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A retrospective thread on the Monster of the Week trope


KHCast
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So I recently saw this tweet 

 

And honestly it surprised me how of all the things being discussed about Sonic lately, ever since the movie hit, getting their hot take “not that bad” second wind, this was brought up. I thought it was a trope people wanted gone. judging by the comments, that seems to be far from the truth. 

Anyway so the MotW trope...anyone gotten a sorta nostalgia for them as well lately?

personally, I was always indifferent to them. Outside Chaos, nothing really meaningful or interesting was ever done with them. Iblis was literally just “monster half of evil thing” and long run didn’t play much of a grand role on screen, Mephiles was the one to have the important role, and when the two fused it just made...another seemingly mindless monster hellbent on destruction. Would have preferred if Mephiles’s intelligence stuck and maybe he would mock Sonic’s friends as they tried to rescue him, and during the final battle having him try to mentally screw with them would have made for something a bit more memorable. Final Hazards Biolizard just shows up. And Dark Gaia made Heartless knock offs for Sonic to fight, but...that was really it. I was hoping he’d have some kind of intelligence akin to Chip since the two countered eachother, maybe since he was infused with Sonic when he was the Werehog, mentally talking down to him under the guise of being his subconscious but...nope just another mindless monster that’s just hellbent on destruction. I can’t say I harken for that style of narrative to return, unless they flesh it out more. 

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The main purpose of these bosses is to serve as a final, climactic fight to cap off the game. The fight itself is meaningless, but serves to be the final climax that wraps up that game's story threads. 

Chaos was a beast that was raging out of control due it's anger at what happened in the past, and Sonic has to quell it's destructive tendencies using the Emeralds. 

The Biolizard is Shadow's prototype and represents Shadow breaking free of Gerald's influence and realizing Maria's true wish for humanity. (Shadow even references this by stating he has to destroy all of the evil the professor has created)

Dark Gaia is Chip's other half, and the fight is when Chip finally fully embraces his role after going the entire game with Amnesia. 

Iblis serves as an unstoppable force for Silver to try and overcome, and after Silver's journey has taught him a lot, he is finally able to put Iblis down for good. .

 

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I liked some of these encounters but overall I would rather the final boss of a Sonic game both be a character that has more involvement with the story and tie more into the game's main mechanics. Only Chaos hit both of those marks. 

 

The spectacle of the giant Kaiju fight is cool though. I wouldn't mind seeing that again.

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8 minutes ago, Wraith said:

I liked some of these encounters but overall I would rather the final boss of a Sonic game both be a character that has more involvement with the story and tie more into the game's main mechanics. Only Chaos hit both of those marks. 

 

The spectacle of the giant Kaiju fight is cool though. I wouldn't mind seeing that again.

I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing it again either. I just similarly want them to take cues more from someone like Chaos more than Dark Gaia. Serving as the thing for these characters to conquer over, or having some symbolic thing that drives a character to want to defeat it doesn’t mean much to me if they’re not on their own remotely interesting as characters on their own.

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I mean, I don't mind them being uninteresting characters either since their characterization isn't really the focus. But I can understand having just a faceless monster with no character is kind of boring. 

If anything, I wish the fights themselves tied into the game's mechanics like mentioned; a lot of the time the final boss completely changes the style of play which just breaks the consistency. 

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2 minutes ago, Wraith said:

The best final bosses are usually a character you hate, or kind of like, or want to fuck or something.


I don't feel any type of way about these monsters aside from chaos.

Png

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10 minutes ago, Wraith said:

The best final bosses are usually a character you hate, or kind of like, or want to fuck or something.


I don't feel any type of way about these monsters aside from chaos.

Wait, do people want to fuck Chaos? Did I miss something?

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1 hour ago, Wraith said:

The best final bosses are usually a character you hate, or kind of like, or want to fuck or something.


I don't feel any type of way about these monsters aside from chaos.

Jokes aside regarding last example, this is true 100%. Say what you want about Black Knight and Merlina, but there certainly was more of a investment in fighting her compared to fighting Iblis. It was much more interesting because you built a relationship with her. If it was just some ancient medieval dragon monster you fought at the end that Merlina was holding back with her magic, that just would feel so cheap and boring and would make for such a underwhelming battle in comparison.
 

Taking this outside of Sonic, let’s look at Mario. Yes, Bowser is used frequently as the final boss, but it works, because that rivalry between the two is established and given charm outside “we hate eachother”. The flavor text throughout the games from bowser mocking Mario, really makes it feel all the more grand when you get to the end and fight him one final time even if there isn’t much depth there ultimately.

