Swords before Broads…

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I have spent a lot of time in fictional worlds, and can say with some degree of confidence that I have enjoyed them in a myriad of ways. It is not always about the story for me, in fact, less and less do I even pay attention to narrative in video games… It’s a sad reality, but when a cut-scene starts I zone out. Gone are the days where I’d invite a friend over after school to show them the awesome summoning cut-scenes in FF8, or the opening track to a ‘Tales of’ series. I must’ve replayed the Ganon fight 150 times as a kid. Every time we had a sleepover, my friend’s and I couldn’t help but re do the climatic final battle.

Alas, now-a-days I can barely find the patience to sit through one piece of dialogue in the Witcher III. I am constantly lost in games because I refuse to listen to quests or narrative markers. The irony being that I spend much more time on walkthroughs and guides to get me through the simplest tasks…

One thing that contributes to my enjoyment of gaming which has never changed however is gear. Fuckloads of gear. And upgrades, and cosmetic items… Gems, enchants, runes, transmogrification. Sexy shit, gawdy shit, sleek, shiny and sharp shit. It’s an obsession. In Dark Souls I had basically one of every item fully upgraded just for an e-peen meter.

I just love showing them off. And no one fucking cares. I see my friends eyes rolling. I hear their subtle queues. “This is boring”, “we fucking hate you”, “No one fucking cares”… I can read between the lines… But I don’t care. I just love it, and want to share it with someone. To me, being good at a game comes down to hoarding. I’ve rarely ever mastered a games combat more so than my friends. I’ve never been strong in any competitive sense. But what I truly love, is accumulating more than everyone else. (this extends to just about every facet of my existence, not just games)

So what is this preface… prefacing? Well, My favourite weapons (specifically swords) from video games. Now I will say this, all weapons merit attention, not just swords. However it is a long standing tradition that designers give swords in their games the best lore, quests, animations and aesthetics. That is a rather gross over simplification of the nature of things. I mean it ignores pretty much every sci-fi or current context based games. But I mean swords have a very solid history laced with tradition through every major ancient society. Whether it’s a gladiator’s sword, a knights, a Vikings, a samurai’s. Pretty much all history has stories of powerful blades. So it’s not surprising then that they get special treatment?

So in writing my favourite weapons, it just so happened I had about 9 swords… So I thought fuck it?! And here is 10 swords for your viewing pleasure. Maybe one day I’ll do a list which omits swords, but for now…

 Before we start, to get you in the mood, here is an unsorted playlist of my some of my favourite game music. Enjoy!

10) Xenoblade Chronicles – Monado 

monado3-1280x720I hated this sword at first. I hated it’s name. I hated Shulk’s name. It so happens I still do. And the way the characters say it, with their disgusting cockney accents. “Ohhh the monaaaarrrdoh.” I cringe.

It was gawdy as fuck, round and not sharp. And red? Why red… It doesn’t actually go faster… Was it to match Shulk’s dumbass shorts? I mean it a lot of ways, I seriously hate this weapon…

 

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So why is it here? Well to me, weapons are linked to their usage and the combat system for which they are built. And when I played Xenoblade Chronicles I was taken aback. It’s like when think you’ve heard every song you’ll ever love. That all music must have been discovered by now, but instead you end up hearing something entirely new, and different, and appeals to you in entirely new ways.

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To me, that’s what Xenoblade Chronicles’ combat system did… I thought I’d played all that Jrpgs had to offer, and that none could surprise me… But here was an entirely different combat system. So much more involved, and rewarding. It was difficult at times, super easy at others, but always took my full attention. I could not just put auto attack on and wait for combat to end. And the reality is, if a Final Fantasy game offered the Heroes auto-play function. I’d probably use it.

