After about a dozen attemps i finally figured out how to beat that earlier boss by the complicated and tricky strategy of walkimg up to the boss, then standing still and hitting the A button a lot =P That particular combo seems to be timed just right to disrupt the bosses attacks 90% of the time.
So i continued on to the next town, leveling up a little on the way. Did some plot related stuff in the town, saved, and tried to leave. And got into a scripted fight on the way out. This time there are _three_ guys, and still just two characters for me. Whoever i focus on the other two beat the crap out of me so there's no way to find a good combo to disrupt the attacks. The fight probably would have been easier if i'd had enough money to upgrade my weapons at the shop in that town, although i'd have been somewhat handicapped by not wanting to upgrade Lloyd's weapon so i can get that Eternal Apprentice title.
I did have another save before i entered the town. I considered going back to the save and leveling up a lot so i could make it through the fight, but combined with the problems with the previous boss this indicated a rather troubling trend. So after trying the fight about a dozen times i finally just gave up and switched to normal. The fight went _much_ easier after that, as did the following fights in the next dungeon and the overworld.