Underneath my yellow skin

Sekiro: one last stance (a million times)

Ed. Note: End game. Spoilers. You definitely know the drill by now. 

for that is my calling.
My Lord regrets sending me to my death. Again.

I put down the controller for the day after two hours of fighting the last boss. I felt ok during Genichiro’s phase as long as I didn’t immediately eat it in the first ten seconds. I still think it’s funny that either he beat the crap out of me the minute I stepped into the arena, or I got through him with little care. The first phase of Isshin, the Sword Saint was also not too bad once I figured out my strategy. Running in circles around him, clockwise if possible, bait out one of two attacks, then get in two hits after his attack, then hop back. Rinse. lather, repeat. That took a long time, so sometimes, I would attack him, but that was more unpredictable. I preferred the running around him in circles strat for this phase.

Side Note: I was liberally looking up tips and strats in the last quarter of the game. I did it first to make sure I wasn’t doing the absolutely wrong thing. Then, after an hour or two of banging my head against the boss, I looked up the cheese. I’ll get to it that in a second. I was heartened to know that I basically was doing the right thing in general for each boss, even if I wasn’t doing it skillfully. I will say for the Corrupted Monk (True Monk), I just couldn’t be arsed to learn her moves properly. I wasn’t going to put in hours, and I don’t know why I balked with that boss when I went all out with the last three bosses. I think it’s because she didn’t seem that important to me. I know she is from a lore standpoint, but it’s not as if she were talked about all the time. In my mind, she was just this obstacle to me moving on with the game, and I didn’t feel invested in fighting her. In addition, having three Deathblow icons pissed me off (oh, I was so naive back then). Her second phase was utter bullshit (and, yes, I know I probably could have learned it), and it reminds me that the line between hard but fair and flat-out bullshit is razor-thin in these games.

I also want to say that yes, you can ‘cheese’ many of the end bosses in this game (most of the bosses, really), but you still have to learn the movesets well enough to bait out the moves you want–which isn’t easy. I mentioned before that the cheese for the Demon of Hatred was harder to navigate than actually fighting him, and I couldn’t achieve the jumps needed for the other cheese for that fight. I have my thoughts on cheese and an easy mode, which I’ll save for another post. Or later in this post if I have enough room for it, which I probably won’t.

Side Note to the Side Note: I will say that my constant hatred of FromSoft games in the second half makes me wonder if it’s a flaw of design or user error, or both. These games are really dense, and they’re above my pay grade. Supposedly, a first playthrough is going to take an experienced player 50 – 90 hours. This game took me 124 hours with a fifth of those hours being the top five hardest bosses in the game for me (more on that later, of course). And to be fair, I’ve gone back and played every game again, and even with Sekiro, I did some clean-up yesterday including killing the three Headlesses I had left untouched. I also grinded a bit to get some skills. Shadowrush for one, which is really useful, and I should have gotten it so much earlier. I was working on the Prosthetics Tree, though, so I left it until later. Then, the idea of grinding out 6 Skill Points at the end game was daunting, but there’s a known grinding spot that can net roughly 8,000 Skill XP in a minute or so which is about a third of a Skill Point in the end game. That made the grind not so bad, and I got both Shadowrush (6 Skill Points) and Ashina Cross (5 Skill Points). Plus one on the Temple Arts Skill Tree that cost three Skill Points. I may just do this ad infinitum until I get all the skills, but I kinda want to move into NG+.

See? It’s getting me. I said I was done with it once I finished NG, and now I’m itching to try NG+. It might be because it’s been such a habit to play Sekiro every day, but I’m also curious to see how OP I would be in the beginning of the game and if I can beat Genichiro in the tutorial area now that I have all my skills and prosthetics.

Back to Isshin, the Sword Saint. If I didn’t make it to his second phase with at least 6 Healing Gourds, I didn’t feel good about my chances. Hell, I didn’t feel good about it even then, but it was the bare minimum I thought I’d need for the last two phases. His second phase was my personal bane. I tried to fight him head on, but I kept failing again and again. There was one time I was so enraged by the fight, I pounded the coffee table with my hand several times as I cursed him out at the top of my lungs. I think it was when a lock-on fail/cliff fall occurred, and I was close to making it to the last phase.

