Created By: FastEddie on August 18, 2011 Last Edited By: Insignificant on October 17, 2011
Troped

Check Point Starvation

Having to play through a long level or mission, or the entire game, without Check Points.

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"You go back... to the beginning? No... continues? No... extra lives? What is this? You die one time, you go back to the beginning of the game? That is the greatest offense to the world of gaming!"

When a game has a singificant lack of Check Points.

In the most extreme cases, the trope can apply to the game itself. If you die, you don't have to replay the level, you have to replay the whole game. However, going that far with this trope is mostly unheard of in recent games, it usually only applies to the 8-bit era, and even then it's still uncommon.

Note: This is not a trope for Complaining About Games That Don't Have Enough Check Points. This trope only applies when the game requires you to go through a long segment of the game (or the entire game) without Check Points.

A subtrope of Fake Difficulty. Not to be confused with Save Game Limits, when the game imposes limits on when and where you can save the game, though these two sometimes overlap.

Examples:

Action Adventure
  • Cave Story's Sacred Grounds. Not only is the level Nintendo Hard, but the player is required to do it all in one go, including its two bosses, one of which has three forms.
  • Metroid Prime subjects players to this upon first entering the Phazon Mines. There's a save station, near the entrance. Better use it, 'cuz it's the last one you'll see for a long time. Getting to the next one requires you to run a gauntlet of shadow troops, mega turrets, wave and ice troopers, and two mini boss battles against an elite pirate and a cloaked drone.
    • The drone battle is especially cruel, as it takes place right when the player is likely to be low on health and, to add insult to injury, it ambushes you right outside the next save station, which is blocked by debris. The only way to clear away the rubble, is with a power bomb: earned by beating the drone then navigating an electric mini maze.
    • In all, it'll take you about half an hour or more of nonstop fighting and puzzle solving to get from that first save station to the next one. And if you die, at any point along the way, you get to do it all over again.
  • The page quote refers to Milon's Secret Castle, which is actually a subversion of this. It appears, at first, that dying once sends you back to the beginning of the game. However, you actually can continue: with a code. As The Angry Video Game Nerd pointed out, if you don't know the code, you're screwed.

Action Game
  • Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 has a few passages where you have to go through several long and tough fights without the possibility to save in-between. Most notably the last parts of chapter 13 (including the very grueling stairway fight), 14 (the graveyard fights), and the first half of chapter 16 (this straight corridor just never ends...). The latter two get Bonus Points for having an appearance of Recurring Bosses out of nowhere without the usual auto-save. These passages are stressing in Normal but get really sadistic in Master Ninja.
  • A lot of games based off of Terminator 2 require the player to beat the whole game with one life.

First-Person Shooter
  • This was one of the criticisms leveled at Monolith when they whipped up Tron 2.0. The game only autosaved at the start of a level, no matter how large said level was. Worse, you could not save during the lightcycle matches at all.

Platform Game
  • Adventure Island II and III have no checkpoints within stages, in contrast to four for each level in Adventure Island I. At least the stages are shorter.
  • Captain Comic had no checkpoints or save points.
  • Donkey Kong Country 3 has a cheat to remove all the Check Points in the levels.
  • I Wanna Be The Guy's "Impossible" mode is based around this. It requires you to beat the entire game without save points.
  • In the HD versions of Sonic Unleashed, one mission in the game involves getting to the end of Eggmanland, a Nintendo Hard stage that indeed is comparable to those of the old 8-bit games--without any usable checkpoints and with a time limit. It is also by far the longest stage in the game, considering the time limit is 45 minutes.
  • Super Mario Bros. 3 is unique from the rest of the 2D Mario platformers in that it's the only one to not have any Check Points in the levels. This isn't normally a problem since most of the levels are short anyway, but this can cause frustration in the game's harder, longer levels.
  • Some missions in Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2 are rather long with no checkpoints in them at all, most notably the Daredevil missions, whose primary objective is to finish the stage as a One-Hit-Point Wonder. The two most infamous ones are for "The Sinking Lava Spire" in the first game, which requires the player to traverse the longest mission in That One Level; and "The Perfect Run" in the second, taking place in by far the hardest stage in a game with a massive Sequel Difficulty Spike.
  • A lot of Super Mario World ROM hacks suffer from this due to having Marathon Levels, since by default, Mario World levels can only have one Check Point.

