The fight of your life
Japanese role-playing games love to serve up boss fights in three distinct flavors. The mild ones provide a tough - but fair - challenge, testing your abilities without going too far. The sour ones are usually just some mook with a massive health bar who's defeated by spamming the attack command. And then there are the DIVINE bosses who transcend such feeble, man-made classifications to exist in a pantheon of encounters destined to break mere mortals like waves against stone.
You know the ones I'm talking about: bosses so ridiculously strong they convince you they're truly unbeatable, or maybe they abuse a special attacks that reduces your HP to "dead." Your only recourse is excessive planning and grinding, coupled with an intimate understanding of how the game operates. Only the few - the proud - can claim victory over these legendary encounters. We've already chronicled the RPGs that dared to be different. These are the bosses that dared you to beat them.
Demi-Fiend - Digital Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner
Developer Atlus has something of a reputation for cranking out bosses that make you want to drive your head through a cement block - and Demi-Fiend has a heart of cement. Widely regarded as one of - if not the - toughest boss fight across the JRPG multiverse, Demi-Fiend demands strict adherence to a few narrow strategies to try and manipulate the AI - and even then this boss can still flip out and murder you without warning.
Actually, Demi-Fiend manipulates YOU into as much of a pattern as you do to him. If you try to do something that violates this pattern - such as equipping certain passive abilities or taking too long to finish the fight - he'll just kill you flatout. In fact, this boss has so many tools for healing himself and ending your party with a single attack, it's a wonder he bothers fighting you at all.
Elizabeth - Persona 3 FES
After Demi-Fiend, Elizabeth is the next stop on the Atlus All-Star Pain Train(tm). This mild-mannered elevator attendant is nigh impossible unless you spend the better part of two playthroughs preparing for her. That's at least a day or two of your life gone just to have the privilege of being killed instantly because you used the wrong attack.
You see, Elizabeth is your evil ex-spouse in video game form. Use the wrong move at the wrong time and BAM! it's Game Over. No questions asked. She's incredibly possessive - immediately killing any party members besides the hero outright - and if you try and deflect her attacks she'll flip the hell out and hit your for 9999 (a good 9000 points over your maximum health). This foul and fickel bellhop is a minefield of unspoken rules with dire consequences; you're better off not crossing her.
Gaza - Legend of Legaia
Don't let this old codger fool you - he's far more spry than his age lets on. Equipped with some powerful armor and a world-ending Astral Sword, he'll make quick work of your party if you haven't spent considerable time grinding beforehand. You face Gaza a couple times in Legend of Legaia's monster-infested Sol Tower, where the old man spends his twilight years murdering monsters instead of, say, knitting blankets or working a 3,000 piece puzzle.
It's Gaza's second encounter, in which he's empowered by a Saru, that's particularly difficult. He loves to run up and combo your party members, dealing staggering amounts of damage in the process. And that's just his normal attack. From there, he's got a little something something called Neo Star Slash, an AOE spell that reduces the HP of your entire party to basically nothing. If you're out of healing items and MP at that point it's Game Over.
Lingering Will - Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix
In the magical realm of Kingdom Hearts, two secret bosses have risen to the top as the franchise's toughest foes: Lingering Will, followed by the pretender to the throne, Mysterious Figure from Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. But while Mysterious Figure is a 10-minute dodge rolling fiesta, Lingering Will is a wonderfully designed encounter designed to test your mastery over Kingdom Hearts II as a whole.
Whether you focus on magical attacks, negative combos, form swapping, or any other number of strategies, each is a viable tactic against this heavily armored foe. Lingering Will will then respond in kind with an equally diverse arsenal of attacks, mixing up their ordering between encounters so no two fights feel exactly alike. Victory requires equal parts pattern recognition and improvisation, making it a rewarding - if insanely tough - boss fight.
