Cognizant Limbs

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Generally found in fantasy-based Role-Playing Games and Shoot'Em Ups, this applies to a monster, especially a big one, usually a boss or a sub-boss of sorts, which has multiple targets, all worthy enough to tackle, punch, cast spells, leech or perform any other actions generally expected from self-sustaining monsters. In some cases, the targets can include the head, a tail, legs, arms, eyes and the torso. Machines and devices also apply, in which case the parts might be extra weapons or power sources. If it's an action game, expect such a monster to be at least a mid boss. Watch out, as it's not uncommon for the parts to use a Combination Attack against you. Beside giving additional attacks, the parts can also give defensive support, whether it is by taking hits for the main part, covering it, even healing it. And sometimes, the main part can't even be hurt unless you slice the rest apart.

In other cases, the additional targets may not be physically attached, but serve as support, almost always as a pair—left and right. Rarely are the supporters normally living things (see Everything Trying to Kill You). This can consist of practically anything that the writers' imaginations could conscribe. And you can almost guarantee that if you beat all of the supports, the Big Bad has a way of reviving not just one of them, but all of them at once. Them's the rules of the game. And that's when they can actually be destroyed. However, if you defeat the main part, the other ones might be nice enough to die with it.

Overlaps with Flunky Boss. See also Giant Hands of Doom and Didn't Need Those Anyway.

Examples of Cognizant Limbs include:

Video game examples

Action Game

  • Devil May Cry 3 gives us the Leviathan heartcore, which has one organ to take your red orbs (and by extension your green health orbs), one to drain your Devil Trigger gauge and the middle one to be beaten down (also the only one that attacks, but they can summon Mooks).

Action Adventure

  • Orochi's eight heads in Okami, each of which has its own elemental attack. Ninetails also requires you to destroy its eight other tails before the body.
  • Many of the bosses in the Metroid Prime series have multiple targets, such as the Omega Pirate, who has four armor pieces that must be destroyed before he becomes vulnerable to damage, one on each shoulder and one on each thigh.
    • Another notable example is the Chykka, the main boss of the Torvus Bog in Metroid Prime 2, where Samus needs to shoot its four wings simultaneously with the Seeker Launcher, knocking it into the poison bog to transform into Dark Chykka, who's even easier to damage thanks to your Light Beam being very effecting against Dark-anything.
      • Or you could use super missiles on each one. A single super missile is enough to hit one, and you should have a fair few missiles by now.
  • The first The Legend of Zelda game had a multi-headed dragon named Gleeok, who had between two and four prehensile heads that would shoot laser balls at Link; the only way to kill it was to sever the heads, but then the severed heads would fly around the room and attack.

Action RPG

  • The Guard Armor in Kingdom Hearts had arms and legs that were so independent as to enter tournaments by themselves later in the game.
  • Too Human has trolls which fit this trope. Each limb, plus the chest, plus a backpack on some of them can be individually targeted and destroyed, though this is not the only method of killing them. The third boss is very similar to the trolls, though destroying all limbs and the chest is the only way of killing it. In addition, the first level boss also has sequences where it must be shot in a very specific location to be damaged, though you can still technically target any portion of the body.
  • The Ultimate Being in Parasite Eve II has no fewer than nine separate parts—several of which will split into two parts on their own after being damaged enough—and each of them has some sort of attack. Only two parts need to be destroyed in order to expose the Core, and only the Core needs to be destroyed in order to bring about the boss's defeat, but of course, the real challenge is eliminating every part of the Ultimate Being, which bestows some bonuses upon the player.
  • The final boss of Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army is a Transforming Mecha whose arms must be destroyed before you can take on its true form.
  • Galbalan in Wanderers from Ys and The Oath in Felghana, the latter of which also has Raymanian Limbs. Also used for many other bosses throughout the series.

