Whenever the plot of a Mecha series calls for a Mid-Season Upgrade
you can tell there will be changes. However adding new powers to an existing robot will often require scrapping the old design altogether and bringing in a shiny new one, and this is not always convenient. One of the easiest ways to get around this is a separate add on, that can be used to grant the new powers, simply by attaching it to the existing robot.
Adding a flight mode to a previously land-bound machine is a favorite. Sometimes this add-on will be a separate vehicle that is piloted by another character, combining (pun originally accidental but we're keeping it) this with Combining Mecha
. Since most Real Robots
are modular and reconfigurable to begin with (just like the expensive model kits they're hawking,) this is pretty much standard operating procedure for them.
franchises love these, mainly because it means they can release the expansion packs as separate sets, without causing the demand for the older sets to stagnate.
If there are more than one expansion pack, expect to see Multi Form Balance
kick-in. Meta Mecha
is an extreme example of this. Compare Frilly Upgrade
, the Magical Girl
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Anime and Manga
- The Mazinger franchise:
- Mazinger Z is probably the originator of this trope: its Jet Scrander is basically a giant robot-sized jetpack, and it was created when Dr. Hell started creating more and more flying Mechanical Beasts to attack a Mazinger was helpless against aerial attacks. Word of God said that he always intended for Mazinger flying, but he first he needed establishing the mecha was heavy, so he whitheld the Jet Scrander until it was clear that Mazinger was not light.
- The other Mazingers had them, too. Great Mazinger introduced Great Booster, which was a separate jetpack which doubled as a ramming weapon. UFO Robo Grendizer had the Double, Marine and Drill Spazers, allowing the titular robo to fly, traverse the seas and burrow underground. Mazinkaiser, at least it's OAV version, had the Kaiser Scrander, which functioned the same way as Jet Scrander, though it also doubled as a boomerang!. And finally Shin Mazinger introduces an upgraded version of the Jet Scrander called the God Scrander that, in addition to flight, allows Mazinger to transform into a giant Rocket Punch.
- Kotetsu Jeeg: Jeeg had first the Jeeg Drills, a set of weaponized rockets that doubled like This Is a Drill, and later it had the Earth, Marine and Sky parts, three sets of armor let the Humongous Mecha fighting in land, sea and air, and transforming.
- Digimon Xros Wars, being a Combining Mecha themed Digimon, has this. Generally the base form is Shoutmon X3, he gains a sword in Shoutmon X4 by combining with Starmon + Pickmons, adds speed due to centaur feet plus cannons in Shoutmon X4B by combining with Belzeebumon, adds a shield with a huge cape for Shoutmon X4K by combining with Knightmon and PawnChessmons, adds a spear for Shoutmon X4S by combining with Spadamon, and finally gains jet packs, a blaster, a shield, and a power increase for Shoutmon X5 by combining with Sparrowmon. Let's not even go to the combination beyond X5...
- One variant on the G-Armor in Mobile Suit Gundam basically allowed the Gundam to ride in it, converting it into an impromptu fighter jet. Axed in the movie versions, like the infamous Gundam Hammer.
- On a more realistic note is the G-Defensor in Zeta Gundam, which combined with the Gundam Mk. II. The sidestorie Advance of Zeta: Traitors to Destiny, a Red Shirt mech Nemo can use it by equiped with Gundam Mk. II's backpack, wile SD Gundam G Generation gives the Rick Dias its own D-Defensor.
- The GP03 Dendrobium from Gundam 0083 is somewhere in-between this and Mid-Season Upgrade, with a generous helping of Cool Ship. The GP01Fb plays it straight, though.
- The GP01Fb is an odd duck; originally, the GP01 could be configured for space combat simply by giving it a new Core Fighter (in other words, a classic Mecha Expansion Pack). However, Kou gets the Gundam trashed by trying to use it in space without the pack, so Anaheim Electronics rebuilds it into the Full Vernien, which is more of a half-Mid-Season Upgrade.
- The ReGZ from Char's Counterattack combines this with Transforming Mecha - literally. Its flight form is achieved by docking it with the Back Weapons System, which is basically a nosecone, wings, and beam cannons that dock with the backpack. The Scorpio from Gundam Wing uses the same concept.
