When the hero of a Video Game gains a new weapon or item, it can come with a whole set of attacks, spells, or other useful things. The player, whether with experience from a previous play-through or a strategy guide, knows the button presses or secret codes to activate every function - but the hero can't use them yet. He has to "learn" those new moves.
If the move requires certain conditions, like a Limit Break or Super Mode, it can still count as this, as long as "learning" the move in-game is still required to execute it once these conditions are met.
Likewise, in most Functional Magic settings, just saying the magic word won't be enough. And if there is an instrument with a bunch of Magic Music songs, and the hero knows how to play the instrument, you can do the button presses that play a song at any point before you learn it, and still it won't have any effect until you get to the right point in the game, earn enough experience, or pay enough money for it.
The Stalking Mission, which tasks the player with following a Non-Player Character to a specific destination, almost always invokes this. If the player possesses foreknowledge of the target's ultimate destination (either because they've played the mission before or consulted a Strategy Guide), they usually can't just go there directly. Instead, they must follow the NPC and "learn" of the destination as the designers intended. Of course, this makes some sense, considering the player character would often have to be psychic to predict where the target is going beforehand.
A form of Double Unlock.
Compare You Have Researched Breathing, Sequence Breaking, Guide Dang It.
In The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Link can use a slate to summon cyclones that will transport him to different parts of the map. To summon the cyclones, the player draws certain symbols on the slate. Drawing the symbols before being told about them will yield no results.
Zig-Zagged in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. The final dungeon consists of The Maze of the Homogeneous / Tricky variety. The canonical way to get through it is to complete a long Chain of Deals culminating in a magnifying glass that allows you to read a book that contains the solution to the maze. The solution is randomly chosen, so you can't just remember (or more likely, write down) the solution from a previous playthrough. However, there are a finite number of possible solutions that the game randomly picks from. There's nothing stopping you from looking them up online and trying them all one by one, lucking into the correct sequence, or just brute-forcing your way through by trying all possible combinations (although the latter would be far more time-consuming than just finishing the Chain of Deals).
At one point in Wind Waker you have to get a password to give to Niko in order for him to open the door to the pirates' ship, but he won't let you in until you've overheard it from Gonzo and Mako. Though Gonzo does mention that you have to say it exactly right in order for Niko to accept it.
The celestial brush strokes in Ōkami, along with some combat moves. This is mostly justified, since Ammy hasn't acquired the power of the appropriate brush gods. However, at the beginning, you can't access the brush screen until Issun tells you you can, and you can't use Sunrise (which Ammy supposedly had all along) until you've jumped through the appropriate plot hoops.
Lampshaded in Ōkamiden when you CAN try to paint Sunrise before the game teaches you about it: if you do, Issun will blatantly ask if you're "trying to draw the sun or something".
In both Wild ARMs: Alter Code F and the original Wild ARMs, Jack's prologue has him entering his own name (and you giving him his name) as a test for an ancient ruin's password system. If you actually name him the password that you would have learned much later in the game, the door will open. He'll express puzzlement at this and bang on the keyboard out of curiosity of what will happen, causing him to fall into the same trap that would normally happen if you had named him anything else.
Zero in the Mega Man X and Zero games. He gains new attack moves instead of sub-weapons from bosses. In the latter series he gets Easy Amnesia, making him forget attacks that he should have memorized countless times already.
Sabin's blitzes in Final Fantasy VI, special attacks that are activated by pressing a specific sequence of buttons like in a Fighting Game. You can try and use the sequences for blitzes he hasn't learned yet, but they don't do anything until he levels up enough to use the blitz in question.
"Guessing" the correct password the first time for the rocket in Final Fantasy VII will lead to a later comment by Cid on his bafflement on how you did that. (The game still lets it slide, though.)
You aren't allowed to access the Materia menu until Barrett asks Cloud to explain how Materia works. Thankfully that happens right after the first mission.