Eastern RPG

  • The Final Fantasy series uses this a lot. There's usually at least one boss battle like this in each game.
    • Final Fantasy III's DS remake made the two tentacles surrounding the Final Boss into a textbook example. They love to cast nasty spells like Haste and Bad Breath.
    • Final Fantasy IV may have written the book on this trope. Baigan had two snake-like arms when you fight him, that will actually continue to hover in midair and have to be killed separately even if you kill the entire rest of the body. The CPU of the giant robot has an Attacker and Defender support system.
      • Although in the DS remake, Baigan's arms self-destruct the first chance they get once the body is killed.
    • Final Fantasy V: Neo Exdeath has four parts.
      • Also in the Updated Rerelease for the Game Boy Advance, Neo Shinryu has multiple, invincible spots designed to suck in multiple attacks, giving it the appearance it's invulnerable some of the time.
    • Final Fantasy VI had the boss of the Minecart Madness sequence (with hands), the enemy airship guarding the Floating Continent (with two cannons and a flying speck that shoots magic), the tentacle monster in the bottom of Castle Figaro (who actually didn't even have a main body, but four tentacles instead), a throw-away boss in the final dungeon (again with hands) and the three first parts of the final battle dungeon (which are parts of a huge tower composed of monsters).
    • Final Fantasy VII had the battle against Bizarro Sephiroth. In addition to having separately attacking hands, it has a mini-Sephy which heals him and a self-resurrecting chest-thingie whose being dead allows the main part to take damage at all.
    • Final Fantasy VIII had the final battle against Ultimecia, where she has a separate target in her chest from which both she and you can draw an über-spell called Apocalypse.
    • Final Fantasy IX had Kraken, the water fiend, and his water-shooting tentacles.
    • Several of the Sinspawn in Final Fantasy X employ this.
      • And Sin itself, for that manner.
      • And Penance if you have the International Version. You probably don't.
    • Final Fantasy X-2 lets you play as one of these in battle: each character has a Special Dressphere, which changes her into a powerful form with two extra parts which replace the two other party members.
      • Likewise, the game's final boss, Vegnagun, requires you to defeat all of its parts in various boss fights before you confront Vegnagun itself. And those parts often have their own extra parts.
    • The Final Boss in Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings has two hands and his chest targetable. Taking out the hands first isn't necessary, just highly recommended.
    • Final Fantasy XIII has the Havoc Skytank boss, whose multiple parts will be shooting you with every weapon available in quick succession. While you can just blow away the main body, demolishing the side components will cause much damage to the boss via Explosive Instrumentation and cut down on the attacks flying your way at the same time.
      • Similarly, there is also the first battle with Barthandelus, whose armor/body parts must be destroyed to lower the main body's high damage resistance.
      • The Adamantoise and its variants have front legs that can be attacked separately; defeating them both causes the creature to temporarily fall to the ground, lowering its damage resistance and halting its punishing attacks to allow you to wail on it
  • Secret of Mana, though an Action Adventure style RPG, has a Living Wall boss with two eyes, each with the ability to use magic, and a central eye. The central eye is the real target, but it stays closed until you defeat one of the outer eyes.
    • Secret of Evermore has Thraxx (and its later palette-swap Coleoptera), a massive spider-like monster with a couple of arms that can swipe at you, and an oddly visible heart blocked by its ribcage. You can attack the arms, but Thraxx's heart is its weak point, and it can only be reached by attacking the ribcage until it opens, or targeting the heart with alchemy spells. The arms are even worth some extra experience if you destroy them before finishing off Thraxx's heart.
  • The boss fight against your Father in Breath of Fire 2. He's strapped into a machine and protected by three drones. In order to complete the extended sidequest to get the good ending, you have to leave him alive, which means slowly chipping away at the drones one by one because anything that would hurt all of them will also hurt him.
