This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman
"It's like a crime drama about a detective who can only concentrate when he's around pastry, so every week the crime has to conveniently take place in a bakery, or within walking distance of a pie shop."
Boy, isn't that guy's power useless
. Take Aquaman
, for instance. But wait...the villain's lair has an underwater base! That's cool, Aquaman might have a chance of winning. And what, his death trap dumps the hero into a pool of sharks? No problem, with his mighty powers Aquaman can easily overcome this convenient obstacle. And it turns out his doomsday machine is powered by telepathically controllable sea plankton or Psycho Electric Eels
Basically, a situation where a hero's relatively useless abilities turn out to be phenomenally useful because everything's contrived specifically in order to make
them useful, even though realistically there's no reason to expect everything to be so convenient. Often involves Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard
. May be used regularly or as a one-off as part of A Day in the Limelight
Contrast Plot Tailored to the Party
, where the same contrivance is used to make the members of a team seem equally useful, rather than to make a hero look powerful on his own. Benevolent Architecture
overlaps with either this or Plot Tailored to the Party.
If the character constantly uses a power to solve all his problems, but it generally makes sense (if you have a big sword, and fight monsters, it's not exactly contrived that a lot of monsters can be hurt by a big sword), see When All You Have Is a Hammer
The exact opposite of this would be Kryptonite Is Everywhere
. Compare Heart Is an Awesome Power
, when the power turns out to be useful in not just one, but many situations. Compare/Contrast What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?
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Anime and Manga
- True to the spirit of the trope, most of Misty's character-centered arcs were based around the usage of Water-type Pokemon. This included (but is not limited to) a battle with Ash over a Totodile they both claimed they caught, battling a gym trainer who specialized in underwater Pokemon battles, and an entire Pokemon League-esque tournament that required all participants to use Water-type Pokemon.
- Ash's Pidove is the regional bird, not used often, and isn't very smart. She also happens to be female, meaning that she's the only one on Ash's team not affected by Snivy's Attract. This allowed her to fight Snivy and let Ash catch her. Funnily enough, a regular Trainer probably would've used Pidove anyway due to the Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors.
- In Tokyo Mew Mew, while Mew Lettuce's powers are less useful than those of the other Mews, she is useful on a few occasions. In one filler episode, she, being a bookworm, can resist falling asleep as a Chimera Anima made from a book reads aloud, and can counterattack. In another, when the Mews get bound in silk by a spider-like Chimera Anima, she can still use her castanets, which only require her fingers, and defeats the monster.
- Season 2 of Darker Than Black has the character April, who in the first season used her ability (essentially to make it rain) primarily as support for her partner who can freeze things, gets a freak chance to use her ability offensively. She happens to fight a Fragile Speedster with Super Speed and none of the Required Secondary Powers, which made each raindrop impact with the force of a bullet. Like running through a shotgun blast of buckshot.
- In SD Gundam Force, the Gundivers were only good for underwater missions, and as such were only useful whenever something important fell into the sea. By the final battle of the series they were upgraded with flight capabilities, becoming the Gunchoppers.
- A Certain Magical Index: Touma Kamijo is an odd example in that Imagine Breaker is useless for fighting anything that is not magic or an esper ability. True to Aquaman form, though, he lives in an environment where he's surrounded by espers and gets harassed by magic users. As some viewers note, he only ends up looking good at street combat because his opponents aren't very good at it either.
- Submarimon from Digimon Adventure 02 can only used in water because it's... a submarine. However, it has flight abilities, but it was used only one time outside of water, during the Grand Finale.
- Aquaman, of course, was notorious for such convenient obstacles, both as an Plot Tailored to the Party as part of a team, and alone in his Filmation cartoon (down to Aquaman actually becoming an astronaut because they needed to explore a water planet). Modern authors usually subvert this however, pointing out that he's at least a Badass Normal on dry land, having him use his additional minor powers or a skillful application of his Required Secondary Powers.
- This trope is parodied in Shadowpact where, after having his magical trident thrown into the middle of the Pacific Ocean by The Spectre, Blue Devil reappears with it to fight the unleashed Seven Deadly Sins. Someone asks him how he got it back, and there's a one panel flashback of Aquaman retrieving it for him before going off to deal with his own problems. Instead of admitting he needed Aquaman's help, he just says "I'd rather not talk about it" and keeps going.
- Specifically, they've taken his super-tough "ability to survive crushing ocean depths" and super-strong "ability to swim really fast" and used them a lot more; as someone noted in his "Heart Is an Awesome Power" entry, punching people in the face at five hundred atmospheres or more puts him in the same tier as Superman. His telepathy is also shown to have some limited degree of usefulness with non-marine species Depending on the Writer.
- Some writers go to extremes by combining "can summon and control sea creatures" with "every living thing on Earth has evolved from sea life" to giving him power over more or less everything. Usually this was presented as near-total control over sea life and the ability to stun or confuse humans or other animals.
