End Boss Month #28: Chrono Trigger

I apologize that this entry is a day late. I normally have written this entries after returning home from work in the evening, but I had a social engagement last night that kept me out for the whole evening. But to make for that, both yesterday’s and today’s entries will be posted today. We’re almost at the end, folks. I’m not about to skip an entry now.

Priorities, ladies and gentlemen. Opportunities like this don't come every day.

But as for this belated entry, I’m sure that a lot of people here will likely be familiar with the subject. It was, after all, the entity at the core of the myriad shenanigans in Giant Bomb’s most recent Endurance Run. Today, we’re looking at Chrono Trigger’s very own Lavos.

Let's do the Time Warp again!

In basic terms, Lavos isn’t particularly complex. It’s hard to say of it’s even truly sentient. A being from space that crashed into the planet in the prehistoric era of the game’s world, it sleeps for eons until a fateful day in 1999 A.D., when it finally awakens, causing mass destruction and robbing the planet of the majority of its life. Afterward, it presumably takes a hike, in search of the next luckless world on which to feed like a spiny Galactus.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, it causes more trouble during 12,000 B.C.; an age that is otherwise dominated by a stark class division between “enlightened,” magic-using humans that live in the floating kingdom of Zeal, and their magic-less brethren, forced to live in squalor in earthbound caves. The reach of Lavos’s essence corrupts the mind of Zeal’s ruler, turning her into a lunatic bent on seeing Lavos’s awakening. When our heroes briefly face off with Lavos in this era, things end badly; the game’s protagonist Crono is killed; annihilated by Lavos’s power. (But he can get better.)

So in general, bad things happen when Lavos is involved, and it’s up to the player’s party to undo the damage. And with the power of time travel, there are plenty of options available when it comes to confronting Lavos. The player can confront it directly by traveling to 1999 through either the Epoch or the End of Time, and take it on as he awakens, or by completing a run through the Black Omen; the floating dungeon of darkness and doom that Queen Zeal summons from the ocean’s depths after her nation is destroyed.

Whatever path is decided on, however, fighting Lavos is a test of endurance. First, there’s its hard candy shell, which mimics the forms and attacks of bosses fought throughout the game. And then inside, where Lavos’s creamy center resides, there’s two more forms. And its final form is particularly deceptive. Throughout the game, the player encounters bosses accompanied by two assistants, or giant hands, or other assisting pairs. Kill the core, and the assistants follow. In Lavos’s case, however, the central figure of its final form is not the actual core. It’s one of is “assisting” bits. And before I figured this out, my first battles with Lavos really dragged on. In my defense, I was young and naive.

Still, with Lavos’s defeat, the timeline remains safe from harm. On the other hand, the DS version of the game offers up an extra ending in which Lavos isn’t the final boss, but rather just part of the final boss. Combined with Schala, this being, the Dream Devourer, is meant to better connect the game to Chrono Cross. But frankly, I personally loathe Chrono Cross, and will therefore choose to not discuss this particular incarnation beyond a clumsily inserted, fleeting reference near the end of this entry.

Once again, my apologies for missing the chance to post this yesterday. But as I said, End Boss Month will continue with a second entry posted later tonight. Until then, however, I imagine that I’ll be getting a lot of hate over that Chrono Cross crack.

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End Boss Month #27: The World Ends With You

In The World Ends With You, there exists a very unique twist on the afterlife. Those that die are eligible to play what is known as the Reapers’ Game; a week-long contest in which the participants, those that have recently died, solve puzzles and battle monsters called Noise for the opportunity to return to the world of the living. The Reapers themselves are a highly structured organization with territories divided between different groups of that are themselves regimented by a strict rank structure. In Shibuya, the game’s setting, the Conductor is a Reaper named Megumi Kitaniji, who in the absence of his immediate superior, the Composer, runs the game.

And looks rather laid back while doing it.

But Kitaniji runs the game with an ulterior motive, and for most of the storyline, does his work from behind the scenes and with the aid of his lieutenants and Game Masters. He is the manipulative sort, constantly finding ways to keep Neku Sakuraba playing the game week after week despite the fact that normal entrants have only one shot at victory. It’s eventually revealed that he’s also kidnapped Shiki Misaki, the first week’s winner, under the false pretense of having restored her to life. Yet it’s his larger scheme that earns him credit in this feature.

