Posted on October 08 2018 by Kat Vadam
Boss battles are meant to be the pinnacle of a game.
Or a level. Wherever a boss is encountered, it is meant to serve as the climax of a story, before the falling action and resolution. Such a battle should be epic, challenging, and, if nothing else, a final test of everything we, the players, learned along the way. And when we walk away, bloody-yet-victorious, we should feel proud of what we have accomplished.
So, keeping this concept in mind, let’s take a look at Breath of the Wild. As Link, we faced and fought seven major boss battles, conquering four Blights to release the spirits of our fallen Champions, Monk Maz Koshia, the guiding voice behind the Champions’ Ballad DLC, Calamity Ganon, the “Scourge of Hyrule Castle,” and Dark Beast Ganon, “Hatred and Malice Incarnate.” Not a bad number of boss battles, I’d say, even if we rolled the last two together into one. Each time we came to an end of a story arch, we topped it off with a major test of our abilities, until it all came down to the final battle at Hyrule Castle.
Can we…can we talk about that final battle for a moment?
In this corner, you know him, you’ve fought him; the Bane of Hyrule has cashed it all in for one last chance, it’s Ganon!
Naturally, as fans of Zelda, we are more likely to feel a bit more for a battle against a name we know; Ganon is a staple character, one we have faced and defeated numerous times before. But, this also means that we might be more inclined to be critical of the battle, something many of us, myself included, found ourselves doing in the battle against Calamity Ganon and Dark Beast Ganon. I mean, we knew what had been done before, so, whether or not we were consciously aware of it, we had certain expectations.
First, we faced Calamity Ganon, who tested our skills and speed through utilization of techniques and elements from each of his Blights. Really, he should have been everything the Blights were, and more. During my own play through, I honestly expected to face this incredible challenge, after sinking hundreds of hours into the game fighting increasingly difficult foes. I prepared for hours, gathering weapons to balance punch-packing with speed and agility. I tracked down as many Ancient Arrows, Bomb Arrows, and Shock Arrows that I could find. I made sure I had a couple Savage Lynel Bows and an Ancient Bow, because those are extremely useful as a player who struggles with skills like dodge and parry – I could use the distance.
Then, I fought and scaled my way through Hyrule Castle, walked into Sanctum, and…I mean. He wasn’t a Bokoblin, but…Calamity Ganon did not feel any different than the Blights. Heck, I had a tougher time with Thunder Blight. Calamity Ganon just felt like another step, with more to follow, and with half his health taken before the battle even began, he fell too quick and too easily. Perhaps I should have faced him without fighting the Blights beforehand – that would certainly have given me the challenge I expected.
I mean, isn’t he supposed to be, like, the end-all, be-all of bad guys in this game? The one who gave form to the Blights?
Then came Dark Beast Ganon – almost unanimously considered disappointing, succumbing to a few light arrows. I admit that I didn’t fight him as you’re supposed to; I ditched the horse and fought on foot. But the difficulty of a boss battle shouldn’t ride solely on something so mundane, and I highly doubt I changed the battle much at all. Horse or no, I still had to shoot arrows at the light points, avoid his hooves and beams, repeat. Ultimately, the battle was nothing to write home about.
Yet, was Ganon’s second form meant to be difficult? In this particular case, as pointed out to me a couple weeks ago, the final showdown was perhaps meant to serve as a point in the story when every single sacrifice, every fight won or lost, every memory recovered, came together as Link joined Zelda to finally, finally, defeat the evil of ages. Perhaps it was meant to be cinematic, forcing you to focus on the relationship between the hero and his lost princess, pushing concentration on fighting by the wayside. Simply put, it may have been the story-driven side of a boss battle.
And, if that’s the case, then job jobbed, I guess? I mean, I didn’t really feel too much during the battle, but, maybe that’s just me. Still, though…for a final battle, both forms of Ganon anti-climatically fell flat. There could have been – should have been more.
And in this corner, he’s old, he looks frail, but be prepared for when he finishes his speech, it’s Monk Maz Koshia!
Now, let’s compare that dual battle to the battle against Monk Maz Koshia. After facing challenges with the Obliterator, recovering all the memories, solving each new shrine, and finding our way back to the Great Plateau, we, as Link, finally take on the last challenge in the Champions’ Ballad DLC. A fifth Divine Beast, the Divine Trial, and Monk Maz Koshia. Where every monk before granted us our Spirit Orb and faded away, Maz Koshia came to life, stood up, and challenged us in battle. And, boy, for an old mummy of a monk, he put up quite a difficult fight.
By bringing together multiple techniques – Thunderblight Ganon’s speed, Yiga magic, splitting himself into several identical parts, then growing himself to the size of a small house, just to name a few – Maz Koshia provided a fast-paced, ever-changing boss battle that I constantly had to adapt to. And, while every hit I landed took away noticeable bits of his health, he didn’t go quickly. The fight lasted. I had to work for the end – Maz Koshia had his reward, and he wanted Link to work for it.
And, in something named “The Divine Trial,” set forth in the name of the goddess Hylia, isn’t that fitting? The point of every Sheikah monk’s shrine was to test the hero’s mettle. Maz Koshia was no different, but his reward was greater, so the test needed to be, too. Link needed to prove himself worthy before the monk to receive his gift – ultimately, Maz Koshia was the perfect end to the DLC’s story. I felt accomplished. I felt proud. Sure, the reward for beating the monk – the Master Cycle Zero, spoilers, – made me laugh, but holy Hylia, that was awesome. That’s what a boss battle should be: an epic, story-driven challenge pulling together all my acquired skills and everything I had struggled to achieve to that point.
Believe me when I say, I really, really wanted to love the battle with Ganon in Breath of the Wild. I even went back the next day to fight him again, thinking maybe there was something I missed, but…there wasn’t. Where I should have felt successful and pleased with myself, the Hylian Champion, I just felt disappointed. I stood before Zelda and kinda shrugged my shoulders, wondering what the heck happened a hundred years ago. But when I think back on the battle with Monk Maz Koshia, looking at all that I need out of a boss battle and seeing every box checked, I cannot help but wonder…
Why couldn’t he be the final boss?
Kat Vadam is a Senior Editor for Zelda Dungeon and writer of “On the Quest for 100.” She sometimes wonders if she thinks too much about Breath of the Wild. And then she shrugs and opens up the game anyway. Follow her on Twitter.