- Aquaman was able to induce a seizure in the Martian speedster Züm in an early issue of Morrison's JLA by attacking the parts of his Martian brain that had evolved from sea creatures.
- In another issue of JLA, as part of the World War III storyline kickoff, Mageddon initiated a riot at a super villain lockdown and the Justice League were sent in to contain it since the warden and all guards had gone cuckoo as well. While the rest of the team was handling things elsewhere in the building, Aquaman all by his lonesome busted into a room filled with about fifty bad guys with light-based abilities. He just stared them down and said:
Aquaman: "Most of your powers are dependent on light. My eyes are adapted to see at six thousand fathoms. Think about it."
- In a Crowning Moment of Awesome / Crowning Moment of Funny, Aquaman's friendship with sea creatures helps him with his battle with Namor. You could say he Dropped A Whale On Him.
Aquaman: That's your weakness, Namor. You're too noble to cheat.
- In the JLA/Avengers crossover, Aquaman is able to shut down a whole group of Marvel Atlanteans with his telepathy; he comments that their minds are more complex than what he usually uses it on, and Namor (himself half-Atlantean) says that the telepathy gave him a pounding headache.
- Perhaps Aquaman's most impressive showing is in the Earth 2 graphic novel. When evil counterparts of the Justice League from a parallel universe invade Washington DC, Aquaman shows up to stop them — with the entire Atlantean navy backing him up.
- This lead to a popular image macro with Aquaman handling a massive alien invasion that decided (fatally) to invade over water, summoning an incredible number of super-sized sharks to launch into the air to chomp them out of existence, as Batman and Green Lantern look on in amazement◊. "I'm useless, they said. I have stupid powers, they said..." The panel comes from the New 52 incarnation of Aquaman where Geoff Johns has been working once again to dispel the notion of Aquaman's uselessness. The first issue of his new title has him weathering bullet fire and leaping tall buildings which makes sense for a man who's legs are powerful enough to swim at 100 mph.
- On the other hand, the original Aqualad knew his limits at times in The New Teen Titans, Robin wanted him to rejoin the team, but he declined saying that his abilities are of little use out of an aquatic environment, but he promised to help out when he could really help.
- New Mutants
- In the first annual, Cypher, whose superpower was the ability to learn languages really really fast, ends up saving the solar system because he's the only one who can read an alien instruction manual.
- With his recent resurrection, Cypher has turned this into Heart Is an Awesome Power, in addition to vindicating numerous fan theories about how his powers would work in the age of modern computers.
- Chew involves a detective who gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats. Fortunately, he works for the FDA, and thus encounters a lot of food-related crimes. And since he can eat things besides food, he's quite useful to other agencies too.
- The comic X-Men Legacy was a particularly egregious abuser of this trope for a stretch of issues: It seemed like every single crisis could only be solved by two peoples' powers at once, or one person's power with another person's knowledge. Good thing Rogue's power is to absorb the powers, skills, and attributes of anyone she touches. It got to seem like less of a team than a bank of power donors and one person who ever actually does anything, blurring the line between this trope and Plot Tailored to the Party... This Looks Like a Job For Aquaman Tailored to the Party.
- Before she got her incredibly versatile force fields, the Invisible Woman (then Invisible Girl) was often subject to this because her only power was Invisibility, so the team was put into situations where stealth was required so her power could come off as being useful.
- As blogger Chris Sims points out (with a reference to Knight Boat, no less), DC's annual Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer comic ran on this trope.
- In his first appearance in GI Joe A Real American Hero Marvel, Barbecue the firefighter is disdained by Shipwreck, who doesn't see the point in a combat unit having a fireman attached to it. Shortly afterward, Barbecue justifies his position with the team by ably dealing with several fires caused by a Cobra surprise attack.
- The number of villains who thought putting Mister Miracle in some elaborate deathtrap was logical was pretty astonishing. You'd think sooner or later someone would come up with a plan that did not involve confining him in something he was sure to escape from.
- For the cliffhangers in The Master Mystery, Harry Houdini constantly ended up imprisoned, handcuffed, tied up, locked in a crate thrown into the ocean, or otherwise captured in ways that his escape artist skills fit perfectly.
- Though not Super Power related, the murder case in Legally Blonde seems tailor made just so that Elle could help win it. What comes in handy during the proceedings isn't her law training, or her studying and work at Harvard Law, but the fact that she's sorority sisters with the defendant, and knows fashion.
- Parodied in the superhero comedy Mystery Men, in which the "Invisible Boy" can become invisible only when absolutely nobody is looking at him, including himself. After spending most of the movie without finding any use for his powers, he becomes invisible to disable an automated security system which cannot detect him in his invisible state.
- Fred Astaire's gambler character in Swing Time runs into an inordinate amount of problems best solved by gambling and/or dancing.
- Not superpower-related, but improbably convenient, is the climax to G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. The organization has a huge (like the size of Lake Huron) underground water tank and probably spends at least 80% of its annual budget on submarines. And not the big, slow-moving submarines that real navies use; we're talking about two-seat submarines that have the speed and maneuverability of fighter jets because they're imported from Naboo. And then it just so happens that Cobra's main base of operations is underwater.
