Goku's Kaioken technique is almost never seen used by him after the first season when he first transformed into a Super Saiyan.
Word of God and a filler episode demonstrated that a combination of the two could have deadly consciences for the user.
Weighted clothing. First appears near the end of Dragon Ball as an effective means of showing I Am Not Left-Handed, all but disappears by the Cell Saga. To quote the abridged series...
Piccolo: That concept just sort of lost meaning after a while, didn't it?
Basically the idea of training in weighted clothing was replaced by training in artificial gravity chambers. Vegeta, for example, likes to train in 500 times Earth's gravity, which adds far more weight to him than any amount of clothing could.
One major exception is Tien's Solar Flare. Even the most powerful opponents can't defend themselves from a sudden burst of blinding light.
Bleach featured this frequently. For Ichigo, his bankai alone is practically useless after the arc where he first learns it and his Shikai is useless as soon as he learns Bankai.
However, unlike most protagonists subjected to this trope, Ichigo doesn't learn newer, more powerful moves to replace the Getsuga Tensho, or even (except in one special case) learn improved versions of the Getsuga Tensho. He simply gets stronger and makes it effective again...until the next, even more powerful villain shows up, which results in the cycle repeating. One thing he does (way too infrequently) to improve its effectiveness is, instead of firing the Getsuga right away is leave it surrounding his blade and slice his opponent, then fire off the attack while his sword is already inside their body. This guarantees a hit and bypasses their defenses...but it's still the same attack.
Sailor Moon did this a few times, and spent an episode on each of the girls' power-ups. Generally speaking, you could predict when someone would get an upgrade when they were in an episode of a new season and had to fight alone despite already having their butts kicked in a team effort.
Some of the characters did actually use their new attacks multiple times, later on. This was used to great effect at the end of the season when the two Big Bad characters were able to negate all of the characters' upgraded attacks with virtually no effort during the season finale, even interrupting(!) Sailor Moon when she tries to use her teammates' attempt as cover for charging her attack. It knocks her out of her stock footage, for crying out loud.
The manga did this a few times as well. In particular, the first four chapters of the Dead Moon arc feature each of the four Guardian Senshi being targeted by the Dead Moon Circus and, though their encounter, getting strong enough to break Nehellenia's seal on their powers and upgrading to their Super forms.
The relationship-driven Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's stretches the downtime after the initial defeat to a full two episodes, so that the (quite literal) upgrade only makes its appearance in the third, and isn't seen until even later, but it still follows the pattern: new season, new villain, defeat, upgrade.
This is strangely inverted in regards to unaided flight. In the first two seasons it's a very common ability and every mage is capable of doing it. Then in Strikers it suddenly became a much rarer skill and about half of the cast is ground-bound.
Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch: The Eleventh Hour Super Power song "KODOU" was reduced in the second season to about the power level of "Legend of Mermaid", the first number the girls ever got. And the weaker songs than "KODOU"? They were removed from the battle roster (practically) and stored for emotional moments only; it is a musical, after all.
Rarely will the characters on Yu-Gi-Oh! and Yu-Gi-Oh! GX use their old cards once they get a new/"more powerful" deck, one exception being Manjyome, who uses cards from different themed decks every duel.
Futari Wa Pretty Cure Max Heart starts out with the girls receiving their upgrades even before the "initial defeat" scenario could take place. Black, White and Luminous also got another upgrade in each of the movies.
This was repeated in Yes! Precure 5 Go Go! and in the attached movies as well.
Characters in the Pretty Cure franchise reliably get a similar powerup at the halfway point of the season. This is always associated with some new piece of equipment which is summoned into existence when the better attack is needed, and which incidentally is available in toy form.
In the early parts of Hunter × Hunter, Gon used a fishing pole as a signature weapon, Killua used special assassin skills such as a slow-paced Doppelgänger Spin, and Kurapica wielded sword-chucks. Once they learned to use nen, their old gimmicks were quickly phased out.
InuYasha began the series fighting only with his claws. Then he gets his sword, Tetsusaiga, and starts fighting primarily with that. Next he learns to use the Wind Scar, a powerful destructive wave attack, under certain circumstances. Then he simultaneously learns to use the Wind Scar completely at will (after which it's use becomes at the same time much more common and much less effective) and learns the Backlash Wave. Eventually, his sword is upgraded to gain forms that can cut through any barriers (except those that the plot demands be impenetrable), launch a barrage of diamond shards, destroy/absorb an opponent's demonic energy, and open a portal to the underworld to send enemies directly to hell. Although none of Tetsusaiga's attacks ever become completely obsolete, this trope is still in effect, with each new upgrade or technique decreasing in actual combat effectiveness shortly after it is obtained (except the underworld portal, obtained near the end). This is most evident for the Wind Scar, which, when it is first learned, is talked about as Tetsusaiga's true potential to slay 100 demons in a single swing; but which, by the end of the series, is essentially Inuyasha's most basic attack. It's so bad that it's even lampshaded at one point by Byakuya and Sesshoumaruwho are discussing Inuyasha as he fights.
Sesshoumaru: "Huh. Seems like he put another peculiar power in Tetsusaiga."
Byakuya: "But it's as if he won't use it. Meaning for now, his best weapon is Kongousouha."
Also somewhat present with upgrades Kagome, Sango, and Miroku get near the end of the series (A new bow, an upgraded boomerang, and poison, respectively... yeah, Miroku kind of got the short end of the stick there); these allow them to be effective in the final portions of the story, when their prior abilities were declining in effectiveness (for Sango in particular).
In the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise, the main character will often get an upgraded Gundam about halfway through the show; this occurs more often in full TV series than OVAs and movies.
Gundam Wing seems to do this with the mook villains, since they're always trying to catch up with the heroes. First it's the 15-year-old Leos, then they move on to the just-developed Tauruses, and finally to computer-operated Virgos. Despite maybe one or two episodes of the Gundam pilots struggling against the new mooks, they'll have managed to turn them into canon fodder pretty quickly. The poor anonymous nobodies can never catch a break, can they?
