Balance, Power, Skill, Gimmick
From the left: Jack-of-All-Stats, Fragile Speedster, Mighty Glacier and... er... whatever it is The Chick gets to drive.

When there are four player characters available in a video game, often one of the choices (usually your first pick) is a balance of whatever stats the game plays with. The second choice is at one end of the stats scale; the third choice is at the other end, opposite of the second, and the fourth choice is somehow set apart from the three others by having a completely different gimmick, often one that doesn't directly tie into the stats scale.

The standard set up is a combination of Jack-of-All-Stats, Mighty Glacier, Fragile Speedster, and then something else for variety. But "Power vs Speed" can be substituted by just about anything as is relevant to the game: magic vs. physical power, range vs. melee, jump height vs. run speed, offense vs. defense, or other things.

Related to Faction Calculus. Subtrope of Competitive Balance. The gimmick is often a Master of None, though it may prove Not Completely Useless in That One Level.


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    Beat-Em-Up Games 
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time: Averting Standardized Leader, Michelangelo is Jack of All Stats. Raphael is has short range but high attack speed. Donatello has long range but slow attack speed. Leonardo is the gimmick having medium range and attack speed like Mike, but has a jump attack as his fourth move in his combo which leaves him open, and a back kick that gives him quicker protection from behind than the others.
  • In Streets of Rage 2, Axel is the regular street brawler, Max is the hulking wrestler, Skate the is fast kid using spinning techniques, while Blaze has catfighty moves with high range and a better knife swing.
  • Ninja Baseball Batman: Captain Jose is the Jack-of-All-Stats, Twinbats Ryno is the Fragile Speedster, Beanball Roger is the Mighty Glacier, and Stick Straw is the Glass Cannon. What makes Straw the Gimmick is the half-screen range of some of his basic attacks and a wide variety of throws — both valuable tools in a Beat 'em Up.
  • Final Fight 3 Puts Guy as a slightly faster Jack-of-All-Stats, but Mayor Mike Haggar is the main character (and a Mighty Glacier.) Detective Lucia is the Fragile Speedster of the crew. Dean is slow and not as strong as Haggar, but he specializes in ranged grabs.

    Flying Games 
  • Star Fox:
    • In the Star Fox Assault multiplayer, Fox has average stats, while Falco is fragile and has the best Arwing skill, Slippy has a lot of health and has poor Arwing skill, and Krystal has medium-low stats and tends to get barriers a lot (the gimmick).
    • Taken further in Star Fox Command. Fox is balanced with single lasers, single lock, and a medium boost meter but may be the gimmick in story mode because he can upgrade either his lock or lasers depending on your route. Falco is Fragile Speedster having a huge boost meter and multilock but low HP and only single lasers, Slippy is Mighty Glacier having huge HP and Plasma Lasers, but no lock at all and a short boost meter. Krystal is balanced like Fox, but with twin lasers default and no potential for upgrades.

    Hack and Slash 
  • In Gauntlet, the Valkyries tended to be balanced, Warriors emphasized heavy damage, Elves/Archers emphasized speed, and Wizards were the gimmick, emphasizing magic.

    Platform Games 
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • In Super Mario Bros. 2, Mario is balanced, Luigi has jump height on his side, Toad has movement speed and lifting power on his side, and the Princess is different from all three in that she can hover for a short period of time. They use the same set up in Super Mario 3D World, but lifting power is standardized (and instantaneous) since it's no longer a core game mechanic.
    • Super Mario 64 DS has Mario being balanced, Wario being the strongest, Luigi having an assortment of movement skills, and Yoshi having a unique gameplay style. In this case, Mighty Glacier Wario is the character who's almost entirely useless unless the stage specifically requires his abilities.
  • Mega Man ZX uses this in a Multiform Balance variant: Model ZX is balanced, Model FX is about power, Models HX and PX are about dexterity and speed, and Model LX is about movement in water. (It can be used outside water but its performance is lackluster.)
  • Little Samson: Samson is balanced (you can complete every level with him alone, but it's far easier with the other characters' specialties), Gamm has the most powerful attacks (but the slowest movement), KO is a textbook Fragile Speedster, and Kikira is a Lightning Bruiser of sorts whose shots move at an angle.
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures: The Nerd is balanced, the Bullshit Man has the most powerful weapon and the slowest run, the Couch Guy has the fastest run and covers the most area with his weapon, and Motherfucker Mike is the only one who can see and break through destructible walls.
  • Ganbare Goemon: Goemon is the most balanced, Ebisumaru is the slowest and strongest, Sasuke is the fastest and weakest, and Yae has the most specialized moves (such as turning into a mermaid).

    Racing Games 
  • In the F-Zero SNES game, there are four cars to play as. The Blue Falcon is average, the Golden Fox has fast acceleration but is fragile and has low grip, the Fire Stingray has high top speed and is durable but has low accelaration, and the Wild Goose is durable and corners well, the gimmick.
  • Wave Race 64: Ryota is balanced, Ayumi has low top speed but high acceleration (Fragile Speedster), Dave has high speed but low acceleration (Mighty Glacier) Miles has medium stats but extremely high turning (gimmick)
  • Crash Team Racing: Crash and Cortex are balanced, Tiny and Dingodile are slow-acceleration high-speed racers, Coco and N. Gin are bad-handling high-acceleration racers, and Polar and Pura are slow-moving but excellent turners. Unlockable racers follow this pattern as well, with the exception of Penta Penguin in the PAL version where he's a Master of All.

    Real-Time Strategy Games 
  • In Warcraft III, the four playable races were Humans, Orcs, Undead, and Night Elves. Orcs emphasized the brute force of their units, while the Undead emphasized strength in numbers. Humans struck a balance between these two, and the Night Elves were different from all three in that they emphasized magic and ranged combat.

    Shoot-Em Up Games 
  • The four playable teams in Touhou ~ Imperishable Night somewhat counts:
    • The balanced Boundary Team has the standard setup: Human Reimu attacks with weak, spread-out shots for weak enemies and the Youkai Yukari has strong, focused shots for bosses. They also have their own small gimmick in the form of homing attacks.
    • The hard-hitting Magic Team has Marisa, who has stronger, but less spread-out shots, as the human, while Alice, the Youkai, shoots a strong laser that can hit multiple enemies. They also have the Good Bad Bugs, nicknamed by fans as MAlice Cannon, which allows them to basically attack together at the same time for heavy damage.
    • The Scarlet Team's human side Sakuya has very spread-out, but very weak shots, while the youkai side Remilia has focused shots, but she also have familiars capable of hitting as hard as her attacking other places.
    • Then there's the gimmicky Ghost Team, which reverses the usual setup, but making the attacks stronger than other teams. It's the half-human Youmu who has the focused shots, while the Youkai side Yuyuko is the one with spread-out shots. They're also the only team whose Youkai meter maxes at 50% Human.
    • Ten Desires works similarly: Reimu and Marisa are about the same, Sanae replaces the Scarlet Team, and is a pure spread type, and Youmu is even weirder here. Youmu's unfocused options are ghosts that trail behind her, while her focused "shot" is a charge attack that will release a series of huge sword slashes.