Boss Battles – Dark Souls/Mega Man

Alright. So, let’s pretend you’re a kid sitting in front of the living room tv playing Mega Man 2 on NES, or a grown-ass adult playing the Mega Man Legacy Collection on your Nintendo Switch, it makes no difference. You’ve guided the Blue Bomber through Wood Man’s stage and will be squaring off against yet another one of Dr Wily’s robotic rogues. Wood Man’s attack pattern begins by sending a group of leaves into the air. You try not to take too much damage from this weaponized foliage as it floats back down towards you; at the same time, Wood Man will fire his leaf shield directly at you, providing yet another obstacle to avoid. The battle can prove even more daunting as you realize your Buster Cannon in its default form doesn’t deal a ton of damage; however, you’ve already defeated Heat Man and have absorbed his Atomic Fire ability. This weapon upgrade proves all the difference in the contest as it takes roughly two charged shots to defeat Wood Man.  

Every enemy in Mega Man games have a set of specific strengths and weaknesses against a particular type of weapon. Identifying which upgrades are effective against which enemies – essentially a rock-paper-scissor match with each robotic foe, makes an ENORMOUS IMPACT in combat rather than simply jumping, shooting and dodging your way through each level. This has become one of the central gameplay elements to Mega Man games and was something that I routinely thought of as I played through Dark Souls over the summer. It was during many of the boss fights contained within From Software’s dark fantasy epic that I realized the similarities in how most boss encounters, while intimidating at first, can be made to feel much less so once you discover and exploit an enemy’s distinct weakness(es).

Bell Gargoyle(s)

One of the earlier boss fights in Dark Souls is the Bell Gargoyle. You come across this enemy on the roof of the Undead Parish before reaching the bell tower. The fight itself is pretty straightforward – dodge and attack. Once the Bell Gargoyle’s health reaches the halfway point is where the real fun begins; you will be promptly be joined by ANOTHER Bell Gargoyle and have to face off against not one, but TWO of these winged assholes. I spent several attempts trying to get the attack patterns down and generally testing my own patience in the process. I was ultimately unsuccessful as I just couldn’t avoid the near-constant onslaught of fire breath attacks from both gargoyles. It wasn’t until I randomly looked in my inventory for any consumable items that may be of use to me that I noticed I had accumulated several gold pine resins, which when applied add a healthy dose of lightning damage to your weapon. On the VERY FIRST application of gold pine resin to my weapon, I completely annihilated both Bell Gargoyles in about a minute flat…well, shit. I had spent so long grinding away at this boss fight, hoping to finally get the attack patterns down and picking the ideal time for a counterattack that I was actually caught completely off guard by how some seemingly small detail like applying lightning damage to your weapon could have in, what had been a difficult fight. It was actually this moment that made me begin to understand the way most boss fights can be approached in not just Dark Souls, but most From Software souls-like games.

Moving on to another example…

Stray Demon

You get your first glimpse of the Stray Demon in the opening minutes of Dark Souls as you make your way through the Northern Undead Asylum. The (optional)fight doesn’t actually occur until you return to the Asylum a little later in the game – another fight that gave me a fair amount of trouble in my first several attempts as this thicc bastard can absolutely wreck your chance at earning that ‘W’ with some potent magic AOE attacks. In doing a bit of research on the fight that I learned of its Achilles heel – bleed effect. The Stray Demon fight can be trivialized by the fight you can stroll, well…fall, more precisely into the boss arena with nothing a base level Bandit’s Knife capable of causing bleed damage(as well as a shield with magic resistance) and emerge victorious, which is EXACTLY WHAT I DID. Is the Stray Demon an imposing enemy? Yes. Does it have a not-so-obvious weakness to be exploited to the point of being (almost)laughably easy? Also, yes.

