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Enemy Uses Self Destruct!

Josh Martz

The lack of logic in some games baffles me. Here you are, playing through games that can take upwards of 70 hours, fighting hordes of enemies, decimating boss after boss, all the while gradually inching towards your goal: The Final Boss. Surely, after wiping out his top general, his demonic hell-hound, and the four elemental fiends that guard the generators that power the shield around his castle, you are going to be in for one heck of a fight. So often, once you've finally destroyed the penultimate enemy, you're left with the task of killing the final boss, only to discover that he's incredibly weak. So weak, in fact, that you manage to beat him without breaking a sweat.

Frankly, this is a problem. What is the point in making your characters stronger, with the intention of being ready for anything, and only having to fight something that certainly isn't worth the time? Take Final Fantasy X, for example. While I don't necessarily consider this game difficult (the difficulty of anything is relative to the skill level of the player, so please bear with me and my logic), the final boss was pathetic. You can literally beat him with regular attacks in the course of one turn (And yes, I'm talking about *SPOILER*Yu Yevon*END SPOILER*). There's absolutely no strategy involved, no nail-biting, no nothing. It was one of the biggest disappointments I've ever experienced.

A side note: The one-on-one fight in FFVII, in which you can literally set the controller down on the floor and still win, I don't count. It might as well just be a story sequence. I think that's reasonable.

When I play an RPG, I want to feel that enormous sense of satisfaction you get when you overcome some incredible obstacle - in this case, defeating the toughest enemy in the game, the final boss (aside from bonus content...more on that later). I want to be on the edge of my seat, wondering if the boss is going to get his turn first, or whether or not I'm going to be able to resurrect my characters before he finishes off the rest. For those of you who've played Dragon Quest VIII, you may know what I mean. I fought the final boss at Level 39, without learning Omniheal. Now, there's a fight that was difficult. I survived, but not without freaking out several times, praying that he didn't get lucky and destroy my characters any more than they already were. That is the type of battle I'm talking about - not impossible, but challenging enough that you've just nearly eliminated the element of luck.

So what exactly is the problem here? There are two theories, one or both may apply:

1) Poor Boss Design - Like I mentioned with Final Fantasy X, the boss was just weak. It really didn't matter how you played (unless you deliberately made it so your characters were WAY underleveled...), the boss was a piece of cake. This is just poor boss design, since there was little that the player could have done to not just obliterate him. And if you got the ultimate weapons...there might as well not be a boss. You essentially poke him and he dies. While this isn't necessarily the more prevalent of the two theories, I really can't be too sure, seeing as I haven't played every RPG made. However, most games with this problem tend to fall under the second...

2) Poor Character Development - Also known as, "Why sidequests need to have a bit more balance." I'm not referring to the actual background development of the characters, but the actual mathematical development of their statistics. It's poor character evolution due to the developers adding in more than was required. Take the final boss from Final Fantasy VI. He was actually somewhat difficult, but by the time you get to the end of the game, you have several weapons and spells under your belt that can completely eradicate him very quickly. The same applies to Breath of Fire V. If you haven't been too liberal with your D-Counter, you are able to take out the later bosses in four turns. All you have to do is survive for those four, and you are set (though I did manage to defeat the first few without resorting to that...).

There are other games with this problem, such as Wild Arms 3 (and 4, from what I hear), where the final boss(es) are just plain easy. The last boss of WA3 actually has something along the lines of 12 forms, too...but they just prolong the battle rather than make it challenging.

So what are some ways to solve, or at least alleviate some of the issues?

Obviously, the best thing that can be done is to equip the final boss with some hard-hitting weaponry. Not necessarily something that does a lot of damage, but a special attack that maybe just aggravates your party. One of the reasons why DQVIII's final boss was so difficult was that he had a spell that removed all of your party's stat boosts, all in one shot. That spell can be applied to your party, regardless of level, and still be quite damaging.

The other issue is a matter of balance. The developers usually have some sort of idea as to what level the player will be near at the end of the game, so that should be one of the main points they use when assessing how difficult the boss should be. They should also take into account what items the player will acquire along the journey, especially the weapons that can be bought towards the end of the game. "Ultimate Weapons," should they exist, should provide an increase in stats better than any other items, but it should only make the boss "less difficult," rather than "easy," if you get what I'm saying.

All in all, it's up to them to figure out this problem. Final bosses should provide that last-ditch effort for the enemy to win -- we are supposed to be there to conquer it, to put up that final struggle to save our cause. Let's at least make it worth it.


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