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Up from (Super) Obscurity

In the last four weeks, we've covered the hell* out of the SNES's Bram Stoker's Dracula. We've discussed hats, kinds of levels, 5 very poor game design decisions, plus 3(ish) MORE poor game design decisions.
*: or should that be, "the undead"?
But now it's time to get down to something you can REALLY use:
Boss fights in this game tend to come in one of three different flavors:
  1. Into-the-Fray n' Pray: These are giant bosses whose attacks/movement patterns are too big and/or unpredictable to avoid, so you just go toe-to-toe (or face-to-kneecap; they're quite tall), attack as fast as you can, and hope it dies first.
  2. Cower For Your Life: Like "Into-the-Fray n' Pray" bosses, except there's a safe spot (usually in a corner of the screen) where you're advised to spend some or all of the battle.
  3. Strategic Battles: Battles where you're capable of avoiding the boss's attacks and counter-attacking. Unlike other bosses, these bosses:
    • do NOT move so fast you can't get out of their way
    • DON'T pace the entire length of the room,
    • Or if they DO pace the entire length of the room, there's platforms in there so you can jump over them.
You would think that games would be designed so ALL their boss battles would be "Strategic", but remember, this is a game which even found a unique way to screw up checkpoints
But anyway, let's get down to business. Every two or three levels, you fight a boss, and here are the first four bosses in order:
1. Giant Coachman
Fight Type: Into-the-Fray n' Pray
This is Jonathan Harker's first fight with one of the many fifteen-foot-tall humans that grace the end of Transylvanian levels!
Unlike some of the later fights, this one takes place in cramped quarters: you can't stand on that tree, you can't stand inside the coachman's blue-studded bathrobe, and you can't tell if he's going to droop his whip on the slightly NEAR-ER part of the floor or the slightly FAR-ER part.
Might as well run up to his foot, kneel, and slash away. With luck (and enough remaining hitpoints), you'll win!

2. Pet Dragon
Fight Type: Cower For Your Life
Unlike the Coachman, the second boss is less weird in several ways. For example, it makes sense that he's almost three times your height: he's a friggin' fire-breathing dragon.
Also he has a giant room to roam around in -- it's three or four screens wide, for cryin' out loud! But given that he marches back and forth across the entire length of his enclosure, AND you can't jump over him, there's no real reason to use more than 1 screen's worth.
In fact, since he walks pretty fast, it's not a trivial thing to outrun him. But fortunately he never gets COMPLETELY flush with the level's left wall, so the best tactic is to cower in that corner. Unless he's blowing his fire at the exact moment he comes to his furthest-left stopping-point, you won't get hit:
Then as he backs away, you can leap up to head-height and swing your sword at his face a few times. You might be tempted to chase him during his entire retreat and continue doing that, but eventually when he starts approaching again you'll have to out-run him back to your cowering spot. I've found it easier to just take 2-3 swipes then go and hide while you await his return.

3. Bouffant Dracula
Fight Type: Strategic Battle!
This is your first run-in with Dracula (or at least I assume it's supposed to be Dracula -- it could equally be Mrs. Claus on stilts), and finally the game made a good boss-battle. He may be fifteen feet tall, but he doesn't sweep through the entire screen with his body until he's "bumped" you to death.
Instead he becomes history's first sparkley vampire by focusing his power of "red-ness" into a nine-foot-tall pillar of energy. After a few seconds of invulnerability, he channels the force-field into a fireball, which you must jump over.
Then you have time to run in and slash him once or twice in the face before he starts raising his shields again.
It's just like a boss battle in a real game, and makes you walk the line between getting close enough to hit him and jumping away before the force field returns. Good stuff!

4. Dracula's Floating-Wives-Mobile
Fight Type: Strategic Battle (sorta)
After appearing as a hazard in an earlier level, Dracula's rotating carousel of flying wives show up again as the game's fourth boss. They move around the screen, rotating as if they're spokes on a big invisible wheel whose center is also moving and, well -- it's hard to describe but easy to understand when you see it, so here's some more pictures to give you the idea:
They don't REALLY fill the entire screen in an un-avoidable way, and the various platforms on the floor (including the short pit which you can stand inside) gives you the impression that you COULD flawlessly duck and dodge them while stabbing them as they pass by...but you'll probably end up getting hit some too.
Let's just say the game gets bonus points for:
  1. having a distinct sprite for each separate wife,
  2. Making a human-sized character from the movie a human-sized character in the game
  3. NOT making this boss battle seem impossible.
And let's end on that high note -- because it's all down-hill next week!
The Tale of the Tape: This week, 2 of the 4 boss battles were strategic-ish.
Next week that ratio declines, and there's even more ridiculous "Cower in Fear" battles...
But at least Drac eventually changes out of his dressing gown for a dapper night on the town!
— carlmarksguy, 2014-04-05
I love it when bosses in games are basically humans, but they're like 10 stories high.
Yeah, it's pretty goofy, especially when a) it's based on a movie, 2) the people in that movie are normal-human-sized, and C) the giant-people in the video game are designed to look like the (not-giant) actors who play those people in the movie.
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