Final Boss Preview

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"Listen up, boy. If we were to say today was one of those Japanese video games I play in my spare time... Then this would be the part where you ask why the final boss helps you when you're about to die in the first dungeon."
Evangeline after much asskicking, Mahou Sensei Negima

So your hero got The Call and is getting into his groove, possibly having beat 2 or more Monsters of the week, and started to become used to waking up, going to school and saving the world. When suddenly the Big Bad or The Dragon show up. Of course, our confident protagonist does the obvious... attack!

The villain will, of course, be completely unfazed. They might casually block the hero with smug superiority, let their ultimate attack connect and casually dust themselves off, and probably give them a good thrashing for ripping their favorite Black Cloak. Oh, and expect said thrashing to be them using maybe 1/67th of their True Power? (final forms not included). The villain may well take them to within an inch of dying, or less brutally hold the equivalent of a sword at their throat... and stop to gloat before leaving them broken and humiliated.

This is the Final Boss Preview.

The point of this is to give the plot a shift to high gear by giving the hero a taste of battles to come and something to fight for, as well as building up the villain as a serious threat. In Video Games this often coincides with Cutscene Incompetence, Railroading, and Hopeless Boss Fight, making victory impossible. The exception being in a New Game+ where you can beat the villain, but they teleport away before the final blow.

Variants are when the villain fully intends to kill the hero, but she is rescued by their mentor or allies, maybe at the cost of one of their lives. Or the villain is frightened off somehow or forced to leave, maybe they've got far more pressing matters to worry about (say their Evil Plan is put in jeopardy by The Starscream and he has to leave post haste).

In videogames, this often takes the form of a Hopeless Boss Fight.

A specific form of Your Princess Is in Another Castle, a version of Sorting Algorithm of Evil and a subversion of No Sneak Attacks. Contrast Orcus on His Throne. See also New World Tease.

Examples of Final Boss Preview include:

Anime and Manga

  • Done many times in Bleach with Ichigo, most potently when Aizen managed to stop his bankai with one finger, then casually sliced him nearly in half. Just to hammer the point home, Aizen says he's surprised that he didn't completely sever Ichigo's spine, and tells himself not to hold back so much next time Its later revealed that he let him live on purpose, as Ichigo is integral to his master plan.
  • Zoro of One Piece gets this in the Baratie Arc, when Hawkeye Mihawk, the greatest swordsman in the world and Zoro's ultimate goal, shows up long enough to humor Zoro with a duel. Turns out Zoro really is nothing compared to Mihawk, but fortunately, he manages to gain the guy's respect, so Mihawk merely gives him a nearly fatal wound.
    • Happens fairly often to Luffy, with the final boss of a given story arc. Perhaps most famously, he was utterly defeated by Sir Crocodile the first time they fought. But of course, during that first fight Luffy didn't know Croc's Achilles' Heel...
      • Luffy went through the same thing with Rob Lucci (who swatted him down with ease) and Warden Magellan (who managed to indirectly take ten years off Luffy's life.)
  • Fate Averruncus of Mahou Sensei Negima does this thrice.
    • Evangeline says she's doing this (see page quote), but no one really believes her (they don't believe that she's the real Final Boss, that is).
  • Fate Testarossa of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha does this nicely. Setting the stage for the Genre Shift that is to come in episode 7, and beyond.
  • In The Law of Ueki, Ueki tries to defeat Robert Haydn early in the series, but is quickly dropped from a great height, only to be saved in a Heroic Sacrifice by his mentor.
  • Zagato does this to our three heroines in Magic Knight Rayearth just after they've become more powerful than we've ever seen them.
  • Happens several times in Dragon Ball. Goku's first fight with Tao Pai Pai, his first fight with Tambourine, first fight with Piccolo Daimaou, Raditz's arrival at Kame House, etc.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Father does this when the main characters encounter him for the first time. He shows off his nigh-invincibility, no-motion transmutation and his power to turn off everyone else's alchemy, setting himself up to be all but impossible to defeat. And he only gets more powerful later on.
    • In the 2003 anime version, Ed's encounter with Envy and Lust in Laboratory 04 count, as Envy is the last person in the anime Ed fights since Dante is the non-fighting type.
  • Moo is this early on in the Monster Rancher anime. The only reason he didn't kill the heroes then and there was to kidnap Holly, and because his true form wasn't revived.
  • In Fairy Tail, Acnologia appears just long enough to casually wipe out the main characters before flying off to parts unknown.
  • The witch from Madoka's dream in episode 1 of Puella Magi Madoka Magica that Homura is seen fighting against turns out to be Walpurgisnacht, the strongest witch and the second closest the series has to a main villain.

