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What Kind Of Lame Power Is Heart Anyway / Western Animation

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Lame superpowers in western animation TV shows.

  • Superhero parodies may deliberately saddle their hero with a lame or useless power just for comedic effect. Meltman from Action League NOW! had the utterly useless ability to melt himself; even he bemoaned its uselessness. In fact, the only time he's ever observed melting is during the intro, when he's clearly under a magnifying glass, suggesting he can't even melt himself as much as he can be willingly melted by others. Or that his superpower is simply the fact that he's been melted.
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  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold: B'Wana Beast was specifically called out on this in a series that gives Aquaman no crap. His power (merges two animals into a single creature that he controls) isn't actually that useless, and even ends up becoming a plot point, but most characters in the series find it weird, impractical, and gross... except Captain Marvel, who thinks it's really neat.
  • While the Ben 10 franchise has quite a lot of characters (or forms, in the hero's case) being shining examples of Heart Is an Awesome Power, supervillain Nyancy-Chan from Ben 10: Omniverse is quite infamous in the fandom for being ridiculously weak. Her sole ability is to control felines, which could have been an actually useful ability in another setting. Unfortunately for her, she lives in the Ben 10 universe, where the hero has possibly the most overpowered Multiform Balance in fiction and takes on alien invaders on regular basis. The only time she was allowed to be even close to a threat was when he accidentally turned into the single feline form of his arsenal.
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  • The 2015 revival of Bob the Builder has Tread , a small off-road truck with a cable rope attached to him. One must wonder what purpose something like that has at a construction site.
  • Wheeler of Captain Planet actually ended up just as useless as Ma-Ti, the Trope Namer himself. On the surface, having a flamethrower available to use at will sounds like a fantastic power... until you realize that he's on an edutainment show that is very strictly monitored by broadcast standards and practices, and thus he too was never allowed to use his power to its full extent.
    • As explored in more depth in Heart Is an Awesome Power, heart is potentially much more powerful than what Ma-Ti gets out of it. He was given the ring specifically because he would be too ethical to use most of its abilities (especially the mind control ones), and the minor ones he does use are indeed quite weak.
  • Odd in Code Lyoko had a special power in the early part of the series in which he could see tiny snippets of future events. However, the power came at random, functioned as an absolute vision, and once resulted in him getting taken out by a Kankrelat immediately following a vision. While reprogramming the avatars of the Lyoko Warriors in the later season, Jérémie noticed the uselessness of this power and removed it, much to Odd's disappointment. He isn't useless, though — he has the only projectile weapon of the group until Aelita gained energy blasts, and even then his could fire faster and more accurately. He also has cat-like agility, wall crawling and a personal deflector shield.
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  • The Box Ghost in Danny Phantom serves as the local Harmless Villain. He can control... boxes. As in, cardboard boxes and crates and such. He can also sometimes control what's in them, but in a setting where everyone is a ghost, tossing a box of knives usually just causes his opponent to shrug and turn intangible. That said, he has managed a Dark Horse Victory or two, and he has a Future Badass equivalent who can conjure up explosive energy cubes. He also once showed the ability to control Pandora's box...
  • Darkwing Duck:
    • One episode features a number of mutants who gained their powers by being born and/or raised near an industrial site. Among the many varieties of mutant is an accountant born next to a banana plantation who can transform into a banana. That's it, he just turns into a banana. He isn't proud of it either.
    • Quackerjack's "power" is his "wackiness", and apparently, that actually counts as a super-power, because Nega-Duck is able to absorb it in the episode where he steals the powers of the Fearsome Five. Of course, what truly makes Quackerjack a dangerous villain is his arsenal of lethal toy-based weaponry, some of them on the level of Applied Phlebotinum, such as a Time Machine resembling a giant toy top — and he wouldn't be able to come up with such diabolically clever inventions if he weren't at least a little crazy, so there's something to be said for "wackiness" after all.
  • In an episode of Dexter's Laboratory, Dexter and his friends are playing a tabletop RPG called Monsters and Mazes, and Dexter is stuck with the least useful power: burrowing.
