Last week at my other job, it was Employee Appreciation Week. Each day, they had some special concession for us, and it was such a welcome treat.
So, thanks to some inspiration from my employers, I’ve dedicated this week at Toy-TMA to be Boss Appreciation Week, in which I commemorate some of my absolute favorite Boss Battles over the years. Ha, see what I did there? And just make this topic more my own, I’m going to be focusing exclusively on Sony licensed bosses. Why Sony? Well, because not only have I been a fan since the PS1, but as of Friday April 27th they have finally answered one of my dreams, and are in process of making one of my Top Five Franchises That Should Get A Smash Bros Spinoff, a reality (woot!). Check it out for yourself.
So without further ado, here are some of the most thrilling, wacky, fun, intense, badass, and memorable foes who have done battle with every Sony Star worth mentioning from Crash to Kratos.
Dr. Neo Cortex (Crash Bandicoot Series)
Sometimes, a boss battle doesn’t need to be hard in order to make it on my best of list. Sometimes, a boss can win me over with sheer charisma. Bosses that may not be the best at what they do, but they do it with style. That’s what best sums up Crash Bandicoot’s arch nemesis Dr. Neo Cortex. We definitely fit this guy into the same Mad Scientist category that brought us Dr. Robotnic, and Dr. Willy, and his master plans would suggest a very similar mold: use Evolvo-Ray to turn wild animals into superhuman anthropomorphic monsters to create an army to take over the world. Chortex was created in a generation after those other two, and he was developed to have intriguing relations with his colleagues Dr. N.Brio and N.Gin, and the added treat of excellent acting chops done by voice over veteran Clancy Brown (Lex Luther from Superman TAS, Mr. Freeze from Batman TAS, among others) he popped like no other video game mastermind before him.
Of the three times Crash confronted him in the original trilogy, the second battle in Cortex Strikes Back, sticks out to me the most. Crash has to chase Cortex down this space portal on his jetpack to stop the mad scientist from reaching his space station, the Cortex Vortex, and exploiting all the crystals you’ve gathered to power up his death ray and enslave humanity. You have about a 2-3 minute window to chase the doctor down, while dodging mines and astroids, and spin attack him enough times to take him out. It may not have been that difficult, but ultimately watching Cortex go blasting off, cursing your name in a way only Clancy Brown can perform? Music to my ears.
Then of course there’s his epic line from the end of Crash Bandicoot Warped:
“Defeated again! This is not fair! Maybe I should retire, to a nice big beach, with a nice big drink. And a woman, with nice…big… bags of ice for my head.”
Dark Maker Terraformer (Jak 3)
It’s like they say: the bigger they are, the harder they are to chase after in a vast dune covered desert. With the final climactic showdown of Jak 3 comes one of the most over the top final stands one could think of. Errol, who started off as just some punk who rivaled Jak as a racer and to win over his girlfriend Kera, returns in the final third as a Cyborg in cahoots with the Dark Makers, former precursors corrupted by Dark Ego and now seek to erase all life from the universe. While Jak was able to deactivate the Dark Maker’s mother ship hovering over their planet, it was not before Cyber Errol was able to dispatch the ships inner cargo: a massive six-foot terraformer. It lands smack dab in the middle of the Wasteland with its first target locked onto Spargus City: a kingdom Jak’s own father Damas had founded to protect those who were cast out of Haven City.
What follows is Jak and Daxter driving head first in their Sand Shark, guns blazing to take out the terraformer, which was much easier said than done. Driving on the dessert alone is difficult to maneuver (naturally) but the more distractions the more challenging it get’s still. Land mines, check. Spinning homing saws, check. Six separate legs that all have a set number of targets that ALL have to be hit, so you constantly have to be worrying about the angle your approaching the legs, so you can hit the targets properly, even though driving any direction other than forward is a challenge in-and-of-itself, and if you still have to be quick enough to hit your target before the leg lifts up and move to a separate direction…check and mate.
Once the hurdle of taking the legs out is done, it’s a simple matter of climbing up on the terraformer’s back and blasting the head where Errol’s piloting, and finish the job. All in all, one satisfying conclusion.
Dr. Nefarious (Ratchet and Clank series)
Oh Nefarious. You’ve come so far since your humble beginnings as a bullied distraught human scientist with a pathological love of machines so great you turned yourself into one then deemed all organic life forms inferior species and created the Leviathan space station with the power to turn all the races of the Solana Galaxy into robots under your control. [Breath]
He may not have been Rachet and Clank’s arch nemesis from the beginning, but his debut in their third installment Up Your Arsenal, was so well received, and obviously fun for the creators, that he became a series main stay from then on, and has gone down in history as one of the funniest characters in any video game series ever. Seriously, even on reruns, he cracks me up. He’s also so freaking quotable.
“With the clock under my control, I’ll be able to wrong all the rights in the universe. Every villain who has ever stumbled will get a do-over. Every protagonist’s triumph will be reversed! Until, finally, a new present is created… in which the heroes always lose!”
Yet despite all his cheeky manerisms, Nefarious always turns out to be an extremely formidable foe in all of the two games he stands in as a final boss, with his lazer beams, shockwave bombs, hologram progectors, and about half a dozen other weapons at his disposal. If you do not go into a fight with Dr Nefarious with your weapons maxed out and wearing the lastest battle armor, you will be in a world of hurt.
“When I defeat you, I will rewind time, so that I can do it again. And again. And again!”
This is probably one of the most awesome lines any boss has ever said, because in reality, this is exactly what happens every time you are defeated by a boss. Time is rewound a few short moments from before the fight began so you can do it all over, and be defeated again, and again, and again…until you eventually win… I guess. My hats off to you Nefarious. Always await our next confrontation.
