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Attacks/abilities that avoid obsolescence.

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Valigarmander
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Attacks/abilities that avoid obsolescence.

Post by Valigarmander » Sat Aug 05, 2017 2:34 am

Let me explain my word salad title.

Generally in video games, you get progressively better skills as you progress further in the game. This can be in the form of higher-level techniques or spells, better equipment, or stronger weapons. But often times as you gain use of high-level abilities, the older, low-level abilities become obsolete and start collecting dust.

An example of this would be the typical black magic lineup in Final Fantasy games. Early on you get basic elemental spells like Fire and Blizzard. Eventually you'll get mid-level spells like Fira and Blizzara, and finally top-level spells like Firaga and Blizzaga. By the time you get these stronger spells, the older ones become virtually useless and you'll never have a reason to use them again. The only benefit to using the lower-level spells is that they cost less MP to use, but unless you don't have any MP-restoring items or any other ways of quickly killing enemies, the low cost rarely justifies their use at this point.

There are many ways games can avoid making early-acquired abilities obsolete. One way is to have abilities or items supplement each other rather than supplanting them. Consider the beams in Super Metroid.

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Because you can combine your beams together, old beams still remain useful later on. The Spazer is still useful once you've acquired the Ice Beam, and the Wave Beam is still useful once you've acquired the Plasma Beam. You can even switch beams on or off, tailoring your weapon to different situations (for example, you can turn the Ice Beam off if you'd rather kill enemies outright rather than freezing them first).

Another method is by giving newer abilities or weapons different strengths and weaknesses than older ones. In Doom, your starting weapon is the pistol. It's not that strong, but it has a decent firing rate and is fairly accurate at long range. The chaingun is functionally identical to the pistol, but has a much quicker firing rate. Once you get the chaingun, you have no reason to ever use the pistol again.

This is not the case with the two shotguns. The regular shotgun fires seven pellets in a tight fan with no vertical dispersal. It packs a punch at close range, yet is still very effective at long range. The super shotgun fires 20 pellets in a large cone. It's devastating at close range, but kind of crappy at a distance.

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The super shotgun is the stronger weapon, yet there are situations (picking enemies off at a distance, for example) where it's better to use the regular shotgun. So the old weapon retains its usefulness even after you get the new one.

Do you have any favorite examples of older abilities/items/weapons/characters remaining useful even after getting newer, stronger ones?

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Post by Marilink » Sat Aug 05, 2017 6:20 am

The Slingshot in Zelda is always in danger of obselecense, but they do what they can to still make it useful. OoT had the somewhat elegant solution of having Child Link only use the slingshot while Adult Link could only use the bow. If you ever had to go back in time, you had to reequip the slingshot because your tiny arms just aren't strong enough.

Oracle of Seasons just went right ahead and eliminated the Bow altogether, making the slingshot more powerful in its own right.

Twilight Princess is on the opposite end of the spectrum, making the slingshot absolutely useless after you get the bow. They might as well have eliminated its inventory spot.

I like Skward Sword's solution the most, though: borrowing the OoS concept of the multiple-seed slingshot by giving you the Scattershot later in the game. It's situational, but being able to shoot 5 seeds at once (while only consuming one seed) gives a rare spread projectile in a Zelda game. It's still inferior to the bow in most ways, but its new function doesn't completely invalidate it.
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Post by I am nobody » Sat Aug 05, 2017 6:37 am

Funnily enough, Final Fantasy XII is actually an exception to your example because so much of its design is raving nonsense. Cura stays useful even after you get Curaga because the former targets your entire party while the latter is single-target. None of the other traditional upgrade paths in the game do that.

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Post by Apollo the Just » Sat Aug 05, 2017 11:20 am

Not sure if this counts, but I like how in Twilight Princess, rather than the hookshot --> longshot upgrade from OoT which just one replaces the old item with a new one that has better range, you get a second clawshot to use together with the first one to reach new places.

Edit: Also, best Zelda example is this imo-- the MM transformation masks, specifically Deku. You spend the whole first part of the game feeling limited by this form and wanting to get out of it, and eventually you do and you get cooler stronger ones, but literally all of them -including Deku- remain useful throughout the game and you have to use all of them. They provide different abilities but don't make one another obsolete.
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Post by Random User » Sat Aug 05, 2017 11:51 am

Zelda games have an issue with inventory padding, I think. The slingshot can't really justify taking up an inventory slot.

I do like Cave Story's weapon system. Every weapon has its own unique attack pattern and abilities that gives them all utility in different situations. The weakest gun you have is upgraded if you hang onto it, too.

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Post by Apollo the Just » Sat Aug 05, 2017 3:13 pm

Oh, and the Field of Fonons mechanic in Tales of the Abyss circumvents this better than most other Tales games (which generally progress in the way of basic Attack --> better version --> best version, rendering early game moves very much obsolete).

Basically every time someone uses an elemental attack, it leaves behind a ring on the field charged with that element where the attack hit.

A lot of moves, and certainly every basic level attack (iirc some mid-high level attacks don't have one), when used in the correct corresponding element ring, instead produce a supercharged elemental version of that move. Sometimes it just makes the move more powerful and adds elemental damage, sometimes (usually for healing or effect spells) it alters or adds to the usual effect, etc. Because using a low level attack in an FOF consumes less MP than an equally potent, non-FOF higher level move, if you know how to use them correctly and the right FOF ring pops up on the field, you can use low level moves just as effectively as high level moves. The system makes it rewarding to use a mix of moves both high and low level.

I've always thought this was one of the most creative additions from Abyss. Its battle system feels heavier than Symphonia's, but everything else about it is really fantastic.
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Post by Random User » Sat Aug 05, 2017 3:35 pm

I should get around to finishing Tales of the Abyss. I have it on the 3DS but I never made it beyond midgame.

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Post by Booyakasha » Sat Aug 05, 2017 4:46 pm

Special attacks in 'Disgaea' avoid obsolescence by simple virtue of having different AOE. It's all about sensible deployment.
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