Surprised no one’s asked you that much of Nioh outside of general impressions, do you have any favorite Bosses?
In order of appearance, Hino-Enma, Tachibana, Yuki-Onna, Okatsu, Saika, and Oda Nobunaga. Plus of course the combination fights of Oda and Yuki, and Tachibana and Honda.
I think each of these bosses emphasized the core group of skills that the game was based on, had varied movesets that controlled different areas of space over different lengths of time, and were generally challenging. They’re some of the best bosses I’ve ever faced in a video game.
Hino-Enma had a great series of combination attacks that could subtly change in timing based on your spacing, borrowing the trick from bloodborne. The closer range kicks and further range umbrella attacks were nice for variety. Her punishable moving AOE spin attack that created yokai realm was interesting to avoid and punish effectively, with both blocks and dodges being situational counters. Her paralyzing voice projectile was a bit simple, but was a tight reaction test that filled a ranged gap in her moveset, allowing her to punish people who fell back to heal, and the stun could lead to a bigger punish. Since she flew, she could be juggled if you managed her Ki well and struck at the right time. Her ability to run, dodge, and fly kept her very mobile throughout the fight, making you play a little spacing game to corner her and avoid being cornered.
Tachibana was straight-up merciless in the beta. Him having more normal stamina rules gave him an interesting variety from the other yokai bosses. It meant that depleting his stamina was a lot less linear and more about noticing opportunities to move in and break his guard when he was low after attacking or defending, rather than trying to set yourself up with full stamina in a neutral stance and the enemy cornered right when their Ki ran out, such as with Yokai. Tachibana has basic attack strings filling the usual purpose. He can charge his sword in place and release forwards, which can be avoided and punished if you get around him, or space yourself just far away enough from it to be in range to hit him. He can roll back and shoot a crossbow with 3 arrows, meaning a simple side dodge will still get hit at many ranges and you need to be more mindful of the direction you dodge. He can also charge up and do a rushing slash attack that comes out very suddenly from the run animation. This chargeup can itself be interrupted. Since he’s a human enemy, he can even break your guard and get massive damage on the followup. Also he can summon his guardian spirit, which is not only a ranged attack, but the spirit delays for a bit before attacking, letting him move in while it’s covering for him. It can even dash twice sometimes. He also has an overhead lightning slash that has nice range and good damage, but is fairly punishable and doesn’t slash across like his normal combo or charge move does. He is even set up to dodge at timings that match when a player might attack.
Yuki-Onna is one of the big highlights for me. She has the multi-hitting ice breath, with great range, decent damage, but is highly punishable by sidestepping or dodging, bad framedata in general. It’s there to give you an opportunity to go in practically. She has some basic slashing combos with her spear that move her forward and she’s locked in a direction while doing them, so these are also punishable, but they come out a bit faster, so it can be tough. Then she has the ice stomp, which is a massive AOE in front of her that comes out fast. This is very difficult to punish even though it has a decent recovery, but if you see it coming, you can get behind her to get a few hits in. She has a few different projectiles. The most basic pattern is summoning 3 icicles that shoot off quickly. Another is summoning a crown of ice above her head that lands in a ring around her, creating a damaging AOE on the ground. This one exists to punish people waiting at a range around her, missing people closer to her. It also locks you in or out relative to her for a few seconds, unless you’re willing to brave the ice. She can attack while the ice ring is still up. She can also summon 5 ice projectiles that each go off in a fixed arcing pattern ahead of her. Or summon several sets of 3 projectiles that cover the area in front of her multiple times and need to be dodged in rhythm to escape. She tends to do these alternate projectile patterns later in the fight. She can also chuck her spear at you, which she tends to do only when you’re at a range, and if it hits you, you’re going to get locked down in a blocking animation and pushed far away from her, which can potentially corner you. She needs to regenerate her spear afterwards, so if you can manage to punish this, it’s a big opportunity. Lastly, she can do a rushing attack that has a massive range, does massive damage, and has a very subtle telegraph. This can be dodged at any range, but it’s extremely tricky, and frequently you might find it safer to just stay outside its range, which subjects you to the full effect of her nasty ice projectiles and spear chuck without being able to reliably punish her. As a Yokai, she follows their Ki and Stun rules, so stunning her can net a lot of damage if you have a full Ki bar, but when her stun time is up, she uses the AOE ice stomp as a burst out of stun, which can be tricky to avoid if you’re too focused on racking up damage. She tends to only use her rushing attack and advanced ice projectiles after losing half health. Through her combination of deadly attacks, she can force you out of her close range, then whittle you down with projectiles from afar, making her a big spike in the game’s difficulty and a very effective boss design.
