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Video Game / Stranger of Sword City

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In ancient times on the world of Escario the Fallen One fought a terrible battle against the Creator. This battle tore a hole in the fabric of reality, through which the Strangers came. Who are the Strangers? Why, we are.

You are the only survivor when a plane you're riding on falls through the gate and crash lands into the Mausoleum of Metal. You would have died like all the others, had Riu, leader of the Strangers' Guild of Sword City, not rescued you from the monsters.

Far from a Fish out of Water, you find yourself possessing strange powers that allow you to battle and destroy the monsters that plague this land. More than that, you are a Chosen One, one of only three people in Escario who can destroy the powerful Lineage Type monsters by taking away their blood crystals. Along with your fellow Chosen your job is to hunt down Lineage Type monsters, take the blood crystals that give them life, and take them to Vessels, who will pass them on to the divine. Hopefully, with enough divine grace you will find a way to return home. If not, you will vanish into nothing like so many others.

Stranger of Sword City is a Dungeon RPG developed by Experience Inc. and published by Nippon Ichi Software for the Xbox 360 in 2014, and later rereleased for the PS Vita in 2015 and the Xbox One in 2016. It made a few changes to the standard DRPG formula, such as a reimagined Permadeath system, and a deeper emphasis on character creation and customization. It was most well known for its character graphics featuring the work of Yoko Tsukamoto and Oxijyen.

The loosely related prequel and remake of Students Of The Round, titled Saviors Of Sapphire Wings, was released in the US on March 16, 2021, and in Europe on the 19th, for the Nintendo Switch and PC, bundled with a remaster of the game, titled Stranger of Sword City: Revisited, which had previously been released on the Playstation Vita. See also Demon Gaze, another title in the same timeline and sharing many of the same tropes, characters, and mechanics.

This game provides examples of:

