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Designer, Illustrator & 3D Modeller

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Murasama Replica

One of the coolest things I’ve done for a while.

This project was born out of a love for a video game near and dear to my heart, Metal Gear Rising Revengeance. While the name is a bit silly, it reflects the bombastic and irreverent tone of the game. Filled with ham-filled characters, gratuitous over-the-top action, and striking visual designs MGRR struck a chord with me, instilling a yearning to bring something from this crazy universe to life.

Enter the charismatic Brazilian cybernetic samurai Samuel Rodriguez, otherwise known as Jetstream Sam. (Yes, he chose that name.)

Sam’s sword the Murasama is a sword packed with insane technology vibrating it at an ultra-sonic frequency, allowing it to cut through basically anything. This vibration also gives the sword an eerie crimson glow.

I wanted this prop to feel real, like someone plucked it directly out of the game and into real life. So the light and sound this prop produce were the two biggest priorities. I’m no stranger to illuminated prop weapons however, as my hobbies include custom and replica Lightsabers. I’ve spent quite some time within that sub-community of the Star Wars fandom, so I knew that the materials and techniques used there would be the most helpful. Once I had a plan on what was going to bring life into the prop then I moved to part-sourcing and planning the fabrication.

One of my other hobbies is 3D Printing. This seemed to be the quickest and easiest way to refine and iterate on the design so everything would fit and look accurate. I found some reference material of the blade online and through in-game screenshots and got to work scaling and modeling within Solidworks. After a couple hours however Solidworks just wasn’t giving me the organic shapes I needed for the hilt, so I switched to Autodesk’s Fusion360 for the remainder of the project.

The blade was the easy part. Just a hollow blade 3D printed in a transparent material, then lined with a string of red LEDs. The blade had to be large enough inside

to fit a ladder of 5mm LEDs, but not so big that it looked cartoonishly thick.  Sourcing a low-profile power connector for the base of the blade would give it the ability to be removed easily.

Final component layout of the hilt.

The hilt was a more complex task however. A lot of components needed to go into a very small space. I needed the main control/soundboard, a CrystalFocus v8 (often used in high-end saber

replicas), a USB configuration port, a large LiPo battery, a recharge port, some tactile switches, some accent LEDs, a large speaker, and a resonance chamber to amplify the sound of the speaker and get a richer bass. Even for a cylindrical saber build, that’s a lot of stuff. And as I was modelling the hilt, it was turning out to be around 75% the usable volume compared to a similarly sized saber.

One other important part of the build was that it needed to separate into two halves so that I could access the soundboard easily. The soundcard uses a MicroSD card to store numerous sound files or ‘fonts’ that give sabers their sound. Lightsabers sound fairly close to how the Murasama sounds in-game, however I’m going for accuracy, so I would need to regularly update the soundfonts on the board as I develop custom ones that replicate the sound more appropriately. The Murasama has these red bolts all along it in the game and in concept art. So I figured that if I turned those bolts into the actual bolts holding the halves together, then the piece would read more like an actual object rather than a prop.

So after many revisions and about 30+ hours of modeling I had files that I felt would be ready to test print. I chose to use my Form2 resin printer to print the hilt pieces. Using an FDM printer with ABS would’ve been nice as it would be a bit stronger than the Tough Resin, but the FDM can’t do super-fine details like the ‘MURASAMA’ text on the sides of the hilt. I only needed to print 2 revisions on the hilt beyond the first test fit. After the hilt modeling was finished the blade modeling went by quickly, only some minor revisions before I printed the final pieces from translucent ABS on my FDM printer.

2nd test print of the hilt.

Most of the electronics soldered together

Once the hilt pieces had been assembled it was time to solder the electronics together. There were going to be a lot of wires running through the hilt. Routing channels for the wires into the model helped a bit, but it was still going to be a tight fit. The toughest parts of soldering everything together were definitely soldering the accent LED pads on the soundboard and soldering the string of LEDs for the blade. The accent LED pads are the small contacts to the side of the large black control chip on the soundboard. The board is only about an inch tall, so these things are tiny. And they’re close to the main control IC, so the risk of heat damaging it was high. The string of LEDs while not difficult, proved to be a test of my endurance. Soldering a string of 80+ LEDs in parallel takes time, and it went by pretty quickly once I had a assembly line for them going.

After the electronics had been soldered together it came time for the first test firing. I connected the battery and heard the bootup sound. All good so far. Then I flicked the power switch and it lit right up. Everything was working and everything had been soldered to its proper place. All that was left was to assemble the parts and fit the halves together. I fed the LED string along with some light diffusing film into the blade. And I fit all the hilt pieces together and screwed everything in place. The lights and sounds still worked, and the prop responded to swings and hits appropriately. It felt solid in my hand and the large battery gave it a realistic and convincing weight to it. It felt like an actual object someone would use, and not like a prop that just looks the part.

Admittedly this project is still a work in progress. I still have to finish the cosmetics, sanding, painting and the like. But I felt proud enough of this to put it into my portfolio. When I look at what I’ve made hanging on my wall I know that very few people could do what I did. Very few people would do what I did.

 

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