In most video games, it's usually assumed that the player is in control of a single character. However, in recent years video games have been trying to overcome this by giving the character control of two entities at the same time.
A Puppet Fighter is a character from a video game—particularly Fighting Games—who has the ability to actively control two separate persons or entities simultaneously. Usually there will be one entity that acts as the main character, with the other acting as an extra tool, hence the "Puppet" in the trope name. They may either start off with the puppet on stage or they may keep the puppet off the battlefield except when certain attacks are used.
Done poorly, these can result in a Game-Breaker because they can control more of the screen than any of the cast. These characters may be balanced by creating an execution barrier to be able to get the puppet in control at all, losing options when they have the puppet in play, or placing a limit on how much the puppet can be used. However, they just as often dominate the tier lists.
This is strictly a Video Game Trope about the player controlling a character that has multiple entities. Any examples from media who control other characters or objects are likely a different trope.
- In Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening, Dante can obtain the Doppelganger style (after defeating the boss of the same name late in the game), which allows him to duplicate himself with the weapons he currently has equipped (the shadow copy can't change weapons). The doppelganger performs attacks for the weapon it has equipped even if Dante changes weapons after transforming, and it can be controlled to have an input lag while he mimicking the player. As an Easter Egg, he can be controlled directly with the use of a second controller.
- Vergil can be controlled independently in the same way together with Dante in the second half of the boss fight in Mission 19.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Heritage for the Future is filled with these, and may well be the Trope Maker. Every character has a Stand, which depending on the character either acts like simple special moves or as their puppets. These Stands had a separate meter to them, and if it was depleted the character would temporarily lose access to the stand for a bit.
- Guilty Gear
- Zato-1/Eddie uses his shadow (that would be Eddie) to act as the puppet. If it's out, the character himself can attack by pressing the button while the shadow can attack while releasing the button. He can only summon his shadow as long as his shadow gauge is full, though, and once it's depleted, it can't be used for a long time. In a very literal and ironic sense, Zato ends up being killed by Eddie and has his body taken over by Eddie after GGX due to the death of his voice actor, making him the puppet to Eddie (though with no visible changes to their fighting style). Zato, however, is mysteriously revived and back in the saddle by the time of Guilty Gear Xrd.
- To a lesser extent, there's Bridget, whose puppet is his yo-yo (or Roger, his Teddy Bear Robot Buddy, depending on what move he used). His control over the yo-yo is much more limited than Zato/Eddie's control, though, since he can only set the yo-yo out into a fixed spot on the screen and activate attacks to make it move rather than actively control it during the match.
- Carl Clover is a Marionette Master whose puppet is Nirvana, an automaton that's really his sister Ada. Similar to Eddie, Carl can actively control Nirvana using his Drive and use her for attacks to keep his opponent stuck blocking, but only for as long as his gauge lasts. Once it depletes, Nirvana is deactivated and can't come out for a while.
- His father Relius, on the other hand, prefers to use his puppet Ignis (who turns out to be his wife/Carl and Ada's mother) in a different way. By activating his Drive, Ignis is summoned and can attack like Nirvana can, but will stay close to Relius whenever he attacks and will follow him on the battlefield rather than be at a completely different spot. Direct attacks scored on Relius will force Ignis to leave the fight until Relius re-summons her, and Ignis will be briefly rendered inactive like her daughter if her gauge is completely expended.
- The difference between the two is quite intentional. Carl loves his sister and the two fight together as a team. Relius is a sociopath who uses Ignis like a weapon, and he's the one firmly in control. On the other hand, Carl is a weak kid and fairly reliant on Ada to do most of the heavy lifting, while Relius could probably be very dangerous even without Ignis' assistance.
- In the spin-off Blazblue Cross Tag Battle, this is the quirk of the Persona 4: Arena cast, as they fight with their Personas as well as their partners, and unlike their home game they're not bound by the Persona Gauge, though the Personas can still be destroyed which would leave the user at a distinct disadvantage. In addition, it's possible to use what's in the Tag Gauge to temporarily call in your partner for infinite assist moves until the gauge depletes, at which point you switch characters. In other words, it's viable to turn your partner character into a temporary puppet character as long as you have some gauge left and have both characters still kicking.
