Rarely have I felt so powerful as I did the second time I defeated Lady Butterfly in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. During my first playthrough, Lady Butterfly was the boss that forced me to really learn how to play the game, to spend time internalising all the movements and steps of the intricate dance of metal and death that makes the game what it is. I was determined to beat her fair and square, rather than engaging in any kind of underhanded cheesy tactics like stunlocking. It must have taken me twenty attempts to finally triumph, and it wasn’t anything like as clean as I wanted it to be.
In my second playthrough, I defeated her on my first attempt, without hesitation or injury. Like all the best moments in Sekiro, it was relentless and beautiful. It showed me exactly how far I’d come.
I was one of the select and lucky few who hadn’t really played any From Software games before Sekiro. I later learned that I’d consequently adapted relatively quickly to the graceful formula of parries and posture and standing your ground compared to all the die-hard Souls veterans, who were busily seething with frustration at how the old familiar dodge-heavy methods of the slower-paced Dark Souls would fail them time after time. Sekiro is all about looking your enemy in the eye, and not budging an inch. That’s the genius of the posture system. If you were to play Sekiro as you’d play most other melee action games, hopping and dodging and rolling around like some sort of crazed goblin, you’d be cut down within seconds. And even if you weren’t, you’d never deal any lasting damage to the tougher foes, who would instantly recover from any paltry posture damage you inflicted with your occasional strikes.
Instead, you must face the full force of your foe head-on, weather the vicious and unending tempest of strikes and slices and stabs, and never let up the pressure, not even for a second. Each fight is immediate, personal, and filled with a delicious fiery tension. This is one of the very few games where my relief and satisfaction at finally defeating a challenging foe is mingled with the disappointment that the struggle is over, and I’m not allowed to continue fighting this gloriously designed opponent. But then you come across the next boss, and the fight is somehow even more exquisite than the last.
Except that asshole from Seven Ashina Spears. That guy can fuck right off.