  • Most enemies in Vagrant Story, especially all bosses, are examples of this trope. However, none of the limbs targetable actually function as a separate (or cognizant) enemy; reducing them to a 'dying' state severely impedes the enemy, depending on the limb in question. For example, reducing an enemy's legs to a 'dying' state will reduce its movement by 50%. In fact, the protagonist himself can also be targeted in this way and will incur the same penalties.
  • In Illusion of Gaia, in the US version, the very first boss had two big ol' claws, which you had to defeat before you could strike at the head. In the original Japanese version, you can't attack the hands and you can go for the head directly.
  • Lavos, the alien parasite from Chrono Trigger, is a major user of this. His first form is basically a Boss Rush, growing various extra bits to mimic past bosses (many of which have Cognizant Limbs of their own) before fighting you for real. Then you fight Inner Lavos and its two arms. The Lavos Core is somewhat of a subversion, though; it is a normal-sized humanoid flanked by two small floating Lavos Bits; however, it soon becomes clear that the humanoid is not the actual Lavos Core, but instead the Center Bit. The enemy on the right is the Lavos Core, which looks identical to the Lavos Bit on the left.
  • The final boss of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door does the two-hands thing. Occasionally it'll split the hands into a field of dozens of hands, which oddly enough means less targets.
    • Also, Magnus Von Grapple(Both V1 and V2) has the main body, and two hands.
  • Wild ARMs 2 was chock full of bosses like this. They were set up so that you could simply go after the main part of the boss, or you could first target and defeat the individual parts. Doing so would net you more experience, but would also make the boss fight harder, as the boss would begin using their most powerful moves constantly.
  • Several appear in the Grandia series, particularly the final boss battles of Grandia and the various parts of Valmar in Grandia II
    • The worst case of this would probably be the fight against Melfice, where you could target his Sword, a piece of armour, or himself. While killing Melfice would mean you didn't have to destroy the items, you wouldn't get as much treasure and it makes the fight harder.
    • Emelious of Grandia III upped the ante a bit with himself, Demon Sword, and the Orb of Darkness, all capable of powerful attacks. There is also a 4th target, the Godslayer, which cannot be killed but must be regularly canceled or it causes instant game-over.
  • The giant talking sword, Exor, in Super Mario RPG, has three Cognizant Limbs. His eyes cast minor spells and his mouth casts major spells, but the real target is the pommel of the sword itself, which can only be harmed while part of its main face is knocked out.
    • Also, Smithy, the Big Bad of the game. His second form has both a regenerating body and a massive head which shifts between four forms.
    • There were other bosses as well: King Calamari, which is composed of a gargantuan squid body and numerous tentacles; Megasmilax, a potted Piranha Plant that grows one large head and numerous smaller ones; and Count Down, a giant clock whose ringing bells cast spells and can also be targeted.
  • Legend of Dragoon had many of these, including a human boss whose swords counted as separate enemies.
    • Especially present in a fight with a Virage on Disc 2. Disarming it in the more literal sense can lead to a Flawless Victory, as the Virage AI can get confused and not attack at all. Unfortunately for you, the arms 'regenerate' at full health after a few turns. It's important to note that one of them gives it a One-Hit Kill attack.
  • Neo Dhaos (Dhaos' strange mutant-thing-ish second form) in Tales of Phantasia has two targets: his head and his arm. Both shoot fireballs at you. And both have insanely high defense, evasion, and hit points—thus making the fight not so much difficult as it is excruciatingly tedious.
  • In Tales of Vesperia, there is a Bonus Boss Spiral Draco that follows this. He consists of three heads, a body, and tail, all of which can be targeted separately. Not to mention they all have ludicrous HP and Attack power, so getting close in nigh impossible, but also have such high Magic Defense that your best ranged damage dealer (Rita) is useless. Oh, and the main head can revive other body parts if it doesn't get killed first. Yeah.
  • Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga has Cackletta's final form with four parts: Two arms, the head, and the body, the last of which can only be targeted after killing the other three parts, as it exposes its heart to regenerate the other parts. Also, you start this fight with ONE health point for each character. Dodging all three attacks is hard, especially if one is hit by the first attack.
    • The final boss of the sequel, Partners in Time, has seven different parts: its head, four arms, a bunch of legs, and its crown. You need to destroy the head, which is protected by the crown, which is kept out of reach by the legs. Everything but the head will come back several turns after being destroyed. This, obviously, means a long battle (and this is right after two back-to-back bosses!)
      • The third in the series isn't quite as bad, but still over the top. You're supposed to be fighting against the Dark Star's Monster Suit - Dark Bowser - but as it turns out, Dark [Bug] Fawful is hiding inside of him, and as soon as you knock him unconscious, the Intentional Engrish for Funny-speaking maniac heals him and sends him into a Super Mode. At that point, you have to injure his head (or just punch him in the gut) so that he spits out Fawful, then have Bowser inhale him so that the Mario Bros. can face him inside his body. Except...what's this? Fawful has a Super Mode too? And all three of his limbs and both of his contact lenses are targetable? Yep, and to reach the actual Dark Star on his head, you have to defeat all five limbs/contacts to make him fall over so that you can face the Dark Star and it's ludicrously overpowered attacks... For three turns. At that point, it heals Fawful and escapes back into Dark Bowser, and the process begins anew. However, the playable cutscene at the very end of the battle makes up for it... by far.
  • Almost every boss in Digimon World DS, Digimon World Dawn and Digimon World Dusk takes up multiple zones. This actually hinders them in that they take more than one hit from ranged attacks, and their massive size doesn't offer any benefits to the bosses themselves.
  • The second phase of the Overlord GAIA battle in Digimon World 2 splits his hands from his main body. Both hands have a pesky habit of significantly reducing your party's stats, making them more vulnerable to the hard hitting main body.
  • The first form of the Big Bad in Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood has a couple of defensive units that hang out on either side of him. Taking these out isn't strictly necessary, but he does take more damage (and, more importantly, does less damage to you) in the few turns before he respawns them.
  • Blue Dragon has this for the third boss, the Hydrattler. It gets one attack for every living member of its four heads.
  • The final boss of Lunar 2: Eternal Blue is like this, having a head and four arms to target. It's sort of split up though; at the start of the battle, you can only target the two outer arms. The rest of the targets are invincible, but they don't attack either. After a set amount of turns, your team is fully healed and all parts of the boss start attacking, and can be attacked in return (hopefully you killed the two outer arms by this point, otherwise things start to get really hectic).
  • Nearly every enemy in Resonance of Fate has at least one other body part in addition to their main body. These body parts act as shields from some angles. Destroying them nets you a Hero Gauge bezel, potentially some items, and usually exposes the main body to attack from that angle (unless there's another body part layered under it!), but you get no experience for attacking it.
  • The final (or penultimate depending on a certain extra) fight against Quaestor Verus in Baten Kaitos Origins has you fighting not only against the man but also a group of four mechanical tentacles which, attack you along with the actual boss, block all attacks aimed at Verus and can be revived after you take them down. Something to note is that the tentacles take no damage when protecting Verus, very annoying when you've prepared a poiwerful combo after the tentacles have been defeated, only to have them be brought back and seeing your combo do a total of zero damamge.