- Super Smash Bros.
- The Ice Climbers are a downplayed example. One acts as the "lead" character while the other acts as a support, controlled by the AI through "copying" the lead character. By de-syncing the Ice Climber's moves through wavedashing or similar techniques, they are able to perform attack after attack after grab after taunt after whatever, with the two alternating between attacks. Trying to completely separate the two is suicidal, though, since doing so will change the AI on the support and cause it only to run to the lead Climber, preventing it from attacking. If the AI Climber is taken out, the lead Climber is severely crippled, as many of their moves are effective only when the two are together.
- Rosalina & Luma act as a more pure puppet fighter duo, with Rosalina leading Luma. Unlike with the Ice Climblers, Luma performs his own set of attacks at the same time as Rosalina does hers, and Rosalina has a move dedicated to separating them in order to cover more ground. Should Luma be taken out of the fight, he reappears after a few seconds without player input.
- In Rivals of Aether, Forsburn can summon an AI-controlled clone of himself and can command it to stand in a certain area or feign attacks in order to confuse other players. With a full charge of smoke, he can even detonate the clone, sacrificing it in return for a powerful radial blast. The clone is rather fragile, so even one hit will cause it to dissipate into a cloud of smoke.
- Viola from Soulcalibur V is probably one of the first examples of this in a 3D fighting game. Her puppet is her crystal ball, and certain attacks and actions will set the ball somewhere on the playing field to stay at, similar to Bridget. She has completely different attacks whether the ball is set or whether it's in her hands, so players need to learn which one is best for which situations to properly play her, hence her notorious difficulty curve.
- Ms. Fortune from Skullgirls uses her head. Really. She can take off her head using certain attacks or lose it by being stuffed by an opponent during certain attacks. When she does, she gains access to a slew of special moves that aren't normally available to her, but her mobility with her actual body is decreased slightly. Also, if her head is attacked by the opponent, she'll take half the damage the attack usually does, meaning that she can take 1.5x the damage she would normally get if they hit both the body and the head.
- Persona 4: Arena
- Similar to JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Heritage for the Future, most of the characters are puppet fighters. They can all summon their Personas to perform certain attacks that would be unavailable to them otherwise, but can lose access to their Persona if it gets attacked too often. The most blatant example is Shadow Labrys, who has the most active control over her Persona. It always moves alongside her and can be used in pressure strings by pressing the button to start up her Persona, starting a combo, and setting the situation up so the Persona's attack connects. Of course, this comes with the drawback that it's the easiest Persona to break, since it's out almost all the time.
- The sequel, Persona 4: Arena Ultimax, introduces Sho Minazuki, who is unique because he's not one of these, as he lacks a Persona. However, there is a different version of Sho (Referred to ingame as Minazuki) that has a Persona, playing the trope straight in the process.
- Ultimax also has Ken Amada, who fights with Koromaru the dog at his side. Koro follows Ken around when he moves, and can use his own regular and Super attacks when the player presses certain buttons. He also has his own separate health bar; when it's depleted, he is out of the fight until it refills, however the player can dismiss Koromaru at any time to let him recover at the cost of losing some damage during certain Super attacks. Koromaru also has an attack when he's dismissed that lets him return to battle by flying in from above like a meteor onto the opponent. Both Ken and Koromaru have their own Personas.
- The Touhou Project fighting games have a few examples:
- Alice Margatroid's gameplay revolves around summoning dolls, either to perform regular moves and vanish, or stay in place and hinder the opponent. One spell card, "Futuristic Bunraku", allows the player to briefly control a doll directly while Alice stands off to one side.