And eventually the blade gets cooler too. Opening up with different runes or words or something. I can’t remember. But you could never change it, so you learnt to love it visually. At least, I did…

I guess what it comes down to is that I loved the combat, and the sword was intrinsically linked to the combat. I had to play as Shulk (because I want to be the protagonist) and I had to use the sword. So I had to love it, and I did.WeeklyBigIcelandgull

9) No More Heroes: Desperate Struggle – Dual Beam Katana 

no-more-heroes-20080102034605065_640w I could say nuff said – but i’ll tell you this. When some one does, it means they are using the ‘get out of jail free card’ of writing. It is never enough said. I tend to write more than I need to (this being an example) but… it is never enough to say ’nuff said’. But I could, because this entry speaks for itself. Truly.

NMH is fucking cool. That’s it. It was a cool game, that revelled like a pig in a sty in its gross nerdiness. Like how confidence gets women, confidence gets gamers. It prided itself in all its Japanese culture. It gave no shit what you thought. And that made it cool.

And the controls were great at the time, and the combat was fun and fluid. Bosses were tough and upgrades were cool. And then NMH2 comes out and offers dual wielding. Shit, it could have just been a $100 dlc and I probably still would’ve bought it. It was that cool. I’m pretty sure reviews at the time just said “dual katanas” and that was it…

It was just a rare game where you felt cooler by playing it. And that was equal parts due to Travis Touchdown and his sword / swords.

No more heroes charge gif katana

 

(Forgot the mention the charging animation – just like real life recharging)

 

8) Morrowind – Crescent Blade

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This is the type of sword I might regret being in here later. I certainly like it more than the other two before it, but It just feels less deserving of the list… It’s hard making lists you know? I mean I remember it, and remember loving it, but I’m sure there are other swords that are more list worthy. This just feels like a non thing…

Anyway, what? It fucking looked rad. It broke my mind when I was 12. And this was an era where internet searching didn’t exist. A friend told me about it. And my friend had told me a lot of bullshit by this point. A talking crab with replenishing gold? Armor which gave 100% fire resist and meant vampires could walk in daylight. Pfft, this guy was full of shit… And so here was another lie… An item you stol from House Telvanni(?) which meant you faced a Daedra who wielded a badass moon shaped blade.

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I should mention too, that all Daedric shit is outstanding. Everything about them(?) it(?) is awesome. I’m sort of at a loss of words now. I wish there was more I could say. I guess in a way this was my original and first RP blade? By no means the most powerful weapon in the game, I still had a tonne of fun running around in Daedric armor, with one of the masks and this sword… Good times.

 

7) Diablo – The Grandfather

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My brother’s had a huge influence on me as I grew into myself, and one of the earliest lessons I remember learning was ‘less is more’. Bigger isn’t always better (a lesson which I learnt to be wrong later in life, heh heh heh).

If this were favourite weapons, my most covetted, and eventually owned, was the Messerschimdt’s Reaver. Which I got in Hellfire, and traded over, etc, etc… There was no quick or easy way to get these weapons. I never even got The Grandfather. And it really wasn’t the best weapon (close to though).

Uniques really had meaning in this game. I think in one playthrough of Diablo 1 you could get to exactly level 28 and on a subsequent play through, to level 31. I know this, because I did it a lot. This is prior to the shit expansion which introduced new difficulties. And you could, play the game through on all 3 original characters, and never see a unique item. Not one. (short of the lying blow jobs which were the Butchers Cleaver and Leoric’s Crown. Which make me roll my eyes just thinking about) Yeah there were a few quest uniques, but I mean random drops. And it wasn’t really random, it was pre-ordained. If said mob, would drop said item, on level 13, he would regardless of how many times you quit.

There was no farming, no guarantees. Your work really just sometimes, would never pay off. Shit, even if The Grandfather dropped, no guarantee it was on a warrior character.

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So why did I want it so bad? Why did I love it? It was a giant fuck off Katana, which was indestructible. THAT’S RIGHT, it needed no repairs! And Diablo needed a truck load of repairs. Like remember when D3 came out? And you’d farm all night, just to acquire enough gold so you could farm for gear the next night and be able to repair? (God what were they thinking with the early D3 game, it fucking sucked…) It seriously was probably the worst game ever made.

