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How My Blood Boils: Ranking the Bosses of ‘Sekiro’

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Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a game that enters into a long held tradition of From Software games with gnarly difficulty and epic bosses. Bosses aren’t just an addition in Dark Souls or Bloodborne, they are a main feature. Every one of them is a mountain to be ascended, and you’re just going to have to train yourself on how to climb these particular mountains.

Sekiro is no different in this regard. With 16 epic bosses, From’s shinobi opus of honor and blood utilizes an adaptive version of battle and traversal from previous games to create some of the most intense, soul-shaking, sweat-drenched battles in the history of the medium… and we’re here to break ’em down for you, live and in color.

16) Corrupted Monk

Sekiro Corrupted Monk
By far the least engaging boss in Sekiro is the first version of the Corrupted Monk. Essentially an over-large version of one of the game’s many mini-bosses, this iteration of the Corrupted Monk has very little to offer. Also, with only a single deathblow marking his end, he is one of the most easily conquered, and least satisfying, bosses in the game. Though he puts up a decent fight, his place is destined to be at the bottom of this list.

15) Headless Ape


By the time you’ve reached the Headless Ape, you’ve already dealt with a headless ape. The shock of the initial ape getting up after his decapitation is a fantastic moment, but this battle is just redundant. The second stage tries to spice things up by introducing a second ape, which makes things much more frenetic, but since this additional ape shares the same attack patterns, it still just feels like a re-skinned boss, tougher though it might be.

14) True Corrupted Monk

Sekiro True Monk

Though the setting of this fight is jaw-dropping, like with the Headless Ape, most players will be left wondering why they’re doing this all over again. The True Corrupted Monk would actually be a pretty cool boss, had you not already faced an inferior version of her earlier, but since you have, even her evolved second and third forms bring little enough to the table to make her truly impressive. However, points for the moment when that centipede head bursts out in the third stage… pure nightmare fuel.

13) Lady Butterfly


Depending on how you play the game, Lady Butterfly will either be the first or second boss you face in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Either way, she’s one tough nut to crack. She moves fast, walks on invisible tightropes, and faces you in one of the games best settings. Unfortunately, her second form does too little to justify its existence, leaving most frustrated players wanting this fight to be over with. Her design though, wow. I’ll bet you’ve never battled an elderly ninja warrior in any game, ever.

12) Folding Screen Monkeys

Sekiro
Though this placement may be somewhat divisive, I think the Folding Screen Monkeys are one of the best surprises in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Reminiscent of the classic Metal Gear Solid 3 boss, The End, the Folding Screen Monkeys fight sees you sneaking around and utilizing environmental hazards in order to get the best of the 4 eponymous primates, one by one. With plenty of fun mechanics and the sinister ghost monkeys always on your trail, this is a battle that starts seemingly easy before growing increasingly tense.

11) Divine Dragon


In a time-honored tradition of From Software games, the Divine Dragon is a puzzle style boss. A huge, imposing God who must be defeated via cunning rather than might, the Divine Dragon is more bark than bite. Once you get past the trash mob first stage, you will mainly be reckoning with your own anxiety more than anything. After you’ve got a hold of yourself, you’ll see that the Divine Dragon takes very little to conquer. Still, with lightning striking and soaring gales of wind, this battle is epic in every sense of the word.

10) Genichiro, Way of Tomoe


Even if your second run-in with Genichiro has only a little to set it apart from the final stage of the previous encounter, the setting and stakes of the fight make the Way of Tomoe a moment of true tension. Now equipped with the Black Mortal Blade, Genichiro brings everything he’s got in order to take down Wolf and take the Dragon’s Heritage by force. The whistling reeds, strong winds, and a storm brewing on the horizon make the final battle with Genichiro an intense affair.

9) Great Shinobi Owl

Sekiro Owl
Owl is a fierce opponent, and probably one of the main walls players will hit in terms of Sekiro bosses. His massive sword, the speed of his strikes, and the small size of the arena will leave players scrambling to overcome him. All it takes is one mistake, and Owl can have you down for the count. Also, when things get tough, Owl is not afraid to fight dirty. A brutal encounter, charged with rage and treachery, the fight with Owl is a battle to be remembered.

8) Isshin Ashina


Siding with Owl at a crucial plot point will unlock this battle, and seal the player’s fate as a Shura. Isshin Ashina may be old but he’s still one of the greatest warriors in the land, and when he steps up to put down the latest Shura, he means business. Though the fight begins as a straightforward duel with a sword-fighting master, it evolves into a daring feast for the eyes, as Wolf and Isshin weave their way in and out of flames in a desperate battle for victory.