Zell's Limit Breaks in Final Fantasy VIII appear to be like this, but you can actually do any of them right away without reading the magazines to unlock the more advanced moves IF you know the correct button inputs AND exactly which sequence of moves can combo into which other moves. Which requires either guesswork, trial-and-error to crack the mechanics, or looking it all up somewhere. On the other hand, once Zell is powerful enough to reliably hit for 9999 damage, the best way to maximize the power of his Limit Break is to ignore all the fancy unlockable moves and instead use the quickest and most basic two over and over as many times as possible, but by that point there are usually other more convenient Game Breaker tactics available.
Likewise, if you have the ingredients, you can completely ignore the weapons magazines that tell you how to upgrade your weapons, allowing for a Disc One Nuke when you consider that all of the ingredients necessary for Squall's Infinity+1 Sword are available in disc one (mostly by spending several dozen hours playing the card game), and the limit breaks available to him depend on his current weapon...
Some attacks in Devil May Cry must be purchased before they can be used no matter what, even if the method to use them is as simple as holding the analog stick towards or away from a locked-on enemy. Replaying missions with abilities, items, and weapons unlocked from later missions also results in this - for instance, if in 4 you replay the mission that introduces the Grim Grips, even though you already have the item that allows you to take advantage of them, you still have to go into the building that housed it and interact with the now-empty pedestal you grabbed it from the first time before you can do so.
In Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage!, Spyro must pay Moneybags "a small fee" to "teach" him how to swim underwater, climb ladders, and Ground Pound giant rocks, despite that all Moneybags gives for this fee is a quick explanation of the (simple) controls for each move.
To use a spell in Eternal Darkness, you normally need a scroll, three runes, a Circle of Power (3, 5, or 7 slots) and the runes' codices (these tell you the rune's name and purpose). However, thanks to the game's spellcrafting system, it is possible to create a new spell with only the required runes, skipping the scroll and codices. A spell created this way will have no label for what it does until you find its corresponding scroll, but it is still perfectly castable.
Having the codices is recommended for convenience. Translate the three Gods as Magic, Life, and Sanity, and you can craft whatever spell you want. Absorb-Life-Self is just the Recover Health spell. You also can add the Pargon (Power) runes yourself to make more powerful spells (3, 5, or 7 runes in a spell), although these also require the appropriately-sized Circle of Power.
A minor Game Breaker is the Summon-Area-Alignment combination, which creates the "Magic Pool" spell. This slowly refills the chosen stat (such as Life) over time, characterised by a symbol floating over your head while the spell is in effect. Adding in Pargon runes gives the spell a longer duration, and simply being in motion (walking / running) causes the chosen stat to fill faster. The major Game Breaker is using the secret purple "Mantarok" rune if you found it: It slowly refills all three stat bars at once, rendering you Nigh Invulnerable if you stay on the move. This spell is the second-last one you find the scroll for, so crafting it early can be a massive advantage.
In Magician's Quest: Mysterious Times for the DS, if you know (or can puzzle out) the magic alphabet words and necessary actions for a spell, you can cast it even if you haven't officially learned it yet.
Even though Jill can mix together the V-Jolt chemical herself in Resident Evil, the game won't allow you to so much as examine the shelf its components are on until you collect the "V-Jolt Report" first. Especially odd because the directions to mix it are also written on a wall in the chemical room.
In Ultima Underworld, the runes for most of the game's spells are written in the manual (not to mention identical to earlier games in the series), but you have to actually find the runes first and reach a necessary level in the spellcasting skill to cast them. For those few spells that someone teaches you in-game, though, you can cast them as soon as you have the runes and skill. Some spells can only be found through experimenting.
Earlier Ultima games avert this. In Ultima 4, 5, and 6, you need to learn the proper mantra for each Virtue; but they are the same in every game, and if you remember them from the previous installment, it'll still work.
