Beam katanas are weapons that play a key role in the No More Heroes video game series. Beam katanas are science fiction versions of their namesake, the katana, which instead of a metal blade holds an energy blade with a length which varies between models. Beam katanas differ in power based upon the specific crystal parts used in construction. They also vary in degree of energy efficiency, which is largely based on whether or not a motherboard has been installed. Though they often behave like regular swords, beam katanas are able to penetrate and cut through most matter with little or no resistance (the receivers of models including the Blood Berry and first two Tsubaki prototypes culminate in a pointed spike, certainly making these inferior models no exception), and can deflect bullets and other non-explosive projectiles, as well as other beam katana blades. Some are also capable of launching energy projectiles.
The common beam katana "blade" is made by a tight loop of highly focused energy which runs from an emitter in the hilt, along a retractable frame and into the receiver. Receiverless beam katanas become more common in No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, suggesting that the technology was perfected within the three years following the first game. When activated the blade appears as a cylindrical bar, though sometimes it can be made into a specific shape. When deactivated, a beam katana appears as a metallic hilt, with or without an ignition button. They can be carried a number of ways, the most seen example being Touchdown's carrying of his beam katana at the waist. Beam katanas emit a distinctive hum when active. There are a number of other beam katana models that do not handle in the same manner as the common models do, however. One model made popular by Death Metal appears as a retractable cleaver with a beam emitted along the blade. Another beam katana, used by former professional wrestler Thunder Ryu activates the moment it is removed from its scabbard, by which it recharges, bearing no "off switch." This model is extremely difficult to use however, as it can be a challenge to safely reinsert the blade into its scabbard. Though it seems that a generic type of beam katana is available to the public, the variety of designs in models used by United Assassins Association members suggests that technicians such as Dr. Naomi and Wolf Vann manufacture customized blades for high spenders.
Beam katana blades are blue, green, purple, red or yellow. Blue, green and red are usually associated with Travis Touchdown whereas other colors are usually associated with various ranked assassins and thugs (with the exception of Harvey Moiseiwitsch Volodarrskii who uses two beam katanas, one of which projects a blue beam). Another exception is Henry, who has no distinct affiliation yet uses a beam katana with a purple blade.
The ASURA-6 is a back-mounted machine with six arm-like appendages used by Alice Twilight. These six appendages, aligned in a hexagonal fashion, store a beam katana, with the lowest appendage capable of lifting her off the ground or alternatively being used as a tail-like weapon. The beam blade color for this weapon is pink. The beam katanas housed by the device can also be launched as projectiles, with the ASURA-6 capable of regenerating the beams rather quickly. Twilight appears to control the appendages of the ASURA-6 using her arms.
The Blood Berry is a seemingly primitive beam katana model that Travis Touchdown obtains through an online auction. When activated, it emits a blue beam as the frame of the Blood Berry is extracted along with the blade, and the receiver is headed by a blade attachment in the form of a pointed spike. The Blood Berry is one beam katana that cannot function properly without a receiver, and so this blade attachment allows the beam katana to penetrate matter it normally cannot by having a standard, dull receiver. The Blood Berry is also the only recognized beam katana to contain a guide bar in its design.
Over the course of the No More Heroes series, the Blood Berry has seen a variety of technical specifications. While in the first game it was the weakest weapon available, by the time of Desperate Struggle it has been upgraded to have a very effective range and damage output, at the price of its low battery life.
The Cross Sword is a beam katana model constructed by Russian technician Wolf Vann and wielded by Henry Cooldown. When activated, four small beams are emitted from the beam katana's minimal cross-guard. While similar to the Tsubaki series, the Cross Sword does not feature a retractable frame and is one of the only beam katanas in No More Heroes to emit properly without a receiver, another being the Tsubaki Mk-III. The blade color is purple. Its upgraded version is the Vosmir.
The D.O.S. is a beam katana constructed by an infamous Japanese hitman, and one of the more dangerous models to use. The blade of the D.O.S. activates the instant its hilt is removed from its scabbard, and the beam katana features no off switch in its design. This makes the process of refitting the blade into the scabbard extremely difficult, as well as unsafe. The D.O.S. bears a resemblance to a shirasaya, a plain Japanese blade mount. The blade color is yellow. It is wielded by Thunder Ryu.
