Barrier Change Boss

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A type of boss, typically in an RPG, who doesn't have a fixed place in the game's Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors lineup, who uses a special technique or ability to periodically shuffle his elemental weaknesses, in order to keep the player guessing. The boss is also usually a powerful spellcaster (impying that his special barrier-change technique is a high-level boss ability), and often has a significant role in the surrounding story.

It may or may not be possible to use an Enemy Scan on this type of boss—even if the scan does tell you his weakness, that will be subject to change in a few turns when he changes it again (assuming the boss doesn't react to your scan by changing his weakness immediately). On the other hand, sometimes you can quickly identify the boss's current weakness—sometimes the invocation will explicitly tell you which element to use, or the current weakness may be Color Coded for Your Convenience (e.g. if the boss has Deflector Shields).

Examples of Barrier Change Boss include:

Action Adventure

  • The eponymous final boss in Metroid Prime, in its first form, is only weak to the sort of attacks it's using at the time. In later stages of the battle with this form, it'll occasionally switch, and then immediately switch again, sometimes back to the weakness/attack setup it had before, trying to trick you into having the wrong beam ready.
    • A rather bizarre semi-example from the same boss: Its second form is able to become imperceptible to all but one of your three visors. Unlike most of these examples, however, there is a set cycle as to which visor can see it.
    • The final form of the Emperor Ing in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes alternates between becoming invulnerable to dark energy, light energy, and "neutral" energy (the Power Beam). The former two can be thwarted with the Annihilator Beam, which covers both elements, but burns both kinds of ammo (which you're probably quite low on at this point).
    • Gorea's first form from Metroid Prime: Hunters does this. Just like with Metroid Prime's core essence, there's a set pattern to what you should shoot him with. However, no matter the color of his armor, he's always weak to the Power Beam and missiles. Unless you get the the True Final Boss part of the fight...
  • Phantasy Star Universe has the Kagajibari. Boss of the mission "Rainbow Beast", he switches element to whatever element just hit him. He casts spells accordingly. His default type is Light, so one would cast dark spells at him...right?. If you cast dark spells at him, he casts Megid at you.
    • The Master Stone switches elements every turn, in addition to its normal attacks. The best way to deal with the Stone is to curse it, which not only locks it in its current form but also limits it to a relatively weak physical attack.
  • The Barroth of Monster Hunter Tri is weak against water while covered in mud, and weak against fire when not. He flings his mud off by shaking in one of his attacks, and sometimes rolls in mud to cover himself back up. You generally just have to pick either a fire or a water element weapon and try to attack just parts that are covered/uncovered, but Bowgunners can bring both Water and Fire shots.
  • The Final Boss of the first Overlord game does this every so often. The color of his shield matches that of the Minion type needed to break through it.

First-Person Shooter

  • In BioShock (series), the final boss Frank Fontaine supercharges himself with "Adam" (the game's genetic version 'magic') giving him various powers over fire, ice and electricity, teleportation, etc. His body glows with a different colour depending on the power he's using: red for fire, blue for ice, white for electricity. Since you also get fire/ice/electricity powers through using Adam, plus an artificial version of these elemental weapons with your chemical-thrower, guess which powers he is resistant to depending on the colour he gives off and which he is weak against?
    • Of course in his electrical form which has no earth equivalent, it's usually best just to shoot him full of holes...

Hack and Slash

  • The final boss of Castle Crashers uses this tactic in one of several forms. However, he also not only transfers the damage the wrong attack did to you, he also makes it harder for the attack that would do the proper damage hard to do.

Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game

  • RuneScape has Dagannoth and Gelatinnoth Mothers who change color depending if they're weak to air, earth, water or fire spells, ranged attacks or special and melee damage.
    • In addition, there are Tormented Demons and the Dungeoneering boss Astea Frostweb, who switch protection prayers periodically. Also, the Kalphite Queen has two forms, each of which have certain resistances (even though they appear as protection prayers, the Queen can still be hurt by those types of attacks, though it counts as if the Queen had insanely high defence in those attack types, so hits happen very seldom, even if for high damage).
  • While not any bosses (unless they've been forgotten), in World of Warcraft there are several types of enemies which become more resistant to magic types they've been struck with. The death knight talent Acclimation also makes causes them to develop greater magical resistance for each time that kind of energy strikes them. There isn't a corresponding weakness however, so being struck by multiple types of magic just makes the effect stronger.
    • Chromaggus, the gigantic Draekadon (two-headed dragon-like Core Hound) second-to-last boss of Blackwing Lair will change his resistances and weakness to elemental damage during the fight. When he shimmers, they change: he'll be weak to one type and nearly immune to the rest. It changes every so often, so players have to keep on their toes.

Platform Game

  • The Final Boss of |Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 forces you to switch hedgehogs when it stops taking damage from high speed rams/chaos spears/telekinetic rocks. There is always a set order of which hedgehog can damage him: Silver, then Shadow, then Sonic.
    • Metal Madness, the penultimate boss from Sonic Heroes has this as well.
  • In Kirby 64 The Crystal Shards, Miracle Matter has a form mimicking each of Kirby's copy abilities in that game, and each form is only vulnerable to its own type of damage, whether by spitting back its projectiles or using the ability copied from those projectiles. Its intermediary form is completely invulnerable but also doesn't move or attack.

