Ed. Note: End game and NG+, so there will be spoilers abound.
Before I get to the last phase of the last boss, I wanted to say that I started NG+ after saving my game at the end of NG. Why did I save? In case there is DLC because no fucking way I’m doing DLC in NG+ and I don’t want to start another game. It’s not something I’d normally do, but I remember how frustrating it was not to have an optimal character for the DLC when I played Dark Souls III, and I did not want a repeat of that experience. Do I think there will be DLC? Not sure. I don’t actually think there will be, but you never know.
Anyway. NG+. I went into it with 10 Healing Gourds, all the Pellets in the world (200), and all the Emblems (999 in storage). I wanted to take on Genichiro when we were equally matched, and he wasn’t just going to be able to stomp on my head. I wouldn’t have my prosthetic arm, of course, which meant no prosthetic tools. Was I confident I could take Genichiro with 7 Healing Gourds (used three to get to him, much to my shame) and 3 Pellets? No, but I was going to give it my best shot. Plus, I had a nice fat health bar, better Posture, and all the Spiritfall items in my possession. I decided to use Ako’s Spiritfall because I knew the way to beat Genichiro was to constantly attack him. The biggest difference was that I knew him so I wasn’t intimidated. I had fought him for five hours and died to him probably 60 – 70 times. I had his moves down cold (except for that one swipe to my right that ALWAYS gets me), and I was not going to back down from fighting him. I stood tall, and I kept on the offensive. He still hit hard, though, and I had to use three or four Healing Gourds to get his first Deathblow. I kept my calm, however, and I knew I could get him. Whether I would or not, however, was a different matter.
Readers, I did it. I still had 2 Healing Gourds left at the end of the fight (and 2 Pellets), and it felt good. I knew I’d get nothing for beating him, but it was a matter of pride. I know you, Genichiro, and I am no longer intimated by you. That’s one of the best things about this game–about any FromSoft game, actually, once you beat a boss for the first time, the overwhelming fear dissipates. It doesn’t mean you’ll never die to them again, of course, but it’s half the battle in standing tall.
I whizzed through the first few areas, barely breaking a sweat. I killed the first real mini-boss, the one that I had so much trouble with and whom I avoided for so long in my first playthrough, without even getting hit (yes, I got the first stealth Deathblow on him per yooz). How far I’d come! In fact, I got further in two hours than I had in ten hours my first time through. I killed four mini-bosses (three, really, the first in the tutorial area hardly counts–the leader guy) while only dying twice to the Chained Ogre because he threw me off the goddamn cliff twice, and I died once to the two spear guys as they cornered me against the wall. That’s it, though. Three deaths. I didn’t even get my resurrection ability until the last death because I couldn’t rez when getting thrown off the goddamn cliff by the ogre.
The last mini-boss I beat, Shinobi Hunter Enshin of Misen, I also avoided him a long time in the first playthrough, There’s a way to go around him, and I availed myself of it and studiously ignored him. I hate spear guys, but I decided to at least try him once. I stealth-killed him for his first Deathblow, and then I just got all up in his grill and used the Shinobi Firecracker to finish him off. He did not even get one hit, either, which made me very happy. In fact, the two vanilla spear guys did more damage to me than he did, much to my shame.
I’m almost up to Lady Butterfly, and I’m curious to see if I can take her without spamming her. I’m sure she will be easier now that I have 10 Health Gourds and not 1 or 2, plus a bunch of other perks, but I’m not going to take her lightly. I’ve watched other people battle her and not have nearly as much difficulty as I’ve had, which doesn’t make me feel great about myself. It’s why I say I’m not good at this game for the people who actually play it (and other FromSoft games)–it takes me twice as long to figure shit out as it would other people.
Back to the last boss fight and the final phase of it. I never felt like I would actually beat this boss. It’s happened before, but usually, at some point, there’s a ‘I could actually do this’ feeling that hits me. In this case, it never did. It also didn’t with the previous two bosses, however, so maybe it’s just this game. I never felt OP unless I went back to a much previous area to farm. I feel pretty OP right now in NG+ at the beginning of the game, but I’m sure it’ll catch up to me at some point.
I have never felt as underpowered at the end of the game as I did in Sekiro. Yes, Nameless King was fucking hard, but–no, wait. He just was. I actually took less tries to beat the Demon of Hatred than I did the Nameless King (probably), but I was way more worn out at the end of this game than I was at the end of DS III. I think it’s also because the last three bosses of this game were so epically difficult for me, it’s warped all sense of priority. I don’t think I can be detached and clinical about my feelings about this game. I’m way too emotional about it.
