Memorable boss fights have become gradually underrated in today’s gaming climate. Whether that is due to their increasing presence or simply the lack of shock value their mere existence used to employ years ago, I can’t say.
However, there is a hearty overlooked benefit that accompanies their frequency, that being impact. With how many boss battles we’ve all come to experience, there are always those that tower above the rest, those that really pronounce themselves as hallmark examples. These reasons can stem from beyond their mechanical masteries and instead be aces in aspects such as ambiance, music, the characters themselves, and far more.
My personal favorite boss fight is a rather recent one; Yozora, from Kingdom Hearts III Re Mind. There are way too many specific grounds for why this is the case, but the most obvious and easier to explain reason has to do with how the fight itself plays.
I absolutely adore boss fights with clear patterns and telegraphs while also having a considerable degree of difficulty, requiring constant retries. The Yozora fight follows this ideology entirely. He has clear movement and attack windows that demonstrate what he will do next, but due to his swiftness and merciless dealings of damage, actually ingraining his fighting style is a gradual process that necessitates patience.
Patience is a key to what makes this fight so ultimately rewarding. You must put in an ample amount of time and study what he does, almost like it’s a test. I think this aspect alone is what separates those who enjoy this fight and those who don’t. Those that dislike this battle tend to have common reasons why, and they’re usually rooted in it being too fast in execution.
They get so caught up in the moment to the point where they forget that losing is okay and inevitable. Whether they are judging themselves for seemingly being inept or wanting to achieve victory as fast as possible, I find these individuals to treat each attempt as a potential, feasible chance of victory despite them not actually giving the intricacies of the fight enough attention. They are too honed in on the bigger picture of victory that the road of reaching that point is never consciously deliberated or considered.
What made me enjoy this fight and all of the Data Fights by extension is that each attempt until you experience each move several times over is merely a learning experience and nothing more. It’s a constant yet gradual cycle of improvement that feels indescribably satisfying and fulfilling.
I died well over 300 times to Yozora, but I never grew strongly irritated at the game or even myself. This fight was specifically made to be punishing, so I never felt my skills were inherently inadequate. Of course, I would often die to a super boss I never fought before. Even beyond that, though, I was so absorbed in the act of learning how to counter Yozora’s varied arsenal that the idea of failing didn’t really matter anymore.
As for the specifics of Yozora’s moveset, he has some mechanically perceptive standout actions. He dishes out colored lasers, with reds being blockable and blues being solely dodgeable. While this is fundamentally simple to parse, that is also the beauty of it. The simplicity of these lasers is employed in ways requiring dexterous evasion.
The lasers are always delivered in patterns that quickly instill themselves into your subconscious while fighting. There are also moves he performs that are immediately recognizable if paid enough attention to. For instance, if Yozora is ever running toward you, he is going to perform an attack that can steal your Keyblade 3 times in a row, with the second attempted steal having a few slashes accompanying it.
Seeing every one of his attacks once you know what they do, caused this prideful aura coated with justified glee to swirl within me. Kingdom Hearts super bosses tend to do that, the well-designed ones anyway. Still, with how intricate and demanding Yozora is compared to the rest of those fights, this particular fight brought a whole new league of joviality.
Moreover, there is the DM (Desperation Move). When he hits around half health, Yozora performs a vastly long series of attacks with their own unique visual flairs and brand new methodologies of evading. However, he can also be attacked and staggered during specific parts of the DM. In addition to doing damage, these attacks can potentially skip past certain attacks and scenarios of the Desperation Move.
One noteworthy feature of this fight that I consider to be a genius is that randomly, Yozora can begin the fight with his Desperation Move. While this incorporation may seem unnecessarily harsh and borderline nonsensical, it actually has a rather lofty benefit. This allows players to better familiarize themselves with how the DM goes and how to deal with Yozora when his attack patterns change afterward.
To better vocalize my sincere love and appreciation for how the Yozora fight is designed to be a slow burn that ultimately results in cathartic euphoria, I find the need to point out that I feel the complete opposite about the bosses in Soulsborne titles. While boss battles in Soulsborne games are held in high regard for their fair challenge and approachability for anyone who has the patience to fail and learn, there is one inherent aspect of those titles that ruin the bosses for me. That ruining aspect is the backtracking to those very same boss fights.
Whenever dying in most Soulsborne games, you typically respawn at the last bonfire or whatever is similar to it. This same principle applies if you happen to die to a boss. Not being able to retry the bosses after death and backtracking to them removes whatever tension or legitimate investment I had in the boss I was facing.
This needless anxiety and annoyance that comes with walking down a route I’ve walked several times prior ultimately makes the impact of bosses far more minute as a result. What were once initially terrifying foes become annoyingly frustrating obstacles that I couldn’t wait to be over with. It ends up not feeling like a test of skill when I have walked these paths numerous times, and more of a chore that ruins the legitimately unsettling ambiance.
Additionally, and probably most importantly, I cannot learn about these boss fights at my own pace due to having to constantly backtrack to them after death. Regardless of how well crafted these battles are, they mean little if the game purposefully makes me avoid learning and trying them.
However, Kingdom Hearts Data Battles and the well-designed super bosses, which are also known for their arduous difficulty, are far more my cups of tea. Being able to retry boss fights right after death keeps the adrenaline pumping and the on-the-fly strategies running high. I am able to consistently and constantly attempt ideas without the fear of backtracking looming over me. There is an endless sea of excitement that is not held back by any outside factors. All of my attention can be solely fixed on the bosses, giving them the scrutinized attention they deserve.