Averted in Seed Destiny with the Freedom Gundam (the protagonist's 2nd unit from the prequel), which is still many times more powerful than the newer mobile suits created between shows because it's special nuclear powered engine was declared illegal, and newer ones were built without it. It is eventually destroyed, but only due to Zaft going all out and sending an entire fleet to destroy it.
Highlighted in Mobile Suit Gundam 00's second season as to why Nena Trinity died. While almost everybody that survived the first season was bestowed new Gundam, improved GN-X machines, or new prototypes, she was the only character that was stuck having to use her outdated machine, the Throne Drei. This ultimately was used in sealing her fate, but in Nena Trinity's defense, she couldn't get a new one as she was more concerned with actually surviving for four years, and she almost got a new mecha, the Arche Drei. Unfortunately for her, she didn't get it in time.
In GaoGaiGar following the acquisition of the Goldion Hammer, Guy's original finishing technique (Hell and Heaven) universally fails to get the job done if he has to fall back on it. See: The 31 Primevals, Zonuda.
Which is odd, because it goes back to working fine when GaoFighGar uses it in FINAL to counter both GaoGaiGar's Shin Hell and Heaven and Palparepa's God and Devil.
Strangely averted when the StealthGao II is introduced: the space-capable replacement for Stealth Gao also upgrades his Broken Magnum to Broken Phantom and the Protect Shade to Protect Wall. Both are shown to be ridiculously more powerful then the original versions (able to pierce armor and in one case punching a moon to bits). But, for no explained reason GaoGaiGar still uses the original StealthGao when not in space, until FINAL.
The second part is addressed in FINAL. StealthGao II actually makes GGG's attacks too powerful, and Guy couldn't believe that Repli-Mamoru would summon it in the middle of a city, because of how much collateral damage it could cause.
Code Geass is one of the best examples of this. Every ten or so episodes someone makes a new generation of Knightmare Frame (mecha), which are completely capable of wiping the floor with the last generation, to the point where they are obsolete even if they were top tier previous generation stuff.
Kazuma, the main character of Yakitate!! Japan wins the first season breadbaking tournament in part by baking a loaf of bread so good that biting into it literally sends the judges souls' to heaven. (Which is populated by scantily dressed bunny-women). By the end of the second season this bread is dismissed as being woefully below the level of the current tournament. Fortunatly, he quickly crafts a bread so perfect that a single bite re-writes history and brings the Judge's long lost parents back to life (allowing him to win narrowly).
Mahou Sensei Negima! specifically invokes this once everybody gets to the magic world. Negi immediately runs into several opponents who totally outclass him, forcing him to go through another round of Training from Hell as well as start using Black Magic. It's sort of justified by the fact that at least one of the fights he loses was a setup by Jack Rakan with the intent of forcing him to become stronger. If he won with his old tricks, then he obviously didn't need new ones.
The main characters of One Piece fall victim to this at times. Chopper gets hit hard by this once he starts fighting enemies he can't polish off in three minutes.
And it's a rule that Luffy will always finish off a Big Bad with a new attack. Usually, this attack just becomes a part of his arsenal in later arcs.
Don't expect to have a chance against any later villains if the highest state you can evolve to in Digimon is Ultimate/Perfect, or have some new kind of evolution like DNA or Matrix evolving. And if under any circumstance you're not a main character and actually can evolve to the Ultimate/Mega level, expect to require Burst Mode to stand a chance against a villain of any importance later on. Oh well...at least you can be able to take on a few Mooks, because there will be plenty you can take on, just don't expect to be able to face off against the Big Bad by yourself.
It should be noted that most Digimon seasons, especially the earlier ones, put limitations over the use of more powerful forms (that is, returning to the In Training/Baby2 stage, requiring time to re-evolve) so that the previous, less powerful forms still get some use. Even Frontier, early on, would show characters varying between Human-form Digimon and Beast-form ones. Savers played it completely straight, though - if a Digimon reaches a new level, don't expect to see the previous levels again.
Happens in YuYu Hakusho. The Spirit Gun used to be like the ultimate Spirit Detective move, and Spirit Sword was pretty much the Badass incarnate. Hiei's extreme speed and skilled swordsmanship were really something to be afraid of, and Kurama's cunning mind, Rose Whip, and ability to summon plants from the demon world were just as fearsome. But then later, Spirit Shotguns, Double Spirit Swords, reverting to your demonic form and pulling plants out of nowhere and Dragon of the Darkness flames are the standard to beat... and who honestly doesn't have a sixth sense and some kind of Spirit Gun-like combat move or able to break the sound barrier by now?
Averted by the end, when Yusuke's best attack was a really big Spirit Gun.
At the beginning of the Vongola Ring Battle arc of Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, Tsuna, in regular Dying Will Mode, got thrashed by the new arc's Dragon. Dying Will Bullets are then used only for training for a bit, before they are fazed out completely in favor of Rebuke Shots and Hyper Dying Will Mode.
Done almost literally in Zoids: Guardian Force, when the former Dragon is shown fighting off three Genosaurers, the same kind of Zoid he used earlier in the series (and, naturally, in the previous season).
And done again in New Century Zero, possibly using the same Genosaurers.
In Pokémon, Bulbasaur was one of Ash's most used Pokémon, and managed to defeat many mons which would have an advantage over him. When Ash battles a Chikorita (Bulbasaur's sucessor as a Grass starter) with him ... he gets promptly beaten. Chikorita also manages to hold up against Charizard, which not only is fully evolved, but has a tremendous advantage in the Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors.
Somewhere between Sinnoh League Victors and Best Wishes, the Team Rocket trio decided their old Butt Monkey status was So Last Season and returned in the new series having taken several levels in Badass to become so strong Jessie on her own beat the ever-loving crap out of Ash and his new partner's Pokémon using her newly obtained Woobat. They even become so Genre Savvy they haven't blasted off since the beginning of the season.
