A love letter to Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice – Reader’s Feature

A reader takes a chance on Sega’s remaster of the very first Yakuza game and is impressed by its storytelling and its over-the-top action.

It’s 23:30. My hand hovers over the PS button. I haven’t played Sekiro: Shadows Dies Twice in two nights because I found the Guardian Ape and his hulking, ugly mass has intimidated me away. But this evening I am ready. This evening that ape is getting it.

Fast forward 45 minutes. I have gotten it many times, but the ape has so far failed to receive it. But we’re comfortably reaching phase 2 now. And this time there is just a quarter of his health left. I am in possession of one full health bar. No resurrections. No healing gourds. No healing pellets. Full panic mode is engaged. I am literally whispering to myself, ‘You can do this. You have it this time. I know you can do it’. I’ve never whispered motivational patter to myself during, well, anything before.

I sneak in and out, land a few hits, but misread a terror attack. Now we’re both left with a sliver of health each. I can’t lose this. This battle alone has lasted almost 10 minutes. I cannot let this one slip away. If I lose this I’ll probably cry and my wife would be woken up to a 34-year-old man sobbing into a DualShock.

My vision tunnels towards the monitor, my only hope is a telegraphed dive attack that leaves him open for two hits. That will do the job. I sprint away and back. Trying to lure him into the lunge. I just escape a perilous attack and then see it – the lunge is coming. I pirouette behind him, a whirlwind slash finishes the job I started almost an hour ago. I stand in front of his corpse, very briefly feeling like I am king of the ninjas.

Then snap, I am back in my bedroom. My heart is pounding so hard I am sure it will wake up my wife anyway. I hadn’t realised I was sweating quite so much. I take a deep breath that I hadn’t realised I needed. Don’t forget to breathe when you do boss fights people. But I am also glowing with satisfaction that I haven’t really felt before while gaming. Staring at the screen, panting. Partly glad it is over. Wholly in awe of this game. In awe of games.

There is no other entertainment medium that can make me feel like that. This game, this particular ape even, is the reason games mean so much to so many people. They are a way to switch off from my stresses and problems and have done wonders for my mental health when I’ve been at my lowest. Mindfulness has received a lot of focus recently, including in the last Reader’s Feature. Games and the immersion they can create are a lovely form of this, but it’s not limited to focussing on the pattern of your own breath and counting to 10 or watching grass sway in the wind in Red Dead. You can be engrossed in fighting a giant ape, stopping a crazy man with a nuclear robot tank, slaying double-crossing gods… whatever you choose to enjoy those stresses of the day will wash away all the same.

I’d also like to touch on the seemingly hot topic of difficulty. In my opinion Sekiro is not as difficult as Soulsborne games and I really hope it hasn’t put people off trying it. And I plead with you to try it if you are thinking about it. The penalties for death are more extreme, but with a little bit of careful management you won’t lose a thing. For example, if I see a horrible looking mini-boss on the road ahead, do I dive in like the brave ninja warrior that I am? Trusting my superior reflexes and skills? Don’t be silly. I double back, do a quick bit of XP grinding and bank a skill point. Buy a few coin purses. Hey presto, I can die over and over without losing a thing. Well… other than self-respect obviously, but skill points are more useful.

Finally, should this game have an easy mode? Not in my opinion, no. Having established I’m not the bravest gamer in the world I know if this game had an easier mode I’d be taking advantage of it. I simply would not be taking 10 or 15 attempts to beat just one boss if I could change it. I’d probably have a great time in an easier mode, but I would also lose that sense of achievement. Lose those heart-pounding, breath-holding, sweaty palm-inducing moments that a game like this creates. You are either good enough or you’re not. I love that and am excited to find out if I am good enough in the fights to come.

I have had incredible fun so far with Sekiro. Each session gives me a sense of personal achievement. It’s delivered a literal physical reaction to a boss fight that was like having a workout. There is nothing else like it in my gaming library. Thanks game developers everywhere, you’re the best. But especially Miyazaki. You’re crazy, mate.

By reader Daniel Grimwards (dedwood85 – PSN ID)

The reader’s feature does not necessarily represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

You can submit your own 500 to 600-word reader feature at any time, which if used will be published in the next appropriate weekend slot. As always, email [email protected] and follow us on Twitter.

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