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Swiss-Army Hero

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This is a Shapeshifting trope describing a main character that can shape-shift into multiple forms with each form being able to do something specific. For example; a water-based one to swim fast, an earth-based one for strength, an air-based one to fly, etc. In some series these would be different characters, forming a group, but in this one it's all the same guy.

Outside of video games, this kind of hero is often headlining a Merchandise-Driven show - after all, more forms means more toys.

Related to Stance System and Tag Team. See also Multiform Balance, Personality Powers and Elemental Powers. Compare Job System, where you only have to change costumes to switch abilities.

Has nothing to do with badass soldiers from the Alps (though it's a reasonable mistake to make).


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    Action Adventure 
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask - Link can turn into a Deku, Goron, or Zora, each of which have different abilities. He can also turn into the Fierce Deity, but that's reserved for boss battles only.
  • Killer7 is made up of 7 assassins in one body.
  • In Aquaria, Naija gains Energy, Beast, Nature, Sun, Fish, Spirit, and Dual forms from her Magic Music normal form.
  • The protagonist of Kameo: Elements of Power.
  • In Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia there are three glyphs that change Shanoa's form into a cat-woman, bat-woman, and little robot thing.
    • Years before, Alucard of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night could change into a fire-breathing bat, a wolf that can run through enemy or mist. The mist could even be upgraded to Deadly Gas.
    • Rush Form in the Sorrow series if Soma Cruz had captured one of the creature's souls that can let him turn into one of them.
  • Metal Mutant has the titular character able to transform on-the-fly into a humanoid cyborg, a dinosaur and a bulky tank-bot; each form is extremely specialized - several enemies can be beaten only with a specific one (for example, only the Dino's bite and tail fire can hit low critters).
  • Altered Beast (2005) gave Luke 9 different forms each with their own powers and abilities, these forms include a Werewolf, Merman, Wendigo, Garuda, Minotaur, Dragon, Bear, UWH, aka, Alien, and a Weretiger.
  • This is the main gimmick of Trine. You play as a fighter, an archer, and a mage, all sharing the same body.
  • In Bayonetta, the titular heroine and the antagonist Jeanne, can change into a panther, bat, or crow depending on attribute the situation calls for. According to notebooks found in the game, this was just an ability of all Umbran witches.
  • Chomp of Monster Tale can "evolve" into different forms at will.
  • The protagonist of Dead Head Fred is a private eye who lost his original head, with his default state being a Brain in a Jar. He can equip different heads, each with their own unique abilities.
  • In the old Raven Software game Shadow Caster, the protagonist eventually acquires a plethora of different forms, each with their own set of abilities.

    Fighting Game 
  • In the Gundam Vs Series, mobile suits which use Mecha Expansion Packs in their original anime are usually turned into Swiss Army Heroes as a means of representing their unique abilities. The Victory 2, Strike, Impulse and AGE-2 Gundams can change freely, while the AGE-1 can only change one way per spawn (it reverts to its base form when it respawns). The Extreme Gundam plays more traditionally, starting in a base form and tranforming into an upgraded form after filling a meter, but the each form is treated as a separate character and must be chosen before the match starts.

  • The Druid class in World of Warcraft is essentially this. They can access different forms which give them abilities similar to another class (e.g. cat form gives the same combat style as a Rogue, bear gives them better armor so they can tank like a Warrior), act as transport (e.g. travel form, flight form and swimming form) or completely unique (e.g. tree form improves their healing).
  • In Eden Eternal the player can cycle through the game's 15 classes at any time:
    • Tanking: Warrior, Knight and Templar
    • Melee DPS: Thief, Martial Artist and Blade Dancer
    • Ranged DPS: Hunter, Engineer and Ranger
    • Healing: Cleric, Bard and Shaman
    • Magic DPS: Magician, Illusionist and Warlock

    Platform Game 
  • Super Mario Bros. - Namely when one of the bros or anyone else is using a Transformation Trinket in stock.
  • Demon's Crest - Firebrand has about five or six different forms, which he can shift between at will.
  • Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap allowed the hero to transform into a dragon, lion, mouse, etc. He had to find a room to do the transformation though.
  • Mega Man ZX. You gain the ability to transform into 6 different forms in the first game, and 15 different forms in the second. Plus one secret form in each game.
  • Kirby can gain various powers depending on the enemy he swallows. Each of these forms comes with a different hat and some alter his appearance in other ways.
    • In Kirby's Epic Yarn, he can't do his usual Power Copying. He can still turn into a parachute, a car and a heavy weight at any time, and there are certain points in the game where he turns into a dolphin, Humongous Mecha or UFO among others.
  • Kid Chameleon gave you various masks or helmets to transform you into differently-superpowered characters.
  • The third Wizards & Warriors game allows Kuros to switch between Knight, Thief and Mage at will to suit the situation.