Okatsu is also nice. She weaves in and out at you, alternating between combination attacks, grabs, lunging attacks and projectiles from afar. She has a really far backdodge that is tricky to punish and usually comes after an attack sequence or a lunge. In later stages of the fight she will jump over your head, allowing her to escape from being cornered and generally evade attacks. She has an overhead flip that will grab you and needs to be avoided, and can lunge from afar to get in quickly. All of her attacks are really fast and it’s difficult to pin her down. Like tachibana, she follows normal stun rules for humans, making it very dynamic to stun her, requiring you stay on top of her at the right times, but also have the guts to move in, even though she may counterhit you with her fast attacks, or dodge out-right with her movement options. She also has charged lunging attacks that she can follow up multiple times that track your movement tightly on the first lunge, making them tricky to dodge, so blocking may be a better option at the cost of a punish. Since the multiple followups aren’t guaranteed, if she only does one, then it can be tricky to react in time for the punish while you’re still in defense mode. If you have good positioning when she charges, then you can get out of the way, but that needs to be judged in the moment. You gotta watch for where she is in the room and how far you are from her. If you do manage to get out of the way, she’s highly punishable afterwards, but your spacing might not be good after avoiding her. Her kunai projectiles can be thrown 4 or 5 at a time, covering a spread around you that is impossible to avoid by dodging, requiring you either block, or go for an iframe dodge, which is hard in nioh. She also has a neat jumping attack where she throws projectiles, then lunges, forcing you to block or do a tight dodge, which can lock you down for the lunge afterwards. At half health and below, she’ll start kicking off walls, or doing jumping lunges directly at you after her weaker homing charged ground lunges. Her fast attacks can be very difficult to evade and get the correct positioning on to punish, and she can be extremely difficult to pin down for hits when she’s not attacking, which is what makes her a fun boss.
Saika’s cool as hell. He can fly, and from fly he can shoot you, or throw explosives at you. Shooting can be avoided with a well timed dodge or an easy block, while blocking the explosives is not a very good idea as it will chip your block and light you on fire potentially. He can also fly up and throw 3 explosives in front of him, covering the area in fire, and you need to decide to move forward at him, or back away from him, since it denies side dodges. He’s punishable on landing, but he’ll frequently teleport when he flies up, making it difficult to avoid his projectile attacks and be close to him when he lands. Since he flies, and obeys human stun rules instead of yokai stun rules, you can juggle him off any air hit. One of the best ways to punish him when he goes in the air is to throw a kunai or shuriken, starting a juggle, then use your weapon to continue the juggle as he comes down. You need to be careful not to trade hits with his projectiles however, since those come out very quickly. On the ground he has a charge slash that lunges at you. Another quick option he has on ground is shooting you with his musket, filling out his ability to threaten you at a range, denying your healing and buff items, as well as being a tough to react to move. He can whistle on the ground to call his guardian spirit, which acts as a delayed fireball, covering his grounded attacks. Saika’s primary strength is that his teleports make him impossible to pin down, and he can threaten you no matter where you are, frequently creating space or rushing in at you at inopportune times. It’s hard to be close to him when he’s punishable, and his projectiles can trade with many attempts to punish him. He can be pushed into the fire in his arena, but that won’t last for long, and the fire constricts where you can move as well. It’s positioned well to corner you against walls or the one exposed corner at far ends of the room. He has human stun rules too, but you’ll never stun him.
I don’t have a good justification for Oda Nobunaga, given his fight is so short. I just know it’s cool.
I think it should be obvious how the combination bosses are excellent.
Runner ups include Nue (almost made it, very good design), Ogress, and Giant Toad.