7) Owl Father


There are two moments in the game where Wolf will be struck by an unseen blade off screen, dooming him to death. As players might suspect, Owl, your adoptive father, is responsible for both. This secret boss, in the flashback at Hirata Estate, confirms as much. Younger, faster and more sinister, Owl Father is an even crueler version of the wall that players hit earlier in the game with the elder Owl. His second stage, complete with a flaming spirit of an owl will test the mettle of even the greatest Sekiro players.

6) Emma, the Gentle Blade

Sekiro Emma
Though the battle with Emma is a short one, requiring only a single death blow, it still stands out in the mire of Sekiro boss fights for a few clear reasons. First of all, Emma is only the third woman you do battle with in the game. Second, she doesn’t fight you with malice, but with the sort of resigned disappointment of someone who expected better from you. Finally, her delicate battle style and graceful movement bely a deadly warrior hiding in the cloak of a physician. A truly jarring and morally challenging fight, Emma will leave the Shura Wolf wondering what he has done after defeating her.

5) Gyoubu Masataka Oniwa


While Gyoubu Masataka Oniwa might not be the first boss you will face in the game, he will certainly be the first you’ll defeat. As such, Gyoubu is the first true test of the player’s mettle, and that makes him very memorable. A hulking samurai warrior sat astride an armored war horse, Gyoubu’s speed and reach make him seem insurmountable until players notice the small telltale grapple sign each time he wheels his horse around. A thrilling battle, Gyoubu will push players to the edge before they can achieve victory over him.

4) Guardian Ape

The Guardian Ape is one of the largest and most intimidating enemies in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Players will encounter him sitting peacefully at a pool of water, but once he takes notice of you, look out. He’s big, he’s fast, and he hits like a truck. He’s also not afraid to get dirty in order to win. However, the best part of this fight doesn’t come until the moment you think you’ve won. After decapitating the Guardian Ape, he returns from the dead, swinging a massive katana and his own disembodied head at you as his new weapons. Shocking, visceral and brutal, the Guardian Ape is one of the most memorable encounters in the game.

3) Genichiro Ashina

Sekiro Genichiro
Being the man who struck you down in the opening chapter of Sekiro, Genichiro Ashina is a foe players will be eagerly looking forward to facing again. However, when you finally do reach him, you might begin to re-think that sentiment. A fierce three stage battle, the showdown with Genichiro will push players to their limit at this stage in the game. The first two stages are a straightforward, if tough, duel with a warrior in his absolute prime, while the third will bring on the Lightning of Tomoe, a daring attack that can spell instant defeat. Equipped with a bevy of long and close range attacks, Genichiro is a man we must begrudgingly respect, even as we seek to dispatch him.

2) Demon of Hatred


Another secret boss, the Demon of Hatred isn’t just a stellar creature with an awesome design, he’s also the secret to a major part of Sekiro lore. When the Sculptor disappears later in the game, players are left to speculate on what has happened to him… that is until they find this massive Shura roaming the fiery refuse of a smoldering battlefield.  A towering demon with three health bars, the Demon of Hatred is less a boss than a full-on dominating force of nature. His vast arsenal of attacks, which increase in size and scope as the battle advances, are all capable of doing massive damage, if not taking the player down outright. A boss who requires patience and perseverance, the Demon of Hatred would be the most rewarding battle in the game were it not for the final boss.

1) Isshin, the Sword Saint


Isshin, the Sword Saint, is the final test of everything you’ve learned over the course of Sekiro. The battle with the man who started a bloody revolution and took power over the land is a fight for the ages. Players will have to master the block, dodge, parry, deflect and mikiri counter maneuvers in order to even have a sniff at taking down the Sword Saint. A gruelling three stage fight, Isshin begins with a katana, before unleashing a spear and pistol, and finally, the lightning of Tomoe. As embers bristle between you and Isshin, and a massive storm grows and roars in the background, Isshin advances mercilessly on the player. His thrill at returning from the grave for one last legendary battle comes out in his fierce battle cries, and if you mess up for even a split second, you can bet he will capitalize on your failings. A wildly challenging fight, the final encounter of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice will take absolutely everything you’ve got to come out on top.

Mike Worby is a human who spends way too much of his free time playing, writing and podcasting about pop culture. Through some miracle he's still able to function in society as if he were a regular person, and if there's hope for him, there's hope for everyone.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Jai

    May 12, 2019 at 11:38 pm

    Corrupted monk is female so Emma would be the 3rd.

    • Mike Worby

      May 13, 2019 at 6:57 pm

      Oh jeez, you’re right, I’ll make the correction. I even used “her” in the Corrupted Monk’s write up.