Played Up to Eleven in Inazuma Eleven, in contrast of the how useful special techniques are in the games because their power is partly calculated by the player's stat, anime version doesn't. Old shooting techniques don't work in the long run, and defensive skills are even more of the offenders, especially in the third season, where The Hero's uber saving techs can't save anything even a Sling Shot unless it's a newly debuted or upgraded skill, or his Hot Blood Gauge has just hit the roof.
The exception is Endou's initial God Hand during a match with Dark Emperor, it's being used to stop shots inside the penalty area. Somehow, it's more effective than the two-tier-above Mugen the Hand G4.
In Future GPX Cyber Formula, the Asurada car series suffers from this so that there can be mid season upgrades. The Super Asurada 01 model is the most advanced and powerful racing car in the end of the TV series, but at the beginning of the Double One OVA, it can't catch up because Sugo Corp. doesn't have money to do a proper upgrade. A similar thing happens in SAGA, at which this point Hayato's skill is nowhere to be blamed for his losses.
In the Megaman Battle Network manga, Megaman.EXE has to upgrade and change power types so often to defeat the latest Big Bad that it becomes ridiculous. If you were to consider each upgrade as a multiplier, he ends up about 100x more powerful than he was at the very beginning. Add his training to that, and in the epilogue story, he is so powerful that his megabuster shoots bullets the size of small trashcans!
In the anime, Megaman NT Warrior, Megaman unlockes Style Change at the end of season 1 and the majority of season 2. However, after using his second strongest Style Change, Aqua Custom Style ( Bug Style was his strongest, which defeated the Grave Beast and restored everything to normal) to defeat Savage Man in the first episode of Axess, Savage Man uses a Dimensional Area to attack int the real world, Lan and Megaman have to use Cross Fusion to fuse in the real world. They defeat him, but according to Lan's father, Cross Fusion stopped Megaman from being able to use Style Change. On a plus side, Megaman gets Double Soul.
The Ripple in Jojos Bizarre Adventure is rendered totally obsolete by Stands in Part III. In the manga Dio even mocks Joseph for surrounding his body with Ripple power, claiming that it may have caused trouble for him a century ago, but it's useless against The World.
In the mid 90s, when Kyle Rayner became Green Lantern, villains would regularly attempt to exploit the ring's legendary vulnerability to yellow, only to find that his ring had no such flaw.
At the start of the Bronze AgeSuperman #233 had a story which turned all Kryptonite on Earth to iron. A bad guy gloated about how he has something which could kill Superman—Kryptonite. Superman promptly took the piece from him and ate it.
Done in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8. In her first fight against the Big Bad Twilight, Buffy uses the same scythe move she used to slice Caleb in half in Season 7, only for Twilight to block it and says that he knows that move. However, it is not simply because Twilight is stronger than every other Big Bad, but because he is Angel, and thus was actually there when she sliced Caleb. He's familiar with the technique.
The "no can defense" Crane Technique that propelled a wounded Daniel-san to victory in The Karate Kid is easily deflected in The Karate Kid Part Two, requiring him to use a new and different goofy finishing move to win.
A similar occurrence took place in the 3rd The Mighty Ducks film. Their new coach went as far as to comment on how their "their little duck tricks" (the knuckle-puck, the flying V, etc.) won't work anymore. It's especially sad considering how cherished these "little tricks" were for the trilogy's legacy.
Strangely, this lesson was learned immediately following a game in which the Ducks' tricks DID work—giving them an absurd offensive output (nine goals in a hockey game?).
At the end of Iron Man 2, Tony tries to use the "aimbot" that had taken out the Gulmira Ten Rings terrorists against Ivan Vanko's exposed head, complete with HUD showing the lock-ons, only for Vanko to re-equip his helmet and negate it.
Subverted in Crackerjack. Jack Simpson's reluctant Lawn Bowls mentor Stan tells him to stop using his novelty "flipper" bowl (lifted from a different sport) because it's ineffective and undignified and sadly Simpson has potential despite his utter lack of respect for the game. Simpson phases it out as he improves his game, only to be instructed to use it as a desperate measure on his last turn in the final game.
We see this in action over the course of the Honor Harrington series. The People's Republic of Haven is so much larger than the Star Kingdom of Manticore that the fight would be no contest if not for Manticore's superior technology. Of course, once the fight is actually on Manticore must keep coming up with new innovations as the PRH steals or adapts to the last one. Every time this happens, their entire pre-existing navies are rendered virtually obsolete and they must build up again from scratch. This happens ten or twenty times over the course of the series, but the biggest leaps in innovation are:
Ghost Rider project, which featured numerous advances into missile technology, such as ultracompact fusion reactors (which allowed unprecedented energy balances and thus a whole new classes of mobile decoys, penetrators and recon drones, as well as installing the FTL comms on them), multistage drives, improved stealth, advanced new missiles and drones, etc. In fact, the Ghost Rider was arguably even more of a game changer than the pod combat.
And then came Operation Buttercup, a Manticoran offensive that combined the new pod-oriented warship designs, new Super-LACs and their carriers, and armed this fleet to the teeth with the new Ghost Rider-based weaponry. Moreover, Manticorans managed to keep Havenites almost completely in the dark about all these developments, so when they were hit by the finally assembled new force, they were completely curb-stomped.
Power Rangers often did this to introduce the new mecha in the first few seasons. When there was no more footage for the old zords, they had to justify their absence and introduce the mecha from the newer Sentai footage, often by showing that the previous mecha wasn't able to keep up with the new enemies anymore.
