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The Antidote is a staple item in just about every RPG that has ever existed. It has a simple use: it will cure a character from a Standard Status Effect. However, shortly into the game, the character will usually acquire some kind of spell that serves the same purpose, rendering any antidotes in your inventory redundant.
But wait, you say, they aren't completely pointless! And you're right... there are exactly six situations where they still come in handy:
- If your spell-casting party members either are unable to do the job themself due to being silenced, out of Mana, or knocked out. Alternately, they may be preoccupied fighting other monsters, or you may need to conserve their MP for an upcoming Boss Battle. Either way, you need someone else to do the job in the meantime.
- You find a dungeon or cave where magic isn't allowed or doesn't work.
- In some systems, spells require more time to execute than using items; if a character is dying of poison, this could make the difference between keeping them alive and having to resurrect them later.
- The magic or abilities used to cure status is difficult to find, far more expensive to buy than items, or costs too much to cast, thus making it not worth your time.
- Some lazy NPC can't run to the store and get one himself.
- They allow you to make bulks of much more efficient healing items
This raises the question: Do you keep one or more of these items in your inventory in case that unlikely situation actually pops up? Or do you trash them to make room for that much more useful item that heals 500 HP instead?
This is the Antidote Effect. It happens when items (or spells, for that matter) have a very specific, strategic use that doesn't often come up in normal situations. It is related to the items Too Awesome to Use, players will be tempted to keep them in their inventory but will never use them because—surprise! — that specific situation never arose.
The Antidote Effect is an illustration of the fact that, although game designers work very hard to implement depth, strategy, and balance into a game's various systems and mechanics, Whoring something is often exponentially more effective.
Collectible Card Games
- In the PC version of Magic: The Gathering, there are plenty of times a specific card combo would be extremely useful... if you were to get the combo cards within the same few turns. And as the effects of the cards individually are minimal or dangerous, it's a toss-up: powerful individual cards, or combos that may never happen?
- Same with when to include Circles of Protection, which only protect against certain random encounters, and various single-color-targeting effects, such as Tsunami (bury all islands). Of course, you can combo with a card that'll rewrite "islands" to whatever land you like (or change the color of the Circle of Protection), but again, that's a rare combo, unless in the game you manage to stumble across multiple color/land-changing cards.
- The Yu-Gi-Oh! card game is a bizarre example of this; there are several cards made specifically to counter a single solitary card, most of which are either banned (which would make said counters Useless Items) or limited to 1, limiting their usefulness to near-0 in light of the myriad of other, better options for countering them. On the other hand, many Munchkin decks are hardly ever found without 3 copies of the card "Gravekeeper's Spy" or "Toon Table of Contents", two searcher cards that, in their own archetype deck, would work well. Why they fit into this category, however, is that most of the time, they're splashed into decks not of their archetype solely to search for their own copies and thin the deck. So, on the one hand, we've got a bunch of highly situational cards that no one uses because of this trope, and on the other, we've got another bunch of cards that, while immensely useful in their own decks, are used in a highly situational way because of this trope. Yu-Gi-Oh players are weird.
- Battlefield 2142 features unlockable weapons—and very limited slots to put them into. Several unlocks are useful in extremly specific situations but are far outclassed by other, more generally useful unlocks.
- The AE Defuser's exceedingly limited range makes it outclassed by safer explosive removal weapons.
- The Smoke Grenades don't last long enough or provide enough smoke to provide you with sufficient concealment. Radar Grenades work exactly as well for concealment AND reveal enemy locations.
- Resident Evil:
- Resident Evil 4 has this bad on New Game+ modes, especially with unlockable weapons. The Infinite Rocket Launcher all but eliminates the need for Hand Grenades, while the PRL does the same for Photon Grenades. The Chicago Typewriter renders automatic weapons (and by association their ammo) comparatively pointless, and the Hand Cannon can punch through virtually anything, often killing it in a single shot. The yellow herbs, which increase your health cap upon use, turn your Green+Red herb mixes into incredibly shiny Vendor Trash once you max your (and Ashley's) health cap. And of course, maxing your money capacity (which admittedly takes several playthroughs) makes even Vendor Trash worthless.
- In Resident Evil 5, every weapon (barring grenades and mines, but including the Rocket Launcher) can unlock infinite ammo. And because of the chapter system, all you really have to do to get this is grind your favorite level for money and player score points. Oh, and beat the game.
- The Ur Example and Trope Maker, of course, is Dragon Quest, specifically Dragon Quest II, with its Squelch spell and antidotal herb. In this series, there's also the moonwort bulb, which cures paralysis. You won't be paralyzed often before one of your party members learns Tingle, though. And, even if you're not prepared, the status goes away after a few turns and after the battle ends!
- It subverts it with the KO status effect, though.Reviving items have a 100% chance of resurrecting a party member.The basic resurrecting spell, Zing, has a consistent chance of failing.Its 100% accurate version, Kazing, can usually only be learned by a character class that sacrifices a lot of combat effectiveness for that.So even if you actually have a party member able to cast Kazing you'll end up stocking a couple Yggdrasil Leaves on everyone else for those boss battles where every turn counts.