But played straight in Ultima IX: you must complete the tedious, repetitive quest for each Shrine of Virtue to learn the corresponding Word of Virtue, which you have to use to cleanse the shrine. If the gamelets you.
Most moves in Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie cannot be used until you've officially "learned" them from Bottles or Jamjar. This makes some sense with moves that aren't altogether intuitive. In other cases, it should be obvious. Particularly egregious in the case of first-person egg shooting in the air or underwater, which works exactly the same way as egg aiming does on land, barring that the terrain-appropriate movement controls also still apply.
Mostly averted at the beginning of Banjo-Tooie, however, where all of Bottles' molehills in Spiral Mountain serve only as reviews for those unfamiliar with the moves from the first game, since Banjo actually remembers all of these moves and can use them regardless of whether the player stopped by those molehills in Tooie.
In Legend of Legaia and its sequel, Legaia 2, you can use and learn any normal art (and in Legaia 2, any super art) as soon as you have a big enough move bar for it (or temporarily lengthen it by using items or other moves). However, Mystic Arts require you to have a book before they'll work properly. Also, in Legaia 2, Maya can learn basic spells without a problem, but the more advanced ones require a trainer.
Darwinia featured command gestures that allowed you to run certain programs (though a patch replaced these with more standard function keys). Using the gestures/function keys before the program has been found simply results in the Mentor telling you it hasn't been implemented yet.
Annoyingly done in Overlord where you can't tell your minions to stay in one spot before you've been told how to, which happens after defeating the first boss, even though it's one of the basic commands! You can however use it in the dungeon battles before you're taught it.
In Patapon, you don't learn new drum beats until you unlock the relevant "drum" (i.e., button) by finding it in the stage.
Alchemy in Odin Sphere: even if you put the right ingredients together, you won't get anything other than material unless you actually have the recipe in your possession.
In most Harvest Moon games, your character can cook any recipe in the book, as long as he has the kitchen and the right ingredients. Not so in Island Of Happiness, where you only have access to Cooked Rice and Toast to begin with (and unlike the other games in the series, rice and bread isn't available from the store. You must grow the grains yourself). You have to gain the recipies either by giving ingredients to the cafe and/or diner owners (and you can only learn one per day from them) or making it to the bottom of the mine, where the Harvest Goddess will give you one on every even numbered trip down (your second, fourth, etc).
The follow up, Sunshine Island makes things a bit easier on you, by having the Diner and Cafe available from the start and certain ingredients available from Chen's shop. But then it takes two steps back with a "Degree System" , meaning you have to have to have a high enough score (which is hidden from you) to make most recipes. If your score isn't high enough, you'll just end up wasting your ingredients (some of which are quite rare, expensive and/or labor intensive).
Tale of Two Towns won't let you dig irrigation trenches until the mayor comes and teaches you, despite not needing any unusual equipment to do so.
Spin-Off series Rune Factory does this for cooking and item forging, though the recipes/formulas require mostly patience to acquire.
In some titles, such as Frontier, it's possible to make a dish without knowing the recipe; however, instead of being able to do it with 20 less than the required skill, you have to have at least the required skill. Tides of Destiny plays it entirely straight by not allowing you to cook or craft anything without the recipe, but this may be justified by some different items using the same combination of ingredients; for example, Aden's and Sonja's hats are both made with a yarn ball and a cheap cloth.
In Avalon Code, you can't make an item unless you've actually scanned either of the two corresponding Metalize first.
The Advanced Moves in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. After enough uses of the move, Mario will adopt a "thinking" pose for a moment, then a "Eureka!" one, followed by the word "ADVANCED!" On-screen prompts then indicate how to perform the Advanced variant of the move, but memorizing the moments to hit each button will not let you perform the move earlier.
Even after you get the hammers (and later the hand moves), if the back bro uses it on the front one, it will have no effect (other than making him angry) until you actually learn the related move.