Puzzle Game
  • The Impossible Quiz is the king of this trope. There are over 100 questions, and if you run out of lives, you have to go all the way back to question 1. The game contains a lot of Trial-and-Error Gameplay, so you are certain to run out of lives several times before you reach the end, provided your patience even lasts long enough to get that far. On top of that, some of the questions have timer bombs, which instantly give you a Game Over regardless of your amount of lives, plus the infamous last question where you have to use all of your skips. Put all of that together and you have one truly sadistic game.
    • The sequel goes out of its way to mock the player for even wanting Check Points.

Role-Playing Game
  • The final tower in Final Fantasy III does this to you. After the last time you can save, you have to go up 8 or 9 floors of the Crystal tower, gaining experience all the way, and then you defeat a boss, get warped to the World of Darkness where you have to beat 4 more tough minibosses, get items, gain experience, defeat the final boss, and then watch the whole ending scene before you can finally save again.
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and Super Paper Mario have the Pit Of 100 Trials, a 100-room dungeon that you cannot save your progress in.
  • Part of the difficulty of the Cave of Trials in Star Ocean 2 and Star Ocean 3 is the complete lack of save points throughout. Especially egregious in the second game, whose variant is far longer and filled with random encounters throughout.

Third-Person Shooter
  • This trope is deliberately invoked in the "Hardcore Mode" of Dead Space 2. Specifically, it only allows you to save 'three times in the whole game, and there are no checkpoints.

Community Feedback Replies: 40
  • August 18, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    This trope is still used today, despite the availability of autosave, to intentionally employ Fake Difficulty. Marathon Boss-fights, (The final boss of Kingdom Hearts for example), may feature a small variety of challenges spaced out; generally with no hard-save locations, and a set amount of autosave checkpoints (between challenges). These boss fights are probably formatted this way to provide challenging, rewarding boss fights, while avoiding That One Boss situations.
  • August 18, 2011
    jaytee
    This trope is probably YMMV, since I've never heard of anyone else having this problem with the example I'm about to give...

    • Legend Of Zelda: Majoras Mask. Not quite as annoying, given the game's focus on repetition anyway, but every once in awhile you'll need to leave the game with no owl statue (save point) for miles. You pretty much have to leave your console on pause.
  • August 18, 2011
    Insignificant
    The "unheard of in recent games" part refers to the "no check points through the whole game" extreme, not the trope in general. Maybe I should've been clearer with the wording (I actually proposed this, but couldn't get it to appear, so Eddie did it for me).
  • August 18, 2011
    Insignificant
    It's not YMMV. It's a self-made decision by developers to hold back on the Check Points. Exactly how much frustration this causes depends upon the player, sure, but that doesn't change the fact that Check Points are scarce (or entirely absent).
  • August 18, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    ^ This still happens. It's often called Hardcore mode. It's not that common (games should be fun, after all), but I still see it from time to time. One example is Diablo 2.

    Related, I would throw in a paragraph on how autosave and this trope interact.

  • August 18, 2011
    Insignificant
    @Commander Panda: Really? I honestly thought having to beat a whole game in one go was dead. Oh well, if you think it's common enough, feel free to remove or change that paragraph. As for how this relates to autosave, I'm not sure.

    @jaytee: yes, if save points are scarce enough to make you do that, it's an example. I've never played Majora's Mask, though, so you be the judge.
  • August 18, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    ^ Hardcore mode is more or less dead. But during its time, it happened often enough to earn a name among the community. The mode itself is an attempt to avert players/characters casually shrugging off death, but hasn't seen much use as a result of not being very fun. I don't think it will ever die (unlike hardcore characters), because isolated developers will either attempt to avert a trope or fall victim to designer boredom and try to implement it into a project.