- Several examples from Pokémon:
- Pokémon Red and Blue eventually gave the player the Pokeflute item, an infinite-use cure for sleep that rendered the one-use-only Awakening item completely useless.
- All generations of games eventually make Full Heals available, which duplicates the effect of every status-cure item.
- The Call command in Pokémon Colosseum and XD causes a Pokémon not in Hyper or Reverse Modes to wake up from sleep or (in XD) increase their Accuracy, essentially rendering the Awakening and Accuracy X items completely useless.
- Averted in Phantasy Star III: the "Anti" spell isn't 100% effective, leaving a choice between a renewable (but not guaranteed) cure or a limited-availability, 100% effective cure.
- Present in pretty much every other Final Fantasy game, although there's still some use to carrying them around in your Hyperspace Arsenal. This applies especially to cures for poison (which may need to be cured before the healer's turn) and silence (because it would be necessary if the effect was cast on the character that knows the silence-removing spell).
- Avoided in Final Fantasy Tactics, where casting spells takes time, leaves your Priest vulnerable while casting, and is not 100% effective. The "Item" skill works immediately and always works. It remains valuable throughout the game.
- Inverted in Final Fantasy I. For the price of learning the PURE spell, you can buy 53 Pure potions, which is more than you're likely to ever need. The situation is similar for Soft potions and the SOFT spell, plus the spell charges are better spent on EXIT or INV2.
- Played straight in the GBA and PSP remakes, which change the magic charge system to a magic point system, and the Antidote and Anti-Stone spells are comically cheap in terms of MP cost.
- Inverted in Final Fantasy XII. There is an accessory you can get a little into the game which allows curative items to inflict the status they cure, with 100% accuracy (unless the enemy is immune to that effect). Predictably, this makes the spells which actually cause these effects as their primary purpose much less useful.
- Potions in Final Fantasy XIII heal 150 HP, or 5% of your Max HP(thus only increasing in power at 3000+HP, which you won't get until the very end of the game). There's an accessory that slightly increases that but ultimately potions lose their usefulness shortly into the game when the Medic paradigm becomes available. There's arguably a use for items that cure silence, as the only way to get rid of it is to either wait it out(rarely a good idea) or use Dispelga, which removes the status effect, but also any buffs you may have.
- And Antidotes themselves are utterly worthless in this game, as poison is only dangerous if your health is extremely low due to its very slow HP drain, at which point casting Curaja is the best option.
- Funnily enough, in Final Fantasy XIII you still can use item even when you are dazed (Prevent character from acting), so you can just use Foul Liquid (Remove Daze) on yourself and get on with the battle.
- The sequal, XIII-2, seems to be going out of its way to avert this with regards to Phoenix Downs. Now they grant Protect and Shell in addiction to reviving the character, something Raise won't do. There's also a new item named Phoenix Blood, which revives and grants Haste.
- In Final Fantasy X, you can use items to customize your armor. 99 Echo Screens, for example, will let you customize one piece of armor to protect against Silence or one weapon to inflict silence on enemies. However, rarer items produce better effects; 99 Echo Screens gives you Silence Touch, which silences enemies sometimes, while a sufficient number of Silence Grenades gives you Silence Strike, which almost always causes silence. So they're useful for something besides the single use, which may either be Square admitting to this trope or just weaseling out of it.
- And then there's the CTB system where the next few turns can shift slightly depending on what action you use. Most of the time, items could give your character an extra turn after using the said item, making item use somewhat useful.
- An interesting variant occurs in Final Fantasy X where items that are already very useful can be made even better. Mega-Potions and Megalixirs restore all three of your onscreen party members when they're used in battle...but when they're used in the menu screen, they heal all seven of your characters.
- Potions, scrolls and otherwise useless weapons with a certain ability (like shock damage) that could come in later against an otherwise invulnerable boss in the Neverwinter Nights franchise, especially if your character is a non-magic build.
- The Baldur's Gate series of games made antidotes useful, especially in the first game. Even in the later games, the Vancian Magic and (in Throne of Bhaal) the existence of potion bags meant that every spell slot counted, so being able to carry around twenty or so antidotes in a single inventory slot was not something to sneeze at.
- Baten Kaitos Origins, an RPG with a card-based battle system, contains literally hundreds of cards with various esoteric effects, from completely restoring one character's HP (but at the cost of putting that character to sleep) to reducing the frequency with which the enemy party's turn comes up to restoring a character's HP equal to the amount of overkill damage they do. However, the normal, no-frills healing items are perfectly effective, and including a lot of extraneous situational cards is a good way to get your hand bogged down with useless junk in a critical situation. The most efficient deck setup for nearly the entire game is twenty to twenty-five basic attack cards, ten to twelve super moves, three to four healing items, and one revival item.
- Averted (mostly) in the Shin Megami Tensei series, in particular Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne. Very few demons tend to learn even one status-healing spell and sometimes a limit on the number of skills a demon/persona can have, eating slots that could be saved for more important things, so such items can be quite valuable. Especially since having even a generally mild status effect like poison can mean death if caught without a status healing item.
