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The Touhou Project games are well-known for their boss fights. With over 100 cute girls to go up against, many will leave an impression one way or another. Some are known for their fanon personalities or Memetic Mutation, while others are known for being ridiculously tough to beat.
And then there are these girls, whose fights are just incredibly awesome to play through. Their spellcards have brilliant patterns that are extremely fun to dodge, regardless of (or sometimes because of) their difficulty. Sometimes, the surrounding dialogue and story add just the right atmosphere to the battle. Oftentimes, they have awesome music that gets you even more pumped up for the fight.
The boss fights are such an important part of Touhou, that many fangames strive to make their boss battles at least as, if not even more, awesome.
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Lotus Land Story
In the PC-98 game Lotus Land Story, Yuuka. More specifically, the fact that this is the origin of Master Spark, the Giant Fucking Laser that Marisa is famous for.
Not only that, she is the only character in the series to be the end-level boss twice in a row. She's also youkai moe, but that's for another page.
In Mystic Square, also from PC-98, Shinki. A while after the battle starts, the background will start to focus behind her, and suddenly become six large white wings. As the song reaches its peak, she'll begin attacking you much more fiercely (even using a kind of attack that rarely appears outside of that moment in all the games), while the both of you are ascending. And then when the music gets to its final part ,you suddenly stop, Shinki's wings turn dark purple, and you fall down. Her attacks in this part actually are all the same pattern just getting stronger and stronger as you go lower, eventually firing a lot of lasers and bullets straight downwards... Until the end of the fight, where you see how that very attack left Makai in flames, as she does her final pattern.
And then upon getting to the extra stage, you face Alice, the previously-fought Stage 3 boss of the game, who decides that she's had enough of holding back and busts out her Grimoire in order to do battle with you. Particularly awesome because of "The Grimoire of Alice," the theme that plays throughout the battle.
Embodiment of Scarlet Devil
The final battle against Remilia Scarlet in Embodiment of Scarlet Devil, though this is largely thanks to the music. It's creepily fitting of the little vampire, especially toward the end of the fight when she starts transforming into a bat between attacks. The combination of the music and the crazy attack patterns really gets the adrenaline flowing on Lunatic mode.
It's the whole buildup to the fight that does it, especially if EoSD is your introduction to the series. First, even the normal fairies have difficult attacks, and then you run across a seriously disturbed Patchouli Knowledge (who is a Wakeup Call Boss both in-game and story wise), *then* you get to Flandre and her infamous theme. Survive her Big Freaking Wand attacks? She splits into four. Survive that? She turns invisible for a brutalHold the Line segment. Then you get to get back to working down her 9 health bars.
Perfect Cherry Blossom
Youmu Konpaku, the stage 5 boss, is definitely That One Boss in this game, but her spellcards are nevertheless extremely fun with the regular invocation of Bullet Time, which is even more awesome when combined with Bullet Hell.
Yuyuko Saigyouji, the final boss of Perfect Cherry Blossom, is also a top contender. The fight may not match the sheer awesomeness of having to dodge miniature suns, but the combination of her beautiful theme, her gorgeous fan backdrop, and her graceful butterfly and cherry blossom themed attacks make it one of the most dazzling boss fights in the series.
The best part of that battle comes right at the end: you finish off her final health bar, she seems defeated, but then comes back for one last attack, which is pretty hard on the upper difficulties, and is a survival card to boot. Throughout the attack, a remixed, even more beautiful version of the boss theme plays, building to a huge, triumphant crescendo as the player survives the last wave, and the huge numbers of bullets on the screen get turned into point bonuses and absorbed... in slow motion!
"Remembering the melancholy of human existence... Even ghosts stray from the path of righteousness..." Reflowering: Resurrection Butterfly!
The speech the heroine makes with the final boss, following with these lines (each pair spoken at the same time):
Sakuya: I will see flowers, rotting princess!
Yuyuko: I will unseal the tree, dog of the devil!
Marisa: I'll take my boring spring, corpse-girl!
Yuyuko: I'll take your pitiful spring, black witch!
Reimu: Return under the flowers, ghost of spring!
Yuyuko: Sleep under the flowers, red-white butterfly!
Yukari Yakumo from Perfect Cherry Blossom. Keep in mind that she is the ONLY Phantasm boss in an official game. This roughly means that, for story purposes, she's arguably the most powerful boss in the series. She also happens to have what is probably the series' most famous Spell Card, Boundary of Life and Death, and for good reason. It beamspams every single shot type in the entire game. Combine this with her Awesome Music, "Necrofantasia", and you have the makings of one of the most amazing battles of the whole series.