Shibuya itself is a community of trends. Different people follow different fashions, genres, and styles. While it seems paradoxical, people seeking individuality through belonging to groups, individual choice and the will to follow what one desires are traits of free will. Yet, Kitaniji sees things differently; he sincerely believes that Shibuya will fall apart unless he can do something to save it. He makes a wager with the Composer that if given thirty days, he can save Shibuya. The Composer then leaves Kitaniji in charge of Shibuya for the duration, but not before the pair select Neku as their pawn in the games, as he is alternately used to not only further Kitaniji’s plan but also by the Composer as his primary obstacle to preventing Kitaniji's success.

And the crux of Kitaniji’s plan? The removal of all free will and individuality in Shibuya, from those that are still alive to the deceased players to the Reapers that serve under him. No trends, no desires. Only a singular, chilling mindset shared by all.

“To right the countless wrongs of our day, we shine this light of true redemption, that this place may become as paradise. What a wonderful world such would be...”

A wonderful world, indeed. In my own playthrough of this game, seeing these people possessed by Kitaniji’s red pins weirded me out something fierce, and I blazed through the final challenges ready to put a stop to him.

At the game’s end, Neku must fight Kitaniji three times. The first in order to free Shiki from his control. In the second battle, he takes his Reaper form. In the third, he captures Shiki, Beat, and Joshua (who is in fact be the Composer in disguise), and then goes full power to face Neku, who has to fight alone.

But it isn’t enough, and Kitaniji loses the battle, as well as his bet with the Composer. He is erased from existence, and Shibuya is freed from his control. And in the end, it truly is a wonderful world.

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End Boss Month #26: Super Smash Bros.

Coming up with a suitable boss to end a game is not an easy thing to do. Intentions of being grand can turn out looking hokey, as critics of Mass Effect 2’s Terminator Reaper might suggest. Or the difficulty of the encounter might not match up to expectations, or might simply be unfair, as was the case with Alpha-152. But what if the boss is an entity representing not a singular plot thread or universe? What if the game in question is something meant to be absurd, as was the case with Super Smash Bros.?

In a game and series that is known more for its eclectic cast of Nintendo characters past and present, what sort of foe would provide a proper match for everyone, from Mario to Captain Falcon? From Pikachu to Samus? The answer, apparently, is to throw a hand at them.

Tickle, tickle!

Master Hand has been the final boss of the standard single-player mode in every Smash Bros. game to date. A giant, disembodied hand, it awaits the player at the top of the arcade-style ladder. And if the right criteria are fulfilled, its left-handed (left-bodied?) companion Crazy Hand joins in on the fun. This is one pair that refuses to hold the applause until the end.

But really. Hands? You get to the end of the game, and you’re fighting the Hamburger Helper mascot? Well, yeah. I mean, Master Hand doesn’t endorse any dinner preparation kits, but it’s ready and waiting to slap fools off of the stage and into the stratosphere. And in a way, it makes sense, when you think about it. The Smash Bros. games are all about mixing it up between disparate video game characters for little other reason than the fun of it. Heck, the opening movie of the original Super Smash Bros. plays directly into the idea.

In a way, Master Hand and Crazy Hand are like the appendages of someone playing with their toys. It would be like sitting next to the coffee table and pretending that Cobra Commander, He-Man, Barbie and Leonardo are in a free-for-all, pulling off ridiculous karate moves as they send each other flying. And then, when only one is left, having the victor go up against their own fist.

So really, Master Hand is a child being abusive toward his or her own toys. Toys unwilling to put up with their master’s torment any longer. It’s like if Toy Story were crossed with Small Soldiers. (Man, there’s a reference I didn’t ever think I’d make.)

There’s little reason to doubt that Master and Crazy Hand will come back for the Wii U and 3DS incarnations of Smash Bros. Their slapping, punching, pounding, crushing and laser blasting are a part of what makes the games what they are. There aren’t many disembodied appendages that can say the same thing. Well, if they could say anything at all to begin with.

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End Boss Month #25: Mega Man 1-10

In science, proper experimentation generally follows certain guidelines to ensure such things as safety and accuracy. In a properly controlled experiment, one catastrophic failure is generally all it takes for the scientists involved to either change the experiment in some significant way or simply move on. And while the science community in video games are generally an eccentric bunch, most are generally ready and able to acknowledge these basic concepts. If, for example, the resonance cascade you triggered happened to cause an interdimensional invasion and mass slaughter of your comrades, you probably don’t want to do that again.

On the other hand, if you’re Dr. Albert W. Wily, you’re probably just getting started.

The Scientific Sisyphus, ladies and gentlemen.