  • An Adventurer Is You: There are a few different classes in the game:
    • The Fighter class specializes in heavy weapons, usually with shields. Contrasting the Samurai, which attacks everything in a row once, the Fighter randomly attacks creatures in a single row multiple times. They're somewhere in between Melee DPS and Tank.
    • The Knight class specializes in heavy armor and shields, and is most definitely The Tank.
    • The Samurai class specializes in attacking entire rows of enemies at once with their Dual Wielding katanas, and are pure Melee DPS.
    • The Wizard class specializes in attack magic and is the Ranged DPS and The Nuker.
    • The Cleric class specializes in support magic and is both The Healer and The Buffer.
    • The Ranger class specializes in bows and hunting techniques, and is both The Archer and sometimes The Debuffer.
    • The Ninja class specializes in avoidance to avoid damage and ambush attacks to dish it out. A combination of the Fragile Speedster and The Sneaky Guy.
    • The Dancer class is another DPS class, with a skill that attacks a single target multiple times. It has many support skills that empower the party and make other classes more powerful, and are The Resource Manager, with the ability to use multiple items a turn.
    • Revisited adds three new classes: Clocker, Puppeteer, and Freeman:
      • The Clocker class is a Jack of All Trades, learning low level Wizard and Cleric spells as well as using melee weapons, making them very similar to The Red Mage. However, they also get time based skills, allowing them to act more frequently or prevent the enemy from acting.
      • The Puppeteer class is the oddball, being a Technical Pacifist that cannot even equip weapons, but instead uses various Mind Control tricks to cause the enemy to attack each other (and even itself) to do damage, being The Mezzer of sorts.
      • The Freeman class is unique in that is can not ever join the battle party and instead stays behind helping out the Guild earning extra perks over time.
  • All There in the Manual: The character portraits designed by Yoko Tsukamoto all have complete names, intended class setups, and backstory. Six portraits by Fuuma include the same, as well as specifying that they're for Evil characters, even though a character alignment system ultimately was not included in the game. A total of 36 of these are detailed in the game's artbook, leaving the remaining 24 of the portraits that aren't reused from Students of the Round, generic humanoid enemies, or the story NPCs as complete blank slates.
  • Art-Style Dissonance: As mentioned above, character portraits were designed by both Yoko Tsukamoto and Oxijyen; both styles are available for player characters, and a button in the options menu allows you to choose between using Yoko's or Oxijyen's graphics for NPCs. The problem? Oxijyen's cuter and more stylized portraits really clash with the dark tone of the game (though that may be a plus depending on your personal tastes). What's more, all of the backgrounds and enemy graphics are done in Yoko's dark and realistic style, making Oxijyen's designs stick out like a sore thumb.
    • Most of Oxijyen's portraits were omitted in Revisited, including the ability to switch the NPCs between the two styles, and the few that remain were moved to the end of list rather than the start to group them up with the similarly dissonant Students of the Round portraits.
  • Bad Samaritan: The old man at the beginning of the game finds the player wandering the Mausoleum of Metal and helps them escape... only to summon monsters to ambush them so he can eat their soul.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: Not as bad as some, but there are a few off translations in the original release. Notably, the skill screen mistranslates the Slow and Multi-Slow spells as Throw and Multi-Throw, and mistranslates the Tri-Bolt spell (a spell dealing fire, thunder, and ice damage together) as Dry Bolt. These were corrected for Revisited, along with a few revisions to the story itself.
  • Butterfly of Death and Rebirth: Characters that lose their last LP turn into butterflies and vanish. Said butterflies can be found all throughout the labyrinths as well and can perform various helpful feats, mostly teleporting you to safety.
  • The Chosen One: What the player is. In practice, this means their job is to kill Lineage Type monsters, because only a Chosen One is capable of offering up the monster's blood crystal to the vessels and preventing it from reappearing.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Alm Medell. She's the chosen vessel for the God of Darkness, but she isn't a bad guy. In her words, she also wants a world of peace and happiness, but she doesn't think the filthy should have to perish for that to happen. She wants everyone to be happy... granted, "everyone" does seem to include criminals.
  • Deader than Dead: The entire goal of a Chosen One is to cause this for the normally immortal Lineage Type monsters by taking away the blood crystal that gives them life.
  • Death Is Cheap: To an extent. There are limits, mostly in the form of Life Points and for monsters, Blood Crystals. If your Life Points run out, or if a Chosen One offers up your Blood Crystal to the gods, then you vanish and can never come back.