Live Action TV

  • Pretty much every Power Rangers Big Bad or Dragon who isn't too inhuman to move decides to show up after eight or so episodes for the expressed purpose of kicking the crap out of the entire rookie team, then returning home due to power failure, mentor interference, or simply deciding that they simple aren't worth the effort. They often tear the current Monster of the Week apart as a sort of pre-preview before the beatdown.
  • Arch-villain Sylar shows up in the first two episodes of Heroes, before they had even cast an actor for the role (he's played by a stuntman and obscured in shadows). He doesn't show up again until almost halfway through the first season.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The First Evil initially appeared as a Monster of the Week in a Season 3 episode, where we get a brief glimpse of how powerful it is before it disappears. Flash forward four years, and it's the final Big Bad of the series.

Video Games

  • Jedi Outcast has this when Desann schools your Force-less ass and then mocks you how you might have been a challenge if you still had your Force powers (Kyle gave them up after the last game). Of course, this was just part of a Batman Gambit to get you to go to the Valley of the Jedi and use it to infuse all of his troops with the Force.
  • No More Heroes has this happen during the 5th ranked fight with Letz Shake. Just before the fight starts, Henry pops in and easily strikes him down with the intent of dueling with Travis. Before the two of them come to blows, Sylvia calls the fight off and Travis grudgingly has to wait until beating the game and earning the real ending to fight him.
  • In the first Baldur's Gate, Big Bad Sarevok shows up five minutes into the game and kills your mentor in a cutscene. In Baldur's Gate II: Shadows Of Amn, Big Bad Jon Irenicus shows up several times and captures the party at least twice (once offscreen) before you even get the chance to fight him. His lieutenant Bodhi does this as well. Averted in Throne of Bhaal where the Big Bad never shows up before the fight, or at least not in a way that you can recognize her as the Big Bad.
  • Metal Max 2 has this at the very start of the game but it is The Dragon Ted Broiler who promptly kicks the ass of your mentor and her allies before beating on you and leaving you for dead.
    • And in the first game, Sarevok shows up in the introduction to kill your mentor.
  • Final Fantasy VII plays this trope straightforward, with an unusual twist: the Big Bad is in your party and laying down the superhuman asskicking against your enemies. At least for a little while.
  • Final Fantasy III does a very late preview of the final boss, right before the final dungeon. It's very educational, however, as you get a clear demonstration of what would happen if you rushed straight to the boss without taking the precautions necessary to depower it enough to be realistically beatable.
  • In Final Fantasy VI, this is subverted when you fight Kefka earlier in the game, as he's a total pushover and you wouldn't imagine he could possibly be the Final Boss. This changes once he gets a power boost....
  • Final Fantasy IV: The After Years does this numerous times with the game's primary antagonist. At one point you have the option to send a single weak playable character into a matchup with the villain that buffed out parties before him couldn't touch, and upon the first weak shot landed she effortlessly casts one of the most powerful spells in the entire story to rid of you.
  • Played with in Final Fantasy IX, where the Big Bad actually requires getting beaten around by the heroes in order to gather enough energy to achieve Trance and transform into his final boss form, which naturally results in a preview of how insanely overpowered you've helped him become.
  • Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy has a True Final Boss Preview. If you say "I am a master." to the tutorial moogle, he throws you into a fight against a level 130 Feral Chaos while you are a level 1 Lightning. Have fun.
    • It should be worth noting that some players of this game have actually beaten this Level 130 Feral Chaos. You get nothing special for it, merely some laughs as the game assumes that you didn't beat him, and shows the dialogue that shows if you had lost the fight.
  • Ganondorf in The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time just before you get the eponymous ocarina. Link draws his sword and Ganondorf knocks him flat on his posterior.
    • Also the fight with Phantom Ganon, which is a preview of the fight with the real Ganondorf.
    • We get pretty much the same scene again in The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker, only this time Ganondorf is smart enough to proceed to try to kill Link... If it weren't for Tetra barging in and, ironically, saving Link.
