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Elaborate Equals Effective
"It's a nice gun, I'll give you that. But the engraving gives you no tactical advantage whatsoever. —Unless you were planning to auction it off as a collector's item."
Naked Snake to Revolver Ocelot, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Many games rely on the concept of Evolving Weapon, alias weapons that can be upgraded and get stronger. Sometimes, they not only get more powerful, but they also becomes fancier and more elaborate, usually to show better how they improved. Alternatively, the weapons you pick up becomes more and more elaborate as you proceed in your quest/in the game, again in order to underline their greater power. It probably makes sense, as a beautifully decorated katana with a runic blade is far more appealing than a simple iron shortsword.

Note, however, that usually the "elaborate" part boils down to the appearence of the weapon. While the weapon itself does grow stronger, the use/attack animation/whatever is still the same.

Goes well with Bling of War which may follow the same concept of looking nicer as it gets better. May also be stretched to various Mooks who get better-looking equipment as they get stronger and stronger.

Don't confuse with Evolving Weapon. See also Ace Custom. Also, before writing remember that this is mostly about the concept of the weapon looking more elaborate as they grow stronger. Speculations and discussions about how the decorations should influence the effectiveness of the weapon are pointless.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Action 
  • Dynasty Warriors has this, with the various weapons becoming bigger and more decorated as they're acquired. Good luck finding all of them!
  • Samurai Warriors follows a similar concept: the stronger the weapon, the more elaborate it will be.
  • And again with Sengoku Basara, which however subverts this in some cases with Yoshihiro (his giant sword becomes an equally big spiked club then an axe), Musashi (his Oar&Bokuto combo becomes a pair of plain katana) and Sasuke (from three-bladed Fuuma Shuriken to circular chainsaw-like blades.) Dulcis in Fundo, some weapons (expecially in the first game) turns out to fit the Joke Item category.
    • Furthermore, the manga of the first game has this: Yukimura, Shingen, Mitsuhide and Nouhime are seen using more and more elaborate weapons token from the actual game.
  • In God of War this happens with the Blade of Chaos, the Blades of Athena and the Artemis Sword. Is otherwise averted with the other weapons.
  • Used in the first three Onimusha games with the Oni weapons, bequeathed by benevolent demons. Your default blade is a plain katana.
    • The fourth game avert this, as the weapon design is unchanged.
  • In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time the main swords used by the prince gets more and more elaborate, starting from a boring palace sword and ending up with the royal Infinity+1 Sword that annihilates all mooks in one blow.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask your sword starts out pretty plain looking. When you upgrade it once, it now has two blades and a more decorative hilt. Upgrading it a second time, the sword now has a gold-colored diamond pattern along the blade and a fancier handle still. There's also an unlockable fourth sword that's technicolored and has black roses etched onto the blade, and also a sword Link uses in one of his transformations has two blades that are shaped as a double-helix.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is about the creation of the Master Sword. You start with the basic Goddess Sword, and throughout the game it gets refined by three sacred flames, evolving each time, until it eventually ends with the Master Sword.
      • The shields also become more elaborate as they get upgraded. Each gets a new, more detailed design on the front, and in the case of wooden and iron shields, extra metal bands.
  • In Prototype2 Heller's Shapeshifter Weapons become larger, fancier and more menacing when upgraded to second and fourth (final) levels.
  • In Genji, Yoshitsune's standard swords (those found in normal gameplay without item forging or unlocking secrets) will slowly look better and better, with the tip broadening a little, culminating in the Douji Killer sword, which is so elaborate and evolved that it doesn't look like a katana anymore. The same goes for most of Benkei's clubs or spears.

    First Person Shooter 
  • From Team Fortress 2 the Engineer's Sentry Gun and Dispenser are the most obvious, and all of the pickup or craftable weapons are more decorative than usual. Downplayed in that most pickup or craftable weapons are side-grades rather than straight upgrades.
  • BioShock is a perfect example. As you upgrade your weapons at "Power to the People" stations, the look of your gun gets more and more elaborate. The Tommygun getting a drum-barrel magazine when you upgrade its clip size is just one example.

    MMORPG 
  • In World of Warcraft more powerful weapons tend to be more exotic-looking and elaborate. The same goes for armors and shoulderpads, often to a ridicolous extent.
  • Level 50 weapons in ''Final Fantasy XIV suddenly become elaborately designed works of art compared to the simple weapons you were using up to level 49.

    Platform 
  • Shown above in Alice: Madness Returns, where unlike the previous game her weapons can now evolve and get a better design. There's also a secret downloadable weapon with a different design for each one of them.
  • All your arsenal in Ratchet: Deadlocked will improve in both strength and design, but only up to level 10.
  • In Jazz Jackrabbit 2 all your ammo (except for the electrical gun) can be upgraded if you break the right crate. The new ammo is more powerful and looks a little better in design.

