This trope covers archaic weapons that have been upgraded in some way to make them more effective. To qualify as this trope a weapon must have been invented before gunpowder weapons became dominantnote
and enhanced in a way that they were not at the time (although they can still appear before that point
) through magic or technology. Contemporary weapons being subjected to this in the distant future also count (as long as the enhancement isn't contemporary or older too).
"Why bother with them?", you ask? Let's not mince words; older weapons are cool
and can say a lot more about characters (especially since they tended to be unique to some degree). It's a lot more exciting to have characters fighting up close and personal than it is for them to fling metal and fire at one another from half a mile away. Similarly, traditional projectile weapons (bows
, etc) give the impression that the user needs skill to use them. Making these weapons more powerful (or just look that way
to the audience) not only makes it even more exciting, but can give a plausible reason why they're using them (instead of the aforementioned metal and fire flinging devices).
This trope often overlaps with Retro Upgrade
(which might be used to justify why the enhancement hasn't simply been applied to more advanced weapons), Living Weapon
and Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age
. Compare Older Is Better
and Guns Are Worthless
Examples (single examples which fit into an existing subtrope belong on that page):
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- In Serenity Inara wields a bow that has lights on it. The RPG explains that her weapon is more properly termed a "bolt-thrower", a bow upgraded with Alliance technology to where it fires arrows with nearly the force of a bullet.
- In Star Wars, Wookiee bowcasters are enhanced versions of crossbows that increase the force and accuracy with which they fire quarrels via magnetic fields. Some are further modified in other ways. For example, Chewie's has an automatic re-cocking system.
Live Action Television
- CSI: NY featured the "Wasp Knife", which injects air into the target to cause them to burst, as a murder weapon.
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit featured a similar weapon to the CSI example, which worked by injecting the victim with air.
- The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Field of Fire" had an assassin modify a chemical-propelled firearm, a Starfleet prototype called the TR-116, with a short-range transporter that let it fire through walls. Meanwhile the basic model TR-116 fires rounds made of tritanium.
- Eclipse Phase has monofilament swords and garrottes, diamond-edged axes, vibroswords, swords made of memory polymer that becomes stiff or flexible with an electric charge and wasp knives among others.
- In addition to Chainsaw Good and Sharpened to a Single Atom examples being commonplace, Warhammer 40,000 also has much rarer "Power Weapons". These are enhanced by a hazy blue "power field" (produced by a generator on what would otherwise be a normal melee weapon) which weakens the molecular bonds of whatever they strike. Also the ubiquitous bolter is essentially an upgraded version of Gyrojet firearms, fitted with armor-piercing explosive heads, capable of firing full-auto, and far more effective at point-blank range.
- RWBY has plenty in amongst the many Impossibly Cool Weapons. These range from Ruby, Nora, Pyrrha, and Yang's weaponsnote (which have integrated firearms that can still be fired for extra damage when they strike), Weiss's rapier (which has a revolver-like mechanism for using Dust), and Jaune's shield (which folds into a scabbard for his sword).
- In Genocide Man Caera has a Jian sword that has a reservoir of GM neurotoxin in the hilt, instant death to anyone but a Genocide Man. Though given that she can somehow decapitate someone with it she might not need the poison.
- Compound Bows use a series of pulleys and cams to make them easier to draw and hold in place (as well as increase the overall power of the bow). They were developed for hunting (as well as for disabled archers to use in target shooting).
- The Wasp knife, as mentioned in the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation example above. It was developed for divers to use to fight off sharks by injecting them with air, so they float to the surface (and don't bleed as much, which might drive other sharks into a frenzy).
- Swords were made in bronze long before they were made in carbonized iron.
- The Shocknife is a training knife that emits an electric shock when it contacts skin. The idea being that it gives a sense of danger and fear where rubber training knives don't.