The Horse Saber is an abstract beam katana which largely remains a mystery, not only because of its use by Dark Star, an assassin whose identity is completely unknown, but also because of its unique nature as a beam katana like few others. Like the D.O.S., the blade of the Horse Saber is activated when the hilt is removed from its "scabbard," the crown of a bascinet, and using the wire and needled attachment on the grip of the hilt, its enormous, dragon-shaped energy wave is emitted. Unlike standard beam katanas which feature stationary blade projection, the blade of the Horse Saber waves in motions that imply it may contain a certain degree of artificial intelligence. Exactly how it is deactivated, however, is not certain. Ryuji's beam naginata can also briefly take the shape of a dragon, like the Horse Saber.
Magic Double Saber
The Magic Double Saber is a set of beam katanas which each resemble staffs. When active, the beam entwines the Magic Double Saber, and runs between the hilt and the opposite end. Like many other non-standard beam katanas, neither Magic Double Saber features a cross-guard, and as such there is no prevention of the user's hand from sliding up onto his own blade. Magic Double Sabers are also made to symbolize life and death. The hilt of one resembles an angel, and emits a blue, entwining beam, and the hilt of the other resembles bones, and emits a red, entwining beam. They are wielded by Harvey Moiseiwitsch Volodarrskii.
The Orange II is a retractable, cleaver-esque beam katana model designed by Orange Computer and wielded by Death Metal. The brute design of the beam katana is enough to cause devastating force, let alone the emitted beam which runs along its entire blade. Though its name implies there may be a prototype design (similar to the Tsubaki series), the Orange II is the only recognized model of the Orange series in the series.
The Peony is the longest beam katana recognized in the series, bar the Horse Saber or the dragon form of Ryuji's beam naginata. Like the Tsubaki Mk-II, it must be held with two hands. Its designer, Dr. Naomi, explains that its blade expands and contracts based on its user's ki, which in practice means the Peony's blade extends as Touchdown's Ecstasy Gauge rises, and contracts as his Health Gauge decreases. Also in contrast to the Tsubaki Mk-II, what the Peony lacks in speed, it compromises for sheer strength, highest stopping power and crowd control. The Peony's blade color is a deep red, being based off of the Blaze variety of Chinese peony.
It can be noted that during one of the trailers for the game, it was originally shown as having a guide bar, similar to the Blood Berry and Tsubaki's Mk-I/II. Either the bar was intended to be telescopic in some way, extending with rise in the playes ki, or, likely, the Peony was intended to have a set length and would always retain it.
The ROSE NASTY are a pair of beam katanas granted to Touchdown by Georgy Bishop's will, after his death. Curiously, in the first game Bishop sometimes tells Touchdown, "By the way, that thing you wanted hasn't come in yet," although the connection goes unverified. Visiting Bishop's gravesite, Shinobu is met by Miike who claims to have known Bishop through a correspondence of letters, and relays her the ROSE NASTY, to be delivered to Touchdown as Bishop's final wish. The ROSE NASTY are receiverless beam katanas with curved, red blades and differing hilts with handguards. Furthermore, the off-hand beam katana has a slightly shorter blade than its counterpart making the set similar to traditional daisho. Both blades are swung, allowing versatility and a good damage radius. While the ROSE NASTY is slightly faster than the Tsubaki Mk-III, it lacks its stopping power and its damage output is heavily reliant on Slash Combos and Slashing Stances. Though most of Travis' katanas have been custom-built for his exclusive use, it seems the design of the ROSE NASTY was built especially with Travis in mind, as their overall appearance clearly ephasaizes his connection to the color red.
As seen in many of the original trailers for the game, Travis would've had access to the ROSE NASTY from very early on as an innovation to gameplay in the form of dual beam katanas. Another thing revealed during early production from trailers was that the blades of the ROSE NASTY would be thin and straight in similarity to the blade of the Peony.
The Tsubaki series of beam katanas are designed by Dr. Naomi for Touchdown's exclusive use. The Power Up Parts and Energy Saving Parts stocked by Naomi are also only compatible with models of the Tsubaki series. The first model, the Tsubaki prototype, provides better durability than the Blood Berry, a beam katana that this prototype is comparable to in several ways including structural design (both models make use of a retractable frame and receiver headed by a pointed blade attachment). One notable difference between these two models is that the Tsubaki prototype does not feature a guide bar. The Tsubaki and its successors are each marked with a certain number of red rings corresponding to their model number.
The Tsubaki Mk-II is much more complete than its predecessor, but is still referred to on occasion as "a prototype." Naomi designs the Mk-II based on the US Military Secret plans that Touchdown obtains after his Ranking Battle against Holly Summers. Debatably the most distinguished model of the Tsubaki line, the retractable frame now contains five emitters and receivers which rotate simultaneously. The Tsubaki Mk-II is also one of the most powerful beam katanas ever produced, superior in strength even to its successor, the Tsubaki Mk-III. The blade color of the first marks of the Tsubaki series are both blue.
