Follow TV Tropes


Full-Potential Upgrade

Go To

A character is powerful. So powerful that his current weapon just won't do the job.

Whether it's because he's so powerful that he breaks the weapons he uses, or a normal weapon simply won't allow him to fight to his full potential, the result is the same: That character must seek out a weapon capable of surviving his use.

Typically this will be a Named Weapon, often a magically enhanced blade of some kind or otherwise created out of some rare material. Almost as often this weapon will need to be an Ace Custom or otherwise crafted specifically for the character's use. The first use of this new weapon is almost always dramatic.

This trope does not apply to when a weapon needs an upgrade to fight the Big Bad, but rather is specific to when a hero needs the upgrade to keep up with his own increases in power. Compare Evolving Weapon, which may either be a solution to this situation or prevent it from ever occurring. Contrast Amplifier Artifact, which empowers an ability beyond the character's capabilities.

Can sometimes follow an instance of So Last Season, when the original weapon or equipment is shown to be ineffective against the next stages of the Sorting Algorithm of Evil.

Not to be confused with Time to Unlock More True Potential.


Anime & Manga

  • A filler episode of One Piece shows Roronoa Zoro was plagued by this problem, with his second and third swords constantly breaking in battle, before getting his Named Weapons Yubashiri and Kitetsu III.
  • Strike Witches:
    • Yoshika encountered this in episode 8 of the second season. She began to have problems flying and there seemed to be nothing wrong with either her body or her Striker unit. The episode ends with the explanation that Yoshika's power had grown to the point her Striker unit couldn't handle what she was putting into it. Fortunately, a new Striker invented by her father was capable of handling her higher output and allowed her to fight better than ever.
    • Mio is possibly an inversion. Her powers were growing weaker, but she managed to upgrade to a Striker Unit that let her maximize what she still had.
  • Haru Glory of Rave Master inherited his Ten Commandments sword from Shiba when he became the second Rave Master. Towards the end of the series, we learn that, because the sword was created for Shiba's use, Shiba alone could wield it properly. An entirely new Ten Commandments had to be crafted from scratch for Haru's use.
  • Gundam:
    • The RX 78-2 mobile suit from Mobile Suit Gundam had to be upgraded multiple times because Amuro was thinking and attempting to make it move faster than even the best Federation suit could handle. Most notably is the magnetic coating that was applied to the joints, reducing friction and increasing movement speed by roughly 33%; in the novel, he instead had his Gundam destroyed in battle, so he moved onto the RX-78-3 "G3 Gundam" which was the testbed for said magnetic coating.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket shows that the Federation was aware of Amuro's issues, and near the end had built him a customized Gundam (the RX-78NT-1 "Alex") that would have been able to solidly keep up with his Newtype abilities. Unfortunately, it's destroyed before he gets it.
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Zechs Merquise obtains the mothballed Super Prototype Tallgeese because he hopes its insane performance can match the Gundams. In his early test flights, he suffers broken ribs and a heart attack from its murderous accelerationnote . About 3/4 of the way through the series, however, he finds that Tallgeese can't keep up with his own skills anymore, and self destructs it to distract OZ so he can steal Wing Gundam Zero (which he later trades with Heero for Gundam Epyon).
    • In the Mobile Suit Gundam 00 TV series this is inverted as it is the upgrade providing the massive GN Particle exposure that leads to Setsuna's Innovation (which in turn allows him to make full use of the 00-Riser). His subsequent Movie upgrade plays this trope straight.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam AGE
      • Zeheart Galette's X-Rounder abilities are so great that even the Zedas R cannot keep up with him. It's not until he gets both a mask that focuses his powers and a state-of-the-art prototype (the Zeydra) that he's able to fully bring out his abilities. Even then, he's still not up to his real potential. It isn't until he gets the Gundam Legilis that he's truly able to bring out everything he has (and in turn, the full power of the Legilis, which not even the supremely powerful X-Rounder Ezelcant could do).
      • Kio also complains that the AGE-3 is moving too sluggishly to keep up with his reflexes just prior to the final arc. The AGE-FX was the AGE System's answer to this complaint.
  • Goemon from Lupin III kept breaking his swords when he first developed his insane cut-through-anything technique, since the Lupin III page makes mention of his Zantetsuken, it's implied he did indeed get a better sword.
