Isshin, the Sword Saint is the final boss of the Immortal Severance, Return, and Purification endings and is found in the great grass field where you first fought Genichiro at the beginning of the game in the Ashina Castle Reservoir.
You’ll find this final boss battle where your story initially began with the slicing of your left arm at the hands of Genichiro. From Kuro’s room, head to the Ashina Reservoir area of Ashina Castle, and make your way to the door where you used the Reed Whistle in the prologue of the game. Here you’ll now find a Sculptor‘s Idol. This will be your last chance to rest and prepare for the monster of a boss battle ahead of you, so take advantage while you can and let’s dive in.
Video Guide – Isshin, the Sword Saint Boss Fight
This fight will test your mettle and skills learned thus far in the game like nothing you’ve fought so far. It’s a test of endurance, parrying, dodging, redirection, and resource management.
Initially upon entering the arena, you’ll come face to face with Genichiro once again, who now has a Mortal Blade just like you. You may notice as you start the fight that he has only one posture node. While this is true for this part, the end of the fight is long off.
After downing Genichiro, you’ll face Isshin the Sword Saint, a strange abomination that emerges from the body of Genichiro. This is the true boss, and has 3 posture nodes, with three distinct Phases that you’ll need to learn and work your way through. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, let’s focus on how to take out Genichiro, Way of Tomoe first.
Genichiro, Way of Tomoe
Much of what Genichiro, Way of Tomoe does may seem familiar to you if you remember any of the fight from the first time you wen toe-to-toe with him on the roof of Ashina Castle. However his lightning attacks are gone, instead replaced with attacks using his Mortal Blade that have insane amounts of range and damage. In fact, he’ll always lead the fight off with one of these attacks.
He’ll sheathe his sword, drawing the power out before slicing in a diagonal upward motion, with a large energy trail at the end of it that reaches 5 times or so beyond the length of the sword. This first Mortal Blade attack can be followed up with a second swing downward from his left shoulder to his right hip, again with a trail of energy. Once you get the hang of how to dodge these attacks, they actually become great opportunities to get some damage into Genichiro while he sits there. Run around the left side of Genichiro while he “winds up” and land some slashes in while he executes the attack, completely missing. The second attack is optional but should it come, he’ll reset his tracking to be facing you, though sometimes he won’t fully turn face. If he turns all the way around, dodge to the right to avoid the attack. If he only quarter turns, go around the left again and hit him more.
The trick to the rest of this fight is to continuously and relentlessly attack Genichiro. Don’t give him a chance to jump away and use his box on you. If you’re close enough and keep slashing, he’ll try to jump back to use his bow, but you’ll land hits before he does. You’ll be trading Parries and landing an occasional slash, all the while inching towards that Deathblow.
There are a few attacks he’ll continue to go through with whether or not your slashing away. These you’ll need to watch out for and not get hit. One of these is Genichiro running to the right and performing a Perilous sweep. Simply jump over the sweep and keep attacking. Another is a jump attack. Dodge left, and if he performs a Perilous attack, jump. Otherwise, keep slashing and parrying.
A great way to build up that posture meter is precise timing on parrying of a flurry attack. He’ll do a two swing attack, before spinning and performing seven consecutive swings. Precise timing of parries on all these attacks will quickly build toward that Deathblow.
The last thing strategy wise to keep in mind is if you need to pull away from the battle to heal, Genichiro is going to be as relentless with you are. If you get too far, he’ll either try using his bow on you, or he’ll perform a jumping lunge attack that has a surprising amount of range. Use the large rock in the center of the field to your advantage here, putting it between you and your enemy should you need to heal.
Ideally, this strategy of constant pressure will get you to a quick deathblow and on to the real challenge of what’s ahead.
Here’s a rundown of the attacks to look out for:
- Mortal Blade Uppercut. A long sheathed wind up followed by a vertical slash from hip to right shoulder. Run around the left side and wail at Genichiro’s back. Can be followed up with a second downward slice. Get to the back again to dodge this.
- Jump Slam. Genichiro will jump into the air and come down with a large slam attack. Can be followed up with Perilous Sweep or Lunge. Jump over these or Mikiri Counter the Lunge, though the timing can be hard to get precise.
- Two Swing attack – Seven Swing Flurry. A predictable set of flurry attacks that if precisely parried, will quickly build up Posture damage.
- Arrows to gain space. Will jump back, firing an arrow to gain space. If aggressive you can stun lock this attack to keep him from using it.
- Two arrows – Roll – Slice. Parry the arrows, as well as the last attack after the roll.
- Run Right with Perilous Sweep. You can land a hit or two while Genichiro runs to the right, then jump over the Perilous Sweep.
- Jump Lunge. If Genichiro sees you trying to heal or gain space, he’ll run and jump towards you lunging with his sword. Dodge either direction to avoid.
- Grab. After the Jump Lunge, Genichiro will sometimes try to grab you, running at you. Just run backwards until he finishes the animation.
