Underneath my yellow skin

Sekiro: five bosses that stayed with me

*BONUS POST*

she's got the claws out.
She looks friendly, doesn’t she?

I’ve been promising a breakdown of the top 5 bosses, e.g. the top hardest bosses in the game for me for quite some time, and I decided to write that post today. Am I going to write them in the order of least hard to hardest or in order of when I met them? I don’t know. I’m making it up as I go along. What I do know is that I’m going to meander first and talk about bosses in general because that’s my way. Why use ten words when a hundred will do?

Let’s talk bosses. There are nearly fifty bosses + mini-bosses in this game. I faced thirteen or fourteen actual bosses and over thirty mini ones, several of whom were replicates. My most hated boss in the game is Headless. He wasn’t the hardest, but he was easily the most annoying and felt the cheapest. Having five of them was irritating as fuck. Yes, I know they’re optional, and, yes, I know they give you the Spiritfalls (one each), and, yes, that means they tie in neatly with the lore, but fuck them. Fuck their Terror bullshit. Fuck their slow you down so you’re walking in molasses bullshit. Fuck their teleporting behind you and pulling out your innards through your rectum bullshit. Just fuck them, fuck them, fuck them.

Fuck also the Shimichen Warriors, all three of them. It’s the Terror bullshit, really. I can’t tell you how much I fucking hate the Terror status and the way it can instantly kill you if your meter reaches max. I know it’s similar to Curse in the other games, but it’s way more prevalent in this game. I will say having the Phoenix’s Lilac Umbrella that deflects apparitions has made the Terror bullshit so much easier. I’ll get to that in a second.

Honestly, I would have preferred 10% less content if that meant cutting out all the duplicate bosses. I’ve said before that I feel like FromSoft sometimes gets tripped up on having to live up to their own hype, and this is one of those times. There will always be players who whine about how there isn’t enough content, but does anyone really want multiples of the same bosses? I’m sure there are probably some, but I am pretty comfortable in saying they’re the minority.

Ok. On with the list.

5. Madame Butterfly. Yes, yes, she’s Lady Butterfly, but she’s always Madame Butterfly in my head. Man, I still have all the feels about her. One of the Let’s Plays I’m watching faced her much later and had five Healing Gourds. FIVE. I had one and then two. I mean….Anyway. I faced her in NG+. I was curious to see if I could beat her the normal way rather than spamming one move (Nightjar Slash). The answer is yes, and no. I fought her the normal way for most of the fight, but then just got tired of it before the first Deathblow icon. I Nightjar Slashed into the second phase, which I find slightly easier except for how much damage her goddamn butterflies do. When I use her shuriken, I don’t do nearly as much damage. I rarely use them because they cost two Spirit Emblems as opposed to one for the other shurikens.

Madame Butterfly is still a handful in NG+, but nowhere near as difficult as she was the first time around. I died to her once in the second phase because I got greedy and tried to heal at an inopportune time. She hit me with the butterflies and took all my health. I had maybe a fourth of her health bar left, and I called her many nasty names as I died. I got her the second time, but it was still a hard fight. I cursed her soundly as I fought her, and I cursed her even more as I killed her. I did use one of the Bundled Jizo Statues to rez a second time in the second phase because they’re handed out much more frequently than in NG and in place of important items, such as where I found Prosthetic Tools or Prayer Beads in the NG, for example.  It’s funny because using the Bundled Jizo Statue gives me a steaming effect, and I have no idea why. (Ed. Note: I learned it’s not the statue–it’s the Umbrella Prosthetic Tool. It smokes when you use it to deflect projectiles, and it doesn’t stop until you switch Prosthetic Tools or die.)

The first time around, I fought her for hours before I even caught a glimpse of her second phase. I am slow, and my reactions aren’t great, so facing a fast enemy like her tested all of my skills, especially so early in the game. I honestly wondered if I could ever get past her, and I was contemplating putting down the game. I looked to the forums in desperation, which was how I found the one magical tip that got me past her. And, yes, I did use the Nightjar Slash liberally in NG+, but I also did other things, too. I would say for where  she is in the game, Lady Butterfly might be two or three in terms of difficulty, but overall, I’m placing her fifth.

4. Owl (Father). Lord. I had to take a minute to compose myself before writing about this fight. If you remember, this is a fight I didn’t have to do for the ending I had chosen, but I knew I would feel bad about myself if I skipped him without giving him an honest try. The problem was, I had just fought him, and I was pretty much DONE with the game at this point. I wanted the game to be over, and my brain was saying, “You don’t have to do him, you know.”

i hate to see you go.
Sayonara, Father.

The first time I faced him as Great Shinobi Owl, he wasn’t too bad. I got him in probably ten or twelve tries, and I never got too frustrated. Facing him as Owl (Father), however, was a whole different matter. It had been three years earlier, and he was more in his prime. Life hadn’t treated him quite as harshly, and he was ready to rumble.