    • In Twilight Princess, Zant ambushes Link and Midna after beating the Lakebed Temple, trapping Link in wolf form and nearly killing Midna by exposing her to Lanayru's light. Of course, Zant technically isn't even the final boss.
    • In Skyward Sword, you get to encounter Ghirahim quite a number of times, and even fight him twice, before your ultimate battle with him. The first time you fight him is, in fact, as the boss of the first dungeon. The actual final boss, The Imprisoned/Demise, is fought three times throughout the game before his final showdown, although it's in a vastly different from the final battle.
  • The first Mega Man X game had Vile attack you in powered armor at the end of the first level. You could with some skill get into a pattern of dodging his paralysing shot and returning fire, but the game won't continue until you get hit by it and force Zero to come help you. You can also accidentally die by touching him while low on health.
    • Mega Man ZX has this as well. Giro, after having sustained injuries from Vent/Aile in a "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight, gets blasted to death by Serpent, and your character gets similar treatment as well. Serpent then leaves to start Project Haven with a small horde of Pantheons left behind to finish both of you off. Cue the titular Double Megamerge, though Giro isn't coming back.
  • Bowser in Paper Mario and Count Bleck and later, Dimentio in Super Paper Mario, as well as, technically, all three Mario & Luigi games, where Bowser is fought in the tutorial of all three games, but he's never actively the final boss. In the first two games he serves as such while possessed by the true Big Bads, in the third his own final boss is a shadow version of himself.
  • A non-RPG Mario example would be in the beginning of Super Mario Galaxy, where shortly after Bowser captures Peach and carries both her and her castle into outer space, Mario jumps onto one of Bowser's spacecraft as it is leaving Earth orbit, only to be knocked out by one of Bowser's Magikoopas (confirmed to be Kamek in the tie-in trading card game), sending him plummeting toward a small planet nearby where he is then rescued by Rosalina and some Lumas.
  • In Chrono Trigger, you can use the bucket at the End of Time to visit the Day of Lavos regardless of where you are in the story. Of course, actually defeating him isn't even feasible until the end of the game, so you have the option of running to fight another day.
    • You get a free preview in Ocean Palace, via an attack that will simply kill the pary in one hit. Ironically this version is a lot tougher than his normal self.
    • However, if your party is strong enough (like in New Game+), you can defeat the Big Bad at any time and access the Multiple Endings.
  • Gilgamesh in Fate/stay night's Fate and Unlimited Blade Works routes (he only gets to be the Big Bad in the second route, though). The Black Shadow, a.k.a. the incarnation of Angra Manyuu in the Heaven's Feel route.
  • Yggdrassil in Tales of Symphonia.
    • The direct sequel has a strange way of doing this. The Final Boss of the game ends up being a temporary party member at the beginning of the game before you learn he's evil, and he's POWERFUL. Then later after you learn he's not on your side, there's a boss battle where he destroys you with his Mystic Arte at the very beginning of the battle. THEN after you FINALLY fight him for real, it turns out that the real final boss is the main character.
      • The first battle against him is technically winnable, but the game still progresses if you lose and you're unlikely to win outside of a New Game+.
      • And Tales of Phantasia, which was released first but takes place far later in the same timeline as Symphonia, does this with Dhaos. Twice, actually, as Dhaos is also the boss of the Disc One Final Dungeon.
    • Also, Shizel in Tales of Eternia. It isn't actually as much of a curb stomp since you CAN fight back, but after a while the fight abruptly ends anyways.
  • Zephiel in Fire Emblem: The Sword Of Seals Curb Stomp Battles the rebel leader, hangs around a few turns for you to see his uber stats, then leaves.
    • The very first Fire Emblem and its remake has the The Dragon appear halfway through the game, armed with a tome that makes him immortal. He chases you around for a bit, likely killing anyone he catches, until he gets bored and leaves.
    • The third Fire Emblem and its remake has Hardin appear on chapter 8 and is invulnerable at that point, similar to the Black Knight example, you definitely don't want to wait around too long.
    • Happens quite frequently with The Dragon in Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn. The Black Knight shows up and only attacks if you get within range. Should you value your life, don't attack him. He's got super high stats in all aspects, appears at the level cap, and has a special move which is so powerful that the final boss can't even survive it.