Mega Man’s eternal 8-bit foe, Dr. Wily was once a brilliant scientist working for the good of mankind. Except that mankind didn’t care about any of his work, so he decided to screw mankind over instead. Thus, he took six Robot Masters and reprogrammed them to do his evil bidding, only to have his one-time ally Dr. Light upgrade a housekeeping robot into a combat model. And this little robot thrashed his minions, and then sent him packing in defeat.

So how did Dr. Wily retaliate? By adjusting his original plan and upgrading it from six Robot Masters to eight. The end result, however, was the same. But that didn’t stop him, either. He just tried the same plan again.

And again.

And again.

Single-minded? Yes. Flies in the face of standard scientific procedure? Yep. Do you think Dr. Wily cares? Oh, hell no. He’s nothing if not persistent, and if at first he doesn’t succeed the first seven times, he’ll just try it again. Maybe he’ll throw in the occasional twist, like framing a vaguely stereotypical Russian scientist or even Dr. Light himself, but he is determined to continue throwing eight-packs of Robot Masters at Mega Man until he finds a combination that actually sticks.

Though, it might actually help if he didn’t happen to fight Mega Man himself in giant death machines that also happened to be weak against the weapons of his own servants. I mean, it’s hard to fall much lower when you’ve been defeated because your superweapon happened to be weak against Mega Man spinning like a top.

Yet, despite his myriad failures, he’s able to keep coming back for more. But why? Is the prison system of 200X just that inept? Is Dr. Wily paying someone under the table? Is he just that suave?

Nah. It’s gotta be the mustache.

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End Boss Month #24: Metroid: Zero Mission

Remakes are a difficult thing to pull off. The best are like Resident Evil on the GameCube, widely praised for its ability to remain true to the source while also vastly improving it. And then there are the games like Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes which, while not bad, left some cold with its new mechanics and crazy cutscenes. It’s a difficult line to toe, and a subjective one at that. But with that in mind, let’s take a look at the final boss of one of my favorite remakes out there; Metroid: Zero Mission.

Zero Mission is a full revamp of the original NES game that takes advantage of just about every advancement made to the Metroidvania subgenre since Samus first destroyed Mother Brain. There’s new gear, an actual map with objective markers, a more coherent, less Engrishy story with cutscenes, and well, it just looks, sounds and plays better in every conceivable way. On top of all of this, though, is the fact that Mother Brain got downgraded from final boss to the boss that’s fought before encountering a lot of crazy new stuff.

And near the end of all of this crazy new stuff? Mecha-Ridley. That’s right, not regular-ass Ridley (or Green Lantern Ridley, for that matter); he kinda sorta got missiled in the face earlier in the game. But now he’s back, he’s electronic, he’s pissed off, and Samus has to fight him if she wants to escape.

Don't call him Robo-Ridley. He hates alliteration.

The fight against Mecha-Ridley isn’t just a reskinned Ridley fight. This incarnation is pretty much stationary, but can swipe at Samus and fire projectiles of the fire, laser, and missile varieties. And if you’re crazy enough to do a 100% item collection run, he gets even harder. That’s right; the fight’s difficulty rises if you decide to go at it after collecting every single power-up scattered around Zebes. And when you do defeat him, his wrecked body triggers a self-destruct mechanism, meaning that it's time for that traditional Metroid "getting the hell out of Dodge" sequence.

I’ve never attempted a 100% run of the game myself, so I couldn’t really say how much the rise in difficulty truly matters, but I never personally had much trouble with him. I actually found the demoted Mother Brain the more difficult boss. That being said, facing Mecha-Ridley is still pretty satisfying, as he’s the one enemy that really presents a challenge to Samus after she regains her powersuit and starts mowing through mooks left and right. He’s what brings the player down to Earth, or Zebes, after suddenly becoming a war goddess capable of massive carnage.

So, while Mecha-Ridley isn’t exactly the most iconic final boss of the Metroid series (I’m sure that some of you are still scratching your head over why I picked this game over Super Metroid), he’s a unique addition to a not-insubstantial sequence that takes off right where the original game ended. Like any addition brought to remake, Mecha-Ridley could have fallen flat, but he holds his own quite well.

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End Boss Month #23: The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age

Folks, we are almost a week from the conclusion of End Boss Month. Throughout this blog series, I've highlighted a wide variety of final bosses. Some known for their devious personalities, others for their devious gameplay, and yet others for being just all-around devious. But it is here, before we head into the final seven, that I'd like to highlight a particular final boss that frankly makes even Alpha-152 look like a masterstroke of creativity by comparison.