Side Note: I think it’s bullshit that one hit by the bosses do so much damage to me whereas my attacks do so little in return. I hate it when bosses have a one-shot kill, especially this late in the game. With my fat and sassy health bar, I should be able to sustain any hit with more than just a sliver. If he did the Mikiri Counter on me, it killed me every time (his followup hit). If I did a Mikiri Counter and one hit on him, it did jack and shit to his Vitality. I wrote a whole post on him so I don’t feel the need to write much more, but I really did think about just stopping. I didn’t have to beat him in order to get my ending, so why was I–I know why. Pride. It’s all pride. It was a real boss, and I could not in good conscience just ignore him.

Why did I place him fourth? Because as difficult as he was, there are harder in the game. He would easily be the hardest boss in any Soulsborne game, but he’s only number four in this game. Just by a hair, though. I really want to go back to the DLC of Bloodborne and see if I can solo the three bosses I summoned for. They’re very different games, however, so I might still really struggle with those bosses if I went back.

Back to Owl (Father). Another reason I placed him here is because his second phase is markedly easier than the first one. Maybe it’s because I learned his moves so well in the first phase and the two new additions in the second phase were easily avoidable because they were telegraphed so widely, but I got him on the third or fourth time I reached the second phase.

3. Demon of Hatred. This guy. THIS GUY. First of all, he has three Deathblow icons right off the bat, which was not a good sign. Second, he looks like every demon/cleric beast enemy from the other Soulsborne games put together. Third, he’s made of fire and has a big fuckall fire arm. Fire. Why’s it gotta be fire?

I also devoted an entire post to this guy, so I’m not going to write about the mechanics of this fight that much. I will say that I tried out the cheese fairly early in this fight because I just wanted it over. I couldn’t do the jumping and making him kill himself cheese because I couldn’t nail the jumps, and while I was not happy about it at the time, I was glad afterwards because that would have made me feel like shit to miss the entire fight. I managed to get the other cheese (trapping him in a corner) a few times, but it actually made the fight harder for me. I decided it was bullshit and that I had to fight him the old-fashioned way.

His perilous attacks were unfair. It’s very hard to see the red kanji above his head against a sea of flames. Plus, again, if I got caught in it with anything less than absolute full health, it instantly killed me. He’s an optional boss, and I can’t tell you how many times I told myself to just skip him. I knew I wouldn’t, of course, because that would be punk of me, and I resigned myself to be stuck on this boss forever. I found the best thing to do was treat him like a Dark Souls boss, circle with him, and smack that ass. Any time I let him get any distance on him, his stupid ranged attacks did so much damage. By sticking close to him, I naturally limited him to a few melee attacks, which was much more manageable.

I put this boss at three, but he could have easily been fourth as well. The difference in difficulty between him and Owl (Father) is a hair’s breadth, and it probably would flip-flop every time I fought them. I put Demon of Hatred slightly ahead of Owl (Father) because he has three phases and he set me on fire all the goddamn time. Suzaku’s Lotus Umbrella saved my bacon more times than I care to admit during this fight. I have to say, I heavily used the Shinobi Firecracker during the first two-thirds of the game, and I thought it was by far the best Prosthetic Tool in the game. It wasn’t even close. Then, I started using the different umbrellas, and I’ve completely changed my mind. For one Spirit Emblem, I can twirl the basic umbrella, Loaded Umbrella, for an infinite amount of time to defend myself against any attack. Against anything that deals Terror, I can do the same with the Phoenix’s Lilac Umbrella, which makes the umpteen mini-boss clones who dish out Terror much more manageable. I can also use it for offensive reasons, and it’s so fucking versatile. It’s now at the top of my list of faves.

Demon of Hatred is a grueling boss. War of attrition and all that. I used most of my really powerful heals on him and most of my Bundled Jizo Statues. I also got him down to one hit from death and trapped in a corner when I got greedy and ran right into a stream of fire. That’s when I decided the cheese wasn’t really cheese, and I abandoned that tactic. This is a grueling fight, yes, but it wasn’t nearly as gruesome as….

2. Genichiro, Way of Tomoe/Isshin, the Sword Saint. A weird feeling washes over me every time I think of this boss. It’s a mix of reverence, exasperation, fondness, and something approaching awe. I’ve never felt this way about a boss and about beating a boss, not even Biggie and Small (O&S) from the original Dark Souls, which was my previous standard for exhilarating feelings in beating a difficult boss.

I think with Isshin, it’s partly because he clearly was meant to be the hardest boss in the game and a statement. Again, this is where I think FromSoft bought into its own hype and really wanted to go out with a bang. I have said often that there is a fine line between hard but fair and unfairly difficult. I think this boss crossed it for several reasons. See my previous post on him for those reasons, but it includes the fact that he wields a sword, a giant fuckall spear, and a handgun at the same time. Plus, he has lightning in the last phase in addition to all the other bullshit. And he can glide across the ground at a speed I can barely see, and he has combos up the yin-yang.