King Bohan (Heavenly Sword)
Fresh off the movie sets as Golem and Kong, the king of motion capture himself would move on to grace the world of video games with his talent. He poured his voice, his body, a even his very facial structure, into the role of King Bohan, the central antagonist of one of the PS3’s earliest hits, Heavenly Sword. Andy Serkis captured Bohan’s essence like a mastermind: A cynical, rage induced, demonically influenced tyrant drunk on power.
And by demonically influenced, I do mean that quite literally. As our heroine taps into the Heavenly Sword’s dormant angelic power, turning her into a pure white goddess of justice that cuts down Bohan’s armies like they were never there, the ruthless King, unwilling to accept defeat, sells his sole to Hell so that he may be granted the power needed to defeat her. Yep, the final battle between Nariko and King Bohan is, quite literally, a battle of Heaven vs. Hell. Badass.
InFamous is one of Sony’s latest and greatest series. When I first picked it up in 2009, I was immediately drawn to the games sense of style, and the weight and verosity behind all the super powers. After two successful titles, and a pretty fun Halloween spinoff, still my favorite moment of the entire series is Cole McGrath’s final battle with Kessler.
Kessler comes to Cole very early on and shows him visions of the future. A future Cole believes Kessler is responsible for, which isn’t too far from the truth. As the game progresses, Kessler pushes Cole further with trial after trial, all the while telling him the worst is yet to come. He turns his best friend against him, he kills his wife, he planned out every last detail to ensure Cole received the Ray Sphere and activated it in the first place.
After Cole receives all the powers he can and ultimately makes the decision whether to use or destroy the Ray Sphere, Kessler meets him for one final showdown between the two of them. This fight is intense. Kessler has just as much superpowers as you have, and as he cycles trough each of them, you must counter each of them accordingly and quickly, because each one individually can be fatal. There’s no weakness, you just hit him when you can.
As it all ends, Kessler, in his dying breath shows Cole one final vision. The truth of Kessler’s past, and a twist that would rival any high end M. Night Shamalamadingdong movie.
Zoran Lazarevic (Uncharted 2 Among Thieves)
In 2009’s Game of the Year, and often claimed to be one of the greatest single player experiences ever made, quip-spouting flail-jumping Nathan Drake chases this guy all the way into the heart of Shambhala. Zoran Lazaravic. He’s twice Drake’s size, about four times as strong, armed with an overcompensating double barrel, an unlimited supply of grenades, and he has our hero cornered in a tiny enclosed space in the forest.
Oh and did I mention? He’s immortal.
Well…sort of. I mean, well he just drank the magic of the Cintamani Stone, so now he can’t be killed by conventional weapons. No, Drake has to cleverly blast the explosive sap pods as Lazaravic runs beside them, but even then that doesn’t kill him, just slowly weakens him. You have to be constantly running, jumping, and rolling away this entire fight. Stop for longer than two seconds and you might as well be target practice.
Poseidon/Hades/Hercules/Cronos (God of War 3)
Fighting one immortal may be something, but how about fighting an army of immortals? That’s exactly what Kratos has standing between him and his revenge in the third and [chronologically] final chapter of God of War. So many of these fights include some of the absolute greatest instances of scale and brutality we have yet to see in the entire medium. To this day, I still hold the Hydra fight from the first act in the first God of War to be my personal favorite, but I also cannot deny that Santa Monica did everything they could to pull out all the stops in the third installment, and give us not one, but half a dozen memorable boss battles.
We start with nothing short of the Second most powerful of the gods, Zeus’ brother Poseidon. With all the ocean at his disposal, Poseidon quickly leaped into battle, in attempt to end this war quickly and with the least bloodshed possible. His water tentacles sporting seashoarse-crabs were indeed impressive, alas his efforts proved futile against the Ghost of Sparta’s rage, and his untimely end came to pass.
From there, we go from the God of the deep sea to the God of the deep underbelly of the world. Hades (sporting yet another Clancy Brown performance) eagerly awaits to cross Kratos over to the land of the dead, and this time, make it permanent. Turns out this harbinger of death has his own scores to settle with The Ghost of Sparta.
Kratos later confronts his half brother Hercules in a battle that is guaranteed to make your once pleasant childhood Disney memories weep (along with any of you dorks who watched that campy TV series).
Then of course there’s Cronos. Yeah, remember that titan that had an entire temple he was carrying on his back? That temple that we spent the good part of half the first game inside of looking for Pandora’s Box. Yeah, turns out you actually FIGHT that guy in the third game. I know, right?
These are among the best boss battles the God of War series has to offer. And among these, it is interesting to note that all of them occur either very early or in the middle of the game, not at the end like all the other bosses I mentioned above. That may be because, quite frankly, Zeus, in comparison to these guys, was quite a letdown, and one of the big reasons my former editor Chris Pranger would in turn be so disappointed with the game. These guys set the bar to record breaking limits, and Zeus, the final battle did not rise to them.
Still, by their own merits, these bosses have done their job of providing some truly satisfying moments holding a Play Station controller. Props should also be awarded to God of War’s lead artist Andy Park for creating such beautiful artwork to capture these triumphant moments of Kratos’ rampage so perfectly. Seriously, you could frame those images and put them on display in a Museum dedicated to Greek Mythology. That’s how good they are.
Several years ago when I was a lad, during their own Boss Appreciation Week, X-Play host Morgan Webb taught me a valuable lesson. She said, “A castle unguarded, isn’t a castle worth taking.” I cannot think of a better anecdote to better portray just how valuable a good boss battle can be to a game. Thank you all for tuning in to this commemoration of fantastic Sony exclusive bosses. Now get out there and take a bow for your favorite boss fight…
…before promptly piercing his eye through the mast of a ship.