- Final Fantasy Tactics Advance not only has several spells or skills available to easily get rid of most effects (especially the Paladin skill Nurse, which affects the user and nearby targets, has no cost and heals some hitpoints), it also makes you choose between being able to use items at all or using the skills from another job instead. And many status effects fade after a few turns anyway. The sequel makes item a bit more useful with Rangers being able to reverse the effect and use them to harm enemies. Unfortunately, the status effect items aren't any more reliable than job alternatives which are often either free or can hit several targets, and may have a wider range and/or deal damage, too. However, there is one job (Alchemist) which gives you Item as a third slot, leaving you able to use that, your primary class abilities, and a secondary class.
- Avoided somewhat, and unintentionally, in Infinite Undiscovery, where having a steady supply of minor Antidote-type items stops the dumb AI allies from using the far more valuable Cure-All items on trivial statuses. They seem to do this even if they have a spell to fix the statuses in question.
- In Final Fantasy VIII it is possible to use GF abilities to refine various antidotes into either magic of a similar effect, or of the affliction they would normally cure. It is also possible for the GF Siren to learn an in-combat Action Ability called "Treatment," which completely cures all status effects on a party member.
- Although the "Treatment" Ability falls even more neatly into this trope than regular antidotes. You can only equip three Action Abilities (not counting "Fight" which is permanent) and equipping "Treatment" means you've spent a slot that could be used for something else.
- Averted with Wild ARMs: Alter Code F. You can't use spells outside of battle, so if combat ends before you heal people, you're stuck using healing items.
- Culdcept is a cross between Magic: The Gathering and Monopoly. Drawing from it's MTG roots, there are quite a number of very useful if situational spells/creatures/items to draw from or creatures that have useful powers (or combos) given time to develop. However, due to the way the game works (money is mana, functionally, and only earned by rent or passing go), the strict deck building rules, and the random nature of moving around the board (you roll dice), it's usually a better idea to stick with more simple and straightforward combos.
- Kingdom of Loathing's soft green echo eyedrop antidote is a cure-all for any status effect. It's possible to perm all skills to heal status ailments, these are easy to farm and preferable to whore. There are many other items with the Antidote Effect that may be hoarded and be left unused at the end of ascension ("Why do I still have a dozen gobs of wet hair, two 8-balls, fourteen chaos butterflies, and a depantsing bomb?")
- Averted with the anti-anti-antidote, though, since there aren't any spells to remove poison that can be used during combat, and in many cases you'll want to remove the poison before the combat ends.
- Averted in the Tales (series). Since combat in the Tales games takes place in real time, magic takes several seconds to use, while items take effect instantly. Generally speaking, when you want your party members cured, you want them cured now. The best strategy is therefore to use items in battle, and spells outside it when casting time doesn't matter, so that you can keep those items for when you really need them.
- Grade complicates this, though. Using items to heal yourself in battle can reduce the amount of grade you get, but letting the battle finish while someone is poisoned is bad for your grade too.
- Similarly averted in Seiken Densetsu 3. Not only are items used instantly, they can also compensate if your party is missing an important spell.
- Played straight in the first Kingdom Hearts. The Cure spell can be cast literally dozens of times without having to refuel your magic points, so all your health-healing Potions are pretty much worthless.
- Averted in Kingdom Hearts II, however. Now, a single cast of the Cure spell takes every magic point you have, making Potions much more valuable.
- Also averted in the side-story 358/2 Days. All magic, Cure included, basically function exactly like items, so neither reigns supreme. The game does introduce status effects, though, which can only be healed by items.It should be noted that the uses of magic can be multiplied, whereas the uses of items cannot, so magic is still more plentiful than items.
- When a character gets knocked out in Dragon Age: Origins, he or she wakes up with an injury that penalizes a random stat until cured with a rare Injury Kit, if you've found or made one recently...or for free with Cleansing Aura at will. The Aura user can't heal her own injuries, however.
- In Dokapon Kingdom Trap Dodgers are this. The purpose of a Trap Dodger is to automatically negate a trap when one lands on one. Traps can only placed by players and their effects are random, ranging from a small amount of damage to a easily cured random status effect. Players can only carry 6-10 items at a time depending on class, a Trap Dodger would take up a slot and can only be used once. Thus Trap Dodgers are almost never used because they take up valuable inventory space, trap effects are easily dealt with, and traps are rarely used.
- In Exit Fate, you don't have a Bag of Sharing for items in combat, so you can only equip each party member with two items they can use - there are several status effects, many of which are rather devastating, so you probably won't cover everything. On the other hand, your supply if available magics is shared, so as long as you've purchased a few and you have the MP, you can save yourself fairly easily.
- Avoided in Resonance of Fate, where the ONLY way to cure poison is to use an item or wait it out, and poison in this game is incredibly dangerous. In fact, most of the time the antidote is useless because by the time you're able to cure yourself with it, it's already done a tremendous amount of non-regenerating health. The best option is really to never let yourself get hit by poison attacks.