Multiform Balance occurs when creators take care to make each multiple form of a Shapeshifter, such as a Henshin Hero, a Swiss Army Hero or a Morph Weapon-type Swiss Army Weapon, useful in its own way. The easiest way to do this is to make each one suited for a certain tactical situation or to use certain tactics. For example a werewolf doing a Partial Transformation to Wolf Man may not be able to talk, but can still use weapons and has greater strength than a man, but isn't as fast as a wolf. In essence, it's applying Competitive Balance between each of the character (or weapon)'s forms. In fact, the character types laid out in Competitive Balance or other power balancing tropes can be quite useful in describing the character's forms. To be precise, the "balance" usually only apply to "basic" forms, with Joke Character form is only used when the character doesn't have access to the basic forms. Lightning Bruiser and Super Mode are mostly a Mid-Season Upgrade and superior to basic forms in every aspect, if the balance also apply to these forms, it's usually by making them Deadly Upgrade, Limit Break, Hour of Power or Awesome but Impractical. May overlap with Evolution Powerup, especially if new forms are gained/discovered as the plot demands, although Multiform Balance can switch back and forth. When Humongous Mecha use this trope, it's usually done with Mecha Expansion Pack or Transforming Mecha. May also be done with Shed Armor, Gain Speed.
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Anime and Manga
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha does this via Multiple Weapon Balance.
- Tony Tony Chopper from One Piece. Eating a Zoan-type devil fruit gave him three forms, and he gained four more (plus a superpowered berserker form) through his Rumble Ball. And post-Time Skip, he now has control of his berserker form, albeit at the cost that he can only maintain it for three minutes, and is still too exhausted to move for several hours afterwards.
- Zoids: New Century Zero. In addition to its default form Liger Zero had different equipment modes that changed it into different types depending on the situation. "Panzer" mode became a Mighty Glacier, "Schneider" is a Glass Cannon and the "Jager" unit is a Fragile Speedster.
- Battle Story and other variants give us the Liger Zero X (an Empire version designed for electronic warfare) and various packs for the Berserk Fury that replace its iconic "eggbeaters" with high-powered boosters (Sturm Fury), hybrid particle cannons (Jagd Fury), or a high-output reactor and missile pods (the Tyran series).
- Also in Zoids Genesis, Murasame Liger, Hayate Liger and Mugen Liger.
- Gundam sometime use this trope along with Mecha Expansion Packs.
- The first animate example can be seen on Mobile Suit Victory Gundam's V2 Gundam. With Fragile Speedster (V2 Gundam), Jack of All Stats (V2 Assault Gundam), Glass Cannon (V2 Buster Gundam), Mighty Glacier (V2 Assault Buster Gundam)
- Mobile Suit Gundam SEED has it in spades thanks to the abundance of Mecha Expansion Packs. Start with Strike Gundam, but Elite Mook from MSV and Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Astray can use them as well. And by the time of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, even Mooks and Red Shirts have them.
- Strike Gundam: Joke Character (no Striker pack), Stone Wall (Aile Strikenote ), Jack of All Stats (Sword Strikenote ), Glass Cannon (Launcher Strikenote ), Super Mode (Integrated Weapons Striker Pack), Squishy Wizard (Lightning Strikenote )
- Impulse Gundam: Joke Character (no Silhouette pack), Jack of All Stats (Force Impulse), Mighty Glacier (Sword Impulse), Glass Cannon (Blast Impulse), Super Mode (Destiny Impulse).
- Mobile Suit Gundam AGE does this for the first generation of the eponymous mecha, with Normal, Titus, and Spallow modes. Averted in the second generation though, where AGE-2 Double Bullet is nothing but an improvement over the original AGE. AGE-3 return to this trope: the Normal, Fortress and Orbital.
- The manga Gundam EXA introduces the two Extreme Gundams; The Type-Leos possesses its base form, Eclipse Phase, Xenon Phase, and Aios Phase, with his Mid-Season Upgrade Type-Leos II Vs. being an All Your Powers Combined Super Mode. The villainous Ex-'s Extreme has analogous forms (Tachyon, Carnage, and Ignis respectively), as well as the later Mystic Phase.