    Role-Playing Game 
  • Shadow Hearts games feature Harmonixers - people who can fuse with souls of otherwordly creatures to gain their powers. Main Harmonixers of each game have several different forms, each with different stat boosts, magic, and elemental affinities.
  • The sloth demon's Fade level in Dragon Age: Origins.
  • Mystic Ark contains a slight variant: while the hero(ine) never changes form, (s)he is joined by two spirits who can each be made to inhabit one of several wooden figurines, bringing them to life as various allies (fighter, mage, cleric, ninja, etc.). You can move those spirits around pretty much anytime outside of battle.
  • Deoxys from the Pokémon games has 4 different forms that can be changed depending on the game in the Advance generation, or using some meteorites in the DS games. The forms are a normal one that acts as Jack of All Stats, a Glass Cannon attack form, a Stone Wall Defense form and a Fragile Speedster form. Another Pokémon that can change forms is Rotom, each of these forms gives it increased stats compared to its base form (the five forms have the same stats), a different Elemental power, and as of Gen V, its Ghost typing is swapped out for one matching that of the appliance it possessed.
  • The protagonists of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep can get spells that let them transform into different Unversed in the Final Mix version of the game.
  • Most of the Mega Man Battle Network games starting with the second installment allow MegaMan to change into different variants.
    • Battle Network 2 and 3 have Style Change, where MegaMan's body changes color and a certain part of his body is changed to reflect that Style's element (Heat, Aqua, Elec, or Wood) and specialty. They have one particular attribute (an improved buster, greater defense, more chips per turn, being able to carry more Navi chips and being able to get V4 and V5 Navi chips, turning invisible with each charge shot, being able to change the field, or receiving random good or bad bugs at the start of the battle) combined with one of the four aforementioned elements. In 2, the player could carry two Souls and switch between them out of combat, though this was reduced to one in 3.
    • 4 and 5 have Double Soul, a combination of this trope and Power Copying, as they are obtained through defeating one of MegaMan's allies in battle. MegaMan's charge shot is changed and he gains certain other attributes, usually an elemental affinity. It is toggled in-battle instead of on the overworld by discarding a chip corresponding to that soul (i.e., a Wood chip in Team Colonel gives you Tomahawk Soul), but they each have at least one con (Knight Soul's charge shot is only melee range, Magnet Soul is weak to Wood attacks, etc.) and last for 3 turns, which can be increased using Navi Customizer programs. 5 also has Chaos Unison, activated by discarding a Dark Chip, where it's the same form with a different color scheme and your charge shot turns into the Dark Chip you discarded, without the bugs or HP penalty you'd get using it by itself. If you fire at the wrong time, however, you'll turn back to normal and an invincible MegaMan DS will attack you for 13 seconds, and the time it takes the shot to fully charge increases with each success. It also only lasts for 1 turn, period.
      • 4 and 5 also have Dark Soul, activated by using Dark Chips in battle constantly. There are a few minor differences such as MegaMan becoming darker in appearance and his emotion window gaining a malicious expression, and a few major ones such as not being able to go into Full Synchro, the inability to use certain chips, and being able to use Evil Chips and DS Mega Chips.