  • In Berserk, Guts needs to upgrade to the Dragon Slayer to fight Apostles without breaking his sword (which is only possible because he has the inhuman strength to cut through said enemies in the first place.)
  • Lyrical Nanoha:
    • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, shortly before the crew receives their first real mission, they are given unique Intelligent Devices befitting proper combat mages, instead of Subaru and Teana's MacGyvered ones or Erio and Caro's cheap mass-produced staves. Justified as the intensity of training eventually resulted in the low-grade stuff constantly breaking.
    • After Subaru embraced her inherent cyborg fighting techniques, Shari upgraded her Intelligent Device to be able to handle her increased speed and power.
    • It's mentioned in passing that after Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, the TSAB technicians had enormous trouble creating a Device to handle Hayate's insane power output because she kept breaking all of them. In the end, she had to create one on her own.
  • In Ronin Warriors, when Ryo receives the Inferno Armor, he doesn't get the weapons to go with it. Instead, he has to use the twin katanas that come equipped with his normal Wildfire Armor, which can't handle the strain of Inferno Armor's special attack. After nearly destroying the Wildfire swords, a mini-arc is dedicated to finding the Swords of Fervor, which Ryo uses with the Inferno Armor. He does repair his original swords shortly after.
  • Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai: The Draconic Aura which a fully-realised Dragon Knight channels through their attacks is so powerful that it shatters any normal weapon, the only exception being the Demon Dragon Blade (a weapon Forged by the Gods for the Dragon Knight to wield). This causes some trouble for Dai when he masters his power without having access to the blade (because the previous Dragon Knight is still using it and considers him an enemy). He resolves this by persuading the Ultimate Blacksmith of the setting, Lon Beruk (normally known for creating weapons with strange powers), to craft a Boring, but Practical blade of Orichalcum which can match its durability.
  • In Air Gear, the people that can perform godlike feats with their roller skates need constant repair for the wheeled equipment. So much that there is an arc about "Parts Wars", a coven of Wrench Wenchs, and Regalia: skates that work so well with a type of user that they share the same class of equipment as huge mechs and cybernetic prosthetics. People have risked their lives to get their hands on a regalia and more so to keep phenomenally skilled enemies from putting them on and reaching new levels of unlocked potential.
  • Zeke from Zoids: Chaotic Century has this as an ability; he can apply this trope to a zoid to keep it from holding its pilot back when said pilot goes beyond the level that even an organoid-boosted zoid can handle.
  • In Samurai Usagi, members of the Usagi Dojo sought out the famed swordsmith Kiyohito for new katana in preparation for an upcoming match. Kiyohito not only made them new swords, but custom-made them to bring out the full strength of each character's individual fighting style. Maro's drastically improved his Spectacular Spinning-style, while the training Chiyokichi gained while his weapon was being prepared, along with the upgrade, practically gave him Dishing Out Dirt abilities.
  • In the sixth episode of Kill la Kill, Ryuko fights with Elite Four member Sanageyama twice. The first time Ryuko's able to win. In the rematch, Sanageyama's learned from his mistakes and inflicts a Curb-Stomp Battle on Ryuko. The only reason Ryuko's able to escape is because Sanageyama had become so much more powerful his Goku Uniform couldn't handle the strain and overheated. The episode ends with his uniform being upgraded to handle his power.
  • Inuyasha:
    • Sesshomaru's quest is to find a weapon that is powerful enough to accommodate his enormous power, and most of Inuyasha's problems with him stem from Inuyasha inheriting from their father the one sword Sesshomaru thinks can do it. Although Sesshomaru commissions an Evil Weapon that is Tessaiga's equal, it eventually shatters when his growing power and compassion become too much for it. It's only when he's finally let go of the belief that he needs a blade from his father to complete himself and gains enough compassion to put his life on the line to protect others that his almost-death triggers a transformation so extreme that his own soul manifests the full potential of his power in the form of a unique sword that makes even Tessaiga look weak.
    • Inverted with Inuyasha himself. As Tessaiga can absorb new powers, at one point, the hero becomes too weak to properly wield it and needs to improve quickly.
  • In My-Otome 0~S.ifr~, Lena Sayers's potential as an Otome is too much for her GEM, the Lofty Crimson Jade, which she overpowers and destroys. She has better luck with the downright overpowered Blue Sky Sapphire.