Diablo was a game where to buy good gear in town, you had to duplicate pile and pile of gold, until you’re inventory was full of the shit. Seriously, the new generation of gamers? The one’s that don’t fear adversity, and get laid for being nerds? You are not hardcore. You are not hardcore, unless you live hardcore. We played games that could only be completed with god mode. We played games where you grew excited knowing that in next months Hyper magazine, there would be a strategy guide. We had books of codes and hints. Like fucking anthologies. Know this new gen, I hate you, you are lazy, you don’t work for anything, and you benefit from all our effort, and you show NO APPRECIATION.

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Did I mention it’s also the only 1 handed great-sword in the game? Yeh, now I have.

Anyway, it was a badass sword, and it didn’t need repairs. I wanted it, still do. Kthnxbai.

 

6) Golden Sun: The Lost Age – Sol Blade / Gaia Blade

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I haven’t quite given this game the love it deserves. It deserve to be in my favourite bosses and OST’s. It truly does. And like high up there. Golden Sun made the infamous sound card of GBA sound like thousand piece orchestra. (I have no idea how many pieces in a quality orchestra, but I do know the guy in Freaks and Geeks has a 29 kit, and he rocks.) But I’m no Marty McFly.

So here is me making up for it. Golden sun was a traditional Jrpg in every sense. It took a real top down perspective on building it’s world. Taking the best from every Jrpg before. It didn’t really do anything new, just refined everything that came before. And the product was a stunning game.

The Gaia / Sol blade’s, were respectfully, the best blades in the weapons in the first and second instalment in the series. I suppose I would prefer to focus on the Sol Blade here, because I have much better memories of it, and spent a lot longer in The Lost Age, using the original game as more a precursor to the events of the second’s instalment.

The Sol Blade didn’t look phenomenal, but what it lacked in looks it made up for in effect. With a very high proc rate on its special summon ‘Meggido’ The Sol Blade became a players most powerful tool for damage. Where prior to it’s discovery, I relied heavily on Djinn for most of my damage, now I had a whole new avenue to uncover.

A whole new realm of play unfolded before me. Where I could rely on spells, and melee, subbing out Djinn combos to create new powerful classes (sorry that’s Golden Sun lingo you may not understand). And in every battle, I could reign havoc down with my new band of weapons, lead by the Sol Blade. xx.

5) Zelda Skyward Sword – Mastersword

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Link_and_the_Master_Sword_(Ocarina_of_Time)It could be said that this is the ultimate sword from any gaming franchise. I’d certainly argue that it is the most recognizable and significant in a game to date. Well, no, I wouldn’t argue, I’d just call you a moron if you disagreed and disregard all your opinions henceforth. But it’s not my favourite… and after all this is a favourites list.

The Mastersword has seen many iterations, constantly being reconceptualised for each Zelda game it enters. It has been with Link from 2d isometric, to side scroller, 3d, cell shaded and even motion control in its latest major console release. That is to say, not only has it updated graphically, but it continues to engender its platform and pioneer its generation. I am romanticising it a little bit sure, but it is seriously iconic.

As it so happens, I probably prefer the Biggoron’s Sword, or the Great Fairy’s Sword in terms of fighting style. I like being a big badass with a gnarly weapon. However, not many games have made sword and board style cool like Zelda has. And it has stuck to its guns. It was one of the original advanced combat systems in games. Fluid and tactical, Ocarina of Time really showed what combat could be like in 64bit. Some of the best parts of Ocarina, were one on two battles with skeleton warriors or those lizard guys.

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That targeting system, dodge mechanic, and special attack system has gone on to define combat in games stretching as far as Bayonetta to Dark Souls, and its all due to the fact that Nintendo HAD to integrate the Master Sword intuitively into the gameplay.

