Sekiro and a brief history of spraying blood all over the darn place

Sekiro and a brief history of spraying blood all over the darn place


(dramatic flourish of strings and drums) – Sekiro: Shadows Dies
Twice is one of my favorite games of the year. It’s a beautifully crafted
tale about the cost of loyalty. A purposeful meditation on— THAT IS A LOT OF BLOOD! aahH? Why is there so much blood in him? WHY DO THEY HAVE SO MUCH BLOO— Sekiro shook up the FromSoftware
action RPG formula in some pretty big ways. And one of those ways, was
its presentation of blood. There was a lot of it. And it shoots out in
noisy, sustained jets. Like this. (gentle gushing noises) Ow. This is a choice they made
specifically for Sekiro. Blood in the Dark Souls games splashes out in wet bursts. Bloodborne’s blood flies
out in heavy curtains that coat your character in beast fluid. The games visceral attacks do dump out an obscene amount of that delicious marinara. But this looks like a bucket of chum chucked through a screen door, not a sustained pressurized fire hose. It’s a really specific
flavor of blood-letting that we don’t get to see
all that often in a medium that’s known for getting really gory. The way that a game uses blood can tell us about the sort of experience
the devs are trying to create for us. In video games that are all
about hitting and getting hit it’s a communication tool. There can be a lot going on on a screen with finite space and pixels to tell the story. So, how can you let a player know that a hit landed? With a big ol’ splash
of that tasty red gravy that we all need inside of us. I’m talkin about blood. In Left for Dead 2, they
created a distance-based gore scaling system to
keep things readable. So, if you shoot a zombie here, there’s gonna be some blood. But if you shoot a zombie over there, It’s way fuckin’ bigger. But Sekiro’s blood is different. You don’t get these big splashes of blood when you land individual hits. Instead hit confirms
come from flying sparks, flinching enemies, and sound effects. (dull thud noise) The game has a ton of blood, but it’s using it in a different way. And this has to do with
the kind of story Sekiro is trying to tell. And the stuff that inspired it. (blood gushing) (heavy wind blowing) Japan’s chanbara, or sword-fighting films revisit, reimagine, and reinterpret their country’s history with pulpy
stories of stoic heroes and bloody confrontations. Like America’s westerns, these movies got cranked out by the hundreds
through the 50’s and 70’s. But just one of those movies
would pioneer an effect that would change the face of
silver screen gore forever. And that movie was Akira
Kurosawa’s Sanjuro. In the film’s climatic duel, Sanjuro faces off against Hanbei. They stare each other down. Anticipation hangs in the air. Sanjuro, a deadly warrior
who did not want this battle. And Hanbei, a disgraced lord desperate to regain any scrap of dignity. In this calm, meditative moment, they (blood gushing) No! This shocking climax is
dramatic and unbelievable. And despite some apocryphal myths about it being an accident, incredibly intentional. Kurosawa pumped approximately
one billion fuck-liters of stage blood through
this pressurized hose with so much force that Tatsuya Nakadai had to struggle to stay on his feet. It’s beautiful. It’s the literal and metaphorical release of every bit of tension and anger that built up to that moment. And like all great cinematic moments, it was destined to be copied by filmmakers with a lot of enthusiasm, and very little restraint. Kenji Misumi, who directed
the Lone Wolf and Cub series, would remix Sanjuro’s blood jet into dozens of new
grotesque configurations. Blood splashing off of a hat. Blood spraying from the neck
of a still-walking corpse. Bloody mist whistling
from a perfect cut in a guy’s windpipe. Sanjuros imitators would
show less discretion in their application of this technique, but the goal was the same, to sell the deadly
mythology of the samurai and the samurai sword. These are supposed to be battles between super deadly warriors
using weapons so sharp that a single strike means it’s over. So, fewer hits means the ones that land need to feel bigger, and
that means bigger blood. This particular aesthetic
of gore would endure. Cropping up in stories about samurai and ninjas and deadly swordsmen. Anime would push it into
impossible new heights. Samurai Jack would make
a kid friendly reference, swapping out the blood for robot oil. Tarantino would pay tribute in Kill Bill. And video games would get
in on that sloppy fun too. Matches in Samurai Shodown end with a prolonged hissing stream of blood. Tenshu, No More Heroes, Way Of The Samurai, and eventually Sekiro
would all pay tribute to the beautiful Sanjuro blood fountain. So, on an aesthetic level, that’s why Sekiro’s blood looks like that. It’s paying homage to the pulpy sword-fighting films that inspired it. But it works so well in Sekiro because the homage isn’t just skin deep. Sekiro’s gameplay embodies
that escalating tension that is so important to chanbara films. See in Sekiro, enemies are hard to kill. Most of them are also trained swordsmen, and if you manage to
sneak in a glancing blow, it’ll just do a bit of damage. If you were to chip away at their health bit by bit, every fight
would take a long time. Death by a thousand cuts. But there is a shortcut. By maintaining consistent pressure and blocking their attacks
with perfect timing, you can break their rapidly refilling posture meter. Which lets you totally
bypass their health bars. So, where does all this red go? Right out of a sword hole. It’s perfect. Every fight is a high-tension battle where a single mistake can
have serious consequences. But you push your skill and luck until you finally create
a deadly opportunity. It feels nothing like chipping away at the last bit of health
from a Dark Souls boss. Every kill feels incredibly decisive. Like you stole it away with your legendary sword skills. And every victory deserves a celebration. For what is gaming, if not
a celebration of the ideals that (gasp) (blood gushing) Ooh! That’s a lot of blood. (spritely string) Hey little blood freaks, if you enjoyed this video
subscribe to Polygon. We do videos on here. And you would probably like them if you liked this one. Uh, they’re not usually this bloody. But I can make em that way if you want.

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