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When you've made your way through any level in most role playing video games, you're confronted with one final challenge that you have to overcome before you can move on from that area. This challenge usually appears in the form of a giant enemy that requires a very specific strategy to beat. Depending on the franchise, these fights can turn out to be very different - extremely story driven with long cutscenes and very little player input, easy but extremely long or tedious, short but mind numbingly difficult, the list goes on. It should suffice to say that boss fights are something that everyone looks forward to for the grandiose and the spectacle of it all. Given that dungeons are one of the most integral part of The Legend of Zelda franchise, it was expected that the series presented gamers with excellent bosses. And so far, Nintendo has delivered.
Bosses are some of the most memorable parts of any Zelda game, and they're the thing that people think about most often whenever their mind wanders to any particular dungeon. In particular, the 3D Zelda games have some of the most impressive boss fights the series has seen in its long lifetime, and while the 2D games certainly have their fair share of extreme battles to showcase, I feel that there's a certain aspect about the 3D ones that make the entire ordeal more complex and fun to watch and play through. As a part of Zelda Month 2018, I'm going to be going through my personal top five bosses in Zelda.
Just like with my previous post, which was about the top five dungeons in the series, I'm going to be focusing on the 3D Zeldas only and the list is not going to include any content from Breath of the Wild. That being said, let's jump into it.
5. Goht 'The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask'
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask was an enigma of a Zelda game, in almost every sense. Its storyline was the most bizarre, the content was so much darker and sombre than any other Zelda title till date, and there are only four dungeons, which means only four bosses. While they were engaging and they provided for implementation of some unique strategies, sometimes all you want to do is just run up to the enemy and hit them with all you've got.
Masked Mechanical Monster Goht gives you exactly this, albeit in a somewhat different way.
The fight takes place in a circular track and all you have to do is wear your Goron mask and chase after the beast, hitting him with spikes on your body even as he runs aimlessly. There's only one word that I can use to describe this fight, and that is entertainment. The fast paced music and the sound of Goht's feet hitting the ground makes the fight thrilling and engaging. You quickly become accustomed to rolling around the room while dodging the various debris scattered around you while filling up on magic for you to continue rolling; its simple and addictive, and it makes for a great use of the Goron's Mask, whose greatest attribute is easily its mobility.
While this boss was extremely entertaining, it gets only the number 5 spot not for any fault of its, but rather because the later bosses do a better job of fitting in atmosphere and relevance to the overall story of the game, rather than just being a good time. Nevertheless, Goht is easily the best boss in Majora's Mask by far, and it will always be remembered for the unique fight it presents the player with.
4. Volvagia 'The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time'
The dungeons that the player explores as Adult Link in Ocarina of Time are noticeably more laborious than the three explored as a child. The puzzles are a tad more complex, the length of the dungeon increases, and of course, the themes of the dungeon get darker as you progress deeper into it. When I first set foot into the Fire Temple, I wasn't very impressed by the dungeon itself - it just seemed like a standard fire themed level (albeit with very creepy music), but by the time I finished it, I was grinning at the boss battle I had just played, facing off against Subterranean Lava Dragon: Volvagia.
This boss was memorable for all of the right reasons. As soon as Link stepped onto the large central platform, the ground starts rumbling, as if something is straining to emerge from it. Then, with a mighty roar, a full-sized, lava red dragon appears from a pit of lava right in front of you and proceeds to breathe fire all around the room as the now iconic background music starts to play. If that's not the definition of epic, I don't know what is. This is the first boss in the game that truly feels like its straight out of a hero's tale (because, come on: it's a freaking dragon.), and it's not very often that Zelda bosses are so heavy on a cutscene transition like they did for this one.
The boss fight becomes even more epic when you realise several things about Volvagia. Firstly, several Gorons were eaten by the beast, fed to him by Ganondorf himself, which obviously makes Volvagia all the more scary. Secondly, Darunia had to fight this guy without the use of the Megaton Hammer (the Goron 'secret weapon). When you enter the boss room, he is nowhere to be seen, and Volvagia is calmly turning up the heat as you frantically dodge falling rocks in an effort to stay alive. What exactly happened to him is something I wonder to this day. Obviously he went on to become a sage, but...
The only complaint I have about this fight is that its way too easy; it takes barely over five minutes to beat Volvagia, and I feel like Nintendo could have made it a little tougher for the player to win. However, despite that little shortcoming, this boss battle remains etched in the memories of so many Zelda fans, myself included, and that's why it takes the number 4 spot.
3. Ganon 'The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time'
The final act of Ocarina of Time gave the player many twists and turns which made for an action packed climax. From not being able to use Z-Targeting in the final fight against Ganondorf to the King of Evil trying to collapse his castle after you best him, its a battle that takes a while to fully complete. However, most players thought it was over after the tower fell on top of Ganondorf, surely crushing his body beyond all repair. However, a sound emanating from the rubble puts both Link and Zelda on guard. Naturally, you go over to investigate, only to watch in shock and awe as Ganondrof emerges, floating in midair, showing you that he too, is blessed with the power from the gods. He begins to transform into a hideous beast as you're enclosed in a ring of fire, and soon you come to face to face with a creature that, to be quite frank, looks like it was pulled straight from a nightmare.
The first indication of how ominous the boss battle with Ganon is in his title card. Every boss battle up till that point, had a title to go with its name (eg. Great King of Evil Ganondorf, Phantom Shadow Beast Bongo Bongo, etc). Ganon has no such description. It simply shows Ganon in big, bold letters, and you know that you're in for the fight of your life. This boss battle isn't the epic tale of the hero smashing the villain into the ground, not at first at least. With a roar, as soon as he transforms, the Master Sword is knocked away, leaving you weaponless against a beast that wants to skewer you with two giant swords. The atmosphere is thick with tension, with a dull grey sky and only the occasional lightning strike, leaving Ganon's face shrouded in darkness for most of the fight, which of course, only adds to the air of the boss battle. The music is also slow and intense, making the player feel like the weight of the entire world rests on them to finish the beast once and for all.
