’s favorite drunken sniper is easily the battle in either Borderlands title that is worth remembering. Aside from the large scale feel of the battle it is the only one that really takes players on an emotional roller coaster ride. One part of you feels like Bloodwing can still be saved from Handsome Jack’s slag experimentation, whereas the other part knows that this is a battle to the death. The only way to know for sure is to take this big bad bird down. There is no moment more heartbreaking then seeing the effect of explosion after finally chipping down Bloodwing’s huge life bar. Rest in peace old friend, they can’t hurt you anymore.
Shadow-Teddie of Persona 4: Golden– Some may argue that Persona 4: Golden is not a 2012 release proper. While this may not be Atlus’ cult phenomenon’s first appearance on the market, throw the “Golden” onto the title and you have yourself a next gen release. For the most part this is the same game RPG enthusiasts have played on the PlayStation 2 with some pretty nifty additions, enough that even Persona vets would want to revisit. One battle remains constant and it is just as creepy and twisted as it always has been. Everyone’s favorite lovable womanizing stuffed bear Teddie (or “Kuma”, for origin purists and Japanophile alike) is hard not to love…except for when his shadow takes form. Resembling the lovechild of Child’s Play’s Chuckie and a care bear there is no image that burns into the brain quite as awkwardly as this fight; and this is considering there is also a giant 8-bit armored fat kid, a teenage pole-dancing stripper, and an overly buff Hulk Hogan looking dude with two giant symbols for “Male” as his weapons. Yeah, Persona is an interesting series.
Jamaerah the Scribe of Darksiders II – Knowledge is power; quite literally in fact when it comes to one of the more unique battles in Darksiders II. Jamaerah uses books as his sword and shield against you and if you get too close he’ll knock you away with his giant stomach tentacle; one that would make any hentai director proud. This deformed bookworm hits like a grown ass man however. While not as frustrating a battle as Samael or as intimidating a presence as The Wailing Host, he certainly stands out the most when thinking back on all the boss encounters.
Shadow-Labrys of Persona 4: Arena – There are several aspects that make up a good fighting game boss; an intimidating presence, being a royal pain in the ass to fight, and in this case an odd yet adorable accent. As it pertains to the first, it isn’t so much the slightly twisted facial expression and golden eyes that separate the usually demure Labrys from her shadow counterpart that makes her intimidating so much as her Persona Asterius. Whereas every other character can summon their Persona for specific attacks, Asterius is capable of remaining constant to fight alongside it’s master. Not to mention he’s creepy looking as hell. The “Raging Bull of Destruction” also hits like a ton of bricks and utilizes two of the most annoying move-set tactics in any fighting game; a soft knockdown air dive and an attack-immunity charge up. Not exactly Shao Khan status, but frustrating by anime fighter standards.
2013 is here now and with many hyped up and anticipated titles to be released yet, things are looking very promising for next year’s list. Titles that have already been released such as DmC and Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch may have already set the standard; what will the remainder of the year hold in store?