The Tsubaki Mk-III is the completed Tsubaki beam katana model. Its design is based on that of the D.O.S., the beam katana used by Touchdown's mentor Thunder Ryu, acquired by Touchdown following his master's death. Unlike its predecessors, the Mk-III does not feature a retractable frame and is one of the earliest recognized beam katanas in the series to emit properly without a receiver. An elaborate design of the kanji used to represent "Tiger" (tora) is used as the cross-guard of the Mk-III's hilt. While not as powerful as the Tsubaki Mk-II, the finished model is the only standard beam katana that, with the proper motherboard attachment, operates at maximum energy efficiency and does not ever have to be recharged. While slightly weaker than the MK-II, the MK-III is much quicker, capable of causing Death Blows sooner, and has enough range to decapitate a entire large group of enemies in close range of the wielder. It is possible that during Travis Touchdown's battle with Henry at the conclusion of No More Heroes, the Tsubaki Mk-III was left with critical components damaged, later being downgraded and rechristened "Camellia Mk-III," in Desperate Struggle. While it retains its agility and combo potential, the Death Blow range and stopping power of the Camellia Mk-III are second to the Blood Berry.
A naginata is a Japanese polearm with a thin metal blade atop a long hilt, which gives the wielder the advantages of reach and leverage. Ryuji uses a magenta beam naginata with an ornate Japanese-style hilt. He is also capable of using his nagatina's energy to materialize and summon a large dragon-shaped energy wave.
Double-sided beam recorder
Kimmy Howell plays a recorder which doubles as a dual-bladed beam katana; in addition to functioning as both a weapon and an instrument, the katana can blow explosive bubbles. It is conceivably difficult to use, as the wielder must keep track of two blades on one hilt, however Howell has mastered it gracefully.
Various enemies in No More Heroes wield a generic purple-bladed beam katana. Despite its seemingly unlimited energy supply, this model is rather weak, as it cannot produce a Charged Slash or cut through matter. Some enemies also carry energized weapons such as brass knuckle tasers.
Skelter Helter uses a large beam katana with three parallel blades. Despite its size, the weapon is capable of lightning-swift strikes. It is inlaid with patterns similar to Helter's tattoos.
- Each of Touchdown's beam katana models is named after a type of flower.
- The Blood Berry, though seemingly original, is actually another name for the edible fruiting plant known as Rivina Humilis. Found only in the Americas, its Latin epithet comes to mean "lowly" and "dwarfish" due to how short it grows, though it is an edible fruit and is important as natural groundcover against erosion. Namewise and significance wise, it is poetically representative of the "taste of blood", an acquired taste many will either find not for them, or in Travis' case, one that will get them wanting more of.
- The model series Camellia is based off of the Japonica variety of camellia, which are known to come in many shades of red, pink, and white, and already known as the Tsubaki. In samurai culture, camellias were seen as the antithesis of sakura cherry blossoms, representative of an ungraceful and pathetic death, as they usually fell whole instead of petal by petal. To commoners, they hold more positive meanings; red camellias are representative of love, while white camellias signify waiting and longing. The model is likely representative of the gains of Touchdown's first story of No More Heroes.
- The model Peony is based off of the Blaze variety of Chinese peony, the Japanese symbolic qualities of them, and the Zhanmado sword. In Japan, peonies were often associated with masculinity and are a representative symbol of China. The zhanmado is a special type of sword, made extremely large in scale to cut down cavalry from China, and inspired the Zanmato of Japan, with their legacy shown in modern fiction through Japanese entertainment. Its name in Japanese would be Botan, and a likely pun meaning roughly "Lil' Staff" (ala bo-chan, with tan being a more ditzy and cuter pronunciation) as its appearance is also like a long stick.
- The ROSE NASTY is nevertheless based off of the red rose, extremely versatile and interpretative of its meanings, but ultimately that of love, compassion, and romance. As the rose means love in both East and West, this can be seen it the ROSE NASTY's incorporations of Eastern katana design and detail, with Western technology and saber design. This beam katana is likely symbolic of the gains of the events of No More Heroes 2; the compassion over Bishop's death, and his eventual blossomed romance with Sylvia.
- Some of the beam katanas' designs were made by Shigeto Koyama, who also designed Big Hero 6's Baymax and worked on Studio TRIGGER projects just as Tengen Toppa Gurren Langen, Kill la Kill, Darling in the Franxx, and Promare.