Magikarp Power

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A character or ability that seems completely useless at first, but with repeated use and patience can be highly effective later. This can be an item/weapon you need to explicitly power up or even an entire low-level character who gets some really awesome techniques later. Choosing the character usually involves taking the Path of Most Resistance so you can Earn Your Fun.

The Trope Namer is Magikarp from Pokémon, a ubiquitous, dim-witted, crap... er, carp-like Pokémon that only knows the move "Splash", which, as the game gleefully informs you, 'has no effect'.[1] In short, the suckiest, most useless, pointless 'Mon in the game. This is until you painstakingly grind it up to level 20, of course, at which point it evolves into Gyarados, an awesome, intimidating flying-water-dragon-serpent-death-machine ready to wreak vengeance from on high with its lethal abilities. This comes from an old Japanese legend that a carp that manages to swim up a waterfall can become a dragon through perseverance.

Leaked Experience can be very helpful in getting this to the appropriate point without weakening the party or putting the Magikarp Power in danger.

Related to Level Grinding in that the player is forced to drag an entirely useless item or NPC around for level after level, until it becomes useful.

Compare Future Badass, Took a Level In Badass (this trope implemented for a character), Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards (for when wizards are treated as magikarp), Lethal Joke Character (a Joke Character with hidden potential), and Difficult but Awesome (for when a character/faction is set up to make the player a magikarp). Contrast Breakable Weapons, What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway? and Crutch Character. Can sometimes be heard to ask, "Who's Laughing Now?"

Examples of Magikarp Power include:

Video Game Examples[edit | hide | hide all]

Pokemon[edit | hide]

  • Named for the Pokémon Magikarp, who can only learn four moves total[2] (which was actually a paltry two moves at the time of its original debut appearance in Pokémon Red and Blue), one of which does absolutely nothing, and cannot be taught anything else from TMs, HMs, or the Move Tutor. However, it eventually evolves into Gyarados, one of the most powerful and versatile creatures in the game. Aside from those in the Uber tier, it's in the top five best Pokémon, and it's still a staple in many non-competitive players' teams.
    • Fans have found a way to break the game using Magikarp. You do not know pain until your legendary team has been systemically wiped out by "Magikarp used Flail".
  • Magikarp's third-generation equivalent, Feebas, is a similar (if not quite as useless) case; it evolves into defensive-based and beautiful Milotic.
  • All of the Pseudo-Legendary Pokémon are hard to catch, evolve at high levels and their pre-evolutions have poor movepools and stats. However, if you level them up, they are the strongest Pokémon outside of Legendaries and the aforementioned Slaking.
    • Beldum can attest to Level 20's awesomeness, as he goes from a floating leg that can only learn Take Down, an average powered move with poor accuracy that damages the user, to Metang, which becomes the defensive and powerful Metagross at level 45.
    • Out of the Pseudo-legendaries, Deino is particularly notable because it evolves much later than all of them - its evolution levels are 50 (you can get Salamence, another psuedo-legend, by this level) and then level 64, the highest evolution level of anything in the entire series. What's more, Deino and its evolved form Zweilous have an ability that lowers accuracy, making them unreliable to use. But when Zweilous evolves into Hydreigon, watch out!
  • The move Return is this. It starts out rather weak, but since its power is tied to your Pokémon's Happiness stat, which increases with leveling up, winning, and even walking around, you can hit its max power of 102 eventually.
  • Abra is hard enough to catch, and when you do catch one, it has one move...that lets you run away from battles. Unless you have TMs, you'll put up with some bait and switch Level Grinding before it turns into a Kadabra, then broken (In Generation I, at least) and speedy Alakazam. Note that he can reach his final evolution just after evolving at Level 16.
  • While a complete list would fill the page, there's also Slakoth. Poor stats and it only acts every other turn, but at Level 16 it evolves into the psychotic Vigoroth - and after that into Slaking, which goes back to only acting every other turn but has one of the highest Attack stats in the game (And if you get rid of that limiting ability through moves like Skill Swap or Worry Seed...). Teaching Slaking the move Giga Impact [3] also works well to Slaking's advantage, as Slaking recharges during the same turn that the Truant takes effect.
  • Other particularly notable Pokémon include Tynamo, a cute little electric eel introduced in Black and White which has crap stats and four okay moves until it evolves at level 39, and starts getting good (and fierce-looking), and even better still when you use a Thunderstone on it. All three members of the Tynamo line have no weaknesses too, which makes up for Tynamo being rather weak.
  • Combee starts off knowing three moves and its stats are lousy. Also its ability is only useful for producing Vendor Trash. But if you can get your hands on an elusive female and raise her up to level 21, you'll have yourself a Vespiquen, a combination of a bee and a battleship with a touch of European royalty. Not only are her stats better, but she has a much wider variety of attacks to choose from and has three signature moves each revolving around controlling swarms of Combee and has good abilities to choose from.
  • Larvesta begins with average or poor stats in everything except Attack, which goes to waste when you see that its evolution, Volcarona, has massive Special Attack instead. It doesn't even evolve until Level 59, but if you do, it gets a mountain of Special stats, speed, and Quiver Dance, which boosts all three of those stats by one level. And you can catch a Volcarona at level 70 in the Relic Castle after you beat Ghetsis, so have fun with that. It should definitely be worthwhile to get your hands on one.
    • Unfortunately, there are no other wild Volcarona or Larvesta, so if the one in the Relic Castle doesn't have the right Nature for your liking, the only other way to raise one is from an Egg, which means level 1.
  • Zubat as well. The only moves it has up until Level 16 (12 in later generations) are Astonish and Leech Life, and in the case of Red/Blue and their remakes, almost every Pokémon in the early game is either immune to the Ghost-type or resistant to the Bug-type, so you'll have a time raising its levels until you can get to Oddish and Abra. And then even when it learns new moves, it gets Supersonic, an unreliably-low accuracy move, and Bite, which doesn't benefit it much until Generation IV since it's a Special attack. By the time it learns a good move, Wing Attack, it's already practically a Golbat, effectively doubling its usefulness after the tough early stages. Then it gets Confuse Ray shortly after, and may potentially become Crobat soon...
  • Togepi starts out with low stats and an okay movepool. Get its Happiness to maximum and it will evolve into Togetic which has slightly better stats, dual typing, and more moves to choose from. If you manage to get your hands on an elusive Shiny Stone, you'll get Togekiss, which gets a major boost to stats and can learn a great variety of moves. If you have one with the Special ability "Serene Grace" (makes added effects like flinching happen more often), moves like Ominous Wind, Ancient Power, and Air Slash become quite deadly.
  • Ralts is the weakest Psychic-type Pokémon as of Generation V and - catchable in Generation III prior to beating the Elite Four and only catchable in Hoenn Route 102 - which is the third route the player visits. It has a 4% chance of appearing and is about level 5 at best, learning only one offensive move before evolving at level 20 - and it's not even evolving into something equivalent to Gyarados, instead becoming the THIRD weakest Psychic-type... on reaching level 30, it becomes a Gardevoir, the second strongest Psychic-type - and in the Top 20 of Pokémon overall (and stated in the Pokedex to be even capable of creating a black hole, despite the lack of it in-game).
    • From Generation IV onward, male Ralts and Kirlia have the option of evolving into Gallade. Its stats are equal to Gardevoir's, but its attack stats are inverted. It also gains the Fighting-type and is able to learn a number of physical moves,[4] along with the support moves that the rest of the Ralts family can learn, leading to a fairly unique and powerful Pokémon. Plus, you can get it as soon as Ralts evolves at level 20.
  • Seedot from Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald starts out as one of the worst first evolution Pokemon in the game. The only slightly useful move it has, Bide, uses the attacks that the opponent inflicts on it and then dishes it back two or three-fold. Hard to use early on and only gets better when it evolves into a Nuzleaf at level 13. Though if you want to make it really effective, you need to use a leaf stone to instantly evolve it into a Shiftry.
  • Magnemite was pretty weak as an electric Pokémon in Generation 2 - itstarted with Thundershock, but that was the only damage-dealing Electric move it learned, even after evolving into Magneton... that is, until level 45, when it learned Zap Cannon. Combined with the Lock-On it learned earlier, to compensate for Zap Cannon's inaccuracy, and you have yourself an excellent damage-dealing Electric Pokémon.


Final Fantasy[edit | hide]

