I don’t really like Japanese RPGs. I think they show an amazing stubbornness towards evolution of the genre, with recycled story arcs and male characters that are more androgynous than a Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie.
I thought living in Japan might help me become more tolerant, but the inverse proved true and my disdain has only grown stronger. So, if I can’t stand Japanese RPGs then why did I put Cloud Strife’s sword into the Top 10?
Simply put, the sword is bigger than the little spiky-headed man holding it, and it aided in the firm ass kicking of one of videogame’s most evil characters, Sephiroth.
Mr. Strife must have done a lot of weight lifting back in Nibelheim. Not only does he carry a Buster Sword big enough to slay a rhinoceros with an oversized pituitary gland, but he can also wield it as if it were a fencing rapier forged of aluminum.
I first saw the sword back when the Playstation was still cutting edge hardware. Displayed nicely on the back of our hero on the jewel case, it quickly caught my eye and was the reason for my purchase of Final Fantasy VII. The quest to save Gaia was arguably the best written and fleshed out of the entire series, and the Buster Sword was just as much a character in this manga-like melodrama as Cloud himself.
The weapons in Final Fantasy VII were designed for each character, and although they could be powered up, they could not be interchanged. This led to each gun, sword and javelin to have a personality of its own and reflect that of its user. But it wasn’t just Materia and Limit Breaks that made Cloud’s sword so awe-inspiring – he also got his own movie to build on its riot rousing reputation.
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children was released in Japan on September 14, 2005. The CGI swan song for the Final Fantasy VII universe showcased Cloud’s massive single-edged cleaver with a new sense of detail. Being able to split into various independent sections, the sword was now duel- wieldable, perfect for those boss battles in the ruins of Midgar. A big sword is pretty badass, but a big sword with extra functionality reaches a new echelon of malevolence.
So was Cloud compensating for something? Absolutely! Does it matter? Hell no. This weapon inspired me to take a chance and forget my contempt for JRPGs and embrace the “bigger is better” mantra. It lasted just long enough to enjoy a game with a killer story, great characters and excellent plot twists.
Too bad that little monkey thief in Final Fantasy IX sent me running for the exits again. Who’s up for a game of Oblivion?