The "Boundary Of Life And Death" is so undeniably awesome that it's the page image for Bullet Hell.
Imperishable Night stage 4. The boss depends on who you're playing, but either way it's a confrontation with one of the two main playable characters of the series, who are both blisteringly tough battles (allowing that they're neither the final boss nor intended to be the hardest). It's also a throwback to Touhou's PC-98 roots and the similar scenario in Lotus Land Story, complete with beautiful updated remixes of old battle themes for both heroines. But most of all, the encounter is laid out with such pizazz and dramatic flair that it's impossible not to get revved up. It must be mentioned that the stage leading up to the fight features a gorgeous and very intense BGM that happens to be a remix of the series' traditional main menu theme, which builds to a peak just as the boss character appears — right in front of your first view of the warped full moon that the game's plot revolves around. Later, both bosses run off in the middle of the fight, prompting a high-speed chase through the bamboo forest with the boss theme still playing, a moment still unique in the series. Oh, and the girls get some great dialogue, too.
One of the best has to be in Marisa's scenario. At first hesitant to fight Reimu, Marisa gets mocked by Alice and slowly starts beating down on the miko. At the end, she finally picks up the courage and flair we know her so well for, and we get:
Marisa: "Okay, okay, I give up. You're right. The endless night, stealing the full moon, hiding the human village, and putting funny hats on stone statues... It's all Alice's fault. Now, bitch, get out of the way!"
The following stage's boss fight against Reisen is another fun battle. During her spellcards, she will fire a number of bullets, and then, her red eyes appear on screen, causing the bullets to become intangible (and during her last card, invisible) while they shift movement (or, in the case of her third card, stop moving completely). Thus, her battle revolves around using these times to move to a safe spot before the bullets materialize again, creating a battle fairly different from others in the series. Her second spellcard, Visionary Tuning, which involves crisscrossing diagonal lines of bullets that move down and will trap you if you don't move to a high enough spot during each shift, is particularly fun.
There's also Kaguya Houraisan at the end of Imperishable Night, simply for the phase after you "beat" her — in which Awesome Music picks up, and she proceeds to wail on you with five no-easy-way-out survival spellcards of incredible difficulty even on the easiest setting — and if you fail them? She doesn't hurt your lives — she basically is attacking your goddamn Continues! Adding up to an in-game hour each time you fail, getting closer to 5:00 A.M., which cues the sun... and marks your failure (or, at least, a drastic reduction in the bonus points for time remaining).
Kaguya: Your spell of Imperishable Night will end... And the dawn will come!
Almost ironically, at that point, not only are your Continues completely useless, you've already won. (Although if you haven't been playing well up to that point, you can still lose a substantial point bonus.)
Utsuho Reiuji, the final boss of Subterranean Animism. She can be That One Boss even on the easiest difficulty if you're not prepared, but the fast-paced music and epic scale of the battle (giant nuke-bullets, people!) will inevitably win you over.
Also, she doesn't announce her spellcards in the typical bland and regular manner of a portrait and a standardized sound that every boss since the sixth game had done — instead, her attacks are heralded by blaring klaxons and nuclear-patterned CAUTION labels flashing on screen to alert you to the fact that what's approaching isn't just a spell, it's a full-on thermonuclear assault.
The battle was so awesome that someone rendered it in 3D with delicious attention to detail; the shot patterns match up with Lunatic level, there's plenty of nods towards the original boss fight, and the fight manages to include several of her spellcards from the fighting games. Watch it here.
The extra stage boss Koishi is also very entertaining. She has been compared to Flandre Scarlet, and for good reason. Her boss theme is chaotic, crazy and catchy. Many of her spellcards are very creative and/or even sorta creepy, like those giant masses of "roses" during her final attacks. On a more humorous note, she is also notable for her Rekindled "Embers of Love" spellcard, of which the projectiles are ostentatiously hearts leaving behind trails of magic, but they look like something else, too.
