Rules for Boss Battles

So lately I have seen a pattern in video games having poor boss design. I don't know what makes developers get it wrong whether it be time constraints are lack of funding but, it is a problem that I think can be remedied by following a few rules.

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Bosses as I and Yahtzee believe should be the "exam" that tests what you have learned by playing the game up to that point. The boss should throw you curve balls on the mechanics you have already learned and have you perform them with a little more urgency than usual. However, developers seem to oversimplify the use of the skills you learned to beat the boss. Even in Mega Man that is a pretty difficult game once you have the power that defeats said boss you could destroy them in seconds. Bosses should not become dummies just because you have unlocked their secrets and they shouldn't be so one dimensional. It is the same in The Legend of Zelda where the player can figure out how to defeat the boss with their items without much thought and then the boss is helpless after that.

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Bosses should also not have big fat glowing weak points because that doesn't even give the player a chance to use their brain to defeat it. Pokemon for example have learned from its mistakes now with the Gym Leaders having Pokemon with different type combinations rather than the same weakness for all of them. Bosses should also act as a punching bag for all your most powerful attacks. How disappointing is it when you save all your resources for a boss only to find out the boss could not even withstand it? Bosses should be able to take on your best attacks encouraging the player to use them at the right time and play smart. Bosses above all should be difficult requiring a combination of quick reflexes and a sharp mind to defeat them. Bosses should not have set patterns that force the player to wait until it is their turn to hit the boss. Bosses should have dynamic attack patterns and be vulnerable to your attacks most of the time.

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A boss should not have a large health bar that further pads the battle. If the boss battle is becoming a routine of attacking the boss then staying away and then attack again the boss probably has too much health. A boss should not make the player play too careful to the point that one mistake is so fatal.The one thing developers seem to always get right is the spectacle of bosses. Bosses are what players look forward to because the boss battle usually is the height of the game's visual effects. The boss battle should be where all the crazy effects and new specific gameplay elements should go. Bosses don't always have to be the traditional "exam" of your learned skills and can sometimes be a time to introduce something new.

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Super Mario 64 vs Banjo-Kazooie

Now it should be known that I like both of these games. I mean back in the late 90s the 3D platformer genre was booming and these were the 2 games leading the pack. Basically in this blog I will say what I like about each game and what I did not like so much or thought was better in the other. Then in the comments I would like you to choose which game you liked better and why.

Story:

Now it probably goes without saying that Super Mario 64 does not have much of a story just looking at the track record of most Mario games. Bowser captures Princess Peach and it is up to Mario to save her, pretty basic stuff. Banjo-Kazooie on the other hand while it does also use the basic damsel in distress story it is done in a way that better shapes the world around. For example Bowser captures Peach because..... oh yea that's right he never tells us but, Gruntilda the villain of Banjo-Kazooie captures Tootie so she can transfer her beauty onto herself. Giving the villain a motive and a real consequence when the player loses makes Banjo-Kazooie win out in the story department. Banjo-Kazooie just has better fleshed out characters with souls and personalities while Super Mario 64's characters are bland or just emotionless.

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Hubworld:

One attribute of 3D platformers is the hubworld which works as the central place where all the levels are. I must say both hubworlds are great in both of these games but, the question is which is better? Gruntilda's Lair in Banjo-Kazooie was much larger than Peach's Castle in Super Mario 64 to the point it was a level itself. The music in Gruntilda's Lair would even change to a remixed version of the regular background music depending on how close you were to another level. In this case though bigger is not better. Super Mario 64's hubworld had one attribute that truly makes it better......SECRETS! Not to say Gruntilda's Lair did not have secrets but, the secrets in Super Mario 64 were more abundant and very clever. I bet everyone reading is familiar with the sun pattern that takes you to the fly cap level or the blank metal wall that takes you to the sand level which by the way you are led to by a rabbit who has a star. While Gruntilda's Lair was bigger it did not offer much in for discovery while Peach's Castle while smaller had more stuff to find and surprise you.

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Abilities:

In Super Mario 64 there are alot of things Mario can do that he never could like wall jumping, crawling, long jumping, punching, and many more. However, Banjo-Kazooie has Mario beat with the actions that were given to both Banjo and Kazooie like the talon trot, fire eggs, feathery flap, flap flip, and forward roll. The actions in Banjo-Kazooie were just a more interesting than Super Mario 64 and they were all needed to beat the levels unlike in Super Mario 64 where some of the actions were almost never used. Besides the normal actions Banjo-Kazooie also has Super Mario 64 beat in power ups. While the red feathers are the equivalent of the fly cap and the golden feathers just make you invincible the best power ups in the Banjo-Kazooie were the animal transformations. While the power ups in Super Mario 64 only showed up occasionally in levels the animal transformations were required if you wanted to get all the Jiggies. Super Mario 64's fly cap, invisibility cap, and metal cap were not used much and in my opinion were not as charming.

