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A new and emerging factor in Action Games. The ability to switch to a new set of abilities or attack styles, designed to open up more strategies and combo opportunities. These can range from an entirely new interface to simple techniques as a reaction to their specialized situations. They tend to be more common in Hack and Slash and Beat Em Ups because of their martial arts orientation (most of them want to be a Fighting Game in Adventure form). Naturally they're a standard implementation in fast-paced games that want to keep their fighting system with a healthy level of depth without being rendered unplayable (no hitting that useless anti-air attack by accident when you're about to be trapped in some lethal juggle if you can't use it).

The Stance System is frequently used to make it possible to map a large number of actions to the finite number of buttons on a controller without resorting to increasingly complicated combos. Each action may require as little as a single button press to execute, but the same button will perform a different action depending on the stance.

This isn't weapon switching or a quick class system. If the character actually changes into a totally different form, that's Swiss Army Hero.

See also Dual Mode Unit. Compare Job System.

Examples of Stance System include:
  • This shows up in Heavenly Sword. Each stance is oriented towards some specialty (power, speed and range).
  • Devil May Cry was one of the first to use these in an action game form in DMC3 with its styles system. 4 decided to push it to its natural evolution with the ability to switch immediately.
  • Street Fighter gives us Gen, in one of the earliest examples in video games.
  • Almost a constant for jugglers and chaotic type fighters in Tekken, from small time-window activation (Flicker Stance, Kenpo Step) to constant switches (Lei's five animal kung fu, back-turning, Hwoarang's left and right stances).
  • Jade Empire has this in spades: 6 martial arts forms, 4 weapon forms, and 5 summon forms. Though, while a player can collect them all in a single game, it's more than likely they'll only use 6 total.
    • And then there are so many support and magic forms...much of the replay value lies in getting a hold of them all and seeing how they all play when levelled out to the max.
  • In World of Warcraft, the warrior class has three different stances, each for different purpose (Battle Stance is the standard that increases damage and decreases damage taken, Berserker Stance doubles damage dealt, and Defensive Stance halves damage taken).
  • Warhammer Online has two stance-based classes. The Marauder is a servant of the Changer of Ways, and as can adopt different stances by painfully mutating his left arm; the mutations are claw, club, and blade, for anti-magic and utility, fighting a group, or fighting a single target. The Shadow Warrior is an elf trained in the guerilla warfare style necessary to fight against the Dark Elves in their own land; their stances are sniping/scouting, skirmishing, and close combat. When players switch stances frequently in the middle of combat, players call that "stance dancing."
  • All of the Soul Calibur games. The iconic example is Maxi, who has different stances depending on what side of his body his nunchaku end an attack on. This has become more prominent in later entries in the series, as the movelist has expanded.
  • No More Heroes allows you to change between 'High' and 'Low' stances depending on how you hold the Wiimote.
  • Genji: Days of the Blade (the one with real-time weapon switching) gives the ability to switch between four characters who can themselves switch between two weapons in real time. The concept isn't the same, but from a gameplay stand-point it's a stance.
  • In Super Smash Bros (both Melee and Brawl), Zelda's standard slow but hardhitting magic to Sheik's nimble speed. Also in Brawl, Pokemon Trainer fits the idea perfectly; Zero Suit Samus doesn't quite count (not an on-the-go switch that can be performed whenever).
  • Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance actually called it Stance shifting, and was one of the earliest examples to use literal switches of fighting stance and weapon use to expand the move-list without compromising user-friendliness.
  • An odd, non-game example of this: Ultraman Tiga could go between various power and sky types involving speed sacrificed for power and vice-versa with an omni mode which acted as a middle form. This was signified by his colors during transformations.
  • Hotaru Futuba from King of Fighters has moves that change her stance which in turn give access to different attacks. Note that she debuted in Garou: Mark of The Wolves and didn't have a Stance System. Only after her inclusion in Neo Geo Battle Coliseum did she get that.
    • May Lee Jinju from the same series also have a 'Hero Mode' which offers her different and more powerful attacks. Jhun Hoon also has a mode which he stands in one leg and his attacks differs.
  • In Assassin's Creed, Altair can switch between low-profile mode, which has moves like blending with crowds and gently pushing people aside, and high-profile mode, which allows freerunning, throwing, and attacks. In combat, different moves are available depending on whether the player is blocking.
  • In Magical Battle Arena, Fate Testarossa's block special lets her switch between Lightning and Sonic form. Lightning Form is her default and gives her a Mid-Range fighting style (5-hit melee combos and 3-hit long-range attacks), while Sonic Form turns her into a more Fragile Speedster with a Short-Range fighting style (7-hit melee combos and 1-hit long-range attacks).
