Critical Status Buff

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The heroic counterpart to enemies Turning Red.

Not only do Video Games tend to neglect the hindering effect of non-lethal injuries during combat, sometimes the character's Heroic Resolve effectively creates an automatic Status Buff as they approach Critical Existence Failure. This gives the player one last chance to dramatically turn the battle around, at the obvious risk of losing the battle entirely should they continue to take hits.

Sometimes this is an ability inherent to the character, other times it is granted through the use (or acquisition) of special items or equipment. In any case, a Critical Status Buff triggers automatically when the user's HP decreases to low levels, though whether or not the status boost remains in effect after the character has been healed varies from game to game.

If the benefits of this status are powerful enough, they can be the key to many a Self-Imposed Challenge, especially the Low-Level Run. In low-level games (and similar challenges) in many RPGs, monsters in The Very Definitely Final Dungeon are often powerful enough to KO a party member in one or two hits anyway, so if the player is already relying more on "Revive" than "Heal" spells, there's little practical difference between whether said character is at full health or not, and a Genre Savvy player may as well exploit this status while they can. Also note that maintaining critical status for prolonged time can be difficult if the game refills the player's HP at regular intervals (such as after every fight).

Super-Trope to the Limit Break and Desperation Attack, which are active skills and attacks. Compare Comeback Mechanic, which applies specifically to multiplayer.

Examples of Critical Status Buff include:


  • In one Fighting Game adaptation of Beast Wars ("Beast Wars Transmetals"), the amount of time required to charge a character's Limit Break decreases as they take damage, allowing an injured character to unleash them more frequently than a healthy opponent.
  • In Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, the "Soul" class of shields features an ability that provides an increasing defense boost as the wearer's HP decreases. There is also "Reversal", a Desperation Attack.
  • Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories: Some abilities activate at less than 25% HP, such as the male ninja, which gains such a large evasion bonus that they can become nigh-impossible to hit.
  • Dragon Quest IX: A handful of abilities work like this, notably a Minstrel buff that "raises evasiveness in a pinch".
  • Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas: The "Nerd Rage!" perk maxes out strength and gives a sizable boost to damage resistance when your health is less than 25% of max.
  • Final Fantasy has several examples:
    • In a few games, some equipment can activate Protect, Shell, or Haste buffs automatically when the user's HP drops to critical levels.
    • The Mystic Knight job in Final Fantasy V has the Barrier passive ability which causes the character to automatically cast Shell on himself when put into critical health.
    • Final Fantasy VII has the Final Attack support materia, which casts the linked materia when the character equipping it is killed—pairing it with the "Revive" or "Phoenix" materia results in an Auto Revive.
    • Final Fantasy VIII's Limit Breaks activate at random, with a greater chance of occuring if their HP is low or if the character is suffering from negative status effects.
    • Final Fantasy X contains "SOS" equipment that can grant powerful status boosts while your character is below half of their maximum HP. Since some characters have odd-numbered hit point totals and a Phoenix Down revives your character at half health (rounding down), a clever player of the game's more brutal Self Imposed Challenges can double a character's speed almost all the time.
    • Final Fantasy X-2 has the Cat Nip, an accessory found in the Bonus Dungeon. If you go critical while having it equipped, all your attacks will do 9999 damage. Pair this with the "Trigger Happy" skill, and you get a Game Breaker that can take out even most Bonus Dungeon Bosses in one hit.
    • Final Fantasy XII has a set of abilities on its License board to boost the user's Defense, Attack, and/or Magic when their HP reaches critical levels. (Some bosses have these abilities too.) There are also inverse abilities granting Attack or Magic boosts any time the user is at full HP.
    • The "Sentinel" class in Final Fantasy XIII has a passive ability called Deathward, which boosts their status when their HP drops under 25%.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics has abilities to grant a character things like Regen, Reraise, or Haste when their HP is critical.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • "Defender" increases defense at critical HP, "Berserker/Striker" increases attack power, "Damage Control" halves damage taken, and "Grand Slam" boosts critical hit rate.
    • 358/2 Days includes limit breaks. These allow you to enter a superpowered frenzy when you are low on health.
  • In The Legend of Dragoon, Haschel's most powerful weapon (the "Violent Mace") deals more damage the lower his HP is.
  • In Legaia 2: Duel Saga, certain equipment contains abilities that link a character's atack and/or defense powers to their current HP (directly or inversely). "Reverse-HP" and "Reverse-HP Defense", for example, provide greater effects at low HP. Each character also posesses a secret "Mystic Art" technique that can only be performed at less than half HP.
  • Magic: The Gathering: The "Near-Death Experience" card instantly wins the game, but only if you start your turn with only one life point. The "Avatar of Hope" is a powerful creature that deploys for nearly free if your health is low.
    • The Dark Ascension set has several "Fateful Hour" cards that have improved effects if their user has 5 or less life.
  • Metal Gear Solid: Main characters gain a slight defense boost at critical HP. They can also regenerate health by crouching and resting, but only as long as their HP is critical.
  • Paper Mario: Quite a few badges give these kinds of abilities, such as attack, defense, and evasiveness boosts. The "Danger Mario" setup milks this for all its worth by piling on as many such badges as possible and then deliberately keeping Mario down to 1 HP as long as possible.
  • Pokémon Aside from Desperation Attacks like "Flail", "Reversal", and "Endeavor" (which inflict more damage at lower HP), several Pokemon species have passive abilities ("Blaze", "Torrent", "Overgrow", etc.) that boost attacks of a particular elemental type when the user is low on HP. There are also Berries that yield automatic status boosts when the user's HP becomes low.
    • Inverted in B/W by the ability Defeatist, which lowers your stats when HP is less than half.
  • In the Pokémon Ranger spinoff series, "latent power" boosts the Styler's attack power' when low on HP.
  • One skill in Soul Calibur IV is "Will power", a passive ability that boosts a character's attack power when low on HP.
  • Super Robot Wars has the pilot skill "Prevail", which increases accuracy, defense and evasion stats as hit points for their respective unit decrease. Every game has it, and so does every pilot (including bosses).
  • Super Smash Brothers Brawl: Lucario's attacks become stronger (and hit more easily) as his damage increases.
  • Team Fortress 2:
    • The Equalizer, an alternate melee weapon (a pickaxe) for the Soldier, boosts its attack power (and the Soldier's speed) at low HP.
    • One of the Sniper's unlockable melee weapons, the Shahanshah, inflicts double damage if the sniper's HP is below half.
  • In The World Ends With You, various clothing items feature status boosts that activate at low HP—the "Lapin Angelique Suicidal Special" combines said clothes with pins that put the user in critical status from the start of battle, For Massive Damage.
  • World of Warcraft: Affliction warlocks get a healing bonus to their Life Drain when at 25% health or lower; subtlety rogues have Cheat Death, which gives them a Last Chance Hit Point and massively reduces damage taken for three seconds.
    • Blood Fury, one of the Orc racial abilities, used to grant more power the lower your health when you used it.
  • In Bastion, the Werewhiskey tonic raises critical chance to 100% whenever the Kid drops below 33% health. Might as well make the most of it, right?
  • A pair of magic rings in The Legend of Zelda Oracle Games re-enables Sword Beams (that normally only work when at full health) when health drops below 2 or 3 hearts.