  • Harry Potter:
    • Wands and Wizards in the universe have to be precisely matched up largely for this reason. Using another wizard's wand or a hand-me-down is far less effective than using one properly matched. An exception to this is a wand forcibly taken without the consent of their current owner, such as being Disarmed during a duel. As explained by wandmaker Ollivander, a captured wand will generally shift its allegiance. This is demonstrated as early as the first book as, even before it was badly damaged, Ron wasn't as adept with his brother's hand-me-down wand as he was after he got his own in the third book.
    • One thing that stymies Voldemort's attempts to kill Harry is the fact that Voldemort can not reliably use his wand against him, due to both his and Harry's having magical cores from the same source making them cancel each other out. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Voldemort tries using someone else's wand but the link he's unwittingly forged between himself and Harry prevents it from working, too. As a result, Voldemort begins seeking out what he believes to be a Full Potential Upgrade for himself: an especially powerful wand to replace his original. Known as the Elder Wand, among other names, it has traded hands many times over the centuries and, while a captured wand will rarely shift its allegiance unless won in a proper duel, the Elder Wand both shifts allegiance quite easily and is very powerful, making it highly sought after by those who know of it. Unfortunately for Voldemort, Draco Malfoy's actions in the previous book end up being a Spanner in the Works that results in Harry claiming the Elder Wand before Voldemort can, despite Voldemort being the one using it.
  • Inheritance Cycle
    • A variation in that Eragon learned to fight with an unbreakable sword. As a result he has a bad habit of blocking attacks with the edge of the blade rather than the flat, which leads to him quickly ruining any normal weapon.
    • Similarly he breaks his old bow, designed for humans, and is given an elven bow which is designed to put up with stronger users.
  • Seen in Diane Duane's Tale of the Five series. Neither Herewiss and Segnbora can use the rods other practicioners channel the blue Fire through — Herewiss because he's the first man in centuries to actually have the power, Segnbora because she's so powerful she keeps destroying them when she tries —, and so they only manage to realize their full potential in that regard by finding their own tools to work with (Herewiss finally manages to forge his own suitable sword after a long line of failures while Segnbora reclaims a legendary blade of pure shadow that was lost long ago with one of her ancestors).
  • Journey to the West has Sun Wukong going to search for a weapon (ending up with his famous golden staff) after mortal weapons prove to be too clumsy for him. The Havoc in Heaven cartoon changes it to Sun Wukong's ordinary sword literally falling apart in his hands.

Live-Action TV

  • Early in Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, the heroes' original weapons are broken, and all the replacements they have are too old to be of any use, so the heroes have to go on a quest to find a set of legendary weapons.
  • Power Rangers
    • Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue inverts this: the Titanium morpher is too powerful for regular humans. Ryan was raised by demons, but exactly how this enables his evidently-unaltered body to handle the morpher is still not clear.
    • In Power Rangers Wild Force, the Rangers gain twin Bear Zords, but their strength takes a near-fatal toll on the Lion Zord that forms the core of the combined Megazord. They resolve this by getting the Gorilla Zord, which can be used in place of the Lion and has more brute force. They also rescue and recruit the Soul Bird, which heals the Lion Zord. In future episodes, though, it turns out that the Lion can withstand using one Bear Zord.


  • Cú Chullain's strength was such that any normal weapon shattered from the force of his swings. He had to get this trope for his chariot for similar reasons.

Video Games

  • In Custom Robo Arena, your first robo, the Ray mk II, supposedly gets worn out by your high mental energy (although this has no in-game effect, other than the fact that it is replaced by the Ray mk III). Also, Stark, the Old Master, has to use a special military Robo to fight at his full potential.
  • In Warcraft lore, Deathwing experienced this with his own body. The amount of power he wielded following the creation of the Demon Soul risked literally tearing him apart. He had the goblins under his command create and weld metal plates to his body to hold it together. As of Cataclysm, he had to do it again by replacing his old adamantite plating with elementium, as shown in the expansion's cinematic.
  • Karura of Utawarerumono is so strong that she can tear enemies in half with her fingernails. She requested a weapon that always stays sharp and that can never break or bend. The resulting weapon is so big and heavy that it takes quite a few men to carry it. Karura just picks it up with one hand.
  • In some continuities, this applies to Sonic The Hedgehog. His shoes had to be created specially with power rings because he burns out the soles of regular shoes while running.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic you can spec Jedi characters to wield any weapon if you want. But for best results you need the good old fashioned lightsaber. With it you get a big boost to damage, can upgrade it to deal even more damage and of course deflect projectile weapons. In the sequel this is downplayed, as a blaster wielding Jedi is an entirely practical build, the only thing you miss out on is the Pet Crystal which gives some stats boosts.
  • In Asura's Wrath, Asura's affinity with Wrath Mantra was so abnormally high that he could channel insane amounts of it despite not even having a Mantra Reactor. However, the power output of his Berserker and Wrath forms was so great his body couldn't endure it, with the Berserker form's Angst Nuke Battle Aura having charred his skin to create the Wrath form's black appearance. It is only after Yasha implants Asura with the Mantra Reactor of the Karma Fortress - specifically designed to handle huge amounts of Mantra - that Asura can unleash his full power, resulting in the planet-sized Destructor form and a six-armed upgrade to his Mantra form.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the Skeleton Key is an artifact of Nocturnal, the Daedric Prince of Darkness and the Night who is also associated with Thieves and Luck. It plays a major role in the Thieves' Guild questline, where it is revealed that it can "unlock" anything. This includes the limits of human potential, essentially allowing the one who possesses it to max out their natural abilities. At that point, only the physical limitations of the wielder's own body prevent them having unlimited power. Mercer Frey uses it precisely for this. In the hands of the player, however, it is merely an unbreakable lockpick.