Fighting Game

  • Guilty Gear - Dizzy's wings, an Angelic woman and a demonic creature, serve as her protectors, and lash out very violently to anyone who would hurt her.

Light Gun Game

  • Every enemy in Battle Clash and Metal Combat has parts that can be shot at and blown up. Some are just there for extra protection, while others house powerful weapons systems. Usually, there's a trick associated with them: in the battle with Lorca in the first game, shooting off his arms and legs is the best way to keep him from using his destructive "Battle Dance" special attack. In an inverse case, you want to avoid aiming at ST Arachnus' abdomen, or it'll unleash an attack similar to Lorca's Battle Dance that will end with you taking a shower in bullets.

Massive Mutliplayer Online Game

  • In City of Heroes, Lusca the giant octopus is effectively nine separate giant monsters—eight tentacles and the head.
    • Each organelle (eighteen of them) and the nucleus of the amoeba-like Hamidon is a separate entity.
      • The tentacles/organelles must all be destroyed before the head/nucleus can be damaged at all.
  • Kologarn from the Ulduar instance in World of Warcraft is a giant stone... giant, with arms that can be targeted and destroyed separately from his body. Destroying at least one of them before focusing on his body is preferable as they allow him to do some very nasty attacks. Repeatedly destroying them is even better, as they lower the main body's HP by 15% until they're regenerated.
    • This mechanic makes a return in the Firelands instance with Lord Rhyolith, a gigantic magma elemental. His left and right feet can be individually targeted, and damaging one makes him turn in that direction.
    • And seen again with the final battle against Deathwing. The first encounter with him involves the entire raid standing on his back and destroying tendons to tear apart his armor. The second encounter, after his transformation into an Eldritch Abomination, focuses on severing his limb tentacles before beating on his head.
  • zOMG! has one of these which doubles as a Sequential Boss, with five different parts. After fighting the tail, the body and the arms come out. The arms will be destroyed if the body is destroyed, and the body will be destroyed if the arms are destroyed. Finally, the head rears its ugly... self.
  • In Maple Story, Zakum's body and each of its eight arms have their own HP bars. Combined with the fact that it has three forms, each with tens of millions of HP, you've got one hell of a boss on your hands.
  • Some of the various bosses of Phantasy Star Online possess multiple points that can be targeted by area or multi-target attacks, though not necessarily destroyed seperate of their host depending on the boss. Either way, all damage contributes to whittling down their total HP.
    • The Dragons have six points; the head, two feet, two wings and the tail. Inflicting enough damage to the feet causes it to drop prone, allowing melee combatants to attack the head, which takes more damage than the others.
    • De Rol Le and Da Ra Lie lose their bone-like armour plates as their segments take damage, increasing the amount of damage dealt to that segment. Makes it important to focus your attacks.
    • Vol Opt is split into several monitors and smaller components in his first stage. During his second stage, his parts can be destroyed to prevent him from using their abilities. As one of them lets him heal himself, this is high priority.

Platform Game

  • The Big Bad in Mega Man X 5 is like that. And if you're really lucky, you might actually get health from destroying its parts.
  • Subverted in Super Smash Bros., where what would appear to be the limbs to the boss ARE the bosses.

Real Time Strategy

  • The Hierarchy Walkers from Universe At War function like this. They have many separate parts, all built, damaged and repaired separately. Destroying them involves blasting through the weak points to the coolant nodes or core. One of the few player-controllable cases of this.

Simulation Game

  • Dwarf Fortress has hyrdas, with seven heads and seven necks to focus attacks on. Until recently, though, cutting off one head would kill the entire hydra.
    • This also applies to every creature in the game; there are no Hit Points, and attacks target random body parts. This is part of what makes giant cave spiders, the aforementioned hydras, and some other beasts so difficult to fight.


  • Andross appears as a giant head and pair of hands floating in space in Starfox 64/Lylatwars. Taking out the hands limits his attacks, but it isn't necessary to defeat him.
  • The NES game Recca has this guy. Not only does he have four of them, but each of them are segmented- you will need to destroy all the segments to beat one, so you might as well go for his head and kill him off with your Smart Bomb.
  • This trope is basically the entire premise of Warning Forever.
  • The vast majority of bosses in Radiant Silvergun have many individually destroyable parts. The game rewards you with extra points for destroying the nonessential parts before the core part. Many parts of these mechanical bosses often indeed resemble limbs of living creatures.
  • Every freaking boss in Einhander lives and breathes this trope, and some of the minor enemies! Beyond that, you often have to blow off the armor just to be able to actually hurt the boss or moderate enemies. On the upside, stripping off the boss's weapons is a good idea; not only does it give the player breathing room, many of them can be picked up and turned against the enemy.
  • Eyebot in Heavy Weapon has six destructible Combat Tentacles that shoot instant-kill lightning downwards. It also closes its weak spot when it starts to fire the lightning, which can be a good thing because you don't have to worry about dodging his random-shooting attack.

Turn Based Strategy

  • The final boss of Shining Force, Dark Dragon, had three heads, each equally powerful.
  • Shining Force II had the Kraken boss and its multiple tentacles.
  • Star Overlord Valvoga in Makai Kingdom is a parody of this, with a separate personality in each of his components - Dryzen the loud and brutish dragon skull, Ophelia the arrogant dark angel, and Micky, the apparent main body who is actually timid and Ambiguously Gay. Despite this, though, his Bonus Boss form is only a single enemy.

