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One of many reasons for the Final Fantasy series' enduring popularity is its awesome boss fights. Here are some of the more memorable ones.
The Final Fantasy series in general deserves a nod because, any time you beat a boss in any game in the series, you get the same tune. Which seems like musical recycling at first, but after playing the games for a while, the victory theme takes on a whole new meaning. As Drew of Nintendo Power once said, "That simple melody may not seem like much, but its forever associated in my mind with some of the best moments of my gaming career. And you can't beat that."
Odin, especially in Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy V. When you beat him in both games, he gives his power in the form of a summon, in which he either wipes out all enemies on the screen or tosses the legendary lance Gungnir for heavy damage if the former fails. Although he does have somewhat low HP and a weakness to lightning-based magic, his fights are on a real time limit before he unleashes a party-wideZantetsuken. This could easily put him into That One Boss territory if his fights weren't such a refreshing change of pace and a fair challenge. That, and the fact that you're fighting Odin.
In Final Fantasy V, he's just hanging out in the decrepit, sealed-off basement of a castle that can only be accessed through a cave that has a few traps and enemies that can easily take out a decently leveled party in a few hits. And when you talk to him, he says he doesn't have time for you because he's busy and can only spare a single minute. Keep in mind that he's by himself in the bottom of a fortress. What happens when you exceed that minute fighting him? He calls time and instantly wipes out the party, giving you a Non Standard Game Over. His bestiary entry says he's only level 2.
The rematch against the four elemental fiends, though That One Boss to some, can also be one of the most satisfying fights in the game. With the exception of Rubicante (whose cloak has fallen aside to make him vulnerable to magic attacks), all four are in their most powerful forms (Scarmiglione in his second form, Cagnazzo summoning water, and Barbariccia in a whirlwind (with no Kain to knock her out of it)), and the fight is set to the alternately tense and frantic Fiend Battle theme, making for one of the most intense fights in the game before Zeromus.
Exdeath really is an amazing final boss, and a hell of an underrated big bad. Without going into detail, Exdeath was a sorcerous entity that coalesced and gained from every unspeakable evil ever to be sealed away in a certain holy ground over the eons, given flesh by its own force of will. To put things in perspective, Sephiroth attempted to destroy the world after becoming godlike. Kefka tried the same, and succeeded. In broad strokes, Exdeath destroyed two worlds, then yanked every civilized nation on them into Hell - as part of his plan to gain ultimate power. And when you meet him for the final time, he easily shoulders into position as the last final boss in the series that lived up to his own hype when the chips were down, as anyone that managed to survive Grand Cross can attest.
Omega. V did it first. V did it best. Omega can arbitrarily remove your members from combat, has fast, powerful attacks, sterling defense, and is all around a tremendously difficult boss without serious levelling and very careful preparation- preparation most likely got off the Internet, so spare a thought for the poor players back in the '90's who learned the hard way by getting ground into paste a few times. Here's the kicker, though: the Bestiary lists Omega as Level 119, making him the only boss in the entire series to simply ignore the arbitrary level cap by force of his own sheerbadness.
In the Advance version, it's revealed in one of the bonus dungeons that you fought only one of many Omegas, as there is a level filled with them! The kicker is that the level in question contains an upgraded Omega MKII.
The final fight with Kefka combines a multi-stage battle, beautiful and terrifying graphics, and "Dancing Mad".
If you want to talk of the remake, two words: Kaiser Dragon. He comes at the end of a long, deep, and difficult Bonus Dungeon, after you kill souped-up versions of the Eight Dragons. Then you fight him amidst a field of flames, while Battle to the Death, the secondary boss theme, plays. And you can pull out all the stops to fight him and it still feels like a struggle, and it feels so satisfying when you win. Multiple phases, massive health, all of the best attacks in the game. He's basically everything that makes Ultima Weapon cool, and then cranked up to 11. Kaiser Dragon is boss all other bosses aspire to be. Oh! he also has an awesome pre-battle quote.
"Humans and your insatiable greed. Your lust for power leads always to a lust for blood. This is a sanctuary for wayward souls... What business have you filthy creatures here? You slaughter my bretheren, and befoul their rest with the profanity of your continued existance... In the name of all dragonkind, I will give you the death you desire... I am the dealer of destruction... I am the font from which fear flows... I am Kaiser, and your time is at an end."
And AFTER Kaiser, we get the Omega Weapon, which is Kaiser turned up to 12!!