Undefined Fantastic Object
Byakuren Hijiri stands as a top contender for best boss fight in the series, especially due to the events leading up to it. Though the atmosphere of the battle is a lot lighter than other final bosses, the difficulty is still high. And the game lets you know this, as the sixth stage is relatively easy, and constantly tosses UFO pieces at you (especially green ones, allowing you to stock up on the bombs you will so desperately need), complete with incredibly unsettling music. Even the midboss can drop a full-power-up for you just before the final boss. When you actually do get to Byakuren, she starts by making your character look like a total jackass, and as the fight is wrapping up, she breaks out a particularly painful attack that was used earlier by an old friend, with even More Dakka than before. Combine this with her own beautiful brand of Awesome Music (specifically composed to be less threatening than other final bosses from the series), and with the fact that she's basically the Youkai Jesus, and you can start to see why Byakuren is so popular.
The atmosphere leading up to the final boss is simply amazing. The dark and beautifully quiet stage leading into the triumphant sunrise as Byakuren starts to fight is classic. ZUN describes it best:
ZUN: From the quiet heartbeat, suddenly it feels like the world is opening up.
There's something about fighting a giant catfish at the end of Meiling's story mode in Hisoutensoku that makes it so great. Maybe because you're fighting a giant catfish.
Sanae's story may rank among the best in this game purely for the final boss fight. The majority of the fight takes place in the middle of a nuclear reactor (not nearly as badass as when Cirno did it, but hey), but the third-to-last spellcard accompanies a routine pressure release in the core. Cue two spellcards fought, not on the ground, but on the riding edge of a shockwave. This only gets better for the last spellcard, which not only has Awesome Music, but is fought in free-fall! That timer? It's how long you have until you hit the ground.
The Extra Stage boss. For the whole game, all you've been fighting is fairies (which makes sense considering the title of the game). Having won the war against the Three Fairies of Light, Cirno feels confident and decides to take on a stronger opponent. However, the music in the stage feels much more sinister than all the other themes. Then you get to the boss and find out you're fighting Marisa Kirisame of all people. She claims she's going easy, replacing her actual lasers with motivation-draining lasers, but it's still very tough since motivation is your life in this game, and it's still freaking Marisa. It's truly an awesome moment for both the player and Cirno when you manage to beat her.
Mamizou Futatsuiwa has the power to make things change shape, and the gameplay WILL let you know this. Her bullets will happily transform into humans that fire straight at you, barking dogs that chase after you, birds that try to ram you, and frogs that blow up. That not enough for you? She proceeds to transform into Reimu and hunt you down! Still not enough? She splits into TEN. Couple this with her theme Futatsuiwa from Sado, and you have the recipe for one of the most fun Bonus Bosses in the series.
The fight against Reimu at the end of the fangame Concealed The Conclusion. With reality collapsing around her, Marisa challenges her opponent to one last danmaku battle. This wouldn't be so awesome if Marisa didn't have an awesome line before hand ("Of course I want to win... or... I want to win when you are giving 100%! To bet on Gensokyo's eternal fate, I propose a final danmaku duel!") that peaked exactly as the background music, G Free Final Dream, reaches the start of its 'battle' phase (and, of course, when the boss invariably revives, it plays a more awesome version of that song, called G Free Ultimate Dream).
Perhaps the coolest part of that final boss herself is that each one of her spellcards is a homage to a previous final boss in the series. For her last dangerous spellcard, those previous final bosses (Remilia, Yuyuko, Kaguya, and Eiki) will show up to attack you as well. And the previously mentioned themes? They mix in two appropriate boss themes: Maiden's Capriccio and "Eternal Shrine Maiden". That's right, the end of Gensokyo heralded by a song riffing on the very first theme of the series.
The Phantasm boss, Reimu again, is even more awesome. Her theme to begin with is a remix of Dichromatic Lotus Butterfly, Reimu's extra boss theme in the first Seihou game, with parts of the first stage themes of the PC-98 games. And then there is her last word: Spellcard versions of her attacks as a playable character.
The Extra/Phantasm bosses also share the greatest spellcard in the franchise, official or not: Simon Says in danmaku form. Clever when Suika does it as the Extra boss, but when Reimu does it again in Phantasm, it gets vicious.
In the fanmade platformer spinoff Super Marisa World, Kaguya is the consensus best boss of the game for acting less like a platformer boss and more like, well, a Touhou boss. Complete with side-scrolling-modified versions of her five impossible requests from Imperishable Night.
Yukari's last attack is also pretty awesome, being a platform remake of her very theatrical spellcard Danmaku Bounded Field. As someone on Youtube put it, "Yukari manipulated the border between danmaku and platformer games."