      • For Radiant Dawn, when he first appears, he's on YOUR side. If the Main Character is also Level Capped, the mission is probably the easiest Fire Emblem mission ever. Of course, he's also the most EXP eating happy Jagen in the entire series.
        • And then the first time he appears as an enemy, you have to have your main character survive a battle with him if you want to unlock Lehran as a playable character later in the game (though this is only possible in a second playthrough or later.) This requires significant level-grinding (to the point that Ike will probably level cap soon afterwards with a number of chapters to go until his story-driven promotion) and, since Nihil and Fortune aren't available to Ike's party yet, is a complete Luck-Based Mission (or a Save Scumming-based mission in Normal difficulty or lower).
      • In fact, there's a fun variation of this trope: the penultimate boss of Radiant Dawn appears in Path of Radiance as an NPC with no weapons but very impressive stats.
    • In Genealogy Of The Holy War this somewhat happens... twice: First, you see Alvis (Chapter 10's final boss, and one of the major antagonists in the game) in the Prologue as an "Ally" unit... He's a bit weaker than in Chapter 10, but at level 25, and wielding his signature Holy Weapon, pity the poor level 1 to 3 mook who comes too close. Then the real Final Boss Yurius shows up for a little "game" in Chapter 10, where he and his girlfriend have a competition to see who can kill one your units quickest... Of course, the next chapter is the endgame, so it's not that much of a preview.
  • The second battle of Breath of Fire II is against The Dragon, Barubary. Barubary is the second most powerful demon alive and arguably tougher than the final boss. Ryu is a 6 year old boy. Armed with a stick.
  • Malak in Knights of the Old Republic, and Sion in the sequel. Interestingly enough, between them they demonstrate the best and worst ways to do this:
    • First, the bad. In the first game, you meet Malak about halfway through. You're powerful enough at this point to beat him into the ground in a single hit, BUT WAIT! He recovers and effortlessly stuns you. Bastila then sacrifices herself to allow you to escape for no good reason whatsoever.
    • Better is KotOR 2. You meet Sion on Korriban, and he´s a toughie. He can kill you easily if you're not careful. After you take off half his health, he pulls his signature trick, and it is revealed he's pretty much invincible. Kreia appears in a vision and tells you to flee your arse out of there, and you do, if you know what's good for you.
  • The first battle against Ramirez in Skies of Arcadia is a type of this, assuming you choose to fight him in the first place. Your options are "Surrender" and "Fight, even though you know it is futile."
  • The very first boss in Shadow Hearts is the Big Bad. Naturally, he knocks you out in one hit. If not for Cutscene Power to the Max it'd be a very short game.
  • A variant is used in Pokemon Gale of Darkness. The Big Bad and his Dragons show up and effortlessly beats down... a mook who broke the rules. Oh, and you don't know it's the Big Bad and his 2 Dragons, though it is pretty obvious anyway. Another example is Shadow Lugia in the introduction
    • Pokémon Black and White has a variant where you encounter N, the leader of Team Plasma, after a few gyms. He seems to be helping you at first, then challenges you to a battle. You don't know it's him until after the fight. An aversion to the 'you'll lose' part, though, because you must defeat N to proceed in the game.
  • The first boss battle against Takeda/Tiny in the original Persona initially features Big Bad Takahisa/Guido as part of the enemy party. Kei/Nate attempts to attack him, only to miss. Takahisa counters with a Mabufu spell before retreating. Of course, he isn't the final boss...
    • There's a variation in Persona 4 too. In one of the very first scenes of the game, you go to the Yomotsu Hirasaka in your sleep and fight an enemy shrouded in fog. Since Big Bad Izanami later reminds you of it, presumably this means that she was the enemy you fought.
  • Zone of the Enders has a cross-game version of this: The final boss fight of the first game involves simply surviving' for a short period of time against the ridiculously overpowering Anubis. You get a second preview early in the second game: you can do a little damage to him this time, but not enough to win. It isn't until the end of the game after you acquire the same powers can you face Anubis with a chance of victory.
  • Triple subverted in Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice. Mao's father is the boss of the first chapter, and is easily beatable if you've been leveling up a bit, but even if you win, he'll revive himself in the following cutscene, forcing Mao and Almaz to retreat. The third subversion is that he isn't the final boss at all.