Aquaria averts this with its recipe system - you can cook any food item that you have ingredients for, which includes most of the most powerful ones, for which the game will only tell you the recipe much later - but plays this straight with its songs. You have to have the experience (usually beating the right boss) that teaches you a song before you can sing it. This seems reasonable in that Aquaria's songs function like powerups in other Metroid Vania games.
Not to mention that half of them are of the "Granted power by a dying powerful being" (read: the boss you just killed) form, and the song is just used to call upon it.
In World of Warcraft, recipes for crafted objects must be found in-game by aspiring crafters. (Contrast this with Final Fantasy XI, where you can attempt any synth you have the ingredients for.)
The drawbridge password and the poodle/hellhound's name in Wishbringer. There are only three options for the password, and the dog's name never changes, but guessing or looking up the name in the hintbook results in the bridge or dog deciding that you're just guessing and thus not obeying.
Similarly, in Arthur: The Quest for Excalibur, attempting to speak the magic word for shapeshifting before Merlin teaches it to you results in "Nothing happens. (Playing from a saved game, are we?)"
In Riviera: The Promised Land, if you try to use a battle function (say, switching the row order) before your party members explain it to you, they inform you that you don't understand it yet and you shouldn't fool around with it. It can get annoying, because the tutorials are part of the narrative and take place across the first two chapters. Yggdra Union is similar in that certain functions just can't be used until a certain point in the game whether you know how to use them or not. Knights in the Nightmare thankfully solves this problem by separating the tutorials from the main game, and letting you access them from the start menu instead.
In the Paper Mario games, special moves cannot be done until you learn them, even though it's just the buttons you input.
In The Thousand Year Door, you can't input the Mario impostor's real name (Doopliss) even if you already know it from an earlier playthrough. While the explanation is that a letter is missing from the input menu and you find it in the same place you learn the true name of the impostor, only the lower-caseP is missing. Presumably in an effort to avoid Sequence Breaking, entering the impostor's name in all-caps is considered wrong despite having all of the correct letters — the name is case-sensitive, forcing you to go through the next area even though you gave the right answer.
Most card sleights in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories are unlocked through level ups or found inside treasure chests. The most simple ones such as Blizzard and Fire, however, are available as soon as you obtain their card.
In Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days, some Synthesis items won't appear in the Shop menu until you have obtained their recipes or one or more of their ingredient items. After an item becomes listed, you can see what else you need and how many of it to get.
Averted in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. You can meld any command you have the base components for, but unless you have the recipes, which are found throughout the game, you wont have any idea what it is you're melding. Even once you've made a command once, it won't show you the results of its melding until you have the recipe. This can be amazing when you accidentally create a giga command fairly early, and amazingly frustrating when you end up creating three of the same crappy command in a row even though you used very different inputs.
The Magic Music in Loom works this way; if you try a draft before you've learned it, nothing happens. Since the game randomly generates the magic songs for each new game, this isn't noticeable unless either you're doing strange things with saved games, or you're trying every combination of notes to see what happens.
The CD version didn't randomize the songs (they were always the same for every playthrough), but you still couldn't play them before you learned them. You do get a small amount of "sparkles" to indicate you've hit an actual spell.
This becomes an almost-plot point (and somewhat frustrating) in that at one point near the end, the Big Bad uses an extremely powerful draft in a cutscene (but close enough for the player to hear.) Unfortunately, you're not carrying your distaff at the time (which normally echoes music and shows you which notes to play.) It's totally possible, if you have a good ear, to recognize the notes of the draft and play it yourself — but you can't use it until the very last puzzle of the game, and you have to learn it the 'proper' way (at great personal cost) before it will work.
There's also a justified example. You also know the swan transformation / transcendence draft right from the beginning of the game, if you pay attention to how the Loom works (plus, it's one of the two drafts in the manual, the other one being Opening, the first draft you need to cast); but you can't use it until the very end (as literally the last command you input) because notes on your distaff only unlock as you grow in power, and the swan draft requires the very highest note.