Looking at Zelda I’d even go as far to say that series does MotW better more than most of these sonic monster final bosses. Looking at BotW, while Calamity Ganon is a mindless monster, his essence is one of familiarity that you’ve fought for ages. That inherent Ganon vs Link rivalry is still there fundamentally. It’s not just random flavor of the week monster that only really is a threat at the last moment you’re fighting.  On top of that, the effects of his evil can be felt throughout the world. It’s desolate, dead, and somber. People close to link have specifically died due to him. He’s done things that drive Link, and thus you the player, to want to end his influence over Hyrule. I’d say that’s a better done monster of the week than most things Sonic has attempted, even if Calamity Ganon has its issues. ( That’s not to say Zelda as a whole hasn’t fallen into similar trappings that Sonic has of underwhelming final bosses/cop outs. While I brought up the link vs Ganon rivalry, Ganon/Ganondorf does sometimes just pop up at the last minute for traditions sake. A Link Between Worlds, and Twilight Princess are especially guilty of that. But even in those cop out situations, at least there’s that fundamental relationship between Ganon/Ganondorf and Link, and in Ganondorfs case he’s not just reincarted, he’s a consistent being, so those stakes and emotional tie to the character are raised .) And do I even need to mention Skull Kid/The Majora’s Mask?

 

Then there’s other examples I could bring up like Liquid vs Snake, Big Boss vs The Boss, Riku vs Ansem, Jill vs Nemesis, Sora vs Xemnas, Cloud vs Sephiroth, etc. all final battles that have that extra oomph because to you and the main characters there’s something more personal that drives you to want to beat them. 
 

point is, you’re always going to have a better more fulfilling villain/final boss when there’s something more than just “they’re destructive” behind them, that makes you feel something about them.

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It's fine to end with a giant monster sometimes, but for a time the games were really overusing it, and not to any particularly strong end (except the spectacle of it, I guess). Part of the problem I have with them ties back to another problem I have with a lot of 3D Sonic stories, where it feels like the main characters have wandered in on someone else's story. You always deal with the final boss partially if not entirely through Sonic, but they've almost never taken the time to make it mean anything to him; it's just time for the monster to be knocked down and he's strong/the main character so of course he's there. Even Metal Overlord doesn't really avoid this, because they only pay lip service to his rivalry with Sonic and they otherwise discarded any connection in favor of him being a generic supervillain-turned-monster. He may as well have been an entirely new villain aside from the fanservice.

A standard Eggman-in-a-robot final boss, even if the game's not saying anything new with it, is at least playing out their longstanding rivalry. Colors had a simple story but its final boss still feels more narratively satisfying to me because there's at least that connection (plus tying in the "save the animals/wisps" aspect, even if they could've done more with it) than something like Solaris or Dark Gaia where it's just...hey, a big bad monster, gotta beat it up and save the world.

Although Forces showed even an Eggman final boss can be a dud without some amount of setup and finesse. And I guess the storybook games made "a giant monster" matter to Sonic, so the problem's not really inherent to either option.

There's also the issue that they've done a terrible job of testing you on the game's actual mechanics, but that's really more a Super Sonic problem than anything. And arguably a "Sonic boss fights in general" kind of thing.

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I'm semi-sure the dislike came from the fact that, in addition to most being eh, they were being used and even relied on way too many times in a row. It's kinda like the Wisps, Zavok, and I guess for a few people Shadow--in their debut they were well-regarded or at least fine in their usage, but then they started to be put in everything to diminishing returns.

That said, the Timeeater is arguably the last time we had one, so there'd no doubt be nostalgia or general interest in seeing another by someone after all this time.

1 hour ago, Wraith said:

The best final bosses are usually a character you  want to fuck 

:Lenny:

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Well let's be fair, even people get bored of fighting Bowser and Ganondorf after a while. So I don't think a break from Eggman final boss is inherently a bad thing, especially since Eggman is the final boss way more often than he isn't if we count the classic and handheld titles to the mix. But it's quality over quantity, so I can admit that the "monster of the week" final boss was growing stale by the time Unleashed rolled around.

Though, I do think people are underrating Dark Gaia as a final boss. Mechanic wise...yea, it's fucking shit, no argument there. But thematically, you feel Gaia's influence all throughout the game as mentioned with Calamity Ganon, and Sonic's Werehog form is primarily tied to Dark Gaia's influence, which gives an impetus for Sonic to confront it. Now, is it handle amazingly? Not at all, because it very rarely feels like Dark Gaia awakening is an actual crisis with the lighthearted nature of the game, and despite being the cause behind it, Sonic's Werehog form has no real effect on him as a character. But when compared to the likes of others, I feel Gaia has the most thematic influence on the game's narrative which gives the players an incentive to fight him.