- Gundam Unicorn has the Stark Jegan, which is a slightly tweaked Jegan with fitted new armor and armaments.
- Unicorn itself receives an upgrade to "Full-Armor Unicorn", which is Unicorn with about fifty-bazillion guns on its back.
- The Banshee also gets an upgrade into the Banshee Norn: it ditches the giant beam rifle and claw hand in favor of a multi-purpose rifle and a booster on its back, as well as a greatly improved Psycoframe interface.
- The (short) manga and model series Gundam F90 has the eponymous Gundam, which is fairly orthodox except for the hardpoints spread about its body which allow it to equip a staggering variety of weapons and gearnote . In the manga, none of the actual packs are used; instead, for the Final Battle the hero equips parts piecemeal from three different packs, to achieve a "Full Weapons" configuration.
- The V2 Gundam received the Assault and Buster variants, a melee to mid-range and long-range power-up respectively, and could even equip both outfits at once (giving it the cumbersome name of V2 Assault Buster Gundam). However, the energy requirements and additional weight of the packs lowered the V2's max specs at the same time...
- And the G-Falcon of Gundam X. A better example appears earlier though, the Gundam X Divider which adds the "Beam Harmonica" Divider shield, a double barreled beam machine gun, a second beam sword, and better thrusters.
- Gundam SEED loves this trope so much, it married it. The Strike Gundam started the trend with its Striker Packs, including the main threenote ; several more MS pop up with follow the "flight/melee/gunner" set-up, including the Impulse Gundam's Silhouettes and ZAKU Warrior/Phantom's Wizard Packs from Gundam SEED Destiny. And that's not even factoring in all the other Strikers, Silhouettes, and Wizards that show up in side-media, or the mecha that don't quite fit the same dynamic, like the Dagger L and Windamnote and the Akatsukinote .
- Duel has the "Assault Shroud", a set of armor for the otherwise unspectacular GAT-X102, giving it heavier defenses and armor plates, greater movement and agility in space and extra weaponry.
- Gundam SEED Astray tries to justify this with the two main Gundams. Blue Frame's special trait is that its computer is loaded with specs for a staggering variety of mission packs, including amphibious armor, jungle gear, etc., which fits its adaptable mercenary pilot Gai like a glove. Red Frame also gets a fair number of add-ons, mainly because its pilot Lowe is an enthusiastic mechanic and just plain loves building stuff like a Power Loader and 150-meter-long katana.
- The grand-champion mecha for expansion packs in the Seed-verse is the Astray Out Frame, equipped with a "Multi-Striker System" that allows it to load any of the expansion packs in the series: Striker packs, Impulse Silhouettes, Tactical Arms, and ZAKU Wizards, as well as a couple of packs custom-built for it.
- Play straight with Freedom and Justice in Gundam SEED, Strike Freedom and Infinite Justice in Gundam Seed Destiny with their METEOR weapon systems. It's pretty much the same in both series, but their destruction in the finale of Seed lets them bring them out again for the finale of Destiny.
- The trend continued in Gundam 00 with GN Arms and 0 Raiser for Exia, Dynames, and 00 Gundam.
- The Arios' GN Archer, which is both a Mecha Expansion Pack and a Transforming Mecha. Also strange in that they only combine in jet mode. Think Dreadwing from Transformers.
- Played straight one more time towards the end of the series, long after the Mid-Season Upgrade. Most of the Gundams received add-on weapon and equipment packs (the 00 just got a new sword and the 0 a new battery pack) in time for their swansong.
- Gundam AGE has this all over the place with the Wear Parts produced by the AGE Device. The Gundams can swap out arm and leg units to gain new weaponry and abilities. The AGE-1 and AGE-3 Gundams swap out the parts depending on the situation. The AGE-2 more or less kept its only set of Wear Parts as a permanent upgrade. Some episodes show that even the Mook mobile suits on the Federation's side can be equipped with Wear Parts if needed.
- The MSVs for the Gundam series, as befitting their Merchandise-Driven status, usually reveal that certain units have had additions, usually extra armor, that was planned but was ultimately scrapped or used by someone else other than the intended pilot.