- Team America: World Police parodied this trope with Gary's acting talents, to the point where Da Chief says that sending his agents off to an aerial dogfight without an actor was like lambs to the slaughter.
- Graham's son in the M. Night Shyamalan film Signs is saved from the aliens' poison gas by his super asthma.
- It's the entire plot in Lady in the Water, and it was caused by fate.
- Sky High
- At the end, all the kids with "lame" powers such as melting, glowing, and turning into a guinea pig work together to thwart the villain and save their parents.
- Zoolander is a comedy thriller that revolves around male modeling. At one point, the main characters meet up with a mysterious informant (played by David Duchovny) who reveals that throughout history male models have been brainwashed into becoming assassins. Why male models? They are always in peak physical condition, keep getting invited to exclusive events and most importantly have low intelligence and tend to do as they are told. All characteristics of the perfect assassin.
- Richard B. Riddick in Pitch Black had escaped a life sentence from a prison where he was told he'd never see the light of day. So it made sense that he had his eyes surgically altered to see in the dark. Fortunately for him, the ship transporting him after he escaped crashed on a planet that happened to plunge into darkness during an extended eclipse. Coincidentally, this was the only time light-phobic monsters swarmed from underground caves to feed. Guess who leads the survivors to safety?
- The prequel tie-in videogame Escape from Butcher Bay reveals that Riddick's unique night-vision eyes are actually supernatural in origin, so this might also a literal Deus ex Machina. However, in any case, it's rather convenient that a killer whose modus operandi is to stalk enemies from the shadows should be granted the uncanny ability to see in the dark.
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Sea of Monsters begins to feel like at points with Percy. Have to escape from cages in the bottom of a ship? Percy can control the sea to rock the boat until the literal deus ex plot device falls within reach. Percy needs to escape his archnemesis and reach the lifeboat his friends have stolen? Call up a wave and start surfing that bad boy (and also use said wave to fling the villain into the ocean when he attempts to follow him). Gotta save yourself and your friends as well as a reluctant ally after you've all been swallowed by a sea monster? Take control over the water inside the monster's stomach until it belches you back to the surface again. There's rarely a problem that gets solved in the film by Percy, up until the final boss battle that doesn't somehow require him to use his mystical water powers.
- Kid Omega's only kill in X-Men: The Last Stand was Kavita Rao (the scientist who developed the mutant "cure") whom he hugged, then deployed his quills.
- The Poseidon Adventure: As the survivors try to reach rescue, there's a need to get a rope across a submerged passageway that's too long to swim across. Oh, wait: as a young woman, Belle was a champion swimmer who once crossed the English Channel. On the other hand, that was when she was young, and she's years out of practice and out of shape. She succeeds in getting the rope across, but the effort kills her.
- Subverted in the Sidekicks series with Exact Change Kid. Just when they actually need exact change for a bus ride to the villain's lair, it turns out he left his utility belt home (with all his change) and they have to go on foot.
- Journey to the West. Xuanzang can sit perfectly still for up to three years and he's very proud of this fact. It only came in handy that one time the group was challenged to a meditation duel on their journey.
- Alexey Pekhov's Peresmeshnik (Mockingbird). The protagonist's special ability is to copy any other person's voice, which, by the measures of his world, is a weak and useless superablilty (most of nobility there can do much stronger things). This proves useful as he fights the Final Boss, though.
- The Ultra Violets's Cheri has the ability to talk to animals and superhuman math skills. Where would the latter come in handy, you might ask? A poker game.
- The main character of The Caster Chronicles, Ethan Wate, is a Wayward - a mortal whose destiny is essentially intertwined with that of a specific Caster. Waywards are also essentially a guide or compass for their Caster, and instinctively know where they need to go and what they need to do, especially when Casters are about as lost as the next person in the room. Needless to say, this only ever comes in handy when all other options have been exhausted. Comes with plenty of Lampshade Hanging that explicitly references Aquaman and his usually useless powers.
- Lord of the Rings: Frodo isn't the smartest, strongest or bravest of his companions and is constantly overshadowed even by his fellow hobbits. However, his inherent purity and tenacity make the most capable person to carry the ring. While he eventually fails, it's noted that no other person could carry it as far as he did.
- In the Xanth series, no matter how obscure or specialized a main character's magic talent is, you can bet they'll get a chance to use it to save the day. For example, in The Source of Magic a character whose magic talent was turning boulders into pebbles was able to help his group escape a cave-in by shrinking the boulders. This is often justified. In many cases, a character trying to solve puzzles to gain entrance to Good Magician Humphrey's castle will have to solve puzzles designed specifically to require a creative use of their magic talent. Other times, a character will be sought out to go on a quest specifically for his/her magic talent, which will have been foretold by Humphrey to be vital for the quest. However, sometimes it just kind of happens.
