It's a rule. You can't be a boss without henchmen. Boss, by definition is a supervisor who exercises control over workers. I looked it up, IN THE BIBLE (Wikipedia)! Deities and gods need their zealots; dictators are much less intimidating without their armies; bullies wouldn't sock you in the gut without their retarded pals there to laugh it up; drug lords probably won't murder you, they'll send their cartel to do it for them (probably). In real life henchmen serve a purpose, at least to a certain extent.
In video games it's a different story. In video games, henchmen are there for the learning curve, they're there for buildup to a climax, they're there to extend gameplay. In video games, henchmen are completely goddamn worthless.
Look at these clowns. In Batman: Arkham Asylum what must be a billion of these completely sane hoodlums are transferred to Arkham due to a fire in the local Blackgate Prison. Naturally, five minutes into the game every single one of the bastards are released onto the grounds. They then spend the rest of the game standing in small circles with their gang members, maybe playing hacky sack, waiting for Batman to show up so they can get the shit beaten out of them. They're never remotely difficult, even on the harder difficulty, but they do fulfill my fantasy of punching a clown in the face. I guess they can't be all bad.
These are henchmen, and almost every game has them or something similar. Mario has goombas, Dragon Quest has slimes, Bioshock has splicers, Kung Fu had the guys with pink hair and also midgets. They all serve some sort of purpose initially, whether it's to teach you how to jump or kick, provide a mascot, or randomly scare the bejesus out of you. Why though, after serving that purpose, do they continue to enter the game over, and over, and over, and over? There are reasons, of course, some of them listed above. And those reason are acceptable to an extent. Things can be better though, oh yes, they can be better.
Join me as I explore some methods for removing henchmen from all future video games:
Replace them with: Puzzles! The soon to be released Ratchet and Clank game is splitting the game into what's said to be two different styles of gameplay. Ratchet's sections will be combat-centric action orgies, while Clank's bits will be filled with delicious puzzles! There's no doubt the game will be a lot of fun, but I believe a lot of that will be due to their mixture of gameplay styles (and 50% removal of henchmen!).
Replace them with: Story & Lore! Mass Effect is still one of my favorite games for current generation, but it's still filled with exorbinant amounts of henchbots! They fill uncharted planets and none of them matter a damn bit. In fact, it's almost preferrable to go to a planet and read it's description instead! What Mass Effect did so well is create unique and interesting bits of lore and hid them around the universe. So why not remove the henchmen and instead have a rock that used to be a dinosaur that died when it swallowed a bone from a nuclear blast that occurred a million years previously.
Replace them with: Nothing! Shadow of the Colossus had 16 bosses, a little bonus interactive story, and nothing else. It was a huge empty landscape with some fruit trees, lizards, a temple and a bridge. And it was amazing. The lack of henchmen and other distractions likely made us adore the Colossi even more, if that were possible.
Replace them with: MORE BOSSES! The multiple Mega Man series' have always been some of my favorites. The levels are well designed, tricky to play through, and the bosses are always exciting to fight. Say though, they take away about 10% of the henchmen, hell, 25%, and use that development time to make even more bosses. Hell, Mega Man Bluexy will be a game entirely composed of robot bosses, and they'll each be so impeccably designed that you can make it into a fighting game as well.
I'm not saying that the above replacements are perfect, but it's difficult to argue that any game needs more henchmen than necessary. Most games would be just as enjoyable, if not moreso, without repetitive henchmen sequences at all. So please do me a favor current and future game developers, tone down the cronies, there's better alternatives. Well, you can keep midget henchmen, those are always a tall order of awesome (that pun hurt real bad).