The last stage of this fight. I was tired. I had nothing left in the tank. I had been fighting this boss for three and three-fourth hours on that day and two hours the day before. I still think it’s funny that I died much less to this boss than I did to Genichiro halfway (Ed. Note: less than halfway) through the game, but that’s neither here nor there. I felt like I could get to the fourth phase pretty consistently, but I just couldn’t get over the hump. I did not have enough resources or willpower to get through the last bit, no matter what I tried. Weirdly, though, I didn’t feel defeated. I felt focused and determined, and I knew it was pretty much now or never*.
I girded my loins. I felt a focus in the way I hadn’t prior. This happens when I’m on top of my game–all the chaff falls away, only leaving the wheat. Which is ironic given that I’m gluten-intolerant or at least sensitive. I liken it to self-medicating in that I’m so focused on something external, I don’t have to pay attention to the constant monologue in my head. I loathe meditation, but it is meditative to me. All that matters is the boss in front of me and my ability to defeat it. In the case of the last boss, I felt that as I was creeping up on six hours. My whole body was attuned to the boss I was fighting, and the house could have gone up in flames without me even noticing.
I put on Tim Minchin’s Canvas Bag on loop, and I quickly took care of Genichiro, Way of Tomoe. By this point, he was pretty much just a speed bump in my ability to get to the real fight, and it was amusing in passing how he had caused me so much drama and trauma earlier in the game, and now, he was nothing. To be fair, that part of the boss fight was the least difficult part, even with the lightning, but still. Got through the first phase of Isshin, the Sword Saint with little difficulty, then moved onto the second. As is often the case when it came to a winning run, he didn’t do the bullshit move that fucked me up every time in the past. Which move? The one where I thought it would be the jump move I wanted, but then turned into the spear poking me to death move.
Side Note: With every boss, there is one move that kills me. Every goddamn time. Part of a good run is one where the boss doesn’t do that move nearly as much, either because I successfully avoided procking it or because of RNG, I don’t know. Either way, I know it’s a good run when I don’t have to deal with the bullshit move that often.
Got through the second phase, and I still had a decent amount of heals left. I like to save the Fine Snow until the last phase and take it fairly early on so it can see me through the first part of the last phase. I felt a strange sense of calm as the skies darkened and the lightning started to crack. I have to admit that from a stage-setting point of view, the mood was electric (see what I did there?) as I breathed slowly and smoothly for the final phase. I wasn’t jittery, and I wasn’t afraid. I was bone tired, but I took a deep breath and faced Isshin one last time.
I can’t even really tell you what happened because everything was such a blur. I was focused, but I wasn’t really latching onto anything. Everything flowed around me as I dashed, stabbed, and used the Mortal Draw which extends the blade reach and staggers the opponent for a second. It was the only thing I used Spirit Emblems for in this boss fight, and it saved my bacon more than a few times. As per yooz, I didn’t pay attention to how much health he had left as I whittled away his Vitality. I didn’t want anything to distract me, especially not my own brain. When I finally got the third and final beloved Deathblow icon, I nearly lost my composure. I almost didn’t press RB, but I did. Then I had to press it again. Then, he told me to do it, and I pressed it one more time. He praised me as he was dying, and I bid him sayonara before finishing him off. The death sequence was amazing, and it felt very befitting of the battle and the end of the game.
What did I feel as his body finally fell and he didn’t get up (hey, it’s FromSoft. I was fully expecting there could be a fifth phase)? I felt relief. And a quiet sense of elation. Pride. I cried real tears, and there was no giggling this time. The moment was very internal and private, which I’m now sharing with the world. I can’t fully explain how I felt at that moment because I don’t completely understand it myself. I have never felt like this at the end of FromSoft game, ever. I had given the fight everything I had, and it nearly wasn’t enough. I was pushed to the limits of my patience, ability, and resources, and I barely pulled it off. I spent a good five minutes wandering around the arena after I killed Isshin, the Sword Saint, just soaking in the win.
Once I had recovered enough to DM Ian about it in a very subdued fashion (not peppered with expletives as I normally would), I found Lord Kuro lying in the field and picked my ending. I want to be fully honest with you. I knew there were multiple endings, and I knew which one I wanted. I did not want the ‘bad’ ending which cut off the last quarter of the game, and I wanted the best of the ‘good’ endings, which meant doing a lot of finicky bullshit in a very precise order.
I watched as the ending cutscene occurred, and it really touched me. The ending seems to suggest a sequel (which, yeah, I’m not sure how I feel about it), but I just really liked the imagery and implications of the ending I chose. It’s been a little over a week since I beat the game, and I still haven’t fully digested it yet. I’ll have plenty more to say about the game, but for now, I’ll leave you with this–I beat Sekiro, and I could not be prouder of myself.
*In my brain, but not in reality. I would have tried the next day and the next and the next day, but in the moment, it felt very do or die. Probably die.