  • In the chapters of the Final Fantasy series that include it, any of the character classes that learn monster attacks (usually called Blue Mages, though they have been called Enemy Skills on occasion) end up being this way, as some variety of Mega Manning is required to get the skill from the monster. Generally, this requires the Blue Mage to actually be hit by the spell in question, which depends heavily on waiting for the right enemy to target the right character. However, once the right spells were learned, blue mages can nearly always hit the damage cap on every enemy for non-elemental damage, put up all manner of protective spells on the entire party, and cure massive amounts of hit points to boot. It's just a question of managing to get hit with the spells.
    • The original Final Fantasy has the Black Belt/Master; he starts off with access to crappy weapons and crappy armor (insanely weak knuckles/nunchaku and cloth, respectively), so he's pretty much useless at first. But his Absorb and Damage go up with level, so early on, you can drop the armor, and a little later, the weapons. By mid-game, he outdoes any other character on attack, and NEARLY every character on defense - he still has better dodge than the Ninja, even though the Knight can take more punishment. And at the end of the game? One hit kills the boss. God forbid you have a party of four of them.
    • In the original version of Final Fantasy III, the Onion Kid is your characters' starting class and almost entirely useless in every way compared to all the other classes. Except that at late levels (if you spend enough time), its stat growth suddenly becomes awesome, and it's the only class that can use the obscenely powerful Onion equipment set. This is even more prevalent in the NDS remake.
      • His Dissidia adaptation, Onion Knight, works quite similarly. His default attacks are weak and hard to connect with, but as he levels up he gains the ability to chain them into other attacks and becomes highly versatile.
      • Speaking of Dissidia, it's the same with Firion: At the start, he has exactly one HP attack (i.e. how you kill things, for those unfamiliar with the battle system): a projectile of medium speed with a charge time. As he levels up though and masters his Bravery attacks he learns the ability to chain them into Double Trouble, and learns the HP attacks Weaponsmaster and Lord of Arms, turning him into a mid-range god.
    • Edward from Final Fantasy IV is initially useless until you get better equipment for him, whereupon he becomes the fastest character in the game. He's still useless, though.
      • However, its played straight in that if you level him to around 90-99, he gets the best stats in the game, maxing out almost every one. But in the original SNES version, you didn't use him for the endgame, anyway. Fixed in the GBA remake, where you could choose your party; the harp you can earn for Edward to take through the endgame dungeon does extra damage against dragons, which many of the enemies there are, and even against non-dragons he goes so fast he can take two turns and do as much damage as the team's main tanks get in their one turn. The harp he gets in the post-game dungeon does extra damage against every enemy type; seeing 9999 damage becomes a common ocurrence. His only drawback is his auto-hiding when he's in critical health, which can spoil your healing rhythm, but which can also prevent a total party kill.
      • The DS version went back to a preset group for the endgame, but made Edward's abilities much more useful: Salve let you use all kinds of healing items on the entire party at full strength,[5] and you could finally choose which song he used, one of which worked as a fast Regen as long as he wasn't interrupted. He's still somewhat lacking compared to everyone else, though.
      • And if you invested your hard-earned Augments into Edward (you need to use two, which is about as many as you actually have at this point in the game), you later get said improved abilities as Augments. And one of them, Hide, is actually incredibly good on one of the endgame characters, if you spent the effort to get it.[6]
      • Edward has a similar arc of usability in Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. In his tale, he's mainly useful because the rest of his party (and all the monsters you face) are really low level; as a result, unless you take the extra time to grind the hell out of him, he'll start the last few chapters a good 10-20 levels below everyone else. And once he's on par as far as levels go, he's probably still going to have miserable attack power, and low HP. But, if you stick with him into the final dungeon, he gains a harp that has an extra attack bonus against everything in addition to being on par power wise with everyone else's weapons, he becomes extremely fast, and by now you've got enough cash to fill your pockets with X-Potions, making Salve a faster, more reliable (not affected by the Moon) healing than any White Mage, especially if you've got the accessory that doubles potion effectiveness. Add in the fact that his Bardsong allows free buffs and debuffs, and his Escape move lets him avoid any attack, and the Spoony Bard becomes damn useful.
    • Since Final Fantasy V, Blue Mages have become much more useful when paired with their natural partners, Manipulators. Relm's Fake Moustache relic in Final Fantasy VI, the Manipulate materia in Final Fantasy VII and so on, allow one party member to take control of a monster and use its skills in any way they feel necessary. Some of the FF games require this method to learn all the Blue Magic spells.
      • Of course, some of the better skills can still be pretty tricky. For instance, Roulette kills a random target. In order to learn it, the Blue Mage does not only need to get hit himself, but also be alive afterwards (which requires the Reraise spell).
      • Also in Final Fantasy V, that game's Freelancer and Mime classes are rather unimpressive on their own, but 'absorb' a mastered class's passive abilities and stat boosts, with the result that by the endgame, they're easily the best classes, since you can have a character with the highest boosts in every stat, using any equipment, and any combination of active abilities you want.
      • The Red Mage class, normally a Jack-of-all-trades class that's good in the beginning, gradually loses use as you go through the game. However, if you persist with the class, long after one would have abandoned it (its final skill level taking 999 points), you'll gain access to the absurdly powerful Dualcast ability, letting you cast magic twice per turn. The funny thing is that once you do this you'll never use the actual class again, as it has poor stats and forces you to waste one action slot for red magic spells.
      • Another example from Final Fantasy V is the Chicken Knife. It becomes more powerful the more times you run from battle. Unless you are intentionally trying to power it up, it is an extremely weak weapon, but once you flee from enough battles, it becomes the most powerful weapon in the game.
    • Final Fantasy VI has a few examples, though most are simple Game Breakers:
      • Terra - In the second quarter of the game, she gains Morph. Before that, she's just a fire-elemental/healer combo. But she increases her time Morphed if she hasn't Morphed for a while. A fun game in the second half of the game is to take on Cactuars, who extend Morph longer than anyone, and not use Morph until you face Kefka.
      • Setzer - Two words: Fixed Dice. Found in the last dungeon in the game, these give him a random fixed attack based on rolling three dice. There's a high chance of 9999 damage. And since it's fixed damage, he can use Offering to make it four times!
      • Gau - Gau is seen as a Magikarp by most fans, simply because it takes forever to learn all his rages. (He's quite effective with just three, though.) With enough rages, he can absorb all eight elements, hit with any element half the time and a simple physical the rest of the time, or even use the rare Charm status on enemies. If that's not enough, he's one of two characters to use the Snow Muffler, the single best equipment in the game.
      • Strago - He's a Blue Mage. 'Nuff said. Unfortunately, he's a Blue Mage that you get late in the game, after you're well past the point where you'd normally run into the monsters using the blue magic he can learn. This means he's not a "set him aside, and he'll be good later" type, and more of a "If you want him to be useful, you have to go well out of your way and backtrack to get his abilities."
      • Relm - best equipment, best magic power, Sketch makes her The Scrappy because it basically uses an attack the enemy is likely immune to or absorbs with worse stats. But with Espers and the right equipment, Relm's awesome. Sketch also created easily exploitable bugs in the original SNES version of the game. It's not until fairly late in the game that you get to the point where it's exploitable rather than game-crashing, but once you find the right enemy group you can reliably fill your inventory with vast numbers of the most powerful equipment in the game.
      • The Cursed Shield - hits you with every status effect in the game, including Doom (which can't be blocked by a Ribbon, unlike the other status effects) - but take it into 255 battles, and it becomes the best shield in the game, negating or absorbing all elements of magic and avoiding most physical attacks, as well as teaching you the best spell in the game, Ultima (the only way other than the Ragnarok esper, which, incidentally, requires skipping the Infinity+1 Sword, and by extension, the ability to bet it at the Colisseum for an even better sword).
    • Final Fantasy VII had the Knights of Round materia. Sure, it's awesome, but it costs 250 MP and can only be used five times (not that you're likely to need even that many castings, except against a Bonus Boss). The smart player combines a Master Summon with MP Absorb.
      • A better example would be the Ultima, Shield and Full Cure materia. All do the same thing when initially equipped. Almost nothing, except muck around with your stats. Get them to their second level, though, and they give you a very powerful attack, a powerful defensive spell and the ability to heal a character and remove all status ailments from them. Nothing to sneeze at.
      • And then there's Chocobuckle. Its damage is based on how many times you've flees from battle. If you have the patience to power it up to, say, 2222 damage, you can induce Lucky 7's status, causing a character to go wild and hit 63 times, each for 7777 damage. The Super Bosses can't easily deal with one of those. You can potentially do 3!
      • The Toy Gun from Dirge Of Cerberus is pathetic at first, but can be leveled up into the ultimate weapon.
    • The Diablos Guardian Force in Final Fantasy VIII reduces opponents' hit points by a percentage equal to Diablos' level. At its starting level 9, this is starkly unimpressive compared to other summons and spells; grind it to level 100, and it's instant death for anything with less than 9999 hitpoints.
      • Unfortunately, that is also one of the few things that actually encourage leveling - for any other purpose, it was better to stay as low level as possible since most encounters level with you... at least until you get the Bonus abilities like Mag Bonus or Str Bonus. With these abilities junctioned, they will increase that stat by 1 along with the regular stat gains on every level up. Having the Bonus abilities of the four main stats (STR, MAG, SPR, and VIT) and Abilityx4 will allow for a character to junction all four abilities at once. With the right magic and abilities junctioned, those stats will be close to if not entirely maxed out on maximum level.
      • An even better example is the Cactuar Guardian Force whose damage is calculated by the first digit of its current level x 1000 (i.e. lvl 43- 4000, lvl 68 - 6000). At level 100, it will do 10,000 damage to all enemies making it the second most powerful GF in the game. Unlike Diablos, bosses and other enemies immune to gravity damage are susceptible to this attack.
    • Zidane's ultimate ability in Final Fantasy IX gets more powerful the more you steal from enemies; however, many believed it was simply a useless ability since this isn't explained anywhere.
      • Quina, the blue mage of the party, will become the most diverse and powerful spellcaster in the game if you take the time to learn his/hers/its/whatever spells.
      • If Zidane steals enough, if Quina catches enough frogs, or Freya (or anyone else) kills enough dragons, each of them can do 9999 per attack for little cost (using Thievery, Frog Drop, and Dragon's Crest respectively).
    • Final Fantasy X has the Celestial Weapons that also count as Game Breakers. When you get them, they suck, and prevent you from getting and AP needed for level up. Of course, they can be upgraded and come with a bunch of good abilities, but the items to upgrade Onion Knight are really hard to get (involves dodging 200 lightning bolts in one sitting (This takes hours)). However, it does give Magic Boost (Doubles MP Cost and Magic Damage), One MP Cost (reduces MP cost to 1. Applies after the latter), Break Damage Limit, Triple AP and +50% Magic Attack. However, many players don't bother getting this as it is so painfully hard to upgrade, and Nirvana, Yuna' ultimate weapon is easier to get, but has slightly less powerful abilities (Lacks Magic Boost, but has Triple Overdrive instead). When upgraded, all Celestial Weapons also ignore their respective Defenses (Nirvana and Onion Knight ignore Magic Resistance, while the rest ignore Physical Defense).
      • In Blitzball, the Kilika Beasts starts out as the worst team but their players turn out to be the best with high stat caps at high levels.
        • The Besaid Aurochs are roughly the same story.
        • One of said Aurochs, Keepa, goes from lame-to-mediocre goalie to devastating shooter at high levels.
      • In the Final Fantasy X-2 blitzball minigame, Yuyui, recruited at Scout Level Max, starts off with 1 IN ALL HER IMPORTANT STATS. Not only that, she's very painful to train because her biorhythms NEVER go above 1, so you'll be eating up LOTS of Command Points just to let her rest. However, her max stats are all 99 (255 for those that go above 100), making her a total Game Breaker, given the opportunity to learn special skills like Corkscrews and Volleys.
    • Final Fantasy XI has several versions:
      • Blue Mages start out as a somewhat underpowered Magic Knight... until level 40, when they can create their own skillchains every two minutes. At level 30 (but not really useful until 44), a blue mage can set her support job to Thief and make use of Sneak Attack with a spell like Cannonball to ensure the spell lands with 100% accuracy and For Massive Damage. Which kind of makes them a Fighter, Mage, Thief at this point. Can cross over into Game Breaker territory on a certain Bonus Boss.
      • Scholars start out as a wimpy, sub-par spellcaster that has low skill in all forms of magic, and unlike the magically similar Red Mages, Scholars have no real way of taking a beating or giving one. This begins to change at level 10, when the job has the ability to optimize either White or Black magic, raising the low D skills to a much more impressive B+ skill. It only goes up from there, as by the time Scholar reaches level 75, the job becomes a borderline Game Breaker with the sheer variety of magic it can use and the myriad ways it can be used. While many of the jobs feature in this trope, Scholars are the best example of it.
      • Also up there is the Summoner, ironically enough for the series. First, you need to beat up at least half a dozen prospective summons to begin with in order to have enough spells. Then, most early Blood Pacts are cost-ineffective or even practically useless, and avatar melee is even worse; some players have even threatened Summoners with being kicked out of the party if they don't basically act like half-powered White Mages with big MP pools! The only thing a Summoner is wanted for is boss fights, where their Eleventh-Hour Superpower comes in handy... until, that is, they hit level 70, when suddenly they get most of the good damaging pacts (most of the rest being gained at 65). It's even stated by the developers that Astral Flow is meant to be used against a lot of enemies at once, which is really obvious when the 70 Blood Pacts deal damage that's comparable to it.
      • Red Mages are generally lack-luster White Mages until level 41 when they gain the spell Refresh that replenishes Magic Points when suddenly they become the pretty pretty princesses (Or to some others who play Red Mage, Buff/Cure whores) of Vana'diel. Their two-hour ability Chain Spell is almost completely useless until around level 40 when they gain more MP, a slightly better set of spells, and the ability to swap their current HP with their current MP.
      • The Puppetmaster. Known to most of the playerbase as simply "lolPUP", with standard gear it is a weak DD, can summon a healing puppet with bad AI, although it can deal good damage against weak targets; when endgame gear is applied to it, it becomes a powerhouse. A Mythic Weapon Puppetmaster with the Usukane armor set, and the right attachments (which will run you a small fortune), can have nearly the damage output of a Monk and Black Mage combined. It must be emphasized that there are probably only 2 or 3 players in the entire game that have the gear necessary to pull this off.
    • In Final Fantasy Tactics, the Calculator is the slowest class in the game, and thus the slowest to develop its skills. Once the class is mastered (and all Calculatable spells learned), the skills learned from the class make it the best secondary class in the game, to the point where one well-rounded Math Skill user virtually guarantee victory against absolutely anything the game can throw at you, and the rest of the team may as well stand around using Accumulate.
      • Closely related, the Bard and Dancer classes were extremely weak. But their abilities happen so frequently (sometimes two or three times per command action), and they get experience each time their abilities activate, meaning they both have a habit of power-levelling. Combining these Skills with a Calculator results in game-crushing power in a very small number of fights.
      • Truth (yes, Rafa's Truth), already free of the Faith comparison concerns of normal magic, can become very strong when it actually hits if Rafa is turned into a Mime at a low level, levelled as such for a while for the base MA stat growth, and then finally turned into a Black Mage for the MA multiplier. (Malak, on the other hand, sucks even when subjected to such tender loving care.)
      • A bonus character you can recruit is Cloud Strife from FFVII, who starts off way back at level 1, even though you're relatively far into the game when he can be recruited. Even after being leveled up, he probably doesn't seem like anything special; he's a good physical fighter, but you've got better ones, especially since his special attacks require him to use the fairly weak Materia Blade. And many of his special attacks, including almost all the powerful ones, are too slow to be really useful. But not all of them; Finish Touch fairly quick, and it's a real Game Breaker: it has 100% accuracy, and inflicts a random selection of Stop, Petrify, or Instant Death. Even the least desirable outcome, Stop, puts an enemy out of action long enough for another character to take them out.
      • Ramza's Squire class is also like this, only it gets more advanced depending on how far you are in the game. In chapter one, the only difference between it and the standard Squire is that it can equip robes but not axes and it gets the "wish" (which heals HP at the cost of inflicting half the healing on Ramza, while Ramza likely has the HP to take the blow better than whoever is being healed, but it's inferior to almost any other option for healing, but acceptable in a pinch) and "yell" (increase speed by 1, actually somewhat decent) abilities. In chapters two and three, Ramza's Squire gains a few new skills, better stats, and the ability to equip heavy armor and shields. By chapter four, however, Ramza's Squire class gains an ability that lets him temporarily boost all of his stats, has some of the best overall stats in the game, can equip Knight Swords (among the strongest weapons in the game), and can learn Ultima, making it one of the best classes in the game.
        • Don't let Ultima wow you too much. It's basically a slightly less expensive 3rd tier spell, that's also non-elemental. FFT has fourth-tier spells. Also, most classes basically work this way. The abilities you can learn with a few JP are practically worthless, but by the time you get to the abilities that cost hundreds or even thousands, you're hitting enemies acros the board. Literally.
          • However, while Ultima is not so great, Shout and Steal are incredibly good. For those that don't play tactics, each use (which can be on anyone, not just Ramza) boost the target's Bravery by 5. Any stat boost that is greater than 5 gives a permanent plus one to that stat. Both Shout and Steal are free, and so if you take the time, you can potentially have your whole party's Brave at 97 (the limit for Bravery). There's a skill that blocks any physical attack (melee, ranged, whatever) with it's percentage of success based on your Bravery score. Thanks to a free ability learnt at the start of the game, you can have your whole party totally immune (3% fail means, for all practical purposes totally immune) to everything the game can throw at you (97% physical block+reflect ring giving 100% reflect magic).
    • Morphers in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance shapechanged into monsters instead of learning skills. Problem was their powerlevel corresponded to the power of the monsters you had captured, meaning early game captures were useless fairly quickly. But if you invested huge amounts of money in feeding your captured monsters they would grow to ridiculous sizes & grant these ridiculous (read:999) abilities to the party Morphers.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics A2—The Sequencer Knightsword and the Peytral Armor can be obtained pretty early in the game, and usually they'll start off fairly weak. However, the sword and armor add a point to their respective attack and defense when an opportunity command is utilized in battle, and they can accumulate up to 99 points to get a total of 131 attack and 127 defense -- compare the next best Knightsword and Heavy Armor, at 72 attack and 58 defense, respectively. This crosses over into Game Breaker in that your characters don't have to equip them to get the points, and it works retroactively, so if you were to work up to 99 opportunity commands from the get-go...
    • Final Fantasy XIII gives us Hope. For a good portion of the game, Hope is The Load. The player will schlep him around, cursing him for having such low hitpoints and attack power. Turns out, once you get him leveled high enough, he has the highest magic power of the entire party.
      • Conversely, Sazh starts off as a capable damager/buffer but by the time you approach Oerba, his stat advancement is hopelessly outpaced by Fang and Lightning's in the damager department and Hope's in the buffer one. The only reason to keep him in the active party is his Game Breaker "Haste" spell—until Hope learns it, making Sazh officially useless. ...that is, until the Endgame Plus, when Sazh's stat progression suddenly picks up speed again and he quickly catches up with the rest of the team.
      • In fact, an entire role, the Saboteurs, suffer from this, as they start out slow and their debuffs aren't really gamechangers. Once you get to Gran Pulse, however, the game dumps a gigantic Difficulty Spike and suddenly Deshell, Deprotect and especially poison make things so much easier.
  • Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings rewards clearing a certain Bonus Dungeon with the Anastasia, a sword that has rather subpar compared to what Vaan can craft by then.Thing is, every subsequent time said dungeon is cleared, all of Anastasia's stats rise by 10.Including Speed, which determines how fast a character attacks.Which means that after clearing it enough times, Vaan basically becomes a living blender capable of soloing most, if not all, of the game's levels.


