Swords. Who doesn't like swords? Long, sharp pieces of metal that you can use to stab, slice, slash and poke your way to victory. What's not to like? Well, as it turns out, swords are very popular in video games, anime, and other media. However, #videogames and especially #anime have the market cornered on particularly large, long and heavy swords. In video games we have Cloud's Buster Sword, Dante's sword Rebellion, and the Lich King's Frostmourne to name but a few.
Anime is also full of impressive swords. Bleach, One Piece, Naruto, Inuyasha, Berserk and Rave Master — they all feature a character who wields a sword at some point. As impressive as these blades are, many of them look completely impossible to wield. Case in point: The Buster Sword. Just look at the guys from the original Man at Arms trying to swing their Buster Sword in the below demo.
Still, this doesn't mean that big swords were never made and used in battle. So let's take a look at the swords that were used at some point in real-life history, in no particular order.
Let's start this off with something classical. When most Westerners think of a sword, the first image to come to mind might be the kind of swords used by medieval knights in Europe. Such weapons often feature a straight double-edged blade and a crossguard. While swords varied in shape and size over the years, the zweihänder is one of the biggest. Designed to counter pikes and halberds, these renaissance blades were used primarily by Swiss and German mercenaries in the 1500s. They measured almost six feet in length and usually weighed about two–three pounds.
One added feature of these and other two-handed swords was a second guard that was placed further up the blade. The area of the blade between the two guards was left unsharpened and sometimes wrapped in leather so that the wielder could use it as a polearm. One famous wielder of the zweihänder was Pier Gerlofs Donia, a Frisian who was famous for his superhuman strength and skill. Legend has it that he was such a deadly force with his sword, he could behead several men at once. zweihänders and other greatswords can usually be seen in games such as the #DragonAge #DarkSouls series.
Ah, the katana, one of the many pop culture items to come from Japan. The otachi (big sword) was a variation of the katana that existed during the Heian and Kamakura periods, from the late 700s to the 1300s. With a blade that sometimes measured up to two meters in length, the otachi was primarily used as a battlefield weapon alongside the naginata and the yuri. The otachi fell out of favor during the Edo period of the 1600s, mostly because the length of the blade proved problematic and made the forging process onerous. Warriors either needed an assistant to unsheathe the blade or they would simply ride into battle with the sword preemptively drawn. It was also difficult to carry around because it could not hang from the waist like a traditional katana.
Now, who do we know that goes around carrying a ridiculously long katana? If you guessed Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII, then congratulations! You've played Final Fantasy VII. Still, is it just me or does Sephiroth's sword get longer and longer each time he makes an appearance?
Let's head to Scotland to look at a two-handed sword that came about in the late 1400s and remained a popular weapon well into the 1700s. The claymore (which comes from the Scottish-Gaelic claidheamh-mòr, meaning “great sword”) measured about a meter and a half in length and weighed around 5.5lbs. It also had a simpler design than other two-handed swords, like the aforementioned zweihänder.
Often called the slaughter sword by English foe, this saber was primarily used by the Scots during border skirmishes and to settle disputes between the clans. They were also traditionally passed down from father to son. It is said that the Scottish hero William Wallace wielded a claymore. However, there is some debate as to whether he was using a #Claymore or a claybeg, a smaller one-handed sword.
As far as popular media is concerned, claymores are most prominently featured in the titular manga Claymore. The manga features an organization of nonhuman warrior women fighting to rid the world of man-eating monsters called Yoma. I don't think I need to mention their weapon of choice.
The final sword is an interesting specimen because it's technically two swords. They existed in two separate nations, they are almost identical in design, and were used much in the same way. First, we turn our eyes to China in the late 1000s, where we find the zhanmadao.
This two-handed blade is similar in design to the odachi. However, while the odachi was used by cavalry, the zhanmadao (or “horse-cutting sabre”) was made as an anti-cavalry weapon. Now, when I say anti-cavalry, I don't mean that the blade was long enough for warriors to be able to stab or slash at horse riders. I mean the blade was designed to cut down the rider's mount before finishing off the rider. It doesn't end there, though.
The zhanmadao caught the eye of the Japanese, who wasted no time in making their own. This way both nations could fell their enemies and make mutton at the same time. The zanbato (same translation as the zhanmadao) had very similar dimensions to its Chinese counterpart and was used in the exact same way. While there isn't much attention given to the zhanmadao in popular media, the zanbato has enjoyed a little more study.
In Final Fantasy X, You can get your hands on a summon named Yojimbo. This towering sword-for-hire can one-shot enemies with his zanbato (provided you pay him enough.) The zanbato is also featured in #FireEmblem as an anti-cavalry weapon. And this horse-chopping blade makes appearances in other games like Monster Hunter and Scribblenauts, of all things.
So, those were five hefty blades that not only existed at some point in history, but were also used in combat. Of course, none of these blades are close to being as hefty as the Buster Sword or Gut's Dragonslayer in Berserk. However, they still invoke a sense of power and strength. If you want to share your thoughts about your favorite weapon from a video game, please do so in the comments below!