The last half of this game made me question my stance on difficulty modes (I’m against them for FromSoft games), and I’m still mulling it over now. I’ve leaned back towards not having them, though, and I’ll tell you why. It’s for the same reason I’m glad I didn’t get the jump/kill himself cheese on the Demon of Hatred. I would have felt cheap if I had beaten him that way, and I would have felt hollow if I were able to knock down the difficulty on Isshin* in order to finish him off.

This may just be hindsight talking or the fact that I beat the game, but I would rather have set aside the game unfinished (which I contemplated during this fight, believe you, me) than have given in and knocked down the difficulty to beat him. I would have felt as if I cheated myself, but I know I would have been tempted to hit that button to simplify his moveset or get rid of the lightning–actually, his lightning attack wasn’t that big a deal, so I probably would have left it alone, but if I had had the option to get rid of that goddamn six or seven combo with the spear, I would have. In a heartbeat.

But I didn’t have that option, so I either had to give up on the boss, or I had to beat him. I chose the latter option, obviously, though I still don’t feel as if I actually beat him. I outlasted him, and I lived to tell the tale. This is probably my biggest moment of pride game-wise, and I still can’t fully describe why. It won’t mean I’ll stop trying, but I’ll lay it to rest for this post at least.

I can hear you saying to yourselves, “Minna, if he’s all that and a bag of chips, why isn’t he your number one?” I’ll tell you why as I reveal number one (y’all probably realize who it is before I even say it).

1. Genichiro Ashina/Genichiro, Way of Tomoe.

here is where i set down my controller and walk away.
Oh hell fucking no.

I’m just leaving his name on its own line because. Because why? Because he deserves it. Both in a good and bad way. Let me be clear. He is not the hardest boss in the game. That would be Isshin. Genichiro is, however, by far the hardest boss in the game for where he is–roughly halfway through (Ed. Note: Less than half-way). He is a hard skill check, and he is the one who made me seriously contemplate quitting the game. Not just for a second, but for the entire time I was fighting him. It took me hours just to get to the second phase, and then more hours to get the second Deathblow.

I was exultant when I got the second Deathblow. I can’t tell you how jubilant and elated I was. Then, a cutscene, and he wouldn’t stop talking. Oh, hell, no. No, no, no, no, no. Do not fucking tell me there’s a third phase. That was my brain as I watched Genichiro strip off his armor and become Genichiro, Way of Tomoe.** I had nothing–literally nothing. No Healing Gourds, no Pellets, NOTHING. He immediately attacked me with a perilous attack, and I nearly bit it. I had a rez, of course, but that was it. To my surprise, this phase wasn’t as hard as the previous, lightning aside, because he had no armor, the asshole. That made attacking him so much easier.

I died. I wasn’t expecting anything, different, but I didn’t feel too bad about the third phase. I still expected to die to him many more times just trying to get to the third phase, but I felt if I could make it to the final phase with three or four Healing Gourds out of seven at the time, I think, then I could actually do it. I still felt shitty because it took so much out of me to reach the third phase, and I was tired of fighting him. I spread the fights out over four days, and I was in hour five by the end of it. I could see this boss taking me another week, which I did not want.

It’s funny because I DM’ed Ian saying I didn’t think I could beat this boss as I was struggling during hour five. He made soothing noises at me, and I strengthened my resolve. I put on The Pina Colada Song on loop, and I went into the fray one more time. When I finally beat him, I laughed and cried, and I let out an exultant whoop that I had never uttered before. I felt like a god. A bruised and battered god, yes, but a god, nonetheless. You couldn’t say shit to me, and I watched the cutscene afterwards through the lens of a dopamine high.

By the way, for the second half of this game, my way of dealing with a boss win was to watch the ensuing cutscene and then quitting the game so I could feel good for more than a hot minute. These five fights took it all out of me, and I was wise to rejuvenate afterwards, even if it only lasted a minute. These are the five hardest boss fights in the game for me, and I remember each of them distinctly, if not fondly. They are the flagstaff fights for me, and the ones that will define my gaming experience forever.

 

 

 

*That’s before we even get into the discussion of what that would actually entail.

**I’ve said I don’t think there will be DLC, but if there is, there are two different ways I’d like to see it play out. One, playing as the Sculptor in his youth. Two, learning more about Lady Tomoe, a character who is mentioned several times throughout the game. She of the ‘Way of Tomoe’ is someone about whom I would like to know more. She has nothing to do with Wolf, though, so I can’t see it happening because it would be really strange to have the DLC be Sekiro-less. (Which would have to happen in my first scenario as well.)

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