Specifically, at the start of season 2, the Tyrannosaurus and Dragonzord were captured by the monster of the week, and the other four Dinozords frozen. While they were able to free them, new villain Lord Zedd immediately sent the main five Dinozords to their doom. Dragonzord survived initially, but the other five were replaced by the new Thunderzords. Dragonzord disappeared when the Green Ranger powers were destroyed, but he came back as the more powerful White Ranger with his new Tigerzord. The Thunderzords were destroyed at the start of season 3 by new villain Rito Revolto, and a few episodes later, they got the new Ninja Zords. The Ninja and Shogun Zords were simply rendered unusable when the Mighty Morphin powers were finally destroyed near the end of season 3. The Zeo Zord fleet was also never destroyed, but the Turbo powers and zords were desribed as more powerful, effectively making the Zeo stuff obsolete.
Super Sentai and other Rangers seasons do this on occasion, introducing new giant robots mid season that are much stronger then the ones they started with. Sometimes this causes the old robot(s) to not be used anymore, or only to be used as backup in really hard fights.
Shows up in multiple Kamen Rider series in the same vein as the above mentioned Super Sentai. Most of the time a new villain appears that happens to be much too strong for the Kamen Riders' current arsenal, so they'll need to get a new Super Mode. In some seasons the rider even stops using his basic form, knowing it will be useless.
In Kamen Rider Double, the Riders face the insanely powerful Weather Dopant, who keeps having the upper hand on them, until they gained new forms, capable of defeating the villain.
Arguably the closest incident involves the "Best of Both Worlds" season finale/opener pair for Star Trek: The Next Generation: the Enterprise lines up its Borg-busting weapon that's mega-powerful and Riker gives the order to fire — roll credits. Next season, the beginning of the episode has last season's attack... doing nothing at all. In the space of five seconds of in-show time.
Rumor has it that the writers didn't know for sure if they'd be able to renew Stewarts contract so the gambit existed only as a means to kill off Picard if they ended up having to and of course they didn't.
All Metal Heroes, especially the Space Sheirff's have one weapon that kills every villain in the show, up to and including the Big Bad, and an handful of mecha that they start with and never upgrade.
In Big Bad Beetle Borgs, after defeating the previous monsters, a new monster named Nukus literally blows up their old powers, requiring them to become the stronger Beetleborgs Metallix. In a slight inversion, Nukus is still too powerful for them at first.
In Dungeons & Dragons there is a huge rift between magic and non-magic weapons, due to damage reduction. If you don't have a magic weapon by a certain point, sucks to be you. Then later the same thing happens between Epic and magic weapons.
Exalted used to have this deliberately built into the system; Charm trees would contain "speed bumps", Charms that would have a certain effect that a later Charm did better, meaning you never used the original again (except maybe when you needed a really cheap alternative). This system was later phased out in favour of Charms that permanently upgrade others, with the few occasions where one Charm renders another completely obsolete giving an XP refund for that Charm.
Because almost every game with a combat system, from shooters to RPGs, "suffers" from this, it's better to list the especially egregious cases (starter weapons are almost useless even for the first few mooks) or exceptions (starter weapons are as, or even more, useful as later ones):
Id Software's early shooters are a great example of this, to the point where all bullet weapons in the original Wolfenstein 3D and Doom are functionally identical, except for their maximum firing rate.
In the Halo series, almost every weapon is useful from the start clear to the end of the games, with rapid-fire bullet hoses typically ending up as the least useful weapons. Even more unusually, the most useful weapon in the first game is commonly agreed to be the pistol that you get at the very beginning.
This mirrors Bungie's earlier Marathon series, where all of the weapons also had their uses, and the pistols (especially when duel-wielded) were the best sharpshooting weapons in the game (though not to the ludicrous extent of Halo). This does, however, raise the question of why the superhumanly strong player character can't seem to get groupings tighter than several feet at a few yards with the assault rifle. Marathon explains this by having the assault rifle's description say it's notoriously badly designed. Perhaps the same is true of the Halo games?
In Half-Life, the often-overlooked secondary fire of the starting pistol gives it both a faster rate of fire and greater damage output per bullet than the SMG, at the cost of having to reload more often (the pistol's 17-bullet magazine as opposed to the monster 50-bullet mag that the SMG packs) and a decrease in accuracy. At close range, it can mow down marines and take out Alien Grunts with a single mag.
In Deus Ex the humble pistol and riot prod, which you get at the very beginning of the game, remain effective until the very last level, provided you upgrade your character skills appropriately.
Very averted in Unreal. The Dispersion Pistol gets regular upgrades all through the game; by the final upgrade, it's as powerful as a weapon this side of a Game Breaker can be expected to be... unless you use the (rare) power amplifier item. Then it'll chew through even the building-sized enemies in a few shots.
The Game Breaker properties of the upgraded (and amplified) DP were nerfed in a patch, as it could kill even the final boss in a few hits originally. Most of the other weapons also retain their usefulness throughout the game.
Heavy Metal: FAKK 2 presents a particularly strong version of this. After blasting your way through the first part of the game, act two sees you facing enemies far too powerful to be dealt with using your current weapons, the protagonist bluntly stating that she can't take them out, and it turns into stealth for the time being. Unusually for a game like this, you CAN kill them, but it takes far too much ammunition. Later levels turn these into pretty average opponents using later weapons, and turn earlier baddies into credible threats only in enormous numbers.
In Final Fantasy IX, while inside of Ipsen's Castle, the lower a weapon's attack power, the more damage it does.
Time Shift has a particularly egregious example in the starting pistol. Between its low rate of fire, problematic accuracy, small magazine, and lack of regular enemies using it to drop ammo, most players will only use it to kill two mooks, probably through Pistol Whip rather than the less reliable bullets. Averted with the second weapon found, the assault rifle, which remains useful throughout most of the game thanks to its large ammo capacity, reasonable accuracy, better chance of knocking armor off a bad guy, and attached grenade launcher — it's actually a hard choice between it and the EMP cannon earned significantly later, mostly because the EMP cannon isn't as viable at long ranges. Inverted with the Thunderbolt crossbow, a sniper crossbow with explosive tips that will probably stay in your inventory when rocket launchers go flying around.
