Aww, not again! (if he changes to Fire, we're really hosed! I knew I should've brought Lucca
A type of boss, typically in an RPG, who doesn't have a fixed place in the game's Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors
lineup, who uses a special technique or ability to periodically shuffle his elemental weaknesses, in order to keep the player guessing. The boss is also usually a powerful spellcaster (implying that his special barrier-change technique is a high-level boss ability), and often has a significant role in the surrounding story.
It may or may not be possible to use an Enemy Scan
on this type of boss — even if the scan does tell you his weakness, that will be subject to change in a few turns when he changes it again (assuming the boss doesn't react to your scan by changing his weakness immediately). On the other hand, sometimes you can quickly identify the boss's current weakness — sometimes the invocation will explicitly tell you which element to use, or the current weakness may be Color-Coded for Your Convenience
(e.g. if the boss has Deflector Shields
Beat 'Em Up
- Every boss in the Buzz Lightyear of Star Command game has layers of force fields, each one that can only be destroyed by a specific weapon. (For instance, a blue shield will only be vulnerable to the Arc Laser.)
- Distorted Travesty likes this kind of boss. We have the Quick Time Distorter, the Data Collector, the Garbage Tracker, the Virus Core... in a twist, you usually have to hit it with whatever element it is currently using, rather than which one you think it'd be weak to (although there are exceptions).
- The eponymous final boss in Metroid Prime, in its first form, is only weak to the sort of attacks it's using at the time. In later stages of the battle with this form, it'll occasionally switch, and then immediately switch again, sometimes back to the weakness/attack setup it had before, trying to trick you into having the wrong beam ready.
- A rather bizarre semi-example from the same boss: Its second form is able to become imperceptible to all but one of your three visors. Unlike most of these examples, however, there is a set cycle as to which visor can see it.
- The final form of the Emperor Ing in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes alternates between becoming invulnerable to dark energy, light energy, and "neutral" energy (the Power Beam). The former two can be thwarted with the Annihilator Beam, which covers both elements, but burns both kinds of ammo (which you're probably quite low on at this point).
- Gorea's first form from Metroid Prime: Hunters does this. Just like with Metroid Prime's core essence, there's a set pattern to what you should shoot him with. However, no matter the color of his armor, he's always weak to the Power Beam and missiles. Unless you get the True Final Boss part of the fight...
- The Final Boss of the first Overlord game does this every so often. The color of his shield matches that of the Minion type needed to break through it.
First Person Shooter
- The final boss of Castle Crashers uses this tactic in one of several forms. However, he also not only transfers the damage the wrong attack did to you, he also makes it harder for the attack that would do the proper damage hard to do.
Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game
- In BioShock, the final boss Frank Fontaine supercharges himself with "ADAM" (the game's genetic version of 'magic'), giving him various powers over fire, ice, and electricity, teleportation, etc. His body glows with a different colour depending on the power he's using: red for fire, blue for ice, white for electricity. Since you also get fire/ice/electricity powers through using ADAM, plus an artificial version of these elemental weapons with your chemical-thrower, guess which powers he is resistant to depending on the colour he gives off and which he is weak against?
- Bloodwing in Borderlands 2. She switches elemental powers after taking certain amounts of damage, and is immune to whatever elemental power she is currently using. Throughout the battle, Handsome Jack says she can use all the elements, but he keeps forgetting what one of them is. He then "remembers" once the battle is over: explosive.
- The player themself can become one with an Adaptive shield, which makes the player resistant to the last damage type they took.
- Team Fortress 2: The Vaccinator reduces 10% of damage from a single damage type (fire, explosive, or bullets), both for the medic and his patient. His Übercharge increases the resistance up to 75% for the patient and recovers a small amount of that damage for the Medic.
- Guardian Aegis from the King's Relic dungeon in Dungeon Fighter Online is a Barrier Changing Miniboss, that has a barrier that switches between blocking physical and magical attacks.
- In Kingdom of Loathing, Mother Slime at the bottom of the Slime Tube doesn't technically change her resistance, but every 500 points of damage from a certain element (or lack thereof), she mutates a defense against that type of attack for the remainder of the fight. She has just shy of 3000 hit points. There are five elements in the game, plus one for non-elemental physical damage. There is a reward for defeating her without triggering any of her defense mutations.
