When you arrive at the battle ground level just stay there, by doing critical hits you will get an unlimited supply of life and a tons of red souls. I played for 30 minutes in the battle ground and got 22 bars of souls, never went below 3/4 life and I never used one herb or med. Use Ako's blue vest because absorbing souls is a little hard with all the arrows flying (Ako's blue vest is the one that absorbs super fast, don't worry the arrows hurt such a tiny amount it really means nothing). I was able to max out all of Jean Reno's items with just this one battle, and it is real good critical/chain critical hit practice. It is just to bad Sam couldn't get in on this free soul feast.
Criticals made easy: all you have to do to be sucessful in a deflect critical is to stand still and hold down the R1 button and continually tap L1, keep tapping L1 until you see the ring of light then hit square. This will work 100% of the time against the weak to strong enermies. BUT! It will not work against the big guys with the ball and chain and the uber guys with the spinning swords. Other than them, you'll own everyone, including Guildestern and Mori.
You can get the Panda costume for Samanosuke (which is really weird in my opinion and useless) get have an Onimusha Blade Warriors or Onimusha Buraiden (sanme as Blade Warriors excecpt in Japanese). AND VIOLA. Youhave the Panda Costume.
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