  • Final Fantasy XI has stances for Samurai that boost either offensive ability or the power of one of their defensive abilities, and both require a two-handed weapon. Scholars can either be proficient in White or Black magic, but not both at the same time, which places at least some limitation to the job (although both schools of magic are still usable). Ninjas gain stances that emphasize either their tanking ability or their damage-dealing ability.
  • True Crime: New York City has four (not including the default) individually trainable martial arts forms: Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Wushu, and Muay Thai. Marcus can switch between them in real time, and cannot use them with weapons.
  • Mito from The Rumble Fish has 2 stances, one which she swings her wooden sword in wide arcs and another where she uses mainly thrusts.
  • Sort of used in the Chinese Overlord tank from Command and Conquer: Generals, where you can build on top of them a propaganda speaker that heals your troops, a gatling gun, or a bunker.
  • Knights of the Old Republic II gives the player the ability to set each character's combat style in order to determine what kinds of tactics they use. It's expanded further for Jedi characters, who can learn a number of lightsaber forms, each with different advantages and disadvantages.
  • Several characters from Virtua Fighter have different sets of attacks depending on their stance, most notably Lei-Fei and Vanessa Lewis.
  • Bushido Blade - The stance system was the foundation of the game as, with the exception of projectiles and a few speciality moves, all characters had the same moves with the same weapons in each of the three stances, just different speed and power. The sequel moved from the ability to shift up and down to only being able to shift up in a circular manner. The spiritual sequel, Kengo: Master of Bushido changed this to allowing up to four combo-sets to switch between that were earned by defeated the practitioners of various styles.
  • The Little Big Adventure series - Twinsen can switch between four "moods" that influence his movement, his magic bacll throwing, his swordwork, and, in the sequel, his use of the ray gun.
  • The Drive Forms from Kingdom Hearts 2 also count, the valor form gives you a second keyblade and increases attack power, the wisdom form increases magic power, master form increases aerial attacks, and final form increases ...well, everything else.
    • Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep expands on the drive system with Command Styles and Dimension Links. By filling up a meter with special moves, you'll enter a "Command Style" that gives elemental powers to your attacks and enables a special finishing move to be used. Dimension links will replace your entire command list with ones related to characters you've met throughout the story, allowing you to completely change the way your character fights for a short time. Both of these are useful for adapting to the three characters' strengths and weaknesses.
  • In Grand Chase, Amy can switch between Performance and Fight modes in all three of her classes. While both can fight, Performance mode is more focused on buffs and singing/dancing/violining, while Fighting mode more on hand to hand combos.
  • Arguably, Sonic Heroes, which featured the ability to choose one of three characters on the fly while having the other two invincible and in some sort of formation with your character. The swap is so near-instant that it's pretty much a glorified stance change. Contrast to other games that used this idea before, which often had some sort of delay or disadvantage to switching characters mid-game.
  • Cecil from Dissidia Final Fantasy can switch between Dark Knight (a warrior focusing on ground attacks and the odd blast of dark power) and Paladin (Warrior with powerful Air Combos and the odd blast of holy power) depending on which attacks he uses, allowing him to go from ground to air fighter on the fly. He even gets separate weapons for both forms and switches between the two along with the form.
    • Lightning in the prequel Dissidia Duodecim uses the Paradigm System of her original game, able to switch between mostly physical attacks (Commando), offensive magic (Ravager) and restoring Brave points (Medic).
  • Various games in the Dark Forces Saga allow the player to switch between between 3 different lightsaber styles (light, medium, heavy.) Enemies with lightsabers also use one of the three styles, and are Color Coded for Your Convenience.
    • When using a saber staff or dual sabers in Jedi Academy only, one blade can be extinguished to use medium/fast style respectively (and even then, they don't have as much functionality compared to using a single saber with the style, meaning it's better to have both blades active).
  • Lost Souls MUD has this in the form of a "combat mode" system, encompassing both such basics as aggressive and defensive modes and esoterica like berserking and combat meditation.
  • The Witcher allows the player to switch between Strong, Fast, and Group styles of swordfighting. Some enemies an only be hurt effectively by fast or strong style, while group is effective anytime you fight more than one foe.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, Shale has three four different modes she can use: Attack (melee), Attack (ranged), Defense, and Passive Defense. Her abilities in each mode change radically, as does her performance on the battlefield, and the bonuses she bestows to party members within range. In the fourth mode, she is actually completely disabled, while all nearby party members enjoy massive bonuses.
  • This trope was the entire selling-point of Spider-Man: Web of Shadows. Spidey could switch between the black symbiote suit which infects him throughout the game or the classic red-blue outfit at any time with the press of a button, the use of each deciding his path down the Karma Meter. The black suit favored combat, brutality and black tendrils while the classic suit preferred webbing, combo-slinging and acrobatics.