- In Super Dimension Fortress Macross and many spin-offs: Many mecha are capable of transformation between three modes - Fighter, GERWALK (which functions like a helicopter), and Battroid for ground combat.
- Getter Robo: The three forms of Getter are alway Jack of All Stats, Fragile Speedster and Mighty Glacier. Each of them also specialize in different environments. Its Affectionate Parody, Gekiganger 3 and Geppy X, also follow same pattern.
- Rave Master with Haru's sword, the Ten Powers. Eisenmeteor is the default form, having Mundane beats Magic, Explosion is Glass Cannon, Silfarion is Fragile Speedster, Mel Force the Lightning Bruiser, Gravity Core the Mighty Glacier, Sacrifar The Berserker Deadly Upgrade, and Ravelt the Super Mode. Ditto for it's Evil Counterpart.
- A popular gimmick for combiner teams in the Japanese Transformers series, particularly Transformers: Robots in Disguise, where the position of each limb component would dictate if the combined 'bot was in Balance, Speed, or Power forms.
- Highschool Dx D applies this to is Chess Motifs. When a Pawn promotes, a Queen isn't always the best option. While it does give a general boost, the specialties of a Rook, Knight or even Bishop can be more effective in cases. This is especially prevalent when Issei learns to apply his promotions to Boosted Gear Scale Mail.
- In Dragon Ball Z, after the Super Saiyan transformation starts being So Last Season, several new variants on it are introduced. The original form becomes a Jack of All Stats, while the "3rd Grade" Super Saiyan becomes a Mighty Glacier (it actually makes the user too slow to land hits, making the form useless), while Super Saiyan 2 makes the user even more of a Lightning Bruiser than fighters in Dragon Ball Z usually are. Most of the other forms shown are Awesome but Impractical for various reasons (usually that they consume too much energy to use for very long).
- Hyodou Issei in High School DXD gets one later in Volume 9 when he gets access to his new powers named Illegal Trianna, aside from his default Balance Breaker state. His Welsh Sonic Boost Knight is the typical Fragile Speedster, his Welsh Blaster Bishop is the Glass Cannon, Welsh Draconic Rook being the Mighty Glacier, and finally his (incomplete) Cardinal Crimson Queen being the Lightning Bruiser.
- Animorphs: While each of the kids have their own unique morphs, there are several occasions when they've morphed the same animal (sometimes to exploit the fact that the animal goes into a stupor when being acquired, long enough for them to escape, like the hammerhead shark or the T Rex). The inverse of the trope bites them in the ass when they attack the Yeerk pool all in polar bear morph and nearly die.
Live Action TV
- A recurring motif of Kamen Rider shows, especially the Heisei era. It's gotten to the point where tie-in movies and DVDs frequently feature a new exclusive form in addition to the standard ones from the show. Some examples:
- Black RX: Jack of All Stats (Black RX), Mighty Glacier (Robo Rider), Fragile Speedster (Bio Rider).
- Kuuga: Joke Character (Growing), Jack of All Stats (Mighty and Rising Mighty), Fragile Speedster (Dragon and Rising Dragon), Glass Cannon (Pegasus and Rising Pegasus), Mighty Glacier (Titan and Rising Titan), Lightning Bruiser (Amazing Mighty), Super Mode (Ultimate). Decade adds a new one that goes Up to Eleven (Rising Ultimate). Kuuga is also the only series to really adhere to the officially listed disadvantages of each form; when gaining Dragon Form he finds he's much more agile, able to jump to reach an opponent who prefers rooftops to streets, but when he finally gets there, he fights his physical strength is much less mighty than it was in Mighty Form and he gets smacked down.
- Agito: Jack of All Stats (Ground), Fragile Speedster (Storm), Stone Wall (Flame), Lightning Bruiser (Trinity), Mighty Glacier (Burning), Super Mode (Shining).
- Kabuto, Gatack, TheBee, Drake, and Sasword: Technically Mighty Glacier (Masked) and Fragile Speedster (Rider), plus Super Mode (Hyper) for Kabuto (and Gatack in a DVD). However, Rider Form's Super Speed capabilities are needed to fight Worms effectively, so Masked Form is often treated as a Joke Character.
