A closer look into the figures, battlefields, and lore that inspired Team Ninja's brutal action epic
Koei Tecmo Games continues its unique interpretation of the warring states period (also known as the Sengoku period) in Japan with last week’s release of Nioh 2.
In this article, we’ll be shining a spotlight on the figures, battlefields, and lore that populated this turbulent period. From 1467 – 1568 CE, rival feudal lords or “Daimyo” fought for control of Japan. Eventually, one Daimyo named Nobunaga Oda would rise above the rest and set the country on a course for unification. Nobunaga Oda, along with his two immediate successors, Hideyoshi Toyotomi (also one of his samurai) and Ieyasu Tokugawa are credited with finally unifying medieval Japan in the 16th century CE. It is with the historical backdrop that Nioh 2 takes center stage – with many of the era’s historical figures playing a role in the game.
The Story So Far
The story of Nioh 2 begins in the Mino province, where our protagonist (that’s you!) is hired as a mercenary to hunt down Yokai. In a battle against a mighty Yokai, they lose control of their Yokai powers. The dire situation is remedied, however, by a wandering merchant by the name of Tokichiro who sells strange ‘Spirit Stones’ — magic-imbued artifacts that can help the wielder communicate with Yokai spirits. Thanks to Tokichiro’s Spirit Stones, the protagonist regains control.
Tokichiro hires our protagonist for protection as he seeks his next buyer for the Spirit Stones — Dosan Saito, the Daimyo of the Mino province. Before Tokichiro can make his approach, however, Dosan loses his life in an attack by his son, Yoshitatsu. The pair is then forced to escape Mino province for their safety.
Following Dosan’s last words of advice, the pair escape to Owari province. There, they run into the “Fool of Owari,” none other than the Daimyo of Owari, Oda Nobunaga. They come into his service and begin piling on successes from their military exploits. Eventually, the pair come to refer to themselves by the same name, “Hideyoshi” — the historical successor to Oda mentioned above!
Our protagonist is a hired mercenary and Yokai hunter who works in the Mino province, living in a dilapidated house. Part human, part Yokai, our protagonist has the unique ability to call on the power of guardian spirits to aid them in battle. Our mercenary hero also has Yokai powers which they use to summon superhuman strength. At times, it’s precisely because of these immense powers that they lose control.
Our protagonist doesn’t actually know their real name – they take the name “Hide” a homage to their mother.
The Figures: A look at Nioh 2’s characters inspired by history
Tokichiro is a merchant who sells spirit stones embedded with Amrita. Together with the protagonist, he later becomes known as Hideyoshi Toyotomi. An amicable character with deep knowledge of various fields, Tokichiro maintains a wealth of friendly relationships, even with some of the most influential Daimyo of the area. He was able to get out of some tough times in the past with his natural wisdom and his keen merchant skills.
A determined and ambitious individual, Tokichiro complements Hide’s talents on the battlefield with his military strategy and planning skills.
Guardian Spirit: Masaru
Masaru is the sacred monkey of the Hiyoshi Shrine, located in the scenic landscapes of Mount Hiei.
Nobunaga Oda is the young Daimyo of the Owari province. He was known for his bizarre behaviour which earned him the nickname, “The Fool of Owari.” Moniker aside, he would be remembered as a shrewd feudal lord and brilliant strategist.
Historically, Nobunaga paid no attention to nobility nor class and took into account only the skills that people brought to the table. In the game, despite the two Hideyoshis being relative newcomers, Nobunaga holds them in high regard for their exploits on the battlefield.
Nobunaga did have a radical side to him, which made him many enemies over his lifetime. Historically, this included his own vassal, Akechi Mitsuhide who rebelled against him and ambushed him at Honno-ji Temple.
Guardian Spirit: Hyobishin
Known as a hot-tempered god with no tolerance for uncleanliness, Hyobishin is also identified with Ketu, which controls the solar eclipse. He is not deceived by first impressions and can pierce through the soul to get to the truth.
The daughter of Dosan Saito, Nohime was married to the young Nobunaga. Although set up primarily as a marriage to forge an alliance, Nobunaga was said to be a fan of her strong will and noble mind throughout their lifetime.
Guardian Spirit: Usura-hicho
This striking guardian spirit is as cold as it is beautiful. Its followers swear that venerating it will protect you from ice and snow-related disasters.
One of Nobunaga’s most trusted generals. He was known by several names like “Demon Shibata” and “Attacking Shibata” for his numerous exploits in battle. Perhaps due to his intense dedication to physical combat, he didn’t think much of the more strategic and planning-oriented Tokichiro.
Guardian Spirit: Inosasao
The Inosasao takes on the form of a wild boar of many years who holds divine, supernatural powers.
Starting out as a page in his boyhood days, Toshiie Maeda is a long-time warrior in the ranks of Nobunaga. The “Mataza of the Spear” gets his nickname for his intense spear skills. He’s worked under Katsuie Shibata for a very long time.