A lot of the items in Power Stone 2, when mixed together, create new items (or at best randomly old ones, at worst "a failure", which gets you a special coupon). However the most "special" of items won't be created till you've found the proper "recipes" no matter how many times you throw the right ingredients together, though you know you're at least doing SOMETHING right when it just generates a random other item. Of course there are ALSO items that literally rely on random chance too, where even the "proper recipe" could get varied results every time.
For the most part, you can craft items in Kingdom of Loathing without unlocking the recipe, which will automatically add the recipe to a "discoveries" list. However, there are a few "recipes" that have to be unlocked, but some of them are ridiculous, such as not knowing how to combine brownie mix and white chocolate chips.
One of the optional quests takes place in a Zork-esque text based adventure. In it, you can find two pieces of paper. One tells you about a spell that turns monsters into harmless lizards, and the other will let your character cast that spell in the main game. However, even if you know both words, typing them into the prompt will do nothing until you've found and read both those notes.
The PC game Secrets of Da Vinci: The Forbidden Manuscript has a bookcase in one room with a different letter on each book's spine. To open a secret passage, you must click on the books that spell out the name of da Vinci's lover. Even if you know the name from a previous playthrough, however, the passage will not open until after you've been told the name by an NPC.
In Breath of Fire II, Cute Bruiser Katt has several high grade attack spells in her inventory, but lacks the MP to use them. The only way to use them is to find the Black Shaman (which won't unlock until you've found all the others) and fuse Katt with her and the Blue Shaman (one of the first Shamans you can find), at which point Katt will become a Lightning Bruiser (at least until she takes enough damage to undo the fusion).
You can also get a house resident who will boost Katt's AP stat roughly threefold, allowing her to use the much more physically powerful Black/Red fusion, but this is something of a Guide Dang It even by the standards of Breath of Fire II.
In Oddworld: Abe's Oddyssee, the locks in the rooms of the Paramonia and Scrabania Temples requires a melody to be played using the 3 bells. You might know the correct melody from a previous playthrough and you can try to enter it, but it won't work. You must learn the melody and then go back to the bells, which will now play the melody automatically and open the door.
Dead Rising 2 lets you create Combo Weapons before you've attained the proper Combo Card that tells you how to make it. However, without the Combo Card you don't gain the x2 PP bonus you would usually get from using a combo weapon, and you don't have access to the weapon's "Heavy" attack.
Numerous passwords and keycodes in the original Deus Ex are hardcoded, so use of a guide can net some very unfair bounties. One notable exception is the entrance to the Luminous Path compound. The code to the main door only works once it is given; before it is given the code won't work. Additionally, using tricks to get into the compound in a different way (usually by going over the wall) will affect another keypad deeper within the compound: not only will its code (normally the same as the main door code) not work, but somehow the 4-digit keypad becomes a 6-digit keypad.
This particular method was averted quite simply in Invisible War, by removing the manual code entry: if Alex knows the code, the keypad works, and if not, it doesn't.
In Heir Apparent, Janine has to be careful when requesting help and other things from people from previous tries that she is not supposed to have met yet. Needless to say, it gets quite frustrating, especially when she doesn't have very good staying-alive-abilites.
Astral Heats in BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger - if you haven't cleared Arcade mode with the appropriate character except for Rachel, Ragna, and Nu-13, the input for them will do nothing, even if the other conditions required for use are in play.
Dungeon Siege II has its Chants that you can use at Incantation Shrines, that is if you have found the appropriate scroll first. Even if you know the words to use. Partially averted in the New Game+ modes, wherein you can use chants you learned the first time through, but you still can't use chants you never found in earlier playthroughs until you do find them.
Averted in the Expansion with the artifact recipes. If you know the required reagents and have the appropriate item to enchant, you can make the artifacts without knowing the recipes first.