- Den-O: Joke Character (Plat Form (geddit?)), Jack of All Stats (Sword), Stone Wall (Rod), Mighty Glacier (Ax), Glass Cannon (Gun), Lightning Bruiser (Wing), Super Mode (Climax), Fragile Speedster (Liner). Later movies take Climax Form Up to Eleven as Super Climax Form.
- Kiva: Jack of All Stats (Kiva), Fragile Speedster (Garulu), Glass Cannon (Basshaa), Mighty Glacier (Dogga), Lightning Bruiser (DoGaBaKi), Super Mode (Emperor), One-Winged Angel (Flight Style). A DVD pushes the Super Mode Up to Eleven (DoGaBaKi Emperor).
- Decade: He's loaded thanks to Power Copying other Riders, primarily the nine preceding him, and all of their forms: Kuuga, Agito, Kabuto, Den-O, and Kiva's forms are listed above; the forms for Ryuki, Faiz, Blade, Hibiki, and Decade himself are Jack of All Stats for each one's default and Super Mode for their enhanced forms (Ryuki Survive, Faiz Blaster, Blade King Form, Armed Hibiki, and Decade Complete); plus three Lightning Bruisers (Faiz Axel, Blade Jack Form, and Crimson Hibiki) and one Joke Character (Blank Ryuki). Although his mimicry powers don't seem to extend to the others' Super Modes as he's not shown using those himself in-show.
- Double: A little more complicated due to being a Fusion Dance with mix-and-match Combo Platter Powers, with each side providing half the form's stat balance: Shotaro's powers are Jack of All Stats (Joker), Stone Wall (Metal), and Glass Cannon (Trigger); and Philip's are Fragile Speedster (Cyclone), Mighty Glacier (Heat), and Squishy Wizard (Luna). So, using the most common combinations as examples, CycloneJoker is balanced with an edge toward speed, HeatMetal is especially slow but the major powerhouse, and LunaTrigger can't do melee but is great at trick shots. Past the regular combos, you've got a Lightning Bruiser (FangJoker) and a Super Mode (CycloneJokerXtreme). The movies take this last one Up to Eleven (CycloneJokerGoldXtreme) and near the end of the series the ability to have just one person use a single power as a Master of None is added (usually Shotaro with Joker, occasionally Philip with Cyclone).
- OOO: Takes Double's Combo Platter Powers Up to Eleven and therefore WAY too varied to list all the possibilities. The notable ones are the matching sets: Jack of All Stats (GataKiriBa Combo), Fragile Speedster (LaToraTah), Mighty Glacier (SaGoZo), Lightning Bruiser (TaJaDor), Squishy Wizard (ShaUTa), Super Mode (PuToTyra); everything else including the default TaToBa Combo is a Master of None. OOO is the first Rider to get multiple one-time movie forms: a Stone Wall (BuraKaWani) and two alternate Super Modes (TaMaShii and Super TaToBa).
- Fourze: Jack of All Stats (Base States), Glass Cannon (Elek), Stone Wall (Fire), Mighty Glacier (Magnet), Super Mode (Cosmic). Movies and DVDs add a Fragile Speedster (Rocket), a Lightning Bruiser (Rocket Drill), and an alternate Super Mode (Meteor Fusion) - which, of course, later gets taken Up to Eleven (Meteor Nadeshiko Fusion).
- Wizard: Jack of All Stats (Flame Style), Squishy Wizard (Water), Fragile Speedster (Hurricane), Mighty Glacier (Land), Glass Cannon ("Dragon" versions of the previous four), Lightning Bruiser (All Dragon), Super Mode (Infinity). The movie forms are another Lightning Bruiser (Special Rush, a Palette Swapped stand-in for All Dragon), Up to Eleven (Infinity Dragon), and then Up to Twelve (Infinity Dragon Gold).
- In Kamen Rider Gaim, the characters can exchange gear with one another to access several different "Arms" forms, but to keep things simple, we'll only list the Riders with multiple forms and only the Arms they have access to by default.