    • 5 had two Crosses, Bass Cross and Solar (Django) Cross, which override MegaMan's standard form similar to Styles, sans elemental affinity.
      • Bass Cross can be obtained in the Japanese Game Boy Advance versions using a promotional e-Reader card or obtained in the overseas version via cheats, or in any version of Double Team DS on an original Nintendo DS or DS Lite if you insert a copy of the GBA version that Bass SP has been defeated in. The abilities and colors of this form depend on which version of the game you're playing, Team Colonel having a silver version with Buster Rake and Team ProtoMan having a gold version with Hell's Rolling.
      • Solar Cross can be obtained in Double Team DS simply by having a copy of Boktai 2: Solar Boy Django in the Game Boy Advance slot. As a reference to the Boktai series' usage of solar power, there will be a sun on the upper right corner of the screen that powers up the player's attacks if you're jacked in from an area outdoors.
    • 6 introduces a new Cross System. In contrast to 5, Crosses here are mostly like Souls, except that they're activated through a submenu on the Custom Screen instead of discarding a chip and MegaMan goes back to normal if hit by an element countering his.
      • Complementing the Cross System is Beast Out, the ability to tap into Gregar or Falzar's power, gaining a rapid-fire buster, instantly locking on to the closest enemy, the ability to charge non-dimming elementless chips to perform powerful slash attacks, and the two can be combined to obtain a powerful elemental charge shot. Because of the massive power exhibited, using this ability leaves MegaMan exhausted (which is visibly reflected on his emotion window) and he has to go into battles without using it for it to recharge, as it lasts for a maximum of three turns. Attempting to activate it while the counter is at 0 will activate Beast Over, where MegaMan goes berserk and rapidly loses health while going into autopilot similar to 5's DarkInvis.
    • The Japan-exclusive mobile phone game Rockman.EXE Legend of Network has Trans Arm, which is the same as Double Soul except it only affects your buster as the name implies and the rest of your body is simply recolored.
  • Mega Man Star Force:
    • The original has Star Break, activated in battle using a special card. Depending on what version you're playing, Mega Man will turn into Ice Pegasus, Fire Leo or Green Dragon, each of which have a different charge shot and a Star Force Big Bang activated by countering an enemy's attack. You can obtain the Star Breaks of the other two versions by having a BrotherBand with people on those versions.
    • 2 has Zerker, Saurian and Ninja transformations which are similar to Star Break except they can be combined. Combining all three grant the Tribe King transformation, which is more powerful but lasts for three turns like Beast Out above.
    • 3 has Noise Change, which is basically the Cross System from Battle Network 6 with the one-at-a-time limitation of Battle Network 3's Styles. There are six per version, though there's also Rogue Noise in both versions, obtained by refraining from making any BrotherBands with other players. Additionally, there are Star Break-style forms based on the titular supporting characters Acid Ace and Dread Joker, which grant access to the abilities Black End Galaxy and Red Gaia Eraser.
  • In each of the Breath of Fire games, Ryu can transform into a variety of different dragons, each with differing abilities.
  • An example where it's not the Player Character: One of Many in Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer can change classes at will between barbarian, warlock, and rogue.