    As far as auto save goes, the feature may have originated as an attempt to subvert this very trope.
  • August 18, 2011
    jaytee
    ^^^^Well, unless you want to limit this to games where Word Of God has confirmed that Save Point Starvation was a deliberate design choice, it's going to be a YMMV trope. One troper may feel that there were plenty of save spots, while the next may feel that Save Point Starvation was invoked.
  • August 18, 2011
    Insignificant
    First of all, it's CHECK Point Starvation, not SAVE point starvation. Secondly, other difficulty related tropes, such as Brutal Bonus Level, Nintendo Hard, and Fake Difficulty are all non-YMM Vs. Third, this trope is (or at least is intended to be) about a lack of check points, either level-wise, or game-wise, not Complaining About Games That Don't Have Enough Check Points. Maybe it Needs A Better Description?
  • August 18, 2011
    Allronix
    This was one of the criticisms leveled at Monolith when they whipped up Tron 2.0. The game only autosaved at the start of a level, no matter how large said level was. Worse, you could not save during the lightcycle matches at all.
  • August 18, 2011
    Insignificant
    Added a note saying that this isn't a trope for complaining. Trying to keep this out of YMMV territory.
  • August 18, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    I agree that YMMV doesn't factor significantly. The location of Save/Check points is often deliberate to a fault, and used like a tool to ensure greater developer control over the players' experience.

    Rest assured, there is a trope here. There's a cause and an effect, and a how and a why.
  • August 18, 2011
    peccantis
    ^^^^ sooo what's the difference between a Save point and a Check point then? Because I thought they're synonyms.
  • August 18, 2011
    Insignificant
    A Check Point is any point that acts as a progress marker. For example, Super Mario World has Check Points within each level. If you activate it, and then die in the same level, you restart there instead at the beginning of the level.

    A Save Point is a point in which you can save your progress, so you can start there if you want to turn the game off and come back later, or if you get a game over. For example, when you beat a castle, fortress, or ghost house in Super Mario World, a menu appears so that you can save your game, so if you get a game over or want to stop, you can restart at that Save Point.

    They can overlap. For example, the Save Points in I Wanna Be The Guy act as both Check Points and Save Points. They're similar, but not the same thing.
  • August 18, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Captain Comic had no checkpoints or save points, IIRC.
  • August 18, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    ^ True. But there's another way to think about them,

    From the player's point of view, unless he or she wants to turn the game off and quit, there isn't as much difference. Especially if the player is seeking a save/check point at the end of a difficult challenge.

    Although, how different save points are from check points depends entirely on the game. RP Gs may exclusively use save points, or arcade games may exclusively use check points. (Om nom nom quarters)
  • August 18, 2011
    Insignificant
    Technically, Save Points are a subclass of Check Points, but yeah, the similarity depends on the game. My main point was that they are not the same thing, and that to call it "Save Point Starvation" as opposed to "Check Point Starvation" would be inaccurate.
  • August 18, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    Fair enough. Personally, I preferred the ring of Save Point Starvation; but that's subjective anyway. Check Point Starvation is more accurate.

    A little YMMV, but I think the Fake Difficulty paragraph could add a sentence about That One Level.
  • August 19, 2011
    Speedball
    This trope is deliberately invoked in the "Hardcore Mode" of Dead Space 2. Specifically, it only allows you to save 'three times in the whole game, and there are no checkpoints. Oh yeah. It's tough.
  • August 19, 2011
    Koveras
    The Harder Than Hard mode of the original Max Payne limits you to five, six, and seven saves per level in acts I, II, and III, respectively. Does this count?
  • August 19, 2011
    Insignificant
    I can't be certain what you mean since I've never played Max Payne or even seen a playthrough of it, but I'm gonna say it doesn't. It really depends on on long said levels are, and just how much space there is between said saves. When you say "saves" do you mean save POINTS, or do you mean you can save anywhere, but you're only allowed to do it 5/6/7/whatever times?
  • August 19, 2011
    MiinU

    Video games

    • Metroid Prime subjects players to this upon first entering the Phazon Mines. There's a save station, near the entrance. Better use it, 'cuz it's the last one you'll see for a long time. Getting to the next one requires you to run a gauntlet of shadow troops, mega turrets, wave and ice troopers, and two mini boss battles against an elite pirate and a cloaked drone.
      • The drone battle is especially cruel, as it takes place right when the player is likely to be low on health and, to add insult to injury, it ambushes you right outside the next save station, which is blocked by debris. The only way to clear away the rubble, is with a power bomb: earned by beating the drone then navigating an electric mini maze.
      • In all, it'll take you about half an hour or more of nonstop fighting and puzzle solving to get from that first save station to the next one. And if you die, at any point along the way, you get to do it all over again.
  • August 19, 2011
    Stratadrake
    The cheat code in Donkey Kong Country 3 is actually part of the original SNES game, not just the GBA port. Previous DKC games had hidden cheat codes as well.
  • August 19, 2011
    Insignificant
    I have the GBA port of DKC3 and I know that the Check Point removing cheat code is there.