- Phantasy Star Universe has the Kagajibari. Boss of the mission "Rainbow Beast", he switches element to whatever element just hit him. He casts spells accordingly. His default type is Light, so one would cast dark spells at him... right? If you cast dark spells at him, he casts Megid at you.
- RuneScape has Dagannoth and Gelatinnoth Mothers, who change color depending if they're weak to air, earth, water, or fire spells, ranged attacks, or special and melee damage.
- In addition, there are Tormented Demons and the Dungeoneering boss Astea Frostweb, who switch protection prayers periodically. Also, the Kalphite Queen has two forms, each of which have certain resistances (even though they appear as protection prayers, the Queen can still be hurt by those types of attacks, though it counts as if the Queen had insanely high defence in those attack types, so hits happen very seldom, even if for high damage).
- Players can (and will) invert this; with prayers, you can block the three attack types. However, to avoid completely breaking the game, you can only have one protection prayer (melee, magic, or ranged) active at a time. Much of the high level content requires players to swap protection prayers to block enemy attacks.
- In World of Warcraft, while not any bosses (unless they've been forgotten), there are several types of enemies which become more resistant to magic types they've been struck with. The death knight talent Acclimation also makes causes them to develop greater magical resistance for each time that kind of energy strikes them. There isn't a corresponding weakness however, so being struck by multiple types of magic just makes the effect stronger.
- Chromaggus, the gigantic Draekadon (two-headed dragon-like Core Hound), second-to-last boss of Blackwing Lair, will change his resistances and weakness to elemental damage during the fight. When he shimmers, they change: he'll be weak to one type and nearly immune to the rest. It changes every so often, so players have to keep on their toes.
Role Playing Games
- In Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, Miracle Matter has a form mimicking each of Kirby's copy abilities in that game, and each form is only vulnerable to its own type of damage, whether by spitting back its projectiles or using the ability copied from those projectiles. Its intermediary form is completely invulnerable but also doesn't move or attack.
- Sonic the Hedgehog:
- The Final Boss of Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) forces you to switch hedgehogs when it stops taking damage from high speed rams/chaos spears/telekinetic rocks. There is always a set order of which hedgehog can damage him: Silver, then Shadow, then Sonic.
- Metal Madness, the penultimate boss from Sonic Heroes has this as well.
- Guacamelee! has the first phase of the Carlos Calaca fight. During this phase, Calaca is surrounded by different colored barriers and can only be damaged by attacks corresponding to said colors. The fact that he also switches dimensions between attacks complicates things further.
- In Mega Man Powered Up, both Copy Man and Wily are subjective to this. In both cases, they randomly switch between the powers of the game's Robot Masters, and, at that point, are weak to the same weapon the respective boss is.
Shoot 'Em Ups
- Tarvos the Avenger in .hack//Quarantine. Fortunately, the game tells you what, if anything, every enemy you face is tolerant (immune) to by way of glowing orange text next to its lifebar.
- On that note is the recurring boss within The World itself: The One Sin. Rumored to be very, very powerful, it can only be damaged by an element that is opposite itself when it fights. The last person who defeated it was Balmung; his unique angel-like look is the prize for defeating it. Apparently it was so powerful a semi-famous player poet composed a poem and gave Balmung (and Orca) nicknames "Descendants of Fianna" and it stuck.
- The One Sin makes a gameplay appearance in .hack//G.U. Reminisce. True to its name, it can only be hurt by elements opposite of its color, and even then, you need to defeat its two shields before it momentarily opens up to reveal the core. An even nastier variant, The One Godeater, appears in .hack//G.U. Redemption. Now, it only responds to either Darkness or Light spells. This narrows down to two elements, but the boss itself is very, very hard even with that advantage.
- The Bonus Boss Nightmare in Alter Aila Genesis, 150% damage for a specific element. 1% for everything else
- Inverted in Arcana, where the elemental spirits on your side each possess a cheap spell for doing this to your party.
- The Chromatic Fiend in Baldur's Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal does this.
- The first form of the final boss does this as well. It will actually notify players, though; first by using a high level spell of that element to signify it's about to change, and then by changing colors to match its element.