Real Time Strategy

Role-Playing Game

  • The Trope Namer is the move Barrier Change used by Magus in Chrono Trigger. This fight is the most famous example of this trope. Magus was in fact healed by Elemental Powers which did not match the element of his barrier, and changing his barrier also inflicted high elemental damage to your entire party.
    • There is also a lesser examples in the Jesters in his castle. It starts with a magic-blocking barrier. Use physical attacks and it barrier swaps to a physical barrier. There's also the Golems, who attack-swap based on the attacks you use on them. Of course, by simply rotating elemental attacks, you can stick them in an endless loop where they have to charge each new element.
      • Or you can wear equipment that nullifies or absorbs a certain element, then just attack with that element.
  • Final Fantasy has a LOT of these:
    • Perhaps the Trope Maker, Final Fantasy III has a boss named Hein that does this. He's encountered just after you acquire the second set of jobs, which conveniently has a class that can scan for weakness.
    • Rubicante from Final Fantasy IV changes his weakness from ice to fire when he draws his cloak. Yes, this means you can kill the Fiend of Fire entirely with fire damage.
      • In the recent remake of Final Fantasy IV, Golbez has this kind of move. And uses it constantly.
    • Final Fantasy IV: The After Years has the Blade Dragon, the Bonus Boss in Palom's Challenge Dungeon. It counters with a powerful attack and heals itself if you try to use anything on it that isn't an elemental attack (such as a physical attack, Bio, or even Libra). To win, you must use the one elemental spell type it isn't using.
    • Several bosses in Final Fantasy V change their elements, the most infamous being Archeoaevis and Bonus Boss Omega MK II.
    • Final Fantasy VI has Number 024, Master Pug/Tonberry, and the Magi Master; the latter is especially frustrating for being fought in a dungeon where only magic can be used. The Updated Rerelease includes Kaiser Dragon as well. Luckily for you, except for Magi Master all the other ones will change their attack pattern depending on what their weakness is. Also, you can use the Debilitator to add another weakness to them... until they barrier change again, anyways.
      • For Magi Master, most players just spam Ultima, which will always do massive damage no matter what his weakness is. The real challenge is surviving his last-ditch attack after he runs out of HP.
    • Final Fantasy VII has Jersey found in Shinra Mansion in Nibelheim. It is an enemy which determines if it is immune to magic or physical damage by raising one arm and lowering the other arm.
      • A unique example in the form of Lost Number, a Bonus Boss in the Shinra Mansion. It starts the battle using powerful but not devastating physical and magical attacks. After losing half its HP, it will change to reflect the source of the most damage it received: if most of the damage was done with magic, it will become immune to magic and use extremely powerful magic attacks exclusively. A similar effect occurs for physical attacks, which tend to be slightly less devastating as it can still only hit one character at a time.
    • Spherimorph and Greater Sphere in Final Fantasy X. While the former's weakness can be revealed by attacking it, Greater Sphere loves to counter any action against it with Ultima. Seymour Omnis changes elements as well.
    • Some high-end bosses in Final Fantasy XI have the ability to either negate physical or magical damage, one of the more notable ones being the Final Boss of Chains of Promathia. There are also a few normal enemies that have such abilities, too.
    • Shemhazzai from Final Fantasy XII has this though this isn't present when she joins you.
    • Amphisbaena in Final Fantasy XIII. Although the "Barrier Change" is easier to deal it because characters can use multiple spells at once, the "Boss" part is a little harder to manage. They come back as Demonic Spiders later in the story.
  • Namatame's shadow in Persona 4 does this. He is highly resistant (to the point of single digit damage) to all but one element, which he takes high damage from. The trick is that he is weak to the element he uses to attack).
    • This is also used for Nyx Avatar, the final boss and the Emperor/Empress Dual Boss Persona 3
    • The Bonus Boss in Digital Devil Saga 1 also does this.
    • As does Isamu/Noah in Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne. What makes him particularly annoying is that he shifts barriers and only one element can hurt him. Anything else will just be shrugged off and eat your Press Turns.
    • In Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, both the normal Final Boss and the ultimate Bonus Boss randomly change weaknesses and resistances. Thankfully, there's a cheap Sub App (Gibdo Eye) that changes your cursor's appearance when your attack won't work. Most players skip the game of "What works now?" and jump straight to Almighty spells, which cannot be resisted.
    • The regular Final Boss for Digital Devil Saga 1 is actually resistant to everything. She's surrounded by six different orbs, each of which causes her to be impervious to a different element (and one for physical attacks.) You need to strike down the orbs to even start hurting her, but she automatically restores one for free every turn. If you don't have something that does Almighty damage to wipe out all the orbs at once, you're looking at an uphill battle.
  • In the first Kingdom Hearts, Ursula shuffles her weakness, but the mechanism is different. It's actually her cauldron that has the weaknesses. The color of its contents determines its element: attacking the cauldron with its opposing element will result in it stunning Ursula.
    • One of the secret bosses (Phantom), shuffles weak points as well, including physical hits.
  • Mega Man Battle Network 6 has Elementman.EXE, who changes his element after every attack.