The defense of Narshe leading up to the battle with Kefka is pretty epic too. After being split up, your party reunites just in time to fight their way through ranks of imperials, and then you finally engage Kefka, who has been taunting you all game, in a proper battle.
Definitely Bizarro Sephiroth as well, notable because it is the very first time in the game you actually get to fight Sephiroth in a genuine boss battle, and right after a truly rousing speech by Cloud, nonetheless. The awesome boss music counts as well.
The one on one fight with Sephiroth is also worth a mention despite being a Foregone Victory.
Emerald Weapon is probably the largest boss in Final Fantasy VII, and the second strongest. On top of it all, you're normally only given twenty minutes to whittle away his 1,000,000 HP. One of the most awesome and enjoyable boss battles from any RPG.
Diamond WEAPON. There's a lot at stake with this battle and the boss looks cool to boot. An awesome cutscene follows it too.
The optional boss fight with Lost Number in Shinra Mansion qualifies, if only because the player is still giddy with success at finally having gotten that damn safe open, as well as taking another step along the road to acquiring Vincent.
The fight against Professor Hojo was particularly memorable, as well. Most players were thrilled to give him a thrashing for everything he did, and unless you were prepared for an onslaught of status attacks or horribly overpowered, his third form would kick your ass. The fact that they used JENOVA's battle theme for the fight made it all the more awesome.
The battle between JENOVA Life is particularly memorable, mostly due to the fact that it takes place directly after Aerith's death scene, and unlike most boss battles, the regular battle theme is replaced with Aerith's solemn theme tune.
Crisis Core is largely cited as the main reason to get a PSP. Some would cite the battle with Sephiroth as the main reason to get Crisis Core. It's tough, it's an intense Climax Boss, and it's a sword duel between The Ace and Final Fantasy VII's ultimate Big Bad. The only thing that could have made the fight better was if the latest remix of One Winged Angel played during the actual fight, and not during the rather silly "defeat him before he pushes you off the edge" fight.
Say what you will about Dirge of Cerberus, but it had some awesome boss fights. The second match against Azul The Cerulean in the slowly descending elevator and both fights with Weiss are intense and leave you feeling like the biggest badass when after you've cleared them.
The one nice thing about the Guardian Force magic system was, there were lots of optional awesome bosses to fight. Bahamut, Tonberry King, Ultima Weapon and giant Cactuar were all pretty badass, and so was Griever. And then there was Omega Weapon...
ODIN. He appears and slices through anything in his path. Giant possessed pieces of armor almost immune to physical attacks included. To get him, he'll give you 20 minutes to reach and defeat him, while he just waits . Take too long and no one will remember you existed. He even mocks you if you try to leave his tomb.
Both battles with Edea, particularly the second one at her homebase in Galbadia Garden.
In Final Fantasy IX, you finally get to fight Trance Kuja, who's ridiculously easy, but nevertheless beats you with Ultima. The player is lead into a state of WTF, and then suddenly the characters wake up in the afterworld and challenge what can only be some kind of god of death into a battle. The music alone makes the battle so awesome you're probably crying tears of joy, and in addition the boss is happily challenging if you haven't partaken any significant Level Grinding.
Normal Kuja as well. He's been built up as quite a villain for two whole discs, and now you finally get to do what you've been waiting to do for a LONG time now. There's no special boss music or anything, just the regular one—but arguably that makes it even cooler.
Every single Beatrix battle. Three reasons. One: they're insanely memorable. Two: every one is a forced-loss battle (which are always climactic). And three: that fucking song.
The fact that you can steal most of the Blue Magic in the game from them instead of resorting to the usual "use Lancet on every goddamn enemy you run across" nonsense also helps. Along with some Lv 3 Key Spheres.
The Sinspawn Gui fight. First, the backdrop: Gui appears at the end of the Mi'ihen Highroad/Mushroom Rock Road level/area, which she considers the point where the game hits its stride. Your party is mostly complete (six out of seven members), the mandatory expositing slows down some for development of the introduced plot and characters, you're free of that getting on boats nonsense and blitzball folderol, and things are basically just getting juicy. Sinspawn Gui is fought as part of a major event, Operation Mi'ihen, a colossal military undertaking with a heartrending aftermath. Gameplay-wise, Gui is also significant: the battle system in Final Fantasy X is such that every character has a specific niche to fill and allows you to swap all your six available characters out on the fly as needed, and Gui is the first boss whose stages and multiple targetable parts require you to take advantage of all your character's strengths and weaknesses to get to victory. Gui also hits hard enough and has enough health to pose a considerable challenge to a normally leveled party, without being so difficult that he turns into a controller-destroying nightmare. Plus, this fight is the first appearance of the game's serious-boss-music, Challenge, which is most definitely Awesome Music. As if all this wasn't enough, you get to fight him again, though this time it's a Curb-Stomp Battle designed to show off how awesomely powerful the villain is. Still awesome, though.