  • Earthworm Jim:
    • The cartoon has one episode with a new superhero auditioning for the Galactic League of Superheroes. Her power is to spontaneously combust whenever she sings. Sadly, she does not possess the ability to control or withstand her own flames. When one character asks what use that is, another simply replies, "Well, at least it's better than Lower Back Pain Man." The scene then cuts to Lower Back Pain Man himself, insisting that he'll be okay in a minute.
    • It's hardly unique to these two, either. Jim is the main hero in the universe because, honestly, most of the other superheroes available are pathetic. Jim may be a Cloudcuckoolander, but he is Made of Iron, has Super Strength, and carries a ray-pistol with enough of a punch to destroy spaceships. The only other superheroes we've seen who approach him in competence are the Cute Monster Girl Princess Whats-Her-Name (Super Strength, being an Action Girl and generally smarter and more levelheaded then Jim), the Mighty Hamsternator (who has Cheeks of Holding and maybe Super Strength), and Peter Puppy (whose power is not having a Superpowered Evil Side that comes out whenever he's hurt, scared or angry, as it typically only wants to attack Jim, but being intelligent, rational and levelheaded). In contrast, the other heroes of the universe include the Space Crickets (actual insect-sized crickets that ride on space-bikes and carry laser pistols), Whooping Cough Boy (a permanently sickly teen whose coughs are gale-force blasts of wind), A Shadow (an elderly man with a preternatural knack for making shadow puppets), Mr. Forehead Being (a man with an oversized cranium and two ugly arms growing out of his head), Zantor (a normal-looking bald man who can make his toupee hover in the air by straining hard), and Johnny Dactyl (a nerdy man who dresses up like a humanoid pterodactyl and is such a momma's boy he still lives with her and does whatever she says).
  • In the Family Guy episode "Family Guy Viewer Mail #1", the Griffin family all get superpowers. As the Butt-Monkey of the series, Meg is saddled with being able to extend and retract her fingernails. When she scratches someone with her fingernails, it doesn't even draw blood.
  • Referenced and spoofed in an episode of Garfield and Friends. Garfield and Odie end up in a superhero cartoon. The hero team includes Expys of Cyclops and Beast, a superstrong woman... and Curdman, who can manipulate cottage cheese ("all the good superpowers were already taken") and is "laughed every year at the superhero Christmas party." But he later earns self-confidence by discovering his powers work with yogurt. He also ends up helping Jon get rid of the yogurt salesman that was about to scam him during the B plot.
  • This was done intentionally in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy episode "Super Zero". After watching a superhero cartoon that was big on Product Placement (for yogurt) Billy wanted Grim to make him into a superhero; however, when asked what powers he wanted, he wanted to be green, and to squeak (yup, that's what he said) and to be able to shoot yogurt out of his armpits. (Mandy convinced Grim to give him some Stock Super Powers like Super Strength and the ability to fly, preferably as far away as possible.)
  • In Herself The Elf, while the other elves' powers are useful in getting in and out of Thorn's castle, Woodpink's power to change the colors of things is ineffective and is the only one not used in the finale.
  • In Jackie Chan Adventures, the Sheep talisman gives you the power of Astral Projection, which does have its uses but also leaves your physical body completely vulnerable to an attack or Grand Theft Me. When Jackie steals this power from Shendu during their fight in the season 1 finale, it does nothing but briefly separate his spirit from his body and give Shendu almost enough time to destroy his unconscious body. Jackie even laments the uselessness of this power.
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, the second Superhero Episode had Heloise become Trouble Bubble Girl. Jimmy and Beezy laugh...until Heloise shows her powers off.
  • Played in Kim Possible, when Ron unwisely mocks Burns' number-crunching abilities. Other examples occur throughout. "Mathter and Fervent" has Mr. Stoppable use his own math-based brain power to take on the Mathter and win to show that math is an awesome power.
  • In Masters of the Universe there was Mekanek; his power, as he explains it in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002), "I can stretch my neck and look at stuff." Of course, he was always kind of lame compared to the other good guys, but as the quote shows, he was sadly aware of his limitations in the more modern version. In the same episode he said that, his ability proves very useful, and a pep talk from He-Man at the end gives him some confidence.
