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Sword Lines

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Luminescent lines or gradients added by artists and animators to illustrate the speed and movement of a really fast swipe of a weapon. Only appearing occasionally in 2D games, they have become virtually ubiquitous during the 3D era.

Note that Sword Lines aren't just limited to swords, or even bladed weapons for that matter. Axes, sabres, staffs, clubs, punches, kicks, and even arrows have a high tendency to leave behind conspicuous lines which portray their path. Somewhat justified with Laser Blades. While obviously cool-looking, Sword Lines can be helpful in giving players a visual indicator of the sword's range.

Arguably Truth in Television: Due to persistence of vision, after a sword is swung you can often see an arc. It may depend on the lighting around you, though.

A form of Motion Blur. Compare with Sword Sparks. See also Sword Beam, in which the lines are turned into a deadly ranged attack. For guns that have this effect, see Every Bullet is a Tracer. For when only the sword lines are shown in a possible Gory Discretion Shot, see Hit Flash.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Death Note does this one with pens.
  • In Fate/stay night and Fate/Zero, Saber's sword has the special property "Invisible Air" that warps the air around it, making it invisible, so it can only be seen by the Sword Lines it makes.
    • Assassin's special ability, Tsubame Gaeshi, slices three times with one slash, making a highly stylized series of sword lines.
  • Used in the film adaptations of The Garden of Sinners to illustrate the speed of the protagonist's knife attacks, but done sparingly, unlike Audible Sharpness.
  • Karas makes full use of the trail effect to maximum potential.
  • Samurai Champloo pulls this off quite nicely, since its highly stylized look makes them appears like streaks of lightning.

    Comic Books 
  • In Bone, the Hooded One's scythe leaves a visible arc behind it when it's swung.
  • Essentially, almost every time someone swings a blade in Western comics, you can expect this. Examples are numerous and include, but are certainly not limited to, Wolverine claw swipes or when Conan the Barbarian swings his sword in the comic versions.

  • Sword Art Online: In book 13, Alicization Dividing, Knight Commander Bercouli Synthesis One can Invoke this with the Perfect Weapon Control Art of his sword "Timepiercer" - each moment of his sword swings is stretched a little into the future, causing the weapon to leave a trail behind it which carries the full strength of his attacks. He claims that the reason so many of his subordinates have Control Arts which extend their weapon's attack range in some way is probably because they were afraid of facing this technique and its Limit Break version, which causes the trail to extend into the past in melee.