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Levels:

Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie levels both consisted of collecting objects that were needed to open new levels and progress in the game but, they differed in some areas. Super Mario 64 levels were based on a clue that was given before you entered a level. While at times cryptic I'm looking at you "Blast Away the Wall" the clues were really cool in the way that you had to figure out where the star could be based only on a single clue. Super Mario did have a problem with it's levels that were not in Banjo-Kazooie. When you got a Power Star in Super Mario 64 you would be exited from the level while in Banjo-Kazooie if you found a Jiggy you were still allowed to continue searching for the rest. It may seem like a small gripe but, it is part of why Super Mario 64 has shown some age over the years.

Banjo-Kazooie levels on the other hand had no clues and finding the Jiggies in the levels was based on helping NPCs, exploring the terrain, and defeating enemies. In this category I have to give the win to Super Mario 64 but, don't worry I'll explain. Banjo-Kazooie might have had bigger levels and more things to collect however, I feel like that made some of the levels worse. In Banjo-Kazooie the main things you needed to collect are Notes (100 in each level) and Jiggies (10 in each level) while in Super Mario 64 you are only required to find Power Stars (7 in each level). Banjo-Kazooie's levels were so big if you weren't careful you could find yourself retreading the same areas over and over trying to find what you needed.

Also the main collectible the Jiggies required you to find other things to get them sometimes like collecting 5 Jingos for 1 Jiggy or needing Mumbo Skulls to transform so you could go to other areas. This made you have to search every nook and cranny to get all the Jiggies which made it feel more like you were trying to uncover secrets rather than just trying to beat the game. The Notes were also hidden in the levels pretty well but, to be fair there were some in plain sight and for the most part they were placed in a way that they led you to more Notes. My main gripe with Notes is that if you die your Note high score is saved but, all the Notes in the level reset so you can't easier distinguish which you had gotten before.

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Verdict:

Ultimately my favorite of the two is Super Mario 64. You may say I just have problems with Banjo-Kazooie just because its the harder of the two but, that's not true. Banjo-Kazooie was not hard in a way that was fun its problem is that it is too tedious. If Rare had scaled back how many things you needed to collect to beat the game similar to how you only need 70 Power Stars in Super Mario 64 to beat the game it would have been a better game. The fact that you need to almost 100% Banjo-Kazooie just to complete it is a concept that is ridiculous to me.

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The Nostalgia Argument

So while online I have run into a common argument when 2 parties have an argument over which game is the best in the series. Usually between someone who is pro retro while the other is pro current. The argument of the pro current side often is that the pro retro side cannot be objective because of nostalgia. This bothers me alot because I usually think the older games in a series are better than the newer ones but, at the same time I can understand where the pro current side are coming from. So in today's blog I will explain how the pro retro's view on a video game series is more than just nostalgia.

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So current fans usually argue that the newer games may not as groundbreaking or revolutionary as the first they are better for what they are. For example newer iterations in a series usually have better graphics, more expansive worlds, better controls, and other things that show the power of the advanced technology utilized by the newer consoles. So what pro current fans usually believe is if its like the original just with technological advancements it should be better or at least equal right? Of course if a sequel is missing some of the original spark of the original it can be argued that the original is better but, if that is not the case wouldn't that mean that the newer game is better? Well not exactly. One thing newer iterations in a series can lack even if they have all the stuff the old one has is its own stuff. This point is actually one that is more important to those who have played every game in a series or at least many of them. You see when you first play a game all of the things that make up this game are new to you so a sequel cannot surprise or excite you with the same stuff. In fact I can get so bored with sequels that feel so much like the original that I may not even finish them. "We already played the first one let's see what new stuff the second one can show us." -Egoraptor

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No a sequel does not have to be as revolutionary as the first but, I feel it should be different enough to make those that played the original to feel like it was made with them in mind. When I play newer Pokemon or The Legend of Zelda (3D) games I feel like they are made for either die-hard fans or people who have not played the originals. It wasn't always like this as Pokemon G/S/C and The Legend of Zelda Majora's Mask were both sequels but, they were considerably different to their originals. Pokemon G/S/C added a night/day cycle, traveling to new regions, breeding, hold items, new types, and the Pokegear which all expanded on the ideas of the original Pokemon making the experience considerably different. The Legend of Zelda Majora's Mask added a 3 day limit and masks which may not sound like much but, these 2 additions create a very different experience from Ocarina of Time. Coincidentally both these sequels had visual styles very reminiscent of their predecessors unlike the sequels that came after them which shows that a change of visual style alone doesn't differentiate games. I am a strong believer that a sequel must surpass its predecessor in every conceivable way to be considered successful.

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So when I say Ocarina of Time is my favorite Zelda game it is not an insult to how good Wind Waker is. I just personally had more fun with Ocarina of Time because all of its features were new to me. I can't say Wind Waker or any other sequel is better than an older game that I honestly had more fun playing. Sure it is near impossible to make a sequel as revolutionary as the original but, adding features that create a new experience while building on the original is not an impossible task.

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