The boss battle with Ganon is a perfect end to Ocarina's long journey as you are faced with a towering, literal manifestation of darkness and evil. Midway through the fight, you reclaim the Master Sword and use it to bring him down to his knees, after which Zelda immobilises him and you deliver a final strike right to his face. It's a bloody sight for sure, but one that the player can be damn proud of after going through so many arduous trials. The prelude to the fight, the atmosphere of it all, and the heart stopping finish the conclusion brings catapults this battle to the number 3 spot on this list.
2. Koloktos 'The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword'
Skyward Sword was hailed by critics and gamers across the board to be the best Zelda game since Ocarina of Time, and on paper, it's not hard to see why people would think so. With amazing visuals that beautifully combine the best of The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, along with a gripping story that, true to its reputation, does in fact rival Ocarina's, its a masterpiece of a game from Nintendo, and a must play for any video game fan. One thing that people were noticeably more happy with as compared to previous Zelda games, however, were the dungeons. Nintendo really pulled out all the stops for this game as each of the dungeons contained unique puzzles that stopped and made the player use the WiiMotion Plus controls to their fullest capability. Of course, the necessary colorably to this would be that the bosses doing the same, and no boss embodies that more than the boss of the Ancient Cistern, the Ancient Automaton Koloktos.
At first, it seems like a standard Zelda boss fight, with you having to use the whip item to expose the weak spot (which could not be more obvious) and then slash at it. But when you do this enough times, the fight takes an entertaining turn as Koloktos gets fed up of you slashing at his core, choosing to actually stand up and lock the core with a metal cage. The machine then proceeds to pull out 6 swords and leer at Link menacingly. At this point, the music swells and changes to a more enthusiastic variant of what was playing in the first phase. I remember when I was first playing this boss, I was completely taken by surprise at how amazing this was. The first phase of this fight tests the patience of the player by having to wait for the right time to strike with the whip, while the second phase is the exact opposite of that. When you use the whip on his arms, he drops his enormous swords, leaving you to pick one up and absolutely decimate him, which was made all the more fun with the incredible motion controls.
Nothing really comes close to the feeling that you get when you swing Koloktos' large sword around and destroy his entire body, which brings me to an important point about boss fights that Nintendo hit right on the nail with this one: they need to be fun. If a boss fight isn't fun, then it's not going to be very memorable unless its extremely difficult. Of course, many gamers would prefer to have both: a challenging fight that is also entertaining to play through, but such a rare combination is usually reserved for bosses of great significance, like the final boss. Koloktos may not be the most complicated boss to beat; in fact, figuring out how to take him out is an easy task. But the fact that you can take his own weapon and just go to town on him makes the boss fight memorable and unique, and that's why it gets the number 2 spot on this list.
1. Ganondorf 'The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker'
The best type of video game boss, in my opinion, is one that takes the time to build some rationale for the actions of the villain before getting into the action. Aside from giving the player a bit of a break before the final fight, it allows for introspection of the choices of the antagonist and lets the player judge for himself whether the villain is right or wrong. A great example of this is Spec Ops: The Line, as the player is told the consequences of both his actions and the villain's actions near the end of the game, and combined with the choice mechanism that the game implements, it makes for a very impactful conclusion. The Wind Waker does the same, except within the context of the lore of Zelda.
First of all, atmosphere. The fight takes place on the roof of Ganon's Tower, with waterfalls cascading downwards all around you, covering the entire area a beautiful shade of blue, even as the rain pours down on you. The surface of the water is still and pristine, making the entire area darker than what it would be had the sun been shining down directly on everyone. Its tense and sombre, which fits the tone of the conclusion perfectly. Before the fight begins, Ganondorf tells Link why he wanted to conquer Hyrule, and for the first time in a Zelda game, we, as the players, are able to understand his motivation for conquering Hyrule. Its a wonderful moment where we can sympathise with the Kind of Evil, if only for a second. However, after he summons the Triforce and is about to make his wish, all sympathy vanishes and is replaced by dread, only for that same dead to turn to relief when the King of Hyrule steals his wish. From then on, the battle commences, and I think few would disagree when I say that its one of the highlights of the Zelda franchise.
I always imagined that Zelda games should end with a one on one battle with Ganondorf, swordplay dominating every other form of combat. Twilight Princess did this as well, but the difference between the two is that Ganondorf was shoehorned in as a villain at the last second, so the fight wasn't as impactful as it could have been. Here, we know that this is the person we've been up against the entire game, which makes the fight that much more intense. To be honest, the final spot on this list was a tossup between this fight and the fight with Demise from Skyward Sword, but Wind Waker's final battle felt a tad more story driven as Ganondorf was someone who was trying to thwart you since the beginning, plus there was some sense of direct continuity in that many references to the Hero of Time are made, which gives the fight more significance. Not to mention that this game has possibly the most violent ending in all of Zelda, with the Master Sword being driven right into Ganondrof's skull and turning him to stone at the end of it all. The game ends on a solemn yet hopeful note as Link and Zelda leave Hyrule behind in search of a new land, and a big part of making the ending impactful is in the final battle. Its just the right amount of story, action, emotion and gameplay that leaves you awestruck, and that is why it gets the spot as my favourite Zelda boss.
See you next time for the next Zelda Month post! (should be up this week, so it won't be too long)