Sekiro's Smartest Boss Fight Is Against A Giant, Poop-Throwing Ape

There are plenty of tough bosses in Sekiro, from rival swordsmen to dangerous undead monsters. One of the best bosses sounds at first like it would be the silliest: a shit-throwing giant ape. But closer examination of this battle reveals a crash course on how to make a reactive and thematically interesting boss fight. It’s FromSoftware’s speciality on full display.

Sekiro tells the story of a shinobi (named Sekiro) and his quest to protect his lord Kuro. Kuro is also known as the Divine Heir, due to him having a blood connection to an ancient dragon that happens to grant him immortality. He shares this immortality with Sekiro, allowing the shinobi to fight through the nation of Ashina to rescue his lord.

Eventually, Kuro asks Sekiro to help him sever the ties of his immortality. To do this, Sekiro needs a special flower that can be found deep in the Sunken Valley. The Sunken Valley also happens to be home to the aforementioned amazing boss fights, a clash against the giant Guardian Ape.

They’re a tough, rampaging monster that can give players a lot of trouble. There are a lot of different tactics that can work well against this boss, though.

Sekiro’s combat encounters operate on a similar level to the ones in Mega Man, where using the right tool for each boss can turn them into pushovers. Firecrackers can scare both the Blazing Bull and Sakura Bull of the Palace and make them start running into walls, which will stun them and allow for a one-hit kill.

The ghostly version of the Corrupted Monk can be stunlocked by using Snap Seeds, which also drains the Monk’s health. Other bosses are weak to certain techniques, like how Genichiro Ashina crumbles when you turn his lightning attacks against him. The Guardian Ape doesn’t have just one neat weakness. Instead, there are numerous ways to gain an advantage.

Firecrackers can scare them into a frenzy, while oil and fire can burn them alight. While other bosses have more of a lock-and-key design, the Guardian Ape rewards player creativity by reacting in different ways to a variety of tactics.


It’s also a playful fight, particularly in how it transitions from the first to the second phase. Most bosses in Sekiro have two health bars that you need to clear. The Guardian Ape only has one at first. If you deplete this bar, you perform a shinobi execution and cut off the ape’s head. After a moment, the ape rises again as a headless, sword-carrying monstrosity. It’s a cheeky subversion of expectations that takes many players unaware.

Once the Ape loses their head, different tactics become more effective. In the second phase, Phoenix’s Lilac Umbrella can negate the ape’s massive scream attack. (This attack can build up the ‘terror’ status effect and instantly kill players.)

If you stab at the boss with the loaded spear, you can pull out the centipede infesting the body. Between the raw challenge of the Ape, their tricky resurrection, and the way the boss reacts to so many different tools, this is one really well-designed fight.

The Guardian Ape is also a strong example of FromSoft’s storytelling prowess. Sekiro has many boss fights and encounters that aren’t always given much context. For every standoff against a fleshed-out characters like the dangerous general Genichiro Ashina, there are plenty of random battles against fire-horned bulls and dark magicians like the Shicimen Warrior.

The Guardian Ape seems arbitrary at first, but over time, items and events connect this boss back to individual character storylines and Sekiro’s broader themes. Like many things in a FromSoft title, there’s a greater context.

Ultimately, the Guardian Ape connects to the story of the Sculptor. At the start of the game, after Sekrio is defeated and loses an arm, the Sculptor provides a replacement. Over time, particularly if the player shares sake with him, we learn more about the Sculptor’s past. Specifically, we learn about his time as a masterless shinobi called Orangutan.

He and his partner would train in the Sunken Valley among the apes. His partner had a fondness for whistling with his fingers. When you defeat the Guardian Ape, you find the Finger Whistle shinobi tool. Presenting it to the Sculptor prompts a nostalgic response. Later on, an upgraded version of the finger whistle called the Malcontent can be used while fighting the optional Demon of Hatred boss fight.

The demon turns out to actually be the Sculptor, transformed by rage into a large, almost ape-like form. The Guardian Ape helps round out the world by having a connection to the Sculptor — the Ape is either a warped, transformed version of the Sculptor’s partner, or simply ate him — and providing something of a counterpart to the Sculptor, who ends up taking on a demonic, unnatural form.

The Ape is a natural beast kept alive by a literal parasite. The Demon of Hatred is a man warped into a similarly raging best due to different kinds of parasites: greed and anger.

A major plot point involves retrieving the Mortal Blade, a weapon which can kill even immortal beings.

Sekiro focuses on questions of immortality and power. Sekiro’s lord Kuro wants to undo their immortal bloodline. Genichiro Ashina feeds on Rejuvenating Waters to rise from a fatal blow after his boss fight. Parasites infect the Guardian Ape and Corrupted Monk, granting them a twisted eternal life. The monks in Senpou Temple abandon their duties in search of immortality. Sekiro himself cannot truly die either.