- Gaim: Jack of All Stats (Orange Arms), Mighty Glacier (Pine), Fragile Speedster (Ichigo), Lightning Bruiser (Jinba, which comes in multiple variations), and two Super Modes (Kachidoki and Kiwami). The DVD adds a Master of None (Fresh Orange, which looks like an upgrade to Orange but isn't).
- Baron: Jack of All Stats (Banana Arms), Mighty Glacier (Mango), Lightning Bruiser (Lemon Energy). In a twist, his Super Mode is unrelated to his Rider powers: he turns himself into a powerful monster, called "Lord Baron". A DVD later gives him an additional form, Ringo Arms.
- Ryugen: Jack of All Stats (Budou Arms), Glass Cannon (Kiwi). He also gets a Lightning Bruiser form when he takes the Zangetsu Shin power-set and its Melon Energy Arms, before getting his Super Mode (Yomotsu Heguri).
- Zangetsu/Zangetsu Shin: Jack of All Stats (Melon Arms), Lightning Bruiser (Melon Energy). He gets a third in a later DVD, Watermelon Arms.note
- Drive: Fragile Speedster (Type Speed), Mighty Glacier (Wild), Magic Knight (Technic), Glass Cannon (Dead Heat), Lightning Bruiser (Formula), Super Mode (Tridoron). His movie/DVD forms are a Jack of All Stats (Fruit), another Fragile Speedster (High Speed), and two unknowns (Super Dead Heat and Special). He can also further modify his stats by equipping different tires, which count as partial form changes.
- Not as prominent as its rival franchise, but the Ultra Series use this trope on a few shows.
- Ultraman Tiga: Jack of All Stats (Multi Type), Mighty Glacier (Power Type), Fragile Speedster (Sky Type), Super Mode (Glitter Tiga).
- Ultraman Dyna: Jack of All Stats (Flash Type), Mighty Glacier (Strong Type), and Fragile Speedster with more 'supernatural' abilities (Miracle Type).
- Ultraman Cosmos: Squishy Wizardnote (Luna Mode), Jack of All Stats (Corona Mode), Lightning Bruiser (Space Corona Mode), Super Mode (Eclipse Mode and Future Mode).
- While Multiform Balance with Super Sentai (and Power Rangers) mecha is usually achieved through Mecha Expansion Packs, a couple of Sentai mecha have multiple configurations that serve different purposes. Choujin Sentai Jetman and Mirai Sentai Timeranger have five jet mecha that can either combine into a larger jet or a humanoid robot. Additionally, Timeranger's TimeRobo had two modes: The close combat oriented TimeRobo Alpha and the agile ranged TimeRobo Beta.
- Impressively, TimeRobo multi-form balance extends to its Super Mode when combined with TimeShadow. Alpha and Beta each have their own combination.
- Both individually and as a team Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger take this way past any logical level. With the ability to swap between the forms of two hundred previous rangers the Gokaigers can in theory match their combat needs to just about any conceivable situation plus, from heavy hitting close quarter fighters with Dynaman to swift and deadly ninjas with Kakuranger and just about everything in between.
- Werewolf: The Forsaken. Each of a Uratha's five forms has its uses and weaknesses.
- The Hishu (human) form is most likely to pass among mortals and best suited for social dealings.
- The Dalu (wolf-man) form allows added strength while retaining human form, but still pings Lunacy a little.
- The Gauru (monster two-legged wolf) form is the strongest, most damaging form, but can only be used for a limited time and is locked in a state of rage that makes any action but attacking something a failure.
- The Urshul (dire wolf) form is fastest of all and quite strong, but will still ping Lunacy heavily.
- The Urhan (wolf) form will blend in most easily in nature and could maybe pass for a wolfdog in urban environments.
- The four bestial forms can also be seen as references to different archetypes of werewolf transformation. Urhan clearly owes its lineage to most forms of actual mythological depictions of the werewolf. Dalu is based on the iconic "wolfman" form of film, first seen in Universal Horror's The Wolf Man (1941). Urshul arguably has some mythological basis, but can most easily be connected to the werewolf as depicted in An American Werewolf in London. Finally, Gauru resembles the now-iconic "manwolf" that has become heavily associated with werewolves in modern culture and which can be arguably traced back to film via The Howling.
- Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap features this as its central hook, with the hero spent virtually the entire game involuntarily transformed into various animal-like creatures, each featuring unique abilities.
- The old Electronic Arts game Shadowcaster features a lead that could form pacts with various creatures to "accept the form of X", each form having its own uses.
- A Boy and His Blob allows the boy control over his Mons forms with jellybeans.
- The Legendary Deoxys has various forms with differing distributions of stats. Normal Forme is the Jack of All Stats form, Attack Forme is the Glass Cannon form, Defense Forme is the Mighty Glacier form, and Speed Forme is the Fragile Speedster form.
- Generation V's Darmanitan has a normal form that is a Glass Cannon, but when certain Darmanitans' Hit Points go below half they automatically switch to Zen Mode, which is a Mighty Glacier. This was a poorly-done attempt, though - all the damage is received before the switch, and getting knocked out in one hit is not too unlikely in the glass cannon form. Even if they do survive, the higher defensive stats are not very useful with less than half Hit Points left.
- Generation VI introduces the Steel/Ghost sword Aegislash. Its Shield Forme is a Stone Wall. As soon as it uses an attack, it turns into the Glass Cannon Sword Forme. Using its Signature Move King's Shield turns it back into Shield Forme.
- Generation VI introduces Mega Evolutions, more powerful forms of certain Pokémon that can only be accessed in battle. The catch is that it requires using a held item specific to each Pokémon, which means they cannot use any other item. Most of these are worthwhile, though a few (such as Garchomp's) don't give enough to be worth the lack of an item, or simply don't do enough to make a bad Pokémon usable.
- Kingdom Hearts II has its Valor and Wisdom Forms spiking the player's physical and magical stats (respectively) at the cost of the other. This is then averted once the Master Form and Final Form are picked up, which balance melee attacks and magic by making both of them highly effective.
- Mega Man (Classic): Mega Man's ability to fuse with Rush in Mega Man 6, creating the Power and Jet Adapters. In Mega Man 7, the abilities of both adapters are compressed into a single, Super adapter.
- Mega Man X's ability to switch between different armors in some of his games. The armors vary between each game, but Ultimate Armor would be consistent.
- X5: Jack of All Stats (Force), Fragile Speedster (Falcon), Mighty Glacier (Gaea)
- X6: Jack of All Stats (Falcon, a nerf version of the above), Lightning Bruiser (Blade), Glass Cannon (Shadow)
- X8: Master of None (Neutral), Fragile Speedster (Hermes, turns into Lightning Bruiser when X-Drive is activated), Mighty Glacier (Icarus)
- Mega Man Zero 2, Zero starts out as a Master of None (Normal), but fulfilling certain conditions in a mission unlocks specialized upgrades: Fragile Speedster (Active), Mighty Glacier (Energy and Power), Stone Wall (Defense and Erase), Lightning Bruiser (Rise and X), Glass Cannon (Proto) and finally, Super Mode (Ultimate).
- Druid shapeshifting in World of Warcraft could be considered this, with forms tailored to each of their four talent specialisations plus a couple of utility forms. The default form (AKA "caster" form) is for the Combat Medic and specialisation adds a temporary Tree Form with even more enhanced healing. Cat form is a Fragile Speedster that deals damage. Bear form is a Stone Wall specialising in getting attention of enemies from more squishy members of the group. Moonkin form (available via talent specialization; caster form suffices before that) is a Glass Cannon Squishy Wizard. While all Druids have access to Bear Form and Cat Form, they don't work very well for non-Feral Druids.
- Kheldians in City of Heroes are another example, though they don't start out with all the forms. Nova form is a Glass Cannon, Dwarf form is a Stone Wall, and with the basic human form being somewhere in between, and having a much greater choice of attacks, including the ability to deal decent damage at close range. Some players try to specialise in only one form, but by most accounts the best choice is to make use of all three forms, swapping as necessary.
- The various offensive powers in Prototype are balanced like this. Claws are quite fast and have a slow ranged attack composed of spikes erupting from the ground and impaling the target from below, Musclemass is only useful for making long ranged attacks so it is almost wothless in close-comabt, Hammerfist gives massively devastating splash damage attacks with really slow speed, the Whipfist has awesome range, anti-air attacks and crowd control capabilities in exchange for power and the Blade is similar to the Claws but replaces the latter's impalement attack with a brutally powerful aerial attack that can One-Hit Kill tanks.