  • World of Warcraft does this in the Halls of Reflection dungeon. You have to flee from the Lich King.
    • Note: You encounter the Lich King much more often than just that. He's seen in many quests, and for Death Knights is a Quest Giver at the start.
    • And Deathwing is also encountered in a few quests, a few of them being drunk men's tales. You can also encounter him in almost any area, at the least expected moment... and he'll just kill everyone in sight. At least you get an achievement for it...
  • Super Robot Wars Original Generation loves this. All the major endbosses show up early and often, and while usually you don't have to genuinely fight them... sometimes you do, and they're at full final boss power. Thanks to how the game engine is made, you still have a fighting chance... just not of actually beating them, which is why they'll always get called away or get bored after a while... and they need you alive.
  • Lufia 1 had an interesting take on this; the first level of the game has you playing as the legendary party of heroes who defeated the 4 Sinistrals, during the final battle 100 years ago. So, although the first dungeon ends with you fighting the 4 Big Bads, your party is likewise at legendary levels and capable of easily kicking their asses.
  • In Fallout 2, it's extremely likely that the first person you meet after leaving the starting village is 12-foot tall Powered Armor cyborg Frank Horrigan, the final boss. Fortunately, you're so beneath his notice that he doesn't even bother to attack you, or else the game would have been really, really short.
  • Emperor Doviculus from Brutal Legend has one hell of a great example of this. After having effortlessly killing Lars by stabbing him with his Big Fucking Spear, Eddie tries to attack him, but is stopped as a horde of BDSM Demons rain down from the sky. And the CMoA appears just after this as you drive right out of Lionwhyte's collapsing fortress as Dragon Force (video game) plays in the background. Fuck. Yes.
  • In Quake IV, after having just wiped out two fairly easy Stream Protectors, you are attacked by the Makron, the Strogg leader. After a short "battle", he incapacitates you, leading to you getting mutilated and partially turned into a cyborg. This example is somewhat atypical in that you do have to deal a decent amount of damage to the boss, or else he'll just straight up kill you instead of capturing you and advancing the plot.
  • eXceed 3rd: If you're doing well enough, the Bonus Boss, Remedy, will pop up in the middle of Stage 4 to challenge you. To unlock the Extra stage and fight her for real, you have to "impress" her during this fight, which means completing it perfectly: no deaths and no bombs.
  • Nobunaga appears at the start of Onimusha 3, in a scene that mirrors the final battle, for a short fight against Samanosuke.
  • Nobunaga makes a brief appearance in the second stage of Onimusha Tactics. You can see his maxed health and pumped out stats. Magochi gives him a direct shot to the face, that does absolutely nothing.
  • In Ninja Gaiden, the first boss is your uncle Murai before his sudden change. The final boss is... Murai AFTER his sudden change, and the battle dynamics is basically the same, with other powers provided by the Dark Dragon Blade. In this case, it is subverted: you can actually defeat Murai, but it will just be a friendly combat between family.
    • Ninja Gaiden Sigma offers a better example, where you fight Doku right after he snatches the Dark Dragon, one hit will end the battle and move on with the story, and if you defeat him here... he still kills you and we move on with the story. You face him again a few chapters later, twice.
  • Homeworld 2 doesn't have bosses as such, but the end-of-level cutscene for the first mission sees you fleeing from a very large fleet containing some enemy hardware you won't be engaging for several more missions.
  • About halfway through Planescape: Torment, A figure clad in misshapen golden armor appears before the half-dead Ravel and tries to convince demands that she help it defeat the Nameless One. When Ravel refuses, a scripted battle ensues in which the golden figure effortlessly obliterates her with an impressive array of magic powers. Say hello to the Transcendent One.
  • Though you don't get to fight him then, the Big Bad of Mass Effect makes quite an impression in the first mission on Eden Prime. He's not who you think he is.
    • The game also provides a straighter example on Virmire, where you encounter Saren, who shows up just as the nuclear bomb is set. You fight Saren until his health is gone, but this changes nothing; his flying disk simply emits a pulse that sends Shepard flying and triggers a cutscene before Saren escapes. This fight is very similar to the final boss fight against Saren in the Citadel, but you can Take a Third Option then...
