Previously, on Shaftkiro: Reviews Die Twice…
This game is teaching me the path to success as I play it. I find my style of combat evolving from fight to fight. I am deeply engaged on both a textual and subtextual level.
Today, on Shaftkiro…
FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, MOTHER MOTHER FUCK, MOTHER MOTHER FUCK, MOTHER MOTHER FUCK FUCK, MOTHER FUCK, MOTHER FUCK, PURPLE SHINOBI.
I could go on like that. I really could.
It does not bother me that the purple shinobi was a stupidly hard fight – a fight that sucked up two frustrating hours of my life. I went into this experiment with my eyes open, and I knew some fights were going to be a little more picante than others.
This is fine.
The pisser here is the way I ended up beating him. This should have been a posture battle. The true path to victory should have come through deflecting, and counter striking. To the best of my knowledge, there is no button mashing series of attacks, or magic items, that will let one beat the purple shinobi on a gimmick. He exists as the master class on the more subtle and refined elements of this game’s combat. I almost had him. Three times I came within a hair’s breadth of breaking his posture and plunging my sword into his chest. I know I would have had him if he hadn’t booped me off a cliff, and thus exposed himself as a bit of a derp.
Grumbling, I made my way back to the top of the cliff, and I expected to cross steel with the purple shinobi again. Instead, I found him with his back turned to me. Come on. He had to know I was coming back. Why would he drop his guard? It was a strange out of body experience as I watched myself watching Okami put his blade in the purple shinobi’s back.
Hurrah. I won. And the item in the pagoda wasn’t even the firecracker that I wanted.
Spoiler: I had to backtrack to find that in the neighborhood of the chained ogre’s area.
Such an anticlimactic outcome. I won, but it was a victory that tasted like ash. I wanted to beat the purple shinobi, a character faster, stronger, and seemingly better than Okami, in a stand-up battle. Instead, I feel like I cheated.
A family reunion between Okami and his adopted father, Owl, salvaged the session. What transpired between the two men is another moment of intense emotional resonance. Like so many other characters in the game, Owl demands that Okami remember his oath to Lord Kuro, and serve/save their master. There’s no discussion of their father/son relationship. Nor is there any discussion of any unresolved issues between them. Their relationship is seemingly defined entirely by their shared duty to serve a feudal lord.
Bearing this in mind, I don’t think the game is doing something so sophomoric as to engage in a discourse on free will. Rather, I think I’ll see obligation writ very large as a recurring theme as I move out of the game’s first act. For the time being, Okami having to witness his father’s death with stoic professionalism is another reminder that Sekiro is not Dark Souls in either mechanics or narrative.