- The manga Gundam EXA adds a couple of interesting spins on this: the series is set in the distant future of the entire Gundam timeline and revolves around G-Divers who explore recorded memories of the past Gundam stories. Thus, The Hero's Gundam has Mecha Expansion Packs explicitly based upon famous Gundams, including a melee form based on the Shining Gundam, a long-range form based on Wing Zero, and an Attack Drone form based on Strike Freedom. On top of that, when he uses these packs, he takes on aspects of the original pilots' personalities, becoming Hot-Blooded like Domon Kasshu, stoic like Heero Yuy, or hopeful like Kira Yamato.
- When not fully combined as GaoGaiGar, GaiGar could also equip Stealth Gao as a jetpack or Drill Gao for extra punching power. Arguably, Final Fusion itself counts, as well as for any other Combining Mecha who combine in this way. Also, when the Goldion Hammer is introduced, another robot is introduced with the express purpose of being GaoGaiGar's hand when he's using it.
- The Mid-Season Upgrade (as it were) was pretty much sticking giant rockets onto StealthGao, adding some extras to the Rocket Punch and Protect Shade and changing their names. A new mecha (and toy) would have to wait for FINAL's GaoFighGar. Genesic GaoGaiGar is also effectively this, as it primarily adds the original Gao Machines to GaiGar.
- All the Brave Series have a expansion for their mechs. Mostly, the 3-member squad (not the main hero mech) gets one every time. Examples include:
- This is the defining characteristic of Liger Zero in Zoids: New Century: it has three different such expansion packs, in addition to its base state. In model line, it also has Zero X armor. As well as the Fire Phoenix and Jet Falcon, separate Zoids that combined with the Zero from Zoids Fuzor.
- Other Zoids can be modified in various ways - Leena has her Gunsniper modified with twin gatling guns and missile pods, Blade Liger can be equipped with boosters with built-in beam cannon. See this and this for some examples.
- Nearly every unique mecha in Code Geass eventually gains flight capability thanks to a bulky "Float Unit". The Lancelot later receives a shoulder-mounted "hadron cannon" as well - referred to as "Conquista formation".
- Code Geass R2 eventually stops doing this though - the Lancelot is replaced by the Lancelot Albion, which uses a lightweight "Energy Wing System". The Guren is severely modified, if not completely rebuilt, (as the Guren SEITEN) with the same system a few episodes before this.
- Though R2 also shows how you can make adding such an expansion as awesome as possible: The Guren gets its Float Unit and a new radiation wave arm delivered and attached by missiles while falling from the sky down to the sea.
- The F-Type Equipment from the Neon Genesis Evangelion Expanded Universe and Super Robot Wars Alpha 3 is a set of armor and weapons for the EVA-01(!) that also actually prevents it from going berserk no matter what. The weapons also include a new rifle with a huge bayonet, N2 rocket launcher AND an AT field lightning weapon called the "Impact Bolt" mounted in the unit's shoulders, the strongest weapon in the entire franchise. To say those last two create very large explosions when used is a complete understatement
- What about the D-Type Equipment from the original? Probably counts as a subversion, considering how goofy it looks.
- Also, the S-Type Equipment for Unit-02 in Rebuild of Evangelion, which gives it flight capabilities.
- Rebuild of Evangelion also gave us the G-type equipment used by Unit-01 during the sniper battle against Ramiel, which consists of an advanced fold-down targeting scope that covers the eva's eyes and a radar antenna array, all mounted on the right shoulder fin.
- Super Dimension Fortress Macross: The FAST Pack System/Super Veritech gives the Valkyrie fighters improved maneuverability in space and increased weapon loadouts. There was also the Armored Valkrie/Veritech which added armor and a whole lotta missile launchers, but rendered the mecha unable to transform out of battloid mode until it was jettisoned.
- Hilarious in Hindsight but the former is actually Truth in Television: the real life F-15C was designed to be compatible with the optional "Fuel And Sensor Tactical" equipment which is actually a fancy name for auxiliary fuel tanks designed to reduce air drag and radar signature when compared to regular external fuel tanks at the expense of being non-removable without a ground crew. They originally wanted to pack navigational and infrared targeting systems into it as well but that was scrapped. What makes it count is that when Macross came out, the F-15 was still brand new so Shoji Kawamori might have used it for inspiration.
