Protagonist Power-Up Privileges

The Five-Man Band has just found the Sword of Plot Advancement, a mythical blade said to bestow great power for justice on one who is deemed worthy. So who will claim it? The Leader, of course! New story arc, the team is in search of five ancient crystals that can give them magical powers. Who do you think will find one first?

In works of media where the focus otherwise is on some sort of team, of any number of people, there will inevitably still be a tighter focus on The Hero, and thus the Hero will be the first to receive a special power or new weapon, and will usually end up having more powers or weapons than the rest of the group including a few they don't have equivalent versions of.

If The Lancer is lucky, he'll get to share an otherwise exclusive power with the Hero that the other members of the group won't get. Expect this especially if the Lancer is also a Foil or The Rival, so the two can stay on an equal level of power.

Examples

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     Anime & Manga 
  • Digimon, almost every season the Hero and the Lancer get to evolve further than the rest of the cast. It is also universally common (though not always the case, very often so) for the protagonist's partner Digimon to reach the next stage of evolution first, then perhaps the Lancer, and the rest of the team afterward.
    • In Digimon Adventure, Tai and Matt and their partners Agumon and Gabumon, are the only ones to reach Mega level, while everyone else stops at Ultimate. The strangest part is that they reach this level thanks to a prophecy that more directly concerns their younger siblings (Kari and TK), whose partners (Angewomon and Angemon) have significant type advantages over the villains. So of course theyre the ones taking out the Mega-level Dark Master and although All Your Colors Combined destroy the final boss their Digimon destroy his physical form while the rest just take out his defenses.
      • In the games, all of the team reaches their canon Mega stage.
    • In Digimon Adventure 02, Wormmon lends its power to V-Mon so that the latter can reach the golden Magnamon form to defeat an out of control Ultimate, while none of the Adventure characters have the chance to beat it. The theme for the strongest stages is partnership, setting out to subvert this trope. Double subverted in that The Hero Daisuke and Sixth Ranger Ken's composite partner (made from Wormmon and V-Mon's evolved forms) is the only one to reach the Mega stage, and then gets a mode change and a Fighter Mode. However, the final big bad is beaten by Talking the Monster to Death, and the simultaneous appearance of every form of every partner digimon that season.
      • In the film, Hikari and Takeru's partners do reach their Mega stages. ...Again, for the sole purpose of enabling The Hero and the movie's exclusive character to reach their then-strongest stages (the above mentioned golden mode) to do all the work.
    • Zig-zagged in Digimon Tamers where the Power Trio and Sixth Ranger all go Mega (Kenta and his partner MarineAngemon as well, by different means). Protagonist/partner Takato/Guilmon's Mega level does not show until he's beaten to the stage by Impmon (now Beelzebumon), though they still reach this stage, and every stage except Champion, before the rest of the team. They are also the only ones to get a further mode (Crimson Mode), with the aid of their "trusty steed".
    • Worst in Digimon Frontier. Everyone but The Hero and The Lancer stop getting power a quarter of the way through the series (reaching the equivalent of Ultimate in other series), while those two get mode after mode after mode (surpassing Mega level). Their strongest forms are powered by borrowing the powers of the rest of the team, so everyone not named Takuya and Koji sees his or her role reduced to "transfer your powers to them and go hide behind something."
    • Averted in Digimon Savers, despite not having the ensemble of the previous seasons. Four characters evolve all the way to the end, getting Burst Mode power-ups.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Judai creates Neos Fusion Monsters out of nowhere, unlocks his hidden power of the Supreme King, and he fuses with Yubel. Everybody else get their new cards in more traditional ways.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, Yusei and Jack have no less than three alternate forms of their Signer Dragons, while only one other signer (Rua/Leo) has one, and then only one. Yusei eventually uses the other five Signer Dragons to (Limit Over Accel) Synchro Summon "Shooting Quasar Dragon", an evolution of his own Signer Dragon.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V: Subverted with Yuya's Pendulum Summoning, where it is a plot point that he will not be the only one to have them.
    • Although, Yuya is the only character who gets new cards out of nowhere. A fifth of his deck is turned into Pendulum Monsters, and he gets new versions of his Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon, e.g. Rune-Eyes Pendulum Dragon.
  • Dragon Ball, Goku is always the first to train at a new training ground, then moves on to a new one when the rest of the heroes make it there. He's also the first to reach Super Saiyan and Super Saiyan 3.
  • Sailor Moon is the first to receive new Special Attacks and Super Modes. In the anime she is also the only one to reach the Eternal Form.
  • Ryo was the only one who got a powered up armor in Ronin Warriors, doing so by taking the powers of four of the eight remaining armors, usually meaning his friends.
  • In Zoids: Chaotic Century, Van is the only heroic character to ever fuse with an organoid, giving him unfair stat boosts from day 1. He could only be matched by Raven who also had an organoid. By time of season 2 he had mad a point of training without the organoid so he could be legitimately powerful, but still fused to face other organoid owners.
  • G Gundam: Domon's Shining Gundam is the only one to have a hypermode for the first half of the series. When the other Shuffle Alliance members unlock theirs Domon gets the entirely new God (Burning) Gundam, and then proceeds to eliminate his teammates one by one during the Tournament Arc with relative ease.
  • Naruto: Naruto and Sasuke always unlock new levels of power around the same time. This was intentional on the creators part so neither would outdo the other. After the first arc in Shippudden however the rest of the cast got mostly shafted. Except for the Jonins who are still relevant by showing off more of their true powers even though they are consistently outdone by Naruto.
  • In the Pretty Cure movies, all pink Cures since Yes! Pretty Cure 5 GO!GO! (with the exception of HeartCatch Pretty Cure!) will get exclusive Super Modes. However, the respective series finals will give all teammates the same Super Modes, with some exceptions.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Power Rangers, the Red Ranger usually has a "Battlelizer" or some equivalent power-up that gives him armor and new abilities, and usually the other rangers will not get a similar power. This sort of goes back to the first season, with Tommy giving Jason the Dragon Dagger and power coin, and Jason receiving the gold shield on Tommy's uniform for his own.
    • Not as prevalent in Super Sentai, but there are cases like AbareMax from Abaranger and KyoryuRed Carnival from Kyoryuger.
  • Kamen Riders starting with Ryuki have followed this trend as well, when there are more than just the Hero and the Second Rider.

     Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy VIII, Squall has more weapons than any other party member, and his Infinity+1 Sword can be acquired earliest.
  • Final Fantasy XII, Ashe is the one to receive the two Swords of Plot Advancement, and in the manga Belias, the first Esper, chooses her as its master. Vaan, usually considered a Decoy Protagonist, has since been associated with one of the mentioned Swords of Plot Advancement while Ashe uses the other, the two wielding them such a way in an end-game cutscene.
  • Played with in Legacy of Kain. Kain is the hero of the first game Blood Omen, and in the introduction to the second game Soul Reaver, it's mentioned Kain is always the first among him and his lieutenants to evolve a new ability. During said intro, Raziel, the protagonist of this game, becomes the first to beat him to it by growing wings, stealing the spotlight from Kain in a fourth-wall sort of way.
  • A staple in BioWare RPGs:
    • In Baldur's Gate, it's the Bhaalspawn who gets all the nifty Bhaal-induced powers, whereas NPC party members (including other children of Bhaal) are stuck with the standard abilities (though the other child of Bhaal that still is a Bhaalspawn when she's part of the party actually was supposed to get nifty Bhaal-induced powers, two-and-a-half games after you got them. It just that the coding for the delay between triggering events is a bit iffy). Then again, some of the NPC party members start out with their own unique non-standard abilities — for example, Minsc is a Ranger that can berserk, Mazzy is a Fighter with a couple of Paladin-like abilities (thus sidestepping the fact that in 2E, only humans can be Paladins).
    • In the Mass Effect series, it's Commander Shepard who gets all the cutting-edge upgrades, weapons, and technologies while his/her squad is mostly restricted to perfecting their confined areas of expertise.
    • In Dragon Age: Origins, if upgrades (such as attribute bonuses) can only be picked up by a certain character, it's always the Warden.
    • Likewise, in Dragon Age: Inquisition, the Inquisitor seems to be the person who gets all the special quest rewards, although this is offset a bit by the Amulets of Power, one-time boosts that give an extra skill point when equipped—but only to specific companions. There is only one Amulet of Power restricted to the Inquisitor in the entire game (plus, a certain Inquisition perk gives them an extra ability point).
  • In Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, only Cipher can purchase better planes (including superfighters) for himself, while his two wingmen are stuck with their starting planes for the entire game. This is in contrast to Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War and Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, where you could equip wingmen with the same planes as yourself.
  • Inverted and then played straight in Fortune Summoners. The main character, Arche, can't use magic (because she hasn't learned any, her parents can't afford the Magi Tech needed to cast spells and because her weapon makes casting spells harder). In the final level you unlock the elemental stone you recover in the prologue and she gains a Super Mode.
  • In Pokémon X and Y, the protagonist is the only one of the Five-Man Band aside from the Big Bad, the Final Boss, and the person who discovered it, to get the power to use Mega Evolution, even dueling The Rival to get it to boot. Justified since it is emphasized Mega Research has just been discovered and using it needs special technology that isn't in mass-production. Your rival does get to use it in the post-game story, however.
  • Originally averted in Sonic the Hedgehog, where all of the main characters at the timenote  had a Super Mode that you could unlock after collecting all seven Chaos Emeralds from the special stages(Although Sonic's was the only one that was golden.)but then plays it straight after Sonic Adventure when Tails and Knuckles` super forms are retconned out of the series. Afterward, the only additional characters to get super forms were Shadow, Blazenote , and Silver. Despite that however, the latter three show up very infrequently and Sonic is the one who uses this power more than anyone else.