Imagine with me for a moment. You’re back in the 90s. You’re in your parent’s basement, sat in front of a bulky CRT with a SNES controller in hand. Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo just came out. You’re making your way through arcade mode on the highest difficulty. You reach the end, your fingers exhausted from the insane struggle. And then, just when you thought it was over… he appears.
Oh, I’m sorry! You thought Bison was hard? Well, guess what? That loser ain’t got shit on Akuma! Behold, the Raging Demon! Witness his might and despair! Be grateful you’re not in the arcade, cause he’d have mugged you for every quarter you’re worth if you were!
Enter the super boss. Once, they were a staple of the fighting game genre. The ultimate test of a player’s skill and knowledge of the game. You had two choices: lose or adapt.
And by adapt I mean use the cheapest strategy possible. Which will still not work. Have fun!
I love bosses like this. It feels like a fun little ‘fuck you’ from the devs. Like they’re challenging you while simultaneously spitting in your face, kicking you in the dick, and stealing your lunch money. They’re very existence was a motivator. You couldn’t let them beat you! It was designed to beat you!
Plus, they made for a great party experience. Few things were as fun as gathering your friends around, getting some snacks, and passing the controller around in a vain attempt to defeat these super bosses. It was a cooperative competition. Everyone knew what would happen when someone won; they’d be the defacto best player in the group.
These fights were truly legendary. There are a lot of things people remember about older fighting games. But the one thing they’ll always bring up are these very bosses. Bison, Akuma, Shao Kahn, the list goes on. It’s hard to forget these ass kickings.
Unless you’re the devs, apparently.
The landscape of modern video games is very different than it was in the 90s. Nowadays, fighting games need every character to be playable and, even more frightening: balanced. No one character can be explicitly better than anyone else. Gotta make it fair for the Esports scene! Oh, and for casuals, I guess. Otherwise, they might complain on Twitter.
Remember when games were allowed to be fun? Not balanced, not concerned about competitive play. Just fun. Because… come on. What’s the point in playing Oni in SF4 if he isn’t broken as shit?
Although I wouldn’t exactly consider getting an Akuma-sized fist shoved up my ass consistently a good time.
There are a few glimmers of hope. Raid bosses in Dragon Ball Fighterz have proven to fill that hole multiple times. Even Street Fighter 5 has done a few similar battles! But there are two problems with that. One: they’re almost always limited time things, which kind of defeats the point of a boss that just grinds your ass into the dirt; I wanna take my time, dammit!
And two: I either need to get two friends to play Fighterz online with me, which ain’t happening, or play Street Fighter 5. And the ladder is the last thing I want to do. Like, ever.
Fuck, man, you can’t even go into arcade mode on hard! Fighting game AI has been dumbed way the hell down. Back in the day, the cheap exploits were a gamble; you only resorted to them if you had been getting destroyed for hours, and even then, they might not even work out until after a few tries. Now, you can just most enemies with one move or a simple combo and they just won’t know how to respond. This means that both the secret boss and the stupid strong final boss have been completely removed from the equation.
I fail to see what the problem is. Tournaments can just ban overpowered characters. Hell, you don’t even need to make them playable! Just hide them in the deepest pits of the game, hidden beneath layers of difficulties and arcade modes and unlockables. I dunno, I’m not a game designer. I’m just a masochist who wants to fight an unbeatable foe.
I might be sick in the head. But that’s nothing new.