- The VF-25 Messiah fixed that problem with Armored Pack in Macross Frontier, allowing it to transform into fighter and GERWALK modes while still using it. The VF-171's also wind up picking up special anti-Vajra modules late in the series run.
- The Messiah does have three packs total, the Super Pack as well as the EW/ELINT version of Super Packs used to control several GHOST unmanned fighters, and the aforementioned Armored Packs. These Packs however, cannot be used within atmosphere and must be ejected prior to re-entry. They seem to be equipped with a "Smart" System allowing the Pack parts to coalesce into a single unit in low-orbit to be later retrieved when the VFs go back to outer space. This unfortunately also shows the limitation of the Pack system, as VF-25's main rival, VF-27 Lucifer has all its armament stored internally, giving it less ammo and total offensive capability overall, but gives it a Jack of All Trades trait, enhanced by its Cyborg-enhanced piloting system. Most importantly, it allows the pilot full range of offensive options even within atmosphere while the Messiah can only retaliate with its gunpod.
- Way back to the first Macross to take place chronologically in Macross Zero, Roy's VF-1 is fitted with what seems to be the precursor to Armored Valkyrie. Instead of having missile launchers all over the place however, it is also fitted with Reactive Armor, the ballistics-defeating kind of armor used on modern day battle tanks. This allowed Roy to not only ambush the two main villains with Proto-Armored Valkyrie's massive missile arsenal, but also survive their team attack due to the reactive armor.
- In Macross 7 Fire Bomber eventually picked up booster units for the their custom fighters, enhancing their effect against the Protodeviln.
- Gurren Lagann
- Gurren Lagann picks up the ability to fly in episode 13, although this is a unique case in that rather than having a flight unit designed for it, Gurren Lagann commandeers a flying enemy Gunmen and assimilates it (which is really how Lagann combines with everything).
- The Lagann is the mecha, EVERYTHING ELSE is its expansion pack. Seriously, that's the whole point.
- The Space Gunmen are giant robots FOR the giant robots, which are basically the same machines but much larger.
- And the Arc-Gurren Lagann, which is like a space gunmen for Gurren Lagann itself, except its slightly bigger and looks different. And the there's the Chou Ginga Gurren Lagann... which is piloted by the Arc Gurren Lagann, which is piloted by Gurren Lagann. Many, many expansion packs. It goes all the way up to "SUPER TENGEN TOPPA GURREN LAGANN" that's pretty much, made of win and running on awesome.*
- In an example that can be installed at will, Kittan can upgrade his King Kittan into the King Kittan Deluxe by having his sister transform her Kiyalunga into a shield and lance for him to use.
- Part of the whole point behind the "Hecatonchires" system in the Appleseed Manga. With it, a cyborg can have several attachments hooked up directly to his body, and control them as easily as his own arms and legs. Reportedly, a 'Borg with the system could run an entire Aircraft Carrier by himself.
- Fafner in the Azure: Dead Aggressor has an unusual case: the eponymous mecha has its air upgrade not so much attached to it as vice versa.
- Zentrix Zeus and quantum both get flight gear to go into space.
- Mahou Senki Lyrical Nanoha Force has started blurring the lines between Magical Girl and Mecha Show by equipping the title character with this monster.
- Stellvia of the Universe - the Infinity has a whole kit of optional parts including boosters and laser cannons.
- Asurada GSX from Future GPX Cyber Formula receives two expension packs: the "Rally" and "Aero" types, which are used in the second and third races to fit different racing situations.
- The Aestivalis in Martian Successor Nadesico have an odd variation of the expansion packs: they have various frames designed for certain areas (land, air, space, the Moon), but the frames are the bodies - the crew just swap the Assault Pit (the head and the cockpit) from one frame to the next. Doesn't work very well when there's a need to swap on the fly, shown by Gai's Cross Clash attempt.
