Originally posted: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 on Blogger

I’ve been thinking about how there are certain elements in video games that recur very frequently. And since I love to analyze, I decided to make a new post type titled, “Common Game Elements”. Now while I say game elements, for the most part I mean RPGs, although some of these elements transcend genres and I will make an effort to include as many different kinds of games as possible.

For part one, I decided to pick at something that was very overused. So without further ado, let us delve into today’s topic:

“The protagonist/hero is a sword wielder”

Exactly what is says: the main character, female or male (usually male), is always some sort of swordsman. This rule isn’t absolute, but it is very prevalent, especially among RPGs.

Examples:

  • Official Dissidia art showcases Firion as a swordsman

    Firion (FFII) – Comes equipped with a sword and paladin-like stats. Shown with a sword in artwork.

  • Cecil (FFIV) – Dark Knight, then Paladin and both use swords.
  • Bartz (FFV) – In artwork he is shown caring a sword and if I’m not mistaken comes equipped with one.
  • Terra (FFVI) – Uses swords among other weapons.
  • Cloud (FFVII) – Uses the massive and iconic Buster Sword.
  • Squall (FFVIII) – Uses a gun-blade, which is more blade than gun.
  • Vaan (FFXII) – Comes equipped with a sword and with sword-abilities unlocked.
  • Lightning (FFXIII) – Uses a gun-blade, which is again, more blade than gun.
  • Noel (FFXIII-2) – Uses dual blades.
  • Marche (FFTA) – Begins his journey in the sword wielding solider class.
  • Luso (FFTA2) – Like his predecessor, begins as a solider that equips swords.
  • Ryu (Breath of Fire) – Uses mostly swords.
  • Max (Shining Force) – Is a swordsman.
  • Bowie (Shining Force II) – Uses swords only.
  • Hero/Lazlo (Suikoden IV) – wields twin blades.
  • Alph (Lumionous Arc) – equips swords only.
  • Roland (Luminous Arc 2) – once again a sword wielder.
  • Link (The Legend of Zelda) – his primary weapon is a sword.
  • Chrno (Chrono Trigger) – Uses only swords.
  • Issac (Golden Sun) – Uses only swords.
  • Alex (Lunar: Silver Star Story) – Uses only swords.
  • Hero (Dragon Quest VIII) – Uses swords among other weapons
  • Hero (Secret of Mana) – Uses a sword among other weapons. The sword, however, is given special significance.
  • Laharl (Disgaea) – Comes with a sword equipped and has high sword proficiency.
  • Sora (Kingdom Hearts) – Uses the sword-like, Keyblade.
  • Eliwood (Fire Emblem) – Uses light swords.
  • Marth (Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon) – Uses swords only. Falchion, a sword, plays a prominent role in the game and only Marth can equipped it.
  • Maxim (Lufia 2) – A swordsman.
  • Nier (Nier) – Uses swords.
  • Jeanne (Jeanne D’Arc) – Uses swords.
  • Ein (Riveria: The Promised Land) – Uses a sword like weapon.
  • Sonic (Sonic and the Black Knight) – Even Sonic gets a sword in this game!
  • Raguna (Rune Factory) – Uses a sword when fighting monsters.
  • Prince (Prince of Persia) – All incarnations wield a sword.
  • Shiren (Shiren the Wanderer) – Uses swords, shown with a sword in artwork.
  • Yuri (Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates) – Comes with a sword equipped.
  • Sagi (Baten Kaitos Origins) – Uses swords.
  • Denam (Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together) – Starts out as a Warrior that comes equipped with a sword.
  • Arc (Arc the Lad) – a swordsman.

Iconic character Link is usually pictured with a sword in hand even though he also uses bows or boomerangs.

There are even more examples, but I think everyone gets the idea. As one can see this is pretty prevalent, and there are but a few examples where the hero/protagonist isn’t using a sword. Most of these come from outside RPGs, but there are some RPGs that don’t follow this rule as well.

Exceptions:

  • Yuna (FFX-2) – Uses twin guns
  • Zidane (FFIX) – Uses daggers
  • Aya (Parasite Eve) – Uses guns.
  • Issac (Lost Magic) – Uses magic and has a wand.
  • Mario (Super Mario Bros.) – Jumps on things.
  • Neku (The World Ends With You) – Uses his psychic powers.
  • Kyrie (Sands of Destruction) – Uses knives.
  • Layle (Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers) – Uses his gravity power
  • Drake (Uncharted) – Uses guns.
  • Johnathan (Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin) – Uses a whip.
  • Annie (Atelier Annie: Alchemist of Serra Island) – Equips staffs.
  • Klein (Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana) – Uses a cane/staff.

Aya Brea from Parasite Eve uses firearms rather than swords.

Most of the RPG exceptions are unique in that a certain gameplay mechanic makes it important for the main character to use magic or something similar (Issac, Annie, Klein, Layle, Neku). For others, guns fit the setting better than swords (Aya, Drake). And sometimes, instead of giving the protagonist a big bad blade, the developers settle for a smaller version and make their hero a thief (Zidane, Kyrie). The only odd balls in the bunch are Yuna from FFX-2, who uses twin guns that seem out of place in the game’s fantasy settings, and Jonathan (and other Castlevania protagonists), who uses a whip.

So what the hell does this mean? Why did I bother to compile a list of sword-users and non-users? For one, to show just how rampant this occurrence really is. For another, to show that the ideal archetype, the hero, is still, by-and-far, the same character: a cool sword wielding dude (sometimes dudette). A muscular swordsman/woman oozes coolness and badassery. Why would anyone want to play as a wimpy mage? Yes, at the heart of it is the stereotype that magic users, because they use either words or natural forces and not their own physical strength, are wimpy and in need of protection. God forbid the character we were forced to play and in turn relate to was a weak character, physically.

Of course, as the list in the exceptions shows, this is being challenged, albeit not enough to give us a more proportional representation of protagonist that are not sword wielders, or even physical fighters, but nevertheless, there are some unique protagonists that do offer a different route than the usual sword wielding hero.

There are also games going a different route, the customization route, which put the choice in the hands of the player. So all in all, there has been some growth and diversification in video games and I hope this trend continues so that not only are we getting a variety of character classes as the lead, but also a variety of leading personality types. Like they say, “variety is the spice of life.”

–SW

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