Boss (video gaming)
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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. Most commonly, bosses are very hard or impossible to defeat without knowing the correct fighting approach. Bosses take strategy and special knowledge to defeat, such as how to attack weak points or avoiding specific attacks.
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.
Bosses are not endemic to action/adventure or fighting video games, as they can also be found in racing video games in the form of well-skilled opponents in a certain racing league, such as the Circuit Champions in the console/PC version of LEGO Racers and city street racing "leaders" in the Wii version of Need for Speed: Nitro.
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, 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 penultimate boss is a boss before the final boss of a game. It is sometimes the secondary antagonist of a game.
The final boss is generally considered a significant opponent that is at, or near, the end of the game. Usually, they are the main antagonist of the game, however, there are exceptions, such as in Conker's Bad Fur Day, where the final boss is the antagonist's alien pet. In rare cases, they can be a completely unexpected character in a sudden plot twist, such as in Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time.
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 one or more unique musical tracks, often more dramatic than the music used for other bosses and featuring aspects such as a choir, 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's storyline usually following victory in the battle (though this may not necessarily imply exhaustion of all tasks available within the game—games such as those in the Pokémon series often including "post-game" content). 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" or "boss rush".
Final bosses usually have two or three forms, each with its own health bar. It is more rare for a final boss to not attempt to "fake out" the player and only have a single form or stage. More commonly, a boss will have a more humanoid form with which to battle the player, then a stronger, monstrous form, and if there is a third, even stronger form, it will look more human again, but with monstrous aspects. Alternatively, the final boss can be a monster all the way through, but its initial form will be somehow sealed or not revealing its true strength. Bosses can also be made up of several phases that are equal in power, but require different skills to defeat, forcing the player to use all the techniques they have learned.
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.
One example of a "true final boss" is Indalecio in Star Ocean: The Second Story, who can be made much more challenging by completing a particular sidequest.
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