- Gear Fighter Dendoh had an odd case with the Full Armor package - a Super Robot homage collection of weapons and gear when the Data Beasts abandon the heroes when the plunge into the Despair Event Horizon.
Live Action TV
- Numerous Power Rangers and Super Sentai series use this mechanic when a Sixth Ranger joins up. The very first was Super Live Robo of Choujuu Sentai Liveman, which combined the initial robot Live Robo and the robot of the new guys, Live Boxer.
- In the first season of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, the Dragonzord could either be combined with the Mammoth, Saber-Toothed Tiger, and Triceratops Zords to make a new humanoid machine, or truer to the trope, combine with the completed Megazord as an extra weapons pack. The Falconzord from the third season could also combine with the Ninja Megazord as a jetpack, or the Shogun Megazord as a set of chest-mounted guns.
- Some seasons go a bit crazier with it, and numerous new Zords are introduced, each attaching to the standard formation in a way that adds one or two new capabilities. Eventually enough show up for the new ones to make their own formation, but that usually waits until near-midseason. Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue and Power Rangers Operation Overdrive didn't stop bringing out new formations until near the end of the series.
- Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger and Power Rangers Wild Force were probably one of the best examples of this, since each new zord provided a new weapon or upgrade specific to the animal in question. The long trunk and large ears of the elephant became a sword and shield, the long neck of the giraffe became a spear, and the horns of the deer created a claw/clutcher. Still overdone, but there was a certain pattern to it. Nonetheless, the greatest criticism about Wild Force is that it was more about its Mecha Expansion Packs than its story or characters.
- Engine Sentai Go-onger (aka Power Rangers RPM) sets the new record, though, with EngineOh G12, the series' largest combining mecha yet in terms of individual components—as the name suggests, it's formed by combining 12 Engines (that can form four entire separate robots!) into what has been described as a member of Team Hilarious Overkill.
- Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger went all-out with this, as the Mecha Expansion Packs are in fact Legend Mecha used by previous teams (like Mahou Sentai Magiranger's Magi Dragon or Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger's PAT Striker), which the Gokaiger unlock after winning the approval of their predecessors. The season's requisite Ultrazord, Kanzennote Gokaioh, is made by combining the main robot, the Sixth Ranger's robot, and the Go-Onger Legend Mecha, and is of course just as ludicrously large as the EngineOh G12, capable of movement only by using foot wheels.
- Ressha Sentai Tokkyuger seems to be headed this way. The Rangers' base is a Cool Train with five cars, each in one of their colors, which turns into the expected mecha. However, from the earliest episodes, they keep finding new ones that add a new power to the main formation, and it's episode nine when they can form a second robot of their own, and in episode 11, both robots combine. Last time it happened this early, it was, well, Go-Onger.
- Kamen Rider Kuuga's beetle robot Gouram can attach itself to his Cool Bike TryChaser 2000 and become armored TryGouram. Turn out to be Awesome, but Impractical though, as TryChaser's chassis got damaged by combination process. The Mid-Season Upgrade BeatChaser 2000 fix this problem.
- Tomica Hero Rescue Force features a wide selection of vehicles that can combine with Rescue Striker, Rescue Saver, and Rescue Diver (Apparently).
- While not technically an expansion pack, KOS-MOS' Tertiary Weapons System in the Xenosaga series strongly resembles this trope.
- Super Robot Wars is fond of busting this out whenever possible (including the Gundam and Evangelion examples above as well as many more from the mecha animes that take part). Examples in Original Generation mechs include the Huckebein Boxer frame from Alpha, the various Excellence frames from R, and the G-Thundergate in Original Generation Gaiden.
- Appears in Armored Core: For Answer, after a fashion, with the VOB system, although the reasons are different.
- To explain, all Armored Cores have a special booster system called Over Boost, which lets the mech go really fast, but sometimes this isn't enough. The VOB stands for Vanguard Over Boost, and it basically amounts to a few Space Shuttle SRBs bolted together and duct-taped to the back of the AC for when they need to get into a combat area really goddamn fast.
- The VOB's average speed is around 2500 kph. It's possible to build a mech that has a normal OB faster than that, and actually get slowed down by missions that require the VOB. Many optimized OB Lancer and Twin Blade builds can accomplish this with ease, especially when you turn on the Unlimited Energy Regulation.