    RPG 
  • Several weapons from The Elder Scrolls series. A standard iron or steel weapon will invariably be less powerful than the iridescent green glass weapons, the gold-inlaid ebony weapons, or the spiky, dark-grey-and-red Daedric weapons. Daedric artifacts are often, though not always, even more impressive.
  • Drakengard has the weapons become more elaborate as they level up.
  • Subverted in Dragon Quest VIII and IX: some weapons can be upgraded in their "super" form (for example the Zombie Killer becomes the Zombie Buster and so on). However, the upgraded weapon looks just like the original, or it gets a different color pattern.
  • In Fable III your starting weapons gain certain decorations as you level them up, befriend villagers, amass wealth, kill zombies, etc.
  • In Titan Quest this is applied mainly with the armor, shields and helmets of various kinds. For example the stronger version of the Corinthian Helmet (a typical greek helm) is the same helmet but now bigger and with a different color and crest. A number of monster-specific and rare pieces subvert this trope by being either rough and jury-rigged (the former) or elegant and stylized (the latter) compared to top tier normal items.
  • Diablo II too has this with armor: the more powerful the armor, the more parts of your body will cover. A slight exception is the strongest one, the Ancient Armor, which leaves the character with a "top level" armor type all over his body except for the left shoulder, which looks like as if armorless.
    • Diablo and its emulators (Torchlight, Hellgate: London'', etc) have weapon types and models that repeat over several series. Later weapons are more elaborate than the first ones, but after that it blurs into subjectivity whether they're more elaborate or effective. However Legendaries have unique and more elaborate models that tell you at a glance they're more powerful. Then there's an inversion with some idiosyncratic uniques; they might do something cool, but aren't more effective for regular use than something of equal or even lesser tier.
  • The higher the enhancement bonus of a weapon in Neverwinter Nights, the more impressive it will look.
  • While the fact that the weapons are displayed only in sprites, Secret of Mana displays this trope through its upgradable weapon system. In some cases this involves changing one weapon into a completely new one (as an example, the standard Boomerang can be forged into a Shuriken after progressing through a certain number of tiers).
  • Golden Sun plays this straight by making the weapons' unleash abilities (critical hits) become fancier and more flashy as you find better weapons while the weapons themselves look very plain. This is due to sprite limitations. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn plays the trope straight.
  • The Kingdom Hearts games feature this trope, though due to the nature of the designs of the various upgraded Keyblades, rather than the designs getting more elaborate as time goes on, you generally take a sudden leap from a simple default weapon that looks like a stylized skeleton key to whimsically designed "keys" based of a Disney movie or Square Enix character.
  • In Persona 3: FES, fused weapons and special weapons are much more fancy than regular ones. They're also much more effective due to bonus status effects, which you get to choose on the fused weapons (including lessening or negating your party's weaknesses). Each Infinity+1 Sword is the greatest, most elaborate fused weapon of its class.
  • Most Final Fantasy games from the Play Station 1 era on would feature this in some form.

    Strategy 
  • Not exactly a weapon example, but many military units from Battle for Wesnoth becomes more and more detailed and well-armed as they gain levels.
  • Not exactly ingame, but those ads for Urban Rivals that show the character going from vaguely Harry Potter-esque mage to firebird-with-a-sword might count, there's also a thin redhead soldier gaining muscles and facial hair until he has a giant beard and flamethrower bagpipes.
  • Seen in Age of Empires, especially with the swordsmen in the first game and the infantry in the second game (starting from a club wielding militian to a chainmail-wearing warrior with shield and longsword to a full-plated guy with a giant sword).
  • Mortal soldiers from Age of Mythology. For example, an early Greek Hoplite will be a random guy with a big spear. As you buy and research more technology, he'll start gaining more armor, helmet and a shield. Also the colors indicated the general quality, with golden weapons and armors at the top.
  • An old 4X space game, Spaceward Ho! includes designing your own ships. The various aspects of the ship (speed, gunpower, etc) are scalable and the higher the number, the more awesome the ship ends up looking.
  • In Clash Of Clans, buildings and troops get fancier looking as they are upgraded. A good example is the walls going from wooden stakes on their first level, to dark crystals at their highest level.

    Third Person Shooter 
  • In Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, when you buy a upgrade for one of your guns, the upgrade is reflected by the gun's appearance changing. For example, when you buy the upgrade to increase the clip size, the gun will have a larger magazine.
  • In Kid Icarus: Uprising, the basic-looking weapons of each class are generally more balanced as far as that class of weapons goesnote , while more stylistic weapons are more specialized. The Three Sacred Treasures are absolutely beautiful and all around lethal note , and the Great Sacred Treasure is a whole 'nother kettle of Feyesh note .

    Wide Open Sandbox 

    Other Media 
  • The Zorg ZF-1 in The Fifth Element.
  • Played straight in Zoids most of the time. Earlier Zoids tended to be little more than cockpits and guns attached to wheels or sticks vaguely resembling legs. Naturally early Zoids tend to pale in comparison to more modern Zoids which in addition to more elaborate, organic-looking designs, also have more guns, better guns, better armor, and better technology in general. As an example, compare the Garius to the more modern Gojulas. For extra fun, compare both to the even more advanced Gojulas Giga.
  • Parodied in the Web Comic Rusty and Co.: The +1 Trident is actually a rake.

    Real Life 
  • In Real Life this is partially played straight: Just compare a stone age spear to a medieval ranseur, or a bronze age sword with a Sengoku-period Katana, or a blunderbuss to a modern rifle. Of course, this can also lead to cases of Awesome but Impractical weapons if they get too much elaborate, and in cases of prolonged conflict and dwindling funds, such as for many coutries involved in World War II, military weapons will usually sacrifice as much unnecessary form as possible without affecting function.
    • Before the industrial era form and function tended to go hand in hand with form often leading as development was funded by noblemen without scientific backgrounds, who needed new weapons to look dangerous before agreeing to an investment. Once mass production and optimization became important the decorations disappeared very quickly.
    • Also, if you're going to go to all the effort make something high quality, you might as well pay a little extra to make it look nice. Conversely, if you can't afford to make it high quality, how could you afford to make it look good?


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