Guardian Spirit: Okuri-inu
A dog-like Guardian Spirit, the Okuri-inu builds a following among the regions as a defender of sorts, warning travelers of the dangers that lie ahead.
Koroku Hachisuka is the head of the Kawanami, a mutual aid group which has a loose solidarity with peaceful Yokai dwelling in Sunomata. Koroku himself also inherits Yokai blood, which is why parts of his body look like a kappa. He comes across the two Hideyoshis when Tokichiro starts planning to build a castle in Sunomata.
A wise officer for the Saito clan, he was said to have taken over the Saito clan’s castle at Mount Inaba with just a few men, to show his lords of its vulnerabilities. He later absconded to live a peaceful, secluded lifestyle, but was called up by Tokichiro and promptly thrust back into action.
Guardian Spirit: Hakutaku
An intelligent and sacred beast, the Hakutaku can communicate with humans and boasts a great deal about Yokai and other demons.
Sen no Rikyu
Originally a merchant from Sakai, Sen no Rikyu was known as a master of tea ceremonies and the originator of the Wabi-cha style. He was under Nobunaga until Toyotomi took over, whereby he came into their services.
An ambitious Daimyo who won his seat by forcing out his own superior, Dosan Saito is also known as the “Viper of Mino.” Although he used to be at odds with the Oda clan, he managed to make peace by marrying his daughter, Nohime, to Oda himself.
Guardian Spirit: The White Viper
The White Viper has a large following throughout Japan as an incarnation of God boasting a high spiritual rank.
Yoshimoto Imagawa is an influential Daimyo from the prestigious Imagawa clan who rules over large swaths of the Tokaido region. He’s famous for being the “Number One Archer of Tokaido region”.
Yoshimoto invades the Owari province, seeking a stronger influence over the western territories. He finds himself up against Oda in the Battle of Okehazama. Don’t let his aristocratic garments fool you — Yoshimoto is unparalleled as a Samurai commander.
Guardian Spirit: Rokugezo
A gorgeous, majestic elephant, Imagawa’s Guardian Spirit encapsulates his military prowess.
The Daimyo of the Omi province, Azai marries Nobunaga’s daughter, Oichi to form a powerful alliance with the Oda clan. As his brother-in-law, he was trusted highly by Nobunaga. However, that trust would not be paid back in return — Nobunaga would be betrayed as he launches his attack on the Asakura family.
He was supposed to be blissfully spending the days with his beloved wife, Oichi. But seemingly out of nowhere, he makes a complete transformation and antagonizes the Oda clan. Perhaps the Spirit Stones that came into his hands had something to do with it…
Guardian Spirit: Hiyokucho
The male and female birds fly together in a harmonious fashion, symbolizing his intimate relationship with his wife.
Known for her stunning good looks, the beautiful Oichi is Nobunaga’s sister. She lives in the Kiyosu Castle, from where she keeps watch over the two Hideyoshis from behind the scenes. As part of Nobunaga’s political maneuvers, Oichi is married off to the Azai family.
Guardian Spirit: Nine Tails Fox Spirit
The nine-tailed guardian spirit appears as the world reaches a turning point.
A general for the Asakura clan, Naotaka uses his superhuman strength to swing a lengthy sword called the Taro Tachi. At the battle of Anegawa involving the Asai and Oda clans, Naotaka uses the powers of the Spirit Stones to transform into a mighty Yokai.
For someone who was regarded as the wisest general in the Oda clan, lots of mystery surrounds his background. He previously served the Saito clan in Mino province, but later transferred to the Oda clan upon their downfall. He would display exceptional wit to climb high up the ranks, even as a relative newcomer to the clan.
A man who assigned a high value to harmony, Akechi saw danger in the Spirit Stone peddler, Tokichiro. At the Siege of Kanegasaki he sought to find an opening to kill him. Before long, his fear of the abuse of the Spirit Stone would lead him to strike Nobunaga at the Honno-ji Temple.
Guardian Spirit: Genbu, the Black Tortoise of the Four Gods
The Black Tortoise symbolizes the power of water, extinguishing turbulent flames.
A retainer for the Akechi clan, Saito is adept at both Onmyo magic and swordsmanship. He uses these skills to great effect to produce some stunning displays on the battlefield. Saito is highly trusted by Akechi — perhaps that has something to do with his prominent role in the Battle of Yamazaki at Honno-ji temple.
The Daimyo of the Yamato state, Matsunaga is known for his cruel streak, killing his former Master, Miyoshi, and purging the Ashikaga clan.
Though most often known for his cruelty, Matsunaga has a healthy appreciation for the finer things in life, especially the art of the tea ceremony.
One of the “Tokugawa Four Heavenly Kings,” Honda was regarded as Tokugawa’s cream of the crop. He has produced some stunning displays over numerous battles while he served as a retainer for the Tokugawa throne. Despite countless appearances on the battlefield, he is said never to have suffered even a single scratch.
