The DNA of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Updated: Mar 27, 2020
We love retro gaming here at Antstream Arcade, but we love contemporary games too. Continuing our DNA series, we take a look at another hot new release and trace it back to discover its influences and inspirations. This week it’s a game that’s stores today, Activision and From Software’s action ninja extravaganza, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
In Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, the player takes on the role of the ‘one-armed wolf’, a disgraced ninja warrior who, as his sobriquet suggests, has suffered a traumatic limb removal. As its trailer plays out, the lead character constantly evokes the spirit of Rikimaru, the slight yet fearsome hero of Tenchu, and it’s soon apparent that the themes running through the 1998 classic are being resurrected once more: honour, swordsmanship, killing by stealth and, most importantly, exacting revenge on those who have wronged the master.
Tenchu blends all these elements, forging a compelling good vs evil narrative which rewards the player for eliminating opponents undetected, with its several kill moves resulting in copious showers of crimson across the screen. Sekiro emulates this perfectly: the hero uses an identical sword to Rikimaru, the thin blade known as a ninjaken, and while there isn’t as much emphasis on stealth, those termination moves, given a modern day sheen, are there to enjoy. And like Rikimaru, the one-armed wolf is out for revenge, and to rescue his kidnapped master.
From Software’s first Tenchu game, Wrath Of Heaven, had already shown in 2003 that gamers today wanted more than shadow kills and the slower pace of the original two Tenchu games. Coupled with the mammoth difficulty of the developer’s famous Dark Souls games, Sekiro is clearly influenced by both these properties, taking the best of each and melding them into something potentially quite special.
The similarities become more pronounced the deeper you delve into the world of 15th Century feudal Japan: Sekiro adapts Dark Souls’ checkpoint bonfires into sculptor’s statues, which also serve to top up the one-armed wolf’s energy potion. And the grappling hook, a key object for gaining access to roofs (and therefore safety) in Tenchu looks to be an important part of Sekiro, only this time it’s an actual physical part of the game’s protagonist.
This powerful elongated wire has been opening up video game levels for some time with Capcom’s excellent Bionic Commando an important checkpoint for the helpful item. Originally an arcade platform game – one of very few where the player’s character can’t actually jump – it stars Nathan Spencer as the eponymous augmented hero, combating Nazis in an alternative timeline. Bionic Commando popularised the concept of a player-connected grappling hook as its central movement principle, and has inspired a number of other games such as Just Cause, Dying Light and the recent Batman games from Rocksteady.
Indeed, it is the one-armed wolf’s mechanical accessory that most intrigues. As a series, Tenchu has consistently enjoyed dipping into Japanese folklore, mixing the supernatural with the fantastical. In Sekiro, the central character sports an ornate steampunk arm, a vial of flame underneath giving its wielder an extra edge in battle. In movies and TV, the loss of a hand or arm has often been used as a powerful character builder; think Luke Skywalker losing out to Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back or Jaime Lannister from Game Of Thrones. Sekiro taps into that powerful vein as the one-armed wolf overcomes his own extreme adversity to take on and destroy his enemies.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is set to be another fantastical adventure in the brutal world of ancient Japan. Combining the setting and stealth of Tenchu with the hard-as-nails gameplay and bosses of Dark Souls sounds like a sure-fire winner to Antstream. Check out the official site at for more!