If I had to choose a favourite through the years, it would probably be the interpretation from Skyward Sword. I enjoyed watching the sword grow, and never having it superseded. Then again, the finale of Twilight Princess, and the final cut scene, really does spring to mind as an epic Master Sword moment.

4) World of Warcraft – Quel’Serrar

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Classic WoW was a different place. I could reminisce, romanticise and croon over a lost love here, but the objective truth is, it was shit. Levelling was a disaster, gear and stats were a mosh pit, and raiding was dull as all hell. Simple things, like having a level 60 mount, were almost impossible grinds. The first level 60 I saw was in the barrens. His name was Shagrath, and I immediately thought us friends through our similar music tastes. He had a Great Kodo with blazing eyes and iron riveted armour. (This statement alone demonstrates when I was playing, as great mounts did not gain armour or distinguishing detail until about a year into WoW). The early level 60 mounts are probably trhe rarest and most coveted among hardcore players.

Alas, I digress into romantic fantasy. The point is, there were these things, reverent things, and I worshipped them.

As I grew as a warrior, slowly, I leant my purpose more and more to tanking. That is, being the biggest badass in the raid. The go to guy, the bro who made sure everyone stayed alive. (A tank is only as good as his healers, if your reading this) but seriously, tanks are all that matter. I started with ZG then MC and Onyxia. And that’s where Quel’Serrar comes in. To my memory, you gained a rare drop from one of the harder, and longer dungeons named Dire Maul. A Dull and Flat Elven Blade would rarely drop and start the quest.

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In Classic, forming a group for DM was comparable to successfully courting a supermodel. It couldn’t be done. NO ONE WANTED TO GO THERE, I don’t blame them. UBRS was infinitely more rewarding and useful for Fire Resist Gear, and Scholomance and Stratholme were much closer. DM sucked.

Once you finally had farmed the blade, which I did, all you had to do now was stand in front of a fucking dragon, get bathed in fire, and live. All without a real weapon in tow.

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It was epic, it was meaningful, and it embraced the truest fact of them all. Tanks were better, cooler, and more important than 39 other people in the raids.

Quel’Serrar was ugly as shit. Massive, glowy, and green. But there was just something about it, ‘the high blade’, it being elven, and born from the world’s greatest threats flames.

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This was a time before gear customisation. If you had a helm and shoulder’s from AQ, gloves from MC, a shield from BWL and Quel’Serrar. You looked ridiculous. A big fancy joke. But no one would fuck with you.WoWScrnShot_013116_032352

Quel’Serrar in Latin roughly translates to – “It feels good to be the man”. And it really did. It so fucking did.

3) Badlurs Gate 2 and Ice Wind Dale 2 – Carsomyr ‘The Holy Avenger’ and Cera Sumat, ‘Holy Avenger’

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I touched on, but didn’t really talk about flavour text. A weapon is only good as its story, and by now you should have realised this. And a lot of time, that story is a holy crusade, or a battle against a dragon. Either way, it’s about struggling against adversity and triumphing over evil. It’s about lore, holding history in your hand, and feeling the power of the past wash over you.

Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale were like the original Dark Souls, telling more of their story through descriptions on weapons and in books rather than through dialog. The lore was laced into the gameplay. It didn’t feel forced, there weren’t long cut-scenes, or boring as fuck QTE’s. There was no following a guy down a path as he spoke about shit all… The story was buried under the surface, available at the player’s discretion. And once you looked, once you really looked, it was unavoidable and tangible. Like Justin Beiber’s vocals on his new album Purpose, Black Isle knew that good story had to take centre. Not flashy lights, glittering guitar solo’s or ephemeral vibes (whatever the fuck that means Pitchfork). Focus on what’s important, and make it right.

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I could tell you that Carsomyr dropped off the dragon Firkragg, who held a village at ransom as a ploy to toy with the Bhaal Spawn. Or that Cera Sumat was only available to Paladin’s in late game when visiting a fallen orders gravestone.