The boss battles with Sin's fins and its core, right down to Cid's airship using its cannons to shoot off its fins. And then you watch the monstrosity come crashing down...
Inside Sin, the final fight with Seymour. Yes, he's a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere, but the opportunity to bash his smug, psychotic face in that one last time, and send him so he finally stays dead, is a joy to be savored. Plus, this is on the way to the endgame, when your party is at its peak. If you have the right combination of powers, he goes down in a handful of rounds.
And if you've been killing time in the Monster Arena (and have weapons with Break Damage Limit), it's completely possible to oneshot him.
What makes the fight truly satisfying, however, is obtaining Anima (who is basically Seymour's own mother) beforehand, and summoning her during the fight. Do so for an absolutely priceless reaction. Bonus points if you Grand Summon her and she proceeds to one-shot him with Oblivion.
The final boss battle with Jecht. This one is also backed by Awesome Music. And the cutscene after you beat him is a definite Tear Jerker.
The battle against Evrae in the skies above Bevelle. The fight takes place atop your newly acquired airship, and in order to interrupt Yuna's wedding you need to kill the airborne dragon-like guardian of the city. What makes it so cool is the trigger command, which has Tidus or Rikku yell at Cid (the airship's pilot) to either pull away from the boss's airspace or close in accompanied by a great animation each time. You have to back out when Evrae gets ready to use Poison Breath, and only Wakka or Lulu (who's not too good due to halved magic damage) can hit him, but if you stay back long enough for Cid's turn to come around again, he fires a goddamn Macross Missile Massacre at the thing. And as your reward for bringing it down, you're treated to one of the best FMVs in the game.
For those of us who like Blitzball, there is the possibility (pretty much entirely determined by whether or not you got the Jecht Shot) of beating the Luca Goers, finally shutting up those smug bastards. Then there is the tournament win that nets you Wakka's ultimate weapon.
The Sanctuary Keeper. Oh, sure, it's hard. But that's the point. It's one of the first bosses that breaks the "hit it until it dies, spam its weakness, avoid its strong attack" mold. The first thing it does? Cast Curaga to heal itself. Then, after you cast Reflect to prevent any healing, it starts putting Reflect on your characters just to get around that. Cast Slow on it? It immediately responds by casting Haste. It was basically the game's way of saying "we've figured out how you play and we just wanted to let you know - that's no longer gonna cut it".
Final Fantasy XI has more than its fair share of memorable boss battles. In particular are the five Ark Angels, powerful avatars representing the strengths and flaws of each of the five playable races. Each possesses all spells and abilities for two different job classes, as well as their own unique and devastating attacks. You can fight them one at a time with a party of 6, but for the best challenge (and reward), you can go up against all five together at full power with an alliance of 18 people. The battle is challenging enough that even with a full alliance at the max level, a significant amount of skill, strategy, and teamwork is necessary for victory, but that makes success all the sweeter after such an arduous fight.
Promathia at the end of the Chains of Promathia expansion, if only because of the absolutely gorgeous fight arena, the Empyreal Paradox. Fighting miles above Vana'diel against a tough (but not Nintendo Hard) boss, and, for those who consider Prishe The Scrappy, this fight gives her a nice chance to get Rescued from the Scrappy Heap, since she not only breaks Promathia's shields, but if she does die, unlike a lot of other NPC assists in other boss fights, including the other NPC in that same fight, Selt'haus, not only does the fight not end of she does drop, but you can raise her and she'll be able to jump right back into the fight. And the closing song should qualify for Awesome Music.
Some of the Campaign related bosses are quite satisfying to fight as well, from Poisonhand Gnadgad (who can be tanked solo for quite a long time by a Paladin/Red Mage, no mean feat for most other campaign bosses) to ones from various story and Campaign assault missions.
The Final Boss, the Undying. It is truly an epic showdown.
Most of the Esper battles, with the most triumphant being Chaos; when you enter his arena, he closes the doors behind you telekinetically by slowly pushing his hands together. It's one thing to make a grand entrance, but when you're not even the one coming in? Also, and your yardage may drift, but Yiazmat; if you have your gambits set just right, just watching your characters beat up on a holy dragon god who's so massive he could swallow them all whole at once is just so satisfying.