Which is truly an odd thing to say when I’m talking about a boss from game set in Middle-earth. J.R.R. Tolkien crafted no shortage of villainous forces and personalities in his fantasy universe. And none of these foes are more evil, more conniving, and more dangerous than Sauron, who once used the power of a ring to bring ruin to all in his way. His massive, glowing eye, which sits atop Barad-dûr as a ghastly, intimidating presence, is an iconic symbol that instills fear upon all those that enter its gaze.

So of course it makes perfect sense to cast the Eye itself as a boss fight. A final boss fight. In one of the worst games ever based on the Lord of the Rings license. I speak of The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age.

Sauron's eye is wide with shock and dismay.

For those of you that are not familiar with The Third Age, it is an RPG that follows the events of the Lord of the Rings trilogy with a design stolen "borrowed" from Final Fantasy X. Or at least, the game clumsily plods along the same general path as the trilogy. Actually, that’s not accurate, either. What The Third Age is, is a goddamn piece of self-insertion fanfiction.

That’s right. Fanfiction. In which the protagonists are not Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn, or any of the other names one would expect to see in anything related to The Lord of the Rings. It is a cast of original humans, elves, and dwarves; the Fellowship that follows the Fellowship that Mary-Sues their way from one major event in the trilogy to another. It’s absurd enough to see them team up with Gandalf to slay the Balrog, or join ranks with Aragorn to kill the Nazgûl. But at the end of the game, they somehow, in defiance of all narrative logic established by the trilogy, manage to climb to the top of Barad-dûr and confront the Eye of Sauron face to…giant, flaming eyeball.

I…what? How the hell does that even work? Who approved this shit? What in…why? Just, just why?

Feel free to take a deep, disappointed sigh, if needed.

Okay, are we good? Splendid. Let’s go to the video tape. Be sure to watch all the way to the end.

What the hell kind of an ending is that? You kill the Eye of Sauron, and then the ending is just a bunch of scenes from the movies stitched together with Gandalf’s narration. Scenes which include the collapse of Barad-dûr and the Eye’s explosion.

Uh…okay? So, did this Diet Coke Fellowship manage to survive the destruction of the towering evil structure? Yes? No? Oh, who the hell cares. One should never expect much from a game based on a licensed property, but Sauron deserves better than to be treated as the final boss in this trainwreck.

I'm sorry that I had to bring this game and this fight up, but with the greatest fights come the not so greatest, and I'd be remiss if I didn't include Sauron's bastardized boss fight incarnation in this feature. But with this out of the way, join us again tomorrow, as we start our final week of End Boss Month and return to bosses that are, well, not insanely fiction-breaking.

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End Boss Month #22: Kingdom Hearts II

If you ever want to start an argument on Giant Bomb, just bring up the subject of Kingdom Hearts. Some people will immediately jump in and complain that we’re still getting side-stories, prequels, and sequels instead of the “true sequel” Kingdom Hearts III. Others will complain that the series has sucked ever since Kingdom Hearts II, and yet others will yammer about their distaste for Tetsuya Nomura, or Disney, or Final Fantasy, or all of the above. It seems that there are only a relative few that are fine with the way things are right now and are content to enjoy the games rather than find reasons to moan.

But, though my passion for the series has waned a bit (I never did get around to playing Re: coded), Kingdom Hearts II, my first experience with the series, ranks among the best and most memorable. This is largely due to its primary villains, Organization XIII. Organization XIII is comprised of Nobodies (not nobodies), beings that came into existence after their hearts were torn from their bodies and became Heartless.

If recent Reddit antics claiming that the story is somehow incomprehensible are now entering your mind, allow me to clarify, because Reddit certainly won’t. A dude’s heart is removed, and the heart becomes a Heartless. At the same time, a separate entity containing the memories of the former whole being also comes into existence, and is called a Nobody. If a Nobody has a particularly strong will, then they may also retain their human form. These sorts are exceedingly rare, and Xemnas, the leader of Organization XIII, is among the most powerful.

For soothe! I am a sociopathic jackass.

Xemnas was spawned from a researcher named Xehanort who betrayed his superior, Ansem, assumed Ansem’s identity, and then through his experiments managed to separate himself into both a Heartless (Ansem, the final boss of the original Kingdom Hearts) and Xemnas. There’s a bit more backstory, but this should suffice for now. In any case, Xemnas’s goal is to acquire the power of Kingdom Hearts, and as leader of Organization XIII, has those under him work toward bringing that goal to fruition under the belief that, should they acquire that power, they can use it to be restored to their whole selves. But how does one go about summoning Kingdom Hearts? By using a keyblade to harvest a whole lot of hearts from Heartless.