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Game Reviews

‘Coffee Talk’ Review: The Best Brew in Town

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

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It’s 9:00pm. The rain just started coming down softly a few minutes ago, and the street outside is reflecting the lights above it. Neon signs shine brightly in the distance, although it’s hard to make out the words. You unlock the doors to the coffee shop and wipe down the counters in order to get them clean for the customers. The rain makes a soft sound as it hits the glass and passerby speed up their walking pace to avoid it. The bells chime as a tall, green orc walks in and sits down at your table in silence. You wonder what their story is…

I wanted to set the tone for this review because of how important atmosphere and audio/visual design is in the world of Coffee Talk. While it’s easy to boil the game down as a visual novel-type experience, it’s honestly so much more than that. A unique cast of characters, incredible user interface, and a mysterious protagonist combine to form the most enjoyable experience I’ve had this year on Switch.

Coffee Talk
Some of the subject matter can be pretty serious in nature…

Coffee Talk is beautiful because of how simple it is. The entire game takes place within a single coffee shop. As the barista, you’re tasked with making drinks for the patrons of the shop as well as making conversations with them. The twist is that earth is populated with creatures like orcs, werewolves, and succubi. The relationship between the various races is handled very well throughout the story, and some interesting parallels are made to the real world.

Making drinks is as simple as putting together a combination of three ingredients and hitting the ‘Serve’ button. If a unique drink is made, it will be added to a recipe list that can be referenced on the barista’s cell phone. This is where the awesome user interface comes in, as the phone has a series of apps that can be accessed at any moment in the game. One app houses your recipe list, another acts as a facebook for the characters in the game, one allows you to switch between songs, and the other houses a series of short stories that one of the characters in the game writes as it progresses. It’s one of the coolest parts of the whole experience and helps it stand out from other games in the genre.

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

Coffee Talk cycles between talking with customers and making drinks for them. In the beginning, they will ask for basic beverages that can be brewed on the fly. Later on however, they may ask for a specific type of drink that has a unique title. These drinks often have certain descriptive features that hint at other possibilities in terms of unique dialogue. If the wrong drink is made, you’ll have five chances to trash it and make a new one. If the wrong drink is made, don’t expect the customer to be pleased about it.

The gameplay really is not the focus here though; it’s the characters and their stories that take center stage. An elf with relationship issues, a writer that can’t seem to pin down her next story, and an alien whose sole goal is to mate with an earthling are just a few of the examples of the characters you’ll meet during the story. There are tons of memorable moments throughout Coffee Talk, with every character bringing something unique to the table. The barista develops an interesting relationship with many of these characters as well.

Coffee Talk
Appearances can often be deceiving in this game.

Even though serving the wrong drinks can change some of the dialogue, don’t expect any sort of options or branching paths in terms of the story. It’s not that kind of experience; the story should simply be enjoyed for what it is. I found myself glued to the screen at the end of each of the in-game days, waiting to see what would happen in the morning. The first playthrough also doesn’t answer all of the game’s questions, as the second one is filled with all kinds of surprises that I won’t spoil here.


Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone who loves video games, not just visual novel fans. There are characters in the game that I’ll certainly be thinking about for a long time, especially when the setting brings out the best in them. Don’t pass this one up.

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The Magic of Nintendo: How Mario and Zelda Connect us to Our Inner Child

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Magic of Nintendo

Nintendo is special. Many excellent developers depend upon story or progression systems to entice engagement, but not Nintendo. Nintendo games captivate because of their immediate charm. There is no need for a payoff. The games, themselves, are enough: they elicit feelings, hard to find in adulthood. Through intrepid discovery, playful presentation, and unfiltered whimsy, the best of Nintendo connects gamers to their childlike selves.

The heart of any great Nintendo game is discovery and no encounter encapsulates this better than Breath of the Wild’s Eventide Island. First, finding the island requires genuine gumption. Found far from Hyrule’s shore, the island is only clearly visible from other islands, and even then, it’s only a speck in the distance. Reaching the island requires players to brave the open ocean and head towards something … that could be nothing. Then, upon arriving on the beach, a spirit takes all the player’s gear, including clothes and food. Link, literally, is left in his underwear. From there, players must make clever use of Link’s base skills in order to steal enemy weapons and make traps. The scenario creates a marvelous sense of self-sufficiency brought on by one’s own desire to discover. The player comes to the island purely of their own choosing, tackles the sea, and then overcomes obstacles without the aid of their strongest tools. The game turns players into plucky children who are discovering they can take care of themselves.

The intrepidity of Breath of the Wild and other Nintendo greats mirrors the feelings Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of many Nintendo franchises, experienced as a child. “I can still recall the kind of sensation I had when I was in a small river, and I was searching with my hands beneath a rock, and something hit my finger, and I noticed it was a fish,” Miyamoto told the New Yorker. “That’s something that I just can’t express in words. It’s such an unusual situation.” In sequences like Eventide Island, players don’t just understand what Miyamoto describes, they feel it: Apprehension gives way to exhilaration as the unknown becomes a place of play.