Other Video Games[edit | hide]

  • In Ratchet and Clank Up Your Arsenal, many of the weapons will be crap to start with, but after an upgrade or two, will become massively awesome. Particularly the Holo-Shield Glove. V1: blocks a few projectiles before it shorts out, and serves no secondary purpose. In a word: useless. V2: blocks more damage, and sucks the very lifeforce from your enemies to heal you. In a word: awesome.
  • In MARDEK RPG, Zach has one attack skill called sinstrike which deals armor piercing damage based on Zach's kill total. It seems utterly useless until you put some effort into kill grinding him, and after a few hours, which isn't too long for a MARDEK player, it becomes the most devastating attack in the game. That is, unless the enemey is immune to dark damage...
  • Another Centurys Episode 2, a mecha action game, gives players the Amon Duule "Stack", a red unit from Heavy Metal L-Gaim. In both the game and the series, the unit is technically a flawed and defective piece of junk, despite having a stupid powerful beam cannon that would make Wing Gundam cry. However, after some minor upgrades and using the unit for a little while, the player can upgrade it into its true form: the L-Gaim Mk. II, the most ridiculously powerful unit that the good guys get in the L-Gaim series, and a very good power unit in ACE 2.
  • The Gold Sword in Azure Dreams is a pretty weak weapon that looks like Vendor Trash at first glance until you realize that it's the only sword that can't rust. Give it plenty of Red Sand and you have an extremely powerful weapon. The Trained Wand is similar but much harder to find.
  • Baldur's Gate 2 gave us the Sorcerer class. Initially it seems far weaker than a normal mage. Instead of learning spells from scrolls, it can only learn a total of 5 spells per level, which are slowly chosen over the course of level-ups. In other words, make any bad picks and you're screwed. Even the official strategy guide for Throne of Bhaal recommends against choosing a Sorcerer. However, with the right choices, equipment, and patience, the Sorcerer eventually dominates all other classes in the game, able to devastate 99% of enemies very quickly.
    • The Baldur's Gate Monk follows the same tradition: at level nine (when the game starts) he's almost crippled by high armor class (high being bad) and the fact his fists don't count as magical weapons. By the time he hits high levels, not only are these problems long cured he also gains insane magical resistance and fists that can outdamage Dual Katanas.
    • With the Ascension mod installed, that +2 Sword of Chaos that you've been carrying from the first dungeon in Shadows of Amn will become a +4 weapon with better special abilities if you give it back to its original owner Sarevok.
  • Blood Will Tell has the Fool's Blade, which appears to be the weakest weapon in the game... until you discover that it levels up from collecting worn blades. Also in the same game, the arm blades can be leveled up the more you use them.
  • The British civilization in Age of Empires III is incredibly slow to start off with, but in the 4th and 5th ages their epic Musketeers and rocket artillery form some of the strongest armies in the game.
  • Pecoros (Or Peco) from Breath of Fire 3 is introduced fairly late in the game, and at level 1 to boot, meaning that most players ignore him and focus on their A team, however this also means that he arrives at a time where most of the game's masters, who can modify stat growth at level up, are available, meaning that he can be heavily customised as he levels.
    • Not to mention the only way to get all Spells and Abilities the masters can give you.
      • Aside from all that, he's got almost as much HP on Level 1 than your higher level characters when you find him. Under the teachings from the right Master (Fahl, most probably) and some leveling, Peco can become the party's Ultimate Tank, overshadowing resident brawly master Garr.
  • The bow and arrow in Castle Crashers. Initially, the weapon fires arrows at an angle and at a very slow speed. Increase your character's Agility stat, however, and the angle lessens until it fires straight ahead and arrow speed shoots up considerably. With a high enough Agility, you can even juggle enemies with the bow!
  • Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin starts you off with a gimped version of the legendary Vampire Killer whip, and it is the weakest whip in the game. However, if you defeat its "memory" (AKA Richter Belmont) in a Bonus Boss battle, you unlock its true power and turn it into the most powerful whip in the game.
    • Justified in that the protagonist is from a branch of the Belmont family and not the main family line, thus preventing his full use of its potential.
    • The game also features two gag sub-weapons: the pie and paper airplane. They're functionally useless until you level them up to max level, when they suddenly become some of the most powerful subweapons in the game (and interestingly, are particularly useful in unlocking the full potential of the Vampire Killer).
  • Cave Story inverts this trope with the Nemesis. A very powerful weapon, which levels up (with only one experience point!) to... a less powerful (though still decent) weapon. Level it up again (one more EXP point!) and it shoots rubber ducks. 1 damage point rubber ducks. They don't even go very far. Essentially, this is a breakable weapon. Taking damage lowers weapon experience however, so you're not stuck with the rubber duckies for the whole game.
    • On the other hand, refuse to trade away your wimpy initial weapon until the near-end of the game, and you'll be able to upgrade it to the almighty Spur. This is partially a reward for honesty, since said wimpy initial weapon technically doesn't belong to you.
    • The Bubbler is another example. At level 1, it's similar to the above-mentioned wimpy initial weapon, but slightly less useful. At Level 2, it makes a decent substitute for the Machine Gun—a weapon you can't get if you're going for the Spur. At level 3, it fires a cloud of bubbles as long as you hold down the fire button, which start popping rapidly and firing lightning bolts once you've built up enough... and once you release the fire button, they all pop and fire their lightning bolts at once. This is roughly as potent and deadly as it sounds.
      • It should be mentioned that the machine gun stands to be more useful than both the Spur and the Bubbler, as it has the side effect of enabling you to fly for as long as ammo lasts from recoil effect while firing downwards. Considering how jump-happy the game is, this is insanely useful - especially if you decide to go for the first jetpack instead of waiting for the upgraded version.
  • In Chrono Cross, self-proclaimed "hero" Pierre is far and away the weakest character in the game - until you get the Hero equipment for him, and then he becomes a powerful character with an instant-death attack.
    • Also in the game, Pip starts off as a cute little bundle of fluff and is as powerful as it sounds. You can evolve him using a not too complex, but tedious method into an Archangel, Archdevil, or Holy Beast form. They are also as powerful as they sound.
      • You can also break the game by giving elements that are only equippable by his starting innate to Pip's first form, then evolving him to another innate and equipping him with unique elements of that innate in addition to the ones he already has, and then at last getting his final form. As long as you don't de-allocate those, he'll KEEP the innate-unique elements in his grid and you can then give him unique elements of his third innate. It's possible to have, say for example, an Archdevil Pip with things like Holy Healing, Ninety-Nine, and Black Hole (Equipped after getting his final form) all on the same character! Of course, this requires EXTREME careful planning, as you can't allocate unique elements of his previous forms' innates after he's evolved away from those, and if you de-allocate any of those previous unique elements, you can't put them back on.
  • Several of the archetypes in City of Heroes and City of Villains have this feature. Some types of Controllers, for instance, are fairly hapless at low levels when soloing but on reaching high enough levels (and with a selection of complementary powers) become unstoppable engines of destruction that can outdamage the dedicated damage-dealers.
    • Dominators are a very good example. Often considered underdogs, perceived as one of the two weakest archetypes in the game... at least until somebody discovered that, with some careful (and prohibitively expensive) build planning, one could stay in their "Mr. Hyde" mode without having to recharge it between uses. A "permadom" Dominator is easily one of the strongest characters in the game.
    • Also for Dominators: The Psionic Assault secondary deals poor amounts of damage and (until recently) its initial power cost too much endurance for its damage. But when it reaches level 38, the Dominator gets Psychic Shockwave. It costs little endurance, deals a lot of damage to multiple targets and has a good chance of stunning them (especially in Mr Hyde mode.)
      • Psionic Assault is no longer an example of this as recently the powerset was rebalanced: by "nerfing" Psychic Shockwave and buffing the other eight powers up to make the set more powerful across the entire level range from 1 to 38.
  • The Healers in the Sega Game Gear title Crystal Warriors resemble this trope in that they are remarkably weak in melee combat. If you manage to get one to level 9 somehow, though, they suddenly turn into unstoppable killing machines.
    • To put this in perspective: a level 9 Healer has 95 HP, 85 Attack and 80 Defense. By comparison, the game's Final Boss has 98 HP, 97 Attack and 12 Defense.
  • Xiao from Dark Cloud is ridiculously weak when she joins your party. Her sole use seems to be getting past the occasional obstacle, and most players will only pull her out for those, ignoring her otherwise. And then comes a level where you have to play as her, and only her. If you then decide to level Xiao up a bit by taking her through some of the earlier stages, you will learn that (a) Xiao isn't actually that much weaker than Toan was at the same level; (b), her weapon is really fast; and (c), having a ranged attack is useful when facing monsters.
    • and (d), you can get her a slingshot that can steal items upon successful hit. There are also enemies that you do not want to get anywhere near melee range, and enemies that cause your weapons to degrade faster. Xiao is immune to all of these, given her weapon is ranged.
  • In the original Digimon virtual pets, the amount of care taken in raising your pet determines its evolutionary path, with bad caretaking resulting them digivolving into the pathetically weak Numemon, a bug-eyed slug-thing who attacks by throwing its own excrement. However, raising Numemon with perfect care will result in it Digivolving into Monzaemon, a giant teddybear who is capable of defeating any other Digimon with extreme ease.
    • In the first Digimon World game for the Playstation, you didn't even have to raise Numemon well, just finish the Toy Mansion to get the Teddy Bear Costume; then you can spam all the Monzaemon you want.
  • Disgaea
    • In Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, Angel Trainee Flonne only levels up well with a staff but learns no spells beyond her three special attacks, making her almost entirely useless... unless the gamer discovers that the apprentice system lets her learn other classes' spells, in which case she can effectively be turned into a ridiculously powerful tank-mage with an attack range that would make gunners weep.
    • Then brutally subverted when Majins become available (through a good bit of Level Grinding); they have 110%/120% in aptitude in all statistics and "S" skill growth in all weapons, making the story characters, with their flat 100% aptitude (otherwise powerful among generics) and mediocre skill growths, completely irrelevant. (In an amusing case of game design whiplash, later games in the series tone down the Majin to such a degree that they're rather limited right out of the box.)
    • Super-Robot Thursday, being a robot, cannot reincarnate and gain all the juicy stat bonuses it imparts; he makes up for this with 150% aptitude in most statistics and ability to steal stats, so give him some time and he can be a very powerful character. However, his lack of skills and inability to use a staff to enhance any spells he may learn from pupils relegates him to a distant second behind a properly levelled and transmigrated Divine Majin.
    • Somewhat subverted with Skulls and Mages, the games' Squishy Wizard classes. Instead of starting out with a single Class Tier available, you get three: Red, Blue, and Green. Like other classes you can level these up to unlock advanced versions: the Star Skull/Mage (Non-Elemental, no one is particularly resistant or vulnerable to it), the Prism Skull/Mage (All Your Colors Combined, learns spells of all three main elements) and the Galaxy Skull/Mage (a combination of the last two). And each higher tier has better stats and aptitudes, which plays this trope straight. However, the Red/Green/Blue ones are the only classes able to learn the Omega and Tera versions of their respective spells, and the Star one can learn Omega and Tera Star. Prism and Galaxy classes only go up to Giga. So bottom line, it's actually better in the long run to stick with the less powerful classes for a good long while, then upgrade only once you have unlocked their best spells.
  • DragonBall Kai: Attack of the Saiyans has Gohan, who like his anime counterpart at that point in the series is a near useless runt, only gaining one point per stat whenever you level up, compared to the other characters who all have one or two stats that get extra points. That all changes once you get to level 35, where not only does Gohan start gaining two to three points extra on all his stats, but it makes him the single character in the game who can completely outdo Goku.
  • In Dragon Quest III, the most useless class, the Jester, can be upgraded to the most powerful, the Sage. For anyone else this requires a unique item that can only be used once.
    • Remakes also sweetened the deal by letting the Jester learn one unique spell on their own: "Whistle", which instantly summons monsters to fight and makes Level Grinding much simpler. Especially when used in areas where Liquid Metal Slimes roam.
  • Dragon Quest V allows the player to recruit monsters as party members. One of the first monsters the player is likely to recruit is the basic, run-of-the-mill Slime, with a whooping 8 hit points and next to no attack power. By the time the Slime reaches level 20, it has more hit points than a similarly leveled main character, and is outclassed in attack by only the main character himself when properly equipped. Combined with learning an absolutely devastating spell at level 50, the slime is easily one of the best monsters in the game. And if you are lucky enough to be able to catch a Metal Slime, they are even better!.
    • At level 99, a Slime will have roughly the same HP and defense as the main fighters, and will have learned the "Meditate" (Healall) and "Infernal Flames" spells, both of which cost ZERO magic points, making them effectively invincible and strong enough to beat any enemy in the game. However since Slimes level at roughly the same pace as the main characters, you could've beaten the game long ago anyway.
  • Drakengard 2 has a sword called Iron Butterfly, that starts off very weak and stays weak until Lv. 4, where it becomes super-strong and has a powerful magic attack. However, to even level it up to 4 requires a LOT of patience due to how much experience it needs.
    • It also has a sword that delibrately inverts it. Beginning with very high attack power, and growing weaker with each level, it's own level 4 being virtually useless.
  • Dungeon Explorer, a Gauntlet (1985 video game)-type game for the Turbografx-16 console had the bard - a weak character that did low damage and had crappy spells (one of them changed the background music.) However, midway through the game he could be transformed into a hermit - the most powerful character in the game.
  • In the PC strategy game Dungeon Keeper (1997) by Bullfrog Productions, you must build training rooms to train up your monsters; and a few monsters will become far more powerful at maximum level. Demon Spawn, while moderately good fighters at low level, become Dragons at level 10. Thieves can be trained into Knights, identical to the Lords of the Land you've been fighting. Even the lowly Imps get this. As workers, their fighting ability is pathetic, so most players won't bother. But at level 3, they get Haste, letting them mine through stone like a buzzsaw, and at level 10, they get the ability to Teleport.
  • Claves in Eternal Sonata is, when first encountered, extremely weak, with slow attacks that don't do much damage, and unimpressive specials, Presumably this is so you don't waste any time leveling her up, because she dies almost as soon as you meet her. If you go through the game's Bonus Dungeon, she can be re-recruited and leveled up properly, eventually becoming one of the game's strongest characters, placing first or second in every stat, and having some seriously powerful moves. But since she rejoins at the same level as she first left, and thus probably 30 or so levels behind, most people never find that out. The drawback to this is that said bonus dungeon can only be accessed once you defeat the second to last boss, and open a portal that would literally take you right to the final battle. This means that the only practical time you can even use her beefed up form is inside that bonus dungeon, which she can't even leave unless you beat it. Well, that and against the final boss, which by the time you beat the bonus dungeon, is on par with a lump of meatloaf compared to you.
    • The same goes for Polka, who at the outset is weak in attack and comparatively useless as a healer until much later level spells make her the best healer in the game. She's still the worst character in the game since healing items completely outclass the healing skills, and Polka doesn't come close to any character in battle effectiveness.
    • There's also Frederic, who is noticeably weaker than many of the other characters owing to a high magic stat but a poor attack stat. Furthermore, most of his special moves are weak, up until roughly level 60, when he unlocks Phantom Pain, arguably the best damage-dealing skill in the game, capable of inflicting upwards of 400,000 damage with the proper equipment.
    • Jazz could be considered this in the 360 version. He is at every point in the game inferior to all other characters available. At the end, however, he gets a next to final weapon with an ability called Burst. Burst doubles the power of attacks in exchange for defense. He's the only one with a REALLY strong burst weapon, and the lack of a third burst item means he is the only one who can use burst without one in your three man team. He already did massive damage but other characters had him outsped by far and thus got in more damage than him. In the PlayStation 3 version there is now a third burst item and a new character that's a borderline gamebreaker. The existence of a third burst item greatly decrease his value in favor of everyone else.
  • In Fire Emblem there's the "Est archetype": a character that joins the party late and it looks like Can't Catch Up is in full effect, since he or she is quite fragile, but if the player is patient and levels him/her up adequately, after promotion the character will become extremely powerful. Some examples are: the Pegasus Knight Est (FE 1), Wyvern Knight Zeiss (FE 6), and the Bow Knight Astrid(FE 9).
    • Due to the random nature of stat growths in the Fire Emblem games, it's very much possible to have such a character end up weak even at high levels. When conducting character tiers, most players would actually give more credit to characters that start off at higher levels with solid stats (and reasonable join times), even if the Est-type character could potentially surpass them, because using such characters required no risk of getting poor stat increases.
    • One non-Est example is Leaf from the 4th game, who joins in the 2nd chapter of the 2nd half (that starts with a new group of characters) and starts out as a mere swordfighter, but can eventually use almost every weapon in the game.
      • From the same game is Lachesis, who joins during the first half and is just as weak (though she has the benefit of being able to use healing staves along with swords), but promotes into the insanely powerful Master Knight (a class she shares only with Leaf).
    • Also, Corple if you paired Sylvia with Levin, Azel or Claude! He joins you two chapters before the final battle as a level 1 priest but if you decide to put the effort into training him up (aka do a lot of pointless healing with a Recover Staff) he'll be one of your best spellcasters. (And if he's Claude's son a great frontline healer when you're facing a lot of Sleep or Silence Staves.)
    • Finn in Genealogy of the Holy War (much less so in Thracia 776) zigzags between this and Crutch Character. In the First Generation, he starts off quite weak and is disadvantaged by the fact that he uses lances when the first chapters are full of axe-users, but because of his good growths, the Prayer skill and the Hero Lance Cuan gives him in chapter 2, he becomes a valuable asset to your army until he leaves (at the end of chapter 3). Then, in the Second Generation, he is normally much stronger than the characters he's protecting (Leaf and Nanna) at the beginning of chapter 7, but because most of your army can be made of Game Breakers, he ends up being outclassed in the last chapters.
    • Lyn and Eliwood from the GBA game(The Sword of Fire) arguably possess Magikarp Power. They are pretty fragile units initially, and require special effort to level them up. However, their upgraded forms are rather strong. Eliwood actually gets his class up through a story event, but how strong that is ultimately depends on how much you were willing to use him before his class up, so it fits.
    • Astrid in Path of Radiance is a definite example. She starts out so weak that she cannot take a hit from anything. She gets experience much faster than eveyone thanks to a personal skill though, and if trained she rather quickly catches up and then passes the other characters in levels. Not only does she get great stats, but her promoted class, Paladin, is broken.