On the subject of fangame spin-offs, Mystical Chain definitely deserves a mention. As a pseudo-platformer beat-em-up game, the player makes a team of two out of Alice, Patchouli, and Marisa, and proceeds to fight their way through several stages inspired by various levels from the games, populated with enemies thematically fitting to the stages. The true awesome comes from the world end boss battles, which features another pair of characters showing up to do battle with your pair. While each of the boss battles are awesome in their own right, the Mokou/Kaguya pair is battling each other and your two characters are just a footnote during their duel. You spend as much time dodging both character's attacks as the bosses themselves do (and they do take damage from each other's attacks, if they connect), and have to time your own attacks during the momentary breaks in combat, while the other boss laughs at her rival getting pounded on. All of this set to a symphonic medley of their respective character themes. It has to be seen to be appreciated.
The True Final Boss, the Mystic Records, aka PC-98 EX-Alice. Five spells, of the Philosopher's Stone variety, using the Grimoire of Alice, and a survival card, even. Also a bit of Awesome Music in the music playing, a mix of "The Grimoire of Alice".
One really ought to hand it out to Frontier Aja; they have made what is possibly the most Crazy Awesome crossovers in their Koumajou Densetsu games (Castlevania and Touhou crossovers). In special mention in both games released so far are the final boss fights; in both games, as is expected given it's Castlevania with Touhou characters, the Final Boss battles against Remilia Scarlet are simply awesome, not only for the buildup for each of the encounters (which include Shout Outs to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night), but the sheer intensity of the battles, and the incredible Awesome Music that accompanies them. In particular, the second game takes the feeling of the first to a whole new level. There is no more fitting theme for the last battle than The Rose-Killing Carmilla.
Marine Benefit, unusually for a fangame, consists entirely of original characters with the exception of the player's shot types - but that doesn't mean there can't be bosses as awesome as canon Touhou characters, if not even more so, as the extra boss Otohime Kanpukugu demonstrates. From her machinery-inspired nonspells, to her incredibly imaginative and ridiculously fun spellcards (one of which, to give some idea, is the board game Othello in danmaku form), to her amazing themeThe Butterfly of Isaac the Traveler, everything about her just screams awesome. On top of that, her spellcards are actually different depending on which character you're using, effectively meaning the game has three extra bosses! The best part, though, is that this is because the game DOES, as the boss demonstrates just as you think you've finished her off, by calling for backup. And when she does this, the characters you didn't pick come to back YOU up, for one final spellcard. See all of the awesome here.
Now here's a weird example: a boss battle from a fake fangame released as an April Fool's joke. It's Marisa vs Yuuka in Re:Lotus Land Story, and after using an array of new spellcards Yuuka resorts to repeatedly blasting away with the original Master Spark in all of its remastered glory. Yuuka's health actually regenerates during this phase, making it a Hopeless Boss Fight... until Marisa steals her signature spellmid-battle and beats Yuuka in a Beam-O-War.
The Touhou Danmaku All-Star Medley. The beginning appears to be a normal stage of Fairy Wars, but then the normal Touhou window layout explodes to the sides and Rumia comes throwing danmaku at you. It features all of the Windows-era characters up to this point, even the ones who don't appear in games. The spellcards are very creative and the widescreen format allows for even more beautiful danmaku to be shown off. Sadly, a playable version will be never released due to copyright issues.
While this is an RPG battle rather than a danmaku one, the battle against Rinnosuke in the original Touhou Labyrinth. Your party will be facing against someone who has eight different forms with three times the HP as the last major boss fight (or more), complete status immunity, and a myriad of strong attacks to use with a pattern behind them (as opposed to an A.I. Roulette script). Every character can contribute to the fight, but no character can single-handedly win it for you, so it really tests your party to the fullest of its limits, yet it never feels impossible or too luck based. As a bonus, the battle has some of the game's best BGM, regardless of whether you're listening to the special disc version or the older version.
The final boss of the fangame Phantasmagoria Trues on Unlimited difficulty: Shinki. At the very start of the battle, she opens not with a nonspell, but with a spellcard - something almost never done in Touhou, even in fangames, and the contrast here is absolutely jaw-dropping. Especially considering it's her signature attack, the infamous Devil's Recitation - the very same one listed in her Mystic Square entry. And even though the attacks do not get any easier from there, even though her fight is obscenely difficult...not one single attack in her arsenal feels unfair. It's the purest test of your raw dodging skill in this game, arguably even in any Touhou game to date, canon ones included. When you finally beat her, you will have earned it, and you will feel like an absolute badass, especially with the Awesome Musicplaying in the background.