Luca Blight - Suikoden II
It's telling that, in a list dominated by optional super bosses, Luca Blight is able to stand alongside them as one of the most taxing final bosses in JRPG history. There's no end-game dungeon to crawl through before facing him, nor does he sprout tentacles or transform into some evil fallen angel. He's just a man, albeit one skilled enough to shatter your army faster than a toddler shatters Legos.
This bloodbath starts with your vast army of characters being split into three squads, with each squad engaging Luca one at a time to wear him down. While Luca's soldier allies are minor annoyances, the Big Bad himself tears you apart with multi-hit combos that decimate even your most stout allies. And as your ninth character falls, your confidence will no doubt shatter - but should you manage a win, Luca pops back up for one last showdown against the hero. Fail there, and you're running that half-hour gauntlet all over again.
Miguel - Chrono Cross
Miguel is arguably the weakest entry on this, serving as a mid-game storyline boss, but that doesn't mean he's a slouch. If you're not careful, Miguel will take control of the entire flow of the fight, changing the battlefield to White (basically makes him stronger) while using an insidious combo of TurnBlack into AntiBlack to cripple individual characters. Combined with an arsenal of magical attacks, Miguel keeps you on your toes as you dig into the meat of Chrono Cross.
His real strength, however, is in highlighting one of the most frustrating, rage-inducing faux pas in boss design. There's an extensive bout of exposition you must sit through before you actually fight him, and you better believe that whole sequence is unskippable. Thankfully, Miguel manages to subvert full-on, white-hot rage mode by letting you flee the battle and save to ensure you don't have to sit through his story again.
Redrum - Xenogears
Redrum is nasty for two reasons. First, he hangs out in one of the most sadistic dungeons ever conceived: Nortune's D-Block Sewers. This maze of misery packs an insidious combination of twists, turns, and poisonous monsters that'll leave you hopelessly lost while your health keeps ticking. Then, just after you've run out of healing items and antidotes, you'll accidentally stumble upon this boss while looking for the exit.
Second, as soon as the fight starts, Redrum uses an ability - aptly named "Redrum" - to confuse and poison your entire party (as if they weren't poisoned already). Then, he continually hits you with life-stealing attacks that replenish his health faster than you can whittle it down. Your only recourse is unleashing a series of combos for burst damage - but doing so triggers an attack called Murder. This not only kills one of your party members outright, but also heals Redrum for an amount equivalent to the victim's maximum HP.
Sho Minamimoto - The World Ends With You
The World Ends With You is an excellent addition to the DS' incredible library of JRPGs, even though it's almost guaranteed to give you carpal tunnel. Oh, and one of its bosses is just utterly unfun. Sho Minamimoto is a real SOB; he teleports around the battlefield before you can so much as get a couple of hits in, and continually spawns a bunch of monsters while yelling the same line over and over again: "So zetta slow!"
No one would judge you for dropping the difficulty down to Easy once he hands you your own ass on a plate time after time. But if you refuse, here's one handy tip that might help you put him down: try to use pins that don't require you to actually swipe him with the DS' stylus. Turns out, unlike every other enemy in the game, doing so is what triggers his teleport ability.
Yiazmat - Final Fantasy XII International
Final Fantasy has an exhaustive stable of powerful super bosses - from the betentacled Ruby Weapon in Final Fantasy VII, to the unpredictable Ozma in Final Fantasy IX. However, general consensus states that even these beasts are easily bested if players do their homework and prepare accordingly. Final Fantasy XII's Yiazmat fits into this category as well, with a fairly predictable attack pattern that's manageable if you're playing attentively. But there's a catch...
What makes Yiazmat so challenging - and ultimately pushes it over the edge - is the biblical amount of time this beast takes to defeat. If the stars are right and there is a just and loving God in the universe then maybe - maybe - you'll be finished in an hour or two. Maybe. But more likely your butt is going to fuse to the sofa as you clock in four, five, or even six hours chipping away its 50 million bajillion hit points, to say nothing of the exhaustive prep work.