- Baten Kaitos' final boss followed this trope. Though, it showed you what element he was changing into with Seal of Entropy, and by displaying the game's icon for the element slide over his limbs, into his chest, you only have a "deck" of cards that explain your weapon usage. So you can't really specialize in all elements, or choose any particular attack that would defeat his element quickly, but instead have each of your team special in three or four elements (Chrono or Wind, Fire or Water, Light or Dark) or pack yourself full of non-element based cards and drag the fight out for a good hour or so.
- The Tyrant Dragon from Breath of Fire IV switches between earth, wind, and water every turn.
- Chrono Trigger
- The Trope Namer is the move Barrier Change used by Magus. This fight is the most famous example of this trope. Magus was in fact healed by Elemental Powers which did not match the element of his barrier, and changing his barrier also inflicted high elemental damage to your entire party. Fortunately, if you didn't have magic that matched his barrier, you could force him to change it (at the cost of getting hit by the aforementioned damage) with physical attacks. The hard part of the fight actually came after he dropped his barriers entirely, because that was when he broke out Dark Matter.
- There is also a lesser example in the Jesters in his castle. It starts with a magic-blocking barrier. Use physical attacks and it barrier swaps to a physical barrier. There's also the Golems, who attack-swap based on the attacks you use on them. Of course, by simply rotating elemental attacks, you can stick them in an endless loop where they have to charge each new element. You can also wear equipment that nullifies or absorbs a certain element, then just attack with that element.
- Mermaid, a guardian of Treasure Tower in Dubloon does this. Sometimes she can change the weakness twice in a row, and sometimes right before you attack.
- The Elder Scrolls:
- Gnarls in Oblivion's Shivering Isles expansion are a non-boss example; when hit with an elemental attack, they grow in size and strength and gain a resistance to the element of the spell, but grow weaker to other elements, requiring mages to constantly swap between spells to exploit their weakness.
- In Skyrim, the boss of the College of Winterhold quest 'Under Saarthal', Jyrik Gauldurson, has an elemental shield that rotates periodically between resistance to fire, ice, and lightning.
- Final Fantasy has a LOT of these:
- Perhaps the Trope Maker, Final Fantasy III has a boss named Hein that does this. He's encountered just after you acquire the second set of jobs, which conveniently has a class that can scan for weakness.
- Rubicante from Final Fantasy IV changes his weakness from ice to fire when he draws his cloak. Yes, this means you can kill the Fiend of Fire entirely with fire damage.
- In the DS remake of Final Fantasy IV, Golbez has this kind of move. And uses it constantly.
- Final Fantasy IV: The After Years has the Blade Dragon, the Bonus Boss in Palom's Challenge Dungeon. It counters with a powerful attack and heals itself if you try to use anything on it that isn't an elemental attack (such as a physical attack, Bio, or even Libra). To win, you must use the one elemental spell type it isn't using.
- Several bosses in Final Fantasy V change their elements, the most infamous being Archeoaevis and Bonus Boss Omega MK II.
- Final Fantasy VI has Number 024, Master Pug/Tonberry, and the Magi Master; the latter is especially frustrating for being fought in a dungeon where only magic can be used. The Updated Re-release includes Kaiser Dragon as well. Luckily for you, except for Magi Master, all the other ones will change their attack pattern depending on what their weakness is. Also, you can use the Debilitator to add another weakness to them... until they barrier change again, anyways.
- For Magi Master, most players just spam Ultima, which will always do massive damage no matter what his weakness is. The real challenge is surviving his last-ditch attack after he runs out of HP.
- Final Fantasy VII has Jersey, found in Shinra Mansion in Nibelheim. It is an enemy which determines if it is immune to magic or physical damage by raising one arm and lowering the other arm.
- A unique example in the form of Lost Number, a Bonus Boss in the Shinra Mansion. It starts the battle using powerful but not devastating physical and magical attacks. After losing half its HP, it will change to reflect the source of the most damage it received: if most of the damage was done with magic, it will become immune to magic and use extremely powerful magic attacks exclusively. A similar effect occurs for physical attacks, which tend to be slightly less devastating as it can still only hit one character at a time.