I could tell you that both were labelled the Holy Avenger, one a grand, and stunning two hander, and the other, a sleek one handed ‘heavy’ sword.

I could tell you that both stood as perhaps the most powerful weapons in their respective games, and that both took an amazing amount of tact and skill to obtain.

But I won’t. Instead, here are some excerpts from their lore:

Carsomyr: Carsomyr is a weapon of legend, perhaps one of the most powerful blades ever forged in Faerun, though it’d origin and history thought purposefully forgotten, such that the sword itself never overshade the importance of the struggles that must be fought today.

Cera Sumat: The Holy avenger is the paladin’s ultimate weapon against the forces of evil (…) and this one, perhaps more so than others. Once, it was nothing more than a simple iron sword, but through the courage and faith of one man, it became something more. The blade of this holy avenger glows with a soft golden light, inscribed upon the hilt in flowing gold letters is “Cera Sumat,” which roughly translates into “Six, now Silenced.”

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Just let that sink in, and its only scratching the surface. Every single weapon in these games were a tour de force of rich story. In these swords I found every box ticked, and they remain go to names for avatars to this day.

2) Dark Souls –Greatsword of Artorias
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It should have been noted earlier. My top 3 (4) are basically all number 1. Ranking them was a tough job, and may change on another day of the week if you caught me in a different mood. I’ve replayed all games within the last year, so I feel its right, but they are also in the order in which I played them, number 1, being the most recent.

I feel a little talked out at this point, as you can imagine, and I’m staring down the barrel of another 2 hours of editing and 2 hours of adding details like pictures.

But my sad sorry tale aside, let’s talk this sword, ever so briefly.

1GpSprMThe Greatsword of Artorias is the classic tale of a story well spun. A seeming misnomer at first, a sorta red herring, the sword served little narratological purpose. There was this big wolf, he had the sword, apparently it owned to his owner… Who cares right? Sif himself (the wolf) felt out of place, considering the way you had to reach him.

Sif was the first boss you cared about. His cut-scene introduced a protective animal, guarding a gravestone, and the fight would lead to his cowering and limping and eventual demise. Even the music pulled heartstrings differently to other bosses. Yet none of this made a lick of sense until the expansion pack, which was, for all intents and purposes, one of the best pieces of DLC of all time.

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Artorias was a great knight of Gywn, who’s exploits and heroic deeds had lead to his downfall. Fallen to corruption in the past, Artorias, the owner of Sif became one of the most difficult and memorable fights of the series.

Leaping around the coliseum which would become his grave, you can’t help but wonder how he fell so far, and like BG2 and IWD2, all this information is available upon deeper inspection. I won’t spoil the story, mostly because I forget it and cbf researching it, but also partly to maintain the mysticism of surprise.

The Greatsword of Artorias is gorgeous and comes in three forms. Cursed, restored and broken. It’s the restored that I love. Statisically the hardest hitting weapon in the game as max stats (which I doubt anyone got close to even with cheating). There was something enchanting about this blade.

The sword lead to heated online debates about which hand Artorias preferred, with the consensus now being he is left handed. The boss was also linked to an unlockable cut-scene with Sif, and eventual ally when facing Manus. I’ve said just about all I can about every type of sword, so why is this number 2, because I don’t think I’ve sold it.

 

 

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Honourable Mentions:

Okami – Eighth Wonder

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Okami had great weapons, and the glaives are no exception. However, the reason they don’t make the cut is simple. The Reflector is a much more exemplary example of weapons in Okami. If this were the top 10 weapons, Amaterasu’s Reflector would make the top 10 with no doubt, it’d just that of the divine instruments, the glaive is not the coolest.

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Final Fantasy Tactics – Judge Sword

I’d never played a tactics game when I bought Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, and at first glance I hated it. I bought the game because the cover had a cool kid with a badass sword. Turns out, its one of the best games I’ve ever played. The sword however is only there for aesthetics. You never actually get to wield it. Which is cool in the sense it encourages growth in all fields, but a shame as a young boy wishing to smoosh shit with a big sword.

