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In eastern RPGs, after all the tweaking of weapons, stats and armor, magic almost never hits as consistently quick or as hard as it would if you just run up and hit something. Although healing spells are useful, Summon Magic tends to be the only offensive magic that'll knock out a bunch of enemies for great damage late in the game.

This is usually because, while physical attacks improve substantially with new equipment, only new spells make magic able to function better. This is especially true for status-affecting spells, which the enemies in the last quarter of the game or so are almost always immune against.

However, there is often an "Ultimate" spell which is hard to find or learn, and which blows all previous spells of its type out of the water.

These will frequently become a Disc One Nuke if you reload earlier levels or start a New Game+.

Contrast with Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards. May be related to Eleventh-Hour Superpower.

Examples of Last-Disc Magic include:


MMORPG

  • Blizzard had this problem at the World of Warcraft launch: at the time, once you hit 60, the only way to progress was get gear with better stats. Attack gear could just have higher damage output, but the only thing a caster could do is increase their Critical Strike percentage by increasing their Intellect. As a result, Blizzard added a new stat: "Increases damage and healing done by magical spells and effects by up to X"
    • The problem still exists in a way in the arena pvp, as melee classes scale better with the gear (a good weapon is enough to substantially increase their damage), and most powerful spells have a cast time, which is a major disadvantage in pvp.
    • WoW seems to be perpetually troubled with caster itemization, just by the number of changes that have had to be made. Introduce +Damage/Healing, introduce spell critical, rework spell critical chance as spell critical rating, merge Damage/Healing with Healing only items, merge spell and melee critical rating into a single stat, rename Damage/Healing as "Spell Power"...meanwhile gear for a melee class has the same statistics and wording now as it had when the level cap was lower.
    • Not entirely accurate; there's a lot of 60 melee gear which has spirit on it, since spirit used to let you regenerate health during combat, to such a degree that you could be unkillable if you stacked enough spirit. With the changes to spirit, this was no longer the case. In defense of melee, though, our job and itemization have always been fairly simple; stab/slash/smash things until they decide to stay dead. As a result, our items have tended towards attack power, critical hit, and simple hit.
    • In Cataclysm, Intellect is finally affecting spellpower as well as providing the old mana pool/spell crit bonuses.
  • Warhammer Online tends to avert this trope, as the primary magic damage stat provides enough damage boosts to keep it roughly level with melee damage. Because the spells differ in terms of effect, range, cooldown and cost rather than just straight out being better than something else, even the basic spells learned in the first few levels are still used consistently in the endgame, although specialised "bonus" abilities from path mastery do tend to be of higher quality (as they should, being pretty exclusive and only available by spending mastery points). There are a few exceptions, but almost all of the starting abilities granted at level 1 are still used just as much at level 40.

Real Time Strategy

  • Defense of the Ancients. Mage-types are called early-game characters because their spells can make a mess of most other characters with their poor "naked" stats. Once a game goes on for long enough though, well-equipped DPS heroes with enough health to soak the poorly-scaling spell damage can pump out enough damage to bring down the previously troublesome casters. Of course, there were "ultimate" spells that stood head and shoulders above the normal ones, but even those start to lose effectiveness after a while.
    • The issue is addressed in League of Legends, where casters scale with Ability Power and Cooldown Reduction. Might be a case with certain characters whose base damage is okay but ratios are subpar, thus ensuring they will at some point deal less damage than other champions with the same itemization.
  • Lost Magic gives you the mystical trio runes, just in time for the showdown with the Big Bad (if you took the right Sadistic Choice, that is.) In a New Game+, they become a splendid Disc One Nuke.