The first round of a map in Counter-Strike consists of entirely pistols, as both sides begin with a meager $800 (usually). However, a skilled enough player can still use a pistol to great effect even in the later rounds when assault rifles and body armor shows up. The most powerful pistol, the Nighthawk"Deagle", can still kill an opponent with a single headshot except at very long range, and thus makes a great buy when you want to save money. Deagle, full armor, and some extra stuff? About two thousand dollars or so. AWP? Almost five thousand dollars by itself.
The original Ratchet & Clank game manages to avert this trope for most of the game, until you get the R.Y.N.O, at which point all the other weapons become obsolete.
The sequels also work to avert this: though later weapons are inherently more powerful then earlier ones, this can be counterbalanced by the earlier weapons accumulating more experience and upgrades that boost their usefulness. Of course, this doesn't apply to the New Game+Game Breakers.
Particular averted in Super Robot Taisen Original Generation 2. While many of the prototypes from the first game like the Wildschwein and Wildraubtier had been put out of service and many costum mechs such as the Alteisen and Weissritter need an upgrade in the middle of the game, some units are still as powerfull as in first game like the SRX units.
Even more averted with some of the mass produced mechas. Particular the Gespenst II M, a basic unit used by the main characters in the beginning of the first game. With some upgrades, parts and a good pilot they can still be extremely usefull later in the game. This comes particular from the build in jet Magnum, one of the rare chain attack capable weapons.
Generally in OG, with the exception of Alt and Weiss (and they didn't even need the upgrades that badly, they held their own throughout most of OG 2) once a character gets their signature mecha, it will be effective from then on. In OG Gaiden, nobody needed an upgrade from their OG 2 mecha, and the SRX team and Irm and Ring have been using the same machines since early OG 1. The only exception so far is Ibis, who's gone through 2 mecha and an upgrade throughout OG 2 and Gaiden, and still has yet to get her signature Altarion.
In BioShock, one of the best plasmid, the Electro Bolt is also the first one you receive. Shock a splicer and they're imobilized while you wrench them to death. If they're standing in water, shock the water and they die instantly. Hit a machine and it will be disabled long enough to run up and hack it. And you can activate broken door controls with it too. It's the most versitle plasmid in the game; never leave home without it. Also played straight in that it's less effective on later enemies and an upgraded "Electro Shock 2" plasmid becomes available.
If it's not Electro Bolt, then it's the Telekinesis plasmid. It costs almost no Eve to use, and it can work on pretty much anything you can pick up. Since the picked-up object gets flung, it can be used as a projectile weapon. Flinging the dead body of a splicer as a weapon toward another splicer is usually a OHKO, giving you "ammo" for the next splicer. Or just use that dead splicer as protection. Either way, you're good to go.
It's interesting to note that both BioShock and BioShock 2 give you Electro Bolt as the first plasmid, but "Minerva's Den", the add-on to 2, saves it as a later one. It's probably because the developers were getting annoyed that they were making all these nifty powers and players were sticking with the first one.
Likewise the first few weapons in BioShock - given strength upgrades your handy wrench is useful all the way through (especially for stealth kills) and the revolver remains an effective weapon - and a cheap and effective way to set off Enviro Kills.
Like the above example, in Dead Space, properly upgraded, the plasma cutter can effectively remain a primary weapon (there's even an achievement for that) due to being highly precise, good rate of fire, and the ammo being extremely plentiful.
In Total Overdose: A Gunslinger's Tale in Mexico, the character begins with a pistol and upgrades to more powerful weapons at about the same rate that he finds enemies to shoot them at him. But between mission stunt challenges train abilities that make the pistol more and more valuable. By mid-game the weapons escalation has peaked; the player is still upgrading acrobatic gunslinging while the enemies bring out more of the same. In the end, baddies can't keep up with the two-gunned wall-bouncing slow-mo triple-spins no matter how many assault rifles, explosives or military vehicles they send. Trope subverted: Pistols now are the heaviest weapons in the game.
World of Warcraft runs with this full-stop: whenever new ten man raid instances get introduced - a process which takes from 5 to 12 months - all loot obtained so far becomes inferior in comparison to newly introduced gear. Even the PvP gear vendors get updated with new tier of gear so it would keep up with PvE drops. All previously purchasable gear becomes obtainable for lesser, easier obtainable tokens, new 5-man instances often get introduced sporting the same quality of gear as previous 10 man ones, and the difficulty of said 10 man instances is drastically toned down to render them accessible to the more casual playerbase. This process occurs 2-3 times per expansion.
As of expansions themselves, they represent a colossal leap in gear quality - for example, even the best gear from Wrath of the Lich King expansion for level 80 players becomes outdated compared to level 83 gear from Cataclysm. Character damage and health pools rise by as much as 3-5 times during the course of reaching new maximum level compared to the limit of the previous expansion.
Certain items manage to outlive their purported quality due to being exceptionally well balanced, having no worthy replacement, or having an unique on-use effect. The so called Legendary weapons are purposely designed to last for the remainder of the expansion, as each is notoriously difficult to obtain and frequently involves a lengthy questline combined with running raid instances many times over. However, they often scale too well - for example, the spellcaster staff Dragonwrath had a chance of instantly doubling any harmful spell cast by the wielder. As this spell fully scales with all the caster's attributes, Dragonwrath would probably remain the single best weapon of all time if it wasn't eventually toned down.
Skills and abilities, on the other hand, do not become outdated as they scale with characters' attributes (though before Cataclysm expansion, players needed to upgrade them manually at a trainer). The only exception are 'placeholder' skills such as Strike for warriors, which are baseline attacks designed to last until the character reaches level 10 and may select a proper specialization with unique abilities that replace it.
Conversely, the player is expected to invest as little as possible in Diablo 2's starter skills and switch to using higher-tier skills as soon as possible. Unless the intention is to make a Lethal Joke Character, that is.
City of Heroes tries to avert this. The player is expected to use ALL of their powers over the course of the game, and attack powers have damage that scales up as you gain levels so that level 1 attack is still very useful at level 50.