Live Action TV
- In one The Far Side comic, the town's karate club are excited to see a group of plank-shaped and wall-shaped aliens invading Earth.
- Comedian Dara O'Briain had a bit about various actors who'd played the Milky Bar kid (one of whom actually was in the audience, or so they say). He asked the audience what superpower a hypothetical Milky Bar kid superhero might possess, to which they provided a series of bizarre answers such as "super-taste", "the ability to turn people into chocolate", etc. O'Briain promptly mused that, if the hypothetical superhero possessed such a superpower, each episode of the hypothetical TV series would consist of this (and then provided an example of how absurd a crime for which "super-taste" would be necessary to solve it would be).
- In LEGO Batman 2, in certain areas, Joker-faced/Two-Face-faced/Riddler graffiti can only be removed by ...AQUAMAN.
- The Legend of Zelda series
- Link collects a wide variety of tools and weapons. Most are useful. Others...not so much. But you can expect that the new shiny toy you just got will be used in the same dungeon you found it in, often to defeat the boss.
- In older games, however, the reward might not be linked to the dungeon. Later games did this more and more, with some items ending as utterly useless aside from its one gimmick. So basically, the series flanderized itself into this.
- In Soul Calibur 2, Link is, tier wise, the weakest character in the game, but some weapon master objectives are easily achieved through his few strengths (read:ringouts).
- In the Super Smash Bros. series, Ganondorf has a special move called the Warlock Punch, which in each game is one of the most powerful attacks any character has access to, and the flatout most powerful of any attack that doesn't have variable power. The catch? It has massive start-up lag with limited reach, so it's nigh-impossible to land on an opponent that isn't incapacitated. It additionally has massive ending lag, ensuring Ganondorf will eat a heavy punish if he doesn't actually land it. This combination of nigh-impossibility to land while having very high risk to use makes it considered one of the more impractical moves. However, in the Home-Run Content minigame, Warlock Punch becomes the absolute best move any character could ask for. See, the Warlock Punch is so powerful, it's more powerful than the Home-Run Bat at high damages, as well as stronger than any other move. And since it's a move that executes with just a single press of a button, Ganondorf can wait until the last millisecond to use it, allowing him to rack up as much damage as possible in the time limit before using his finisher. Ganondorf himself can also rack up among the highest damage on the Sandbag within the time limit, so when combined with the Warlock Punch, he is the Home-Run King in every iteration of the Home-Run Contest, being able to send the Sandbag ludicrous distances exceeding 10,000 feet, far beyond what any other character is capable of.
- The whole universe of Metroid is like this. Why, when their sworn enemy's most unique ability involves rolling up into a little ball, the Space Pirates persist in building their bases and ships with little passageways that can only be navigated by a ball-shaped object of exactly that size, no one knows.
- There is also the Wild Mass Guessing that the Chozo just left a huge imprint in the technology of the galaxy - and the Chozo saw it fit to make it so any structures taking advantage of their tech were easily navigable by someone with an ability that, oh surprise, only those with access to supersecret Chozo tech could have. It's less that they don't realize the problems, and more that they just don't know which parts they can remove without the whole system going to pieces, so they prefer to just pray Samus doesn't find out about this base, the poor optimistic fools. This "theory" is inspired by the fact that it seems from in-universe diaries in Prime that between getting rid of the morphball-sized conduits and killing hundreds of their own in a humoristically macabre research to duplicate the morphball tech to be able to patrol them, the second was considered less costly by the pirate high command.
- Advance Wars has maps that, while normally quite the challenge, become ridiculously easy when the right CO steps up to the plate, and that's NOT counting COs already established as Game Breakers. The map Megalopolis is a prime example: There are no less than 6 Comm Towers on the map, and Javier dominates any map when four or more are in his control.
- Mega Man Powered Up (an Enhanced Remake of the original Mega Man 1) allows you to play as any of the six original Robot Masters (and two new ones, given the proper conditions), so all of the stages from the original game were redesigned to allow them to make it to the end without getting stuck, with each stage having an alternate route exclusive to one of them. The boss weaknesses are also rebalanced, so that one weapon is effective against the boss, another is weak, and the rest do average damage (for example, Super Arm deals six units of damage to Cut Man, but Hyper Bomb only deals one unit, and the other special weapons only deal three).
- Kingdom Hearts II: The Final Mix version introduced a new Side Quest with friendly monsters that imitate the members of Organzation XIII. The majority of their tasks are specifically designed to make use of Wisdom Form's quick-but-weak attacks and sliding ability.
- Final Fantasy III has the very much subpar "Scholar" job, which can cast low level white and black magic, as well as attack enemies with books. But their special ability should make up for that right? They get the ability to analyze the enemy to get info on their health, and drops and elemental weaknesses/resistances, which is.. not very useful compared to other jobs. Except for that one boss right after you get access to the scholar job, the one who relies on changing his weak spot around to change his elemental weakness! You'll want a scholar for that fight. Not for any others though.