  • My Little Pony 'n Friends, the 80s series, also gives unicorns single-use magic - the most useless-seeming is Fizzy with her bubble powers. However, When All You Have Is a Hammer... was in full effect, and the ditzy, childlike pony was actually the best at figuring a way to make her power useful. However, the basic unicorn ability is teleportation. However, its usefulness is Nerfed by the fact that you can only teleport through open space - even a net is too much. Teleportation is most useful in that series when cheating at hide-and-seek.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Unicorn ponies can use magic (most notably telekinesis) and pegasus ponies can fly and control weather (and walk on clouds and such). We need Word of God to even know that the "regular" ("earth") ponies also have some kind of a special power, some kind of connection with the land, meaning plants and animals and such. In case of the main characters, for Applejack this seems to involve being good at picking apples, and for Pinkie Pie it doesn't have any apparent manifestation, though she has her own set of what could be called powers derived from being unnaturally cheerful. Applejack is far from useless in a dangerous situation, but it isn't because of the apples (though she can use them as projectiles); it's just because she's just that tough. Ironically, it's Fluttershy, a pegasus, who at least once makes good use of being a Friend to All Living Things (theoretically normally associated with Earth ponies) to calm a dangerous monster. This all said, it's obvious the situation came about when Pinkie Pie's and Fluttershy's original concepts were switched from Pinkie being the pegasus and Fluttershy the earth pony.
    • These "earth powers" finally appear more impressive in "Hearth's Warming Eve", where a story from the past when the different types of ponies lived apart and grudgingly exchanged services reveals that the earth ponies, though appearing poorer and dirtier than the unicorns and pegasi, were the only ones who could grow enough food to feed all three societies.
    • Applejack has been shown on occasions to be rather strong for a pony her age (her human counterpart has even been shown to lift a table with one arm that needed two boys to carry). Whether this applies to merely Applejack or is a connection to her being an earth pony as to be said as no other ponies has been shown to carry an odd sense of strength minus her brother who towed a house along when in a love-struck stance. Cheerilee, an earth pony elementary school teacher, actually smashed her way through walls, doors, and barricades (in the same Love Potion episode) to get at Big Macintosh. Ms. Peachbottom, an earth pony middle-aged tourist, also got a juggernaut moment like that. Pinkie's sister Maud can pulverize boulders into dust with her bare hooves. Because of moments like that it has long been generally accepted that earth ponies are stronger — finally explicitly stated in the season four finale.
    • In addition to that, we find that unicorn magic isn't all it's cracked up to be: every pony has a special talent that his or her "cutie mark" personal symbol is based on, and a unicorn will have one magical ability in line with their special talent. Twilight Sparkle, whose special talent is magic, is one of a kind - outside the princesses, the strength and variety of her abilities is far from typical, maybe even completely unprecedented. Rarity's spell is to find gems (the kind that make clothing prettier, not the kind that make you super-rich.) and we've seen it in action twice. Trixie basically creates special effects, making her stage performances that much snazzier (something Rarity also did, once.) Also, unicorn telekinesis has never been seen moving anything heavier than ponies of other races easily carry (again, unless you're Twilight or an alicorn. Or if more than one unicorn was moving it.) In a combat situation, you'd probably rather be as strong as Cheerilee than have your average unicorn's single-use magic.
    • Princess Cadance, in spite of being an alicorn princess, has amazingly specialized magic: Love magic (this is likely having to do with Lauren Faust having meant her to be a unicorn). Mostly used for mending broken hearts, she does however turn her talent into Heart Is an Awesome Power when she uses her love for Shining Armor to power up his bubble shield magic. She's been seen using other spells more often lately, though.
    • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Legend of Everfree sees the characters getting their own superpowers as a result of Equestrian magic leaking into the area. Rainbow Dash gets Super Speed, Twilight Sparkle gets telekinesis, Sunset Shimmer telepathy, Applejack Super Strength, Rarity conjuring up diamond shields, Pinkie Pie turning sprinkles into explosives and Fluttershy...communicating with animals. While useful for tidying up the dock, when the villain traps everyone inside a wall of vines, Fluttershy tries to get animals to dig them a tunnel out. When the tunnel gets blocked, she can't contribute anything else to the battle.
    • It is worth nothing that the series as a whole averts the whole idea of this trope: "Heart" (specifically, Friendship through the Elements of Harmony) is the strongest force in the entire series.