Similarly handled in Champions Online. Since movesets are completely customizable, players are expected to make every power choice count. The conditions for unlocking some standard abilities, primarily passives, have even been lowered recently so that players will be less likely to have to choose powers they'll never use just to access higher-level ones.
Zig Zagged with regards to Ace Combat starter plane(s). Air Combat includes an outdated F-4 amongst 4th-generation fighters like the MiG-29 and F-14. In 2 the starting planes are now the F-4 and A-4, with 4th-gen planes coming later. 3: Electrosphere gives 4th-gen fighters like the Eurofighter from the start (though it's arguably just a twist on the conceit as 4th-gen birds in 2045 would be around as outdated as 3rd-gen ones in 2009), but 4: Shattered Skies brings us back to the F-4 as a starter, as does X: Skies of Deception and X2: Joint Assault, 5: Unsung War gives the F-5 and Zero: Belkan War gives the F-1, F-5, and J35J. 6: Fires of Liberation then makes the F-16 the starter plane, which is carried over into Assault Horizon while giving you more starter options (Mig-21bis and Mirage 2000-5)
In short, Ace Combat can't make up its mind as to the statistical quality of its starter plane(s).
Iron weapons in most Fire Emblem games may be weaker, but they're also cheaper, more durable, easier to hit with, and in many circumstances, enough to get the job done, even late in the game. Staffs are the same way; there are classy "mend" wands but the toy "heal" wands are almost as good in the hands of a skilled clergyman.
Averted in Pokémon with the very first Mon you receive, which is fairly powerful and ultra-rare. The first one you catch, however, is most likely a horribly weak ComMon. Except Magikarp.
Don't forget Starly in the 4th gen games. It starts off looking like it'll just be like the earlier gen flying Mons(only to be used to fly around after a while), but it eventually evolves into Staraptor, a Mon that is very useful into the postgame, and even in the competitive scene.
Averted to a degree by Front Mission 3, where the various Giant Robot parts could be upgraded, and were generally a trade-off between several qualities rather than a straight progression.
Ultimately sidestepped in the Fatal Fury series. In Fatal Fury 3, Terry loses his fairly useful Rising Tackle anti-air maneuver in exchange for gaining the arguably more useful Power Dunk. By the next game, Real Bout, however, he regains the Tackle and keeps the Dunk. (Notably, his King of Fighters incarnation never lost the Tackle in the first place, simply gaining the Dunk.)
Subverted in the Fatal Fury OVAs. In Fatal Fury: Legend of the Hungry Wolf, Joe's Hurricane Upper turns out to be his saving grace in the battle against Raiden. However, in Fatal Fury 2: The New Battle, the upgraded form, Screw Upper, doesn't even affect Krauser in any way.
Guild Wars, since the starting skills and spells are not particularly more powerful that the ones you learn later in the game. However it can be played straight in the case of other campaigns: If you choose to begin one with an existing character from another campaign you will encounter enemies with new unknown spells, since your character already has a set of spells learned on the original campaign and those spells were not specially designed to counter the new campaign's ones it encourages you to learn those new skills.
CastlevaniaII: Simon's Quest has two special weapons which do not require hearts to use, holy water and the dagger. What's notable is that while the latter becomes completely useless after you get the morning star, the former, the very first special weapon you get, has uses throughout the entire game (especially for pinpointing fake blocks), and in fact is required to get to Dracula.
Jonathan in Portrait of Ruin can't use the Vampire Killer properly, therefore it's one of the worst weapons to use throughout the game, even outclassed by the very first short sword you pick up. However, there is an optional Bonus Boss where you can upgrade it, and it becomes one of the best weapons in the game from then on. Annoyingly, many of the mobility upgrades do this. You get the ability to jump on your partner's shoulder, then the better double jump like half an hour later. And then you get the super jump after the owl morph which allows you to fly, making the owl obsolete after like three uses.
In Metal Gear, you can get through at least 90% of the game with the handgun, one of the first weapons you find. There is simply no better weapon for dispatching the numerous troops you encounter. The machine gun is at best occasionally useful, the remote missile runs out too quickly to be of much use (and is available in only one location) and every other weapon is good for taking out bosses and absolutely nothing else. Nearly every other game in the series continues this pattern.
Red Faction is a particularly egregious example of this... the weapons you get in the first half of the game that worked so well against the regular Ultor Guards become absolutely useless against the Mercs that show up in the game's second half. Instead, you have to grab a Precision Rifle off of the first Merc you kill and use that as your standard weapon for the rest of the game.
In the Age of Empires series, nearly every unit has some upgraded version, ranging from just 1 to having 3. However, the upgrades aren't always worth it, because they cost resources and the upgraded unit doesn't always gain much from it.
The upgrades that are really worth it are civilizations' unique Guard upgrades, for instance the British upgrade to Life Guard Hussars or the Dutch upgrade to Nassau Halbardiers, because those provide additional benefits on top of the standard upgrade bonuses.
In the Command & Conquer series, when a faction gains access to the Mammoth Tank, it tends to replace their basic tank because of how much stronger it is (the Mammoth Tank in C&C3 can take on 3 of GDI's basic tanks and still win). Outside of the Mammoth Tanks, in more recent games, every factions has some advanced tank or Humongous Mecha that is stronger then their basic tank. However, using advanced tanks in place of the basic ones isn't something universally done, because they cost a lot more, and are very slow. Some people actually prefer to stick with the basic tanks.
In Final Fantasy VIII it doesn't really matter which weapon you have, as your power mostly depends on which magic you junction to your stats.
In Paper Mario, this happens with two fights that immediately follow each other. You use the seven MacGuffins that you spent most of the game collecting to deactivate Bowser's invulnerability that he gets from his super MacGuffin. You beat him, and he retreats to the roof. You go to fight him there, he activates his invulnerability again, you use the same move to deactivate it that worked a few minutes ago, and... Plink! "Ha ha, you moron! That weak move doesn't affect me anymore!" Fortunately, Princess Peach uses the Power of Love to boost your MacGuffins so that they can turn off Bowser's invulnerability again.