Ornstein & Smough

Of course, there’s times when you simply WILL NOT have the upper-hand against a particular boss – either because you never picked up the weapon/ammo to gain the upper-hand or they…just don’t have any distinguishable weaknesses to exploit. Reaching the level boss in a Mega Man game without the weapon giving you the upper-hand usually means you’re stuck using nothing but the Mega Buster and having to memorize every single movement and attack if you wanna win the fight. This happened to me MANY more times than I’d like to admit in Dark Souls, making the game feel even more similar to the Blue Bomber’s various adventures. The example which comes to mind first during my playthrough of Dark Souls was the infamous Ornstein & Smough fight. I had made my way through Anor Londo, dealing with a dozen sentinels and a whole goddamn army of silver knights before finally coming face-to-face(-to-face) with the proportionally mismatched duo. This fight took me what felt like the better part of a week. One of my biggest disadvantages, outside being outnumbered, was the fact I knew there was a weakness to exploit – FIRE. I just had no way of doing so. I didn’t have any weapons or consumables to deal fire damage, with no souls to make a quick detour and acquire any either. This meant If I was going to take on both Snorlax AND Pikachu, I had to do it the hard way – patience and pattern recognition. Just like with Mega Man, it IS possible to go through the entire game without using elemental attacks to give you an edge, but it makes an already uphill battle even steeper. The fight against Ornstein & Smough wasn’t exactly pretty and took me an eternity, but…I did it, dammit! 

Of course, I’m morally obligated to mention Bloodborne in at least one blog post a month and a number of boss fights could apply to this as well, though most end up falling under the basic “BEASTS = USE FIRE” guidelines as established by the Hunter’s Workshop…which could be an entirely different post for another day.

Thanks for reading!

Monster Hunter: Rise – Understanding The Hunt

Monster Hunter has been a popular game series for some time now, starting in Japan after its beginnings on the PlayStation 2 in 2004 and eventually becoming more and more popular in the West as time went on. And what’s not to love about a game that tasks you with hunting down dangerous monsters with oversized swords and axes, along with an assortment of tools and potions at your disposal? It wasn’t until very recently that I could say I finally began to see the level of enjoyment to be had in Monster Hunter after it failed to sink its claws into me in several previous attempts.

My first experience with Monster Hunter was on the 3DS. Shortly after trading in my original, “fat” Nintendo DS towards a 3DS XL, the newest iteration at the time, I happened to look through the eShop and decided to download the demo for Monster Hunter IV: Ultimate. I had known of the MH games for quite a few years, primarily from seeing the original PS2 as well as Monster Hunter Tri on the Nintendo Wii, but had never attempted to play any of them. I remember playing a few of the quests in the MHIV demo and having a fair amount of fun, but there was definitely a learning curve there. My initial perception of the series was an interesting game that seemed to require a certain level of commitment to fully grasp the game mechanics…along with other friends to play the game with. The fact it contained an overwhelming amount of items and resources that were difficult to access due to the game’s UI and inventory system feeling a tad on the counter-intuitive side(for me, at least).

Cat puns were never the difficult part of understanding Monster Hunter

A few years later, Monster Hunter: World was released and after hearing the amount of praise for series’ newest release, I decided to make another attempt to run around and hunt some monsters. Unfortunately, the same learning curve hindered most of my progress in the game. I had a difficult time getting the hang of the game’s slow, deliberate movement and controls, along with the crossbar inventory that still felt very difficult to navigate while avoiding ferocious monsters. Compounding this was the fact the matchmaking in the game is likely the most obtuse, counterintuitive process I’ve seen in a modern video game. Most of the time spent playing the game with my brother was simply trying to get paired up in the same quest. I did play MH:World a few times by myself and felt like I made some very slight headway, but still felt like I didn’t “get” the game yet…or if I ever would.

