Boss (video games)

(Redirected from Boss character)

In video games, a boss is a significantly powerful non-player character created as an opponent to players.[1] A fight with a boss character is commonly referred to as a boss battle or boss fight. Bosses are generally far stronger than other opponents the players have faced up to that point in a game. Boss battles are generally seen at climax points of particular sections of games, such as at the end of a level or stage or guarding a specific objective. A miniboss is a boss weaker or less significant than the main boss in the same area or level, though usually more powerful than the standard opponents and often fought alongside them. A superboss (sometimes 'secret', 'hidden' or 'raid' boss) is generally much more powerful than the bosses encountered as part of the main game's plot and is often an optional encounter. A final boss is often the main antagonist of a game's story and the defeat of that character usually provides a positive conclusion to the game. A boss rush is a stage where players face multiple previous bosses again in succession.

A boss fight from Guacamelee! in which the player characters (the two characters in luchador outfits) must keep ahead of the giant rampaging creature (boss) on the left while dodging obstacles and other enemies

For example, in a run 'n' gun video game, all regular enemies might use pistols while the boss uses a tank. A boss enemy is quite often larger in size than other enemies and the player character.[2] At times, bosses are very hard to defeat without being adequately prepared and/or knowing the correct fighting approach. Bosses usually take strategy and special knowledge to defeat, such as how to attack weak points or avoid specific attacks.

Bosses are common in many genres of video games, but they are especially common in story-driven titles, and are commonly previously established antagonists in the plot of the video game. Action-adventure games, beat 'em up games, fighting games, platform games, role-playing video games (RPGs), and shooter games are particularly associated with boss battles. They may be less common in puzzle games, card video games, sports games, and simulation games. The first video game with a boss fight was the 1975 RPG dnd.

The concept has expanded to new genres, like rhythm games, where there may be a "boss song" that is more difficult. In multiplayer online battle arena games, defeating a map boss usually requires teamwork of 2 or more players, but it brings various benefits to the team, such as buffs or lane push power.[3][4] Some games, such as Cuphead, Furi and Warning Forever, are centered around continual boss fights.[5][6]

Characteristics

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Bosses are usually harder to beat than regular enemies, have higher health points, hence can sustain more damage and are generally found at the end of a level or area.[7][8] 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).[9] Some bosses are encountered several times through a single game, typically with alternate attacks and a different strategy required to defeat it each time.[8] A boss battle can also be made more challenging if the boss in question becomes progressively stronger and/or less vulnerable as their health decreases, requiring players to use different strategies to win. Some bosses may contain or be composed of smaller parts that can be destroyed by players in battle, which may or may not grant an advantage.[6] In games such as Doom and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, an enemy may be introduced via a boss battle, but later appear as a regular enemy, after players have become stronger or had a chance to find more powerful weaponry.[10][11]

Many games structure boss battles as a progression of distinct phases in which the boss produces different or additional hazards for players. This is often reflected by a change in the appearance of the boss.[12]

The Legend of Zelda series and games inspired by it are recognized for having dungeons with bosses that are specifically vulnerable to a special item that is located within that dungeon. Player(s) typically acquire this item while exploring the dungeon and is given opportunity to learn to use it to solve puzzles or defeat weaker enemies before facing the boss character.[13]

Boss battles are typically seen as dramatic events. As such, they are usually characterized by cutscenes before and after the boss battle and unique music. Recurring bosses and final bosses may have their own specific theme music to distinguish them from other boss battles. This concept 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.[14]

In combat-focused games, a boss may summon additional enemies, reinforcements or minions or "adds" to fight players alongside the boss, increasing the boss fight's difficulty. These additional enemies may distract from the boss battle or give time for the boss to regain or regenerate health, but may also give players opportunity to regain health from health boosters and ammo dropped by the boss's minions.[15]

Specific boss types

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Miniboss

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Miniboss in the 2015 video game Broforce, a run-and-gun platformer

A miniboss, also known as a "middle boss", "mid-boss", "half-boss", "sub-boss"[16] 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.[17] Others may be a recurring version of a previous boss, who is either weaker than previously encountered or is less of a challenge later in the game due to character or equipment progression. An example is Castlevania: Symphony of the Night's Gaibon and Slogra.[18] Other video game characters who usually take the role of a miniboss are Vile (Mega Man X series), Allen O'Neil (Metal Slug) and Dark Link (The Legend of Zelda series, though he appears as a final boss in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link).[19][20][21]

Superboss

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A superboss is a type of boss most commonly found in role-playing video games. They are considered optional enemies and do not have to be defeated to complete the game. However, not all optional bosses are superbosses. 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 players are required to meet certain conditions in the game or complete a sidequest[22] or the entire game to fight the superboss. The first such superboss (or secret boss) was Akuma in Super Street Fighter II Turbo, that required players meet certain conditions before he would appear as the final boss.[23] In Final Fantasy VII, players 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.[24][25] Some superbosses can yield special items or skills that cannot be found any other way that can give players 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.[26] 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 working together to defeat the boss. Examples of such superbosses can be found in games like Pokémon Go and World of Warcraft, and are generally referred to as a raid.[27][28] Toby Fox's games Undertale and Deltarune both feature superbosses in the form of Sans, Jevil, and Spamton NEO.[22][29][30] Some major video game series have recurring superbosses such as the Ultima Weapon and Omega Weapon in Final Fantasy and the Amon clan in Yakuza.[31][32][33] The Warden from Minecraft could be considered a superboss, as it is vastly more difficult to fight than the final boss, the Ender Dragon. However, Mojang, the developer of Minecraft, has explicitly stated that the Warden was not intended to be fought by players.[34]