Isshin, the Sword Saint Phase 1
After taking out Genichiro, you’ll be up against a version of his Grandfather, Isshin, the Sword Saint. The transition of dealing with the frantic Genichiro to the precise and surgical Isshin can be jarring at first until you start to get the timing on his attacks, but once you start to get the patterns down. Phase 1 will be the easiest of the Isshin Phases to deal with, which isn’t saying much because it’s still difficult.
You’ll need to play with a good balance of offense and defense, as Isshin will block most attacks, only getting hit when winding up for larger attacks. We often found ourselves taking about half of Isshin’s health down, then getting enough Posture damage at that point to grab a Deathblow, but your experience will vary.
He will usually start the fight in one of two ways. His first option is running at you for an attack you’ll have to parry, either straight at you or by shifting to the right first. The second attack he can use is one you’ll need to become used to throughout this phase. He’ll sheathe his sword and track you, before moving very quickly toward you and executing two quick slashes. You can block these, however we prefer running consistently in a circle around him until he performs the attack on thin air, allowing you to get two slashes in on his health.
He’ll also use this sheathing animation in another attack that changes what he does, and the circling motion makes a consistent response to both attacks. In this second version, he’ll make a vertical slash followed by a Perilous sweep you’ll have to jump over if caught in it.
When in the thick of trading blows, Isshin has a three swing combo with a small delay with each swing, making parry timing slightly challenging until you get the hang of it.
He can gain space with a stab attack that will push you back. This is easily parried, but he also follows up with a Perilous lunge attack here as well. You can dodge backwards to easily avoid it and swing around the side for some hits on his vitality meter, or try to Mikiri counter it for some Posture damage.
Another attack he can use to gain space is a single horizontal slice where he will perform it while moving to the right away from you. If you see him sheathe his sword after this attack, you’ll want to run away from him and jump as he swings. This attack is a large circular attack around him with a huge radius that does a lot of damage.
Should you see him raise his sword above his head, look for two incoming slices directly down. Dodge behind him and you can get some hits in waiting for the sword to fall.
If he breaks from you and winds up on your left side, with white streams of energy coming to him, dodge the attack coming straight at you by dodging either direction These are straight line attacks that cross much of the battlefield but running in either direction before they land will make them easily avoided.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the Attacks for Phase 1:
- Sword Sheathe:
- Option 1 – Two quick slashes. Run around to the left and get some hits on his back.
- Option 2 – Downward Slash, Perilous Sweep. Run around to the left and get hits in
- 3 precise slashes. Learn the timing on these and parry each precisely to help build Posture Damage
- Lunge Push – Perilous Lunge. Used to gain space from you. Parry the first hit, then dodge backward to avoid the hit, or use Mikiri Counter to punish if you have the timing down.
- Horizontal Spacing Slash. Isshin runs to your right holding out his sword. Parry this
- Follow up: Encircling Slash. Be prepared for this follow up where he’ll make a large slice with a lot of range that encircles around him. Run away and jump to avoid it.
- Downward Slice. Repeat. Isshin raises his sword over his head, bringing it down in a delayed slam, then repeats. Run around to his back and get some hits in.
- Long Range Energy Vertical Slices. If you see Isshin wind up to the left with energy encircling him. Two vertical slices that cross much of the battlefield come out. Run around back and punish.
- Distance-Closing Slice. He’ll run at you closing the gap very quickly before slicing at you. Parry this.
Isshin, the Sword Saint Phase 2
So you made it through Phase 1? That’s an accomplishment in and of itself. However, you have a ways to go, and the fight is about to change dramatically. While Phase 1 tested your skills at sword v sword combat, it’s now time to test how good you are at defending against a spear.
That’s right! After Isshin gets one of his Posture nodes taken, he’ll pull a long spear from the ground to use in combination with his sword. He’ll also break out a hand gun to use against you from afar, so you’ll have your hands full to say the least.
The second phase of this fight becomes about survival. Many of the swings of the spear are delayed from when the hit lands, making them harder to time for parrying. You’ll also have only a few chances to punish his attacks, so you’ll need to know when to strike. Your Mikiri counter skills will also help you greatly here if you can land them and build up that Posture meter.
You may be able to continue attacking Isshin in Phase 2 while he uses the same set of attacks from Phase 1 for a few seconds, allowing you to get a few hits in. Then, when he kneels to pick up his spear, you’ll want to back up. He’ll swing it around in a circle, and you don’t want to get hit by it. Head back in afterwards for a few hits and then the real attacks start coming in. Sometimes he’ll use this attack purposefully, swinging at you before running far enough away to the re-engage with the slam.
There’s two attacks you can reliably punish. The first is his jump attack. Get far enough away from Isshin and he’ll run at you with a large jumping leap, slamming his spear on you. You can parry this attack with good timing, and usually he’s left open for a few slices as well. Be on the lookout for a second animation after the jump, as he’ll sometimes rarely hit you with a swing of his sword or spear after the jump when you’re least expecting it.
