Boss (video gaming)
In video gaming, a boss is a significant computer-controlled enemy. A fight with a boss character is commonly referred to as a boss battle or boss fight. Boss battles are generally seen at the climax of a particular section of the game, usually at the end of a stage or level, or guarding a specific objective, and the boss enemy is generally far stronger than the opponents the player has faced up to that point. A boss enemy is quite often larger in size than other enemies and the player character.
The first interactive game to feature a boss was dnd, a 1975 role-playing video game for the PLATO system. One of the earliest dungeon crawls, dnd implemented many of the core concepts behind Dungeons & Dragons. The objective of the game is to retrieve an "Orb" from the bottommost dungeon. The orb is kept in a treasure room guarded by a high-level enemy named the Gold Dragon. Only by defeating the Dragon can the player claim the orb, complete the game, and be eligible to appear on the high score list.
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Bosses are usually more difficult than regular enemies, and are usually found at the end of a level or area. Many games also include a battle with a "final" boss, which is usually the main antagonist in the story, at the very end of the game. Some examples include Ganondorf from the The Legend of Zelda series, Bowser from the Mario franchise, and Doctor Wily from Mega Man. While most games include a mixture of boss opponents and regular opponents, some games have only regular opponents and some games have only bosses – for example, Shadow of the Colossus has no enemies other than bosses. In games such as Doom, a boss can reappear throughout the game as an uncommon enemy. In a similar vein, a relatively powerful enemy may be introduced via a boss battle, but later appear as an uncommon but strong enemy, after the player has had a chance to find more powerful weaponry or a weakness it may have. An example of this is in Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, where a boss reappears in later areas as a normal enemy, with the player even fighting two at once at one point.
Some bosses require the player to defeat them in a certain way that may be unusual to normal attacks, such as requiring the player to use a certain weapon, such as in Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, or hitting the boss in a certain area, termed a "weak point", such as in the Metroid series. Story-centered bosses of this type will sometimes require certain prerequisites to be performed during the fight for the player to succeed, such as a requirement that a partner must stay alive during the battle or sequence to be counted as a victory. The most common games that have these requirements are the games in the Grand Theft Auto franchise, which players can usually have a partner during a mission that they must protect; the final mission of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is an example of a boss battle that requires both a side character to remain alive and for additional actions to be taken in order to defeat him.
In some games, the boss returns after being defeated, sometimes in a new form with alternate attacks. This can repeat a certain number of times before the player faces their final and most powerful form. The Final Fantasy series is well known for this style of boss, as well as the Mega Man series of games.
As they can sustain a lot more damage than normal foes, bosses commonly have a health bar which is displayed either on or near them or in a specific location on the HUD, usually with their name or a portrait of them attached. In lieu of a health bar, some bosses, like those in the early Metroid games, change color, change attack patterns or, in the case of larger enemies, lose parts of their overall structure as they receive more and more damage. Although health bars or indicators were less common in the early days of video gaming, they are now found in many video game boss battles.
Boss battles are typically seen as dramatic events. As such, they are usually characterized with unique music and cutscenes before and after the boss battle. Recurring bosses and final bosses may have their own specific theme music to distinguish them from other boss battles.
Specific boss types
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A miniboss, also known as a middle boss, half-boss, sub-boss, or semi-boss, is a boss smaller and usually weaker than the main boss in the area or level. Some minibosses are simply stronger versions of regular enemies, like in the Kirby games. Some well known video game characters who usually take the role of a miniboss are Dark Link (The Legend of Zelda series), Vile (Mega Man X series), and Allen O'Neil (Metal Slug). The concept is parodied in the Disgaea series with the character Mid Boss. Minibosses are sometimes encountered later in the game as normal enemies.
A superboss is a type of boss most commonly found in role-playing video games. They are considered optional enemies, though optional bosses are not all superbosses, and do not have to be defeated to complete the game. They are generally much more powerful than the bosses encountered as part of the main game's plot or quest, more difficult even than the final boss, and often the player is required to complete a sidequest or the entire game to fight the superboss. For example, in Final Fantasy VII, the player may choose to seek out and fight the Ruby and Emerald Weapons. Some superbosses will take the place of the final boss if certain requirements are met. This is common in fighting games, including Reptile in Mortal Kombat, Wally in Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire and Akuma in Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Some superbosses can also yield special items or skills that cannot be found any other way that can give a player a significant advantage during playthrough of the rest of the game, such as added experience or an extremely powerful weapon. For example, the "Raid bosses" from Borderlands 2 give rare loot unavailable anywhere else.
The final boss is generally considered a significant opponent that is at, or near, the end of the game. They are often the primary antagonist(s) of the game, but this is not always true. Final bosses are generally larger, more detailed, and better animated than lesser enemies, often in order to inspire a feeling of grandeur and special significance from the encounter. Final bosses usually have a unique musical track(s), often more dramatic than the music used for other bosses, while some final battles use the main theme of the game. The final boss is most often fought during the final level, with completion of the game usually following the battle, assuming the player is victorious. The levels they inhabit are commonly more difficult than previous, with the boss being heavily guarded by lesser enemies, which can make the route to the final boss a challenge. Minibosses or previously defeated bosses may also be encountered en route to the final boss, with the latter commonly referred to as a boss run. In some games, a hidden boss, usually referred to as the "true" final boss, is present. These bosses often only appear after the completion of specific additional levels, or after obtaining a particular item or set of items, triggering the ability to initiate a battle with the true final boss. These so called "true" bosses are generally more difficult to defeat, as they are meant to be discovered only when the player expends extra effort in order to discover the boss. In games with a "true" final boss, victory commonly leads to what is often referred to as the "true" ending, which is generally considered a better ending, or a more detailed version of the regular ending.
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