Bloodborne – Saw Cleaver

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Bloodbornes sawblade, which saw itself slapped across all promotion was sick. I loved it. It remains about the only weapon I used up to level 280. That was a mistake of the game to not really encourage testing other weapons, when level capping a single weapon was only doable once per play-through. Its reason for not being here is basically that I only wanted one souls series weapon, and there was no competition between the two. It didn’t have the lore, or the aesthetics, or the quest, or the fantasy of Artorias’ Greatsword. But still, awesome.

Fallout 3 – Shishkebab

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I didn’t get into Fallout 3, and there is a story here. I pottered around, bored to death by the environment and the setting in general. And then I found this sword. Super excited that the game actually had a vast array of melee weapons, I went online. Turns out this was basically the best and only sword. So quit and never played again. So there’s that. But cool sword hey.

Kingdom Hearts – Key Blade

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Don’t really like Kingdom Hearts, the combat stinks, it’s hard, and Squall’s voice actor made me cringe. But I’ll keep trying. I just thought if some big gamer guy reads this and doesn’t see an acknowledgement to the Keyblade, I’ll be shanked. Also, a key as a sword is kinda dumb.

1) Final Fantasy VIII – Gunblade

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The Gunblade is and has been for as long as I have cared, been my favourite weapon. I recently read a post about the most ridiculous weapons in video games, and it was pretty high up there. To that guy, I say a big fuck you, with two middle fingers up. You know what I think? I think you have fucking low self esteem and sexual inadequacies. Either your mother loved you too much so that so no women would ever be good enough, or something happened in catholic school. Basically, you hate yourself, and your gender, and your penis. Cause the Gunblade is fucking awesome, and it is an extension of the player behind it. I pity you, for you, have no joy in your life.

My joy is very simple. Mixing guns and swords into the coolest implement ever dreamed by man. The Gunblade is the weapon of choice of many SEED students of the Gardens of the World. A purely offensive weapon wielded with two hands to create a balance and free movement for magic usage. Whilst utilized by many, the swords most unique and prominent forms are held in the hands of the protagonist Squall and his rival, and perhaps chief antagonist Siefer.

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Their swords operate to (to repeat a phrase) extend their personalities. They are ying and yang to one another, complementing both in form and character. Squall’s looks and holds like a revolver, the lone gunman. An outlaw, and ronin rapped into one, he carries his blade with the respect of a samuairi. Whereas Seifer’s blade is carried with ego and challance, propped on his shoulder, his left arm extended to a come hither. A cavalier knight, marked with crosses and an arrogant attitude.

The idea of the blade isn’t what you’d think, and maybe I shouldn’t say either. The illusion is cooler than the reality. The reality of the fiction of the game that is. Anyway, it’s not that the gun fires bullets, no that wouldn’t make sense you see. The blade actually explodes with gunpowder, and vibrates, increasing it’s damage capabilities. So yeah, that’s dumb, but put that aside for a second and you have a very inspired idea.

It should be mentioned that Squall’s sword updates a number of times at the players discretion. Some of its upgrades are cool, others, especially the most powerful, the ‘Lionheart’, are ugly (which is a shame because of the namesake, and the significance of it in the narrative.) With these upgrades come new limit breaks, which effectively become your main source of damage, and awesome visuals. But it’s the original Gunblade which remains the most memorable and widely recognized.

Final Fantasy VII’s Gunblade had it all. Power, looks, story, character and originality. Above all else, it had a lot of heart. It made Squall infinitely more likable and identifiable. For some reason, it gave an almost hollow character a whole other dimension and depth. The way Squall was, and the way he was meant to be was foreshadowed by his blade. Like an outward projection of the man he would one day become.

Take an hour from your life and see the story of FF8 in all its glory condensed. It’s magic.

 

 

Until Next time. Remember the Alamo!

 

 

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