You've created a cool Henshin Hero—your mentor character has gotten a few young heroes with a proper demeanor, and chosen the best one to bear the Transformation Trinket. But you want to spice it up a bit. You could start him/her out in one form and have him/her "graduate" to a Super Mode later—maybe even stick in a Mid-Season Upgrade—but you want a little extra kick from the start.
Then it hits you. Give him/her multiple forms from day one! That's the ticket. But you'll need to make it so that one isn't an obvious Super Mode he should be using by default.
No worries. Apply a little Multiform Balance.
Multiform Balance occurs when creators take care to make each multiple form of a Shape Shifter, such as a Henshin Hero, a Swiss Army Hero or a Morph Weapon-type Swiss Army Weapon, useful in its own way. The easiest way to do this is to make each one suited for a certain tactical situation or to use certain tactics. For example a werewolf doing a Partial Transformation to Wolf Man may not be able to talk, but can still use weapons and has greater strength than a man, but isn't as fast as a wolf.
In essence, it's applying Competitive Balance between each of the character (or weapon)'s forms. In fact, the character types laid out in Competitive Balance or other power balancing tropes can be quite useful in describing the character's forms.
May overlapse with Evolution Power-Up, especially if new forms were gain/discover as the plot demand, although Multiform Balance can switch back and forth. When Humongous Mecha use this trope, it's usually done with Mecha Expansion Pack or Transforming Mecha.
- A recurring motif of Kamen Rider shows, especially the Heisei era. Some examples:
- Black RX: Jack of All Stats (Black RX), Mighty Glacier (Robo Rider), Fragile Speedster (Bio Rider).
- Kuuga: Joke Character (Growing), Jack of All Stats (Mighty), Fragile Speedster (Dragon), Glass Cannon (Pegasus), Mighty Glacier (Titan). All except Growing gain a Limit Break Mid-Season Upgrade (Rising [X]), plus he gets a Lightning Bruiser form (Amazing Mighty) and eventually a Super Mode (Ultimate). Decade adds a new one that goes Up to Eleven (Rising Ultimate).
- Agito: Jack of All Stats (Ground), Fragile Speedster (Storm), Mighty Glacier (Flame), Lightning Bruiser (Trinity), Deadly Upgrade (Burning), Super Mode (Shining).
- Most Riders in Kamen Rider Kabuto except the Hoppers: Technically Mighty Glacier (Masked Form) and Jack of All Stats/Fragile Speedster (Rider Form), plus Super Mode (Hyper Form) for Kabuto and Gatack. However, Rider Form's Super Speed capabilities are needed to fight Worms effectively, so Masked Form is often treated as a Joke Character.
- Den-O: Joke Character (Plat Form (geddit?)), Jack of All Stats (Sword Form), Master of None/Stone Wall (Rod Form ), Mighty Glacier (Ax Form), Glass Cannon (Gun Form), Lightning Bruiser (Wing Form), Super Mode (Climax Form), Ditto Fighter/Fragile Speedster (Liner Form). Later movies add the Wing Form to Climax Form to make Super Climax Form.
- Kiva: Jack of All Stats (Kiva), Fragile Speedster (Garulu), Glass Cannon (Basshaa), Mighty Glacier (Dogga), Lightning Bruiser (DoGaBaKi), Super Mode (Emperor, which can be combined with DoGaBaKi), Up to Eleven (Flight Style).
- Double: A little more complicated due to having mix-and-match Combo-Platter Powers, but generally Jack of All Stats (The Joker forms), Mighty Glacier (The Metal forms), Glass Cannon (The Trigger forms), Lightning Bruiser (FangJoker), Super Mode (CycloneJokerXtreme). The movies take this last one Up to Eleven (CycloneJoker Gold Xtreme).
- OOO: Takes Double's Combo-Platter Powers Up to Eleven and therefore WAY too varied to list all the possibilities. The notable ones are Master of None (TaToBa Combo and Random Combos), Jack of All Stats (GataKiriBa Combo), Fragile Speedster (LaToraTah Combo), Mighty Glacier (SaGoZo Combo), Lightning Bruiser (TaJaDor Combo), Glass Cannon (ShaUTa Combo), Super Mode (PuToTyra Combo). The movies add one time only forms: Lethal Joke Character (TaMaShii Combo), Stone Wall (BuraKaWani Combo), Up to Eleven (Super TaToBa Combo).
- Fourze: Jack of All Stats (Base States), Glass Cannon (Elek States), Lightning Bruiser (Fire States), Mighty Glacier (Magnet States), Super Mode (Cosmic States). The Winter movie adds a one time Fragile Speedster (Rocket States).
- Not prominent as its rival franchise, but Ultra Series use this trope on few series.
