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Thursday, 18 August 2016

Editorial: The Top 10 Legend of Zelda Bosses, Part 1.

Guess who didn't watch the thing they were going to review because they were too busy playing video games, yes it was me, let's move on.

Editorial: The Top 10 Legend of Zelda Bosses,
Part 1.

The Legend of Zelda is pretty well known for its bosses (and for reusing boss concepts: How many times has energy ball tennis showed up now?), end-of-dungeon puzzle monsters who force you to apply whatever puzzle-solving item or ability you've found in the dungeon in battle.

As you'd expect from a thirty year series, it's had its fair share of high points and low points. Let's start with the high points.

10. Abyssal Leviathan: Tentalus, Skyward Sword.

While the actual boss battle is kind of disappointing, a supremely unimpressive battle against what I can only describe as a happy squid mushroom, the build-up to it - which functions somewhat like a first phase - is pretty brilliant.

As Tentalus attacks the ship you're on, you must work your way up through it, dealing with tentacles that burst through the walls, dodging debris, coping with the ship swinging and tilting, and being chased by water rising after you. In this phase, you don't ever see Tentalus properly, you just see its tentacles, and the effect it has on the ship, putting you in mind of a terrifying kraken attack.

Which is why when you do see Tentalus, it's such a colossal disappointment. I mean, really. It looks absurd, and the entire boss battle is just you hacking at tentacles and occasionally shooting its eye.

9. Ancient Automaton: Koloktos, Skyward Sword.

Coming at the end of what might be the best dungeon in the game, Koloktos both looks cool and has a genuinely fun gameplay mechanic behind it.

In keeping with the Ancient Cistern's theme of heaven and hell, it's a shimmering, many-armed golden automaton held together with filthy, rancid water. As it attacks you with its many weapons, you must use your whip to drag its arms off, allowing you to dismantle it bit by bit and get at its heart.

Like a lot of Zelda bosses, it has some good escalation, too. After you've attacked its heart twice, it will pull itself up from the floor, close a cage over its heart, and draw a whole lot of giant swords. In the second phase, you're still whipping its arms off, but now you have to contend with it being able to move after you, a whole new moveset of dervisher-esque attacks, and having to get rid of its cage - something you can only do by picking up its giant scimitars and attacking it with them.

(Fittingly, it then escalates further once you've gotten at its heart again, adding an ability to summon three fairly weak moblin-things to the mix.)

While Koloktos is a tense boss battle that is constantly escalating its gameplay, it never feels unfair - in fact, in a game full of unfair boss battles, it's probably one of the easiest.

8. Twinrova, Ocarina of Time.

Twinrova is an interesting study in a two-phase boss battle that changes up its gameplay dynamic while still utilising the same item.

A pair of witches who are Ganon's allies and surrogate mothers, Koume and Kotake will at first try to hit you with ice and fire projectiles, which must be reflected with the mirror shield back at the opposite sister. The challenge in the first phase comes from redirecting the attacks in time, and making sure you do so at the right sister.

For the second phase, however, they merge into Twinrova, and the only way to beat them is to store three charges of an elemental attack within the shield, while taking care to make sure it's only one element each time. So the challenge in the second phase becomes to make sure you only absorb attacks of the same type, something that's difficult to do when they're alternating between fire and ice.

She shows up again in the Oracle games as well, with a pretty similar mechanic, showing that she's a boss who works in both 3D and 2D.

7. Shadow Hag, Oracle of Ages. 

Shadow Hag puts a twist on an old 2D Zelda concept: Namely, bouncing your attacks off walls.

While you spend a lot of the battle avoiding the four shadows she creates to chase Link around the room, or fending off the evil butterflies she sends after you, the true challenge of this boss battle comes when she recombines and becomes vulnerable to attack.

While she's vulnerable, the Shadow Hag will immediately vanish if Link looks at her, meaning that the only way to hit her is to use your seed shooter to bounce attacks off the walls. It's an interesting way to play the whole 'bounce your attacks' gameplay mechanic.

Also, she just looks really creepy.

6.  Twilit Fossil: Stallord, Twilight Princess.

Stallord is just a blast.

The only way to get close enough to attack him is by using the Spinner to zoom up the spiraling walls of the boss arena, which briefly turns what is usually a hack and slash dungeon crawler into some kind of pinball racing game.

As you spin your way up the arena, Stallord will try to impede you with Staltroops, traps, and balls of fire, and you must avoid these until you're close enough to smash his vertebrae - only for his head to come alive, prompting you to race him up the central column of the arena again, until you can knock him down and expose his weak point.

It's a fast-paced, exciting boss battle, and like Koloktos, consistently escalates, by throwing more obstacles into your way as you attempt to smash Stallord.

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