    EDIT: I checked and the original DKC3 did indeed have the code.
  • August 19, 2011
    Koveras
    @Insignificant: You can save anywhere, but only a limited number of times per level. And I guess it doesn't really count, since the game's levels are generally quite short, so unless you are used to Save Scumming, it doesn't really become a problem.
  • August 19, 2011
    ZombieAladdin
    Some missions in Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2 are rather long with no checkpoints in them at all, most notably the Daredevil missions, whose primary objective is to finish the stage as a One Hit Point Wonder. The two most infamous ones are for "The Sinking Lava Spire" in the first game, which requires the player to traverse the longest mission in That One Level; and "The Perfect Run" in the second, taking place in by far the hardest stage in a game with a massive Sequel Difficulty Spike.
  • August 20, 2011
    Stratadrake
    @Insignificant: Oops, meant to say "not only the GBA port".
  • August 22, 2011
    nitrokitty
    Oddworld, especially the first game. Dear god, so very much so, up to controller-snapping-frustration levels.
  • August 22, 2011
    Insignificant
    I have an example from Grand Theft Auto IV, but since it is the only one I've played, I would like some feedback as to if this occurs in other games in the series, or other games with similar formats.

    In Grand Theft Auto IV, there are no checkpoints in between missions, regardless of the mission's length. If you fail the mission, you have to start over. This includes driving to the mission's start point.

    Normally, you can use a taxi to spare yourself the drive, but there are some missions where you are required to drive to the mission location. I remember particularly hating the mission "Catch the Wave" because of the EXTREMELY long and boring drive required to actually start the mission, and I kept dying and having to do it over again. Another example is "Three Leaf Clover," whose sheer length contributes to it being one of the hardest missions in the game.
  • August 23, 2011
    Palladion
    Persona 3. Battle against Nyx. Enough said.
  • August 23, 2011
    Stratadrake
  • August 24, 2011
    Insignificant
    rolling some updates.
  • August 24, 2011
    Insignificant
    nitrokitty and Palladion, would you mind elaborating? I've never played those games, so I need information as to how those games Check Point Starve you.
  • August 25, 2011
    rollducrunch
    The final tower in Final Fantasy III is this I think. After the last time you can save, you have to go up 8 or 9 floors of the Crystal tower, gaining experience all the way, and then you defeat a boss, get warped to the World of Darkness where you have to beat 4 more tough minibosses, get items, gain experience, defeat the final boss, and then watch the whole ending scene before you can finally save again.
  • August 25, 2011
    Diask
    • Adventure Island II and III have no checkpoints within stages, in contrast to four for each level in Adventure Island I. At least the stages are shorter.
  • August 26, 2011
    DarkConfidant
    Part of the difficulty of the Cave of Trials in Star Ocean 2 and Star Ocean 3 is the complete lack of save points throughout. Especially egregious in the second game, whose variant is far longer and filled with random encounters throughout.
  • August 27, 2011
    ZombieAladdin
    Ah yes, I remember a pretty infamous one now:

    In the HD versions of Sonic Unleashed, one mission in the game involves getting to the end of Eggmanland, a Nintendo Hard stage that indeed is comparable to those of the old 8-bit games--without any usable checkpoints and with a time limit. It is also by far the longest stage in the game, considering the time limit is 45 minutes.
  • August 29, 2011
    IntentionallyIncohesive
    One thing that might be mentioned is that impossible mode in IWBTG does have one checkpoint. However, it does try to kill you...
  • August 29, 2011
    Insignificant
    The save point on impossible is actually a glitch; after killing the fake save point on impossible, it reverts to a real save point for a splitsecond, then disappears. If a bullet touches the save point during that time, you save the game.
  • August 30, 2011
    Lyendith
    Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 has a few passages like that where you have to go through several long and tough fights without the possibility to save in-between. Most notably the last parts of chapter 13 (including the very grueling stairway fight) and 14 (the graveyard fights) and the first half of chapter 16 (this straight corridor just never ends...) The two latter have a bonus point for having an appearance of Recurring Bosses out of nowhere without the usual auto-save. These passages are stressing in Normal but get really sadistic in Master Ninja.

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