- Final Fantasy V features a Class and Level System. While many jobs are very useful from the get-go (such as Monk or Ninja) others, like Bard, don't get to do much... but the Bard does very well against the two Bonus Bosses (as Romeo's Ballad can temporarily stop Omega, and Apollo's Harp deals lots of Damage to Shinryu).
- He can also do a lot of damage to Undead enemies with Requiem. Many strong enemies are undead, some very surprisingly so.
- Final Fantasy VI has Celes' Awesome but Impractical Runic ability. While being able to absorb enemies' magic attacks and earn MP back from them sounds cool, against weak enemies in Random Encounters there's kind of no need since they don't use magic that often and are easily dispatched anyway, and is only useful if you really need to refill your MP. As a result some bosses were deliberately designed to be near impossible to beat WITHOUT using Runic. In fact, the first boss you fight right after recruiting Celes fits this—it casts a lot of magic and the Genre Savvy Celes recognizes this and tells the player to use Runic in anticipation of its spells. For many players, this is the only time they ever use the ability, since Runic will also absorb any friendly spells you cast, like Cure.
- Incidentally, almost every character's unique ability in the second half of the game amounts to a Slap-on-the-Wrist Nuke at best. With a well-kitted team, it's almost always preferable to use Fight or cast Ultima, as most of the normal abilities just can't measure up to its damage potential.
- Runic becomes more useful with a perm-hasted Sabin, as he can heal with mantra in between his Bum Rush frenzy.
- Amusingly Umaro has an inversion. His icy berserker mode turns any ice-absorb enemy practically invincible as it's a near full heal when he blasts them. There seem to be an abnormally high amount of FIRE enemies that ABSORB ice elemental attacks...
- Pokemon Black And White
- In the first game, your first gym battle is against an opponent whose team is specifically designed to counter your part of the Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors triangle. However, due to events you'll do before the fight, you'll end up with a Pokémon who directly counters their part, turning the odds in your favour. The Pokémon themselves are pretty mediocre statistically and will probably only serve you for this one battle and not much else.
- In Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, however, Elesa still retains her difficulty level if your own Mons are underlevelled... unless you use a Sandslash with Rock Tomb and Dig. Sandslash's ground typing locks Elesa's Mons out of Volt Switch, and allows Sandslash to keep on attacking.
- In competitive battles, several Pokemon are only useful for one situation or to counter one thing. Quagsire is only used to counter enemy stat boosts for stall teams, while Aerodactyl is used to quickly get Stealth Rock on the field for of heavy offensive teams. Half the Uber meta game revolves around countering Kyogre.
- Shedinja is a particularly extreme example. It's a perpetual One Hitpoint Wonder immune to anything that isn't Super Effective or residual damage. It just so happens that said moves happen to run rampant in most of the tiers, regulating it to uselessness... except, ironically, in the Uber tier, as it turns out most Olympus Mons forgot to pack a move that can hit it. Especially Kyogre.
- Poison and Steel Mons have always been rather lame; Both are notorious for having the worst offensive Mons in the seriesnote , but they fill this role in Pokémon X and Y where Fairy-Types are the new powerhouses, and players will need to be packing Mons with good Steel and Poison attacks to deal super-effective damage to the Fairy-type Pokémon, who can hit hard.
- In Starcraft II, a lot of of the new units are introduced in missions specifically designed in such a way to make the new unit obscenely useful. The worst example of this is the Diamondback—it's a unit that can attack on the move and does bonus damage to armored targets, and just so happens to be introduced in a mission where you need to chase down fast-moving armored trains. After this mission you'll never build them again because they're rather expensive and simply aren't very useful in comparison to more versatile, cheaper units like the Goliath and siege tank.
- Though the game justifies it fairly well by explaining that your ship's engineer can only prepare new hardware so fast and he makes a point of working on stuff that is specifically going to be useful for the next mission.
- In Multiplayer, there exists a 'Hard Counter' mentality, where the standard response to "Unit X is Overpowered!" is "Make more of Unit Y." While there are indeed quite a few units designed with such purposes in mind, higher level play has shown that with sufficient skill anything can hard-counter anything else barring targeting limitations (air-only or ground-only).
- Starcraft II Heart Of The Swarm has a justified example with a mission showcasing Dehaka and his Primal Zerg, which are immune to the anti-Zerg weapons they are facing. Since similar weapons had been used throughout the series, Kerrigan had been keeping them around for that very reason.
- This is the case in many RTS games, such as those in the Command and Conquer and Supreme Commander series, where they introduce a new unit, building and power each level.
- Just get a new player character in a Golden Sun game? Expect a dungeon revolving around some trick that only they can perform. Likewise, old characters learning new tricks frequently leads to a dungeon in which that skill is required above all else.
- The most obvious offender in Dark Dawn is in the lead-up to the final dungeon. A gate can only be opened by walking a very specific path that is only "visible" by use of Sveta's Track Psynergy, a power that is needed NOWHERE ELSE IN THE GAME (not even in her debut dungeon when she demonstrates it, that one focuses more on her Slap Psynergy).