In short, Xemnas and his minions manipulate Sora into doing their work for them, and Sora has little choice but to cut through the Heartless in his path if he actually wants to stop Organization XIII. Xemnas is a crafty bastard that way. But even more bastardly is the fight against him at the end of the game.

On the morning I beat Kingdom Hearts II, I sat down and prepared for what I thought would be a fairly standard boss fight. What I received, on the other hand, was a battle that took me a significantly larger chunk of time to complete due to fairly low character levels on my part and a severe underestimation of the number and complexity of Xemnas’s forms. (Also, I didn't stop for breakfast at any point. That might have had something to do with it, too.)

Fighting Xemnas is basically like fighting four or five different bosses, each with their own life bars and gimmicks. Trying to even describe them all in any form of detail would simply take too long. There are multiple points where I thought, “OK, now the game is over,” only for Xemnas to return with yet another form. And his final form in particular was a pain, simply because of the point where Sora is caged and you briefly have to control Riku to free him before Sora’s life runs out. Why that part was so difficult for me, I don’t know. I lost count of the number of times I died on that part of the battle alone. And this is after fighting his regular form, his armored form (twice), and flying around on a jet bike to fight him in the air. Fighting Xemnas is like running a marathon that is actively trying to murder you at every mile.

Heck, just watching this video reminded me of parts that I had completely forgotten about in the years since I last played this game. Seriously, it's ridiculous.

This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy it. It became ridiculous at points, but it did nothing to sour my taste on the game. Xemnas is a powerful foe, and he throws absolutely everything that he can at Sora before he finally goes down. He single-handedly makes the rest of Organization XIII look like child’s play in comparison. But hey, he is their boss.

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End Boss Month #21: Ninja Gaiden & Ninja Gaiden II (NES)

Long before Ryu Hayabusa was known for starring in balls-hard action games pitting him against such foes as the Holy Vigoor Emperor and teaming up with scantily clad women like Rachel, he was known for starring in balls-hard action games pitting him against an evil sorcerer and teaming up with a professionally dressed women like Irene. (OK, she's less professionally dressed in Dead or Alive: Dimensions, but that's beside the point.) But heroes and sidekicks aside, that sorcerer that Ryu faced in the first two games in the NES Ninja Gaiden trilogy, Jaquio, was a monster.

He's also a fan of purple.

Actually, he was a monster just to get to fight. Between the sadistically placed enemies, the platform hopping, wall climbing, and bird dodging, it’s a triumph in and of itself just to look the guy in the face at the end of both games. The last time I tried playing the original game no more than a year or two ago, my withered NES skills failed me utterly and I was left battered and bruised, weeping softly in the corner as my Wii looked down on me in disgust.

But enough about my failings as a human being and the anthropomorphizing of my consoles. As tough as it is just to get to Jaquio, actually beating him is an even greater challenge. In the original game, losing to him would force you to restart at the very beginning of the final stage.

Did you see that? That is not easy to learn when failure leaves you running back through a gauntlet of bad guys, sadistic jumps, and asshole birds that all want to kill you just as much as Jaquio. Of course, facing him in Ninja Gaiden II isn’t much better. It is in fact the opposite of better. Not only does he gain more maneuverability and throw fireballs in more difficult patterns, he has two more forms to share with you after that.

For his second form, Jaquio takes on the form of a giant head stuck in the wall as death rains from above. And if you can beat that form, you have to fight his head again, which is now attached to a grotesque, monstrous body with a giant pulsating heart. Sort of like the final boss of Contra, only more painful for the fact that you’re equipped with a sword and some ninja magic rather than a machine gun with infinite bullets and the Konami Code.

Amazingly, Jaquio stayed dead for Ninja Gaiden III. Although even if he did come back for that one, I’m not sure it would have mattered too much. Unlike the first two games and their unlimited continues, Ninja Gaiden III grants a total of five.

Yeah, good luck getting to the end of that one.

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End Boss Month #20: Dragon Age: Origins

For a game called Dragon Age: Origins, the game has very few actual dragons in it. But when they show up, oh man do they present a problem. And no dragon poses a greater problem than the Archdemon Urthemiel, the game’s final boss.

Dragons have notoriously bad dentists.