The second attack is a reliable Mikiri Counter opportunity. When fighting at close range, Isshin will jump backwards, swinging his spear at you mid-air. Parry this. Then as he lands, if he pulls out his gun and fires five shots, be ready. The next attack nine times out of ten is going to be a large Perilous Lunge with that spear of his, with a generous amount of time for a Mikiri Counter. Take advantage of this and get that Posture Damage. However sometimes he’ll use a Perilous sweep attack. you can tell the difference based on which direction he brings his spear. If his spear goes to his left side (your right), it’s the Lunge; if it goes to his right side (your left), look for the Sweep.
Another opportunity to use the Mikiri counter comes at close range. He’ll use his sword for two swings, then his spear in four large swings, followed up with a Perilous Lunge. This attack chain can be tough on your Posture bar, so if you don’t feel confident in parrying each of the attacks, back up and re-enter on the last hit to get the Mikiri counter. If you fail to get the counter and get hit, he’ll add one more attack that draws you in with the spear towards him.
If you see him turn his back to you and energy enter into his sword, back up and jump! A large circular attack with his sword is incoming, with a trail of energy further increasing its range. It’s a devastating attack should you get hit. This attack usually comes after a combo, so be on the lookout.
The rest of his attacks are swings of his sword or spear that are fairly manageable. Simply parry them when you see them coming in and wait for the attacks previously mentioned to counter them.
Here’s all those new attacks for Phase 2:
- Jump attack slam. Used if far enough away from Isshin. He’ll run forward and jump towards you slamming his spear
- Followed up: Sometimes he’ll follow up with a swing of spear, though not every time so try to get swings in when he doesn’t
- Jump back – Swing Mid-Air. Once you get the timing down on the initial block of him jumping in mid-air, you’ll find parrying what’s to come much easier
- Followed Up: Five Shots and Perilous Lunge or Sweep. after jumping back Isshin has several options on what he decides to do. He can run at you and begin attacking, but if you see 5 shots fired, be prepared for a Perilous attack. If it’s the lunge, punish it with the Mikiri Counter.
- 2 Sword swings – 4 Spear Swings – Perilous Lunge. Try to learn the timing of parrying this attack so you can stay and get Posture damage while you wait to use the Mikiri counter at the end. Until you have this timing, back away and re-enter when he uses the Lunge. He can also stop this attack mid combo to use the Energy Circle Slash so be on the lookout for that as well.
- Energy Circle Slash. He’ll turn his back to you gathering energy into his sword before swinging it in a circle around his body. Run backwards and jump to avoid this, then re-enter the fray.
- Sword Swing-Spear Swing. Used up close, you can parry both. Can also be followed up with the Perilous Lunge, punishable by the Mikiri Counter.
- Mid-Range Spear Slam – Follow up Slice. If standing in mid-range, Isshin will use the range of his spear and slam it down, and follow it up with a sword slice. Both can be parried.
- Heavy Gun Shot. A Singular shot fired at you, pushing you back from Isshin. Block or Parry
Isshin, the Sword Saint Phase 3
Ok, Wolf. Your hearts racing. You’re freaking out. You’ve finally made it to stage three. Rest easy, as with proper timing this stage will be over quickly, and many of his attacks remain the same from Phase 2. The biggest change is that now, Isshin will harness lightning to use at his disposal. This can be great or poor news depending on how well you time these attacks, because if you can successfully redirect them, you’ll have your foe down in no time. He’ll also add a few new energy moves but we’ll get to those in a minute.
In all of the lightning attacks, you’ll see Isshin jump into the air to harness it and the Perilous symbol displayed above your head. This is your cue. Jump straight up, and let the lightning hit you. Then, quick as you can, hit your attack button before touching down to redirect the lightning back at Isshin. He’ll take a fair bit of damage and be stunned on the ground primed for a few follow up swings before he can attack again.
At mid-range, he can also now shoot disks of energy at you, they’ll be a diagonal line coming at you, one at a time for two shots. Simply run to your left circling him to avoid them.
These are the only two new additions to the fight. While both can be devastating if you get hit, properly timed parries to the lightning will actually help end this fight quickly. All the other attacks from Phase 2 also come in here, so be ready to use that Mikiri counter to help you as well.
Here’s the new stuff to look out for now:
- Lightning attacks. If Isshin jumps back into the air and you see the Perilous symbol above your head along with lightning coming to his blade, jump straight up. After getting hit by the attack mid-air, send the lightning back at him using your attack button to stun him and do heavy vitality and posture damage.
- Energy Projectiles. Isshin will sheathe his sword, then send two projectiles at you. They’ll be diagonals, the first from top right to bottom left, and the second the opposite. Run around to the left to avoid this attack.
Congratulations are in order Shinobi! You’ve done it, you beat the hardest boss in the game and you probably still have that adrenaline pumping through you. After ending Isshin the Sword Saint, make your way over to Lord Kuro, you’ll then have the option to give him the Dragon Tears, the Dragon Tears and Frozen tears if you have them, or the Dragon Tears and Aromatic Flower. Which you choose will effect which ending you get.
If you need more information on where to find these items, head on over to our How to Get All Endings Page for more information. Once again Congrats and nice work.
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