- Eoleo's Thermal is up there too: He knows it...for the hell of it, as otherwise he's a carbon copy of Tyrell, it takes a while for it to get used, and then it's only used for a short bit. Sure, he joins late, but Himi joins later and her Search psynergy gets way more plot and mileage!
- In Craggy Peak's Zodiac-themed dungeon, there is a very confusing puzzle involving moving around statues of goats. The nearby stone tablet is cryptic ("The goat leaves no trace behind."). Looks like a job for Insight Psynergy!
- Lampshaded in the Spiderman 2 game. When someone tells Spidey that a ship is sinking near of the coast, he says something like: "This looks like a job for...some kind of swimming superhero! ...But since none are around, I guess I'll have to do."
- Air Force Delta Strike: The titular squadron features one element that is all about special missions. Future warfare sure needs a lot of slow, fragile prop fighters to protect trains and clear out absurdly spacious subways.
- It makes sense that the actual test chambers in Portal can all be solved using portals, as they were specifically designed with this purpose in mind. However, the maintenance corridors and so on were ostensibly not designed as such, and yet they are all perfectly suited to navigation via portals. This lends a certain credence to a popular fan theory that The Game Never Stopped.
- Each hero in Superhero League of Hoboken has one main power, which can range from necessary mobility (being able to swim), combat-worthy (induce rust, put animals to sleep, raise cholesterol) and always useful; supportive (see through pizza boxes, clean almost any mess, vanquish baked goods) and nice to have along when the need calls for it; and highly specific (eat spicy food, fold road maps) which are called for once, maybe twice in the whole game, to complete a very specific challenge. (The hostel is buried in old, unfolded roadmaps! This looks like a job for Princess Glovebox!) There is precisely one power which never sees any use: the undroppable Crimson Tape's ability to Create Organizational Charts (though it might explain why he is the designated leader of the League...).
- In the DS rerelease of Super Mario 64, Wario is one of the new playable characters. For the most part, he's useless compared to the other characters, but he is the only one able to break the black bricks.
- To a lesser extent, Yoshi. He's really not required for much, beyond being your starting character. The only thing he can really do that no one else can is melt ice, which is used even less than black bricks. He can't even break the normal bricks, and so is pretty much completely outclassed by both Mario Brothers.
- Mega Man Day in the Limelight 2 gives us Bubble Man as a playable character. He's the only character that can swim, but you arn't likely to use him much outside the water.
- Junpei in Persona 3 is usually considered a Tier-Induced Scrappy due to his Master of None tendancies. There is, however, one later boss that he is actually useful for as it is immune to everything except physical attacks. Of course, Akihiko, Ken, and Aigis is still a better combination; but it brings him from totally useless to at least somewhat useful.
- Tank units in Super Robot Wars series (Getter 3, Dai Tank, Gust Lander, etc.) are overshadowed by their base and speedster counterparts because they lack movement and damage output. However, they suddenly are very effective in water combats, especially in some maps that there are nothing but water in it, since they don't suffer a terrain penalty and get a natural protection against beam rifles.
- Pikmin: The Blue Pikmin have no powers on land and are the primary target for enemy attacks. However, you won't be able to get all the ship parts/treasures without them, because they're the only Pikmin that can survive in water. Keep in mind that there are quite a bit of watery areas, especially in the Distant Spring/Perplexing Pool where the majority of the area is in water.
- The Japanese Unique Unit in Age of Empires II, the Samurai, is more slightly more powerful than a champion but less cost-effective...unless you're fighting civilizations with a heavily used UU, in which case their attack bonus against them means they can defeat all but the toughest one-on-one.
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002)
- There was an episode devoted to Mekaneck complaining about his relatively useless power. Almost every obstacle in the episode (a maze of long narrow corridors, toxic gas that remains low to the ground, and the villain holding the Artifact Of The Week from a high altitude) seemed tailor-made for a person whose neck extends.
- The show also had a subversion during a later episode, by giving the villain Stinkor - a humanoid skunklike character with the power to, well...stink - an upgrade that turns his rotten B.O. into directed jets of corrosive gas. As such, what was a laughably weak villain that the original series' creators swore they would never introduce to the series became such a big threat to He-Man and gang, that - during his debut episode - Skeletor not only recruited him as a minion, but also excluded from his usual punishment to failed minions.
- An episode of The Tick had Arthur and the Tick follow the normally useless Sewer Urchin on a mission into the sewers where it turns out his abilities are phenomenally useful, he has a cool hideout, he is respected and feared by the natives, and he is unflappable in the face of the sewer's strange and horrifying obstacles. He describes himself as "the apotheosis of cool" in his realm.
- Said almost word for word by Gear in Static Shock when Static and Gear fight a water-using Bang Baby. Static's response? "He'll have to get in line."