    Rhythm Game 
  • Pretty much the whole point of the Hero of Patapon 2 and 3 is to be an extra unit of your class of choice. An extra unit with some pretty awesome trinkets, too...

Non-video game examples:

    Anime and Manga 
  • Getter Robo, with a land-based, sky-based, and water-based form.
  • Betterman has this power.
  • Tony Tony Chopper from One Piece has, like all Zoan-type users, three basic forms; however, by using his Rumble Ball (a medication he developed), he expands that number to seven: his reindeer form (fast), his human form (strong), his hybrid form (brainy: he can do an Enemy Scan; this is also his usual form, unlike most Zoan users) as well as a form optimized for jumping, defense, striking, and using his antlers. There is yet another form he takes on if he OD's on the Rumble Balls, a terrifying, giant monster. After the time skip, he adds Kung-Fu form (an oddly compact form that allows him to perform martial arts, complete with Funny Bruce Lee Noises), upgrades his existing forms to more powerful variants, and no longer needs the Rumble Balls, with the exception of his Monster Form.
  • Zoids: New Century features the main character's giant robot Liger Zero getting three different sets of armor named Jäger, Schneider, and Panzer, which greatly enhance speed, melee combat capability, and firepower, respectively.
  • Negi Springfield of Negima! Magister Negi Magi can go between forms of his Magia Erebia Armationem, his Agilitas Fulminis oriented more towards speed and mobility with less offense and defense while being more alike to his use of wind and lightning, the other - his Sim Fabricatus - with greater strength and defense over a loss of speed. Of note is that The author likes to reference games and RPGs throughout the series (this being one of many), so this can be argued to count as a Shout-Out to the game form of this trope.
  • Fairy Tail:
    • Erza Scarlet uses a type of magic called "Requip: The Knight" which allows her summon various armors and weapons that she stores in a pocket dimension.
    • After the second Time Skip, Lucy Heartfalia learns to don Star Dresses to channel her spirits' powers and fight side-by-side with them. In the sequel/spin-off she reveals she's learned how to channel two Star Dresses at once in a sort of fusion to vastly increase her power.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • The second incarnation of the quest, Communication, features a strange example where not Homura herself has this, but her Guardian Entity, has four later five different modes at her disposal, as signaled by her witch hat:
    • Time: A metal ring large enough to skim just over the top of her head and down to her lower back that slowly spins in place, engraved with images of various images of events past and future. The Pieces for Access float either side of this ring as curved bars [like this (O)] that cover the left and rightmost 90 degree arcs of the ring. The Piece for Purification is a wire ring that loops around everything else. The Piece for Communication is a silver disk, the size of a tea coaster, that floats behind her head. In this form, she is capable of manipulating time.
    • Access: Two rings, one of iridescent multi colour and the other of shifting darkness, each the size of dinner plates, slowly orbit a centerpoint on Homura’s mid-back. The inside of each ring shimmers with their respective color. The Piece for Time rests as a sphere at the centerpoint. The Piece for Purification is a small ring mandala that is centered on the centerpoint. The Piece for Communication is a silver half-torc that hovers around the back of her neck. In this form she can use Grief Charge and Essence fueled magic. This does not pollute her Soul Gem.
    • Purification: A shining Mandala with various levels of independently moving pieces. Like the others, it rotates around Homura’s mid-back and is tall enough to stretch from her knees to above her head. The Piece for Time sits at the centerpoint as a disk as wide as a bowl between the mandala and Homura. The Pieces for Access are two rings of equal size, both large enough to encircle the Piece for Time with room to spare, centered on the centerpoint sitting either side of Time, the multicolored one closer to Homura. In this form, she can create white purifying effects like a fire the burns grief.
    • Communication: A silver disk-like halo that floats about her head. The Piece for Time is a bar that runs parallel to her spine. The Pieces for Access are two rings that encircle the Piece for Time. The Piece for Purification is a swirling mirrored-helix that rotates both clockwise and anti-clockwise around the Piece for Time. In this form, she has true telepathy.
    • Doppel: By reversing the spin on her witch's hat, the brim of which is a spinning record, she activates her own Doppel form, separate from Homura's own.