  • In The Powerpuff Girls episode "Nuthin' Special", Buttercup vainly tries to show off a power she can call her own, only for Blossom and Bubbles to duplicate it. Defeatedly and defiantly, she sticks her tongue out at them, curling it as she does. Blossom and Bubbles are dumbfounded by this and try to curl their tongues, to no avail. Nobody else in Townsville can either, which overjoys Buttercup to no end. Her sisters and the narrator don't see what the fuss is about since it's not a power per se, but Buttercup still finds victory in being able to do something nobody else can.
    Narrator: That's it? That's her special power? It's lame!
  • Rugrats has an episode where the babies watch a superhero show called Mega Hyper Heroes and act out an episode of it — Tommy playing the shapeshifting Changeling, Phil and Lil playing Spitball Boy and Dotted Line Girl, and Chuckie playing the part of Stinky (who smells as strong as two babies). Who turned this into Heart Is an Awesome Power by being able to beat the big bad just from his stench, when she had Villain Sue-d her way into taking out every other character's powers. Probably played straight for Dotted Line Girl.
    Lil: How did you see me? I'm just a dotted line!
    Angelica: Any idiot can see a dotted line.
  • In Sabrina: The Animated Series Harvey's comic book superheroes lampshade their own lame powers (including the villain). They include Gazebo Boy who turns himself into a gazebo to trap people in, Mega Girl with "Atomic Tantrum Power" (though that's arguably more effective than she makes it out to be) and Shoe Horn who has gadgets that appear to be monster shoes. There's also Calamari Queen who can shoot squids out of her hands (though it's helpful when the artist runs out of ink necessary to finish the story).
  • Lampshaded in an episode of The Simpsons. The Show Within a Show "Knightboat", itself a parody of Knight Rider, is a crime solving boat with Artificial Intelligence. However, being a boat, it requires water. Lisa and Bart complain about how every time it's chasing criminals, it seems to encounter a canal, inlet, or fjord.
  • Played in South Park with Mint-Berry Crunch, with the combined powers of Mint and Berry with a tasty crunch! Then subverted when he's the one who saves the day. The same three-episode arc brings us Captain Hindsight, who arrives at a tragedy only after it happens and tells people what they should have done to prevent it. Then he flies away.
  • Steven Universe: Off-Colour Sapphire Padparadscha possesses the same future vision powers as other Sapphires, but is defective in some manner, delaying her visions. As a result, she can only "predict" something several seconds after it's occurred, which she mostly uses to happily announce events that just happened. Weirdly, one episode implies this can actually come in handy, as it means she can "predict" things that nobody else has realized.
  • The rather obscure franchise Stone Protectors, about a group of very untalented musicians who gained super powers from a bunch of Mineral MacGuffins has some examples. They all gained stronger bodies, but each also gained an additional special ability. One guy became a skilled samurai, one a wrestling expert with super strength, and one became a skilled soldier who could turn anything into a weapon. THEN we have the guy who gained skill at using in-line skates and the guy who gained the ability to climb things. They also all gained actual musical talent, which, while helpful for a band of crappy musicians fighting music hating enemies is not the most awe inspiring power.
  • Super Friends:
    • The much-maligned Aquaman, who often needed episodes specifically written to utilize his powers without the audience wondering why another character couldn't handle the situation just fine. (In one episode they actually put a very large lake in Death Valley simply to give him something to do when the team went there.) A mantra of sorts that people use to describe Aquaman's powers is "Swim fast, talk to fish". What worsened (or perhaps initially caused) the entire problem was the level of censorship — far beyond the modern state of "be as Darker and Edgier as you like, but just don't say "kill" and use futuristic guns to the same effect normal ones." When no use of force can be shown, Aquaman suffers a great deal: aside from "swim fast, talk to fish," he has Super Strength and durability, has a magic trident that shoots lightning, and is the literal King of Atlantis — all things they could not make much use of. Basically, it sucks to be anybody in that series except for Batman or Superman — Bats has plenty of bat-gadgets to stop enemies without full-on hitting or blasting them, and Superman has bigger things than Mooks to deal with, like pushing planets back into place.
      • Lampshaded in a Cartoon Network promo in which Aquaman and Wonder Woman are tied up over a vat of acid.
        Aquaman: My ability to talk to fish is of no use here, Wonder Woman!