- This was the main failing of the Legion of Super Heroes cartoon episode "Karate Kid" - Karate Kid earns his place in the Legion not because he's a Badass Normal who can keep up with the rest of the Legion on a usual mission but because the villain of the week happens to obtain a way to nullify superpowers. Particularly unfortunate since Karate Kid in the LSH comics embodies the Charles Atlas Superpower and doesn't require such contrivances.
- To a lesser degree 'Phantoms' had Phantom Girl save the Legion from being trapped in the Phantom Zone by using her intangibility (though Brainiac 5 and Lightning Lad helped amplify it to phase everyone out).
- The parody of Knight Rider shown on The Simpsons (called Knight Boat, the crime solving boat):
Michael: Oh, no! They're headed for land. We'll never catch them now.
Incorrect: Look! A canal
Homer: Go, Knightboat, go!
Bart: Oh, every week there's a canal.
Lisa: Or an inlet.
Bart: Or a fjord.
- By season two of Dino Squad, the writers were apparently at a loss as to why vain, fashion-obsessed Caruso was still a member of the team. The result was an episode devoted to his battle against the Big Bad's guards and a horde of voracious giant ants - both of which helpfully turned out to be terribly vulnerable to yoga and scented hand cream.
- Zigzagged by Teen Titans. While Aqualad does only show up when the ocean is in trouble for the most part, he's proven that he's perfectly capable of fighting on dry land. (Most people tend to forget he's also got super strength - AND Hydrokinesis.)
- Young Justice
- Averted in that the Aqualad of that continuity can harden his water into solid objects like swords, have durability that can withstand Superboy's bounding, and electric eel tattoos on his body. He's was also the team's leader during the first season.
- However, Lagoon Boy in season 2 plays this trope straight. He lacks Aqualad's weapons and electrical abilities and so usually only gets used in missions near bodies of water. The Heroes Unlimited nature of the second season makes this far less obvious, though.
- This does get a lampshade when Lagoon Boy whines about being "stereotyped as the water guy" but it's at least as much because he's obnoxious and annoying and no one really likes working with him unless the situation absolutely requires it.
- Justice League
- Averted by its version of Aquaman. He straight up tells the League to shove off, and only later, after making nice, does he say he'll help out...when he can. He doesn't really care about the surface world and their problems.
- Though used properly in one episode. Aquaman, while helping the league, has just beaten a Shape Shifter. He is next challenged by that character's brother. Considering these two characters are based on the Wonder Twins, his power isn't exactly useful against the King of the Seas...
- Not to mention that not only does he have limited invulnerability, strength, and is a general badass, he also commands the most powerful and advanced navy in the Justice League continuity. He's no longer the guy you call for underwater base missions; he's the guy you call if you want the enemy's base and possibly nation pounded into damp gravel and blackened craters by an armada of battleships.
- In the Justice League, his Required Secondary Powers are actually enough to have the advantage over Wonder Woman even before he enters the ocean and becomes far stronger. Superman still trashed him after he beat her, but it was rather awesome.
- The Atom, even though he only has one power, the ability to shrink averts this trope. We only see him use his powers twice on the show (once to take down the heart of a world eating nano machines and to run from Amazo didn't work) he still is a genius physicist and the League on occasion has called on him for his unique expert opinion. Still is rarely seen on the show.
- Played straight with Green Arrow in his first mission with the League. The enemy is a giant unstoppable robot and the only way to deactivate it is to insert a metal rod in a small opening in its chest cavity. However, none of the team members can get close enough because the robot is on fire. This was resolved of course, by Green Arrow turning the metal into an arrow.
- Related to the above the first showing of Aquaman in the DCAU is in Superman: The Animated Series, he's shown having been captured and imprisoned by Luthor looking pretty weak. It turns out he was trying diplomacy first to stop one of Luthor's projects that was damaging the ocean particularly badly. When one of Lex's mooks tries and shoot him in the back with a harpoon gun (the kind used to kill whales), he catches it, summons forth a fucking scary naval armada and obliterates Luthor's state of the art boat without even blinking.
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold
- Averted where Aquaman has garnered an almost Memetic Badass status. Not only is he useful on both land, sea, blood streams, and other planets but also is a Boisterous Bruiser who embodies all the wonderful cheesiness of a silver age comic book hero. Say it with us: OUTRAGEOUS!
- It's sometimes played straight, though, such as "Aquaman's Outrageous Adventure!", in which Clock King holds someone hostage right next to a lobster tank and the finale (but not most of the episode) takes place by a harbor. Other times, Aquaman keeps his powers useful through Achievements in Ignorance.
Silverfish? But... they're insects!
Aquaman: A fish is a fish, even if it's a bug.
- Double subverted in the episode "Night of the Batmen!" Aquaman, filling in for an injured Batman, fights The Penguin. Penguin makes a daring escape on his submarine* , but then quickly steers the sub onto land and cuts through the city streets * .
- Robot Chicken had a go job for Snow Job. But it was just his fellow G.I. Jerks pranking him (they apologize for it later).
- Action League NOW! had Meltman, with the power to...Melt! However, since he is only observed melting in the opening, this is more of a What Kind of Lame Power is Melting Anyway? He did manage to get them tickets to a KISS concert, though.