This lack of death is a bad thing. Sekiro is explicitly a Buddhist text. Buddhists believe in the concept of Saṃsāra, the repeated process of birth, death, and rebirth. All life is suffering, and this cycle only ends when one achieves vimutti, an escape from this cycle of suffering. Characters in Sekiro exist outside of the traditional cycle of rebirth, either by a deliberate pursuit of immortality or accidental twist of fate.

The Guardian Ape ties into this larger theme. Ashina is not simply a war-torn nation, it’s also a place where nature itself is twisted and misaligned with the cosmic order. If the goal of living creatures is to achieve Nirvana and exist in a state where there’s no more rebirth, characters like Sekiro and the Guardian Ape have achieved a twisted, tragic version of this ideal. No more rebirth. The catch is there’s still plenty of suffering.

The Guardian Ape boss fight can be frustrating at times, with irregular attack patterns and the ability to absorb a lot of damage. Hell, even after you defeat them here, you’ll still have to face them again later on in the game.

That resilience and annoying persistence comes paired with a consideration for player’s various tools and a broader connection to Sekiro’s themes. It’s an intense challenge that rewards ingenuity while also tying into the rest of the game’s story. It’s still an ape throwing shit at you. But it turns out that the shit is actually pretty deep.


Comments

    I hated this boss fight, but admittingly, it is a well designed boss with a lot of interesting lore behind it. This is one of those fights where you just have to try and try again. I can't imagine anyone defeating the Great Ape on their first go.

    Without offering spoilers, I'm up to the final fight of the game and it's making me want to rage quit. The final boss technically has four phases... I can deal with phase one quite quickly, phase two I can knock off with a bit more time and patience, but phase three just becomes WTF.

      If you've made it to phase 4 you're almost there.

      Don't give up, skeleton.

      It took me a good solid bunch of hours to get the fight down. It's seriously just a matter of staying calm, learning the cues and learning what you can and can't get away with. I'll paste what i said to another Kotaku reader a few weeks back:


      Phase 1 Geni - Start the fight getting behind him. If you double Ichiro, he won't follow up with the back hand mortal blade slash. Be massively aggressive. Counter when he counters, if he starts his combo chain, run around and lap behind him. When he jumps and dive stabs, side step and wait to see what he does, if he does nothing, attack, if he sweeps jump and if he stabs Mikiri counter.


      Phase 2 SSI1 - This one is pretty simple. Just get in his face, swing twice, then counter, he'll either do a three slash counter (just counter all parts and get back in there), swing and do a thrust you can mikari counter OR he'll sheath his sword, at this part run away and just keep running away / behind him and he'll dash and slash twice, you can get in a couple of hits behind him at this point.

      Phase 3 SSI2 - This one is a matter of learning his slashes and just countering like a mofo. The idea is to counter/block and then quickly recharge (by blocking) your posture before the next flurry begins. You want to get him swinging into the mikiri counter and this will be the main way you build his posture. Also when he jumps at you, you want to move/dodge towards into him and right then turn around and get a few hits in. This phase really is about getting the timing down.

      Phase 4 SSI3 - Exact same phase except he will now do a jumping lightning attack. If you can, jump in the air and launch the lightning back at him (was soooo satisfying doing this every time on my kill on him) and the rest is just a replay of the previous stage. So if you can't do the lightning reversal, just do what you did the previous stage.

      You should have the first two phases on lock pretty quickly since they are pretty static, albeit fast. Phase 3 is more of a positioning fight. Don't take everything head-on - dodge the spear-slams or just outrange them and prepare for mikiri counter when he thrusts and try to get behind where he's going to land when he jumps at you and smack him once or twice. Phase 4 is more of the same only with the opportunity to punish when he tries to throw lightning at you plus a couple of other attacks.

    Spoilers follow naturally since the article is a spoiler.

    From what I know the story and connection is actually a bit different. The Guardian Ape is immortal due to the water coming directly from the Fountainhead palace, something you find out if you "accidentally" kill a certain fish. He had a mate though who wasn't so immortal and had died due to old age.

    The Ape kept guard over the flower though in the hopes that it would attract another mate and at some point the Sculptor's (female) shinobi friend would fight it and lose, possibly leading to the giant sword stuck through its neck and scar over one eye. The bittersweet tragic thing is that you fight the ape again after he manages to find a new mate and then kill them both, putting an end to his eternal torment. (A theme that runs throughout the game)

    I thought the Owl 1 fight was the best fight thematically. It's a turning point in Sekiro's life, the choice to either continuing living in his master's shadow and obey the Iron Code without question or escape Owl's shadow and walk his own path and follow his own loyalties. Not only are you choosing Sekiro's fate though, you're also choosing how the rest of the game will play out. You've seen the big picture, you've seen how the pieces fit together. Now you have to choose whether you want to end this madness or fulfill a destiny of vengeance.

    I like the last boss the most, in both endings. My heart was beating so fast you could see it through my shirt. The platium is such a grind, getting all the skill points takes a horrible horrible long time :(

    for some reason i was very impressed with the ape's ability to poop at will.

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