Final Fantasy, it evokes countless hours of random encounters, incredible characters, some of the best soundtracks of all time and so much more. In December Square Enix celebrated the 25th anniversary of the very first installment. Right now they are offering great discounts on their games on PSN as a way to say thanks to all the fans of the series – and there are quite a few.
Well, I’d like to thank Square Enix by recounting my top 25 Final Fantasy boss fights of all time.
Now, as a disclaimer: I’m only going to include the numbered entries, but not XI or XIV as MMO’s are a completely different experience. This is my opinion, and there isn’t a perfect way to irrefutably rate all the bosses in the series. If you have a mathematical formula I can apply, let me know!
Without further ado, SORTIE!
25. Amber, Garnet and Jet Bahamut
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is now known as the sequel nobody wanted. But, to those who gave the game a chance, it offered a fun, fast paced battle system with a surprisingly robust creature raising system to act as a third party member for Serah and Noel. It may not have had much else going for it, but it had that – fun combat.
All qualms with the game aside, the final battle, which surprisingly isn’t who you’d expect it to be (tell me if that sounds familiar) can be both an intense challenge of awareness and reflexes as well as an awesome nostalgia fest. Jet Bahamut sits back, immune and unable to be targeted, while applying offensive buffs to one Bahamut while alternately tossing defensive buffs on the other. What really makes the first stage of the battle interesting is the buffs cannot be removed, so it can be difficult to manage offense and defense at the same time.
Once the Amber and Garnet Bahamuts are dispatched, the player can finally take on the Jet Bahamut. The imposing dragon sadly is more bark than bite because, despite having a couple fairly hard hitting attacks, the battle is too straightforward to truly make the player sweat. However, you fight three Bahamuts – at the same time. I feel that reason enough to put it onto the list.
24. Biran and Yenke
“Leave Kimahri, Yenke. Kimahri is small Ronso. Kimahri so small can’t see Yenke and Biran’s faces.”
Some fights are memorable not for the difficulty, but the emotional investment. In Final Fantasy X, one of the most gripping entries in the franchises illustrious history, the battle between Biran and Yenke is that exact culmination of overflowing feelings. From the moment Kimahri shyly apologizes to Yuna for the first time, the demure blue beast becomes akin to a brother. It’s easy to root for the “undersized” Ronso who gets bullied by Biran and Yenke several times throughout the game, so whenever Kimahri finally stands up for himself it’s a transcendent type of fight that many can relate to in some way.
I’ve never been a fan of those instances in Final Fantasy where certain party members are taken away or forced into a fight; but having Kimahri fight his own fight was the only way that scenario could have played out to my satisfaction. The symbolism is clear: stand up for oneself. Yet to see such a strong warrior so denigrated definitely shows that size and strength doesn’t always translate to being assertive.
The actual fight itself, from a strategic and difficulty standpoint, isn’t necessarily a standout. Yenke moves in to block attacks against Biran, who casts spells. Attacking while both are close together is a dangerous task, but overall this fight is more about the triumphant feeling for a lovable party member. And believe me when I say I was cheering my friend on as much as I was engaging in a battle.
“Life is connected, one to another… If you trace the root of all life, there exists one source. The same can be said for memory. All life constitutes an intelligence that holds memory beyond experience.“
Following one of the triumphant moments in Final Fantasy’s illustrious history, where Zidane is distraught after learning his destiny only for his friends to show him he isn’t alone, you fight a series of battles until you reach Garland. Not the final boss, or even to last boss in this sequence of events, I still cannot help but remember the emotions I felt when I confronted the matrix-like architect.
Zidane’s fight with Garland is a perfectly constructed metaphor for him fighting his destiny. The buildup is the biggest reason why I love bashing his face in – plus I always thought Kuja was kind of lame. Final Fantasy XII’s protagonist should have been Balthier instead of Vaan and Final Fantasy IX’s antagonist should have been Garland. Still, it’s a fun fight full of emotion.
Being overly aggressive is the only real way to lose this fight. Garland has several magical attacks that can hurt if not properly prepared for, but simply casting reflect makes this fight much more manageable. Like some battles I’ve already talked about, and some I will discuss later, often the bosses that remain with me are those centered around a strong narrative and not necessarily the most complex of fights.
“Delicious morsel! Let me get my bib!”
Final Fantasy VI, even with the comedic moments interspersed throughout the story, is a bleak game. Halfway through the story Kefka destroys a large portion of the world and takes his self-appointed throne, doling out his twisted sense of justice from the heavens. It’s with that atmosphere of despair that the instances where Ultros, the one liner shouting purple octopus, really adds levity to a game in desperate need of it.
The party first meets this strange mini-boss at the Lethe River where his humor is more impressive than his combat ability. In fact, only the last encounter where he is accompanied by Typhon does the player feel challenged at all. But that’s not the point of the Ultros fights. The reason Ultros is in the game is to offer humor – and he’s really funny.
Had this been a list of the most memorable Final Fantasy moments, Ultros would oddly be included as well. The opera scene has been lauded ever since the game’s release and it’s truly the pinnacle of the SNES JRPG era. Ultros inserts himself at the most innocuous of times, including the most famous scene from the best Final Fantasy game. It perfectly sums up just why Ultros is both so unique and necessary for Final Fantasy VI. His fights may not have been very difficult, but the game simply wouldn’t have been the same without the cute-ish little guy.
“You have braved the bowels of Hell to reach me. But the hand of man, which deals in false justice and forsaken love, can never hope to defeat the lord master of hell!”
The original Final Fantasy II on the NES had, respectably, not much of a story or character development. It’s understandable given the time. So the remake for the PSOne (or many other incarnations) which added much more dialogue and updated the gameplay, graphics and audio, is very much appreciated by me. One can quibble over certain changes, and I for one would love to play the original version unchanged. However, it’s hard to deny that the alterations overall don’t make for a much more palatable game.
Even with the overhaul, the narrative of Final Fantasy II isn’t on par with most of its successors. As such, the final boss being a conqueror of hell seeking vengeance on the party doesn’t strike the same emotional chord of a Kefka or Sephiroth. Still, for its time, the reincarnation of Emperor Mateus was pretty badass.
He only has a few attacks capable of causing tremendous damage, but what really makes him a fearsome foe is the fact that his attacks drain HP from the player creating a battle of attrition. An underpowered team might run out of steam because it can’t dish out enough damage to finish him before MP and items are used up. Retrospectively the Emporer is a somewhat forgettable final boss; but at the time I’m sure he stood out. Also, I love his character design.
That concludes the first part of my five part series. Have any thoughts about the battles above or predictions for what’s next let me know in the comments!