A traditional aspect of video games, especially in MMOs are the boss battles. Bosses are basically unique monsters in the game that are usually more powerful than the ordinary mobs one might encounter on a grassy field or a creepy dungeon. In terms of MMOs and video games in general, bosses are often the core of the "End Game" content—players would devote hours of their time forming strategies and building up enough equipment to have a fighting chance against them. It usually takes a group of players to defeat a single boss and just like any other MMO, Sword Art Online also has its share of bosses found throughout Aincrad with players planning and preparing every detail in a boss raid—only this time it's not about loot or experience points, it's about their lives and the thousands of other players that are stuck in the virtual world.
The Bosses of Sword Art Online
Illfang the Kobold Lord
The first boss we see in the series, found in the 20th room of Aincrad's 1st floor. It took a whole month for the players to locate Illfang since the boss room it was located in was hard to find; even the likes of Kirito, who was a beta-tester, had difficulty locating the boss room. He has quite the joyful and kind personalty, with a positive disposition in life (Nah, just kidding). Actually this guy is a huge red monster that doesn't want anything to do with Kirito and the other dozen or so players that want to kill him for loot. (and for the chance to leave the game turned deathtrap). As his name implies, he is the lord of Kobolds—a Kobold is a type of monster or 'mob' usually found in MMO games, but this Kobold is larger than usual and angrier as well. Illfang is monstrously large beast that is covered in red fur. He has muscles that make body builders jealous and blood-thirsty red eyes that will make a mass-murderer green with envy. He wields a large bone axe, a leather shield, and has four HP bars. (Talk about being tanky...) He also has a Talwar weapon attached to his back and in the closed-beta tests he uses this weapon when his HP bar falls below 1/3. During the events of the anime Kirito was surprised as this weapon was changed to a Nōdachi, but this allowed his katana skills to become more effective on the boss. The boss was slain by a 44-player group with Kirito landing the final blow with the use of his Vertical Arc sword skill which subsequently gave him his signature Coat of the Midnight armor.
A common feature in MMO boss battles are the weaker mobs that are spawned during boss encounters that usually protect the boss or give it stat bonuses, but are generally easy to deal with. At the start of the battle, Illfang is guarded by three Ruin Kobold Sentinels. They are weaker units that are fully protected by steel armor—their only weak point is their throat.
Nicholas The Renegade
As with most MMOs, Sword Art Online also has its share of event monsters—specifically Christmas event monsters. Thought that Santa Claus is a jolly and cheerful beacon of hope? Well not in SAO, Nicholas The Renegade is the Christmas event boss that Kirito faced during the third episode of the series. The boss is located in the Forest of Wandering. The battle proved to be quite the task for our main man Kirito since the monster didn't appear during the Closed Beta testing of the game. He looks like a twisted version of Santa Claus, complete with a pale blue face and off-white hair with two red eyes looking in different directions. (What a lovely looking Saint Nick...) Rumors that this boss dropped a rare item spread months before his encounter with Kirito. The item was said to have the ability to revive dead players.
After the death of Sachi, Kirito trained desperately in order to face this boss in hopes of reviving his friend and learning what she had to say to him before her untimely demise. The boss battle itself wasn't just a walk in the park for our hero since little was known about its abilities. Kirito struggled to predict its attack patterns, leaving the player with only a sliver of his life before slaying it and obtaining the rare item—'Divine Stone of Returning Soul.'(Phew... it wasn't some Santa hat item) To the disappointment of our hero, the item's ability can only be applied to players that have died in the past 10 seconds. He instead gave the item to Klein and his guild who had helped him prior to facing the boss.
The Gleam Eyes
The boss located on the 74th floor of Aincrad who is a demon-type monster with an equally scary weapon to match. Its appearance more closely resembles that of a chimera—a mythical beast that is made up of different animal parts. The boss wields a huge Zanbato and has ominous glowing blue eyes that spell trouble to weary players that seek to face it. The Gleam Eyes was first encountered by Kirito and Asuna on the 74th floor boss room of Aincrad—with them fleeing on site as they feared the monster might attack the ill-prepared two-man party. Though eventually the two would face the boss in a full on fight when they were forced to intervene during an encounter between the Aincrad Liberation Force raiding party and The Gleam Eyes. In addition to its large sword—the Gleam Eyes can also shoot purple energy blasts from its mouth which allowed it to easily overpower the Aincrad Liberation Force party and almost killed Kirito leaving an inch of his HP left. (Yet again) It was still another punishing boss battle as Kirito, Asuna, and Klein barely managed to survive against the boss. In the end, Kirito was their saving grace and was able to defeat the boss with his newly revealed dual wielding capability which allowed him to use the awesomely named skill "Starburst Stream."
