While Call of Duty, Halo and Gears of War dominate the gaming landscape with an array of automatic weapons, it’s easy to forget that some of the world's most iconic games are based on the noble sword. This article takes a look at five successful marriages between steel and software.
Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior (1987)
Whilst primitive in retrospect, Barbarian once led the way with its gameplay, humour and controversial imagery. Barbarian introduced many concepts that modern games now incorporate as standard, such as additional points for combo’s (Street Fighter / Tekken) and gory finishing moves (Mortal Kombat). Controls were basic but enabled an entertaining mixture of kicks, headbutts and sword attacks - the most satisfying move enabled players to decapitate their opponent with a perfectly timed blow to the neck.
Golden Axe (1989)
For a certain generation of gamers, Golden Axe remains one of the most iconic and entertaining side-scrolling ‘beat-em-ups’ ever made. Given a choice between an axe-wielding dwarf, a male barbarian complete with broadsword and an Amazonian warrior, players would brazenly slash their way through countless enemies ranging from generic barbarians to Harryhausen-esque re-animated skeletons.
The Soul Calibur series (1998 onwards)
If Barbarian sets the mould for versus swordplay, Soul Calibre smashed it with oversized, cosplay swords. Featuring a diverse and increasingly bizarre cast of warriors, SoulCalibur’s unique ‘8-way’ movement system (no longer restricting movement to ‘backwards and forwards’) was revolutionary for its time. Unrivalled customisation allowed players to develop comic, anime swords (or nunchuks or spears etc) and the pseudo-medieval setting is unique compared to its contemporaries.
Final Fantasy VII (1997)
Commonly regarded as one of the greatest games of all time, Final Fantasy VII threw players into a lavish fantasy world increasingly endangered by the spread of life-draining technology. The fact that the central protagonist 'Cloud' (as well as his nemesis 'Sephiroth') would battle the mechanised forces of the 'Shinra' corporation with simple swords, was in keeping with the romantic, nostalgia-tinged theme which is constant in the game. The fighting mechanics and production values were revolutionary for the time but undeniably central to this modern epic was a simple, uncomplicated sword.
No More Heroes (2007)
Representative of a brave new world of kinetic video-gaming, 'No More Heroes' requires players to step up from the sofa and wield a virtual weapon. Like a twisted mash of 'Weird Science' and a samurai movie, our nerdy protagonist finds himself in possession of a laser sword (think of a kill bill katana crossed with a lightsaber). Confronted with the task of killing the worlds top assassins, players must combine the Wii Remote and Nunchuk attachment to hack, slash, parry and wrestle their way to victory.