- Tiga: Jack of All Stats (Multi Type), Mighty Glacier (Power Type), Fragile Speedster (Sky Type), Super Mode (Glitter Tiga), Joke Character (Tiga Dark), Stone Wall (Tiga Tornado) and Master of None (Tiga Blast).
- Dyna: Jack of All Stats (Flash Type), Mighty Glacier (Strong Type), Fragile Speedster (Miracle Type).
- Cosmos: Squishy Wizard (Luna Mode), Jack of All Stats (Corona Mode), Lightning Bruiser (Space Corona Mode), Super Mode (Eclipse Mode and Future Mode).
- Werewolf: The Forsaken. Each of a Uratha's five forms has its uses and weaknesses.
- The Hishu (human) form is most likely to pass among mortals and best suited for social dealings.
- The Dalu (wolf-man) form allows added strength while retaining human form, but still pings Lunacy a little.
- The Gauru (monster two-legged wolf) form is the strongest, most damaging form, but can only be used for a limited time and is locked in a state of rage that makes any action but attacking something a failure.
- The Urshul (dire wolf) form is fastest of all and quite strong, but will still ping Lunacy heavily.
- The Urhan (wolf) form will blend in most easily in nature and could maybe pass for a wolfdog in urban environments.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha does this via Multiple Weapon Balance.
- Wonder Boy III the Dragons Trap featured this as its central hook, your hero spent virtually the entire game involuntarily transformed into various animal-like creatures, each featuring unique abilities.
- The old Electronic Arts game Shadowcaster featured a lead that could form pacts with various creatures to "accept the form of X", each form having its own uses.
- A Boy and His Blob allows the boy control over his Mons forms with jellybeans.
- Tony Tony Chopper from One Piece. Eating a Zoan-type devil fruit gave him three forms, and he gained four more (plus a Super-Powered Evil Side) through his Rumble Ball.
- Zoids New Century Zero. In addition to its default form Liger Zero had different equipment modes that changed it into different types depending on the situation. "Panzer" mode became a Mighty Glacier, "Schneider" is a Glass Cannon and the "Jager" unit is a Fragile Speedster.
- Battle Story and other variants give us the Liger Zero X (an Empire version designed for electronic warfare) and various packs for the Berserk Fury that replace its iconic "eggbeaters" with high-powered boosters (Sturm Fury), hybrid particle cannons (Jagd Fury), or a high-output reactor and missile pods (the Tyran series).
- Also in Zoids Genesis, Murasame Liger, Hayate Liger and Mugen Liger.
- The Legendary Pokémon Deoxys has various forms with differing distributions of stats. Normal Forme is a Glass Cannon, Attack Forme is The Same but More, Defense Forme is a Stone Wall, and Speed Forme is, despite the name, Jack of All Stats.
- Mobile Suit Gundam SEED has it in spades thanks to the abundance of Mecha Expansion Packs. The most common setup is Flight, Melee, and Ranged packs, as seen with the Strike, Impulse, and Raigo Gundams, as well as the Dagger Series. ZAFT's ZAKU series has Gunner (long-range beam cannon), Blaze (missiles), and Slash (melee with short-range Gatlings) packs. This doesn't take into account the truly staggering number of unique and custom Strikers that show up in MSV and the manga, including the Gunbarrel, IWSP, Lightning, Divine, G-Flight, Jet, Doppelhorn, Nuclear Missile Multistriker...
- Mobile Suit Gundam AGE does this for the first generation of the eponymous mecha, with Normal, Titus, and Spallow modes. Averted in the second generation though, where AGE-2 Double Bullet is nothing but an improvement over the original AGE.
- While Multiform Balance with Super Sentai (and Power Rangers) mecha is usually achieved through Mecha Expansion Packs, a couple of Sentai mecha have multiple configurations that serve different purposes. Choujin Sentai Jetman and Mirai Sentai Timeranger have five jet mecha that can either combine into a larger jet or a humanoid robot. Additionally, Timeranger's TimeRobo had two modes: The close combat oriented TimeRobo Alpha and the agile ranged TimeRobo Beta.
- Impressively, TimeRobo multi-form balance extends to its Super Mode when combined with TimeShadow. Alpha and Beta each have their own combination.
- The Were race in DMFA. They have three forms, human, normal and 'primal' (animal), which basically form a Sliding Scale of Magicalness. As humans, they're immune to magic; in their normal form, they're Muggles with some minor bonuses; and as animals, their magical power is increased.
- Kingdom Hearts II has its Valor and Wisdom Forms spiking your physical and magical stats (respectively) at the cost of the other. This is then averted once you pick up Master Form and Final Form which spike everything.
- Mega Man's ability to fuse with Rush in Mega Man 6, creating the Power and Jet Adapters. In Mega Man 7, the abilities of both adapters are compressed into a single, Super adapter.
- Mega Man X's ability to switch between different armors in some of his games. The armors vary between each game, but Ultimate Armor would be consistent.
- X5: Jack of All Stats (Force), Fragile Speedster (Falcon), Mighty Glacier (Gaea)
- X6: Jack of All Stats (Falcon, a Nerf version of the above), Lightning Bruiser (Blade), Glass Cannon (Shadow)
- X8: Master of None (Neutral), Fragile Speedster (Hermes, turns into Lightning Bruiser when X-Drive is activated), Mighty Glacier (Icarus)
- Mega Man Zero 2, Zero starts out as a Master of None (Normal), but fulfilling certain conditions in a mission unlocks specialized upgrades: Fragile Speedster (Active), Mighty Glacier (Energy and Power), Stone Wall (Defense and Erase), Lightning Bruiser (Rise and X), Glass Cannon (Proto) and finally, Super Mode (Ultimate).
- Ben 10 subverts this in the first season (and hints of it remain in the newer seasons). The first season started things off with ten aliens, each with different super powers, but as the original series came to a close, Ben had access to even more aliens. But considering Ben is ten years-old and not a tactical hero, he almost always used Fourarms. How well this worked out for him depended on how many times he's transformed that day.
- In Super Dimension Fortress Macross and many spin-offs: Many mecha are capable of transformation between three modes - Fighter, GERWALK (which functions like a helicopter), and Battroid for ground combat.
- Getter Robo: The three forms of Getter are alway Jack of All Stats, Fragile Speedster and Mighty Glacier. Each of them also specialize in different environments.
- Druid shapeshifting in World of Warcraft could be considered this. The default form (AKA "caster" form) is either a Combat Medic or the Master of None, depending on how the player applies their talents. Cat form is a Fragile Speedster. Bear form is a Stone Wall. Moonkin form (available via talent specialization) is a Glass Cannon, while Tree of Life form (also a talent spec) is a short-duration super-Combat Medic.
- Moonkin and Tree of Life can only be obtained through spec'ing into Balance and Restoration respectively. While all Druids have access to Bear Form and Cat Form, they don't work very well for non-Feral Druids.
- Kheldians in City of Heroes are another example, though they don't start out with all the forms. Nova form is a Glass Cannon, Dwarf form is a Stone Wall, and with the basic human form being somewhere in between, and having a much greater choice of attacks, including the ability to deal decent damage at close range. Some players try to specialise in only one form, but by most accounts the best choice is to make use of all three forms, swapping as necessary.
- The various offensive powers in Prototype are balanced like this. Claws are quite fast and have a slow ranged attack composed of spikes erupting from the ground and impaling the target from below, Hammerfist gives massively devastating splash damage attacks with really slow speed, the Whipfist has awesome range, anti-air attacks and crowd control capabilities in exchange for power and the Blade is similar to the Claws but replaces the latter's impalement attack with a brutally powerful aerial attack that can One-Hit Kill tanks.
- It's at least Older Than Feudalism. Goddess Parvati from Hindu Mythology is usually The Chick, but she may take form of Durga or Kali as well.
- Hyodou Issei in High School DxD gets one later in Volume 9 when he gets access to his new powers named Illegal Trianna, aside from his default Balance Breaker state. His Welsh Sonic Boost Knight is the typical Fragile Speedster, his Welsh Blaster Bishop is the Glass Cannon, Welsh Draconic Rook being the Mighty Glacier, and finally his (incomplete) Cardinal Crimson Queen being the Lightning Bruiser.
- Breath of Fire IV: When Ryu transforms, whichever form he chooses provides a percentage boost to his stats, resulting in the following arrangements: Master of None (Aura), Jack of All Stats (Wyvern/Weyr), Mighty Glacier (Behemoth/Mammoth), Lightning Bruiser (Myrmidon/Knight), Glass Cannon (Mutant/Punk) and Super Mode (Kaiser). Fou-lu's dragons roughly follow the same percentage boosts as Ryu's; just replace Aura, Wyvern and Kaiser with Astral, Serpent and Tyrant (Fou-lu doesn't have Myrmidon or Mutant, and he has a Behemoth like Ryu), respectively.
- Rave Master with Haru's sword, the Ten Powers. Eisenmeteor is the default form and thus labelled as Jack of All Stats, Explosion is Glass Cannon, Silfarion is Fragile Speedster, Mel Force the Lightning Bruiser, Gravity Core the Mighty Glacier, Sacrifar The Berserker Deadly Upgrade, and Ravelt the Super Mode.
- Excels at underwater combat and has some heightened defense, but is generally not as combat-ready as other forms.
- The last three are really Evolution Power-Up represent how Tiga Dark slowly purging away darkness from himself.
- Focus on healing and purification
- its stats are all decent and equal; it's called Speed Forme because the speed stat is still the highest