I usually keep the Awesome and Atrocious Enemy Encounters features separate, but this is a special case! The undead and demonic foes that litter gaming are perfect for Halloween, and I’m going to share some of my personal favorites (and least liked) of these kinds of baddies.
Enemy Legend – Headcrabs (Half Life)
While Headcrabs are not technically undead or demonic in origin (they’re aliens), they do something that ties into this theme nicely - they transform Black Mesa’s poor scientists into zombies! Disgusting to the extreme, with bright green boils, sharp teeth protruding from their split-open stomachs, and the host headcrab munching on the victim’s head the entire time, headcrab zombies are very creepy baddies to fight. However, Headcrabs themselves are even more fun. They are small, usually stuffed into small crevices, hidden trigger points, and in dark corridors, and can leap several feet to try to grip your face to feed upon. Their shriek is perfect, too. They are very scary, which is good enough for me to consider them one of the best baddies in gaming (and ideal for this Halloween feature!). And they’re sort of cute, in a morbid way. XD
Boss Battle Greats - Maxie (StarTropics)
An odd choice, perhaps, but let me explain. In the Cemetary, you can waltz right by the boss room without even realizing it. Minies have been harassing you throughout the labyrinth, and Mike has to use a special item, the Rod of Sight, to make them appear. To begin battling the head ghost of this crypt, Maxie, you need to use the said item in the right room. Quite a clever device for a NES game. The fight itself isn’t much different from others in the game, outside of the awesome way Nintendo designed its beginning, but that aspect alone made this encounter one of the most memorable in the game, and stands as one of my favorite NES boss battles. And Ninty did make a nice sprite for him. ^_^
Vile Enemy from Hell (well, sort of) – Pumpkinheads (Ogre Battle 64)
Unlike Cliff Racers, Pumpkinheads are cool enemies in terms of design. They use their gourd-y noggins to deliver blows, look like cute scarecrows, and can be valuable allies should you recruit one to your side. What makes them awful is the high damage that they can dish out at a fairly early part of the game. After fighting one battle against these guys, you will dread seeing them in your foe’s ranks. They can annihilate your squad if there happens to be multiple P’Heads in your opponent’s team, especially if they are in the back of the enemy’s formation. Pumpkin Rain will become your nemesis, fast. If your party is leveled high enough and has decent gear, you should survive. But I remember losing nearly all of my squad’s units to these guys on my first playthrough, and no other enemy in the game can do that at this point (or beyond, arguably). Nasty, unfair beasties.
(Note – I couldn’t find an in-game pic of him anywhere…so you’re stuck with this render in the meantime)
Cheap Boss That Sucks (but only during this one fight!) – Gruntilida (Banjo-Kazooie)
I like Grunty as a character, too. Her rhyming was enjoyable, her game show was quirky, and somehow her gruff witch gabbing she made as she talked was well suited for her. But the long, dragged-out final showdown with her at the end of the game was terrible. Perhaps if Rare shortened the steps needed to subdue her, it wouldn’t have been so bad. But Grunty has 5 or 6 different strategies you have to apply in order to defeat her once and for all, and two of them were poorly implemented – the Beak Bombing and the Jinjonator statue.
Beak Bombing is fun, but also awfully inaccurate. Throw in a moving Grunty, her slinging homing spells at you, her being shielded, and a nice, deep abyss to fall into, and you get a nice case of irritation. Can’t tell you how many times I plummeted because I missed or flew into a fireball.
The first batch of Jinjo statues themselves aren’t too hard to handle – sling a few eggs in, and they’ll ram into Grunty. They’re somewhat forgiving in their demand for accuracy. It’s when the Jinjonator appears that massive frustration occurs. If you survived the Beam Bombing episode, you’ll have to repeat the egg spitting, but with the ‘Nator, the slots you need to stuff these eggs into are very exact, and if you don’t line up your shots perfectly, your eggs will merely crack on the base. Grunty’s still assaulting you all the while with her magic, so this particular exercise’s precision is rage-inducing. Gah. This fight is by far the worst part of a great game in my view.