Averted in Descent: The starting "laser" - even without any upgrades - does more damage per shot than almost every other gun in the game. Other weapons have a better rate of fire (allowing you to kill things quicker) and/or faster/multiple projectiles (making it easier to hit things at long range), but against easy-to-hit opponents that aren't so dangerous you need to kill them now, the laser is still effective, and is the most efficient energy weapon in the game.
Dragon Age averts this by making some of the basic tier talents and spells (Shield Bash, Winter's Grasp, Heal, Stealth, Dirty Fighting, need I go on?) useful throughout the entire game, but plays it straight in the case of Shield Wall being unarguably better than Shield Defense and Shield Cover.
A story, rather than gameplay example in Mass Effect 2: the Cool Starship from the original game, Normandy, is replaced by Normandy SR-2, which is twice as big, packs a lot more punch, and comes with a ton of upgrades. Justified by the original Normandy being destroyed by the Collectors in the opening cutscene and Shepard really needing a much more powerful vessel against these new enemies.
Though Mass Effect 2 does play this straight in terms of your weapons. For instance, the base assault rifle (the M-8 Avenger) doesn't deal as much damage as the upgrade assault rifle (the M-15 Vindicator) and isn't as accurate, with the Revenant Light Machine Gun leaving both in the dust, especially after you increase it's accuracy. The base submachinegun (M-4 Shuriken) has poor accuracy, low firing rate, and low damage compared to it's upgrade (M-9 Tempest).
Need for Speed Underground 2 is a direct sequel to the first, and you have your powerful Skyline (best car of the previous game, and the one any player will be likely to own) smashed in the opening cutscene. With the insurance money you can buy only a not-so-fast compact. Subverted since some of the starter cars can be even better than the Skyline in the right hands. The worst offender is the Toyota Corolla GT-S: a humble hatchback famously known in Japan as the "AE 86" that is actually the best car of the game that can surprise supercars.
In Dragonica, the Anti-Air Shot is one of the earliest skills the Archer gets. Fast forward a great many levels and more than one Prestige Class and many of your PVP opponents will still deride it as a 'Win Button'.
TimeSplitters is slightly odd as many times it inverts the trope, if one takes the various time periods as 'seasons.' Not only do the mechanical and futuristic enemies take a TON of punishment but future tech weapons aside from the homing launcher are somewhat over-specialised. As far as rapid weapons go, many death-matchers swear by the automatic pistol (fires as fast as you can mash, dual-wielded by a pro can fire FASTER than the Tommygun, shotgun (which is preferred to the automatic if one is refraining from the weapon swap trick), Tommygun, SB 90, and AK 47 (Tommy with underslung grenade launcher) rather than the sci-fi autorifle (fires slow then ramps up, faster it fires lower the damage), lasergun (must be charged to really do damage and people will hoard explosives if available just to get around the shield), and sci-fi handgun (The reflecting bullets are deadly, especially in the first where it is VERY easy to headshot yourself in enclosed spaces as it travels a LOT faster.)
Banjo-Tooie starts the player off with all the abilities that could be learned in Banjo-Kazooie, some of which remain vital for progressing through the entire game, yet several of them immediately prove to be pointless in the new game world. For example, the first game requires the heroes to learn a move called the Beak Buster in order to pound in the many large buttons set in the ground, whereas the sequel allows those same buttons to be activated by simply stepping onto them, and later it becomes necessary to learn a more devastating ground-pounding move, the Bill Drill.
While the first two Ape Escape game play this trope straight with the Magic Punch, Ape Escape 3 averts it. Everything in Ape Escape 3 has to be used sooner or later, especially in the final 2 levels. Of course, the aversion mainly exists because the Magic Punch was taken out of that game.
As soon as the Shivans show up in Freespace, all your past weapons become useless against their shields.
Persona4 has this trope apply not only spells but to Yosuke and Chie's roles in combat. Yosuke starts out with good physical and wind attacks as well as healing, but his physical attacks are quickly outmatched by Chie's and his healing spells are soon outdone by Yukiko's. However, his wind attacks not only stay strong but soon prove to be the Infinity -1Element and he also learns some of the best buffs and debuffs in the game around the time his healing spells turn completely obsolete. Chie goes through a similar cycle but at a slower pace, starting out with good physical and ice attacks as well as the ability to tank but her defensive capabilities and single target physical attacks start to lose their punch around the time Kanji shows up to pick up the slack and her ice magic loses almost all of its effectiveness around the time Teddy takes to the field with his much harder hitting ice spells. However, her multi-target physical attacks start to gain real use around that point and come to a head by the end game with Agneyastra.
Mega Man's trust Mega Buster fails him in the opening to the Game Boy Mega Man V when Terra shows up. His charged shot simply bounces off him harmlessly, and after getting knocked out he gets the brand-new Mega Arm attack.
In Dimension Heroes, the Dimensional Guardians' powers are said to increase as the threats escalate in power.
Super Robot villain Omega from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe uses this trope every time he appears. Part of his schtick is that, between his attacks on the heroes, he re-engineers himself to be immune to whatever defeated him before. Did you beat him once with an electro-magnetic pulse? Sorry, this time he's got tempest shielding. Burn through his chassis with a laser? Sorry, this time he's coated himself with a reflective polymer, making him resistant to lasers. The heroes had to figure out a new way to beat him every time he showed up.
In Atop the Fourth Wall, when Mechakara returns, he prevents Linkara from repeating the morphing that allowed him to win the first time. His stronger forcefield does the rest (though it can't stop a Zeonized Linkara).