  • You (as Raziel) get to fight Kain two times in Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, but it is implied he's holding back. Both battles end with Kain victorious, but running away instead of finishing the job. (Although there is some discrepancy between the final battle of Soul Reaver and the intro of Soul Reaver 2 - in the former, Kain is visibly exhausted and his remark "You nearly had me, Raziel" seems genuine, while in the latter, he brushes off Raziel's attacks easily and his remark comes across as sarcastic.) A third and final battle ensues in Defiance in which Raziel rips out Kain's heart and leaves him for dead. Which he isn't.
  • Nero gets to battle Sanctus once around the middle of Devil May Cry 4 and once at the very end. The first battle is just against the ascended form but the second is against his One-Winged Angel form that comes with the power gained from Sparda's sword.
  • In Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, the Big Bad shows up once you reach the Wheel Clan to taunt you and then knocks your entire party unconscious before disappearing.
  • In Kirby Super Star Ultra, the final boss is Marx's Soul, but you fight Marx himself only halfway through the game. Before you fight him, there is a cutscene showing him morphing into the demonesque form that you fight him in, and for a SPLIT SECOND, you can see his soul.
  • Played straight in the start of Golden Sun, when the villians are shown in conversation. As is normal, the heroes are shown to be eavesdropping, and promptly get beaten to within an inch of their lives.
  • In TimeShift, the first level ends with you and the resistance being blown away by the Big Bad's giant spider-mech fortress. In the final level you replay the exact same scene, only you have a better vantage point and are armed with a weapon capable of harming the giant robot.
  • In the Turok reboot, the T-Rex final boss appears several times in the earlier levels, usually passing by briefly to snack on a few enemy soldiers before leaving. You actually fight her briefly about halfway through the game, but there's a convenient hole you can hide in from which you can shoot her from complete safety. In the final battle, there's no safe spot for you to hide, and the T-Rex has a lot more health than in the previous fight.
  • In the hybrid FPS-driving game Redline (1999 video game), the Red Sixer leader is both the first boss you fight as well as the game's final boss. The key difference is that in the first level you fight him on foot, while in the final level he has access to a unique hover-tank that is the most powerful vehicle in the game.
  • The first enemy fought in Duke Nukem Forever, the Cycloid Emperor, is also the game's final boss. Surprisingly, he's not really any tougher in the final battle than he was in the first level; the only differences are that he's supported by respawning Mooks in the finale, and you have to deplete his health bar 3 times instead of just once.
  • In Famous 2 starts off with a Boss Fight against the Beast. Interestingly, you're almost guaranteed to win, since it's the beginning of the game and Cole is at full power. But it's really a Hope Spot, because no matter how much damage you inflict, the Beast is just going to revive and almost kill Cole. But you DO have to "beat" it, because it WILL kill you otherwise, tutorial or not.
    • The first In Famous plays with this a little. You get your first look at Kessler after one of the early missions. You don't fight him or anything though; he just proceeds to show you a vision of the future.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the very first Dragon you see in the game is Alduin himself interrupting your execution with his own attempt to kill you.
    • Not to mention that you have to fight him alongside Paarthurnax on top of Throat of the World after learning Dragonrend, only to have him get bored and leave before you can do any real damage.
  • Distorted Travesty: The Shroud Lord attacks the player several times in Distortion WTF before retreating, several levels before the final showdown in the Secured Data Segment. It's not actually the final boss, but it's pretty close, and is generally agreed to be the toughest boss in the game.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • Darkseid's first appearance on Earth in Superman: The Animated Series, at the very end of the episode "Father's Day", counts. Superman catches up to the defeated episode villain Kalibak in time to watch Darkseid (who he has no idea who is) disintegrate him. When Superman angrily demands he identify himself, Darkseid simply smiles, turns on his Omega Beams, and zaps Superman to the floor. He then says "That is who I am" and leaves.