So Near Yet So Far
The final objective is somewhere easily accessible, but can't be done right now.


(permanent link) added: 2013-07-10 16:39:00 sponsor: KingZeal (last reply: 2014-01-20 21:50:00)

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That's right, Link! Your princess IS in this castle! ...For all the good THAT does.

The final goal of the game/plot happens to be Where It All Began, but nothing can be done about it.

Usually, when a Damsel in Distress needs to be rescued, half the adventure is figuring out where she is, and then getting there. But in this case, you already know where she is—in fact, you talked to her five minutes ago. Unfortunately, she's anything but "rescued".

In this trope, the hero needs something or someone else to truly save the day. If their job is to save a person, they're not so much kidnapped as they are bound, bewitched, enchanted, enfeebled, or in other dire straits. If the task is to defeat a person, they can be challenged at any time—at the challenger's own risk. But other than that, same rules apply—The Hero needs to go on an adventure to finish things.

Often, when this occurs, the distressed person may double as Mission Control or otherwise assist the hero that's trying to save them. This has the benefit of giving the protagonist the ability to interact and speak with the distressed person and let the audience grow on them. In games, it sometimes provides a cozy hub to return to while acting as a constant reminder to the player what's at stake.

Contrast Your Princess Is in Another Castle. Sometimes the result of a Broken Bridge.
Film
  • Heavy Metal episode "Den". Den knows where Katherine Wells is - she's sleeping inside a glass case in Ard's palace. Unfortunately, Ard will only allow her to wake after Den has stolen the Loc-Nar from the Queen and returned it to him. Things don't turn out quite as planned.

Literature
  • The Patchwork Girl of Oz. Ojo the Unlucky has several problems. First, his uncle Nunkie and another person have been turned to stone by the Liquid of Petrifaction, so he must quest through the land of Oz to find the ingredients for an antidote. Second, one of the ingredients for the potion is a six-leafed clover, and it's illegal to pick them. Third, it's illegal to practice magic (like using magical antidotes to restore people to life) in the land of Oz.

Videogames
  • Sometimes used in The Legend of Zelda games.
    • In Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, the sleeping Princess Zelda is the first thing you see when you start the game. Every time you run out of lives and continue, you start back at the same palace where she's been sleeping for hundreds of years. This is a stark contrast to the original game, where all of the characters named in the backstory were unseen and mysterious until the very last fight of the game.
    • In Wind Waker, Link's sister is in the first dungeon you visit, which is easy enough to traverse. ...But the Big Bad's drag--er, giant bird, prevents her rescue because Link isn't strong enough. You have to attain the Master Sword before she's finally rescued.
  • In Pandora's Tower, the protagonist's girlfriend, Elena, is turning into a beast from the very beginning, prompting the hero to go on a quest to save her. The game revolves around building an affectionate relationship with Elena as much as it does adventuring.
  • In Shadow of the Colossus, Mono is dead as the game begins, and Wander's deal with the deity Darmin is that it will resurrect her in exchange for Wander destroying each of the Colossi. You return to the central temple where she rests every time you defeat one.
  • Princess Gwaelin of Dragon Quest I is in the Marsh Cave that you enter early on in the game. The reason you can't rescue her the first time you enter is because one, you do not have a key, which is required to open up the door to her cell; and two, there's a dragon guarding said door that you won't be able to beat at your current level and equipment.
  • In Zeliard, Princess Felicia la Felishika is turned to stone by the villain, and she's being kept in a shrine in the first town where you can visit her whenever you like. There's no dialogue and, while you can go back to the first town at any point if you want to, there's no reason to ever go to her. She's saved remotely by defeating the final boss at a town very far away.
  • Scribblenauts Unlimited is all about saving your sister from a curse of petrification. She's at your home the whole time, waiting patiently for you to collect enough Starites to break the spell. (Not that she has much choice.)
  • In Chrono Trigger, you can defeat Lavos at any time after you visit the End of Time (roughly a quarter through the main story). But, until you get through the plot proper, expect to get curbstomped. In a New Game+, this is taken Up to Eleven: you can fight Lavos from the very start, and defeating him at different points in the story gives you the various Multiple Endings.
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