Zetta: This thing... err, these things... are Dark Lord Valvoga, the Star Overlord. In many worlds, they're the Final Boss. On the bottom is the dragon, Dryzen. The face in the middle is Ophelia, the fallen angel. At the top is Micky, who supposedly makes the decisions, but the others tend to bully him. They're basically calling the shots. For a demon general, he's pretty spineless.

    • There's a reason that this happens. In the cutscene before the fight, Micky finally gets fed up with his pushy companions and decides to stand up for himself and take charge. This emotional breakthrough allows him to cross the Bishonen Line and perfectly unite the three into a smaller and much more powerful Valvolga... which, as said, only counts as a single enemy. It's still disappointing, though.
  • The Final Boss of Bahamut Lagoon is a five-headed dragon. Somewhat disappointing - the game engine isn't built to handle it.
  • The Front Mission series uses this for every unit in the game. Considering this is a Giant Mecha game, this makes some sense: shooting off your opponent's arms will disable his weaponry, while blowing off his legs will (severely) hamper his movement. Doing the same to the body destroys the unit, regardless of its body-parts HP. It's not an uncommon event to have fields of "stripped" enemies—those who have no arms or legs but near-full body HP—at which point it's just a waiting game.
  • In Battleships Forever, all the ships consist of multiple individually destroyable parts.

Western RPG

  • The Sleeper, the final boss in the first Gothic game, is an extra-dimensional demon which somehow draws its power from five beating hearts encased in pillars in its lair. The Boss Battle involves dodging its attacks and getting close enough to stab each heart in turn with one of five specific swords. Once that's done, you don't even have to deal with the Sleeper itself - it just leaves!
  • Fallout 3's VATS system allows the player to target limbs, crippling them if the limb's HP hits 0. Finishing an enemy by crippling a limb will typically end up with that limb being severed (and possibly other crippled limbs). The player can be similarly targeted by enemies.
    • Also every other Fallout.
  • The Broodmother in Dragon Age Origins has the main body and multiple tentacles that the game deals as separate opponents rising from the ground. One of the simplest ways of beating her is to have your party stand in places where the tentacles can't reach and use bows and other ranged attacks.
  • The Flesh in Darkest Dungeon consists of four parts that take a new random form among four possibilities at regular intervals, each form performing a specific action every turn. Unlike most examples, they all share the boss's health pool rather than each having their own, so there is no point in trying to take down one part at a time, and Herd-Hitting Attacks that apply Damage Over Time are largely preferable to end the fight quickly.

Non-Video Game Examples

Oral Tradition, Folklore, Myths and Legends

  • Older Than Feudalism: The multi-headed Lernaean Hydra from the Greek myth of Hercules would respawn two heads for every one cut off unless the stumps were seared with fire.

Tabletop Games

  • In Dungeons & Dragons, a hydra has multiple heads that allow it to make multiple attacks a round.
    • The Beholder is a monster known for spell-like effects from its eyes. Despite being only 4 feet wide, it's one of the few monsters where you can target the main eye or the eye stalks.
  • Monsterpocalypse's Osheroth is like this. In its initial form, there's four tentacles roving around, each of which can attack and be attacked separately. When Osheroth goes into Hyper mode (whether voluntarily or because the tentacles were depleted of vitality) they get retracted and Osheroth itself makes an appearance.
  • In Exalted, the Unconquered Sun is capable of assuming an alternate combat form in which he gains thirty two arms, all with fairly decent health levels, that are the only thing on him that can be hurt (although reducing him back to four forces him into his usual form), and that he can gradually regenerate.
  • The Rock Hydra card from Magic: The Gathering:

"Put X +1/+1 counters (heads) on Hydra. Each point of damage Hydra suffers destroys one head unless R is spent. During upkeep, new heads may be grown for RRR apiece."

Real Life

  • The Cymothoa exigua, a parasitic variety of crustacean, eventually kills the tongue it feeds which point it replaces it. That may not sound scary, until you realize it still has eyes and limbs.