The Battle of Olympus has Prometheus "teach" the player how to draw fire from the Staff of Fennel (hold up on the controller when pressing B) but even if you already know this ahead of time, it won't work until you talk to him.
Phantom Brave: You can't lift items on your home island until you've played the appropriate tutorial. You can still lift people, and this makes it easier to reach a certain Easter Egg.
Mechanically speaking, there is not a single puzzle in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn that actually requires Insight Psynergy. All you actually need for the Ouroboros dungeon is the Arid Heat power from the Sand Prince Gem. But the game railroads you into fetching the Insight Glass anyway because that's what prompts Amiti to join the party.
Another example is that after you use Arid Heat dozens of times to navigate Barai Temple and get the Insight Glass, Amiti pops out at the entrance to the Ouroboros to prompt you to use Arid Heat on the basin of water there that is exactly like all the basins of water in Barai Temple that you already manipulated using Arid Heat. Thank you, Amiti.
In Gears of War 3, you need to attempt to start the cable car and have the characters realize it's tethered before you can bypass the barbed wire fence leading to the room where you cut the tether. If you try to open the wire fence first, Marcus will say "Can't do that yet."
In Flink, Flink can't create a magic spell until he reads the magic scroll that tells which three ingredients he needs.
Parodied in A Change In The Weather. Early on in the game, you are told that you see a "glint" in a bush; EXAMINE GLINT reveals it to be a bucket, and you can then refer to it as BUCKET for the rest of the game. However, if you have played before and already know what the item is, you might POUR WATER INTO GLINT, which the game detects and replies it "Huh? Into a.. glint? Oh, hang on, it's a bucket. Fancy that."
In The Blackwell Convergence, there is a number of topics you can look up on the protagonist's computer. If you try searching any key topics before they come up during the game, the data will still appear, but Joey will yell at you for looking up "random irrevelant things".
Parodied in Problem Sleuth. Early in the comic, Problem Sleuth comes across a piece of paper with three symbols - a star, a heart, and a horseshoe. Later, without the paper, he comes across a rotary phone with symbols instead of numbers. However, the 'game' doesn't let him dial the right combination unless he returns with the piece of paper:
You vaguely recall seeing somewhere the sequence of symbols, STAR - HEART - HORSESHOE. However, you can't quite remember the symbols STAR - HEART - HORSESHOE. You will need the piece of paper with STAR - HEART - HORSESHOE written on it if you wish to remember the sequence STAR - HEART - HORSESHOE.
Virtue's Last Reward makes use of this in-character. Sigma and Phi can remember, and make use of, events the player has seen on previous playthroughs of the game before they have occurred in the plot of a current playthrough, frequently baffling or scaring the other characters. In the final ending, the player takes control of an unknown character who baffles Phi in the same way.
Played straight for the dances in Shantae. While you might be able to remember the button sequences from game to game, said sequences don't actually do anything until you meet the genies that teach you how to do the dances.
Averted in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Even before you have officially learned any of Alucard's spells, inputing the button command will perform it and even add it to your technique menu for you instead of having to buy the respective spell scrolls from the Librarian.
In a strange example, Fighters Destiny has four secret characters (Robert, Ushi, Joker, and Master) whose unlocking methods you can look up online and perform. The catch: these methods won't work until Master tells you how to unlock them, which you can learn by beating the game.
In Resident Evil 4, Leon knows that Ashley is locked away in the church. However, upon reaching the church for the first time, Leon finds it locked and must take a side path to find the key. If the player takes the side path before trying the door, they will get a special call from Hunnigan telling Leon to stop sightseeing and focus on the mission.
F.3.A.R. introduces this as a side-effect of the new rank-up system in singleplayer. Whenever you rank up, you gain an upgrade or two, like increased ammo capacity. One of the Point Man's earliest upgrades is the ability to use a jump-kick and sliding kick - abilities the player could use from the very beginning of every other game in the series.