        Wonder Woman: (rolls eyes)
      • Lampshaded and subverted on Batman: The Brave and the Bold, where Aquaman's abilities have been useful on some of their adventures on Land, Sea, bloodstreams, and on the jungle floor. One adventure had Aquaman shrunk to the size of a single-celled organism and he used his "talk to fish" powers to befriend a lymphocyte, while another had him stretching the definition of "fish" with wrangling a pair of silverfish. No, really. And because he's a bit of a cheesy Silver Age superhero, he's also over the top in his rousing songs of heroism.
        Aquaman: I call it "Aquaman's Rousing Song of Heroism!!!" ... You don't look roused.
      • Averted in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox: in the original timeline, his way of disarming a bomb attached to one of Flash's Rogues gallery is to chuck the guy into the sea... and then tell millions of microbes to literally eat away at the bomb. His Flashpoint counterpart, on the other hand... oh boy.
      • Aquaman's uselessness was parodied — and then subverted — on an episode of The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, where a device brought a team of comic book heroes to life in order to fight a team of villains (summoned by the same device). One of them was an aquatic hero named Fishmonger who at first seemed even worse than Aquaman; he could barely even walk on land, and at first could only wait on the beach while the others went to fight the bad guys. However, when the villains started to get the upper hand, he was able to turn the fight around in spades. (You never know when a guy who can summon a tsunami will come in handy...)
    • Likewise, though not as widely bemoaned, the Super Friends version of Hawkman is almost as useless. He can fly... and that's it. Almost every other hero on the show have this ability and their namesake superpower. To add insult to injury, his wings aren't even real. Again the inability to show force kicks in. He can use nothing more lethal than a net, and his powers (strength, flight, eagle vision) are redundant with Superman around.
    • The Super Friends also has the Wonder Twins, Zan and Jayna. While Jayna could turn into any animal (including a few alien ones), Zan could only turn into some form of water (like a wave, or an ice sculpture).
      • This was spoofed in a Cartoon Network promo where Zan interrupted a mock-Public Service Announcement to complain about how lame his power was: "I could get beaten by a sponge! It wouldn't even have to be an evil sponge!" At the end of the promo, Zan is mopped up by a janitor, with an indignant "Hey!"
      • Another promo, or perhaps merely a parody short, featuring the Twins depicted someone being threatened by an angry bear. Zan and Jayna use their powers to make gopher moat around the bear, which obviously did nothing to stop it. Played for Black Comedy as the mother of the victim tells them off and even slaps them, pointing out that they could have used their powers to easily defeat the bear. Instead they deliberately chose to invoke this trope.
      • In Justice League Unlimited Zan is shown to be legitimately threatening, since "Turns to water" could be used to drown people or blast them with high-pressure streams. This lasts right up until he actually has to fight Aquaman, who can breathe water, has super-tough skin, and is made of almost solid muscle. As Aquaman mocks him:
        Aquaman: King of the Sea, remember?
      • Also parodied in The Fairly OddParents!, when Timmy's parents get the same powers as The Wonder Twins, his mother turns into a shark, while his father turns into a bucket of water. He looks at the screen and says, "Uh...beware my power?"
      • Zan's uselessness was the focus of a Teen Titans Go! episode where The Wonder Twins try-out to join the Teen Titans. While the Titans are impressed with Jayna's ability to turn into animals, they are less impressed with Zan's ability to turn into water and ice. Jayna is chosen to be on the team and Zan is instead made the Teen Titan's receptionist and only choose to keep him around since Jayna needs Zan to activate her powers.
    • And on the villain side of the spectrum, we have The Riddler from the Legion of Doom. The Riddler is basically a guy with OCD who was smart but not as smart as Batman, and regularly revealed the Legion's plans.
    • As lame as his powers are, Aquaman's arch-nemesis on Super Friends, The Black Manta, is even lamer. As Seanbaby's article on the Super Friends points out, his main power is that he owns a boat.
  • The Tick:
    • Subverted with the character of Sewer Urchin. A useless comic relief hero most of the time, often seeming less than bright with Rain-Man-like speech patterns and frequently the butt of jokes about the way he smelled, one episode suddenly takes place in the sewers. All of a sudden, we learn about a huge subterranean ecosystem in which Sewer Urchin is an intelligent badass and his aboveground friends are reduced to bumbling Fish out of Water. By the end of the episode, the Tick and Arthur have even picked up Sewer Urchin's "normal" speech patterns of stuttering shy bewilderment and Sewer Urchin has begun referring to them with the benign condescension he receives on the surface.
