Word of Caution: The following post contains spoilers to the game Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. The post contains information and a video footage of the game’s final boss.
It has been two years since Sekiro released (where does time go?!). I thoroughly enjoyed the game up to the final battle, at which point I dropped the game after countless tries. It has always been bugging me, but I remind myself that I’m not a completists or a perfectionist when it comes to games by any means. Having said that, I did finish every Miyazaki game I played, which probably warrants that nagging feeling.
It took a couple of days to get back into the game and roughly over 48 hours to finally beat the final boss and what an exhilarating feeling to finally do that. Despite it not being particularly described as a souls-game, it’s not different from Miyazaki’s other games. Except in this game, the final boss is a collection of 4 stages. Each one is unique with enough antics under its belt.
Genichero’s first stage is similar to Genichero’s battle, which the player has already beaten at that point. It’s a very fast-paced sequence that isn’t particularly harder than the first battle you face him in, but because of the pacing, you’re very prone to making mistakes and all it takes is one mistake for the entire battle to fall apart. This is probably something that I have always liked about Miyazaki’s games, is that the lower rank enemies are just as capable as bigger ones to challenge you, no matter how advanced you are in the game.
Isshin’s first phase is slower than Genichero’s, but the range of his sword attacks is massive. By far, it’s the most forgiving stage of the battle, but any wrong turn and you’ll pay the price. The two phases after this are the most gruesome. Isshin’s third phase, in my opinion, is the most challenging. At this point he abandons his sword and reveals a long deadly spear and fashions a gun. His movesets are so erratic, bizarre, unpredictable, and highly predictive of your own. Although he only has a handful of moves, he alternates them remarkably well depending on your own moving. In the final phase, Isshin maintains almost very similar movesets to his previous phase, except now he has a couple of new special attacks: two types of lightening and a wide arc charged attack. He’s also slightly faster and deadlier.
My strategy for the battle is the same as any souls game. I spend a few tries simply blocking to observe and memorize the movesets of the opponent. There’s no point trying to beat them at this point. The goal is to memorize the moves so well so that I could fall back onto muscle memory when and if I need it, especially when things suddenly go out of the ordinary or I need to focus on the next sequence.
For Genichero, I try to be as aggressive as he is and a bit more. If I give him space then his movement becomes wider and out of control. So for this stage, I try to keep him defending as I can. Eventually his breaks and he’ll fall.
For all four stages of the battle, I do not aim to defeat by means of attacking. Instead, I focus on building their posture bar through deflecting and then breaking their posture. It’s useless attacking. It will take a long time and put you more at risk of taking damage yourself, unless you’re doing the “tanking or cheesing” method, which is basically cheating and the game wasn’t designed to be played that way. At the same time, my own posture builds up as I deflect, so it’s an ongoing struggle to maintain the balance between attacking, deflecting, and allowing my own posture bar to deplete before charging. If my posture breaks at any point then I’m unmovable and basically sitting duck for a fatal blow.
For Isshin’s second and third phases, I deflect 90% of the time and only attack 10% between his own deflecting, if and when I get the chance like immediately after he lands an attack or when his back is turned. Some of his attack combinations are very long and I struggle to counter them without breaking my postures, so I try to get away, let him attack, and then counter the final special attack he does with a Mikiri encounter. The last phase continues the same way, except now whenever he jumps to perform a lightening attack, I wait a little for a second or two and then jump touch the lightening and throw it back at him. So overall, without attacking him, deflecting, countering with mikiri and using his own lightening should fill up his posture bar fast to finally break him down.
I absolutely loved the level of detail that went into designing the battle, and frankly every other battle in the game (Owl’s battle being one of my favorites). It’s not always fun playing Miyazaki’s games. They’re usually slow in the beginning, and I often find myself losing hope and confidence, but I also absolutely love the ability to see myself progress through active strategy. Once you get it, you’ll see yourself finding a way out. This is usually referred to as a motto souls-games fan often use—“Get good!”
The following video is of my gameplay against Sekiro’s final boss