Huff N. Puff

        How have I not talked about the Mario series yet? It’s quite bizarre. Well anyway, Paper Mario is one of my favorite games, much like Metroid Prime, but where that was a first person shooter/adventure, this is a more classical RPG of sorts. The game gets its name from the way everything looks as though, well, it’s made of paper. Normally Mario moves about as you’d expect, running and jumping, but the battles are in RPG style, with some fascinating touches carried over from its predecessor, Super Mario RPG.
        Though it is not the case in the beginning, early on Mario gets an item, the Action Star, that lets him improve his attacks and the like with strategic button pressing. For instance, if he jumps and presses A at the right time, he will jump again to hit twice. If he hits with the right timing on his hammer attack, he will do more damage. This means hammer attacks do more damage at once, which helps pierce defenses, but a jump can hit more often for less damage. It usually adds up to the same amount, but situations make one or the other the better choice.
        In any case, today I’ll be talking about the boss of the sixth chapter, Huff N. Puff. You see, the first seven chapters all end with a boss fight with one of Bowser’s most trusted minions, each of whom holds a Star Spirit. They have been captured by Bowser when he attacked their home and stole their wish granting artifact, the Star Rod, which was presumably on loan from the Fountain of Dreams. In any case, the Rod allows Bowser to handily defeat Mario in the prologue, making him completely invincible.
        Mario is knocked out, then flung out a window. Since Bowser has pulled them up into the stratosphere via his flying fortress, it is a miracle that Mario survives, but he does, and the Star Spirits manage to tell him where the first of them is located and that he will need their help to beat Bowser. While they meant that they can nullify Bowser’s Star Rod powers, they give practical help in that they grant Mario an ability when rescued, some more useful than others.
        As for the bosses themselves, while they all have their own strengths and fascinating qualities, Huff N. Puff is where things really start getting hard. In this chapter, Mario has come to the Flower Fields, a normally cheerful place of plantlife radiant with sunlight. However, Huff N. Puff’s cloud machine has blocked out the sun, which spells disaster for them. Mario must not only destroy the machine, but gather certain items so he can grow a beanstalk, otherwise, he won’t be able to reach the boss at all.
        But it is done, and he arrives to Cloudy Climb. There’s not much to see here but the boss himself, but the place does look rather serene, with candy-like clouds in the background and peaceful music… but I should point out the music actually made me feel weirdly tense. I think the undertone or something didn’t seem right, somehow. Maybe I just knew that a boss was coming up? Anyway, Mario moves through the area to face the cloud monster. Huff N. Puff chides Mario for destroying his machine, saying he was only trying to make this ’sunlight-blasted place’ into a ‘cloud-covered paradise’.
        Presumably, being a cloud, he would have a very different view of life than a plant, but he’s certainly smart enough to know his actions are hurting people, so really, he brought this on himself. All Bowser told him to do was guard the Star Spirit, so dooming Flower Fields was really his own prerogative. Also, if you have your last party member, Lakilester, following you, Huff N. Puff will comment that the Lakitu has betrayed him, and be even angrier, though he never questions why Mario would want to stop his plans or why he was betrayed, implying he either is fully aware of his evil actions and thus their reasons for defying him, or that he doesn’t know why they do so but also doesn’t care at this point.
        He comes out to battle after his speech, and if one uses the Tattle ability to find out his stats, there is good news and bad news. Good news, he has no defense, so all of your attacks will do maximum damage. Bad news, he has sixty health, more than anything you would have come across by far, and since he is flying, no ground based attack will work on him, nor will any electrical attack because he’s a cloud. I should also point out the most health any player can have in this game is also sixty, and you certainly won’t have that much by now.
        The worst news, however, is that every bit of damage to him will spawn Tuff Puffs from the bits of cloud that come off him. These minions only have one or two health points, depending on the blows the boss takes, but they can attack separately from their master, and are a big annoyance to remove, especially since bigger attacks will produce more of them, and trying to hit all targets will still leave you with some to deal with, and, as though they needed to be worse, Huff N. Puff will occasionally absorb them back into himself to recover the health he has lost, which means if you want him to lose that health permanently, you need to take the time to destroy his minions as well. The only real saving grace here is that they do little damage, and once seven or so are around more will not appear.
        As for the cloud boss himself, he shows shocking variety of attacks, from body slamming Mario, trying to blow him away, and calling down lightning, though that last attack takes a turn to charge up. This actually works in his favor to a degree- while he is charging he cannot be harmed by direct attacks. This attack comes either in the form of an shockwave, or a lightning strike.
        Either will be bad news, so the best course of action is to avoid it entirely if possible, and since you’re warned a turn beforehand, you have plenty of time to get Bow out on the field. Bow’s attacks are weak, but hit multiple times, and she has the unique ability to make Mario intangible, allowing attacks to pass right through him for the turn.
        Now that you know what this boss can do, how to deal with him? Well, I did say that attacks that hit all enemies will summon more Tuff Puffs, but they will destroy the ones that came before as well, so they may be your best option. Use powerful attacks before hand, then clear out the minions before Huff can absorb them again. A good choice may be Star Storm, a power given by the third spirit, doing seven damage to all enemies.
        Speaking of said minions, their attack is to crowd around Mario and squeeze, draining his health over time. Depending on the amount, this can take one health or two. You have to repeatedly press the A button to throw them off. They will inevitably take away some health, unless you can stop their attack somehow, like with Bow. However, the fourth spirit has a better trick- Chill Out, a power that lowers enemy attack by two. This renders the Tuff Puffs completely harmless for several turns.
        However, both of the powers I mentioned take two bars of star energy- and you get one for every spirit saved, so you can only have five at this point. Therefore, I’d recommend saving the Star Storm for when you really need it, since there are other, weaker moves that can clear them out, and applying Chill Out when the Tuff Puffs are especially numerous. Lakilester is a good partner for most of the fight, since he has an attack that hits all targets, and if you prefer to avoid spawning more at all, he has the Hurracane move, where can just blow the minions away, if you can do it properly.
        With that strategy, there shouldn’t be too much trouble with Huff N. Puff, he will mostly just be a obstacle, a challenge, but not an insurmountable one- that is… unless you fall for the same trick I did. You see, I managed to get him down to one health. One! One more hit would finish him. However, it seemed he had other plans. He comments on how weak he had become, but that he still has strength for one last attack. He and any of the Tuff Puffs around will fly offscreen, then dive down to create a giant and very sudden earthquake. In my case, I was on low health myself, so the twelve damage I got from that was simply overkill. And very, very infuriating. I was this close!
Anyway, this trick is weaker if he has less minions, but he will likely do it once his health is low enough, perhaps in the single digits. If you can pass this last, desperate hurdle, then I do believe the victory will be yours.

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