    Video Games 
  • In American McGee's Alice, the Vorpal Blade leaves noticeable trail whenever it moves, even if Alice as much as runs with it.
  • Ezio's blades in Assassin's Creed II have the "line coming only from the tip because the blades are relatively slender" variant. There's a digitized aspect to the lines, which makes sense as all of Ezio's sequences take place in the Animus 2.0.
  • Battle for Wesnoth uses these.
  • Beyond Sunset gives your trusty katana red swordlines after an upgrade that makes it twice as sharp.
  • Bladed Fury grants your Warrior Princess heroine enchanted weapons after the first few levels. They leave behind solid blue curves with each slash.
  • A bizarre variant occurs in Portrait of Ruin's Sister mode. When using Stella, she hardly ever visibly swings her sword, but sword lines still appear and slice enemies.
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. One sword's line even has the word "verboten" written on it.
  • The Gold Tracer in Dark Souls is the only weapon in the game with this sort of effect. This is built into the lore, as Lord's Blade Ciaran would swing it around to draw her target's attention to the blade, then land a killing blow with her more subtle Silver Tracer.
  • Seen early on in Dark Vengeance
  • Devil May Cry. The lines are usually transparent, but visible (Force Edge specifically disrupts the air when swung). And then there's Devil Trigger.
  • Especially prevalent in Dissidia Final Fantasy, where pretty much every character with a sword gets this effect one way or another. Kain also gets spear lines.
  • In the Dynasty Warriors franchise, several games implement colored sword lines to visually depict the hitbox of each attack, as well as for visual effect. In certain games, they also serve to visualize what kind of buff/status/elemental effect the player character is currently using.
    • In the ''Berserk'' collaboration title, all swinging-type attacks are accompanied with white-ish sword lines. Some characters, like Guts, will have their attacks accompanied by a bloody sword trail instead.
    • Samurai Warriors started doing this in the 4th main iteration to visualize hitboxes, adding dark-purple sword trails to all swinging attacks, even for non-bladed weapons. The sword lines are also sometimes accompanied with various elemental effects, to indicate which element is being applied in that particular attack.
    • The One Piece: Pirate Warriors series also uses sword lines to help visualize the hitbox for each attack. The color and appearance may be different depending on the character, with the default being a white-ish slashing effect.
    • Warriors All-Stars uses colored sword lines for all swinging attacks as well, even for non-bladed weapons such as fists and staffs. The color of the sword lines vary depending on the character; for example Lu Bu's attacks are accompanied by dark red sword lines to reflect his attire and personality. Sword lines in this game can also change color depending if the player character receives an elemental buff or not.
    • The 9th main iteration, Dynasty Warriors 9, adds colorless sword lines for all swinging attacks. The lines themselves are visualized by the air becoming distorted following the swing of the weapon, depicting the weapon's trail in a more realistic manner. Attacks enhanced by an element will be accompanied with sword lines of that element. All swinging-type Musou attacks will have blue fiery sword lines in the startup animation.
  • Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star: The Umbral Star adds sword lines to all playable characters' attacks, bladed or not. The color and appearance of the trails depend on the character.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth embodies this to a T. Even when he hasn't even swung it in a certain place, LINES STILL APPEAR. Now THAT is skill. The same thing goes for his attacks in Dissidia: Final Fantasy, primarily his Octaslash.
  • This is all you see of your blade in Fruit Ninja. You can even unlock trails with different colors and effects.
  • Notably averted in Ghost of Tsushima, but the effect is still maintained by having blood follow the swipe of a sword.
  • Just about every weapon from the God of War series has this, but the main offenders are the Blades Of Chaos/Athena/Exile, which start out with a small yellow-y trail a la the first kind, then get more spectacular (and more red) as they gain levels. By the final form, you're tossing around a rock concert's worth of glowy-ness. Justified, as all three kinds of blades are magic, are wreathed in magical flame-energy stuff when being used, and the chains attached to them heat up and glow, leaving behind the trail.
  • Some melee weapons in Left 4 Dead 2 do this, so that the animation is noticeable to the player while realistically fast.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Lost Soul Aside: Gameplay trailer shows that sword wielded by Kazer leaves a blue afterglow whenever it's swung.
  • In MapleStory, many of the classes that rely on swinging attacks will have sword lines of varying colors. Maxing out a Weapon Mastery skill changes the colour of the character's Sword Lines to red for that kind of weapon.
    • Several of the ranged classes also have colored projectile lines accompanying their skill as well, such as some of the archer skills that leave a visible colored trail behind the arrow after firing it.