  • Ouroboros in Desire Dungeon has a barrier which makes her immune to all but one attack type (physical, magical, erotic). After you've managed to damage her a few times, she changes her vulnerability, also swapping the values of HP and MP for both her and you.
  • Pokémon: Kecleon's Color Change Ability allows it to change its type to that of the attack that was just used against it, shuffling its Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors weakness as well. Extra fun if you have a 'mon in your party with Dragon-type moves, as Dragon types are weak to attacks of the same type.
    • Another Pokemon does this as well—the Porygon family's Conversion (changes type to that of one of its own attacks) and Conversion2 (changes type to what resists the last attack that hit) attacks. The latter is a bit more useful in Double Battles (Porygon2 are sturdy enough that it can Recover the damage dealt by its partner. PorygonZ, not so much.), though it's still not recommended.
    • The move Camouflage changes the Pokemon type depending on the environment.
    • There's also Castform with its ability to change its type, as well as the effects of its signature move, Weather Ball, depending on the weather, becoming Fire-type in strong sunlight, Water-type in rain, and Ice-type in hail (though strangly, there's no alternate form for a sandstorm).
  • The Chromatic Fiend in Baldur's Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal does this.
    • The first form of the final boss does this as well. It will actually notify players though; first by using a high level spell of that element to signify it's about to change, and then by changing colors to match its element.
  • Smithy from Super Mario RPG does this when he switches heads, though in his case determining his weakness isn't necessary to win the battle.
  • After every two or three good hits against The Barrier Trio in Mother 3, they change poses and change to a random elemental weakness. Unless you go through your PSI powers and work out their weakness through trial and error, they'll kill you very quickly.
    • Or just have Boney sniff them. That command exists for a reason, you know.
  • MARDEK has the Bonus Boss Annihilator:Karnos, which occasionally switches to a random new element. Legion's Gemsplosion attack will always trigger this.
  • The Tyrant Dragon from Breath of Fire 4 switches between earth, wind, and water every turn.
  • In Mega Man X Command Mission, Incentas had the ability to rotate his element. And his head.
  • Baten Kaitos' final boss followed this trope. Though, it showed you what element he was changing into with Seal of Entropy, and by displaying the game's icon for the element slide over his limbs, into his chest, you only have a "deck" of cards that explain your weapon usage. So you can't really specialize in all elements, or choose any particular attack that would defeat his element quickly, but instead have each of your team special in three or four elements elements (Chrono or Wind, Fire or Water, Light or Dark) or pack yourself full of non-element based cards and drag the fight out for a good hour or so.
    • It's not as hard as it sounds. Three of your party members automatically specialize in those element pairings by default due to their unique cards, attacking him with other elements will still deal damage, and he only starts changing elements after a few turns; if you know what you're doing and luck is with you, you can exploit his weakness to Light and halve his health in the first few turns.
  • Inverted in Arcana, where the elemental spirits on your side each possess a cheap spell for doing this to your party.
  • Mermaid, a guardian of Treasure Tower in Dubloon does this. Sometimes she can change the weakness twice in a row, and sometimes right before you attack.
  • He doesn't care about elements per say, but Emperor Sun Hai of Jade Empire does switch between his Support, Magic, Unarmed, and Weapon Styles. Unlike most of the examples on this list, he's immune to the one he's using, not the ones he isn't, but he is very reliable about switching to whatever you just hit him with, then hitting you while you're busy changing to match.
  • The Final Boss of Epic Battle Fantasy 3 does this. It takes him a long time to change, though, and once he's been scanned once you don't need to scan him again.
  • The final boss of Magical Starsign changes its own weakness.
  • Tarvos the Avenger in .hack//Quarantine. Fortunately, the game tells you what, if anything, every enemy you face is tolerant (immune) to by way of glowing orange text next to its lifebar.
    • On that note is the recurring boss within The World itself: The One Sin. Rumored to be very, very powerful, it can only be damaged by an element that is opposite itself when it fights. The last person who defeated it was Balmung; his unique angel-like look is the prize for defeating it. Apparently it was so powerful a semi-famous player poet composed a poem and gave Balmung (and Orca) nicknames "Descendants of Fianna" and it stuck.
    • The One Sin makes a gameplay appearance in .hack//G.U. Reminisce. True to its name, it can only be hurt by elements opposite of its color, and even then, you need to defeat its two shields before it momentarily opens up to reveal the core. An even nastier variant, The One Godeater, appears in .hack//G.U. Redemption. Now, it only responds to either Darkness or Light spell. This narrows down to two elements, but the boss itself is very, very hard even with that advantage.
  • The Bonus Boss Nightmare in Alter AILA Genesis, 150% damage for a specific element. 1% for everything else

Third-Person Shooter

  • Every boss in the Buzz Lightyear of Star Command game has layers of force fields, each one that can only be destroyed by a specific weapon. (For instance, a blue shield will only be vulnerable to the Arc Laser.)

Other Game Genres

  • The skindancer in Dungeons & Dragons reflexively changes resistances to take less damage from whatever attack form was used on him last.