- Assault Suits Valken had three shooter levels where the player's mecha is outfitted with a rocket pack.
- Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War : Dark Crusade — Though used on battlesuits and not Humongous Mecha, the Tau Commander and Crisis suits can be further upgraded once built with different weapons (the jetpack needs to be researched elsewhere). In the campaign, the Commander gets a lot more upgrades, such as stealth and drones.
- Demonbane: The titular Demonbane later gain Shantak flight system.
- In Thunder Force V, while not a mecha, the 5th mission start with your fighter RVR-01 Gauntlet docked with Brigandine module. It's huge and slow, but can take lot of hits as well as unlimited Secondary Fire (one being Wave Motion Gun]). Too bad that Brigandine only lasts for one stage, but the Gauntlet will keep some upgrades from it and become RVR-02 Vambrace afterward.
- On enemy's side, the Original Vasteel will fight you using its own modules, each one is larger and more bizzare than before . Then in VI, Vasteel Nocht will upgrade itself after previously being blasted apart by having new parts added onto old ones before recombining.
- Also from VI, the fight against Perfect Gargoyle start with its being serpent-like form, damage it enough, and the thing with combine with main body.
- Einhänder: Once Sturmvogel takes enough damage, a flying armored unit will attach on top of it, allowing it to spam missiles and bombs.
- Shin Super Robot Wars:
- The "Plus" parts for the R-2 Powered and the R-3 Powered.
- During a Space Route Scenario, Kouji and Astonage are both a tad baffled how to use whatever the new gadget on Mazinger Z is. It claims to be some type of energy charger, and doesn't have any visible controls. Astonage figures that it will probably just... do whatever it does when the time comes.
- The other Super Robots get mentioned upgrades off-screen.
- In several Transformers series, Optimus Prime is able to combine with his trailer, either turning him into an even bigger robot, or giving him extra firepower. See also the Generation 1 version of Ultra Magnus, who the toy reveals to be a robot that looks just like Optimus Prime inside some very heavy-duty armor. This is actually shown and used in the Dreamwave comic.
- Once Dreamwave used this idea, Hasbro jumped onto it as well, with a number of white Optimus repaints named Ultra Magnus. The demand for a "real" Ultra Magnus brought about the creation of City Commander: a 3rd party add-on that serves as both trailer and armor for Classics Magnus. And later, matching repaints for Nemesis and Optimus Prime too.
- The company that made the City Commander also made two kits◊ for the Energon/RoTF Bruticus mold that together provide two figures based on G1 Swindle and Blastoff that replace two of the existing limbs, and come with enough extra parts to make a modern take on the G1 Bruticus.◊
- And believe it or not, Ultra Magnus himself became a Mecha Expansion Pack for Optimus in Car Robots/Robots in Disguise. However, it's a plot point that "Omega Prime" is under both their control at once: Ultra Magnus thinks he should be leader instead of his brother, but the Matrix of Leadership's full power must be unlocked by both together. When they become Omega Prime, this form even has its own voice actor, not Optimus's or Magnus's.
- Transformers Armada takes this a step further, with Jetfire transforming into a pair of legs in place of Optimus' trailer. Overload could also combine at the same time, turning into a huge pair of shoulder cannons. The second series, Transformers: Energon, provides even more "Powerlinks". This is different from other combinations such as the Gestalts of Generation 1 in that one member of the link (the top half) is completely in control, while the lower half Autobot is effectively dormant. However, everyone had a 'top' and 'bottom' mode. Ironically, Optimus and Jetfire (who had the top-and-bottom combination in Armada) can't combine in their Energon forms.
- The next movie, Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen, has Optimus combine with Jetfire again, with Jetfire turning into, basically, a jetpack.
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon has Optimus finally get a trailer. It's both a mobile armory and a flight pack. And it's awesome.
- Parodied in Megas XLR, as with everything else. Coop shoves Megas' hands and feet up four of the S Force's "Zorps'" butts, and slaps the bird Zorp on his back. It's called "the most foul attempt at military strategy [one S Force member] had ever seen".