 Nintendo’s intrepid gameplay is often amplified by playful presentation with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island being the quintessential example. The game’s visuals, defined by pastel colors and simple hand-drawings, appear crayoned by a child while the celestial chimes that punctuate the jubilant soundtrack evoke shooting stars. The overall effect cannot be understated. It takes the surreal and turns it real, allowing players to interact, tangibly, with imagination.

Super Mario Odyssey Wooden Kingdom

Even if one removes the presentation and gameplay from Nintendo’s masterpieces, an unabashed creativity remains that bucks norm and convention. The arbiter is fun; reason and logic have no say. For instance, Super Mario Odyssey’s Wooded Kingdom, takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting akin to Nier Automata. Players explore the metal remnants of a civilization that has become a lush home to robotic beings. However, unlike Nier, the dark undertones of the past have no bearing on the game or those who inhabit its universe. The post-apocalyptic setting is just a fun backdrop. It’s as though a bunch of children got together, began playing with toys, and one of the kids brought along his sibling’s adult action figures. There is no attention paid to the context, only unfiltered imagination.

When they’re at their best the creators at Nintendo invite gamers to come and play, like a parent arranging a play date. Pulled along by joyful gameplay that expands in unforeseen ways, players desire to play for the sake of play. It’s a halcyon state of being: No messy thoughts or contradiction, just joy.

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Games

‘Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind’: An Utterly Shameless Cash Grab

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some other trash.

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Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

In the 15 year long history of DLC, we have seen some really shameless displays. The notorious horse armor incident of 2006 and a notable day one DLC for the ending game of a trilogy notwithstanding, few companies have had the utter audacity to offer so little content for such a high price point. Enter Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind.

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some social media nonsense for people who really hate themselves. That’s really it, that’s what you get. Honestly, Square-Enix should be utterly embarrassed by this DLC.

It’s been one year: 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes, or 31556952 seconds, since the release of Kingdom Hearts III. Let that sink in as you begin the meat of Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind. Think of it as the extended version of a movie you really like… you know, the kind where they add 4 minutes to the 120 minute runtime.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind, really is that cynical. I’m not kidding when I tell you that the game literally starts with an exact cut scene from the base game, and a cut scene that happens to be available from the theater mode of the main game that you’ve already bought if you’re playing this DLC. Yes, the introduction to this new content is… content you’ve already seen.

In fact, that’s kind of the sticking point here: most of what you get for your hard-earned cash is footage you’ve already seen, and battles you’ve already fought, and story you’ve already experienced, just with slight alterations for context. Remember back in the 2000s, when we were super obsessed with prequels? This is like that, except even more egregious.

Generally I’m not so unforgiving as to call a company out for a forthright cash grab, but that’s absolutely what Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is. There’s just no other way to put it. You might find someone in the marketing department for Square-Enix who would disagree, but being a company that has faced just these sort of allegations for their last two major releases, Square-Enix either doesn’t read the news, or doesn’t care what people think of their products.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Square-Enix was roundly accused of shipping unfinished products in the case of both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III — their two most high profile releases of the last decade. I personally gave mostly positive reviews of both games for this very website but if you want ammo to suggest that this company is deliberately trading on the nostalgia and passion of its fan base in order to make financial headway, there are few examples you could draw from that are as obvious as this DLC.

Look, maybe you’re a really big Kingdom Hearts fan. Maybe you just really wanted to know what the context was for that cliffhanger ending in Kingdom Hearts III. Maybe you just don’t do much research before you buy something. Or maybe… you just really trust this company for some reason.

Hey, I’m not judging… hell, I bought this DLC for $40 same as anyone else. I oughta be honest that I’m not reviewing Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind as some holier than thou critic, talking down to you from my position of privilege. No, I’m an angry consumer in this particular case. I’m a person who spent enough to replace a flat tire on my car, or buy my family dinner, on a game that is clearly playing off of my love for a franchise, and using it to bilk me out of money in a method that is so clear, and so concise, that those involved in the entire endeavor should be totally embarrassed for their part in the creation, marketing, pricing, and distribution of this expansion.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, fans had their complaints about Kingdom Hearts III. “Where are the hardcore boss battles? Where are the Final Fantasy characters? Where are the secret areas? Where are the hidden plot developments?” Still, to address these particular complaints by hammering a few minutes or seconds here and there into already existing content is truly like spitting in the faces of the people who have built the house you’re living in.

I haven’t sat in the board rooms at Square-Enix and I haven’t been in email chains about the planning of projects at their company but what I can say is that there is something rotten in Denmark if this is what passes for a satisfying piece of content for the wildly devoted fans of a hugely popular franchise in 2020. Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is literally, truthfully, and succinctly, the worst piece of DLC I’ve ever purchased.

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