Western gamers have once again been the cause of consternation amongst Japanese JRPG fans as they dared to question why it is JRPG heroes insist on using swords despite the availability of perfectly good guns in the same world.
The discussion started amongst English speaking gamers:
When you have guns, why use a sword?
“This topic will relate somewhat to JRPGs, and I’ll be honest, I love me some Final Fantasy, but in a world filled with machine guns, rifles and rocket launchers why the hell would you use a sword?
In almost every JRPG involving guns, the main character will use a sword and still not die despite hundreds of bullets ripping through him (or her).
What is the logic behind this? And while some games aren’t like that, I’m just curious to here what you guys think the reason for this would be.”
“Because it’s a sword, and is therefore cooler than a gun?”
“I suppose the sword is still in there because it is symbolic of power, I think.
After all, you get crossed swords on walls, not so much crossed guns.
So I just think they are in there because they symbolise power, and perhaps bravery, as the person has to be willing to charge the enemy…”
“Because the Japs think swords are more cool than guns.”
“To compensate for lack of genital stature.”
“I’m going to give you the only logical answer. Games defy logic (especially JRPGs) just to put that super stupidly impractical awesome sword in your hands.”
“It takes more XP to level up bullets than guns because the points are distributed evenly amongst all the bullets in the clip.
There are two level 10 characters, one with a gun and one with a sword. The sword is level 10 which is highly effective against a level 10 character. The bullets are only level 3 which is not enough to get past the damage resistance of a level 10 character.
It’s simple maths really. I don’t know why the military don’t do proper research on this and train all soldiers with swords.”
“To be badass. Case Solved.”
“Would you prefer playing an RPG where you just picked up a rocket launcher and killed everybody in one hit with it?
It’s way more fun using a sword and casting a lightning bolt and riding a chocobo than just using some lame gun like in every other FPS clone out there.”
“Hardly unique to JRPGs though. Hell, Fallout 3 offers a wide variety of melee weapons, many of which are vastly more effective than most of the small arms in the game. […] Realistically, the guy that wins the bayonet fight is the guy with one bullet left.”
“In Star Ocean: The Last Hope they (kind of) justified why EDGE MAVERICK used a sword. You see, EDGE MAVERICK isn’t too good with a gun, he can’t get used to the slight delay between firing and hitting the target. […] Though it doesn’t explain why EDGE MAVERICK’s girlfriend Raimi Saionji uses a bow and arrow instead of a sword. It was explained that she studied it as a kid ‘because she’s kind of weird.'”
“It’s a samurai wet-dream to defeat guns with a sword. That is the JRPG ethos, also known as gayshido.”
“Are you seriously pondering the realism of a JRPG?”
Soon this discussion spread to the insular world of Japanese gamers.
The 2ch response is less than insightful, with most commentators evidently having trouble grasping that it is the presence of swords and guns in the same setting which is what seems so counter-intuitive, not the dominance of swords as a whole:
“Because Japan is not a gun society!”
“The story is based on swords and magic.”
“Because it’s boring with guns!”
“They’re not really looking for realism anyway.”
“It’s because looks get the highest priority. Look at Gattsu swinging his great big sword about.”
“Wait, don’t they have swords in Star Wars? The setting even explains that they can deflect projectiles.”
“Guns are just tools for killing but with swords you have bushido.”
“Foreigners have no dreams. Why do you have to think about everything in terms of realism?”
“These guys only know about FF anyway.”
“What I’d like to know is why you can be shot hundreds of times in an FPS and it automatically regenerates your health…”
“It’s a game so stop thinking about that stuff.”
“What’s fun about a gunfight? It’s just noisy and boring.”
“A gold sword is stronger than an iron sword. There’s no point in trying to explain this stuff in the first place.”
“Japan isn’t a gun society so guns are part of the fantasy to Japanese, hence both appearing together.”
“I felt it was a bit off having combat aircraft flying overhead whilst troops on the ground were all fighting with swords in FF12’s intro.”
“The combat in FF is really basic considering the tech they have, isn’t it?”
“The movements used in firing a gun are quite small.”
“Because it’s a JRPG. You want some beefcake firing a gun, you play western games.”
“JRPGs have a traditional level system. It’s no good just being able to one-shot someone. Eh? Fallout? What’s that?”
“This is what is called “samurai.” Foreigners will never understand this and that’s fine with me.”
“Foreigners just don’t understand Japanese artistic sensibilities.”
“It’s due to historical differences? American history started with the gun around, but Japan has mythical blades like Kusanagi from ancient history. It’s a historical difference. American history is just shabby.”
“It’s exciting to hear about Excalibur or similar. Not so exciting to hear about some guy’s AK47.”
“Foreigners have no imagination.”
“For Japan, guns always a villainous image, being used dishonourably in traps or to take hostages. It’s about the image. Like with Kenshiro and Jagi.”
“You wouldn’t want Harry Potter to be waving a gun around.”
“It’s because those huge swords just look so cool.”