- Breath of Fire IV: When Ryu transforms, whichever form he chooses provides a percentage boost to his stats, resulting in the following arrangements: Master of None (Aura), Jack of All Stats (Wyvern/Weyr), Mighty Glacier (Behemoth/Mammoth), Lightning Bruiser (Myrmidon/Knight), Glass Cannon (Mutant/Punk) and Super Mode (Kaiser). Fou-lu's dragons roughly follow the same percentage boosts as Ryu's; just replace Aura, Wyvern and Kaiser with Astral, Serpent and Tyrant (Fou-lu doesn't have Myrmidon or Mutant, and he has a Behemoth like Ryu), respectively.
- Marvel: Avengers Alliance
- The player character Agent starts as a Master of None (Generalist) and can switch to any of five other classes — Glass Cannon (Blaster), Lightning Bruiser (Scrapper), Mighty Glacier (Bruiser), Jack of All Stats (Tactician), Fragile Speedster (Infiltrator) — by buying and equipping the appropriate uniform. Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors is in play, so each of those classes has an advantage over one class and a disadvantage against a second. The Agent can also remain as a Generalist, neither weak nor strong against any class.
- Several heroes have alternate costumes, and a change in costume also means a change in class. (ex.: Spider-Man, an Infiltrator by default, can also become either a Scrapper with his Future Foundation outfit, or don the Black Suit, turning into a Bruiser.)
- Punisher has the ability to switch classes at will, each class has its own attack unique from the other and can be either target single or group enemies.
- Super Smash Bros. Wii U/3DS has Shulk. He's a Mechanically Unusual Fighter whose playstyle centers around a Stance System composed of 5 Monado Arts. Each of those arts boost one of his stats for a few seconds at the cost of reducing others. For example, "Jump" increases his jump distance while lowering his defence, and "Smash" increases his launch ability at the cost of weaker attacks and lower defence against launching.
- Robotech Battlecry features Transforming Mecha like the rest of the franchise, though it boils down the transformations to a few basic points.
- The offensively-minded Fighter is the fastest of the three forms and packs the most raw firepower since it uses the largest missiles, but is the least agile due to requiring a large turning circle and has a very limited ability to use cover, relying on pure speed instead.
- The defensive Battloid form is the slowest in terms of movement and is unable to use missiles, but is the most agile form due to its ability to put cover between itself and enemies and possesses both the best anti-missile defense and the most accurate ranged attack.
- The middle of the road Gerwalker mode can both use cover and fire missiles while being faster than the Battloid and more nimble than the Fighter, but it lacks the defenses of the former and the speed of the latter, making it the form most vulnerable to enemy attacks.
- The Were race in Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures . They have three forms, human, normal and 'primal' (animal), which basically form a Sliding Scale of Magicalness. As humans, they're immune to magic; in their normal form, they're Muggles with some minor bonuses; and as animals, their magical power is increased.
- In El Goonish Shive, some of Grace's pure forms have positive and negative attributes the other pure forms or combination forms don't. Her full squirrel form is small but doesn't allow her to speak and her omega form is powerful and allows her to fly but it's 3 tails can complicate things.
- Ben 10 subverts this in the first season (and hints of it remain in the newer seasons). The first season started things off with ten aliens, each with different super powers, but as the original series came to a close, Ben had access to even more aliens. But considering Ben is ten years-old and not a tactical hero, he almost always used Fourarms. How well this worked out for him depended on how many times he's transformed that day.
- In Generator Rex, Rex can create a variety of mechanical constructs that include the Smack Hands, the Boogie Pack, the Slam Cannon, the Block Party and the Blast Caster. Balance is mostly kept by making Rex only able to build one type of machine at a time (And even with a few season upgrades he can only create two by the end of the series) and making every machine have a secondary mode (The Smack hands can spin to create a sronger attack, the Blast Caster can generate electricity, the Boogie Pack can launch a few projectiles to grab enemies, and so on).