Transformers: Beast Wars. The quantum surge turned some characters into Transmetals, granting them new weapons, new looks, and more power. Aside from the two Fuzors, new characters who showed up from that point on were also Transmetals... Until the Transmetal Driver was found and altered by Megatron, and the Transmetal 2s came into play, resultng in another round of upgrades and another look for new characters. Optimus went Transmetal, got an upgraded "Optimal" Transmetal form, and Megatron and Cheetor both went from normal to Transmetal, and then to Transmetal 2. Naturally, the final forms of all three were formidable presences on the battlefield, as was Blackarachnia, who skipped right to Transmetal 2... A full list of who was what when would be far too exhaustive for this wiki. Characters of either faction who never upgraded tended to seem slightly weaker as the Beast Wars raged on.
Except Rhinox, one of about two characters who lived from the beginning to the end of the show without upgrading once, and remained awesome and invaluable right to the end. Arguably, everyone else upgraded up to his level.
Winx Club takes it a bit further than just making previous power-ups worthless: they practically eradicated their existence without any real explanation. The season 2 endgame featured the girls earning their Charmix (even prompting a line of dolls based on this new power up). Season 3, except for a brief mention by Alfea's headmistress, has completely forgotten about Charmix, instead opting to change the Winx's fairy forms altogether with a whole new power up, the Enchantix (hello, more dolls). And this is despite the fact that none of the girls get their Enchantix until the end of the 6th episode of that season, and there are quite a few big battles, including one against the series' perennial Big Bads, between the start of the season and the first Enchantix's appearance; such battles should at the very least have brought up a mention of Charmix.
Jackie Chan Adventures had this occur at the beginning of the fourth season. Up until this point all major villains had been Chinese in origin and Uncle was able to deal with them through normal conventions. The fourth season's villain however was Japanese and Uncle, not being Japanese, couldn't use his regular spells on them. Luckily for him, he had a Japanese apprentice.
In the second season of the W.I.T.C.H. TV series, the Guardians get an upgrade after the Veil over Meridian is lowered; four of the girls receive power increases and Psychic Powers, while Will finally gets access to her elemental power, Quintessence. This led them to completely curb stomp season one's Big Bad Phobos when he was broken out of prison.
When WordGirl made the jump from shorts to a full TV series, she gained the power to make her costume appear and disappear at will.
In Code Lyoko, Jeremie manages to program everyone vehicles at the beginning of Season 2, and made a significant costume upgrade in Season 4. Also, Yumi gains a second tessen fan and Odd a deflector shield in Season 2. Finally, Aelita gets energy fields at the beginning of Season 3 and then angel wings in Season 4, turning her into an Action Girl.
For techniques that become obsolete and stop being used, there are Ulrich's Triplicate and Triangulate powers. He attempts once to Triplicate in order to fight William, but gets immediately struck down. He never tries again for the whole Season 4, probably believing William can instantly tell apart the clones from the real Ulrich.
In The Spectacular Spider-Man, Spidey gets his Venom suit mid-way through season 1, just in time for him to fight off the Sinister Six. In a subversion, he loses it soon after. In season 2 there's a notable lack of a mid-season powerup, despite the ever-increasing stakes; Spidey bemoans this.
A variation of this occurs in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles where, beginning with the fifth season, the turtles would get new weapons and abilities, which would be discarded in the following season. Season five had the turtles gain the mystical Fangs of the Dragon and super-ninja abilities, Fast Forward had the turtles use futuristic variations on their trademark weapons, and Back to the Sewer gave them Cybernaut weapons and armors while in cyberspace.
This could count for Avatar: The Last Airbender, since Aang can handle himself well against firebenders with only airbending and waterbending in the first season, but he needs to acquire new bending techniques in later seasons in order to defeat the enemies in those seasons, since air and water alone won't cut it.
This is good example of it going hand-in-hand with the Sorting Algorithm of Evil, with his first season opponents mostly being Zuko, Zhao, and mooks. Starting in season two he got to deal with Azula, Long Feng, the Dai Li, and other more powerful foes.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Keep Calm and Flutter On", Fluttershy learns, to her chagrin, that her Stare, which up until Season 3 has worked on all previous critters she's fixed it on, is ineffective on Discord.
Happens fairly often in military history when one side develops a new weapon. World War One probably has the most examples of any single conflict.
It was around for literally thousands of years. The best way to counter the enemy "high tech" heavy cavalry until the mid 1500s? Just have them charge your spearmen. By WW 1 they were just giant targets.
All through World War One soldiers were trained to fix bayonets to their rifles, when the last time a bayonet had affected a battle at all was probably Gettysburg. Add in the trench warfare in tight spaces and the length of a bayonet on a rifle, and it makes sense that if they were used at all, it was as knives (though the trench digging tools and actual trench knives did a better job).
France even had a term, the "spirit of the bayonet" that was used frequently early in the war, despite both sides using immense artillery, rifles, and other newer weapons.
Greek Hoplite warfare was unchanged for centuries, then javelins were deployed against the phalanx, which required cavalry so as to fend of the skirmishers, which were best dealt with using the Hoplite's spears. Then things settled down for a few centuries before the Romans developed their Legions.
The atomic bomb is so horrific, its main use without going past the point of no return (what wasn't known when it actually was used) is as a weapon of fear. Modern aircraft carriers can carry payloads just as destructive, but spread out over the aircraft carried and the ships' own missile systems. Thus all that destruction can be a lot more precise without fallout and other horrific collateral damage. Thus making it actually usable, and a credible threat for many situations.
Happened to a comical level during the latter half of the Second World War as supplies began to run dry, as older cannons were brought back...and found to be totally ineffective anywhere but the back on most newer tanks. And the same happened with tanks, somewhat, especially for Germany, in order to have 'complete' combined arms regiments. They uparmoured the Panzer II with the F variant heavily, yet it still carried a measly 30mm which merely plinked off most anything it came up against. And it was horrible as an infantry tank too due to its long slender chassis not having enough room for many 'grapeshot' rounds or bullets.
One of the major reasons for the American Civil War claiming so many lives was that the technology to kill people had advanced (rifles replacing old muskets being the most common example), while tactics (such as bayonet charges into the massed artillery and rifle fire) and medical techniques lagged behind.