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I think a big problem is that a lot of the time these guys have no substance whatsoever besides being a big monstrous and one dimensional enough blob of evil that it works as the final ultimate boss, like the developers at the time thought no one would buy a more characterised or vibrant villain like Eggman as the main threat anymore because they're too 'loveable'. SA1's first use of it had some cool ties to old Sonic lore, but then it just became a formula to bring out these guys for the token 'epic' final boss battle. The fact Eggman stays for the bulk of these stories before they pop up only furthers this; they're too bland and random most of the time to hold the story on their own, some times they're not even sapient.

The storybooks worked in this area because these villains were the center stage and had characterisation (well sort of, Merlina was a twist villain). I'm still unsure about the actual monster designs though, I feel like something more creative could have been done with them, even if a transformation was still involved.

I could argue even the random Mother Wisp battle at the end of DS Colours did a better job than most of these because Eggman's corruption of their world was a big looming part of the story all throughout and she at least built a little more lore for their world (some sort of benefit to the Wisps since they've stayed long term I guess). Not to mention Mommy Wisp at least kinda meshes with the Sonic aesthetics.

The monsters of the week were the same deal as the playable characters and what not of the same era, something that might not have been a bad concept in itself, but ended up so milked in an increasingly lazy and undercooked fashion that fans got sick of it and related it to an insufferable formula in the series.

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9 minutes ago, Kuzu said:

But thematically, you feel Gaia's influence all throughout the game as mentioned with Calamity Ganon, and Sonic's Werehog form is primarily tied to Dark Gaia's influence, which gives an impetus for Sonic to confront it. Now, is it handle amazingly? Not at all, because it very rarely feels like Dark Gaia awakening is an actual crisis with the lighthearted nature of the game, and despite being the cause behind it, Sonic's Werehog form has no real effect on him as a character. But when compared to the likes of others, I feel Gaia has the most thematic influence on the game's narrative which gives the players an incentive to fight him.

Not really? Like it’s pretty superficial the “influence” and impression dark Gaia leaves on the audience. He splits the world up into pieces, big whoop, the characters don’t seem to give that much of a shit and go on with their days outside Sonic because he’s the hero. Nothing dark Gaia does here makes me feel any kind of way. He doesn’t seem to actually effect or impact any of the characters outside maybe Sonic, and that’s only for a few seconds before Chip cheers him up. Calamity Ganon at least does shit that leaves its mark on Hyrule and the characters in the world and the overall narrative build themselves around that destruction and evil.

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To be fair, the "Monster Of The Week" trope worked for awhile but wore out it's welcome after awhile.  It made Sonic predictable after awhile....as was the whole "Super Sonic only in Last Story" thing.  I'm glad they mixed it up and started making Eggman the final boss again but with forces, they could've mixed it up and had Infinite be the final boss avenging Eggman and wanting to show the world that he's not weak like Shadow said he was.  Instead, he ended up being a lame Shadow clone(which kinda dissappointed me...he had such an awesome design and had potential.  Same thing with the Phantom Ruby...a macguffin with a life of it's own as was hinted in Sonic Mania but never followed up on in Sonic Forces).

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24 minutes ago, KHCast said:

Not really? Like it’s pretty superficial the “influence” and impression dark Gaia leaves on the audience. He splits the world up into pieces, big whoop, the characters don’t seem to give that much of a shit and go on with their days outside Sonic because he’s the hero. Nothing dark Gaia does here makes me feel any kind of way. He doesn’t seem to actually effect or impact any of the characters outside maybe Sonic, and that’s only for a few seconds before Chip cheers him up. Calamity Ganon at least does shit that leaves its mark on Hyrule and the characters in the world and the overall narrative build themselves around that destruction and evil.

I literally just said that it wasn't handled well and addressed everything you just said....

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I’m just saying I don’t feel like Dark Gaia’s some exception here. He’s still pretty one note and bland even if they “tried” more than the others. No ones sleeping on him like you imply. To be underrated would imply there’s qualities people are looking over that makes him stand out 

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Compared to the others have very little influence on the world at large, I'd say it does stand out. I'm not trying to get you to agree with me, I'm just pointing out traits that I personally liked and feel aren't focused on when people talk about them.

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I think it's that Dark Gaia is another case of 'remember the new guy' lore wise, that there was absolutely zero foreshadowing about ANOTHER giant kaiju sleeping inside the Earth's core to make it seem like any less of an excuse plot. Not to mention this was one of the last instalments to use this trope with little variation, so by this point people were kind of lethargic about it.

