Nue and Sayo

        Taking another look at Muramasa, aside from the enemies, I’d say the bosses are also fascinating to face. Whether they’re colossal monsters or gods from Japanese mythology or mortals like your character, they never fail to impress. Today I’ll be covering a boss from both these categories.
        First is a boss from Momohime’s story, though admittedly I’m not sure it should be called her story. She’s certainly there, yes, but she’s also possessed, and isn’t the one doing all the fighting. Instead, she s controlled by the spirit of Jinkuro, a samurai wants to obtain immortality. Monohime’s body wasn’t his first choice, he ended up possessing her rather than her husband by accident due to the family getting attacked by the shogun. But now they’re stuck together until he can reclaim the sword that let him possess her in the first place.
        This journey leads him to the estate of Danjyo Shikami, a retainer of Momohime’s family who in fact was the one who betrayed her family to the shogun, and may be storing Jinkuro’s sword in his warehouse. Given Jinkuro cut his way in through Danjyo’s men, he’s not exactly willing to talk peacefully with the swordsman, and in fact has an ace in the hole if Jinkuro can get past his guards.
        More to the point, he has the protection of a youkai, a Nue to be exact. A Nue is a powerful monster, also called a chimera, which looks like a beast created from the body parts of other animals. Specifically, they have the head of a baboon, enlarged to fit the rest of its body, front claws of a tiger, body of a dog, and the tail of a snake.
        From what I can tell, a mythological Nue who crept into the emperor’s estate and used its vile power to make him deathly ill and give him nightmares. Nothing could cure this, save slaying the beast itself. A hunter with a legendary bow shot the Nue down from its perch in the clouds, felling it.
        The hunter slew the incapacitated monster once it landed. This ended the curse it had cast over the emperor, but even its dead body was full of vile power, so much so that people feared that a revenge curse would soon fall on all of them, so the body was taken away to be purified and properly buried.
        While all of this may not give the Nue a favorable impression of its prowess in battle, it does explain why one would help Danjyo. The retainer protects the Nue by hiding its presence, and he is protected by the youkai itself while it is free to inflict curses and disaster on others to its heart’s content.
        However, don’t think the story means it is easy to beat. In fact, I’d say it was one of the hardest fights in the game. Remember, the man from the story is an archer, and one good enough to knock out the beast, likely hitting a vital area, while shooting from the ground, into a cloud. You, on the other hand, have to fight the tiger-clawed flying curse monster up close with a sword.
        As you may expect it will slash at you with its claws if you get close enough, but it does this very rarely. More often than not, it will float about on its cloud, staying away from you and your blade. An attack it uses more frequently is firing out blue homing fireballs. Much like the projectiles of the ghost enemies, these can be reflected back with a slash, but he fires considerably more of them.
        One of its most frequent attacks is where the cloud swirls around it and the Nue rolls into a ball, bouncing off the ground, chasing you. While in this state, the Nue is invincible to your attacks, and attempts to harm it will only damage your sword, forcing you to dodge it. Luckily, it does not stay like this for long… at first. As the battle rages on, the duration of this attack gets longer and longer, basically turning it into a bouncing orb of destruction that you have to avoid at all costs.
        One of its attacks is a fairly simple charge, which always results in it slamming into the ground. If it misses, it will be stunned for a moment where you can harm it, but if you are hit, you likely won’t be able to hit it during this time. It also collapses for a longer period simply from you doing enough damage.
        As it lower in health, it will add a few new tricks- combining the fireball and spinning moves, it will spin in place, making it invulnerable to your strikes, then fire out a straight barrage of fireballs at you. While these can be deflected back by blocking, and they will hurt the Nue, this can quickly wear down the durability of your weapon.
        Its last trick is to transform into a tornado, attempting to pull you in. If it does, you will take severe damage, and blocking will most certainly break your blade. The only real trick to avoiding this is to simply be far enough away, but the fact that you have to get close to it a lot of the time and how fast the tornado forms means this can be very hard to balance.
        A lot of the difficulty here comes from how fast it attacks and how it is best to be far away from it when it does- even though you need to be close to actually attack. The best way to make the battle easier is to master rolling, allowing your character to easily gain distance on the foe and escape the tornado’s vacuum radius and the ball landing on you.
        In addition to its speed, however, it can be difficult to tell what it is actually going to do because both the ball and tornado attacks involve the cloud around it swirling, so it could be performing either. Again, rolling is your friend here. So long as you keep mobile, I’m certain the Nue can be beaten.