Even when collectively dying to the Kingdom Hearts III Re Mind super bosses on Critical Mode over 1,000 times, I never once felt the desire to stop. Failing and learning these boss fights is one of the most enjoyable and satisfyingly addicting gameplay experiences I have ever had, with Yozora being the pinnacle of it all. When it comes down to it, I simply love learning in games, and I love it even more when games reinforce that desire instead of trying to restrict you from it.
As someone wildly attached to the Kingdom Hearts series, including its narrative, Yozora’s mere presence presents itself as an unimaginable amount of possibility. The case of him being clearly tethered to the ill-fated Final Fantasy Versus XIII has been discussed enough, but alongside that connection, the vagueness of his character combined with the mystery of his Versus XIII related origins makes the battle against him all the tenser and exhilarating.
Like Lingering Will from Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, Yozora is a wild card of unknowns, though far more of an unknown than Lingering Will ever was. The brief conversation between him and Sora does an excellent job of highlighting Yozora’s general attitude as well, not making him a silent bag of tricks with no personality or character affixing itself to a series of attacks.
The locale of the fight does wonders too. His opening scene beginning in a nighttime version of the Final World, an already unsettling image given the nature of that area, then following into Sora’s Station of Awakening, initially made me feel this jarring sense of defiled familiarity. Two worlds were about to clash on top of this imagery that has emboldened the series since its origins.
Before that sensation could conclude its settlement, though, the scenery changed once more, and this time for real. Sora’s Station of Awakening became seemingly digitized, and in its place, the top of a certain building spawned. The surrounding scenery altered as well, clearly resembling some skyscraper-filled city.
The camera zoomed out, and then the realization of where this fight was taking place took my breath away. It was where the secret ending of the vanilla game took place, what we assumed to ‘Shibuya.’ Experiencing this scene my first time was a roller coaster through and through. I had one thought more than ever at that moment; the Kingdom Hearts series would never be the same after whatever in the hell happened here.
It does not end there, though, far from it. The music for the battle began to play, and I had to pause the game because the revelation of it sounding eerily similar to Somnus struck me hard. This track is clearly inspired by Final Fantasy Versus XIII/ Final Fantasy XV, fueling my curiosity more and more. Then, after dying once, I experienced one of the wildest video game scenes of my life. The first ‘Bad End’ of the series, consisting of Sora crystallizing in a disturbingly similar fashion to l’Cies from Final Fantasy XIII. This, accompanied by Yozora awakening in a car, in a shot-by-shot recreation of an early Final Fantasy Versus XIII trailer, had my mouth agape.
Finally, my shock would end when the opening lines of the original Kingdom Hearts were stated between Sora and Yozora. It really felt like everything from the series was building towards this one moment in an indescribable sense. The majesty of these scenes and the sheer boldness with Sora’s fate combined with Yozora’s perplexing origins melded together to create an absolutely unforgettable series of minutes I will always hold close to my heart. The stark audaciousness of the unknown in this scene coupled with the opening lines of the first game made me feel like a kid again in a way no scenario in any other game has ever come close to doing.
Every single occurrence in the span of those 10 whatever minutes is still fresh in my mind. The imprint the impression of the Yozora fight left upon me is staggeringly vast. No other game has impacted me in such a deeply soul-stirring way.
The last factor I will bring up requires some lite reflection. The Kingdom Hearts series has had super bosses ever since the beginning, but to be blunt, their quality has been a mixed bag. Kingdom Hearts Final Mix’s are middle of the road with them, I would say, with Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix’s super bosses being the peak before the release of Re Mind. After Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, though, the boss design in the series underwent a noticeable downgrade.
Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix is certainly the most infamous for this. Bosses like the Mysterious Figure, which was just randomness incarnate morphed with utterly broken design, were more than disappointing to see. As much as I love Birth by Sleep for a myriad of reasons, its boss design is not of them. Many remark this game’s release as a sort of ‘downfall’ of the series regarding combat, and to be honest, I don’t entirely disagree. There are various reasons why this is the case, and I might cover them some other time. Still, in regards to the subject matter at hand, it felt like the most stellar boss battle design from Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix was forgotten about for nearly a decade.
It wasn’t until Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage released where faith was renewed. The super boss for this short title, Zodiac Phantom Aqua, was magnificent. It echoed the fair challenge the Data Fights and Lingering Will from Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix brought, but with its own unique flavor. Many were hopeful this boss battle design would retain for Kingdom Hearts III, and well, while the boss fights were certainly more than adequate, none, not even the secret boss of the vanilla game, came close to the level of quality Zodiac Phantom Aqua provided.
More than disappointing, it was frustrating. We knew this team had the capability to deliver remarkable boss fights, but either due to lack of time or neglect, it was simply not to be. However, when Kingdom Hearts III Re Mind was announced, there was this enthusiasm spreading like wildfire. 14 brand new super boss fights is honestly an inclusion I don’t think anyone was expecting. And, when the DLC finally launched, even the most strict of combative experts found themselves enthralled by the quality of these fights. The 13 Limit Cut Data battles were absurdly qualitative, but even more than them, the Yozora battle was the most unexpectedly qualitative of all.
None expected it, but Yozora quickly threw himself into contention of being regarded as the best super boss of the franchise. Honestly, more than anything else, Yozora demonstrates that the future of the series is hopefully bright. If the upcoming games follow the general level of quality Yozora and the Re Mind Data fights put to the table, we are in good hands. And, Yozora also brought with him a brand new side to the series, further amplifying the enticing mysteries that await us.
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