    • Most of the superheroes in the show (and the comics) were like this, with stars like Baby Boomerangutan (a man in a headless orangutan costume who threw exploding baby dolls), Captain Lemming (who liked to leap off of high things... without having Super Toughness) or Crime Cannibal (who had the power to eat human bodies really quickly).
  • The original The Transformers:
    • You'd think that the Big Bad would have the biggest, baddest vehicle mode, right? The Decepticons turn into jets for the most part, so the main villain should turn into the deadliest thing on wings, right? Wrong. The original Megatron's alternate mode was a gun that someone else had to fire. That someone was usually Starscream, who incidentally is the namesake of the trope about wanting to betray/kill/usurp your leader. And Starscream usually has lousy aim. Keep in mind, Megatron has an Arm Cannon already, so it's not like he needs to be a gun to shoot people. Most fans have guessed that Megatron might logically pack more of a punch in his gun mode, but considering how often anyone in the show took a hit, there's not much evidence of this. Pretty much every Megatron since then has gone for something more obviously useful, like a tank or a spacecraft (though toy safety laws don't help).
    • Many transformers have vehicle modes that are completely useless most of the time, such as Perceptor's transformation into a microscope. There are also the cases of Blaster and Soundwave, who turn into cassette tape players. These modes really serve no purpose, since Soundwave and Blaster can still play recording from their tape-soldier minions while in robot form.
    • The G1 Insecticons all had powers unrelated to their altmodes: Shrapnel controlled electricity, Bombshell had Mind Control, and Kickback could... kick hard, which has led to him being the Butt-Monkey of the team in fanworks.
    • This issue was spoofed on an episode of Family Guy which featured a clip of an unknown transformer criticizing Megatron's battle plan. Megatron replies "I'm taking this from a robot who turns into a Canoe?", to which his critic replies "when there's a battle on a gently moving river, you'll want me."
  • In Winx Club, Tecna's specialty is technology. Compare to the other main cast members, whose powers include music/sound (Musa), nature (Flora), stellar energy (Stella), a liquid element similar to water (Aisha), and the power of the source of all good in the universe (Bloom), all of which have been played to devastating effect in various parts of the series. It's never come up as a major benefit for as long as Tecna's been in the series (which is probably why she's never gotten her own individual episodes, or even drawn the ire of any villains unless it's against the whole group), and for most of the first season her only combat spell was an energy shield that covered her arm ("Digital Firewall"). Most of the time she is used more for her intelligence (and she's not even the best at that, at least when it comes to schoolwork) and acting as tech support for the rest of the group instead of doing anything involved with her element.
  • In W.I.T.C.H., Will's power is literally Heart. While the 4 other girls have elemental abilities, Will merely controls the Heart of Kandrakar that turns them into their guardian forms, making her basically useless once the battle actually starts. This is averted later in the series when she gains lightning powers. This is only true in the cartoon — in the comics, she has the ability to talk to devices that use electricity (which sounds like it falls under this trope, except that it can make appliances work with no source of power and it allows her to talk security systems into ignoring her) and fire energy blasts. In the show she doesn't get the like until season two. In both series, the electric power turns out to be part of something bigger: "Absolute Energy" in the comic and "Quintessence" in the show is the power of life itself and the strongest element. However, Nerissa has the same power and a few decades more practice...
  • In World of Quest, the magician-in-training Anna specializes in bringing inanimate objects to life. In the beginning, no matter what spell she tries to do, she ends up bringing things to life by accident (although considering she brought A MOUNTAIN to life and then it helped them in a fight, even though the fight was almost over, it might not be so lame). After a while, it seems she has started to be able to do other spells, but animating stuff is still about 80% of her powers. Although, being a parody of fantasy campaigns, most characters are pretty one-sided. Way just shows the way, Prince Nestor can only rarely shoot some energy balls but usually just sucks in a fight, Grair only flies... and most of the other characters only fight. But considering most of those can actually fight well, only Nestor would count as lame.


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