So here we are, you made it, just one more fight to go. Isshin the Sword Saint is the final boss in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, located just through the passage next to the Near Secret Passage Sculptor’s Idol in the Ashina Reservoir.
This fight actually has four phases, and if you get killed during any phase you’ll have to start all over again, so mastering the first few phases and taking little (if any) damage is very important, as you’ll need to conserve your Healing Gourd uses and your resurrections for the latter phases. Timing of your healing is also very important in this fight as it’s very easy to get punished, so only heal in the moments specified below.
The first phase of this fight is actually Genichiro, Way of Tomoe, who you already fought in the third phase of the Genichiro fight earlier on in the game. This fight pretty much plays out exactly the same as that phase minus the lightning, but let me talk you through it anyway.
Run up to Genichiro at the start of the fight and he’ll always start with a big charged up attack with his blade. Even if you block this you’ll still take significant damage, so instead just run backwards well out of the way as soon as you see him charging up. Once he’s swiped and you’ve avoided the attack, run back towards him and take the fight to him. This attack can repeat throughout the fight, so keep your eye out for it and react accordingly.
This first phase is all about Deflecting his attacks and breaking his Posture. Deflect all of his normal attacks (back off if you need to recover some of your own Posture) and watch out for his Perilous sweeps and thrusts, the latter of which usually comes after a jumping overhead attack. If he’s performing a sweep then jump and jump again to perform a Jump Kick for significant Posture damage, and use your Mikiri Counter on his thrust attacks.
If you’re at distance he’ll sometimes perform a diving thrust attack, so keep your eye out for that and Mikiri Counter that too. Keep at this and you’ll quickly break his Posture for the first Deathblow. You need to get to a stage where you can complete this phase without taking any damage, as this fight is only just starting.
On to the next phase then and you’re now fighting Isshin the Sword Saint. He’s deadlier than Genichiro, but you need to get to a stage where you aren’t taking too much damage in this phase either, so recognising his attacks and knowing how to react to each one is imperative. Luckily for you, I’ve listed his attacks below. It’s important to stay close to Isshin as we can Deflect most of his attacks to start filling that Posture bar and get a few hits of our own in when the chances arise. You do, however, need to watch out for the following:
On occasion, Isshin will take a step back and hold his sword behind him, waiting as swirls of wind are consumed by the sword. When he does this, get ready to Step Dodge to the right to avoid both beams that are about to come flying towards you, then run straight towards the back of him to get a free hit in. This is pretty easy to time with a bit of practice, and it ends up being easy hits for you. You can also use this opportunity to heal if you need to.
The same can be said for his overhead sword attack where he lifts his sword over his head for a few seconds before slashing downwards. When he holds the sword over his head, wait a second and then Step Dodge twice to the right and you’ll get two more free hits in every time. You can also use this opportunity to heal if you need to.
Another attack that ends up being easy hits for you is Isshin’s charged up double swipe. When he sheathes his sword and you see a glimmer, run backwards well out of the way and then start circling behind Isshin when he starts attacking. You should avoid both of his attacks and get at least two free hits of your own in every single time.
Isshin will perform a big sideways swipe with his sword (which you can Deflect) that will see him take an extra step away from you. When he does this, you’ll often see him sheathe his weapon and that familiar glimmer will appear. That means that he’s about to perform a powerful swirling swipe attack, so as soon as you see this happening run towards him and perform a Jump Kick followed by a hit or two for some significant Posture damage. If you’re struggling to pull this off quick enough then instead just sprint backwards out of the way to avoid it. You probably won’t be able to get any hits of your own in by the time you run back to him but that’s okay, you just need to avoid the attack. You can also use this opportunity to heal if you need to. You can see examples of both tactics below.
In this phase Isshin loves a Perilous thrust attack. They’re difficult to react to at times, but they also help us massively if we can get the timing of our Mikiri Counters right. He has two Perilous thrust attacks – the first usually comes in the middle of a close-ranged combo and is very quick, so you’ll have to react very quickly to get your Mikiri Counter in. The second comes after he pushes you back a step, and this one takes a bit longer and is a bit easier to react to.
