From Software's 2019 hitSekiro: Shadows Die Twice represents both a departure from and expansion of theDark Souls developer's design aesthetic. The game is still difficult, featuring a horde of overpowered enemies and a relentlessly iterative structure that punishes failure with setbacks in leveling up.Sekiro'sstory, however, takes a differentpath than its preceding titles while retaining all of the dark detail and nuance that help elevate director Hidetaka Miyazaki's projects to critical acclaim.
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The game'snarrative isfar more linear than its predecessors. With limited exception, exposition regarding the main plot is presented through clear dialogue and cinematics, giving the opportunity for casual playersto immerse themselves in the depth of character that defines theSoulsborneseries without scrounging through dungeons for scraps of lore. This represents one ofSekiro'sgreat narrative triumphs, so players should be sure to give these characters a deeper look on their next playthrough.
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Though a minor character in the scope ofSekiro: Shadows Die Twice'sstory, Jinzaemon Kumano drives one of the game's best side quests. A samurai patrolling the perimeter of Ashina Castle, he becomes enchanted by a distant song that only he can hear.
Kumano can later be found having followed the music to the depths of Mibu Village just before the ghostly mini-boss O'rin of the Water.Here, it is revealed thatKumano and O'rin were once lovers who lost a child during the war. It's a memorable and tragic arc that leaves none but Wolf alive to tell the tale and grants players Jinza's Jizo Statue, which refills a consumed resurrection node.
Hanbei the Undying
Hanbei the Undying represents a clever -- if gruesome -- gameplay mechanic through which the player can learn and practiceSekiro's different styles of combat. This old guard is infested -- a term referring to a unique kind of immortality inSekiro brought on by drinking waterinfected withundead parasites -- and thus unable to die, making him anable and willingsparring partner.
Hanbei yearns to be released from his cursed state, and onceWolfobtains the Mortal Blade in the game's final chapters, the player can choose to end his suffering as a gesture of their appreciation.
Though most members of the Taro Troop are hostile toward the player, a sole pacifist named Kotarocan be found on Mount Kongobemoaning a headache and the loss of a white flower. The player has three choices in handling this gentle giant's predicament. They can send him to the doctor Doujun for experimentation, they can send him to Anayama the peddler as an apprentice, or they can spirit the giant away to the Hall of Illusions.
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The latter choice is considered the "good" ending of Kotaro's quest, as it results in a moving reunion between him and the tragically deceased children of Senpou Temple. As a token of his gratitude, the giant will give Wolf a Taro Persimmon, which can then be used to unlock the game's "Return" ending. Though Kotaro is not in the game for long, his innocence and benevolence are a welcome and refreshing addition toSekiro's dark narrative.
This shadysurgeon is first encountered in the Abandoned Dungeon beneath Ashina Castle, where he conducts unsavory experiments using the infected watersthat stagnate in the depths. Particularly inquisitive players can eavesdrop on several of Doujun's conversations, revealing that he shares a body with the personality of a heretical surgeon named Dousaku -- the true source of the doctor's malicious intentions.
Players have the option of supplying Doujun with patients for his experiments, namely Jinzaemon Kumano the grieving widower and Kotaro the lonely giant. Should players choose to do this, both will be found in the Abandoned Dungeon aspossessed servants of Doujun's who will fight Wolf if he ventures too close. Players are warned that this is no easy fight, as Doujun has the distinction of being one of the most deadly NPCs in theSoulsborneseries.
Kuro, The Divine Heir
Raised by the Hirata clan,Kuro is known as The Divine Heir and believed to possess Dragon's Blood in his body. Because of this, the young prince is immortal and becomes a powerful bargaining chip in the midst of Ashina's complex civil war. Every side ofSekiro's conflict wants Kuro -- or rather, the power his blood bestows -- to gain an unbeatable advantage over their enemies.
Kuro takesthis adversityin dignified stride with a steady demeanor and wisdom well beyond his years. His journey sees a young ruler come to terms with the danger his gift begets, and the prince's ultimate choice to seek Immortal Severance -- a ritual that will rid himof immortality at the cost of his life -- represents one of the game's most powerful narrative arcs.
Across the main campaign ofSekiro: Shadows Die Twice, players have the opportunity to see Lord Isshin in a variety of different states. When they first meet him after slaying Gyobu Masataka Oniwa, he is presented as a masked vigilante, the Tengu of Ashina, who employs Wolf in his quest to rid the land of bandits. He can next be found out of costume and luxuriating with sake in his capacity asLord ofAshina Castle, regaling Wolf and Emma with stories from his youth.
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The final time players meet Isshin, they confront the summoned spirit of his youth -- a master swordsman whose abilities were considered divine -- as the game's final boss. Through him, director Hidetaka Miyazaki draws a nuanced and, at times, empathetic portrait of a flawedleader during a time of conflict, rendering Isshin, the Sword Saint of Ashina, one of the game's best secondary characters.
One of the more enigmatic characters inSekiro: Shadows Die Twice, the Sculptor was once a renowned shinobi known as Orangutan. Though his primary function in the game is to upgrade player abilities and shinobi prosthetics, a rich backstory and characterization distinguishes him from the game's more utilitarian NPCs.
During his storied career, he fell victim to Shura -- a primal force of destruction that consumes the hearts of great warriors and drives them to commit terrible acts of violence. For the safety of the land, the Sculptor yielded his sword and now spends his days carving wooden idols in penance for the unspoken atrocities of his past. Particularly adventurous players can witness a glimpse of this during the game's final act when the Sculptor transforms into the optional Demon of Hatred boss, widely considered one of the best boss fights inSekiro.
Great Carp Attendant
The Great Carp Attendant is perhaps an unlikely NPC to make this list, as he only appears in the game's finalacts at Fountainhead Palace, one of the most memorable locations in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. There, this elderly fish-man tirelessly tends to the Great Carp at the expense of his own health and requests Wolf's help in feeding it.
It is through this side quest that players learn crucial details of lore regarding the Fountainhead Waters -- namely that its consumption transforms people into carp-like beings and that they must constantly imbibe the waters in order to remain immortal. This unusual NPC also elicits an unexpected degree of empathy in his side-quest through the tragedy that befalls his daughters as they try to recover their lost father from his fate of servitude.
Emma, The Gentle Blade
Though she is responsible for upgrading the player's healing items, Emma is more thanSekiro's version ofDark Souls'Fire Keeper. Most notably, she is considered Ashina's frontline guardian against the Sculptor in the event that he was to fall victim to Shura again -- a testament to her understated strength and resolve. Indeed, she's a cunning agent of Lord Isshin who drives much of the plot through succinctwhispers of dialogue andpiecemeal bitsof lore. In this way, she's one of Sekiro'smostSouls-like characters.
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Players can even choose to cross blades with Emma in the game's "Shura" ending. Though her in-game title is "The Gentle Blade," Emma is a ruthless combatant, employinga unique style of swordsmanship usedonly by thehighest-ranking samuraiof Ashina Castle.
Divine Child of Rejuvenation
The Divine Child of Rejuvenation is one of the lost children of Senpou Temple, arguably the most tragic characters within the Soulsborne series. A product of the Senpou Monks' twisted experiments, the Divine Child is the last surviving bearer of the False Dragon's Blood, which grants a cursed form of immortality not unlike hollowing in theDark Soulsseries.
It is she who guards the legendary Mortal Blade, which only those with the power of resurrection can wield. The Divine Child is more than just a plot point, however, as the game's "Return" ending features her setting off with Wolf to restore the Dragon's Blood to its native land in the east.
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