Earlier this year, I spent a fair amount of time watching a few bloggers within the WordPress community play Monster Hunter: World on Twitch(shoutout to Frostilyte and DanamesX) and had hoped to learn a thing or two. I had also been paying loose attention to Capcom’s updates after announcing Monster Hunter: Rise, which was to be released as a timed-exclusive for the Nintendo Switch(a PC port is expected early 2022). A release date for Monster Hunter: Rise was set for March 26, with Capcom releasing a demo on the eShop a couple weeks prior. Once again, I decided to download the demo and see if something would finally click – it didn’t. The Rise demo played well enough, but it still felt in many ways, like the intimidating wall of weapon sharpening, traps, and endemic life previous games had been.

Monster hunter in training…

Monster Hunter: Rise received a great deal of praise after its release and was one of the most-played/talked about games on Twitch and Twitter. I don’t know whether it was a greater amount of sheer determination or FOMO, but I decided to give MH yet another chance and picked up a copy of the game. Due to it being a little more streamlined than previous entries, I kept hearing Rise was the most accessible and best point of entry into the series. I had already been toying with the idea of playing it, when my brother happened to buy two copies of the game and give one to me with the intent(again) of playing some co-op Monster Hunter. You ever have a game that it seems like you just wake up and inexplicably feel like playing? That’s all it really took this time around…

I’m don’t know precisely what it is about MH:Rise that finally started to make sense of the series for me. It might be the fact that the game has been scaled down in size, making it a little less of a daunting task to play through, or the in-game tutorials seemed a little clearer than they had in the past(?). Another possibility is that I simply exercised a bit of patience and restraint in not charging into every monster encounter so….recklessly, which I could point to playing through Bloodborne a few months back as an example of learning not only what to attack, but WHEN to do so…

It only took me a few hours of playing and I started to feel as if I could confidently take down every menacing behemoth in the game all by myself, as I learned some of the ins-and-outs of not only the general combat, but utilizing the endemic life around the area for attribute buffs, along with your Wirebug maneuvers and the array of tools and traps any competent hunter has in their repertoire. Since first playing it a mere month ago, Monster Hunter: Rise has been the game in which I’ve spent the most time. The game credits roll upon finishing up the five-star quest “Comeuppance” which finds you facing off against the storied Magnamalo, which destroyed Kamura Village during a Rampage fifty years prior to the main story. The past few Saturdays have mostly been spent playing Monster Hunter, with one particular Saturday being spent doing little else as I worked toward completing the five and six-star Village Quests before I’d consider myself having “beat” the game.

There’s something incredibly satisfying about hunting and slaying(or capturing) the giant predators terrorizing the lands surrounding Kamura Village, especially when utilizing all the weapons and tools at your disposal. I’ve spent most of my time using the Switch Axe, which opened up a lot of combos to inflict maximum damage once I got familiarized with switching between axe and greatsword form while attacking. Monster Hunter as a series has historically had a greater depth than…let’s face it, a lot of the game I play and love. I’ve put 30+ hours into the game thus far and feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface as there’s many other weapon/armor combinations to try out from here. I want to experiment with some of the other available weapons, such as the Bowgun(s) or Hunting Horn.

the fearsome Magnamalo lies defeated at the feet of Lenny…

My experience with Monster Hunter had always felt like it was bound to be hampered by the fact I have typically spent 99% of my time gaming by myself. I never really had many friends to play games wit other than a younger brother, and any progress playing Monster Hunter: World was greatly affected by the game’s baffling matchmaking setup. I had always had the perception of MH games being closer to an MMO where it’s certainly possible to play the game solo, but the optimal enjoyment comes from playing with others.

I don’t know if I’d attribute it more to a lessened learning curve and greater understanding of the mechanics or sheer stubbornness, either I’ve been loving my time with Monster Hunter: Rise and it has become one of my favorite games I’ve played this year. Some games, regardless of complex gameplay may not resonate immediately, and others may never. I’ve mentioned in the past that it wasn’t until Ocarina of Time that I felt like I finally began to “get” the Legend of Zelda games, but I’ve loved them ever since. Sometimes, all a game needs to finally click is the right time and place…

Thanks for reading!