- Spherimorph and Greater Sphere in Final Fantasy X. While the former's weakness can be revealed by attacking it, Greater Sphere loves to counter any action against it with Ultima. Seymour Omnis changes elements as well.
- Some high-end bosses in Final Fantasy XI have the ability to either negate physical or magical damage, one of the more notable ones being the Final Boss of Chains of Promathia. There are also a few normal enemies that have such abilities, too.
- Shemhazzai from Final Fantasy XII has this, though this isn't present when she joins you.
- Amphisbaena in Final Fantasy XIII. Although the "Barrier Change" is easier to deal it because characters can use multiple spells at once, the "Boss" part is a little harder to manage. They come back as Demonic Spiders later in the story.
- Cid Raines will adapt his fighting style and the abilities used based on your paradigms.
- The Aster Protoflorian, whose first appearance (that's right, even stronger versions appear later as Demonic Spiders) is specifically meant to give you a wake up call if you've still not got the battle system sussed. It periodically switches its attacking element, making the opposing element its weakness. Hopefully, you've been grinding enough to have a spell of each element unlocked...
- The Final Boss of Freedom Force vs. the 3rd Reich, which leads to the possibility of turning the most powerful being on Earth into a vase of flowers.
- Kushidra, a minion used by the Final Boss of Jade Cocoon, changes elements every few turns in a predicable cycle. In Jade Cocoon 2, Lilith does the same.
- In Jade Empire, Emperor Sun Hai doesn't care about elements per say, but he does switch between his Support, Magic, Unarmed, and Weapon Styles. Unlike most of the examples on this list, he's immune to the one he's using, not the ones he isn't, but he is very reliable about switching to whatever you just hit him with, then hitting you while you're busy changing to match.
- Kingdom Hearts I has two of these:
- Ursula shuffles her weakness, but the mechanism is different. It's actually her cauldron that has the weaknesses. The color of its contents determines its element: attacking the cauldron with its opposing element will result in it stunning Ursula.
- One of the secret bosses (Phantom) shuffles weak points as well, including physical hits.
- The international and final mix versions add a third boss to the list: Kurt Zisa. Instead of changing elements, he alternates between sealing all magic attacks and creating an anti-physical barrier. The former is especially annoying since it also seals spells like Aero and Cure.
- The final boss of Magical Starsign changes its own weakness.
- Mega Man Battle Network 6 has Elementman.EXE, who changes his element after every attack.
- In Mega Man X: Command Mission, Incentas had the ability to rotate his element. And his head.
- The Barroth of Monster Hunter Tri is weak against water while covered in mud, and weak against fire when not. He flings his mud off by shaking in one of his attacks, and sometimes rolls in mud to cover himself back up. You generally just have to pick either a fire or a water element weapon and try to attack just parts that are covered/uncovered, but Bowgunners can bring both Water and Fire shots.
- Barroth also carries a secondary weakness to Ice that doesn't change with the mud armor's state, allowing players to ignore the whole thing.
- Alatreon changes weaknesses depending if he's flying or not, Ice and water on ground, Fire or Dragon while flying.
- The Barrier Trio in Mother 3 are immune to all elemental PSI attacks except one while they're posing, and after taking three hits from the one they're weak against, they'll change their pose, and with it, their weakness. This is one of the few instances where Boney's Sniff command is very useful, though it's not actually necessary if you opt for non-elemental attacks or realize that their weakness is determined by which one of the trio is calling out the pose.
- Kecleon's Color Change Ability allows it to change its type to that of the attack that was just used against it, shuffling its Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors weakness as well. Extra fun if you have a 'mon in your party with Dragon-type moves, as Dragon types are weak to attacks of the same type.
- Now it gained the Hidden Ability Protean, which changes its type to whatever move it's going to use, basically giving it STAB on everything. The Froakie line also has this Ability as its Hidden one.
- Another Pokémon does this as well — the Porygon family's Conversion (changes type to that of one of its own attacks) and Conversion2 (changes type to what resists the last attack that hit) attacks. The latter is a bit more useful in Double Battles (Porygon2 are sturdy enough that it can Recover the damage dealt by its partner. PorygonZ, not so much.), though it's still not recommended.
- The move Camouflage changes the Pokémon type depending on the environment.