Keep chipping away at him with these tactics and you’ll eventually hit the first Isshin Deathblow. If you need to heal, run back as soon as you hit the Deathblow and heal up.
On to the third phase of this fight then, and this time Isshin is equipped with his sword, a spear, and a gun, which just seems a bit bloody unfair. Thankfully, the general basis of this phase of the fight is pretty much the same as the last; Deflect, Mikiri Counter, Jump Kick, and avoid. Deflect all of his standard attacks, but be wary of how quickly your Posture bar will fill up in this phase. Keep an eye on your bar and sprint away for a second or two if your Posture needs to recover. Don’t worry too much about getting any of your own attacks in either, as you likely won’t have time to without being punished. Instead, Deflect his attacks and build up his Posture bar, and look out for the following moves:
Isshin will stand still and start drawing in wind, much like he did in the last phase. This means he’s about to perform a powerful and long-reaching swirl attack with his spear, so run backwards and get out of the way. You can perform a Jump Kick here if you’re close enough, but I often found myself not quite having enough time to pull it off, so i much preferred to just get out of the way. You can also use this opportunity to heal if you need to.
Isshin will run a short distance away before turning back and running straight towards you. He’ll either perform a running attack which you can Deflect, or he’ll jump in the air to try an overhead attack. If he does the latter, Step Dodge to the right when he’s in the air to avoid the attack and then get a free hit or two of your own in. Be careful, as sometimes he follows this attack up with an immediate combo, so be prepared to react either way. You can also use this opportunity to heal if you need to, but wait a split second to make sure he isn’t going straight into a combo first.
Isshin will perform a powerful shot with his gun which knocks you back a few steps, then he goes for a Perilous sweep attack. Deflect the gun shot and get knocked back, then sprint back towards him, jump, and jump again when above him to perform a Jump Kick and cause some significant Posture damage.
Isshin jumps backwards, swipes right to left with his spear, unleashes a volley of gunshots, and then goes for a Perilous thrust attack with his spear. Deflect the swipe attack, then either Deflect the gunshots or sprint sideways to avoid them, then Mikiri Counter the thrust attack. These thrust attacks can sometimes happen independently from this combo, but thankfully they are slower and much easier to react to in this phase, so Mikiri Counter them all. Sometimes (but rarely) Isshin performs a sweep attack in place of the thrust attack following the gunshots, so keep your eye out and if you see a different-looking Perilous attack coming then jump over it.
Keep at all of these tactics and you’ll eventually (this one does take a while) open him up for the next Deathblow.
On to the final phase then, and it pretty much plays out the same as the last one, except this time he’s also got bloody lightning! For the majority of this fight, treat it exactly the same as the previous phase, but watch out for his new charged up attack where he throws beams at you. This time, the beams are diagonal instead of vertical, but they can still be easily avoided by running sideways at an angle. You won’t have any time to charge the boss for free hits this time though, so instead use your brief window of opportunity to heal if you have to.
The major change in this phase is the lightning, but thankfully we have had a fair bit of practice reversing it by now. Isshin will jump in the air, lightning will strike his spear, and the red kanji symbol appear on screen. When you see the red kanji symbol begin to fade, jump in the air. You’ll get hit by the lightning, but hit your attack button before your feet hit the floor and you’ll reverse the lightning, causing some significant Posture damage to Isshin and temporarily stunning him, allowing you to get one free hit in for good measure.
Keep following the tactics from the third phase, avoid the new charge up attacks, and successfully perform lightning reversals and you’ll finally open Isshin the Sword Saint up for that final, deadly Deathblow. He takes three Deathblows to finish off, so pay attention and don’t miss your prompt.
Killing him will earn you Memory: Saint Isshin, which can be used at a Sculptor’s Idol to permanently increase Attack Power, the Dragon Flash skill, and a big chunk of experience points. Congratulations, you finally completed this bitch of a game. On to NG+ then?