Note: This was the first time we're introduced to the Anti-Crystal Area trap. The trap prevents users from using a teleportation stone to escape from the area, which forces the player to kill all the monsters of that area or die. (_And we all know what dying means in SAO) From the 74th floor onward, each floor boss has an Anti-Crystal Area trap.
The King of Lakes
Another cool aspect of MMOs is that bosses that can only be faced when a player does a certain action, uses a special item, or passes a specific requirement. Bosses like these are often the ones that only a few players can encounter—as it takes a lot of effort to raise a certain skill (which may or may not be boring to train) or to find a specific item or event. In this case, the King of Lakes boss can only be encountered if a player uses special bait that can only be used if their fishing skill is high enough. (Ahh secondary skills) In addition, a player must also have a high strength stat for them to draw out the leviathan. This amphibious bundle of joy was first seen when Kirito helped Nishida—a well-known and highly skilled fisherman to catch a special kind of fish. Though Nishida had a high fishing level he lacked the strength stats to pull the fish out, but with the help of Kirito they both managed to draw out the enormous beast—who then promptly chased Kirito around before being slain by Asuna and her wonderful sword fighting skills. (Ahh Asuna <3)
The Skull Reaper
There is always that one boss that just ups the difficulty level of the game way too high—even if you have a high-level, good equipment, and a good team to back you up it can still one hit the hell out of you. These kinds of bosses are the one that test your patience, skill and overall teamwork of a group, but also drop the best loot. (Hehehe) The Skull Reaper was probably the scariest looking and most powerful boss encountered in the anime—it was fast, agile and even with its short combos the boss was still able to one-hit strong players. (And the boss area has an Anti-Crystal Area trap. Yikes.) A monster straight out of your nightmares, the Skull Reaper was a unique boss that had a varying attack pattern that enabled it to slay 14 players during its fight with the guild, Knights of the Blood. (Nerf next patch plz) Though it was a difficult battle, Kirito and the other members of the guild managed to defeat it.
The Fatal Scythe
Have you ever wandered off in the MMO map and found yourself in some high-level territory? Where you barely make a dent on monsters and they easily one hit you? Well, this is what Kirito and Asuna experienced when facing The Fatal Scythe. A monster that closely resembles the Grim Reaper— complete with a scythe and dark robe. Its attacks can land devastating blows— which damaged Kirito and Asuna for 50% of their life even though they both blocked the assault. Its power level is unknown when it was inspected by Kirito (a well-known feature in most MMOs, when a mob is too powerful, its level usually displays as a bunch of question marks or a skull), he theorized that it was probably stronger than 90th level bosses. If it were not for Yui using the GM console to defeat the boss, the anime might have ended a tad sooner.
Kayaba Akihiko/ Heathcliff
This might be considered more as a PVP battle than a boss encounter. Kayaba Akihiko was actually the Knights of Blood leader—Heathcliff, though it was first suspected by Kirito when he noticed the character's speed stat exceeding the game's limit. Before being exposed by Kirito, Kayaba initially planned on revealing his true identity at the 100th floor of Aincrad—showing himself as the final Boss. He made himself invincible up until his fight with Kirito. (Pfft cheater. Someone report this guy...) Their fight looked like the end of our hero's life, but due to a miracle within the game (because, why not?) Kirito was able to attack Kayaba after his health bar was depleted—defeating the game creator and freeing all the people trapped in the virtual world.
Boss battles are nearly always fun and challenging. They test the player's skills, strategies, and overall teamwork. If you love yourself some MMO action and want to witness the different aspects of boss fights in an anime setting, then Sword Art Online is just what you need.
So what are you waiting for? Dive into the world of SAO, its environment, the characters, weapons and of course, the boss battles!