    • Gordin, in the Fire Emblem remake Shadow Dragon (unsure if this was the case in the original) starts off as a fairly bad archer. His only notable strength is his above-average defense. If you have the patience to get him to around level 15, and then promote him...
      • Yes, Gordin was the same way in Book 1 of Mystery of the Emblem. His movement was the same as an armor knights (aka NOT good), his speed was awful, meaning no double hits, and as you said, his defense was the only decent thing about him. But his promotion gains are VERY good, helping to overcome his earlygame issues (iirc, Archer to Sniper promotion gives more speed and skill than any other class promotion in that game)
    • More so is Tomas, he has suckier base stats than Gordin but better growth, and joins later.
    • There's also Radd. You get him pretty early but his base stats are so bad that he is worse than regular enemies in the same level you get him. But if you level him up, he will become a Lightning Bruiser with unusually high defense for a myrmidon.
    • In The Sacred Stones you have the chance to acquire Ross, Amelia, and Ewan, who are all sub-first-tier characters and are incredibly fragile, but if you take the time to level them up, they will become as strong or stronger than your other characters. Ross surpasses his father Garcia and runs circles around Dozla once trained, and is one of only two potential members of the excellent Berserker class. Amelia is probably the most well-balanced of the cavaliers statwise, or can opt to play speed-tank as a general. Ewan can promote to four different second-tier classes and is one of only two potential Druids (the other being the rather dubious Knoll). Having said that, all three are also in major YMMV territory - they have surprisingly unremarkable growths and obviously take more effort to train than other characters, and since they tend not to turn out definitively better than their companions (except Ross, who is notably better than Dozla and Garcia in the long run, but also noticeably worse than other infantry types like Gerik or Joshua), many people consider them to not give enough payoff to qualify for the trope.
      • A more straightforward Est is L'Arachel, the only Troubador in the game. When she's recruited, she's simply a mounted Staff Chick, which is handy for mobile healing but no good for combat and therefore both vulnerable and agonizingly slow to level up. With the patience to finally get L'Arachel to level 20 and promote her into a mage knight or valkyrie, however, she has been known to clear the first floor of the Bonus Level of Hell by herself, often gaining her remaining twenty levels and capping several of her stats in a single mission!
    • Wolf and Sedgar from Shadow Dragon are actually this. Despite that they join prepromoted and give signs of Crutch Character, if you look at their stats, you might be surprised because of how low their bases are. But a check on FAQs or even sheer patience will show you that as a matter of fact, they actually have the best growth rates in the game. (especially in health, their growths exceed 100% meaning they're guaranteed at least 1 HP per level up and have a chance to get an additional point)
    • Sanaki from Radiant Dawn veers into this and Glass Cannon territory. She joins very late in the game and has a few powerful weapons, but is marred because a) you've had three parts to train your other characters, b) Her strength is so low she takes a penalty from using her own special weapon and c) Has very low health, making her the Glass Cannon. Despite this, she has the best growths in the game, if not the entire series.
    • Vika also from Radiant Dawn is this. She has one of the worst availabilities in the game (if not the entire saga, being a new character introduced to Radiant Dawn) yet she has pretty high growths for a Laguz. It takes a lot of babying, but she pays off. Her main problem is also that she joins very late, and in the rest of part 4, you have the Laguz Royals, so there's really no point in using her when you can take Naesala if you want a raven with you in the final battle.
  • In Freedom Force, Man-Bot is slow and clunky with a weak blast attack, although he has a powerful punch if he can connect. However, if you can bear with him, he eventually gains the ability to fly, and more importantly can be vital to the team by using his tremendous Energy X generation to transfer energy to his team mates, allowing them to use their own abilities much more frequently.
    • El Diablo suffers the opposite problem - potent attack powers which aren't very accurate and rapidly exhaust his energy (which then takes forever to recover). Once Man-Bot develops his energy transfer powers they become a devastating combo...
  • The first fighter you get in Free Space 2 is pretty average—not too fast, not too strong, can't carry a lot of missiles, moderate weapons compatibility and later on is usually passed over in favor of Interceptors or Assault Fighters. It's a strategic pick in multiplayer, however, because it's the only fighter that can carry the Helios antimatter torpedo. Most bombers can't even equip that weapon, which is capable of destroying a cruiser in one shot.
  • In the Guild Wars games, the player is encouraged to create his/her own combination of skills and abilities, with many of those skills being Magikarp Powers, and others being useful on their own right but even more useful when used in conjunction with certain other skills. In fact, the whole strategical aspect of the games focused on combining the right skills.
    • Mesmers are also arguably an excellent example. At their peak in the hands of a skilled player, Mesmers are hell on earth for enemies, due to the fact that the class's showcase style is turning an enemy's power against himself and making enemies die in a matter of seconds for no immediately obvious reason. However, in any campaign, it takes time for mesmers to find all the specialized skills they need to perform at peak efficiency, and even more time to get over the huge learning curve of the class-early mesmers, and unskilled players, are mildly annoying at best, and have minimal impact on anything.
      • What also doesn't help is that if they want to stand any chance in PvP, they pretty much need to find those skills.
  • In Dead Space, the Pulse Rifle chews up ammunition FAST, does barely any damage, and has a ridiculously small hit area. If you upgrade it though, it can become an incredibly accurate and ammo economic limb remover from over a 100 meters.
    • Even truer for your starting weapon, the plasma cutter. Upgrading it improves it so much that it's entirely feasible (if not quite as fun) to use no other weapon for the duration of the game. There's even an achievement for doing this.
  • In the Playstation survival horror game Hell Night (also known as Dark Messiah outside the U.S.), you have a choice of four partner characters that can accompany you through the game. If you get attacked by whatever monster is currently stalking you at the time, you die, unless you have a partner, in which case they take the hit for you and die in your stead. You can then get one of the others if you're in the right place at the right time. The first partner you get has no weapon but can sense the location of the monster on your map, while the other three cannot; however, they do have weapons (with limited ammo, of course) that can stun the monster long enough for you to get away, but not kill it. If you keep the first partner (a teenage schoolgirl named Naomi) all the way through the end of the game, in the final areas of the game she has a random chance to say, if you spam the "talk to partner" button while the monster is approaching, "I wish... I wish you were DEAD!", which stuns the monster just like an attack from one of the other partners would, and can be used an endless number of times.
  • In Jagged Alliance, if the player gives their custom IMP merc 85 (the max) wisdom (that affects how quick they improve) a merc that was "meh" everything, with a little practice, becomes perfect at everything.
    • Same goes for some of the other mercs that you can hire, notably Ira, who is assigned to you at the very start in JA2. She seems like a mediocre medic and awful everything else... except for her 83 wisdom that allows her to quickly become one of your elite soldiers.
  • In the popular RPG Maker 2000 Affectionate Parody game Jay's Journey, one of the hidden party members is... a slime. As in, the quintessential weak RPG monster, and indeed, the slime's stats are pathetic. ...at first. If you stick with it long enough to get it up to Level 50 and find the hidden "Slime Medal" item, all of its stats are maxed out, and it has a set of the most powerful spells in the game as well.
  • In Legend of Mana, many basic techniques are of little utility and some can be actively harmful at times. Spin can cause the main character to be disoriented, and Grapple often results in the character being squished by heavier enemies. These abilities must be used many times to unlock the powerful and devastating Special Techniques for each weapon.
  • In a mix between the Elite Tweak and this, Aaron of Lunar Knights starts off woefully underpowered (made worse by the fact that he can't fire without a Terrennial, and the first part of his chapter is a forced stealth segment because of this flaw). On the higher difficulties, however, further play as Lucian requires maxing your levels or having godly guard reflexes, as the enemies' damage output continues to rise, not to mention the direct-player-induced 999 damage limit. This ultimately puts Aaron on point, where his Solar Guns, coupled with energy levels on par with freakin' Naruto, help mitigate the risk of having to get close to such deadly attacks.
  • Weebos in Magi Nation. One of the first Dream Creatures you can get, it starts out at level one, with the sole ability to heal. BUT, and this is a huge gigantic but, if you raise it to level NINETY, it learns the immensely powerful move Wreck, which is shared only by Ormaggon, the subject of That One Sidequest.
  • Majesty has an extremely annoying character type. The wizard. When first hiring the wizard, he will be extremely weak, going up against the weakest sewer rat is a death wish for a level 1 wizard. However, nurturing them to higher levels will make them unstoppable killing machines.
  • If you get party member Liara early enough in Mass Effect, she's pretty weak. She can't be trained with any weapons and she can only equip light armor. However, if you get the party, and by extension her, up to level 60, and distribute her skill points appropriately, she will be the most powerful biotic party member with extremely fast recharge times on all of her skills.
    • Tali starts as just an engineer, however her Quarian Machinist Skill and another of Skill both improve her shields. If you max both, and give her proper Armor add-ons to further improve her shield and shield regeneration, she can be more durable than a Soldier and second only to Wrex in sheer survivability. She'll have more shield than most heavy armor users.
    • Kaidan starts with only a weak throw and sabotage, but with levels and by maxing out his class skill, no other party member can compete with him in the shear variety of ways he can screw with enemies, with recharge times on par with Liara.
    • In Mass Effect 2, DLC party member Kasumi is extraordinarily weak, even more so than Jack. However, careful distribution of her skill points will turn her into a Glass Cannon with abilities that can disorient enemies, overload their shields, and one-shot most mooks.
  • Nethack has the Tourist character class. They start with a handful of darts for a weapon, a hawaiian shirt for armour, and a jumble of seemingly-useless tools. Only an experienced player would know that in the endgame, an enchanted cotton shirt is one of those things everyone wants but are normally so rare that most of the time they're only obtainable via Wishing (in other words, Tourists get a free wish for starting with the shirt). They can acquire the Platinum Yendorian Express Card, one of the more powerful artifacts in the game. They also have the greatest selection of weapon skills of any class, and can become proficient in every weapon but clubs (which aren't a good choice for a weapon anyway).
    • Less extreme but still eligible is the Wizard class. It starts with a quarterstaff for a weapon and a piddly little Force Bolt for offence (and one random other spell). By endgame, Wizard is by far the most powerful class in the game. Area effect magic, infinite death spells, instantly mapping dungeon levels, instantly identifying unknown items, teleporting at will... all with nigh-infinite MP because of their quest artifact. Oh, and their first sacrifice gift allows for unlimited, instant, semi-permanent Elbereth. And zaps enemies with status ailments. And blocks curses. And is powerful enough to let Wizards play melee, if they so choose. Did I mention they get bonuses to Magic Marker use, hungerless casting, self-healing, no-items-needed levitation, Very Fast speed... you get the picture.
  • Neverwinter Nights has the Monk character class. Most players avoid it because it doesn't exactly sound exciting - he can't wear any armour, and can barely use weapons. As expected, his initial attacks pale in comparison to those of sword-wielding warriors; however, level a monk enough and he becomes one of the strongest attackers in the game.
    • And then, in the expansion packs, there are Shifters. Their physical stats don't matter when they're shapeshifted, so you're pretty much encouraged to Min Max and up their Wisdom scores. The problem, unfortunately, is that they need to take 5 levels of the mostly-useless Druid to get them, and their forms are quick-moving but painfully frail until they reach level 7, for a combined level of 12 to turn a physically weak, magically inept character into an Awesome but Impractical Fighter-wannabe in a game that you're expected to beat around level 15. In multiplayer and the expansions, though, you can get characters up to level 40, and past the "epic" level of 20 you can start learning to boost a character's base stats. If you got them a base wisdom of 16 or higher (a big investment when the average stat is 11), and you invested every point gained from levelling up into wisdom, and for every point below a base 20 wisdom you used an epic feat to boost wisdom rather than learn a cool ability, then at the level cap you could get the ultimate feat for the class: turning into a dragon. Contrast this against D&D itself, where druids are awesome without changes and monks suck horribly forever.
  • In the X-Box game Ninja Gaiden, the wooden sword is easily the most useless weapon in the game, and takes the most time/money to upgrade fully... but once you do, it becomes the most powerful weapon in the game: the Unlabored Flawlessness.
  • In Planescape: Torment, one of the spells you receive for unlocking and interpreting the Unbroken Circle of Zerthimon is "Missile of Patience," which fires a single bolt of energy that does a negligible amount of damage. Until your mage reaches level 11, that is. Then it summons a giant repeating ballista that fires many bolts of (more powerful) energy at as many targets as you can hit before the spell ends.
  • In Puzzle Quest Challenge of the Warlords, the Broken Shield you receive at the beginning of the game becomes obsolete almost immediately. But if you complete all of the Great Machine subquests, it is transformed into the powerful Shield of Albion, which can potentially make you immune to any spell using Yellow Mana.
  • In Ragnarok Online, several of the classes can feel this way. For instance, although its easier now, alchemists/creators were slow to level unless you had a large amount of money, but once they get one particular skill, they can one or two hit most players. Likewise, leveling a specific build for a professor is painfully slow and probably requires a lot of leeching exp, but once they reach very high levels, they have very high survivability in PVP situations, especially for a mage class, and they also have a vast array of overpowered support skills for large scale PVP.
    • This has been pretty much defined by the 'Super Novice' class, which is only accessible if you refrain from switching classes until level 40. Even if they're a Glass Cannon, they become extremely powerful in the endgame.
  • Resident Evil games occasionally make use of this. One example is the Handcannon from Resident Evil 4, which can't even be purchased until you've beaten the game at least once, and whose ammo is incredibly rare, making it pretty much a paperweight once you own it. Spending a ridiculous amount of money to upgrade it, however, gives it infinite ammo and a firepower rating that lets you one-hit-kill pretty much everything in the game.
  • Riviera: The Promised Land features this with Fia and the Rosaries. Normally, Rosaries heal every character in the party of all status effects—nothing special, as status effects aren't particularly worrisome in Rivera. She also has to use the Rosary upwards of 15 times to learn their Overdrive. However, the Overdrive she learns is a Level 3 Skill that wipes out all opposing monsters at the cost of destroying the Rosary. Oh, and the Unleash text is different from her other Level 3 Overdrives.
  • T260G's original body in Saga Frontier. It has stats of only 5 in every area, and the only piece of equipment it comes with is a piece of weak armor, while the other bodies you can switch to have a wide variety of extra gadgets, like lasers, repair kits, missiles, tougher armor, and more. However, all of these things take up equipment slots, and mecs like T260G gain stats by equipping items rather than leveling up; in his original body, he has seven slots free for stat-boosting equipment (as opposed to only 4 or 5 in any other body), so it has the potential to be the strongest of all in the late game.
    • This applies to all mecs [sic] in general. Specific to T260, in its storyline you can find the Omega Body in HQ, which has vastly increased initial stats, including a built-in energy sword and the devastating V-MAX ability, which will end most of the endgame monsters in one turn. The Omega Body's appearance is also the coolest-looking of all the mec types.
  • In Dawn of War an Imperial Guard Squad at the beginning of the game can't shoot, can't fight, dies like flies, and runs screaming in terror at the slightest problem. By the time you reach tier two, the 5 man squad is now 13 men, 5 of them have heavy weapons, and with a commissar, the IG Squad is unbreakable and can fire twice as quickly as normal. In this state it is the most powerful non-unique infantry unit in the game. Watch the Space Marine terminators die before they reach range...
    • Arguably the entire Ork army is this. At first you only have Slugga and Shoota boyz, with minimal squad numbers and abilities that suck outside their namesake and are crap without backup. Fully upgrade them and outfit them, though, and a full squad of slugga-boyz can rip through any other unit in the game.
      • The Ork boyz comes with minimal equipment and is only marginally good in close combat. Cut to end-tier where their upgrades makes them on par with Space Marines in terms of damage output and armor, and you can buy them for free. You can literally set all of your boyz huts to producing these guys ad-infinium and have them run towards the enemy as soon as they're done. And in true Ork fashion, this works.
    • While all commanders are no slouch during the campaigns, the Chaos Lord stands out in that he starts out squishy like the Space marine commander, but after obtaining his last upgrade (daemonic ascension) he permanently becomes a Daemon Prince, who is powerful enough to go toe-to-toe with any of the relic units in the game. Because he's your commander though, you get him as soon as the mission starts. The Ork Warboss Gorgutz is similar, but he starts out as one of the more powerful commanders, and in the end is only a few damage short away from being on par with the Daemon Prince.
    • For about the first half of the Dawn of War II campaign, Cyrus deals pathetic damage, dies easily and is the epitome of Useless Useful Stealth. Level him up, give him a sniper rifle and various explosives, and allocate the right traits to him (especially the ones that make his stealth incredibly useful) however and he becomes the single most versatile character, effective against all enemy types.
  • In Secret of Evermore, almost every damaging alchemical formula could be a sort of magikarp power, in that they almost all suck until you've used them a couple of dozen times, at which point the only thing stopping your rampage across the ages is the state of your wallet (as you need to money to buy reagents.)
    • Similarly, in its spiritual predecesor Secret of Mana, the Sprite's offensive magic starts out fairly weak, but if you spend the time to level it up, it reaches Game Breaker levels.
      • Then there's the girl's magic: for a paltry 2 MP, Healing Water can restore 800+ HP to all members (you have a Cap of 999 for the Hero and 800 for the Girl and Sprite). That's forty-nine casts of full-party HP refill. Oh wait, you can also carry 4 Faerie Walnuts on you at any given time, so that's another 100 casts of that spell. The Sprite doesn't need faerie walnuts; it has MP-Drain which can totally drain most enemies when it is maxed out.
  • In the Dungeons and Dragons arcade game Shadow Over Mystara, a player may find the Cursed Sword. As the name suggests, it's cursed; every time the player tries to swing it, it damages the Player Character. However, if the sword is swung often enough, it becomes the most powerful weapon in the game, outmatched only by weapons that are specifically designed to kill certain types of enemies.
    • If you time it correctly, you can interrupt the "knock-back" animation (and the damage!) from the curse by either jumping and swinging right before landing, or having someone else cast a targeted spell (like Cure Light Wounds, or Striking) on the Sword swinger. Cursed Sword 2 is much easier; have the Cleric (try to) pick it up enough times.