Like other Bioware titles of a similar structure, the player spends the bulk of the game making preparations for the sake of this final moment. Forming a solid group of adventurers is just the first step; alliances must be forged, betrayals must be punished (or committed), and racial tensions must be overcome. Once all of the pieces are in play and the other worries have either been dealt with or forced aside, the Warden must lead her (male Wardens are for suckers) forces against the last remaining tides of Darkspawn and the Archdemon itself.

The Archdemon, being a dragon capable of flight, is kind of a pain to fight. I fully admit that I did not play this portion of the game on a particularly challenging difficulty; I played it on the easiest, in fact. After a frustrating evening trying to navigate the Fade, I said screw it and ratcheted the setting down to casual. (Aside: Whoever designed the Fade is a sadist.) Perhaps there’s more strategy involved on the higher difficulties, or at least a better strategy than the one I ended up adopting; running around like an idiot and trying not to die as my elven allies did most of the work for me.

Bows are awesome. Beyond that, I did what damage I could and quaffed an entire inventory of healing potions because I had somehow managed to get all the way to the end of the game without anyone capable of casting a freaking healing spell. What? Don’t look at me like that. It’s not my fault Wynne attacked me. I wasn’t even trying to pick a fight.

So, to summarize, elves, running, occasional stabbing, healing potions. All that was missing was whimsical calliope music to truly set the mood, or perhaps Yakety Sax. In other words, don’t come to me for good strategies on how to beat this game. I will either get you killed, or a role in a Benny Hill sketch.

Be that as it may, there are a surprising number of outcomes to this fight. When the time comes, you can either choose to deal the final blow to the Archdemon yourself, or leave that task for one of your Warden allies. Whoever deals the finishing blow dies, because being a Grey Warden sucks. That is of course, unless you either agree to have sex with Morrigan the night before (because you’re a guy Warden), or you sweet-talk Alistair into a night of awkward witch lovin’ because you’re a girl. (And also because seeing the uncomfortable look on Alistair’s face at the very idea is worth it.)

But once Morrigan is knocked up, she performs a ritual that allows all of the Wardens involved to get out of the final battle alive. And if you’re anything like me, you get a happy ending with Alistair as king, you as queen, and a willful desire to disregard Dragon Age II in its entirety.

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End Boss Month #19: Dead or Alive 4

Say what you will about the creative usage of physics in the Dead or Alive series, but Team Ninja’s fighting game franchise has not been without its creative bosses. Of course, they can all be home runs. Such was the case in the final boss of Dead or Alive 4, Alpha-152.

Get those jokes out of your system now, folks. She kicks high. Boobies. Etc.

Alpha-152 is basically a clone of the character Kasumi. That is, a clone made entirely out of sentient, super-powered Jell-O. Dead or Alive: Dimensions clarifies things a bit by stating that she’s actually the powered-up form of Kasumi Alpha, the twisted, non-Jell-O clone that appeared in Dead or Alive 2. But yeah, Jell-O clone.

And the disappointment doesn’t stop there. Fighting game bosses tend to be a notorious bunch. Bred from the genre’s roots in arcades, a lot of bosses tend to be difficult in blatantly unfair ways. Whether that be the use of full-screen super attacks that are nigh impossible to defend against or an AI that is programmed to react in specific ways to button inputs. In Alpha-152’s case, it’s a Get Out of Combo Free Card. Launch into a combo, and she’s likely to teleport right out of it and into a position where you’re a sitting duck.

Like the worst fighting game bosses, Alpha-152’s design forces the player to abandon the normal strategies that the game otherwise encourages. To avoid launching into combos, and only deal a few quick hits before backing off to guard against her inevitable retaliation. Facing her in the time trial mode of Dead or Alive 4 is especially painful, as without a doubt, she’s wrecked more of my trial runs than any other opponent due to the number of times I’ve had to retry that fight.

Regardless, she’s not the worst I’ve ever fought. I’d argue that Shao Kahn from last year’s Mortal Kombat reboot was far, far worse in the above respects. That being said, Alpha-152 was easily the worst thing about Dead or Alive 4 unless you simply abhor Halo. Strangely, I didn’t find her nearly as bothersome in Dead or Alive: Dimensions, but that may just be because I knew well enough what to expect from her this time.

But yeah. A Jell-O clone? That’s the best that Team Ninja could come up with? Did they spend too much of the budget licensing Aerosmith music to have the resources for something better? Does Tomonobu Itagaki have a dessert-based fetish that we would really all be better off not knowing about?

The world may never know.

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