Bullsh*t Boss Battles – Shadows of the Empire

Boss battles have a significant place in gaming, it can act as a test of everything we have learned in the game thus far or it can simply be the final(albeit stronger) enemy between you and the end of the level. The Legend of Zelda games have provided some memorable moments whether its Link’s encounter with Gohma inside the Great Deku Tree or delivering the final blow to Ganon and saving Hyrule. One of the most memorable moments in Super Mario Bros. for many is reaching the end of the castle only to have Bowser standing between you and the Princess(?) as he spews fire towards you. In Super Mario Bros. Bowser acted more so as another obstacle to overcome as you progress from point a to point b. Boss battles can be a litmus test as to our grasp on game mechanics and overall skill, just ask any Dark Souls fan. They can be both exhilarating and intimidating, but what about boss battles that…don’t do any of that. How about level boss encounters that aggravate us more than challenge us? Those instances in games where we find ourselves saying, “ok, this is bullshit…” An idea for a blog post that occurred entirely due to my sheer frustration with a particular boss encounter – the AT-ST boss battle in Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire.

Shadows of the Empire was released in December 1996 on the Nintendo 64, a couple months after Nintendo’s 64-bit, three-dimensional game machine was released in North America. The game takes place in between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi as you control Dash Rendar, a bounty hunter hired by Princess Leia and Lando Calrissian to aid in the recovery of Han Solo, who has been frozen in carbonite and taken aboard Boba Fett’s ship – the Slave I.

Despite starting the game piloting a Snowspeeder in the Battle of Hoth, the majority of the game is set in third-person view as Dash makes his way from Echo Base on Hoth, across the Ord Mantell junkyard, the Tattooine desert, and Coruscant – home to the menacing Black Sun organization. The game itself was fun to play, though its graphics, camera and controls haven’t aged gracefully. Going back and playing the game, I still enjoy many aspects of it, with its clunky camera and clumsy controls. I still stand by my assertion the boss encounters in the game are pretty weak, I’d even go so far as to say they kinda…sucked. One of the most memorable frustrating of which would have to be at the end of the second level – Echo Base. The Imperial troops have breached the rebel installation as Dash must make his way to his ship – the Outrider, located on the other side of the base. As you make your way through Echo Base and blast countless Stormtroopers(and Wampas), you have one final enemy blocking the hangar where your ship is located – an AT-ST. That’s correct, a lone bounty hunter armed with merely a blaster must square off against an All Terrain Scout Transport.

In Shadows of the Empire, larger enemies are given a percentage indicating their remaining life. A Probe Droid will start will 100% health(armor?) as you keep blasting away it will decrease down to zero before finally exploding. When engaged in a lopsided gunfight against an AT-ST, it only makes matters worse when the “legs” of the AT-ST are such a small target and very, very hard to hit with your standard blaster; add to this the fact you only do another damage percentage every 20-25 hits. The trick to the entire boss battle is aiming for the “head” of the AT-ST, but you are only able to aim your blaster slightly higher or lower than straight ahead of you, resulting in an over-reliance on aim-assist which doesn’t “assist” nearly as much as you’d think. The combined problems can make for a boss battle that is anything but exciting as you typically have to resort to running circles around the AT-ST and staying behind it so it can’t hit you(see below). When playing this recently, I stumbled into the fight with only two lives left and said there’s no way I’m replaying this entire level again, so I had to “cheese” my way through it. I believe it took me somewhere around 35 minutes just to pew-pew away at its legs until it finally collapsed, allowing access to the Outrider.

<Angry Video Game Nerd voice> yeah, that’s right…you have to fight an AT-ST!

I still enjoyed playing Shadows of the Empire, one of my favorite Star Wars games growing up, but I question whether or not the game would have been better off without some of the boss battles that seemed only to emphasize the game’s shortcomings back in the 90’s. The annoying AT-ST encounter isn’t an isolated incident as just a few levels later you find yourself in a duel of bounty hunters against IG-88 in the Ord Mantell junkyard, or finally reaching the end of the Gall spaceport canyons, only to square off against Boba Fett in the Slave I….seriously? I could probably write multiple posts about the boss fights in just THIS game, huh?

I think that’s all for now….what are some boss battles in games that you found infuriating despite enjoying the rest of the game or simply made you say “ugh…this is bullshit”? Thanks for reading!