  • The original Genesis Shining Force games loved this trick, using it at least twice: once in the first game with the dragon Bleu (sadly nerfed in the GBA remake) and again with the pathetic thief Slade in the sequel, who became a powerful ninja later on. On the other hand, the turtle (named Kiwi by default) in the sequel later evolved from a potent character with mediocre attack and low HP, but disproportionately effective defense, to a much more impressive-looking monster whose defense advantage didn't amount to a hill of beans against higher level enemies. Not a good choice for late-game.
    • Also there was Domingo, a jellyfish spellcaster whom you got late in the game with 1 low level spell. He eventually was able to spam cast the strongest ice magic in the game. He also gains such absurdly high HP, MP, and defense that at higher levels he literally shrugs off any enemy attacks, making even the game's resident tank Guntz blush in envy. And he can fly. Add the fact that he has very high priority from the game's AI targetting system and ...well...
    • Arthur, also from the first game, starts off very weak and doesn't learn any spells despite having Mana for several levels. But once he reaches LVL20 unpromoted, his stats suddenly skyrockets and will learn the powerful Bolt spell. He's arguably one of the best units towards the end of the game.
    • Adam from the first game is an extreme case. He has the potential to be an excellent offensive unit. Unfortunately he joins you very late in the game at a laughably low level (Level 10 unpromoted) and is very slow, making him extremely difficult to level up.
    • In Shining Force 3 on the Saturn, Irene and particularly Cybel have awful HP, but persevering with them and allowing them to unlock their various specials allows them to become more effective in combat than even Dantares in the latter portions of the game.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, by keeping the very first demon you can recruit (the Pixie) in your party for the entire game (she becomes rapidly outclassed very quickly)[7] and then presenting her to a door in the final level of the Labyrinth of Amala, she transforms into a Lv.80 juggernaut with 30s in every ability score and some of the best spells in the game.
    • Also note that that particular species of demon is an example of Magikarp Power to begin with, as leveling one up when your main character is around level 50 enables her to evolve into one of the best Night demons, Queen Mab.
  • Fina from Skies of Arcadia is a very skilled magic user, but has atrocious physical attack power... until you fully level up her Infinity Plus One Blob.
  • Tails from the Sonic the Hedgehog games, specifically Sonic 3 & Knuckles: in both Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic 3 without the S&K lock-on, getting all seven Chaos Emeralds didn't do squat for Tails other than rewarding the player with the Good Ending, unlike Sonic. Oh, but that changed in S3&K: getting all 14 Chaos Emeralds (seven in the Sonic 3 portion and seven in the Sonic & Knuckles portion) nets Tails' Super Mode, complete with super transformation sequence, glowing body, and the best part: four birds (called Flickies) that home in on enemies and deal damage to them—all Tails has to do is just stand and burn rings for energy. Oh, and the birds can damage any boss in the game.
  • An example from Sonic Adventure 2, the Mystic Melody power-up. On your first playthrough it will seem useless, and no characters can get it unless they go back on levels to find it (for some it's easy, for others you can't get it until the last level). Then, when you finally HAVE Mystic Melody, you can use the power with small, slightly-hidden temples. The Melody can do everything from open portals to cause rings to magically appearing, which you can use as shortcuts to later parts of a stage or pathways to other powerups...basically, an in-game cheat item.
  • The seemingly useless fish from Space Quest 6 sort of manages to fit this trope. You're given it as a gag item early on in the game. Over the course of nearly the entire game, it goes unused, rots away, and gets caught in your spaceship's parts, becoming more and more disgusting and inedible over time. Then, at the very end, you face Sharpei, in brain-form. She's finally defeated by tossing her the decayed fish, which she immediately recognizes as "brain food" and devours, killing her nigh-instantaneously.
  • Suikoden III: The Budehuc Castle characters, such as Thomas and Cecile, start out extremely puny (one of the game's first random encounter enemies is a boss in their chapter), and possess horrible skill growth (which normally implies a low cap on said skills), but with determination, their skills can be raised to extremely high levels, and their stat gains improve by leaps and bounds, turning them into some of the best late game characters.
  • Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 1 has a master blacksmith "tricking" you into smithing a ladle for him to cook with. You can use it as a weapon, but it breaks very easily and does pitiful damage. However, if you forge another ladle with 50 of each material type available and use Mystic Ore on it, you get a... burning ladle. Which still does low damage but has the highest durability in the game, meaning it's ideal for breaking other opponents' weapons without knocking them out; which instantly wins the duel for you and teaches you a new smithing recipe. You will want to fight all weapon-bearing bosses with this, really.
    • Additionally, most weapons have a TECH max (weapon experience) of 100, which slightly increases the attack strength and speed of a weapon as it increases. The Hot Iron Ladle's TECH goes up to 255, making it effectively the fastest sword-type weapon available.
  • Despite being a mandatory character, Ibis Douglas in Super Robot Wars: Original Generation 2 is like this. Her primary Humongous Mecha is potent, but her stats are so low she lags behind... until you get around level 50, when her stat-gains start going out of control and she ends up the best character in the game. However, unlike many, this is frequently alluded to in-game, with multiple references to her "potential."
    • She's also like this in her debut game Super Robot Wars Alpha 2. And she's also a main character.
      • In Alpha 2 she only gets a massive stat boost as part of a plot event in stage 32 (namely finally shaking off her self doubt and loathing. Before then leveling her to max won't help her any. In fact weak Ibis and strong Ibis have separate character data. Strong Ibis has a few different abilities (and loses a useful ability weak Ibis had that helped keep her alive though you no longer need it at that point) and her outfit in game is different.
    • Gundam0083's Kou Uraki's a more reasonable example, combining with Took a Level In Badass. Kou starts out underleveled and in an inferior machine. Between leveling up and getting the GP-03, you realize problems with him in the past didn't come from himself, but simply his machine.
    • The other traditional example in the later games is Boss from Mazinger Z. He starts off in a terrible machine with low stats and little value except a cheap repair cost. However, if you level him high enough (usually around 80) his subpilots get a ton of incredibly useful spells for dirt cheap and his stats go through the roof. In addition by this time you'll usually have Mazinkaiser, which means that Boss can get out of his terrible machine and upgrade to Mazinger-Z. The trick is that level 80 is absurdly high in a game series where the final bosses rarely get above the mid-70s. There are ways to level him up that high, but they're generally inefficient or a lot of trouble.
      • The Borot itself is often a kind of Magikarp Power - while it starts out with terrible stats and no ability to hit airborne enemies, its weapons are extremely cheap to upgrade and become stronger than those on Mazinger itself. With four part slots, you can easily buff up its stats and give it flight, fixing its anti-air issues.
    • Turn A Gundam is the most infamous one. In any game you get it it starts out underpowered, but after it unlocks some of its attacks and abilities, (like flying, moonlight butterlfy, HP regen) it's a powerhouse. Also Loran's stats start jumping when he passes around level 50.
    • Also in Alpha gaiden, all the originals are pretty much useless. Except Ryusei, who starts out as the worst because him being in an MP mecha(unless you're on easy by the stage you first get him, then he starts in a MP Grungust. This trope is magnified if you're on hard where he gets a Gespenst, he gets a Huckibein MKII on normal)Most people don't use him because, 1. You only get him for like 2 stages before the time jump and you get him back pretty late into the game. However, he has a VERY high melee stat from the start, and once he starts getting into the higher levels he learns incredible skills (his starting Psychic abilty can go up to the max level and he knows Guts, support and Sheild Def), a wonderful spirit list, and his stats start jumping up, he becomes one of the best pilots in the game. But he's still so-so until he gets R1-Kai, which has one of(if not the best)barriers, the TK field ability, and it has GREAT stats.
  • In Super Mario RPG it is possible to obtain an item called a Mystery Egg. When used in battle this item does one of two things: If used by Princess Toadstool while wearing the B'tub Ring, it forms a heart and makes a pleasant ring. If used by anyone else or Princess Toadstool without the B'tub Ring, it fails to produce the heart and makes a buzz sound indicating failure. If the Princess produces enough hearts, the egg transforms into the potent Lamb's Lure, an item which can instantly kill any one non-boss character in the battle by turning it into a sheep. Use this enough times, and it becomes the Sheep Attack. It works like the Lamb's Lure, but affects all enemies in the battle. Unfortunately, you earn no XP or Coins from enemies defeated with either version.
    • Mario's Jump attack. For most players it will be completely overshadowed by the mighty Super Jump as soon as it becomes economical (i.e. you have plenty of Flower Points to spare). However, every time you use Jump (to a maximum of 125 times), it becomes permanently stronger. Eventually it is so useful as to be a Game Breaker, especially since it is still one of the cheapest moves in the game. And naturally nothing in the game will indicate that it does this.
  • Colette in Tales of Symphonia is initially weak, slow, and all around bad, however, once one certain boss is defeated, and if you chose the right side of the T/S gauge (namely S), she becomes the single strongest melee attacker in the game. Her main problem is also that the AI doesn't play her that well either; usually not taking advantage of her pow-hammer techniques or stupidly trying to use her magic with long-casting times on enemies that'll interrupt her.
    • The Devil's Arms from the same game are the weakest weapons in the game. After killing a large number of enemies (and defeating the Bonus Boss), though, they are easily the strongest weapons the characters can equip, to the point where they'll be doing 10,000 damage per hit.
    • The Devil Arm concept has been replicated in the Tales games developed by Team Symphonia. They were called Catalyst Weapons in Abyss and the Fell Arms in Vesperia. To unlock their power requires beating a very nasty secret boss. After that they power up by killing a large number of enemies.
  • In Valkyrie Profile's normal and easy modes, every character who joins you starts at an appropriate level for that point in the game. In hard mode, every character joins at level 1. Sound like a crippling disadvantage? Not when there are accessories that give extra skill points and maximum HP at each level up, you can equip both at once, and the difference they make over 30 levels or so is very signficiant. Bosses that, in Easy or Normal, require the use of the Auto Revive or Last Chance Hit Point skills to even survive, Hard mode characters will be able to straight up tank.
  • Interestingly a country fulfills this role. In Paradox Interactive's Europa Universalis III and Victoria: An Empire Under The Sun Germany starts out divided into loads of weak one province states that are effectively irrelevant compared to other monster countries like France, Spain, or Great Britain. However, with some skill (or just a constant series of wars) a player who conquers enough German states can create Germany who's sheer size and population can make it one of (if not THE) most powerful countries to play in the game, especially in Victoria: An Empire Under The Sun where a united German state gains so many advantages it basically becomes a Game Breaker. That's right, a entire nation is a game breaker in this game.
    • It gets even worse in Victoria: An Empire Under The Sun should a player succeed in the alternate "Popular Unification" of Germany which also has Austria-Hungary join Germany. Should this happen, the game is pretty much unwinnable for anyone else.
    • Prussia, which is the most popular choice for forming Germany, is already quite powerful in its own right. However, even the smallest German country has the potential to form Germany, playing this trope straight.
    • In Europa Universalis III, kingdoms in India qualify. They start out with a far steeper technology curve than European powers, their religions (Sunni Islam and Hinduism) are statistically inferior to the Christian religions, and even the strongest powers are at best mid-weight by 1399 European standards (and they fall back further as time goes by). But! If an Indian prince grows strong enough, it can declare the Kingdom of Hindustan, which controls an area nearly as large as Ming China, without Ming's governmental flaws. And as for the technology issue, that can be solved by westernization, which will rapidly lead Hindustan to exceed Europe in tech level.
  • The World Ends With You has Joshua, who's the only partner who can't block, only deals damage when his combo is complete (unlike the other partners, who actually land blows with each branch in the combo) and initially seems rather wimpy. However, he eventually gets the ability to levitate, in which mode he's much, much better at damage-dealing (including splash damage) and hits with each button press. (Also, his most powerful special attack drops the moon on your foes.)
    • This is very fitting since Joshua is, in fact, God (sorta).
  • Several Classes in World of Warcraft used to start out this way, but with recent overhaul of the whole progression of every class in preparation for Cataclysm, they all start and grow at relatively same power level.
    • This trope is also semi-exemplified in character growth between Expansion Packs: with each subsequent one released, level cap is pushed higher and players become able to solo the content that previously required 5/10/25/40 players to beat.
    • Of these classes, the most notable was the Paladin class. Leveling up a Paladin was absurdly boring. A Retribution Paladin (the damage spec) didn't even get a damage strike until level 40, meaning that they basically threw up a seal and auto-attacked for 40 levels, tossing in a Judgement every 10 seconds. But at level 80 (in Wrath, Retribution was basically non-existent till then), they were one of the strongest dps specs in the game, if not the strongest. They got toned down a bit, but thankfully in Cataclysm, leveling was reworked so they get Crusader Strike from level 1 baseline and at level 10, either Holy Shock, Avenger's Shield, or Templar's Verdict depending on spec (any of those make leveling much easier than it used to be).
    • Shadow priests and shaman as well, even with the 4.0 talent changes that get them the fun abilities earlier, they both start out slowly and tediously, only to turn into one of the highest dps in the endgame if played well.
    • Back in good old vanilla WoW before the release of Blackwing Lair many guilds struggled with Ragnaros (just as it is now in Cata...). He himself was bad, but his sons were worse. Basically you had to hold them together while not allowing them to come to your camp. Strategies involved crowd control, extra tanks and if that didn't do the trick a level 10 quest reward called "Realy sticky glue" which could freez those annoing brats in place.
    • There was also a boss which gave the whole raid a particulary nasty debuff which was uncurable and did stack over time. The intent was to just heal through. However there was this level 40 quest reward item... You get the point...
  • Chu-Chu from Xenogears. Give her enough drives and she becomes the most powerful gear in the game. Of course, it takes a while to do it. Plus she's the only one who can heal gears in battle without burning fuel.
    • Maria also next to useless on foot yet becomes the strongest character you have readily accessible in a gear.
  • Yggdra Yuril Artwaltz from Yggdra Union begins the game as a relatively useless character with stats well below every other character in the game (excluding the summonable extras). However, halfway into the game, she will gain an upgrade that not only turns her into a character on par with some of the strongest characters in the game, but also gives the Always Ace ability, the equivalent of arming her with the ability to abuse nearly every card in the game. That, added with the final equip Fanelia can turn her into a Game Breaker that can literally OHKO every single unit in the bonus stage by herself.
    • The game just about guarantees that this will happen by making Yggdra level up faster than any other character, which makes up for her level deficit at the beginning. Which is helpful, as The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard and Gulcasa and Nessiah would wipe most players out otherwise. Other characters, such as Mistel and Cruz, are more traditional examples of this trope.
  • The Grinder in Red Faction: Guerilla is somewhat like this; when you first get it it's Awesome but Impractical with a slow fire rate and shots that sometimes aren't an instant kill (on hard at least), after getting the explosive upgrade (which between the higher damage, splash damage and building and vehicle damaging capabilities makes it FAR more versatile) and the fast shot upgrade (which fixes the weapons biggest flaw) it becomes Awesome but Practical and becomes a good all-round combat weapon.
  • ADOM likewise has the Farmer class, whose special powers are of very limited use compared to those of other classes. The exception is their final power, gained at level 50, which grants 30% resistance to all corrupting effects - possibly the best power in the game.
    • Necromancers are generally played as wizards whose class power drains their magic, but when they reach level 50 they can come back from the dead.
    • Just getting Mindcrafters through the game relies upon this. They start unable to learn spells, no offensive abilities, awful equipment and may or may not have a damaging magic wand. If they reach level 6, they finally gain Mind Blast. That takes the heat off, but you're still unable to use your powers on undead and unlife, which is why levelling up still further to lvl. 15 is the make-or-break point, as you learn Telekinetic Blast: a physical attack that strikes remotely and never misses.
  • Atsuro of Devil Survivor is primarily a physical attacker. Early on he is relatively useless due to magic being overwhelmingly more useful and powerful thanks to the magic stat governing MP, magic attack, and magic defense and being able to exploit elemental weaknesses. There are very few enemies with a weakness to Physical attacks. That some of the more powerful late-game enemies have passives that reduce, drain, negate, or reflect physical attacks does not help matters. But Atsuro redeems himself at later levels too. Provided you've cracked them (and you should), skills like Full Might, Attack All, Pierce, and Phys Jump/Rise will turn Atsuro into a Physical God that can bypass all defenses except Phys Repel, strike all enemies at once, and always get critical hits (which can steal Extra Turns from enemies). If necessary, give Atsuro Phy Repel to ensure that he doesn't get hurt from rebounded attacks. His high Vitality also means that he can make good use of powerful hp-dependent attacks such as Deathbound and Hasseohappa.
  • Shirou can project swords that are fairly easy to break roughly half a dozen times before he runs out of mana and starts overclocking. But this ability leads directly into Archer and his overpowered Reality Marble, who is arguably the most combat-effective character in the entire game. The only character who could really seem to plausibly beat him is Saber... and only with Avalon. (And Gilgamesh ... if he wasn't so prone to brute-force-and-ignorance tactics.)
    • Shirou is capable of tracing weapons that can mimic the 5 true sorcery.... which means Archer can probably do the same with little backlash. He has to see the weapons first, which mean they have to actually exist, and he himself probably couldn't use them but that doesn't change the fact that he is potentially capable of creating them.
  • Mega Man X himself. At the start of each game, his abilities are mediocre at best, but collecting Powered Armor and Heart Tanks turns him into a One-Man Army.
    • For Zero in his own saga, his weapons from the first two games all apply. Frequent use of said weapons increase their abilities (the Z-saber, for instance, unlocks skills and even enables a Charged Attack with each subsequent level). There's also the Platforming Pocket Pal from the fourth game: it has 21 different abilities that can only be unlocked by feeding it E-crystals, the Reploids' and Energy Beings' equivalent to a power food.
  • In The Godfather: The Game, the shotgun is a bit like this. With a two-shot clip size and 12 rounds to spare, 24 at the second level, it's outclassed even in assault situations by the Magnum with six rounds per clip and 36 rounds (60 at level 2) to spare without sacrificing much power at all. Once you throw $450,000 at the right black market merchant to upgrade it to the level 3 "Street Sweeper", it goes up to ten rounds a clip and 100 rounds to spare with an automatic action, compared to the Magnum's level 3 "Python" with 8-80 and semiauto. Unless you are feeling the need to be Stylish or are somehow running low, the shotgun is now the way to go.