  • The titular characters in the Animorphs series are this in spades. By the end of the series, each of the main characters has an arsenal of close to fifty animal forms in a wide variety of different shapes and sizes, though each character has a main group of 4-5 forms that they use most frequently, like a favorite battle form (Rachel's grizzly bear, for example) or a favorite bird of prey form for aerial recon. Most books in the series has them acquiring a new animal form which has abilities that will be particularly useful on their next upcoming mission. For example, on a mission when they needed to retrieve a special item from a pitch-black room, they acquired a bat form and used its natural echo-location to safely navigate through the room.
  • Frank Zhang of The Heroes of Olympus also shows shades of this. Becoming an eagle, grizzly bear, and an elephant to take on a giant. Also, having encountered basilisks early in "The Son of Neptune" Iris, the goddess of the Rainbow informs him that having a weasel is the best way of taking down basilisks. Later in the book after he discovers his shapeshifting abilities he is seen tearing through basilisks in weasel form and the basilisks are slithering away from him in terror.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Kamen Rider franchise has many examples where the hero can utilize different weapons, forms, and/or fighting styles. This has its roots with the occasional use in the original Showa era (Riderman and Kamen Rider Super-1 could each equip different arm-based gadgets, and Kamen Rider BLACK RX had two alternate forms), but became a series staple after returning from a hiatus in the modern era.
    • Usually the hero will have around three to four forms specialized in different fighting styles (Kuuga, Agito, Den-O, Kiva, Gaim, Zero-One), though that number can occasionally go to 10 or higher (Decade, Ghost, Zi-O, Revice). A few of these might also enhance themselves further with additional equipment or abilities (Fourze, Wizard, Drive).
    • Some Riders have a modular system that's able to swap out the attributes of different body parts (Double, OOO, Build, Saber, Geats). The part-swapping type can grow to particularly absurd form counts if each possible combination is treated as its own form, but these usually have a smaller set of prearranged combinations that fulfill the role of traditional forms.
  • Super Sentai:
    • Ever since Engine Sentai Go-onger, most Super Sentai Transformation Trinkets come with toy gimmicks (Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters being a notable exception), which can often invoke form changes outside of just the mid-season upgrades and other similar power-ups. Although sometimes they just summon weapons or mecha or activate abilities. While Go-Onger isn't the first time there was a collectable toy gimmick, it is the first time one has been used in such a way, though Super Sentai didn't actually start filling this trope with it until Gokaiger.
    • Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger: The Gokaigers have access to the powers of all 34 previous Super Sentai teams, for a total of nearly 200 powersets (each individual Gokaiger usually only uses the member of each past team that matches up with their own colornote , while the Sixth Ranger uses only the 15 other Sixth Rangers, but they can use whichever key they want). In later appearances they're also shown to be able to use the powers of succeeding Sentai teams.
    • Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger: The Ryusoulgers have access to the Ryusouls, devices that grant them special armor and extra abilities.
    • Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger: The Zenkaigers can access the powers and weapons of previous Sentai teams.
  • Power Rangers:
    • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: In season 3, the Rangers get new Ninja outfits and powers in addition to their standard Ranger uniforms. While the Ninja outfits lack the durability and strength of their regular Ranger forms, they come with a number of fancy tricks like super speed, hiding in the ground and illusions.
    • Power Rangers: Dino Thunder: Conner McKnight is the only Ranger in this season with two power-ups in addition to the one shared by the rest of the team. Fans have jokingly referred to him as an "upgrade addict" because of this.
    • Power Rangers Megaforce: The second season, being an adaptation of the aforementioned Gokaiger, grants the Rangers the ability to use the powers of previous Ranger teams in addition to their own.
    • Power Rangers Ninja Steel: Dimensions In Danger has Tommy Oliver wielding the Master Morpher which allows him to morph into every Ranger form he has had in the series.
    • Power Rangers Dino Fury: The Rangers have a number of keys which grant special upgrades and weapons.
  • The Ultra Series has frequently given Ultramen multiple forms, starting with Ultraman Tiga. In almost all these cases, the forms (not counting Super Modes) are one that's balanced, one that's focused on strength, and one that features either speed and agility or the use of energy abilities that resemble magic.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Druids have innate shapeshifting into animals as a basic ability (and at higher levels can cast Polymorph, allowing them to turn into just about anything), making them able to face just about any kind of environment and serve as scouts, skirmishers, ambushers etc, not to mention making them very good at tanking damage since they can take another form with full hit points. They can also change their spell list every day for even more universality.

  • Transformers: Some versions of Optimus Prime qualify due to him having a number of power-ups and combinations exclusive to himself. The Optimus Prime of the Unicron Trilogy could combine with his trailer, a quartet of drones and at least two other Autobots. Optimus Primal in Beast Wars gained a Transmetal 2 body which granted him two new alt modes, one for flying and one for grounded travel, in addition to his beast mode.

  • In El Goonish Shive, Elliot and Grace both have forms with which they can fly magically. Grace's flying form also has claws that can slowdown an opponent's Healing Factor when she attacks with them.

    Western Animation 
  • This trope is Ben 10's entire gimmick. The titular hero wears the Omnitrix capable of temporarily transforming him into a number of alien forms (ten at first, hence the name, but he gains more later on), each with it's own powers and weaknesses.
  • From the same company is Rex of Generator Rex, who can change parts of his body into various weapons and tools as needed, and was even born in Switzerland.
  • One episode of Men in Black: The Series involves Agent J being given superpowers. It was supposed to make him a Flying Brick but the source of the powers was replaced with a Swiss Army Knife. So Agent J turned into a literal Swiss Army Hero, his arms turning into the various tools on one of those knives.
  • In the retooled second season of Iron Man: The Animated Series, Iron Man upgrades his armor so that it can shift into a different design for every situation (subterranean armor, underwater armor, stealth armor, "samurai" armor, etc.). Note that while the concept of such armors is nothing new as the comics did the same, this is a blatant case of how Merchandise-Driven this trope can be, as each form had its own toy.
  • Max Steel (2013): This incarnation of Max is a Henshin Hero who can access a variety of special armor suits, each with different weapons and abilities.