- There's also Castform, with its ability to change its type, as well as the effects of its signature move, Weather Ball, depending on the weather, becoming Fire-type in strong sunlight, Water-type in rain, and Ice-type in hail (though strangly, there's no alternate form for a sandstorm).
- Shin Megami Tensei
- ''Persona 4
- Namatame's shadow does this. He is highly resistant (to the point of single digit damage) to all but one element, which he takes high damage from. The trick is that he is weak to the element he uses to attack).
- This is also used for Nyx Avatar, the final boss and the Emperor/Empress Dual Boss Persona 3
- Also used by the Bonus Boss, Elizabeth. She changes her persona every turn, which also changes the type of attacks that she nulls.
- As does Isamu/Noah in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne. What makes him particularly annoying is that he shifts barriers and only one element can hurt him. Anything else will be reflected. Pretty much every Barrier Change Boss in the SMT games can be bypassed with Almighty skills. But Noah? He takes only 10% damage from Almighty skills, so you will have to pay atention to his pattern.
- In Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, both the normal Final Boss and the ultimate Bonus Boss randomly change weaknesses and resistances. Thankfully, there's a cheap Sub App (Gibdo Eye) that changes your cursor's appearance when your attack won't work. Most players skip the game of "What works now?" and jump straight to Almighty spells, which cannot be resisted.
- Devil Survivor 2:
- Beelzebub normally reflects everything and No Sells Curse element (thankfully, he doesn't resist Almighty), but depending on what Mooks he summons, he stops reflecting one element, and the fewer the number of mooks, the more vulnerable he is to that element. Problem is, as soon as he is attacked, or once there are no mooks left, he will summon a new set of mooks and change his elemental resistances.
- In Ikaruga, the players and the second-to-final boss have the ability of switching their color. Shots of their current color are absorbed.
- The Final Boss of Epic Battle Fantasy 3 does this. It takes him a long time to change, though, and once he's been scanned once, you don't need to scan him again.
- Epic Battle Fantasy 4 does this with the Crystal Golem, the second boss of the game, who changes between Fire, Ice, Lightning as soon as it takes a single hit (that includes individual hits from multi-hit attacks). Like the above, once it's scanned you don't have to do it again.
- MARDEK has the Bonus Boss Annihilator:Karnos, which occasionally switches to a random new element. Legion's Gemsplosion attack will always trigger this.
- The Master Stone switches elements every turn, in addition to its normal attacks. The best way to deal with the Stone is to curse it, which not only locks it in its current form but also limits it to a relatively weak physical attack.
- The Magneto Epic Boss fight in Chapter 4.4 of Marvel Avengers Alliance makes your ability to get past his barrier a matter of sheer luck. At the start of each round, he activates either a positively or negatively charged shield, then uses attacks that place either a positive or negative charge on your party members. Damage from negatively charged characters will be absorbed by a negative shield but bypass a positive one, and vice versa. It's sometimes possible to break the shield by hitting it with enough firepower, but Magneto always puts up a fresh one each round. If the Random Number God refuses to cooperate by putting any opposing charges on your team, your best bet is to either pile Standard Status Effects on Magneto or use items to wear him down.
Non Video Game Examples
- In the Discworld novel "Hogfather" a crucial door is magically locked with 8 different locks. Each one is a different color, and requires a very different technique to open. Although Mr. Teatime does not know how, he temporarily hires a wizard who figures it out.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation features the Borg, who are able to adapt their personal energy shields after a couple of phaser blasts to gain effective immunity to enemy weapons. Eventually the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise figured out that they should modify their phasers to randomly switch frequencies after each shot to keep the Borg off their game. Even then, they adapt after several shots.
- The Star Trek: Elite Force game introduces a weapon that gets around this: the Infinity Modulator, which can randomly switch to an infinite number of frequencies and infinite number of times. It's the only weapon that consistently works against the Borg; they adapt to all others with enough shots.
Table Top Games
- In Stern Pinball's Star Trek, the requirements for "Vengeance Multiball" changes depending on which encounter it is. For example, the first time is a standard multiball mode, while the second time is a Timed Mission where the Vengeance shoots pinballs at the player.
- The skindancer in Dungeons & Dragons reflexively changes resistances to take less damage from whatever attack form was used on him last.