  • Dr. Neurocide in Evil Genius, who can be recruited very early in the game, is worthless in a straight fight and thus very difficult to level. On the other hand, both of her unlockable special abilities are spectacularly useful in certain situations; she can blast an area with a hallucinogenic gas that masks anything affected and keeps agents from noticing it, meaning they can walk through the middle of your morgue and not pick up on it, and she can also deploy a nasty knockout gas that'll plant pretty much anyone, Super Agents included, flat on their butts if they get stuck in it long enough.
  • In Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games such as Heroes of Newerth, DotA 2, and League of Legends you have champions that are very frail and weak early-game but are unstoppable monsters late game because they scale really well with levels and items. These are called "carries". If the enemy team does not stop them from progressing to this stage, carries can win 1v2, 1v3, and sometimes even 1v5 fights.
  • In Dynasty Warriors 6, the bow moveset shared by Sun Shangxiang and Yue Ying initially seemed dismaying - "They took two of the coolest women in the game and gave them a useless weapon!" However, once you level up that bow and arrow, it's a monster because you can spray tons of arrows into the crowd at once. It's also a bit of a Game Breaker in that you can snipe from a faraway enough distance that the computer AI generals don't realize they should block your attack.
  • Curse of the Crimson Elixir: The flare does little to no damage and is only good for stunning enemies....but if you can level Edward to 99, he can transmute the flare into an absolutely devastating smart bomb that wrecks everything in range.
  • An archer rogue, more so than any other class, fits this role in Dragon Age Origins, especially if you want to invest talents into lockpicking. While melee classes such as Warriors and Dual Wielding Rogues get access to decent weapons sooner and mages start out strong and just get stronger, an archer is...somewhat underwhelming in the early-game thanks to a lack of decent bows and relatively weak initial talents. However, archers have extremely powerful late-game talents such as Scattershot, which does better than normal damage to and stuns just about every enemy you're facing at once and is almost impossible to resist, and Arrow of Slaying, which can deal up to several hundred points of damage with one hit (up to 10 times normal damage in the right circumstances), and is perhaps the best way to deal with enemy casters before they get in range to do real damage. Several of the unique bows that are found later in the game are also very powerful. By the endgame, a properly built Archer Warden will be the best damage dealer in your party.
    • Unfortunately, by the time archery gets the ridiculously powerful "Accuracy" talent and becomes any good, everyone is already so powerful it doesn't really matter anymore.
    • The Bard specialization starts out rather spoony, as the base stat buff and initial skills compare very poorly to all other specializations. But the effects scale up with Cunning, which a smart Rogue develops to increase their lethality. Since the song effects the entire group, the value is multiplied by each conscious teammate. In the end, there is no specialization across all the classes is as powerful.
  • In Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic you can buy dragon hatchlings. They start off rather weak and are often targeted by the enemy, but if you can build their experience to gold medal rank they will grow into full size dragons.
  • In Oblivion, at the start of the Dark Brotherhood questline you're given a crappy little dagger that is basically useless compared to everything else you have. At the end of the brotherhood quests, the dagger gets enchanted and becomes a fairly powerful enchanted weapon that, if nothing else, will get you a decent amount of money if you sell it.
    • That entirely depends on when you do the quest. If you do it early on, that dagger is potentially one of the strongest weapons around.
    • There is also the Chameleon spell, which would make it possible to sneak well, but even with 97% Chameleon, you would be found by enemies after the first strike on them, seeing as they are all somewhat Psychic (which made it a waste of magic against multiple enemies). However, if you managed to get 100% Chameleon (which could be done permanently), you would essentially never die, as only scripted characters or monsters could find you. Add max sneak, and you could have 6x damage on every attack in addition to the invisibility. To get this with a spell, armor would often lower the percentage and ruin it, forcing you to become an Invisible Streaker (if underwear had not been grafted on to your body).
    • Even better is when you get Chameleon to 200% (which is also doable by enchanting armor correctly), you're not only completely invisible (you don't even get the predator shimmer in 3rd person), your movement becomes completely silent regardless of what you do. NPCs and monsters that would otherwise be aware of your presence by hearing you are now completely oblivious to your presence.
  • Shujinko, the "deceived" hinted at in Mortal Kombat: Deception's title, has a whole story mode to unlock him. Once you've done that, you have to go through the realms to get his other moves, without anyone to give you hints. But these moves are the best moves from the other fighters, so it works out well.
  • The (supposedly) lower-tier Agility heroes from Defense of the Ancients have this. Starting out, not only is their health and damage disappointing, unlike Intelligence heroes or higher-tier Agility heroes they don't have good spells for burst damage, making life difficult. By avoiding the enemy's assassination attempts and building gold and levels, though, they eventually become One Man Armies who eat mooks and their former oppressors like so much popcorn.
    • Those are called 'carries'. They're often melee, rely extremely heavy on farming but don't have any good farming or laning abilities, are vulnerable to ganks and if you get ganked too many times it's over. But if you hang in there, you can eventually solo the entire enemy team by yourself. The whole game is about protecting your team's carry and feeding him kills until he stomps the other team.
      • It's ironic that the highest dps comes from an intelligence hero(Harbinger), or a strength hero with his ultimate(chaos knight).
  • A hidden example in Galactic Civilisations where, if you have your race take the morally good path you find out about Telepathy - that almost all telepaths born with severe physical disabilities, they don't survive in the evil races, but if they do... What this means is that, as you're a good race and look after your people, then you get access to a series of telepathic defensive technologies which are far more powerful than anything else at that tech level.
    • Arguably the case with the good alignment itself - following it in random events always has costs, whilst Evil Pays Better, the technologies it gives you once you research ethics are pretty good. Though, perhaps more people would claim Neutral is the worst offender, which lacks the costs of good but has the opportunity costs of not being evil, but gives you some amazing bonuses.
  • Slimes from Dragon Quest Monsters fit the trope pretty handily. They're the classic DQ monster, you see a billion of them in every game, and they're pretty mediocre... but if you level them up high enough, they learn the MegaMagic spell. What does MegaMagic do, you ask? Why, it's one of the most powerful moves in the game, dumping every last one of your remaining magic points into a super-powerful magical explosion that absolutely nothing in the entire game, including those damned Metal Slimes and their upgraded versions, is immune to.
  • Special weapon 5 from Zanac. It starts off as a single small orb which slowly goes forward and them back. However, it ends up as a laser which goes through almost everything and is one of the most damaging weapons and won't even richoet off the capital ships.
  • Zul's Toy of Evergrace is a toy hammer which becomes a Lethal Joke Item (and the most powerful weapon, capable of defeating the final boss in about two hits) when you upgrade it twice. Of course, nobody would upgrade it unless they already knew this...
  • Lars for Aveyond 1. He has annoyingly low heath points and very poor melee damage, but level him up all the way to 99 and he is the most powerful magic user in the game.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, you find "Euclid's C-Finder", a thing that looks like a toy raygun and is indeed being used as such by a pair of kids in Freeside. Initially, you never find ammo for it. But once you power up ARCHIMEDES II , the little gun becomes the targeting laser for it.
  • In principle, all spells in Albion work a little bit like this, because they only start to function properly as advertised after some practice (ie. dozens of castings). However, it's really exemplified by some of the most powerful spells, such as Demon Exodus (destroys all demons in a battle) and Goddess' Wrath (destroys all enemies). Yes, they'll do that eventually, but it takes a while before they do anything at all to speak of.
  • Sword of the Stars has the Morrigi, who are also Difficult but Awesome. Their destroyer-class ships are fragile and strategically sluggish. Their population growth, terraforming ability, research speed and industrial growth are awful. However, if you know how to play them and get them to lategame, you find they have good to great chances at the best techs in the game, and their dreadnoughts are monsters. Liir also suck at start but become frightening once you get good techs.
  • Team Fortress 2 brings us the Eyelander, a melee unlock for the Demoman awarded after unlocking a set of achievements. It reduces your health to a "mere" 150 hps from 175 and it can't swing critical hits, but has the advantage of granting you extra health and speed with every kill you make in the form of decapitated heads (up to a maximum of four). While by itself it's a quite useless weapon, grinding up some achievements lets you unlock a secondary weapon, the Chargin'Targe, which is... a wooden shield. Although it appears quite out of place, it reduces some damage you might take from certain sources and enables you to charge at the enemy and grants slightly stronger melee attacks while doing so. When coupled together and with some practice, a Demoman can rack up so much health and speed to become essentially a one man army. It gets up to eleven once you realize that the heads are not tied to the weapon, but to the Demoman who got them, hence you can go back to your normal weaponry but with some extra speed and health boosts.
  • The first weapon obtained in BioShock (series) is a wrench, the only melee weapon in the game, which does so little damage, even with the 4x multiplier of Electrobolt, it is at first only good as an Emergency Weapon. Then the player obtains the tonics that boost its attack speed and damage, as well as its damage against unaware opponents (which includes enemies stunned with Electrobolt or attacked by Insect Swarm), all of which stack with each other and the damage bonuses provided by the Research Camera and suddenly every single enemy in the game aside from Big Daddies and the final boss is dying in a handful of hits.
  • Rise of Nations gives you the Lookout or Observation Post, a largely useless structure whose only purpose is to provide large LOS. It can't be moved, it has no attack, and you could just as easily use a couple strategically placed Explorer units or patrolling Cavalry. But once you reach the Industrial Age, it turns into the Air Defence Gun, which can destroy biplanes in four or so hits while costing little more than the Lookout. In the Modern Age it turns into the even-more-powerful Radar Air Defence, which has massive range in addition to being a superpowered airplane-killer, so you can make nine or ten and set up an impenetrable flak curtain that will effectively deny your enemies any form of air support. But its greatest evolution has to be in the Information Age, when it turns into the SAM installation. These consist of three homing missiles arranged on a little tripod thing, which will be ripple-fired at the first sign of an enemy plane, and which then will be reloaded in seconds. Build multiple ones for a bomber-killing, fighter-vaporizing Macross Missile Massacre. And all of these auto-target.
    • Not to metion they can detect those few units with stealth capabilities...
  • Odin in Persona 3 is pretty unremarkable at first (well, by the standards of a level 63 persona, anyway...) but a bit of grinding gets him Thunder Reign, an "extreme" tier Lightning spell. If that doesn't kill the enemy outright, it's also guaranteed to put them in Shocked status, meaning any subsequent physical attacks against them will critical. Level Odin a little more, and he gets Spell Mastery, which cuts his SP costs in half.
    • From the same game, Daisoujou hardly seems worth the effort to fuse... until you realize it's the only way to get the strongest light spell in the game.
    • Junpei starts off as a decent tank, but quickly falls out of favor when nearly every boss uses his weakness element. Keep him leveled up, though, and he becomes a force to be reckoned with come endgame.
    • Similiarly, in Persona 4, Chie starts as a fairly basic attacker with access to weak Ice magic, but quickly falls behind compared to the rest of the party. Keep her levelled though, and by endgame she'll have some INCREDIBLE skills, including Power Charge and God Hand. Plus there's the fact that if you get her Social Link to level 3, her Galactic Punt follow-up attack can oneshot any non-boss enemy. Including minibosses.
  • In Puzzle Quest 2, the Templar's first offensive spell Shield-Bash becomes stronger as the Templar's defense increases. Improving defense will eventually make Shield-Bash the Templar's most efficient and powerful means of inflicting damage.
  • The PSP game Dungeon Maker 2 provides you with a pet who can change into a number of different monsters if you have their "memory." The memories for stronger monsters are found later in the game, but they all start at Level 1 (which is no more powerful than it sounds). This effectively makes all forms other than Human Ally a Magikarp, and also gives Magikarp Powers to players willing to level up a number of them just to learn their transferable abilities.
  • In Shift 2: Unleashed The Toyota Supra starts as a C-rank retro car. Then you can install the Lexus LFA engine and tune it up to an eye-watering 230 mph(370kph) or outright insane 277 mph(446kph) for you Speedhunters. It has decent handling to boot! Just watch out for the torque steer.
  • In the Pirates Of The Burning Sea MMO, the Freetrader class is one of the weakest in the game at early to mid levels, having no decent specialised combat ships unlike the Naval Officer and Privateer classes. But once you reach max level, you get access to the Couronne Mastercraft Galleon, which is arguably the strongest single ship in the game. It possesses equal or greater firepower than the best warships that Naval Officers can sail, and its armor is much thicker and tougher. It also has the bonus of eight bow and stern cannons, making it quite deadly when approached from any angle, whereas almost all other ships in the game have only two bow and stern cannons.
  • Dark Souls: The broken sword weapons are tutorial trash, outclassed by every other weapon and good for nothing...unless you fully upgrade them then fuse them with the Great Wolf Sif's soul to create a nice unique weapon.
  • This describes Phoenix Wright from Marvel vs. Capcom 3 in a nutshell. He starts with poor mobility, weak normal attacks, and a lack of moves in general. Collect evidence and put him in Trial Mode, however, and he gains access to a variety of projectile attacks and much better moves. And if you can get him in Turnabout Mode, he becomes one of the strongest characters in the game, doing immense damage with all of his attacks, having invincibility with some of his moves, and gaining access to one of the best level 3 Hyper Combos in the game - which is the single strongest attack in the game, no less.
    • A smaller example is Frank West, who needs to level up by taking pictures, modifying his attacks as well as, basically everything.
  • Runescape has the Ivandis Flail (And later Blisterwood Weapons), which is of the only weapon capable doing full damage to vampyres. It's basically a sickle on a chain attached to a stick, and starts out about about as powerful as farming implement on a stick would be. But, if you kill enough vampyres, take their corpses to a sacred site and cremate their bodies to release their souls, your skills with the flail magically improve and becomes an extremely powerful weapon (But only when used against vampyres). Blisterwood weapons, released in a later quest, are affected by this too. Only those start out powerful and become even more powerful.
  • Common in World of Tanks. When first purchased, many tanks have weak engines and even weaker guns, forcing them to crawl across the battlefield to attack enemies they have little hope of damaging. Hanging in there and getting the experience required to unlock some upgrades, however, can make them into powerhouses. Perhaps the ultimate example is the KV. Incredibly slow and initially sporting a barely adequate 76mm gun, it can later upgrade to some of the most powerful weapons available in its tier, including the 152mm "derpgun" which can one-shot many smaller tanks.
  • Spiral Knights has the Sealed Sword, a 3-star sword that can be purchased following several battles against the Royal Jelly boss. While it is capable of causing random status effects, it only deals normal damage and has the same attack speed and damage as the Kamarin and Grintovec, sans their abilities to stun and freeze enemies respectively, and a far less useful charge attack than the two of them. If you can lug it around until it gets to level 5 (preferably with an extra weapon slot so you don't sacrifice carrying one of your actually useful special damage swords) it can be upgraded into the elemental-dealing Avenger and the shadow-dealing Faust, which can in turn respectively be upgraded into the Divine Avenger and Gran Faust, both of which are incredibly common among 5-star players for a reason.
    • In comparison its handgun counterpart the Antigua, which can be upgraded into the Silversix and Argent Peacemaker or the Blackhawk and Sentenza, is a bit more useful because it deals piercing damage and it can fire off six shots before reloading.
    • The Brandish is a 2-star sword that's basically a reskin of the Calibur with a unique charge attack. It can be upgraded into three elemental variations of it that can set fire to, freeze, or shock enemies, the Nightblade which is one of the only two shadow-dealing swords in the game (the other being the Faust), or the Cautery Sword, which is borderline useless due to Crippling Overspecialization; it's intended for destroying slimes, which shadow weapons already can do with ease.
  • The Crystal/Big Star weapons in Warriors Orochi 3. Initially they start with low attack power (usually 9 or 10), but at max proficiency they gain a plus 54 attack increase, making them the most powerful weapons in the game, barring certain others.
  • In Skyrim, thief skills. These abilities initially are nothing impressive: with pickpocketing you can occasionally find good loot in someone's pockets, sneaking let's you avoid getting in fights, speech nets you slightly higher prices, and lock picking makes opening locks a little easier. Invest in their perks, and once you've built up your experience with them, you can sneak during combat with an enemy, allowing you to steal his armor and weapons while he's trying to find you again, then drop a few bottles of poison in his pocket, causing him to die instantly, or you can use a dagger to slit his throat, which, due to sneaking's perks, will do as much damage as a daedric warhammer to the face would (x15 sneak attack critical damage with a daedric dagger is insanely powerful, and with an easily found enchanted item found in the dark brotherhood questline, you can easily make it x30). Then you can search whatever treasure chest he was guarding and get much better loot due to lockpicking's perks, which you can sell for drastically higher prices at the store.
    • Don't forget archery. Initially, the damage isn't impressive, but an ebony bow and arrows will, from a base, unperked sneak attack, drop many foes in a single shot (Draugar deathlords with Ebony bows can drop even a heavy armor wearing character in a couple of shots). Sneak allows you to change the damage bonus for sneak attacks with bows from x2 to x3. This is enough to kill just about anything short of a dragon or high level dungeon boss with a single shot once you're using Ebony or higher.
  • Oracle of Tao: Ambrosia. Unless you want to count her Useless Useful Spell Trigrams (which can end up healing the target as part of random chance and otherwise is more or less a percentage effect), and her totally useless spell Predict, she has has effectively no abilities for the first quarter of the game. The she gets a holy spell, a defense spell, a slow, and a death spell (still in the Useless Useful Spell territory). About the fifth spell, she starts getting various damaging effects. By the way, none of her spells use magic, so if you can bear the torture of waiting for proper plot events, she suddenly becomes a One Man Party. The reason she's not a Game Breaker is mainly because she and the party suddenly have to face tougher bosses that do things like regenerate.
  • Albion has Melthas, who is almost completeley useless. His only offensive spell is Small Fireball - the weakest offensive spell in the game. His healing spell isn't much better either. All of his other abbilities are support spells which will are almost never used when you can just freeze the entire battlefield with Sira (who will ALWAYS be in your party is Melthas is). That changes when he gets Demon Exodus, and upgrades it to at least 50% of it's full power, at wich point it will instantly eliminate all demon type enemies (which include both the most powerfull and the most irritating non human enemies in the game) on the field.
    • Harriet's Wrath of the Goddess. When you first learn it, it will use up all of her energy (and quite a bit of her health if said energy is not on 100%), and disintegrates a single enemy at most. Develop it to 100% and it's an instant I Win button, as it will destroy everything except Ned's type 2 androids. Of whom you will only have to fight one.


