Sunday, February 19, 2012

Nothing beats a great boss fight

I've been writing a lot about video game boss fights this past week, and it got me thinking about some of my favorites.

The boss fight is one of my favorite game elements. Some argue that modern games don't need boss fights, that they are a relic of a bygone era (I'll be covering that issue very soon), but I love them.

Among my favorite boss fights of all time, is the Stage 6 Boss from Metal Storm for the NES.

I know many of you may be asking "Metal wha--?", so let's start there.

This game rules!

Metal Storm was released for the NES in 1991, and was developed and published by Irem (most famous for being the creators of the R-Type series).

Metal Storm is a side-scrolling action platformer with an interesting mechanic that lets you reverse the gravity at any time. This gravity-shift is very useful in helping you approach and fight enemies and also factors in very heavily with the game's puzzle-like elements (gravity-shifting can sometimes affect the environment around you).

To better get a sense of the gameplay, here's a video of me playing through the game's first level.

In addition to being a ton of fun, the game looks really great for an NES game!

Jumping ahead 5 levels brings us to the boss of the 6th level. Here's a video of the boss fight:

It's a quick fight, but it is tough! One the key elements of this fight is that if you touch either the floor or the ceiling - you instantly die. You have to continuously ride the machines (snowmobile engines?) that are circling the room to keep for touching either surface. This requires a combination of well timed jumps and even better timed gravity shifts.

I really like the fact that your ultimate goal is to destroy the only things that are keeping you safe! It's really fantastic when you think about it. The most important part of the fight is when all three machines turn red (meaning that they will destroyed with only one more hit), you have to very carefully plan out in which order you will destroy them. If you don't plan your attack carefully, you could be left with nothing to stand on and fall victim to the energy beams above and below.

A defining characteristic of this boss fight is that beating it relies heavily on both an understanding and a mastery of the game's mechanics (a signature trait of any truly great boss fight).

Boss fights are shining examples of game design expertise and ingenuity at their finest, and this one is no exception.

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