Last Level, New Rules
The final level of a video game discards or alters some of the core gameplay mechanics.
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(permanent link) added: 2013-08-11 15:18:41 sponsor: SaniOKh edited by: Arivne (last reply: 2014-04-30 22:20:42)

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Formerly "Final Level Simplication".

A game has a set of rules. These rules define the player's progression through the game, the way the main character fights, regains health, upgrades his or her gear, accesses bonus levels, wins or loses, and are constant throughout the game.

But sometimes, to drive home the point that the hero just reached The Very Definitely Final Dungeon, passed the last Point of No Return, raise the stakes or help the player, or simply to make the final level more memorable, some games alter some of the key game mechanics or remove them altogether. These alterations can be justified by an ongoing threat being at least partially thwarted, or the hero getting an Eleventh Hour Superpower or a gameplay-altering item... or just come out of nowhere, as it is often the case in old-school games.

All of the sudden, the hero can't get any more money (which at this point would be useless anyways) , his loyal sidekick is no longer there, the items he would normally have to collect to advance are completely out of the picture, a handicap imposed on the hero throughout the entire adventure can suddenly be gone as well, or a new one can appear. Usual distractions, such as bonus stages, become off-limits, and new Anti-Frustration Features can suddenly come up to let the player focus on ending the game. Sometimes, even the HUD is altered to reflect the changes.

To reflect the variety of possible changes to the rules of the game, precise types of rule change had to be identified. It is entirely possible for the same stage to exhibit rule changes of two of more types at once.

Contrast Final Exam Boss, where every gameplay element introduced throughout the game is used in order to complete the level and fight the boss, although it is possible for the two to overlap. If done poorly, can contribute to the final stage becoming a Disappointing Last Level.

Examples

  • A lot of MMORP Gs in general do this. Most of them offer plenty of ways to enjoy the game: questing, dungeons, PvP, crafting, exploration. But to experience the end of the story and get the best equipment, you will almost always have to raid. Raiding appears similar to doing normal dungeons, except with stricter gameplay (often offering no room for mistakes), an increase of the number of players that more or less requires the use of a big guild over friends (and coupled with the former point makes a significantly more 'serious' and potentially toxic atmosphere), and oftentimes a new group UI to make up for the increased group size. According to even famous companies like Blizzard, these differences are enough to make sure that raiding is only ever done by single-digit percentages of the playerbase.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog
    • Some 2D games disable access to Special Stages past a certain point:
      • The 16-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog disables them during the last full Zone, Scrap Brain Zone. In the first act, it's done mostly for technical reasons. Act 2 actually uses this limitation to make the act completion segue into a cutscene.
      • Its 8-bit counterpart does this as well, even though Scrap Brain isn't its last Zone.
      • Sonic 3 And Knuckles stops placing Giant Rings (that lead to Special Stages) in levels from Hidden Palace Zone onwards.
    • After Sky Base act 1 in the 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic becomes an One-Hit-Point Wonder for the remainder of the game: not only are the rings nowhere in sight in act 2 and 3, the ring counter is gone from the HUD as well.
    • The 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog 2 features an example if one plays as Sonic & Tails. For the majority of the game, a second player can pick up the controller and easily kill bosses, since Tails is invincible in this mode. At the beginning of Wing Fortress Zone, their plane gets shot down, with Tails still inside, leaving the more vulnerable Sonic tackle the remainder of the game alone.
    • The 8-bit Sonic the Hedgehog 2 removes the search for Chaos Emeralds in the last two zones, Scrambled Egg Zone (where it's the boss who gives out the Chaos Emeald upon defeat) and Crystal Egg Zone (which doesn't have a Chaos Emeald at all) .
    • The last zone, Panic Puppet Zone, in Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island. For the majority of the game, Sonic had to break open enemy robots to free the Flickies contained inside, and lead them to the Goal Ring in order to advance to the next stage. In Panic Puppet Act 1, Flickies are contained in immobile capsules; in Panic Puppet Act 2 they are completely absent.
    • Sonic Unleashed the final level contains no Sun or Moon medals Sonic normally has to collect in other stages.
  • Kirby games love an Unexpected Shmup Level for the final level and/or the final boss, after an all-platformer/beat-em-up game. Also, the only Copy Ability you usually have access to is the Eleventh Hour Superpower.
  • Wonder Boy
  • The Legend of Zelda
    • The final levels in the first and second installments can exhibit this trope if Link collects the Magical Key, which completely removes the need to explore the final dungeon for keys, allowing the player to concentrate on finding the final boss.
    • In Zelda II The Adventure Of Link, after losing all lives, Link respawns at the temple with the sleeping princess Zelda. But if he does so inside the final dungeon, he will respawn at the dungeon's entrance.
    • Once Link travels to the final level of the game (inside the Moon) in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, time stops being important to the game and the clock disappears from the HUD.
  • The final level of Half-Life 2 takes away all your weapons, leaving you with just the overcharged Gravity Gun to fend for yourself.
  • When fighting Bowser in Super Mario World, the time limit is disabled and no more points can be earned. This is removed in the Updated Re Release for the Game Boy Advance, in favor of an extended time limit.
  • The final chapter of Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus is the only one without the optional hint bottles and vaults.
  • Throughout Tower Of Heaven, new complications to the gameplay were added as you progress (you are not allowed to walk left, you must avoid touching the sides of the walls, etc.). In the final level, these complications are removed.
  • Alan Wake's final chapter takes place in a created fantasy where there are no enemies (and so no weapons) and they only thing the player can do is shine their light on hovering written words to make them appear.
  • In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, the last area gives you infinite Hyper Mode, which normally requires you to burn one energy tank to use.
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