  • Zero in the Mega Man X and Mega Man Zero series. His Z-Saber swings drew bright green arcs or sometimes exploded.
  • The Cyborg Ninja's High Frequency Blade in Metal Gear Solid (and Metal Gear Ac!d) tend to leave a sword trail.
  • Moon Crystal has it with the sword weapon you can have.
  • NanoBreaker allows both the hero, Jake and his nemesis Keith to leave behind stylish lines with each swing, owing to their plasma sabers. In typical Good Colors, Evil Colors fashion, Jake's sword emits blue lines while Keith's leave behind magenta.
  • Sword Lines are a graphical option in Neverwinter Nights 2.
  • Sword Lines are a constant in Ninja Gaiden.
  • No More Heroes: The Beam Katanas have this effect. But even Shinobu's sword leaves trails, and it's metal. It's assumed that all weapons are somehow beam-edged, so that they can block other beam-edged weapons. This includes: Jeane's legs.
  • Sometimes used for rather strange things, like kicks and punches in Oni, or snowboarding trick Combos in 1080.
  • In Ragnarok Online, the Sorcerer skill Striking makes your weapon do this with red lines.
  • The Omniwrenches in Ratchet & Clank have this when swung. They notably evolve in Up Your Arsenal as the player upgrades their armour, gradually becoming more fire-like to indicate increased damage.
  • They turn different colors depending on damage in Rune
  • Samurai Shodown goes here as well. Charlotte's version with her rapier treads into Razor Wind territory, at least in the first games: the 'lines' drawn by her sword remain lethal even well past when they were 'drawn' by the tip of her sword.
  • Samurai: Way of the Warrior allows your protagonist's katana to leave behind transparent lines with each swing, compared to mooks who don't. Meanwhile if you score a killing blow that bisects a mook, your sword-lines would turn red.
  • Sengoku Basara does this all the time, making for very flashy and colorful combat. Sometimes more justified than others.
  • In Severance: Blade of Darkness, special attacks are highlighted by a yellow trail behind the sword, and weapon-specials - with a red trail.
  • The Soul Series has trails that activate from the character's attacking weapon or limb, meaning punches, kicks, headbutts and other body attacks can leave trails too. The trail gains electric sparks during Guard Break attacks and starts burning during Unblockable attacks. Each character leaves a uniquely coloured trail, and this colour is customisable in Soulcalibur 5. In the second game, one of the weapons is invisible, with only the sword lines to show where it is.
  • The cipher in Strider fills a sizable chunk of the screen with a crescent of light.
  • Bladed weapons in Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl do this. The 3DS and Wii U games do this for all swinging-type attacks, which is intended to make their effective ranges obvious.
    • Marth's Dancing Blade technique is a prime example of this trope, as the color of the blade's trail in Brawl is dependent on the input of the Control Stick/Directional Pad, with red being neutral/forward/side, blue being up, and green being down.
    • Roy and Marth's sword trails specifically are important for visualizing their tipper and non-tipper sweet spots, respectively. Marth's sword deals more damage closer to the tip of his blade, signified by the intensity of his blue sword lines, which are brightest at the tip. Conversely, Roy's sword deals more damage closer to the hilt of his blade, signified by the intensity of his orange sword lines, which are brightest near the hilt.
  • Touhou Project has a few examples, despite being a Bullet Hell Shmup: Konngara and Meira in the first two games would use their sword to draw lines, which dissolve into bullets a bit later. Youmu, from rather later in the series, did something kind of similar; her spellcards generally resulted in Sword Lines (which could last for quite some time...) and bullets coming from roughly the same area.
  • Warcraft III has very visible sword lines for heroes wielding any variety of non-magic weapon, as well as arrow lines for Night Elf archers.
  • Various melee pins function with this in mind in The World Ends with You, with the Shockwave psych being a standout example.
  • In World of Warcraft many special attacks do this. (Revenge, for example.)

  • Used in this Sluggy Freelance strip. Though, in this case, they might simply be blood running off the blade.
  • In Dominic Deegan the title character learns to use these as a focus for his second sight in order to bypass scrying wards.
  • In El Goonish Shive, these are sometimes used to depict a particularly fast swing of a sword.
  • Homestuck:
  • Most weapon attacks in The Order of the Stick are depicted with these.
  • Unsounded: The arc of sword swings are drawn in, with pymaricly enhanced swords having glowing colors. This helps illustrate what is going on during fights and makes the action clear.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender, taking inspiration from Samurai Champloo, has every sword swing in the duel between Zuko and Jet leave behind a trail of blue sparks, which led some to believe that Zuko was creating blue fire.
  • Appears very prominently during Optimus Prime and Megatron's duel in episode 23 of Transformers: Prime. Notable, Prime and Megatron's respective Sword Lines are actually colour-coded, with the former's being blue and latter's being purple, matching the colours of their respective laser blasts as well.