Deathgaze. After you accept the quest, it's possible that, when you are taking a skyferry, this boss appears and you have to fight him - on a crowded airship, with 7 possible, completely unique scenarios depending on the airship where you can walk around and talk to the scared people.
Barthandelus, Galenth Dysley's real form. The scene starts out with Jihl, the Jerkass who taunted and tortured Sahz with his feelings for his son, stepping up to protect Galenth Dysley. Time to get that bitch back! But before the party lays the smackdown her, she is dismissed with magic to back of the head, fired by Dysley. He then starts to float in the air, murdering everybody that isn't your team. After some dialogue, he merges with the mysterious white owl that has been following you around, going One-Winged Angel as "Fighting Fate begins. He delivers an I Am the Noun declaration and a "The Reason You Suck" Speech and promptly destroys any unprepared team.
And, then you get the second fight in Oerba, which is also awesome.
Though not a boss battle, the series staple Adamantoise returns with a big upgrade... a REALLY big upgrade of Shadow of the Colossus proportions. Without proper planning, this will literally be a Curb-Stomp Battle. Taking this guy down requires taking its legs out so it can fall down, and then beating the crap out of its face (rinse and repeat, if you don't finish it before it stands again). It's a fun fight and is highly rewarding if you're lucky enough. And then the Long Guis show up...
XIII-2 has you fighting three Bahamuts at the same time in the final battle. Awesome.
Gaff Gafgarion in Final Fantasy Tactics also runs away when defeated, has the Dark Sword ability so he takes little damage if you're underleveled and your last battle is practically one-on-one. Boy, that's one nice arse to kick.
Argath/Algus in the same game, because there is nothing more satisfying then finally getting to kill that smug, arrogant, bigoted bastard. This is made even better in the PSP remake, where he comes back as a zombie, and you get to kill him again.
The fight with Marquis Elmdor and his arm-candy assassins on the roof of Riovanes is an example of a boss fight that is truly tense, frantic, and emotionally powerful... and you know you're outclassed.
The preceding fight against Wiegraf, consisting of memorable dialogue punctuated by a one-on-one duel against a foe (on average) only marginally better than yourself (rather than being hideously outmatched or hideously outmatching the boss), is one of the most monumental in at least the Final Fantasy series. The whole Riovanes series of battles, though a much dreaded Difficulty Spike or That One Boss to some, is to others essentially a nonstop Awesome Moment.
In Tactics Advance 2, the final boss is a daring fight in which you're fighting on the boss itself. It's a nice mutli-part boss without being too frustrating or counter-intuitive, and it has many powerful attacks without any that would annihilate your party like the previous game's final boss did.
The final boss fight of Crystal Bearers was incredibly awesome. Layle faces off against Jegran, who's transformed a battleship into what in-game called the "Jegran Armor", a massive crystal/robot hybrid. Boss fights against something so huge are always fun. Better still, Layle gets a spiffy new form that enables him to fly around the sky via surfing on a large crystal, and his Crystal Bearer powers get SUPERCHARGED to where he can take the mooks that show up during the fight and annihilate them just by throwing them once. Plus, he can tear the Jegran Armor's armor off. He can even tear a cannon off of it for use AGAINST it! And then eventually the Jegran Armor creates a massive arm that can kill you in two hits. Unless you're using accessories that increase your Defense or some such... All in all, an epic boss fight to end a decent game.
Chaos is one awesome final boss. Besides the fact you're facing the Big Bad of the original game and the implied Bigger Bad of the entire series, you face him three times, and each round he gets more berserk and powerful. And then you hear him call out "Shiver, At the powerof a god!" If there was an Awesome Moment trope for simple attacks, Utter Chaos would be an entry.
Then in the prequel you get Feral Chaos, who is even berserk and powerful than the original, accompanied by Awesome Music, and you fight him using your own personal Five-Man Band of any characters you like.
Also in the prequel, the final boss of Light To All. After individual tales where four of your five current party members have fought a Warrior of Chaos as the final boss, you get to the party's destination and find the four enemies waiting for you with Garland, and fight a series of battles as each party member takes on their designated villain again, culminating with Lightning facing off against Garland. While the difficulty of the fights are likely not that great, they are nonetheless epic.
The Boss battles in Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon are amazingly well done, especially when you consider that Chocobo's Dungeon is a Roguelike and boss battles in those kinds of games tend to be back and forth hitting each other. The four Guardian bosses either fly around randomly or use knock-back attacks and often have very flashy charge-up attacks, something that most regular enemies use. Oh, and the music helps too.