- Fellow member The Flesh had two powers, one of which ("He's super strong...") is of obvious usefulness. However, contriving a situation where his other power ("... and super naked") came in handy was apparently too much of a challenge for the writers.
- In an episode of Kim Possible, Mr. Stoppable, the Actuary, spends an entire episode trying to be a hero to his son. He finally succeeds when his number-crunching skills turns out to be very useful against a one-shot villain with a very specific gimmick:
Kim: Did you know your dad had it in him?
Ron: No, but who knew we’d be facing a math-crazed villain?
- Aquaman on the Super Friends show.
- Happens in every single episode of the original 1973/74 season, usually in the form of a villain-caused problem occurring on, under or near a body of water. In addition there were several water-based opponents on the show, such as the episodes "Dr. Pelagian's War", "The Weather Maker" and "The Watermen".
- Averted in one episode where he and Black Vulcan (who has electricity powers) go to save a nuclear submarine, and Aquaman utterly fails at being a help at all, mostly making things worse.
- In fact the TV series is where most of the notion of Aquaman's uselessness comes from, due to the writers not being allowed to show him hitting anyone, so they were left with "being good at swimming" and "can ask fish for help."
- An episode of Garfield and Friends has some X-men Expies. Our Gambit expy had...Super Cottage Cheese control powers... Fortunately, Jon, being a complete moron, had been scammed into buying a very expensive yogurt-dispenser with a warranty (Well made, just priced the same as a mansion). Fortunately, those Cottage Cheese powers end up working on the yogurt.
- The Fairly OddParents
- In one episode Timmy wishes for SUPERFRIENDS and gets a whole team of superheroes. One of them is a blatant expy of Aquaman who is only useful in water. When Timmy tries to get rid of them:
A.J.: (When asked for coordinates) It's a planet filled with water.
Wet Willy: I say we go!!
- A full episode dealt with Timmy wishing for a world of Superheroes after being shafted by ordinary job folks in time of need (fireman, milkman, postman, etc). After Nega-Chin strips away his and his friends powers. Said people wind up aiding in helping Timmy defeated the Nega-Chin.
- Fry has no superpowers; he also has no Delta brainwaves, making him the only organism more advanced than a tree who can battle the Brain invasion. He has also saved the planet with his knowledge of 20th century television, and his 20th century garbage making skills. Among other things.
- Also, Dr. Zoidberg, whenever his unique powers are required - for example in "Mothers Day" when Leela gets him to open a tin can with his claws. "Hooray! I'm useful! I'm having a wonderful time!"
- Bender was built initially designed as a "bending unit". In other words, a robot whose sole purpose was to bend objects. Not just objects, but specific ones, namely girders. Not just girders, mind you, but specifically girders used for making suicide booths. This is all explained in the Pilot Episode, in which he later gets "deprogrammed" to bend universally, but his primary function remains throughout the series, where he and his fellow employees frequently find themselves in situations where the solution just happens to involve bending an object. Though being Futurama of course, it's subverted quite often. Where Bender would declare some tasks as "primitive, degenerate forms of bending" and just do them anyway.
- It's also surprising how many thing Hermes has to limbo under to save the day.
- The episode "Zapp Dingbat" establishes that Leela's mutant father Morris is a sewer-surfing afficiando. In the episode's final moments, the characters' ship is attacked by aliens whose laserblasts form enormous waves, and after main navigation is knocked out, the only remaining controls are a surfboard-like device with twenty buttons in a keyboard-like arrangement. To top it off, Morris reveals for the first time that he has ten toes on each foot…
- One episode had the babies imagining themselves as superheroes from Phil's favourite TV show. The first adventure they went on utilised every baby except Chuckie (whose power was he drove their van). So Chuckie came up with the next adventure that made him the hero. This time everyone except Kimi was used so it was her turn for the next adventure...
- An earlier episode, "Mega Diaper Babies", had Tommy, Chuckie, Phil and Lil pretending to be their favorite heroes, the Mega Hyper Heroes * . While Tommy, Phil and Lil had useful abilities * , Chuckie only had "the smell of two babies". However, it's that power that defeats Angelitron * and wins the day.
- The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes had Ant-Man's ability to communicate with bugs turn the tide of a few battles in the Avengers' favor.
- In Sabrina: The Animated Series when they end up getting sucked into Harvey's comic book world, Sabrina has the seemingly useless power of making squids shoot out of her hands. Harvey's power is to make anything he draws come to life and when he runs out of ink seconds away from defeating the Big Bad, Sabrina suddenly remembers what squids can make...
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Equestria Games," one of the ice arrows is misfired into a cloud, creating an iceberg that is about to fall on the stadium full of sports fans. The unicorns are powerless to stop it, and it's too heavy for Celestia, Luna, and the pegasi to safely guide to the centre of the field. Their only hope is a fire-breathing dragon, and Spike is the only one at the Games.