Checkpoint’s Queer Game of the Month: February 2024 – BOSSGAME: The Final Boss Is My Heart

Posted on February 27, 2024

You’d have to be living under a rock if you weren’t aware of the lack of representation in video game protagonists. Sure, it’s been getting better in more recent years, but the late 2000’s and early 2010’s were notorious for this issue. Need we remind you of the hall of famer Game Rant ‘Average Male Protagonist’ picture? As a queer, trans lesbian, I don’t often get to have my own heroes who I feel represent me, nor are the stories told in games often for me. A role model for me Nathan Drake is not. All of that changed this month when I played BOSSGAME: The Final Boss Is My Heart. It’s an incredible, criminally missed title from last year.

BOSSGAME: The Final Boss Is My Heart is a boss-rush video game that follows a trans woman sword priestess and her butch fire witch girlfriend as they hunt demons, tackle their corrupt employer, and uncover the deep dark secrets of the city they live in. Without hyperbole, it is one of the most unique games and the high concept pays off. It’s the type of concept that can only come from a queer, creative mind. That’s why BOSSGAME is our February Queer Game of the Month.

One of the biggest selling points for me in games is worldbuilding that’s so painterly you can’t help but be fully immersed and invested. It doesn’t matter whether that’s in flowery writing or in the art and environments. BOSSGAME is certainly focused on the former, offering a rich world that is told through visual novel storytelling, largely between protagonist Sophie and her girlfriend Anna. In this, we learn what it’s like to live in the shoes of Anna’s life as a sword priestess, dedicated to destroying demons and devoting her life to her elders, and how this life mission can be everything and nothing. It’s her personal salvation, but also a point of conflict for those in her life.

The corruption that lies in Mammon City, the girlfriend’s hometown, surfaces with each boss you topple, peeling away layer by layer in the short journey. You begin to understand how much guidance being a sword priestess has given Sophie, but also how much it can lead her astray. Yes, expect a lot of religious imagery and the emotions that stir within someone experiencing some good old-fashioned traumatic Catholic guilt. Thankfully, Anna is a tour de force of a partner, always stoic by their side. With the power of lesbian love, they can overcome anything. Horrible monsters, an evil capitalist God, and a guy who owes you money that is just ripe for a beating… whatever it is, they’ve got it. My own lesbian relationship has seen us overcome our own handful of challenges. This is a very real, powerful, and personal theme I’m well familiar with. To be a woman, loved by a woman… it’s a power like nothing else.

The other way that BOSSGAME: The Final Boss Is My Heart is painfully relatable and hits close to home is in its stylistic writing and the ‘little things’. Dialogue has a small character sprite next to each message, all written in lowercase, sent out in several text boxes in quick succession rather than long paragraphs, resembling texting. Sophie and Anna flirt and share jokes and soft-ribbing between one another, reflecting their intimate and long-standing relationship. My favourite example of this is Sophie inviting Anna to shower with her, to have her flustered before saying yes. This is followed by one of the few times you’ll get a still, artful image that depicts the couple cozied up in bed, wrapped up in towels with one tracing the tattoo on the other’s bare back. Just an example of some of the common but always special and intimate moments a couple can share.

What’s most impressive with BOSSGAME is how dense it feels despite only running 2-3 hours in length. If someone were to ask me to recount details of its world and characters and how it all runs, I’d be able to tell you – fondly. It depicts a relationship that feels more real than others I’ve found in games that have the liberty of a longer runtime to explore said couple. If you’re queer and just ‘get’ it, BOSSGAME will have real staying power with you. It’s a win for lesbians everywhere.

I’m incredibly biased, but sometimes when you’re playing a game made by queer creators it feels like you’re playing a game that is made with a different, special sauce. It hits differently. How BOSSGAME achieves such a feel is in the unique approach to real-time combat gameplay. Each time you’re taking on a boss, you’re faced with a screen where a sprite of Sophie is in the bottom left and Anna in the bottom right. In the top middle, facing and against the couple is your opponent. You must control the pair, managing a Final Fantasy-style ATB gauge that fills throughout combat to input attack and blocking commands to eventually topple your foe.

The gameplay challenge comes from the fact that you’re controlling both characters at once while you’re tackling the boss. Sophie is controlled on the left side of your controller with the Dpad while Anna is controlled on the right with the face buttons. This is a really engaging means of effectively getting the play to maintain and spin many plates at once. If you’re overzealous with your attacks, your gauge is gone and suddenly you can’t block brutal attacks, stunning the player or even knocking them out of the fight entirely. If Anna or Sophie enters either of these states, the other must simultaneously fight on their own while healing their partner, sending love their way.

Button holds and then releases provide more powerful attacks. Blocking attacks will eventually get harder as you must pay more attention to on-screen prompts such as a ray doing a sweep across the bottom half of the screen, getting the timing just right as it passes by one of the couple members. The inherent gaminess and fast pace feel akin to titles like Undertale. You’re always kept on your toes.

Thankfully there’s plenty of saving grace in BOSSGAME to help you see it through. At the end of the day, it’s all about having fun and sliders for damage output and input, combat speed, and an invincibility mode are all on offer if you just want to see through your journey. However, the reward of scraping by a battle can’t be understated. My recommendation is to never underestimate getting your ultimate attack gauge bar filled by whatever means necessary. When you can unleash this mode upon filling the gauge, the enemy becomes stunned and damage is multiplied, often the final nudge I needed to push through a tough fight.

BOSSGAME ticks all boxes across the board. Though it’s got that kind of monochromatic pixel art style like the aforementioned Undertale, character detailing and monster design is very curious. Flashes of colour will fill the screen in captivating ways to prevent what could have otherwise been another black-and-white indie game that is dull or run-of-the-mill in its art. Backing the entire game is an oh-so-sweet chiptune soundtrack that makes you feel right at home in the game’s weird and wonderful world.

BOSSGAME: The Final Boss Is My Heart is a short but sweet game I’d implore everyone to play. It’s so concise with its messaging and what it wants to do and it never misses a beat in doing so. Of course, such a weird and wonderful piece of art is our most recent Queer Game of the Month.

Feel free to check out our write up on Cyber Paradise, our previous Queer Game of the Month, and stay tuned for our March issue.