Hanzo Hattori was a samurai who headed the ninjas of the Iga province on espionage and other stealth missions.
Magoichi was a skilled gunman who headed he Saika mercenary group in Kii province. He was responsible for shooting down prominent figures on the battlefield during his day.
The Battlefields: Where History Was Made
The characters of Nioh 2 do battle in some of the most famous battlefields in feudal Japan. Let’s take a look at some of these scenes where history was created, recreated in all their glory in Nioh 2.
The stage of the decisive battle between the Oda and Imagawa clans. The tall plant life through the ravines provided poor visibility and thus were a safe space for soldiers to rest.
In this battle, Nobunaga defeated the Imagawa clan and established himself as one of the front-running warlords in the Sengoku period.
With thick forests and steep valleys, the treacherous grounds of Kanegasaki was full of obstacles to safe passage. It was the stage for the Siege of Kanegasaki, where Hideyoshi would battle it out to help the Oda clan escape from the betrayal of the Azai clan.
This was the site of the “Honno-ji Incident” where Akechi staged his revolt against Oda. Akechi’s army tossed fire all over the site, leaving behind not even a shadow of the once spectacular Buddhist temple.
The Lore: A look at the Yokai inhabiting Nioh 2
Expect to find yourself surrounded by countless Yokai as you make your way through the game. Defeat enemy Yokai and you just might snag a Soul Core. You can attune these to your Guardian Spirit to perform some of their maneuvers. Let’s take a look at some of the Yokai you’ll find throughout your journey.
You’ll be able to identify the Mezuki by its horse-like head. The hatred of the dead and horses merge to create this Yokai. The Mezuki lunges into enemies with its large body and mean saw.
The Enenra is a smoke and fire Yokai that emerges from the bitter thoughts of human beings. Drifting through the air, the Yokai emerges from smoke and steam to attack human beings.
The Yatsu-no-Kami is a serpent Yokai with a horn made of countless blades sticking out from its forehead. It uses these blades to lunge at you in attack. In the Dark Realm, the serpent’s hands take on a life of their own, springing forth to attack you from different angles.
The Kamaitachi is said to “ride the wind,” slashing at its victims with biting gales. It uses its sharp arms and tails to unleash fierce spinning attacks. Whereas the Kamaitachi was once a peaceful creature, the spirit stones created in it a horribly violent streak.
The so-called “Chariot Lady,” this Yokai moves on a set of gigantic wheels with its top half presenting a woman’s figure. Kasha steals dead bodies and brings them to hell with her.
This grotesque-looking Yokai is half-red and half-blue, joined at the back. Its red half lays siege in melee combat with its sword and axe, while its blue half attacks from long distance with its bow and arrow.
The Tatarimokke takes on the form of an owl, created by the gathering of the spirits of those who died with many regrets. It unleashes these dead spirits like a missile onto its prey. It also unleashes beams from its third eye.
A Yokai born from the souls of various beasts combined, Mitsume Yazura emits breath attacks in every direction.
A Yokai with a huge, intimidating figure and gigantic claws to match, Waira dives into the ground to hunt its prey.
Taking on the form of an old woman, Yamanbas con travelers, eating them after cutting them up with its sharp knife
A blacksmith-turned demon, the one-legged Ippon-Datara swings its giant hammer and Odachi to kill its prey.
The Enki are monkeys that were transformed by Amrita into Yokai after a lifetime of cruelty and abuse at the hands of humans. Highly intelligent creatures, the imposing Enki are mightily dexterous.
A snake-like Yokai with the head of a woman, the water-loving Nure-Onna stuns prey and paralyzes them with her stare.
They’re not all out to get you — some Yokais are friendly, too! If you ever encounter any friendly Yokai along the way, be sure to interact with them.
The Kodama are little green tree spirits that embody the souls of everyday man-made objects. You’ll find the Kodama scattered throughout the land among the trees of the forest. Some of them are lost, though — help these lost Kodama find their way back to their shrines and get a boost from their blessings later in the game.
The Sudama are the corrupted form of the Kodama. Despite their corrupted form, they do not have aggressive tendencies and won’t attack humans out of nowhere. They are, however, intensely materialistic creatures. Give the Sudama a small gift of its liking and you may be rewarded with a rare item in return. Do not give them salt though — they will get upset!
A ball-shaped cat Yokai. Pet the Scampuss and let it get attached to you. Soon enough, you’ll find them following you around. These creatures help you restore your Anima, and at times will even help you out in battle. In the Dark Realm, the Scampuss puffs up into a blowfish-like status, possibly a protection measure against nearby enemies.
Historical figures, epic battlefields, and fantastical Yokai — Nioh 2 has a lot in store. We hope you enjoyed this deep dive into the world of Nioh 2. Be sure to have a look at the characters in the Amrita Memories in-game. Nioh 2 is out now on PS4.