  • Death or Glory Attack: The Samurai's Carnage Back. Challenge one enemy and the two of you take turns swinging at each other until one of you is dead. It can be a great way to take down tough enemies quickly, especially if you've buffed your Avoid stat enough to dodge their counterattacks. If not, it can be a really good way to get yourself killed, or at the least weak enough that a different enemy can finish you off with ease.
  • Dual Wielding: The hallmark of the Samurai class, a DRPG trope inherited from the Wizardry games that this is a direct spirtual successor of. Notably it requires high agility to be able to handle the offhand weapon properly.
    • The Updated Re-release adds a Strength version of this, combined with One-Handed Zweihänder, to the Fighter class, although the Fighter class doesn't learn it until the end of it's skill list, whereas the Samurai starts with theirs.
  • Dungeon Crawling: Naturally, since it is a Dungeon RPG. There are a few different dungeons to crawl in.
  • Enemy Summoner: Used very annoyingly. Most enemies have the ability to summon more of their own kind. They can do this endlessly and will often wait until just before they're about to die and suddenly summon a replacement, or sometimes multiple replacements. More annoyingly, enemies carrying items can use this tactic to bide time the few turns it takes them to run away. Getting items from kunoichis in the Valley of the Ruined is extremely annoying for just this reason.
  • Fantastic Drug: Poiney Powder, a white powder that creates a sense of euphoria but weakens the heart. In practice it restores lost life points while reducing the life point maximum. Take so much that your max LP becomes zero and you turn into a bloated half-human-half-fly demon called a Zebub.
  • Gratuitous Latin: Whenever a screen lets the player choose between action or dialog options, the top of the menu always bears the Latin phrase "Verum cur non audimus?", translated "Why do we not listen to the truth?"
  • Heavyworlder: The main explanation given for the Strangers' absurd combat prowess compared to natives: gravity is lower in Sword City's world.
  • The Hero: The Chosen One can be played like this. Specifically Sho Mikami and Tsubasa Tachibana, the first human male and female portraits respectively, were designed with this in mind and are described as saint warriors.
  • Hidden Buxom: Reiko Hayami, the portrait of a woman with long black hair in black and white clothes, is described as such.
    Due to her lightweight design, she lost something... Her bust size is just too real.
  • Human Aliens: The Strangers, at least as far as the people of Escario are concerned. Notably, there is a race of humans already living there, which apparently bears no common ancestry with Earthlings.
  • Inconsistent Dub: Is Alm a boy or a girl? The original release reveals that she's a crossdressing girl, the artbook included in the Switch release's Limited Edition just outright calls her a girl, but the scene revealing her crossdressing is seemingly omitted in Revisited.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: Several contenders. As is traditional with all Wizardry-descended DRPGs, Muramasa is the strongest Katana by far, with a still stronger variant, "Great Muramasa," which requires two hands to wield. There is also Exbrand, the evolved form of the Claide Leos plot relevant holy sword from Students of the Round Table (aka Savior of Sapphire Wings), which has existed in every game in the series — Sapphire Wings, Demon Gaze 1 and 2, Stranger of Sword City, and Undernaughts. In all cases these weapons are not available until well into the postgame, with Muramasa usually dropping exceedingly rarely from the final postgame dungeon and Exbrand requiring some form of postgame quest to unlock or upgrade.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Parts of the game can fall into this.
    • Some enemy encounters are scripted, and you have to pass them to proceed, but the encounter itself is still random. You might get one or two enemies... or it might spawn enemies four rows deep with 3-6 enemies in each row. Fortunately you can just use the Flash Escape divinity skill to retreat and try again hoping for a better set of foes...
    • Perma-death for players plus enemies with instant-kill abilities is not a pleasant combination. Granted you have LP that might protect you, but still...
  • McNinja: Antonio Barbaro, the male Ney with an open black shirt, is described as a Dancer/Ninja specifically lacking any Japanese style who assassinates his enemies with "Latin Beats".
  • Multiple Endings: The game has 3 main endings, depending on whether you primarily supported Marilith (Light), Alm (Darkness), or Riu (Neutral). Each ending also has two variants, depending on whether you playing a White Palace game (which gives a more optimistic ending for Marilith or Riu) or a Black Palace game (which gives a more optimistic ending for Alm). In each ending, Riu always gets kidnapped while the Nameless Elder/Lucifel convinces the Vessel you didn't side with to turn against you. If you side with Riu, both vessels turn on you and have to be killed.
  • Never Say "Die": Player characters who die are definitely said to be dead. Those that suffer Permadeath are said to "vanish," though that's mostly to differentiate between regular old death they can come back from and actual permanent death. Monsters slain in combat don't even get that, the game just says they "ran out of energy."
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: It sure was nice of you to get the golden liver to cure the orc king's illness. Too bad you find out about a half an hour later that the golden liver doubles as a powerfully addicting narcotic that drives people into a murderous frenzy, and oh by the way the orc king has mysteriously gone crazy and disappeared.
