The gamer world of bombastic boss fights

A scene from the video game "Chrono Trigger." (Screenshot/"Chrono Trigger" website)

Boss fights are both a traditional and iconic part of video games, often serving as a climatic and cathartic way to conclude a plot arc. These benchmark battles come in a variety of forms, from the “Pokémon” series’ gym leaders, to chucking Bowser into mines in “Super Mario 64.” Some boss battles, however, really stick with you, either for the fighting mechanics or artificial enhancements such as theme music.

Take the battle against Magus in the SNES classic RPG “Chrono Trigger.” He’s fought approximately halfway through the game, but remains a boss that really keeps you on your toes. Looking vaguely like a blue-skinned Piccolo from “Dragonball Z,” Magus is fought in his castle only after you’ve defeated his three generals. He uses magic techniques you may not have even seen at that point in the game. If you don’t plan accordingly, he can be very challenging to beat.

The best part about fighting Magus is that by the time you’ve completed “Chrono Trigger,” Magus gets a remarkable amount of character development and doesn’t simply remain as this inherently evil overlord. Come to think of it, that really does sound like Piccolo.

Another memorable battle comes near the end of the 2006 arcade flight game “Ace Combat Zero.” You must effectively joust your opponent – your former and traitorous wingman from earlier in the game – with your plane, as you’re only able to damage his plane through his intakes. On top of this, you’re fighting this guy against the clock – and if the clock runs out, the boss launches an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).

Not to gush about the “Ace Combat” series, but another iconic fight comes during the finale of “Ace Combat 5.” Not entirely like a colony drop from the “Mobile Suit Gundam” series, the finale pits you against a falling satellite directed to crash into your country’s capital city. You must carefully destroy it so that it breaks into pieces and lands in the nearby ocean, while simultaneously dodging the falling parts so they don’t crash into you as you break them off.

What’s really neat about this fight and similar ones is that there’s a hidden, alternative method to finishing the mission: you can fly into the satellite, destroy a more fragile part inside and win. It’s quicker, but demands much more skill, as the shaft of the satellite is very narrow – certainly not something you’d necessarily want to try using the available A-10 bomber.

There are many ways to overcome a boss fight. From the mechanized Hitler that appears in “Wolfenstein 3D,” to the various colossi from “Shadow of the Colossus,” boss fights have an important place in video games. They test the player’s literacy of the game’s mechanics, a neat wrap up of a story – or, in the best cases, both.


Max Engel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at max.engel@uconn.edu.