Non-Video Game Examples[edit | hide]

Anime and Manga[edit | hide]

  • Certain characters in One Piece (specifically Usopp and Brook saw a drastic increase in skill following a two year Time Skip. Usopp has learned how to make inventions that are genuinely useful and powerful (whereas before he usually relied on deceit and distraction while he ran or his allies set up attacks), on top of already being a hell of a marksman. Brook, the king of losing the Superpower Lottery (his power allowed him to return from the dead, once) has learned how to separate his soul at will, making him the king of untraceable reconnaissance (and peeking into the women's baths).
  • In High School DxD, this is how Issei's Sacred Gear Boosted Gear works. Every ten seconds, his powers double and it can last as long as his body can take it without passing out.
  • The Digimon anime pulled this trope quite a bit; some of the most innocent-looking (and usually weak) Rookie Digimon evolve into more powerful Digimon than the rest could. One of the most notable examples is Patamon from Digimon Adventure. Patamon had a weaker attack than his fellow Rookies and was the last of them to evolve, but became capable of evolving into Angemon, a Champion-level that could contend with Myotismon (whom the other children's Ultimate-level Digimon could not touch). His Ultimate form is also much stronger than others of his level, being effectively able to hold off the Mega-level Piedmon, who had easily dispatched the rest of the team.
    • In Digimon Tamers there was Impmon, a smart-mouthed Rookie level Digimon who was incredibly weak and got his ass handed to him in the only fight he engaged in during the first half of the series. Then comes the gang's journey to the Digital World, where they meet up with Impmon again, now digivolved into the incredibly powerful Beelzemon. He then proceeds to kick the ever-loving crap out of them, in accordance with the deal he made with Zhuqiaomon.

