Of course Zatoichi is in a sentimental mood. There is a funny scene where Zato mistakenly thinks that the town has set up a big banquet in his honor and he frets over how to greet his guests and thank them. There is a touching scene where Zato comes across a Jizo (Buddha) statue along side a road where he used to play as a child. Jizo is missing his stone head, so Zatoichi gets on hands and knees to find the missing head. In the end he finds the head and replaces it on Jizo's shoulders. Zato visits the grave of his 'aunti' who breast fed him and offers sake (taking a nip himself :) ).
The second half of the film is fast paced and has an interesting story. It's a story of greed and the story is being sown by Zatoichi's childhood friend, who has returned to the village at the same time as Zatoichi. Their confrontation is predictable, but Zatoichi takes out a host of yakuza to eventually confront his childhood friend. Overall, it's a compelling story and has a lot of good action.
So this film marks the 25th film in a period of 12 years. It's interesting that the series pauses at this point. The next film (and last) will be released in 1989. I would rank Zatoichi Conspiracy higher than several of the earlier films in the series, but the Japanese public must have had enough by this point. Good work Katsu!