- Usually Ichirin Kumoi's partner Unzan is not visible and just uses his abilities to increase her power and reach (manifesting his giant fists around her punches, etc.) but she also has some moves which cause him to attack independently. Given ZUN's love of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, this is generally seen as a reference to the gameplay of Stands from Heritage for the Future above.
- Antinomy of Common Flowers introduced the Yorigami sisters, who play this trope straighter. Jo'on acts like a standard fighter, while her sister Shion automatically follows her around. Some commands will send Shion to attack.
- In the Naruto: Clash of Ninja series, Kankuro acts alongside his human-sized puppet Karasu. He's able to position Karasu independently of himself, to either take hits for him or perform combos from difficult directions. Amusingly, Karasu itself can be played alone as a secret character, which plays the trope rather literally.
- In the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm games, Kankuro can also attack from a distance via his puppets, with Chiyo and Sasori joining him. They are a different case than most though, as the puppeteers cannot attack at all save for Chiyo's Ultimate Ninjutsu. This is compensated via the puppets having comparable strength to a normal playable character and moves that send the puppets to the opponent or back to the puppeteer.
- Arcana Heart
- Lieselotte Achenbach can throw out a red, legless marionette out of the briefcase to intiate this type of gameplay. The doll normally moves by the directional inputs and attacks by button inputs, though Lieselotte can set up markers to make the doll do different actions on her own. The doll can only take three hits unless recalled, after which she becomes unable to move, requiring you to use a super to revive her.
- The Arcana of Shadow, Gier, also behaves likes this. If you hold down the button as you are doing one of its special attacks, you can control Gier to make it move as a shadow around the field to go into a position to attack. Fittingly, Gier is Lieselotte's default Arcana, meaning that she can utilize the trope with two things at the same time.
- Lesser example happens with Nazuna and her crow Fusumi. Where it normally flies above Nazuna and attacks from there, Nazuna can make it move remotely. It is invulnerable for damage but attacking with it consumes Nazuna's "Rei-Ryoku" gauge and once its depleted, Fusumi returns back to Nazuna and cannot attack until the gauge is fully filled up.
- In Eternal Fighter Zero:
- Minagi Tohno fights alongside her best friend Michiru, whom you can move with the special button, or with special moves, forcing the opponent to keep an eye on Minagi, and the other on Michiru.
- And to a lesser extent, Mai Kawasumi can call a Cute Ghost Girl, which appears at any spot of the screen via special moves, or can lock her on position with the special button; so, the key with Mai is to keep her opponent guessing where she's going to summon her.
- In Pocket Rumble, Keiko has a demonic cat named Q who can turn into an Eldritch Abomination of sorts when attacking. Her gameplay is in the style of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Heritage for the Future and Persona 4: Arena. If Q has been hit enough times or self-destructed as an attack, he will not be able to attack until the next round.
- Pom the sheep from Them's Fightin' Herds has a variety of dogs she can summon and command like this.
- When the Engineer from Team Fortress 2 uses the Wrangler, he can move around the map on his own accord while letting his sentry act as his puppet.
- DOTA 2:
- The Lone Druid controls both the druid himself and his spirit bear, who also has abilities and can equip armor and weapons.
- Meepo takes this up to four: Four semi-independent copies of Meepo can be controlled at the same time, each with their own abilities, but the copies can't equip things. And if any Meepo dies, all Meepos die.
- Zet the Arc Warden has his ultimate ability - Tempest Double - which creates a double that can equip things. It dies after a short time though.
- Heroes of the Storm
- Rexxar is a duo between himself and his bear Misha. Misha can't be directly controlled, but will attack targets Rexxar aims at and can be given rough movement commands with built-in keys, and can perform a charge attack and be healed by Rexxar. Rexxar himself only has one ability (two if you choose Unleash the Boars as a heroic), so he's essentially worthless if Misha dies.
- Samuro can become this with his Illusion Master heroic. Normally, Samuro summons two clones that are AI controlled. With Illusion Master, he gains direct control over them. In addition, he gains the ability to switch places with a clone, essentially teleporting him.