This boss fucking cheats. I’m just going to say it. He’s supposed to be a samurai, but he’s not noble at all. I’m allowed to cheat because I’m a shinobi and we have no honor. He’s supposed to be honorable, but he lost his humanity (literally) in his zeal to protect Ashina. It’s the same with Genichiro. he allowed his sense of duty to his people/land/heritage to corrupt him until he was no longer recognizable. By the last time I see him, he is but a shell of the man I met in the fields in the tutorial area a long time ago. Over a hundred hours ago, to be more precise.

oh, it's on.
Isshin, the Sword Saint is not happy to be disturbed.

Isshin should not be able to wield a sword, a spear, and a gun at the same time. He should not be able to glide across the ground so quickly, I can’t even track it with my eyes. There should not be a cliff or high flowers, and the inclement weather didn’t help me visually–even though it looked amazing. He should not be able to do infinite combos without breaking a sweat, even though there is no stamina in this game. I still have to take a pause now and again after doing several attacks, and, yes, I know it has to do with Posture–speaking of which, by the way, to do sustained damaged on bosses in this game is really hard for me. Watching their Posture regain quickly is so fucking discouraging. With Isshin in the second phase, I pretty much had to whittle his health down to nothing before I got the Deathblow on him. I know better players than I can do it the aggressive way, but that just got me wrecked.

The first time I made it to the fourth and final phase (his third phase), it was after three hours (total, and on the second day) of fighting him. I was praying that the last phase wouldn’t be as difficult as the third, but I wasn’t counting on it. When I actually made it to the last phase, I knew he could bust out the lightning attack, which, in theory, could be reversed, but I never got that to work with him. I found it better to just jump backwards or to the side out of range because it did such massive damage, both to Vitality and to Posture. His other new attack was sending out shock waves, but those were easy to stay away from. The rest of his attacks were the same, but he didn’t seem as aggressive in this phase. In his second phase, he was relentless. He chased me all the time, and I barely had time to breathe, let alone heal. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to heal only to have to heal again because he hit me while I was healing.

Side Note II or III: Now that I’m watching people play Sekiro, I find myself screaming at them not to use Pellets and other consumables. Marz is a woman I quite like, and I almost had a fit as she bought a Divine Grass with a Treasure Carp Scale and immediately consumed it. She did the same with the Mibu Balloons she found, and I was losing my mind. The Mibu Balloons are not as rare, but they’re still worth saving and using when you grind, not just when you’re standing around. That wasn’t as bad as wasting the Divine Grass, however. There are like four or five in the entire game, and they are an incredible heal.

It’s also hard to watch them play and miss shit in the game. I was very thorough with my exploration, and I still missed a few things. Another woman I’m watching, Alaska, who I’m not sure if I like or not, but I’m willing to give her a shot, is fighting Gyoubu Oniwa, the horse general, without the Shinobi Firecracker prosthetic. You buy the plan for it from a merchant who is tucked out of the way, and I only found him because I was looking up something else. But I see them missing shortcuts or items, and it’s hard not to yell things at the screen. I would never stream a FromSoft game, by the way, because it would be so stressful and not fun for anyone.

With Isshin, I learned that I did not want to fight every combo of his during his second phase. His infinite sweep combo did so much Posture damage, and the Mikiri Counter I got at the end of it just wasn’t worth it. What I wanted to do and what was the accepted ‘cheese’ for this phase was bait out his jump slam, move towards him and to his side, get in two hits, then run away and reset. This was the move that caused the lock-on to unlock from time to time, so it was frustrating. In addition, for whatever reason, sometimes my leap to the side wasn’t an actual leap to the side. Don’t know what to say about that except maybe I ran up against an invisible wall.