  • Nintendo Hard: Of the "Empty Epic" series (Savior of Sapphire Wings, Stranger of Sword City, Demon Gaze, Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi, and the upcoming Monyuu) Sword City is considered by far the most difficult, with Permadeath and the life-points system requiring several backup parties, as well as significantly harder and more complex bosses and mechanics.
  • Old Soldier: While the characters can be set to any age between 10 and 99, the balance of base bonus stats and life points makes the most efficient team early on a 60+ years old Chosen One leading a group of 40-59 years old party.
    • Konosuke Tokugawa, the silver haired old man portrait, was designed with this specifically in mind as his age is stated to be 99. The director was hoping to start a trend of elderly main characters with him.
  • Permadeath: Every character has from 1-3 life points depending on the age the player sets when making them. If a character's LP ever reaches 0 that character becomes a butterfly and vanishes. Otherwise, the character can be revived and lost LP can be recovered by resting for a while. The tradeoff is that older characters get fewer LP but more bonus stat points. The sole exception is the main character, who has LP as normal, but they never go down no matter how many times the player dies.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child:
    • Despite the butterflies very clearly holding the souls of vanished people, the Strangers' Guild has cruelly taken to slaughtering these butterflies on sight for their useful properties - mostly their wings which can teleport you safely home from the dungeons, and their legs which can disarm traps. There are also magic clothing, rings, and other equipment made using the butterflies' bodies. For what it's worth, the Strangers' leader, Riu, detests this practice but she doesn't do anything to stop the other Strangers from taking advantage of it.
    • Also the "Dead Man's" weapon line. They're said to contain the grudges of the dead. They're pretty decent mid-game weapons and give a bonus to damage against immortal type enemies.
  • The Power of Blood: Lineage monsters are immortal and powerful because of their blood crystals. These crystals can also be implanted in human bodies to gain power - a common practice among the elite gang leaders of the slums - or they can be offered to a vessel to gain divine power. Lesser monsters also carry lesser crystals called blood gems, which are used as currency in Sword City.
  • Returning Big Bad: Charon, the villain for Popolog's side story from Students Of The Round, makes an appearance. As does Lucifel.
  • Sailor Fuku: Riu wears one. Presumably she was a high school student before ending up in Escario and just never changed out of her clothes.
  • Sibling Team: Eilhorn and Runta Flareniel, the male elven Ranger and female elven Cleric/Fighter portaits, are described as being brother and sister
  • Standard Fantasy Races: Beside your standard dwarves, humans and elves, there are also two non-standard Little Bit Beastly races common to Japanese Wizardry descendants: the agile Cat Folk Ney and the cute, hobbit-like Migmies. Each race also has a battle trait tied to it, though the player can assign different traits if they wish.
    • Humans are the Jack of All Stats race. They also naturally get "Battle Fortune" which gives +3 bonus stat points and a lower risk of being ambushed.
    • Elves are super-intelligent forest people. They naturally have the "Rich Education" talent which gives them a bonus to identifying found items.
    • Dwarves are pretty much exactly what you'd expect. They naturally get the "Invincible Body" trait that makes them immune to paralysis.
    • Ney are the cat people who are super agile and make good samurai. They also have the "Wild Eye" trait that lets them point out interesting spots in the labyrinth that might otherwise go undetected. Naturally, Elves could also count as the Fairy race, but Ney do it a little better.
    • Migmies have adorable puppy dog ears, look like cute children even when fully grown, and are said to be more in touch with the gods, having a naturally high piety stat. They also have the Intuition skill, which gives them a bonus to identifying traps.
  • Time Master: The Clocker is able to manipulate time, fitting more actions into their turns than normally allowed and earlier too. Early on this comes with the drawback of not being able to use any skills the turn after doing so but their final skill, Overclock, overcomes this limitation. They also possess the ability to delay enemy actions or outright stop and skip time, keeping enemies from taking actions that follow a set turn order.note 
  • Trapped in Another World: The Strangers are this, with the ultimate goal of finding a way to return home.
  • Western Samurai: Inverted with one of the human female knight portraits, Yuri Wakui, who is specifically referred to as a Japanese crusader-knight.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Alm Medell, who dresses like a boy in order to hide her true gender, for some vaguely explained reasons involving gender politics and her status as heir to her father's business empire.
  • Wretched Hive: The slums, naturally. It's one of the few parts of the city routinely invaded by monsters, not to mention full of thieves and thugs that are just as bad as the monsters themselves.