Board Games[edit | hide]

  • In Chess, the ubiquitous and slow-moving pawn can be promoted to a stronger piece (usually the queen) if allowed to move all the way to the other side of the board.
  • There are numerous examples in the Shogi (Japanese chess) family. In Tenjiku Shogi, there's the Drunken Elephant, which can promote into, essentially, a second king, allowing you to survive your first king's death, and the Water Buffalo, which promotes into a Fire Demon, insanely useful because of its ability that allows it to capture a ton of enemy pieces in one move. There's also the Deva in Tai Shogi, which can only move one space in certain directions, but promotes into the Teaching King, which, depending on how you interpret the rules, can move as a Free King (a chess Queen) and with 3-step Lion power. (Lion power normally allows a piece to make two separate one-step moves, each counting as a move in its own right, in one turn. In this case, three.) Pawns don't get a lot of love though.
  • In Chinese Chess, the soldier can only move vertically much like pawns in Chess. Once it crosses the "river" into enemy territory it can move and capture pieces horizontally as well.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • This was so prevalent in Dungeons and Dragons that it got its own trope: Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards. At low levels, a Wizard quickly runs out of spells (and thus, effectiveness) while a Fighter can deal consistent damage all day long. However, if you keep at it then the Wizard gains enough spells to hold their own, and access to a vast variety of offensive and utility spells that drastically increases their power and versatility. Then in the mid-game they start learning "save or die" spells. By the end-game, Wizards are on-par with Physical Gods.
    • Fourth edition made Wizards more balanced, with them more useful at level 1 and less broken at high levels. There is still the uber-broken Orb of Imposition optional class feature, however, which still exhibits this property.
    • Healers (the Miniatures Handbook class, not the character type) are generally considered to be useless - until 17th level, when they get Gate, one of the most powerful spells in the game. However, many other casting classes get Gate by that level, which leads to the Healer going from "Not as good as a Cleric" to "Still not as good as a Cleric". Truenamers also get Gate, but the class was so badly-written that few bother to play it long enough to get to that point.
    • The Duskblade of 3.5 is an extremely weak class that trades most of a wizard or other dedicated spellcaster's power for some mediocre melee ability, and the ability to "channel" certain spells with a melee attack, adding minor physical damage but often severely reducing accuracy (Most spells bypass many forms of defense that physical attacks do not). They have almost no redeeming traits until level 13, where they get the ability to hit four or more times per turn with a single channeled spell.
  • Magic: The Gathering has a number of cards that function like this, starting out average or even worse than average in some cases but becoming very powerful when some condition is met.
    • The Kamigawa block had a number of "flip cards" which are fairly weak, relatively useless creatures when first summoned, but can be "flipped" (rotated 180 degrees) when certain conditions are met, generally becoming a powerful legendary creature. The conditions required to flip these cards are sometimes quite easy. Student of Elements, for example, becomes Tobita, Master of Winds as soon as it gains flying, a task fairly easily accomplished with blue spells. Others are considerably more difficult to flip, but the results are worth it. For instance, Bushi Tenderfoot must first contribute to the death of another creature to flip, but as a puny 1/1 it isn't likely to kill much of anything without help, and will surely die if sent into combat without some sort of outside boost or protection. However, if you do manage this feat that puny Tenderfoot becomes the immensely powerful Kenzo the Hardhearted, who is capable of dishing out a whopping 10 damage to an enemy creature in combat.[8]
    • The recent Eldrazi set has brought along creatures that gain 'Level Counters' when ever you pay to do so. Their stats increase takes a while and it takes up resources that could be kicking out more cards instead, but some of them get REALLY good powers at max level. For example Lord of Shatterskull Pass - Wow.
    • The latest set, Innistrad, introduces double-faced cards and the transform mechanic. Most of them are werewolves but one in particular, Ludevic's Test Subject, is an egg. It has zero attack power, and is in fact completely unable to attack. However, once you use it's ability to give it five "hatch" counters, it becomes Ludevic's Abomination, a 13/13 creature with trample, which is much better for attacking.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh has a similar monster group known as the Geminis, monsters that are treated as effectless Normal Monsters while on the field and in the graveyard, but if you're willing to waste a Normal Summon or card effect on them, become powerful Effect monsters. Considering that Normal Monsters themselves are Lethal Joke Characters requiring a proper build with the right cards to become powerful, and most of said cards can be used with Geminis, and well...you do the math.
    • Longtime players may remember Maha Vailo, a Level 4 monster with mediocre stats(1550 ATK/1400 DEF). On its own, it was useless, but its special ability allows it to gain an extra 500 points of attack power for every equip card given to it. A simple Malevolent Nuzzler or Horn of the Unicorn(both of which provide a 700 ATK boost) now boost Maha's ATK by 1200, and the fun doesn't stop there. With the right equips, it could have an ATK over 4000, and easily be strong enough to take out more than half the opponent's life points in a single shot. Bear in mind that this is a game where most high-end monsters have ATK power in the range of 2500-3000.
      • The strongest it can get? Five Monsters out including itself (easy using Scapegoat), three United We Stand, two Mage Power, and Luminous Spark. That would give it 22550 ATK - for comparison, Five-Headed Dragon, the physically strongest Monster out there, has 5000, and starting Life Points is 8000. Don't screw with Maha Vailo.
      • It now has a Spiritual Successor in Morphtronic Videon (1000 ATK/1000 DEF), which gets 800 per equip card when in attack postion. Using the above cards, it can get 23500 ATK.
    • Mataza the Zapper - An effect monster card with a pretty dainty 1300 ATK and even worse defense. The catch? He can attack TWICE during the battle phase. Helloooo equip cards! Plus, he is immune from having his control switched, so you can't use cards like Enemy Controller on him and works effortlessly into any warrior based deck.
    • Armed Samurai - Ben Kei gets an additional attack for every equip card you put on him. With, say, Mage Power and Axe of Despair, he'll hit three times for 2500, very nearly enough to completely oneshot a player. Yes, there have been decks built around disabling your opponents magic and traps for a turn, then summoning this guy with three equip cards and winning the game.
    • Similarly, there's the combo with Chimeratech Overdragon, which is a Fusion Monster with ATK equal to 800 times the number of Fusion Materials. This can be combined with a card that lets you discard, from your deck, the Fusion Materials for one monster, and another card that lets you remove from your discard pile the Materials for a Fusion Monster and Summon it. Then you can use a card (Limiter Removal) and double Chimeratech's ATK, possibly leading to something along the lines of a 36000 ATK monster that can attack 20 monsters each turn.
    • Yet another example might be the LV monsters. While they generally start as something like a LV 3 1000ATK monster, when conditions (Ranging from as simple as surviving until the next turn to directly attacking your opponents life points) are fulfilled they level up, bringing out the next level, until they reach their final forms, with 2700 ATK or more and powerful effects such as negating all Magic cards or destroying all your opponents monsters by discarding a single card.
      • These also were a subversion- only the highest levels were required to be summoned by effect (mostly) so you could often just skip the lowest stage by playing the middle one first.
    • You could also consider the Batteryman AA strategy an example of this. Batteryman AA (LIGHT Three-star(I think) 0 ATK/0 DEF) is a monster that for every Batteryman AA on the same player's field (meaning your opponent's don't count), they all gain 1000 ATK each if they are all in ATK position and 1000 DEF each if they are all in DEF position. The thing is, getting and keeping your Batterymen on the field would normally be a challenge. But with Inferno Reckless Summon, a card that when you special summon a card, your opponent selects a face up monster on their side of the field, and they summon all the cards of the same name from their hand, deck and graveyard to the field in face up ATK position, but you also do that with the card you special summoned. That mean if it was Batteryman AA, you get three 3000 ATK monsters on the field, ready to attack. Then, if you use the card Shot Circuit, whose effect is if you have three or more "Batteryman" cards on your side of the field, destroy all the cards on your opponents side of the field, you then deal 9000 direct damage to your opponent's life points, and they only start with 8000, thus winning the duel with a monster with 0 original ATK and DEF.
    • Also consider monsters who gain attack equal to the number of cards removed from play. This troper once saw Inferno Tempest (remove almost all monsters each player has from play when you take at least 3000 damage from one attack) combined with a monster that gained 400 attack and defense for each card removed from play. As it was a four-way match with rather large decks, roughly 125 monster were removed from play. Combined with Megamorph and said monster had 100,000 attack!
  • In Blood Bowl, Chaos and Lizardmen teams in particular depend on this. Instead of blitzers, they start with expensive 'musclemen' units (Saurus and Chaos Warriors) who have high natural stats but no skills (especially the all-important Block), which make them weaker than other factions' blitzers (and Dwarf linemen). Once those musclemen gain one-two levels and gain access to Block and Mighty Blow, they become terrors on the field (especially if your Chaos Warriors pick up a few mutations on the side).

Literature[edit | hide]

  • In Flanimals, a children's book by Ricky Gervais, the cute, puff-like Mernimbler becomes a ferocious monster that devours everything in sight[9] if one calls it cute and wants to touch it.

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Every now and again, when a Kamen Rider first gets their power, they'll be using some base form with weak-ass weapons that break easily and no noticeable enhancement to their physical prowess, e.g. Kamen Rider Ryuki before contracting with the dragon. But as the series goes on...

Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • Drift in Alien Dice was very small and generally considered useless by Lexx at level one, but when he finally leveled up he grew bigger than even Epsy (though it seems that most of his mass is fluff).
  • Subverted in the webcomic Manly Guys Doing Manly Things. Mr. Fish, now a Gyarados, kicks a metric ton of ass as a Magikarp, if only because his trainer Jared used him as a bludgeon to win battles.
  • In Homestuck, the Page class is pretty weak at first, but it's stated that it becomes Game Breakingly-powerful at high levels.
  • Magic seems to work this way in El Goonish Shive.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Johnny Test parodied the original Magikarp Power in the episode "Johnnymon" (itself a parody of Pokémon). Johnny and Dukey decided to go into the Tinymon videogame, and when they couldn't get out, Susan and Mary went in after them. The game's version of Ash Ketchum ("Blast Ketchup") challenges them to a battle. The only Tinymon they can get is Cuddlebuns, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin: cute, adorable, and downright untrainable. During the battle, Cuddlebuns is injured. Mary decides to kiss Cuddlebuns to make it feel better, and it transforms into the legendary Screechereen. Ownage ensues. It turned out that a little love was all the training Cuddlebuns needed.
    • Happens again in a later episode when Dukey and Johnny's dad, both turned into Tinymon, Mymuttdog and Imhistdad (both due to Blast Ketchup combining the first words they said into names) respectively. Both of them are even weaker than Cuddlebuns but when Johnny gives them enough power points, they evolve into the extremely powerful Dukundra and Dadoomarang. Once again, ownage ensues.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, baby dragons are fairly weak, being the size of a small child with their only major attack being (mostly) non-lethal fire breath. Once they reach adulthood, they're massive powerhouses with very few equals in size or strength.
  • Also, Roboto and Stinkor from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe 2002 series. The former starts out as a chess player, but then decides to upgrade himself, while the later begins as a small villager and ends up being one of the most credible threat of the whole cartoon.
  • Clifford the Big Red Dog. In the books and the show, he's a tiny puppy, the runt of the litter, that Emily Elizabeth adopts despite being told it might not be a great plan. However, since she raised him with love and affection, he grew to be two stories high.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Technological developments tend to be like this. For example, compare a musket from the 15th Century to a modern submachine gun.
  • Education and the development of talents. That kid struggling with their science text or struggling to learn chords or practicing their swing of the bat may one day be a physician saving hundreds of lives or a superstar entertaining millions of fans.
  • Most animals, including humans, fit this, especially predators. For example, bear cubs are only 25 grams when they are born. They are blind, deaf and absolutely helpless without their mother. While fully grown adult bears, especially when they're angry, or very hungry are the stuff of nightmares.

Notes

  1. Some spinoffs gave it a weak amount of offensive power, but the main games still leave Magikarp useless until level 15
  2. Splash, Tackle, Flail, and Bounce - with Flail being introduced in Generation II, and Bounce first becoming available to Magikarp beginning in Pokémon Platinum.
  3. or the move Hyper Beam in Generation III, when all Normal-type moves were governed solely by the Attack stat
  4. Had at least one for every type except Dragon in Gen IV, but can't learn Fire Punch, Thunder Punch and Ice Punch in Gen V.
  5. as opposed to splitting one Potion (not a Hi-Potion, not an X-Potion, not an Antidote or Phoenix Down, but a Potion) 5 ways
  6. Specifically, Hide on Edge. It's never even hinted at in the game proper, but if Edge uses Edward's Hide ability, he can use Throw while hidden. Which means that he can use his best attacking option while completely immune to enemy attack. All you have to worry about is him auto-returning.
  7. Fusing her with other demons is okay; her "DNA" carries over in everything but a sacrifice fusion where she or her "descendent" is the sacrifice
  8. To put it into perspective: a normal nonmagical human with a sword hits for 1. A grizzly bear hits for 2. A hill giant hits for 3. Most dragons hit for 5 and up. So a creature dealing 10 damage by itself is like two dragons mauling something at once.
  9. and gets chronic indigestion