Here we are, folks. The final day of End Boss Month is upon us. As I noted yesterday, thinking of the proper subject to bring an end to end this month-long series was among the most difficult tasks I’ve had in writing it. But now that we’re here, I’ve decided that once more, we’ll look at not one, but two very special final bosses. One that has been around since Nintendo’s earliest console days, and one of their most recent creations.
Bowser has the simplest of desires. He’d like nothing more than to take Princess Peach hostage and conquer the Mushroom Kingdom. Though to be honest, the kingdom has always seemed to be a very distant second in Bowser’s wish list. And what does Bowser want with Peach? Well, if the Paper Mario series is to be believed, he’d just like to marry her. He’s love struck, and he goes about it in all the wrong ways.
Of course, Bowser’s kidnappings are fairly routine at this point. He shows up, goes “Bwa ha ha,” ensnares Peach in his scaly clutches, takes her back to his castle, and then is summarily trounced by Mario. And you know, for as old hat as the scheme is, would we really want it any other way? I mean, kidnapping Peach is really the thing that Bowser knows best, so why should we demand anything different from him? He’s the one villain in the entire world that can still pull off that trope without making it look tired.
Bowser is like that old friend that, no matter what changes, you can always count on to be the same as ever. He’s overcome repeated failures, a horrific, ruffle-headed portrayal by Dennis Hopper, the indignity of having to team up with his enemy after a freakin’ evil anvil took over his castle and the most amazing indigestion medical science has ever witnessed. And yet, no matter what, he’s right back at it, chasing after that cute blonde in the pink dress. He doesn’t settle for easier targets and he doesn’t let the constant thwarting of his plans get to him.
And Bowser is always on the lookout for new and creative methods of bringing Mario’s destruction. Breathing fire? Raining mechanized death from a clown-copter chariot? Just turning the tables and jumping on him? His plans may always end in failure, but he has a very busy drawing board. Just look at some of his greatest hits.
Really, more villains could stand to learn from Bowser.
One villain that certainly doesn’t need lessons, however, is the final boss of Nintendo’s Kid Icarus: Uprising. Going into the game, I thought that things were going to be pretty cut and dried. The marketing made it very clear that Medusa, the final boss of the original NES game, was making a return appearance. And appear she did. I fought and defeated her at the end of chapter nine.
Of a twenty-five chapter game. Wait, what?
Well, no sooner is Medusa defeated than the real villain revealed. It’s none other than the true ruler of the underworld, Hades. Yes, Hades, who had resurrected Medusa to unwittingly do his bidding. And his sudden appearance transforms what had previously been a fairly straight-forward story into something with multiple, surprising twists and turns. Like the other characters in the game, he’s also incredibly, hilariously chatty. He has no qualms with being evil. It’s pretty much his lifestyle. Even when the plot takes a turn that sees the gods all working together, he still finds ways to impede Pit and sling some zingers in the process.
What I am saying is that he is a dick. Which really shouldn’t surprise anyone. I mean, he’s the ruler of the underworld. And yet, despite his wisecracks, penchant for hitting on goddesses, and all of his fun-time loving, he is seriously, maliciously evil. As in, he creates servants by harvesting and destroying the souls of countless mortals and throws the cycle of reincarnation into a chaotic mess. And he does it all pretty much just because he can.
To make matters worse, he’s powerful enough that, the first time Pit faces him, he destroys the three sacred treasures the angel had used to fight Medusa. Even when Pit returns for the final battle, which encompasses the entirety of the game’s last stage, equipped with a heavily armed transforming armor, Hades still manages to destroy it, leaving Pit defenseless on the ground.
And then, a special set piece kicks in; the player must help Pit keep his focus on Hades while a mysterious force heads straight for the underworld king. Is it friendly? No one knows. But just when Hades is about to blast Pit into oblivion...
Medusa comes back.
Even though she was rendered into an unwitting second banana, almost an afterthought with her defeat so early in the game, Medusa charges in and shows Hades who’s really boss by punching his head clean off. It doesn’t quite kill him, and he takes Medusa down soon after, but there’s a sort of poetry to the way it all happens, letting the final boss of the original get in her shot at the usurper, and leaving him open for a final blow.
Unlike Bowser, Hades will probably never be back. Well, not for a while, anyway, if at all. But even so, he leaves a mark, not just for his remarkable wit, but for his incredible evil. The game he’s from is only a few months old at this point, but for everything he says, does, and represents, I’d say that, years from now, there’s a good chance that a lot of people will fondly remember him for being so deliciously vile.
Ugh. Why did the best Youtube video I could find of the battle have to come with a giant-size watermark and no touch screen shenanigans? Oh well. But in the spirit of Uprising, let's give Medusa some due of her own, just as a bonus.
Man, the 1980s sure did love giant, stationary final bosses.
Ladies and gentlemen, it has been fun writing this series, but like all great games with final bosses, it’s time to bring it to an end. I hope you’ve all enjoyed my month of rambling as much as I’ve enjoyed the actual act of rambling. And once again, I apologize if I just didn’t get to a boss that you really would have liked to see me cover. There’s just an insurmountable number of possibilities out there. But that doesn’t meant that you can’t talk about your favorites yourself.
So, as I close things out, I ask you this? Who are your favorite bosses? Your least favorite? Are there any that just struck that special something in you? End Boss Month may be over, but the discussion doesn’t have to end here.