  • Crysis uses this trope in regards to your Powered Armor. It has four modes you can switch between at any time; Armor, Speed, Strength, and Cloaking.
  • Udyr in League of Legends is based around stances.
    • While the game developers do claim that Udyr is based on stances and his abilities are called stances, beyond the initial benefit that activating said stances gives (which prompts stance dancing to make an effective Udyr), the differences for being in a specific stance are hardly game-breaking. Same thing applies to the later added champion Sona, who is also based on the same mechanic.
  • Patty in the PlayStation 3 version of Tales of Vesperia has four battle modes when fighting: Normal, Advance, Brainel, and Critical. Normal is exactly what it sounds like, Advance emphasizes direct attacks, Brainel prefers range and spell casting, and Critical has the benefits of both Advance and Brainel. Knowing the difference between the modes is crucial, since certain techniques are different depending on her form.
  • Granado Espada gives all of its characters at least three stances. Player Mooks have more, but are limited by what weapons they're holding, occasionally requiring a Real Time Weapon Change.
  • In X-Men Next Dimension, three characters (Beast, Gambit and Toad) have different stances listed. Forge can also play to a different style depending on what type of ammo he's loaded in his variable gun.
  • In Legend of the Five Rings, there are five combat stances. Attack, for standard combat, Defense, which makes you harder to hit and lets you still do anything except attack, Full Attack, which gives you huge attack bonuses with an equally huge defense penalty, Full Defense, which gives you a large defensive bonus but doesn't let you move, and Center Stance, which gives you a bonus to next round, but doesn't let you act this turn (its primary purpose is dueling).
  • Final Fantasy VI gives us Ditto Fighter Gau, except that many of his stances don't have anything to do with the monster he's changed into.
  • The primitive Action RPG Hydlide gave the player character "Attack" and "Defend" stances.
  • In Blaz Blue, Litchi Faye-Ling usually starts out carrying her staff, but can switch into a different stance by planting the staff on the ground and fights more on chi control and martial arts. Though she can still command her staff with telekinesis.
  • Pretty abundant in Sengoku Basara, sometimes overlapping Super Mode.
    • Date Masamune has the War Dance/Six Swords stance in which he foregoes blocking and defense for wielding all his katanas at once for a more aggressive fighting style, and in the 3rd game, modifies his normal skills. Either it's activated manually by equipping the skill/his unique item or it's an aftereffect of his BASARA attack.
    • Honda Tadakatsu has the Heavy Mode skill, which turns his style from a Lightning Bruiser into a Mighty Glacier by trading his normal drill-spear into a gigantic hand cannon.
    • Magoichi can switch guns with certain attacks, going from a pistol to a shotgun or machine gun.
    • Nobunaga can do this in the third game as well, where he can switch from using Sword and Gun to attacking with his Guardian Entity, the latter of which makes him an outright Game Breaker.
  • This is Phoenix Wright's niche in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (along with Confusion Fu).
  • In Tales of Graces, every playable character switches between two different sets of artes (apparently being called Alpha and Beta), each using a different style [for example, Cheria switches between throwing knives (her Alpha artes) and light spells (her Beta artes), likewise, Asbel switches between a combo of sheath bunts and kicks (Alpha artes) and sword combat (Beta artes].
  • All the characters of Dungeon Siege III have two attack stances that they can use.
    • Lucas uses either a sword and shield for single enemies or a two-handed BFS for groups.
    • Anjali can attack with a spear or turn into an Avatar and use fire blasts.
    • Katarina uses Guns Akimbo for close quarters or a rifle for range.
    • Reinhart switches between Entropic Magic or Dynamic Magic.
  • Zappa from Guilty Gear, as represented with the spirit possessing him, grants him about three default stances, the 3-Ghost, the Demon Dog and Flying Sword stance, which grants him quite the diversity of moves depending on which spirit is active. Under certain circumstances, then he will get the Raou spirit (an armored, energy being spirit thing) which is more powerful than the rest. In Gold Mode, he's permanently using Raou, thus losing his Stance System.
  • Escape from Monkey Island has the Monkey Kombat minigame, which combines this trope with Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors.
  • The battle system of Final Fantasy XIII hinges entirely on this. Parties are made up of three members, and each character as a battle role, the combination of which determines the name and the type of Paradigm you're using (e.g. Medic/Medic/Sentinel is a defensive paradigm called "Combat Clinic"):
    • Commando - primary damage dealer
    • Ravager - Black Mage type who use rapid magic attacks to initiate Stagger Mode
    • Sentinel - Sponge who absorbs damage while other members perform other jobs.
    • Synergist - the buffer; enhances allies
    • Saboteur - debuffer; weakens enemies
    • Medic - Heals party members