This also meant that it took a long time to get through this phase. Also, sometimes, he would do what I thought was the beginning to the overhead jump, and it would turn out to be a different move. In addition, I had to keep an eye out for the goddamn cliff which I could never seem to keep in proper view. As I’ve mentioned, I have spatial awareness issues, so that just added more stress to the occasion. The cliff got me probably ten times overall and out-and-out killed me at least four or five out of thirty or so times. I’m not counting the deaths in the first phase where I either killed myself or let Genichiro kill me. I really despaired of ever getting past the third phase (his second phase) because I was so sucky at it. Even when I was trying to bait out the jump attack, I would get caught in one of his million other attacks and lose so much health. Even when I went into this phase with eight Health Gourds, I still couldn’t manage it. When I finally made it to the last phase, it felt more like a mistake than an actual accomplishment.

The first time I made it to the final phase, I managed to get the Posture damage almost full, but I had no heals. He killed me, and I was lamenting my lack of healing items. Still, for the first time, I thought it might actually be possible to beat this boss. The last phase wasn’t as difficult as the third for whatever reason in spite of the bullshit lightning attack, and if only I had one or two more healing items, I could do it easily. Hey, let me have some delusions!

Needless to say, I couldn’t make it out of his second phase with any regularity. In hour three of that session, five over all, I started playing music to relax myself. I started with Psy’s Gangnam Style, and I moved to The Pina Colada Song by Rupert Holmes, Axis of Awesome’s 4 Chords, and Canvas Bag by Tim Minchin. I played each on loop until I got sick of it and moved to the next. I used to stick to The Pina Colada Song, but as the game got harder, it wasn’t enough to do the trick on its own. Yes, I killed Owl (Father) with it, but I ended up using Gangnam Style for the Demon of Hatred. It’s not the song itself but the ability to chill the fuck out and relax. And maybe to laugh. I get way too tense for these boss fights, so much so that I’m sometimes lightheaded from holding my breath by the end of a try.

I suck so bad at these games, but I literally can’t quit them. I theorized it was similar to how I lusted after people who were bad for me for whatever reason. They didn’t want me; they were gay (male), straight (female), married and monogamous, not into commitment, or whatever other reason. It’s the same with FromSoft games. They don’t give a shit about me one whit, and yet, I am so into them. Ian and I have argued about whether the games are meant for me or not (he thinks I’m the exact target audience and I heartily disagree), and I firmly know that they are very much out of my league.

In addition, I think FromSoft has bought its own hype to a certain extent. I’ve said this before, but the DLC of every FromSoft game is for the hardcore fans, and I felt like the end of this game was the same way. It really started happening with the DLC of DS III, and it ramped up to a hundred with this game. I know there are the elite fanbois who are saying how easy it is and you just got to git gud lol. I have to remind myself that most of the people who are streaming this game aren’t going to be ass at it, but it’s discouraging to see them beat a boss on the first try that took me an hour.

Anyhoo, I was still having trouble with the third phase of Isshin (his second phase). I just couldn’t do it efficiently and quickly, and I never had enough heals by that point of the fight. Plus, mentally, I was spent by that point. Six to ten minutes at this point, and no end in sight. It really felt like a battle each and every time, and I knew I should take a break around this time. I really should. I can do max two hours at a time before my brain starts breaking down. I felt it tickling at the back of my brain, though. I felt I had it in me. I didn’t want to say it out loud and jinx myself, but I kept pressing on.

I reached about a fourth of his health left/posture bar build up, and that’s when the lock-on became lock-off, and he knocked me off the fucking cliff. This was when I raged and nearly threw my controller, but I restrained myself. I broke a controller while fighting the Nameless King, and I did not want to do that again.

Side Note III or IV: The Nameless King was one of the toughest bosses in Dark Souls III if not the whole Soulsborne series up to that point. I can’t tell you how many times I died to him in NG, both as my pyro and as a tank. I finally gave up on soloing him until NG+ on my pyro build. He was by far the hardest boss for me in any of the Soulsborne games*, and he wouldn’t even rank in my top five in this game. Yes, I will tell you who my five hardest bosses are in this game at some point, but I just wanted to give you context as to how nails-hard I found this game.

All right. Running long again, and I still haven’t gotten to the last phase. We’ll meet again, and I promise I’ll tackle the end of the game in the next post. Maybe.





*I summoned for three of the five bosses in the Bloodborne DLC because I just couldn’t be stuffed at that point. I am curious how I would find them now.

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