Boss Breakdown - Moldorm (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past)
Moldorm is one of the most annoying bosses in the history of the Legend of Zelda franchise…but there are many underlying reasons as to why he’s so frustrating.
The best boss fights are able to offer the player a fun and challenging experience. This is a “boss” after all, so he needs to be somewhat difficult. However, he shouldn’t be so difficult that you become overly frustrated and contemplate quitting the game altogether. For example, the Metal Gear Solid franchise does an excellent job with each boss it presents to the player. They’re neither too hard nor too easy, and though you may die a few times, it never discourages you from trying again, because odds are you came close to defeating the boss but fell just short. Bosses should also have exploitable patterns; something you can spot at a moment’s notice and think, “Okay, now’s my chance!” These can be subtle things, such as a lack of movement on your enemy’s part, or a series of actions that leaves your opponent open to attack. In conclusion, a boss fight should be difficult but fair.
This isn’t exactly the case with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past’s third and most annoying boss, Moldorm. In this blog, I’m going to break down this boss and why he’s so frustrating. Now, I know a lot of you reading right now are probably thinking one of two things. Either, “I already know why he’s so annoying, it’s because *insert reasons here*,” or perhaps, “He’s not that hard, all you have to do is *insert preferred method here*.” And to those people, I say…shut up and listen; you might learn something about boss design in video games. I’m fully aware of the typical reasons why this boss is frustrating and am also aware of a few methods to defeat him that I was not conscious of as a young boy. So take a seat and let’s get started.
In Zelda games, a dungeon will usually dictate the arena in which you’re fighting in. For example, in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, you fight Volvagia (The Subterranean Lava Dragon) in a lava arena, where he dives into pits and shakes the ceiling above you to damage Link with flaming boulders. Considering you’ve been traversing the Fire Temple in order to defeat him, the environment is particularly fitting for this battle. Another example would be Gyorg (The Gargantuan Masked Fish) from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask’s Great Bay Temple. This whole temple is themed around water, which makes fighting this boss in a giant pool appropriate for the theme of the temple.
The Tower of Hera, the third dungeon in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is…well, it’s a tower obviously. The whole dungeon is designed around ascending to the next floor, with your main obstacles being various holes in the ground that drop you down to lower floors. Therefore, the enemies in this dungeon are intentionally designed to knock you into these holes in order to impede your progress. Hitting an enemy or having them hit you results in a sizeable knockback compared to the soldiers and crows that you may find loitering in Hyrule Field. Right there is a dungeon theme that’s already a bit frustrating. However, it’s never a terrible problem. Sure, you may succumb to a deviously placed hole in the floor every once in a while, but it’s never a game breaker. However, this design sets the boss up to fail. Falling to a lower level and having to retread old ground isn’t fun, and designing a boss battle based on this concept isn’t a smart move.
So, the battle against Moldorm is designed around him trying to make you fall off of the arena into the room below. Okay, I can handle that. It’s not a great idea…but it’s not exactly a bad one. It’s when you actually see where you’ll be fighting that you begin to have second thoughts. The arena (picture below) is incredibly small. Fully extended, Moldorm can cover almost half of it with his entire body. Furthermore, it’s designed to give you no safe areas. While the middle of the arena initially seems like the ideal place to stay, the hole located on the left side will soon become your worst nightmare. In fact, that particular hole in the arena will drop you down two floors instead of just one. Once you realize this, you tend to gravitate toward the right side of the arena or even the bottom where you at least have a wall against your back. I understand that this arena is designed to keep you moving around, but there just isn’t a great flow to it. The previous dungeon (The Desert Palace) is a great example of a better battle space. The bosses moved slow enough and didn’t take up as much of the screen, allowing you to move freely around the area while still being able to attack. There were places where you could retreat and gather yourself before going on the offensive again. Here, however, the boss is too big for such a small arena.
As previously stated, the enemies in this dungeon are designed to fling Link backwards whenever he lands a hit or takes damage from that enemy. To compensate, most of the enemies in the Tower of Hera are generally slow. This gives you time to adjust yourself so that you know where you’ll land once you begin your attack. Admittedly, some of the later enemies get a bit faster, but they’re introduced in areas where there are little to no holes in the floor for you to fall through. It’s Video Game Design 101: introduce new enemies in a controlled environment.
But I digress. What’s important here is that the enemies have a sizeable knockback, but you can counter it by being smart. Moldorm’s knockback seems a bit more significant than any enemy in the Tower of Hera, which makes sense considering he’s the boss of the dungeon. However, coupled with the small arena, this means that one hit can send you flying off of the suspended platform and back down to the previous floor. What’s worse is that Moldorm is pretty fast and generally unpredictable. It’s hard to set yourself up for an attack when you don’t know how your enemy is going to come at you…which leads into my next point.
As soon as you get a glimpse of Moldorm, the first thing that catches your eye is his glowing tail. All of your knowledge pertaining to video games tells you, “Okay, that’s my target. That’s what I’m aiming for.” The problem here is that Moldorm attacks you head on. You’re forced to retreat and hope that he ends up turning around and not knocking you off. This boss is pretty unpredictable. I found one or two patterns to exploit every once in a while, but when he attempts an attack, you’re pushed to the very edge of the arena, which usually results in you falling. Due to his aforementioned speed and unpredictability, it’s difficult to get a shot in on his tail. I hated when his weak spot was just out of my sword’s reach and I was forced to distance myself from him. Moldorm’s movements become insane once you’re one hit away from victory. His patterns become erratic. You just have to move around and hope that he doesn’t hit you. It almost reminded me of the battle with Puppet Ganon’s Snake Form in the Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker. But you were at least able to get a reasonable amount of distance from your adversary in that battle. Here…not so much.
This is the most annoying thing about this entire battle. Once you’re knocked off of the floating platform, not only have you lost health, but when you return to continue your battle, Moldorm has regained all of his. What’s simply mind boggling is the amount of pots containing hearts on the floor below Moldorm’s. This means that the developers intended for you to fall…a lot. It’s especially frustrating when you believe you’re doing well, but you’re knocked off of the edge at the last second. The game is basically telling you, “Wow…that was pointless. You just lost health for no reason.” The worst part is that you really don’t feel like you’ve learned from your failure. Sure, you may be a bit more cautious…but it’s a real struggle every time. More importantly…it’s just not fun.
There you go…my least favorite boss in Zelda history. I’m sure to do more blogs…hopefully on bosses that don’t frustrate me as much as this one. And by the way, there are indeed a few maneuvers that you can use to defeat him, such as dashing and spinning, but even then, it’s a tough battle.
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Well thank you! I thought it'd be an interesting topic to discuss, and I plan on making more of them in the near future.
Uuuuuuuuugh! I hated this boss! This wasn't even the only frustrating part of the game either. I played through the game last year and I never beat it. The final dungeon infuriated me so much that after my second death against Agahnim, which would have been about my 100 millionth try to get through it, I just gave up. I couldn't stand it any more.
Wow, I got off topic. Great blog, as always. It wouldn't surprise me if this makes it to the front page.
The boss was so awesome, it made another appearance in Links Awakening!.... /GOOMBA RAGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!