Make no mistake, up to this point you’ve never confronted anything of this magnitude before. She stands before you, dark purple feminine features bastardized by the demon blood in her veins. Covered in sharp, deadly tendrils and piercing otherworldly eyes, no, this won’t be like the other fights. Religious connotations are subverted as Alma smashes effortlessly through the church’s stained glass windows, the resulting light illuminates her voluptuously twisted figure as she crouches before you as if in prayer. But this is not the time, nor the place, for unearthing religious subtext. The demon known as Alma means business, and so do you.
The fight starts off with Alma on the ground, poised to attack as she anticipates your first assault – a deadly invitation that is met with an even deadlier counter-offer as she hovers gracefully around the church. Immediately the player discovers the first barrier in securing victory: she will create distance between herself and the player. Where your lightning-fast attacks would ordinarily prove fatal for previous foes, Alma shrugs off this sure-fire technique as she actively evades and counters you with deadly precision. If the player can’t close the gap between themselves and Alma, she launches a relentless barrage of projectile orbs. Dodging, dashing and rolling are your bread and butter here, and it doesn’t hurt to stock up on great spirit elixirs either. Even the solace found in hiding behind the pillars is removed as Alma hurls them towards you at a blistering pace.
After an onslaught of projectiles, Alma swoops and lunges toward you, if it connects you’re on your back and a prime target for a devastating melee assault, if it misses and you don’t attack she’ll probably just flutter away and shower you with more projectiles. Fighting fire with literal fire might sound like a good idea on paper, but you’re more likely to leave yourself open for another beating if you should decide to cast your Ninpo Fire. Surely, then, the best course of action to take would be to get in there nice and close? If you happen to survive and hack away at three-quarters of Alma’s health gauge, she’ll unleash her ultimate game changer; the main cause of many a broken controller. In a last ditch attempt to dispose of you, Alma, whilst hovering, would imprint a large, purple hieroglyphic on the ground. If the player happened to find themselves entangled within this symbol of oblivion, it would deplete a substantial chunk of Ryu’s health. All your hard work would count for nothing if you couldn’t escape her artistic expression of pain and torment.
All the hyperbole and adrenaline-fueled exaggeration in the world couldn’t do this boss battle justice. The Alma battle incorporates everything a boss battle should be: exciting, challenging, tense and a ton of other adjectives that ultimately lend the encounter an epic feel. The ordeal forces player speed and dexterity, but it’s careful not to introduce any new core gameplay features that you haven’t already learned. The player’s ever-growing repertoire of skills are all relevant, and even essential, here, but Alma’s speed and power forces the player to implement them differently. Ninja Gaiden, up to this point, had excelled in instilling Ryu with an undeniable sense of power and knowledge over his enemies. The demons you had slain weren’t overwhelming, but they offered just enough ferocity to make the player feel like they’d earned their stripes. Alma intensifies the gameplay experience, and this increase in difficulty also happens to increase the overall satisfaction when you hand her a beating signed by yours truly.
It’s a tough feat to design a boss that, while challenging, doesn’t come off as cheap, and Team Ninja have achieved this with flying colors. After multiple deaths and a diverse spectrum of colorful swears, eventually I, myself, was able to slay my nimble nemesis. I was never under any illusion that I couldn’t win, victory was always within my grasp, and when the time came I was ecstatic. Now if only every boss gave me the same level of satisfaction…