Wolfpack boss

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A wolfpack boss is a group of enemies who may be considered weak on their own, but in large groups can be considered strong enough to be a boss. They come in many variations, such as the Chargin' Chuck Swarm encountered in Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam,[35] the Armos Knights from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past[36] or the Battle of 1000 Heartless from Kingdom Hearts II. A main requirement with most wolfpacks is that the whole group must be defeated in order to win; in order to prolong the fight, many wolfpacks, particularly in games with turn-based combat in lieu of real-time, will summon reinforcements to replenish their lost numbers. An example of this is Astaroth in Diablo IV.[37]

Final boss

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Mother Brain, the final boss of Metroid and Super Metroid

The final boss, last boss or end boss,[38] is typically present at or near the end of a game, with completion of the game's storyline usually following victory in the battle.[39][40] The final boss is usually the main antagonist of the game; however, there are exceptions, such as in Conker's Bad Fur Day, in which the final boss is the antagonist's alien pet. Final bosses are generally larger, more detailed or better animated than lesser enemies, often in order to inspire a feeling of grandeur and special significance from the encounter.[41]

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 or performing a series of tasks in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. 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 the Radiance in Hollow Knight and the Moon Presence in Bloodborne.[42][43]

The term "Foozle" is used to describe a cliché final boss that exists only to act as the final problem before players can complete the game.[44][40] 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.'"[39]

History

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A precursor to video game boss fights is Bruce Lee's Hong Kong martial arts films, including The Big Boss (1971), in which Lee fights a criminal gang before battling the eponymous "big boss", and Game of Death (1972), where Lee fights a different boss on each level of a pagoda, which later inspired the boss battles of martial arts action games such as beat 'em ups.[45] Another precursor is tabletop role-playing games starting with Dungeons & Dragons (1974), in which in a typical dungeon campaign there would be one powerful enemy acting as the boss of the weaker minions that players would face beforehand, in the same sense as a crime boss, which later inspired the boss battles of role-playing video games.

The first interactive video game to feature a boss was dnd, which was released in 1975 for the PLATO system.[46][47][48] dnd was one of the earliest dungeon crawl video games and implemented many of the core concepts of Dungeons & Dragons.[47] The objective of the game is to retrieve an "Orb" from the bottommost dungeon.[49] The orb is kept in a treasure room guarded by a high-level enemy named the Gold Dragon. Only by defeating the Dragon can players claim the orb, complete the game and be eligible to appear on the high score list.[46]

In 1980, boss battles appeared in several arcade action games. In March 1980, Sega released Samurai, a jidaigeki-themed martial arts action game where player samurai fight a number of swordspeople before confronting a more powerful boss samurai.[50] SNK's Sasuke vs. Commander, released in October 1980,[51] is a ninja-themed shooting game where the player character fights enemy ninjas before confronting bosses with various ninjutsu attacks and enemy patterns.[52] It was one of the earliest games with multiple boss encounters, and one of SNK's earliest games.[53] Phoenix, released in December 1980,[54] is a fixed shooter where players's ship must fight a giant mothership in the fifth and final level.[55] At several points in Namco's vertically scrolling shooter Xevious (1982), players must defeat an Andor Genesis mothership to advance.[56]

In side-scrolling character action games such as beat 'em ups, Irem's 1984 arcade game Kung-Fu Master established the end-of-level boss battle structure used in these games, with players progressing through levels (represented by floors of a temple) and fighting a boss character at the end of each level;[45][56] in turn, this end-of-level boss battle structure was adapted from the Bruce Lee film Game of Death, where Lee's character fights a different boss character on each floor as he ascends a pagoda.[45] The game was distinctive for giving both players and each boss a health meter,[56][57] which leads to the game temporarily becoming a one-on-one fighting game during boss battles, a concept that Kung-Fu Master designer Takashi Nishiyama later expanded on when he created the fighting game Street Fighter (1987) at Capcom.[56][58] The term "boss" was used in reference to the game's final boss by Mike Roberts in a review of the game published in the May 1985 issue of British magazine Computer Gamer, while he used the term "super baddies" for the end-of-level bosses.[59]

Sega's arcade game Fantasy Zone (1986) popularized the concept of a boss rush, a stage where players face multiple previous bosses again in succession.[60]

Etymology

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Michael Fahey of Kotaku noted in a podcast that usage of the term "boss" by Nintendo Power grew sharply around 1988, and that there was no clear single etymology of the term. In the same podcast, former Kotaku editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo speculated that bosses became known as such because they were "in charge of all the enemies".[61]

See also

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References

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