Role Playing Game

  • In Golden Sun, the final elemental summons are by far the most powerful moves, although they take a long while to recharge.
    • The whole idea of physical attacks beating spells is kind of averted in that game too.Moves like Heatwave and Ragnarok actually do more damage if you equip a good weapon and certain clothing increases elemental power.
      • Indeed. These Elemental Physical Attacks (EPA) were based both on elemental power and your attack stat and were more "skills" than "magic." All unleashes (both from weapons and Djinn) are EPA.
    • Megiddo begs to differ.
    • As pointed out by the above, while EPAs may have been decent in the first game, in the second game you'll get far more mileage out of your physical attacks after about halfway through the game. Doesn't help that it's so easy to get gamebreaking equipment in the second game if you know what you're doing.
      • To clarify: The second game has equipment capable of randomly casting a top-tier spell for free. The first game had a few examples but they were more prevalent towards the end of the second game.
  • Tales of Symphonia gave every character (including certain bosses) "Hi-Ougis" or "secret techniques" that could only be accessed towards the end of the game.
  • The Final Fantasy series, depending on the game chosen, has Flare, Meteor/Meteo, Holy/Pearl, or the rather impressive Ultima. Often they have all of the above. There is a recurring top-end magic that puts them all to shame, called Grand Cross, but this magic has never yet been available to the heroes.
    • Final Fantasy V avoids this to some extent. One of the classes, Mystic Knight, has an ability called Spellblade that infuses the user's weapon with a black magic spell (as long as you've bought it), meaning that it's much easier to hit enemies with spells.
      • It plays it straight with Blue Magic, since some mooks that carry the ultra-spells don't show up until world 3. Though some of the most powerful blue magic like Death Claw and Level 5 Death is in turn a Disc One Nuke.
    • Final Fantasy VII has several examples of this, notably the Knights of the Round materia. With the Knights' materia, and a couple other materia combos (W-Summon, Final Attack, etc.) it's possible to throw any enemy (including both bonus bosses) into an endless loop of Knights of the Round until your opponents are dead.
    • Final Fantasy VIII uses this trope literally with the Apocalypse spell, only obtainable by drawing it out of the final form of Ultimecia's body. If you hack it into your inventory in a new game, you'll find that it's quite the Game Breaker, attack and stat-wise.
    • Even the summon magic in Final Fantasy Tactics took so long to cast as to be useless. Your only real use late-game magic got is the Calculator, which could cast spells like Holy instantly (certain restrictions apply).
      • As the above suggests, these restrictions can be turned into a positive, as it is relatively easy to get a Calculator to cast Holy on all combatants (Ally and Enemy) instantly and for no MP. The trick is to give your characters the ability to negate or absorb Holy damage, causing all enemies to take massive damage (Usually enough to kill), and your party to be healed to full.
    • Final Fantasy XII has the Scathe and Ardor spells for the Black Magic school, and Holy for the White Magic school.
    • 4 Heroes of Light has the ultimate white magic Lux, which places several status buffs simultaneously, and the ultimate black magic Desolator, a version of the traditional meteor spell that gets around six hits that are each as powerful as a regular spell. Unlike all other spells in this game, you can only acquire one copy of each.
    • Somewhat averted in Final Fantasy Tactics a 2. Depending on the target, magic or physical attacks might be more effective (against monsters it's usually magic thanks to elemental weaknesses), and since MP always start outs at 0, the Last-Disc Magic aren't the higher tier spells themselves, but skills and passive abilities that decrease MP cost or speed up MP recovery.
    • Averted in a way in Final Fantasy II where magic can actually be better than a physical attack, not only at the start of the game, but increasingly so as long as you keep using it. It's actually easier to buy Fire or Thunder and Cure before completing your first quest and grinding it to level two or three than it is to try making use of the Ultima spell (which has damage based on the levels of all your other spells). Until you get the Ultima spell (and maybe after if it's all you use), you can do total party kills with your one spell.
  • Even if you ignored the Mystic Weapons that all the bosses are weak against, SaGa (Final Fantasy Legend) 3 eventually reaches the point where magic is useless... except the Flare spell, which you can only get two of, and only if you're careful not to waste the ingredients on other, more-or-less useless spells.
  • Phantasy Star IV gives the player the option to tidy up the last of Chaz's character development by visiting a secret dungeon and confronting the secret boss who lives there. Successfully doing so rewards the player with the Forbidden Technique, Megid, which is a horrible incendiary spell that fills the screen with fiery death. It's one of the components for the most destructive combination attack in the game, and is fueled entirely by the wielder's anger.
  • The Melt Crest in Shadow Hearts Covenant and From the New World. Non-elemental, hits quite hard, and causes Bind status (which has no "cure" except waiting for next turn). Usually only available near the very end and completing the game(s) longest sidequest (Solomon's Key in Covenant, and Lovecraft's Stellar Chart Problem in New World). Has a high MP cost but can be carried over to New Game+ should you acquire it.
  • In Star Ocean : The Second Story, the two Attack Mages of the game, Leon and Celine, get their respective ultimate spells, Extinction and Meteor Swarm, in the Bonus Dungeon, which is only accessible right before the final boss.
    • That said, in Celine's case, Meteor Swarm isn't that ultimate, as the added damage isn't significant enough to make it more useful than Southern Cross (her second most powerful spell), because of the awfully long animation (remember that, in this game, when a spell is launched, the battle's action is completely suspended until the spell is completed).
  • In Pokémon Diamond and Pearl games, there's a move tutor that will teach Water, Grass, or Fire-typed versions of Hyper Beam, but only to the fully-evolved version of your starter Mon. The last move a Pokémon learns through level-up generally also falls under this, as the level needed to learn it often isn't reached until you're facing the final Gym Leader or the Elite Four, and these moves are often very powerful.
    • Those tutors were also present in Gen III on the Sevii Islands. In Gen IV, those moves aren't just restricted to only the starters from that game, either: any starter trio can learn them. The happiness level for those Pokémon also had to be maxed out. Similarly, in Gen IV, a special move tutor will teach any Dragon-type Pokémon with max happiness (fully evolved or not), including Arceus with a Dragon Plate, a special Dragon-type variation of Overheat in Diamond and Pearl.
    • A lot of TMs also show up very late in the game (like after beating the Champion), like Energy Ball or Psychic.
  • Arcana in The Last Remnant is orders of magnitude more powerful than any other type of magic, and hits every enemy of the battlefield. It is possible to unlock weaker arcana by accident, but unlocking the most powerful aracana requires a lot of training; you first need a character with the rarest type of mystic arts, then you need to train those arts extensively. You then need to place the character in a union with multiple other magic users, and fight until the chance arrives to have all of them use mystic arts at the same time. Time-consuming, but worth it when you destroy an army of over 30 units with a single devastating spell.
  • When you reach level 100 in any school of magic in The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim, you can go on a sidequest to unlock the Master spell(s) for that school. These are often Awesome but Impractical, as they are equipped in both hands unlike other spells and drain a substantial amount of magicka, but their effects are unparalleled. The Master Destruction spells cause a huge explosion of the element of your choice around you for massive damage, and the Master Conjuration spells summon/resurrect a permanent companion (until they're killed).
  • Persona 3 has Messiah, the ultimate form of the Judgement Arcana, and one of the last Personae you get. It's about as strong as you'd expect.

