To celebrate the launch of the action-packed prequel to FINAL FANTASY VII, artist Simon O’Rourke has recreated the iconic blade as a tree sculpture. But how did he do it?
By Duncan Heaney

What videogame weapon is more iconic than the Buster Sword?

This massive blade is famously wielded by Cloud Strife in FINAL FANTASY VII, but what are its origins and how did it come into his possession? That’s one of the questions answered in CRISIS CORE –FINAL FANTASY VII– REUNION - out now for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam.

This greatly enhanced remaster of the beloved prequel to FINAL FANTASY VII stars Zack Fair - a young SOLDIER operative.

To celebrate the release of the game, we’re excited to unveil a one-of-a-kind tree carving of the legendary Buster Sword, created by the talented Simon O’Rourke, a renowned UK based tree sculptor and self-confessed video game enthusiast.

Take a look at him in action:

It’s an incredible work of art that captures the style and imposing scale of this magnificent weapon. But how did it come to be? We chatted to Simon to find out:

Hi Simon. How did you get started with tree sculpture?

I was an illustration graduate - a children’s book illustration specialist. I’ve loved art all my life, but I hadn’t really considered how to make it a career.

I needed work after university and ended up working for a friend of mine who’d just started a new tree surgery business - just to bring some money in, you know. He eventually offered me a full time job, and one day I saw someone carving with a chainsaw and had a lightbulb moment.

The idea for this art just clicked - and I decided to just give it a go. It snowballed from there and here we are!

How familiar with FINAL FANTASY VII series were you before this project?

Oh, I’ve loved gaming since the 90s. I cut my teeth on things like Doom and Quake. I’ve also always loved fantasy, so naturally was very attracted to FINAL FANTASY VII (laughs).

I like ‘medieval’ style games, and the crossover between almost medieval-style weaponry and science fiction backdrops in FINAL FANTASY VII really appealed to me. And of course, I’m from an illustration background, so I particularly love the styling of the game, the concept art… it’s all so up my street.

The Buster Sword too - it’s so iconic. It’s just a really epic-looking sword, so it was a good subject to carve. Turning it into a Christmas tree is perhaps a little off the wall, but a nice idea I think (laughs).

Though I’m not sure how much my wife appreciates it…

What inspired your design for this sculpture?

Well, Christmas trees are obviously pretty traditional at this time of year, and I’m always interested in playing with different styles. In terms of the design, I was inspired by the patterning on the blade of sword. You have this almost ‘circuit board’ feel, with these lovely diagonal lines curving into uprights.

I had this vision of the Buster Sword merging from the natural-looking tree at the base up into something much more sci-fi. I initially considered creating it as part of a natural tree but having such a heavy topweight of tree balanced on something carved could potentially be dangerous.

So I ended up creating the branches separately - again, these were inspired by those lines on the blade.

How do you ensure your work is sustainable and not environmentally damaging?

I don’t buy trees that are harvested - I would never cut down a tree for my carvings. I only use trees that have already been felled by tree surgeons.

There are many reasons why someone would have to take a tree down, but it essentially comes down to the ‘four Ds’: dead, dying diseased or dangerous. If a tree is designated as any of these, it’s marked to be removed.

While all the trees I use have been felled for a good reason, I also believe sustainability is important. That’s why I pay into a tree planting scheme to offset what I use.

Where did you source the tree for this project?

This tree is a Blue Atlantic Cedar that was felled by a tree surgeon, due to suffering from dieback, which is unfortunately going round the UK right now.

A dieback is a sort of airborne pathogen that gets into the tree via the leaves. Anything that kills the foliage on the tree basically signs its death warrant, as leaves are what the tree uses to get food from sunlight.

So this particular disease kills off the branch ends and starts a slow, but inevitable demise for the tree. Honestly, it’s kind of heartbreaking to see so many magnificent trees going down that route.

But I’ve been fortunate to take a few of them and give them a second life as carvings. That’s something I really like.

So how exactly do you go about turning a dead tree into a massive sword?

Well, lots of planning to begin with. And short answer, I removed all the parts of the tree that weren’t part of the carving (laughs).

I visualized the sword inside the tree before I did any cuts. I thought: how big can I make this sword and still be able to get it proportionally right? The proportions are the most important part for me - I measured and used calculated ratios to size the sword as big as I could get it for that tree.

Once I’d planned and measured everything out, I took all of the outer wood off. Over time, if there’s bark on the tree, it falls off and starts to look scrappy.

Then it was a case of carving it all. I’ve got a big range of chainsaws - I think of them almost as my paintbrushes. If I have big cuts to make, I’m going to use the big saws. When I get to the smaller details, I have really fine-tipped saws.

Once I got down to the level where I couldn’t use the chainsaws, I started using grinding tools and rotary tools. I don’t always use staining or coloring in my carvings, but for this I did. I used an ebony wood stain to create that gunmetal feel, while still being able to see the grain of the wood. It really makes the sword jump out, I think.

How long did it take?

Including prepping and making all the branches, it was around four days of planning and sculpting.

What were the most challenging things about creating this artwork?

The hardest thing was getting the lines parallel and straight - and getting the proportions of the Buster Sword right.

I find it easier to carve sculptures of natural life rather than mechanical things. That’s because mechanical - or in this case ‘engineered’ - subjects need to have perfectly straight lines. For this one, I used a laser level to make sure everything was absolutely perfectly aligned, but it’s actually much of a challenge to get these right compared to, say, an animal.

That’s the thing about the Buster Sword as a subject - It looks so simple, but there’s a lot of planning that has to go into it.

What elements of the tree are you most proud of?

I really like the touch of having the steel rivets in the hilt. I love the whole effect of the circuit design of the branches. And the contrast between the vertical sword and all those diagonal lines was really satisfying.

Finally, where can people go to learn more about you and your art?

My website has loads of information on - it’s

My Instagram and Facebook feed are pretty active too - that’s where you can see the most recent work I’ve been doing.

Many thanks to Simon for his time - and his remarkable work. The Buster Sword makes a triumphant return in CRISIS CORE –FINAL FANTASY VII– REUNION, available today for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam.

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