To me, the difficulty of fight with Beowulf stemmed not just from the challenges presented by the gameplay of that segment, by also by the psychological stress the battle places on you, the player.
Now, I consider myself a particularly seasoned gamer, so whenever a videogame is able to genuinely cause me stress, and not just anger or annoyance; it tends to stand out to me as something special.
Such is the reason the battle with Beowulf stood out to me as both an incredibly difficult and exhilarating fight entirely worthy of The Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights.
On that same note, today’s boss just happens to have earned their spot in much the same fashion as Beowulf.
As chatty as he is dangerous, the #5 entrant on our list of the Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights is:
#5. Sinistar – Sinistar
“BEWARE, I LIVE!”
Announcing his presence with a Jack and the Beanstalk-esque “Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum!” of sorts, the arrival of Sinistar at the end of each level in the game of the same name is one of those moments in gaming that, though it may seem ho hum by today’s standards; will live on forever as a classic of it’s time.
Sinistar’s hilariously minimalist taunts and battle cries will likely live on forever, however it’s easy to forget that, as fun as it could be when you were winning; the game was hard as fuck.
A classic twitch shooter through and through, Sinistar was one of those mean-ass arcade games that would bait you into thinking it wasn’t all that tough, only to stomp the ever loving shit out of you by level 2.
Be it Centipede, Missile Command or Robotron, arcade games of the early 80’s, and indeed throughout much of the history of arcade machines thrived on inviting players in win the promise of a fun first level, only to drop the hammer and crush them just a few stages down the road.
I’m guessing this was supposed to trigger a “What the fuck? Let’s try this again…” psychological response in the players or something.
Things were different back then.
It was a lot easier to justify pumping money into a machine for a few minutes of fun when few people owned consoles of their own, not to mention the fact that the home systems weren’t capable of the graphical sophistication presented by arcade machines of the time.
History lesson aside, Sinistar was entirely guilty of the gameplay model mentioned above.
It was pretty easy in the first level, but holy Ewoks and graham crackers brother, you gotta’ be a motherfuckin’ pinball wizard to get much further than that!
The boss of the game, Sinistar; being largely responsible for said nut-crushing difficulty.
Fighting Sinistar is not what you’d call a “fight” in the traditional sense.
Up until his arrival, you spend your time in the game piloting your star fighter, shooting the occasional enemy, and, quite literally; shaking down asteroids for “Sinibombs” and crystals.
The gameplay during this phase of the game, at least during some of the earlier stages; is actually kind of eerie in terms of how quiet and relaxed it can be.
Like many arcade games of the day, the game features no music during play, resulting in a unnerving silence in between the occasional laser or explosion sound effect.
Don’t let my overly romanticized descriptions fool you, this phase of the game is merely the calm before the storm.
Allow me to paint for you, a picture (in words) of how a typical fight with Sinistar goes down:
As you’re collecting shit out in space, at some point you’ll likely notice the enemy ships zipping about and snagging crystals before you can get to them.
For whatever reason they aren’t trying to shoot you down…. For what purpose could they be gathering the crystals for?
As this process continues for a time, it will likely dawn on you that those little ships are up to something…
Just as you’re starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together in your mind, suddenly a horrifying call resonates from the void of space, shooting shivers down your spine and dookie out your poop-hole.
“BEWARE, I LIVE!”
HOLY FUCKING SHIT!
The ravenous space-beast Sinistar has arrived!
His hunger knows no bounds!
He dares you to run, as it is truly your only option in the face of such a beast!
Moreover, he is Sinistar, and he lives!
From the time the hunting call sounds, precious few seconds remain before the great gray beast comes into view and gives chase.
Innumerable questions come flooding into your mind with the utmost urgency:
Should I go out looking for Sinistar, or let him come to me?
Do I have enough Sinibombs to kill him?
Eventually, all questioning and speculation goes out the window as the mighty Sinistar rears his demonic head and cuts a swath through the flotsam of the cosmos, bellowing insults and taunts at every turn!
You juke left!
You juke right!
And all the while Sinistar follows close behind!
In your panic, your fingers trace their way across the surface of the arcade cabinet in search of the one weapon, the one source of sanctuary that can hope to save you from the advance of Sinistar:
The Sinibomb button.
You mash on the button again and again, scattering scores of Sinibombs into the massive face of Sinistar!
With every impact the great beast howls in pain, delivering a shock to your nerves, and a morbid sense of satisfaction…
Bomb after bomb makes it’s mark and your confidence begins to build.
13 direct hits are all that are needed to fell the space monster, could victory be within reach?
You depress the Sinibomb button one last time only to realize:
You’re out of ammo.
The gray space leviathan follows close behind without any semblance of fear across it’s battered, mechanical visage.
In a desperate bid for survival, you begin making attempts to rebuild your ammo supply, carefully skirting asteroids while slowly giving ground to the rapidly encroaching Sinistar.
You juke left!
You juke right!
And just before you recover the last Sinibomb you need to finish the monster pursuing you, it happens:
You accidentally bump an asteroid, Sinistar slams into your ship and crushes it in his terrible maw; sending fiery chunks of debris out into every corner of space.
Such is the ordeal that is fighting Sinistar.
The actual procedure is little more than a fairly straightforward chase, however due to the panic-inducing presence of the boss in question, coupled with the variables of the level construction, (I.E. enemy ships, asteroids) the difficulty piles up very quickly.
If that’s not Top 10 Hardest Boss Fights material, I don’t know what is.
Oh yeah, after all my fanciful storytelling I guess you deserve a look at what the actual battle with Sinistar looks like in-game: