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 a 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. For example, in a combat game all regular enemies might use pistols while the boss uses a machine gun. A boss enemy is quite often larger in size than other enemies and the player character. At times, bosses are very hard, even impossible to defeat without being adequately prepared and/or knowing the correct fighting approach. Bosses take strategy and special knowledge to defeat, such as how to attack weak points or avoiding specific attacks. A final boss is often the main antagonist of a game's story.
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, can sustain more damage, and are generally found at the end of a level or area. While most games include a mixture of boss opponents and regular opponents, some games have only regular opponents and some games have only bosses (e.g. Shadow of the Colossus).
Some bosses require the player to defeat them in a certain way that may be unusual compared to normal attacks, such as using a certain weapon, hitting the boss in a certain area, or creative use of the environment (e.g. dropping a hanging chandelier on the boss, or pushing the boss off of a high ledge). Story-centered boss fights may include objectives other than simply defeating the boss, such as protecting a computer-controlled partner during the battle or sequence.
A number of bosses can also become harder to defeat after taking damage, whether by becoming invulnerable to a certain attack, able to use different or stronger attacks, capable of moving faster, and so on in order to prevent players from using a static strategy. Battles against such bosses are typically described as being divided into multiple "phases", with each phase after the first being triggered after the boss' health drops below a certain threshold.
Some bosses are encountered several times through a single game, typically with alternate attacks and a different strategy required to defeat it each time. In games such as Doom and Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, an enemy may be introduced via a boss battle, but later appear as a regular enemy, after the player has become stronger or had a chance to find more powerful weaponry.
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.
The concept of boss battles also extends beyond combat-oriented video games. For example, a number of titles in the Dance Dance Revolution rhythm game series contain "boss songs" that are called "bosses" because they are exceptionally difficult to perform on. Racing games, such as LEGO Racers and Need for Speed: Nitro, also feature highly skilled racers who can technically be considered to be bosses, as they hinder the player by seizing and attempting to maintain first place in every race.
Specific boss types
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A miniboss, also known as a middle boss, mid-boss, half-boss, sub-boss, or semi-boss, is a boss weaker or less significant than the main boss in the same area or level. Some minibosses are stronger versions of regular enemies, as in the Kirby games. Other video game characters who usually take the role of a miniboss are the Koopalings (Super Mario series), Dark Link (The Legend of Zelda series), Vile (Mega Man X series), and Allen O'Neil (Metal Slug). There is also a subtype nicknamed the "Wolfpack Boss", for its similarity to a pack of wolves, often consisting of a group of very strong normal enemies that are tough to defeat on their own, but a group of them can be as difficult as a boss battle.
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 than the final boss, and often the player is required to complete a sidequest or the entire game in order 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, which 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. Some superbosses in online games have an immense amount of health and must be defeated within a time limit by having a large number of players or parties battling the boss. Examples of such superbosses can be found in games like Shadow Fight 2 and Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes.
The final boss or foozle is a boss that is at, or near, the end of the game, with completion of the game's storyline usually following victory in the battle. The final boss is usually 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.
Scorpia stated in 1994 that "about 98% of all role-playing video games can be summed up as follows: 'We go out and bash on critters until we're strong enough to go bash on Foozle.'" 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.
In some games, a hidden boss, referred to as the "true" final boss, is present. These bosses only appear after the completion of specific additional levels, choosing specific dialogue options, or after obtaining a particular item or set of items, such as the Chaos Emeralds in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. These bosses are generally more difficult to defeat. In games with a "true" final boss, victory leads to either a better ending, or a more detailed version of the regular ending. Examples of a "true final boss" include Indalecio in Star Ocean: The Second Story and the Moon Presence in Bloodborne.
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Boss rushes are gauntlets that consist of back-to-back fights with several bosses. In some cases, boss rushes may include minibosses and superbosses. Sometimes these are a completely separate game mode, but are usually integrated into the main game. Sometimes they must be outrun rather than defeated; examples include Satan during his fourth form in Broforce. In some games, such as titles in the Kirby franchise, boss rushes include bosses that are exclusive to this mode. While the majority of boss rushes task the player with fighting each boss one by one, some games (such as The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth) have the player fight multiple bosses in a single chamber.
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