Turn-Based Strategy

  • Averted in the Disgaea series of tactical RPGs, where magic not only scales well with physical attacks, but has massive range and convenient areas of effect, to the extent that extremely high-level parties need never walk more than a few squares away from their starting location to kill everything on the map. Additionally, spells improved in power and range when used frequently, so even the starting spells are useful late in the game.
    • In stark contrast to the previous Nippon Ichi game, La Pucelle, which may be the most fighter-centric SRPG ever. The fighters could regenerate their own HP if their HP stat was ground high enough and had special abilities that let them hit large groups of enemies. And the later storyline PCs didn't get Leaked Experience, so it became a matter of everyone buffs the main character and gets the hell out of her way while she clears the board (they were also good decoys!).
  • Vandal Hearts averts the trope in that magic-users are just as powerful offensively as melee as long as they're the same level and using the latest powers - in fact, as a lot of later magic spells have Area of Effect, they can be more powerful than the single-target melee users and consequently level faster. However, played straight in that new spells are only given at certain level waypoints and spells don't scale to the user - so if you're just below the level to get the 7-square-radius Phase Shift, you'll be doing the damage of someone several levels below you whilst melee troops will hit exactly according to their level. This also means that as you get a more powerful (or beneficial) spell, the old ones are never used again - after all, why spend 3mp (out of 40+) on a single target heal for 30hp, when you can heal them and everyone within two spaces of them for 100+hp each for 5mp?
  • Fire Emblem's commonly powerful magic which can be obtained near, or in, the Endgame - Athos comes with Forblaze in Fire Emblem 7, it's possible to steal the ultimate Light spell (although only Rhys can use it) during Fire Emblem 9; in addition to getting the assorted other ultimate magic in the chapters just before the Endgame. In Radiant Dawn, you get the ultimate magic forced into your hands during Part Four and on the second playthrough, you can get two characters who can use the ultimate Dark magic, one of whom comes with the ultimate staff in the game - but this is only during the final section of endgame, so he's not as useful as he could have been.
    • The Radiant Dawn variants are deceptive though- while all five are given to you for free (Rexflame (Fire), Rexbolt (Thunder), and Rexcaliber (Wind) are given to you in pre-battle talks, Rexaura (Light) and Balberith (Dark) are dropped by Bosses- all 5 of them require SS weapon skill, which is a royal pain in the arse to get to with the SquishyWizards who use the tomes and unless you're a hardcore magic user it's likely the characters who can use the times won't have reached this level until the Endgame.
    • Fire Emblem 4 featured the ridiculously powerful Narga tome, which had 30 might and gave +20 to most other stats, which Julia gets just before the final boss. As an aversion, though, the Holsety tome is available as early as chapter 4, and is very much a Game Breaker in its own right.
      • Holsety is an interesting example, as you get it near the end of Chapter 4 and there's only one more chapter before the entire party gets killed in a cutscene and the story continues with Celice's party. However, Holsety will be passed down to Levn's son if you paired him with one of the three girls whose sons use magic. If you paired him with Sylvia, it will be another example of this trope. If, on the other hand, he was paired with Tiltyu...
    • The sixth game also had fun with this, as the legendary weapons are received in Gaiden chapters interspersed throughout the game. You get the best sword (except for the Roy-exclusive Sword of Plot Advancement) about a third of the way through the game and the best axe about halfway through--the top anima magic comes shortly thereafter. The top dark magic, however, which has the highest overall power (though its usefulness is kept in check by its high weight), is found just before the chapter in which the Big Bad is fought.
      • However...the ultimate weapons all have a low number of uses, and the true ending cannot be reached unless all of the ultimate weapons have been obtained and still have uses remaining when you finish off the Big Bad, so actually using any of them before you have all of them is ill-advised.
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