        So that is one boss, but there is another that sticks in my mind, both for difficulty and the unique qualities of the character. Sayo is a very unusual boss fought in Kisuke’s storyline. She appears to be an ordinary human, but even before the player faces them they can tell she is anything but.
        You see, Kisuke’s story begins with him being chased by ninjas and having no idea why, since he lacks his memories. He attacks the leader of these ninja, but in the process he is interrupted by a giant centipede. After that rather easy boss fight, the ninja boss decides he is too powerful to waste, and promises that if he goes to retrieve the supposedly possessed Torahime, then his crimes will be forgiven, whatever those are.
        He then has to fight Torahime, who has summoned up ghost warriors from the afterlife to aid her in an assault on Edo Castle as revenge for what the shogun had done to her family. Kisuke does not kill her, however- he only struck her ghost horse, so the woman herself is fine. He also knows that the ninja boss won’t honor his deal with him, so he decides to help Torahime, now that she’s stopped shooting at him.
        She goes on ahead with her assault, but she does not make it to the castle, because she is stopped by Sayo. Again, she appears to be ordinary human, but the fact that she managed to defeat Torahime and her warriors- which by now of course you have done the same- speaks quite well of her power. In addition, she seems perfectly ready to take Kisuke on as well, meaning she did so with at best only superficial harm to herself.
        When I first saw her, I didn’t really know how she was as strong as she was, but on doing a bit of research I found out she is a mountain hermit, who through training and spiritual teachings obtains the powers she has. She evidently is journeying around Japan for her own reasons, and fights evil where she finds it, which she determined Torahime’s forces to be. She also comes to the conclusion that Kisuke is possessed, which we find out afterwards is partly true- his actions are his own, but his sword mastery does come from a ghost that merged with his own soul.
        In any case, the two fight. Sayo quickly shows herself to be a long range fighter, firing out paper talismans, or ofuda, at Kisuke. Her normal ones aren’t actually aimed at him, but instead fly out and pause at a spot over her. When Kisuke moves under these ofuda, they will fire out lightning, basically acting as a trap. Luckily, Kisuke can destroy them, and they will only strike if he is under them.
        She can defend herself up close, however, by hitting Kisuke with a giant conch shell she carries with her. She hits surprisingly hard- it can take away half your sword’s durability if you block it. She can also toss out bombs, either singly or in mass, though the latter happens by her tripping, leaving her vulnerable for a time. In either case, like with the ninja, these bombs can be deflected, and they will hurt her if you do so.
        Aside from her more mundane attacks, she can also blow in the conch shell to call crows from around the area, which lift her up into the air. From there she is naturally harder to hit, and has different attacks. She will throw out the same explosives she tripped with before, firework bombs which seem to fall more slowly, giving you more of a chance to knock them back at her, and can use her shell to summon more crows, these of which dive bomb Kisuke.
        She will also occasionally pull of an entirely unavoidable attack where she fires out many ofuda while airborne, holding Kisuke in place. If you move enough, though, he can break free and dodge or counter the giant bomb she throws at her trapped enemy. If you knock it back, she will fall to the ground and take massive damage, knocking her back into her ground phase. Once she takes another damage, however, she will start using some new tricks.
        She will now fire out flaming ofuda, which are incredibly annoying instead of acting as traps, they’re direct projectiles, and if they miss they will fly back around to hit you anyway, and do quite a bit of damage as well as lighting you on fire. They also seem to produce smaller fireballs with the same properties, making it difficult to dodge or block.
        Aside from that one attack, she seems to be mostly the same, and you can tell when she plans to use it by the background growing dark. My advice would be to finish her quickly, before she can pull out that attack, if possible. All in all, she has a large variety of tricks and attacks to keep you at bay and on your toes, and can be very good at knocking you away on occasion. However, once you actually do get in close, her options are more limited and she will generally run off to a more advantageous spot. It is by no means an easy battle.
        What is especially telling is that after the battle, she is shown, more annoyed than anything, and Kisuke is not on screen. The implication being, I think, that she knocked him out. She believes the forces possessing him to be gone, and so leaves the scene, and in fact the game entirely. You do not see her again, unless you go back after beating the game to face her once more.
        That very fact alone infuriated and intrigued me to find out more about her, and so she ended up in my article. You’d think a character with so much power and ability would be more central to the game’s story, but instead, she is merely a coincidental encounter, as though she stumbled in from another story entirely and quickly went back to her own plot. Which I guess would make Kisuke her coincidental encounter. All very strange… in any case, I hope you enjoyed the article, dear readers, and I am sorry I have been so late with this one. Events kept me from writing, but I am back now, and hopefully will be able to keep my usual schedule. Thank you for your patience.

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