I think what they forgot about the first example, is that Chaos worked because he was an implied part of lore for a very long time. Knuckles' backstory implied some terrible event linked the emeralds reduced his race to near extinction, while the Japanese manual (thanx for finding that awesome video explaining it by the way) spoke of Knuckles being superstitious of some 'dragon' hatching from the Death Egg after it first landed on Angel Island. Chaos was not just some random plot device for Eggman to try (and fail) to harness, he'd been built up for quite some time and finally utilising him developed on old Sonic lore.

Add to that I was getting kind of sick of Eggman relying on all these monsters to do his dirty work after a while, it was just something that established his plan was doomed from the beginning and gave less of his own identity to his schemes. Sure Eggman often used outside artifacts for power sources, but for cases like the Emeralds and the Wisps I find work better because they are just means to power his own devices, which felt like a tighter plan. Often when you look at these games, it is Eggman's robotics and industry that is the looming presence in many levels, the thing you know has to be stopped. Dark Gaia gets credit for taking some toll in a similar way to SOME degree, but other than that a lot of the monsters don't really have this ominous effect on how the game progresses, it is still Eggman that is taking a bigger toll until the final boss and they just kinda hijack things last minute.

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16 hours ago, Wraith said:

The best final bosses are usually a character you hate, or kind of like, or want to fuck or something.
 

I think the point here is that villains are compelling when they have a romantic relationship with the protagonist?

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15 hours ago, E-122-Psi said:

I think a big problem is that a lot of the time these guys have no substance whatsoever besides being a big monstrous and one dimensional enough blob of evil that it works as the final ultimate boss, like the developers at the time thought no one would buy a more characterised or vibrant villain like Eggman as the main threat anymore because they're too 'loveable'. SA1's first use of it had some cool ties to old Sonic lore, but then it just became a formula to bring out these guys for the token 'epic' final boss battle. The fact Eggman stays for the bulk of these stories before they pop up only furthers this; they're too bland and random most of the time to hold the story on their own, some times they're not even sapient.

The storybooks worked in this area because these villains were the center stage and had characterisation (well sort of, Merlina was a twist villain). I'm still unsure about the actual monster designs though, I feel like something more creative could have been done with them, even if a transformation was still involved.

I could argue even the random Mother Wisp battle at the end of DS Colours did a better job than most of these because Eggman's corruption of their world was a big looming part of the story all throughout and she at least built a little more lore for their world (some sort of benefit to the Wisps since they've stayed long term I guess). Not to mention Mommy Wisp at least kinda meshes with the Sonic aesthetics.

The monsters of the week were the same deal as the playable characters and what not of the same era, something that might not have been a bad concept in itself, but ended up so milked in an increasingly lazy and undercooked fashion that fans got sick of it and related it to an insufferable formula in the series.

No she doesn't

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Ironically, for all the complaints the formula of "Eggman releases a monster which betrays him at the last minute, swats him aside to usurp his position as big bad, and takes over as the final boss" got, the only game that hits all of those notes is Unleashed, which released when the complaints were at their peak.

In Adventure, Eggman's plans have been fully played out by the time Super Sonic's story rolls around. It's less a matter of Chaos betraying Eggman as it is events transpiring such that their interests no longer align. In fact, it's not even clear who initiated hostilities when the two bumped into each other in the Mystic Ruins but given the contexet its not unreasonable to think it was actually Eggman.

In Adventure 2,  like its predecessor, Eggman's plans are basically thwarted by the time of the last story. Additionally the traitor, usurper, final boss are all separate entities (Shadow, Gerald, and Biolizard respectively) and rather than be swatted aside Eggman instead plays a pivotal role in climax: He's the one who comes up with the plan to reach the core and serves as the de facto  leader of the combined Hero and Dark teams, coordinating their actions throughout the Last Story.

In Heroes he doesn't release any monster (Metal is his own creation), and is betrayed before the story even starts.

In Shadow, Eggman has nothing to do with Black Doom and isn't even up to anything in particular. He's mainly just trying to use the situation to his advantage where he can.

In '06 he's trying to find a way to harness Solaris' power but both Mephiles and Iblis being released are freak accidents and he doesn't work with either of them at any point.

Shahryar in Secret Rings is, at worst, a bit of a dick but not an antagonist by any stretch and is completely unrelated to Erazor Djinn.

He just flat out doesn't appear in any capacity in Black Knight.

And, of course, in Generations he keeps a handle on Time Eater to the end.

 

On 4/4/2020 at 7:54 PM, thumbs13 said:

Wait, do people want to fuck Chaos? Did I miss something?

Tentacles, dude. It's a thing.

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Monsters of the Week were used so that:

A. They can be killed or otherwise permanently removed as a threat.

B. They can engage in activities like flooding cities or being an implied domestic abuser (aka be too foul to live or at least not be radically changed so that they don't do that anymore).

Forces shows this well. Infinite's the one who makes the Avatar cry and he's the one who dies.

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