1 Days Left to Support a Troper-Created Project : Personal Space (discuss)

Super Prototype

Left: Seraph 1.
Right: Seraph 13 (minus an arm).

"Why would a prototype be more efficient than the finished model? Did they think that Big Daddies being fast, flexible and capable of self-preservation was just not being fair on everyone else?"
Yahtzee, discussing BioShock 2, Zero Punctuation

A Super Prototype is a testbed version of some piece of technology — like a Humongous Mecha, Space Fighter, or Killer Robot — that is, for some reason, superior to the mass-produced version. A super prototype will have better weapons, stronger armor, and higher-quality speakers than the units rolling off the assembly line. Even when there aren't very many of whatever device was designed in the first place, the prototype model is almost always the most powerful, or has at least some advantage over the other models.

A question that often comes up is why the super prototype is so, well, super compared to the production model. The typical reason given is that the production model is far cheaper or easier to make in large numbers. Except that this defeats the whole purpose of a prototype - something built to test the capabilities of the final product and correct any flaws before mass production begins, meaning you want your test unit to be as similar to your production unit as possible. As such, real-life prototypes are frequently indistinguishable from standard models. Mostly, this is just a case of letting The Hero be that much more awesome.

However, a real-world concept that more closely resembles the super prototype is the experimental unit or "concept car," which is intended to test out new technology and its limits without ever being meant for mass production at all. As cost-effectiveness is less important, experimental units frequently do have superior performance to eventual mass production models. Military test pilots refer to this as "pushing the envelope" - the upper edge is height, the left edge is speed. Visualize this as the kind of envelope you mail somebody and you realize that particular area is where the postage gets canceled. This distinction is rarely made in fiction, however. note 

The Opposite Trope is the Flawed Prototype and Superior Successor. Technically. Since most prototypes have more than one attribute, overlap can occur where it has both flaws and superiorities. The Phlebotinum Rebel usually is both, with superior abilities but inferior obedience, so it does not carry out the purposes it was made for.

A common fusion of these normally opposite tropes is "The Hero's version is more powerful but has the Drama-Preserving Handicap that the others don't." Maybe all versions after The Hero's are weaker because the "use it for longer than five minutes and it shuts down/explodes/drives you insane" problem could not be fixed without losing some power. An alternate fusion introduces a prototype not of the current rank-and-file model, but their intended successor, as a justification.

May be the result of a Black Box; the "super" parts of the prototype are unreplicable. A specific instance of Older Is Better: the prototype came first, so it is better than all that came after it. A closely related trope is the Ace Custom. See also Reed Richards Is Useless and Bigger Stick. Related to (and often exists for the same narrative reasons as) the Conservation of Ninjutsu.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Gundam metaseries makes extensive use of this trope. Pretty much any mecha with "Gundam" in its name will be either this, an Ace Custom, or both. This is justified in-universe due to cost-effectiveness; the prototype usually carries a better reactor, armor, and weapons. Mass produced units based on these super prototypes tend to sport cheaper and inferior features (or the features are removed from the mass production unit altogether) so they can produce a lot more with same amount of budget and resources. The prototypes are also usually very goal-oriented, with each one being designed to test some new weapon, technology, or design technique. Additionally, most of the super prototypes remain superior only to their generation of Mobile Suits as technological race is a strong theme in the Gundam series; few suits that can hold their own against even the bog-standard suits of later generations. As a whole, the super protoype mobile suits are one-offs that spawn cheaper copies and are later discarded or destroyed. There are a few exceptions to this:
    • Mobile Suit Victory Gundam twists it. While the eponymous Victory Gundam is superior to its simplified sister model Gun EZ, the actual mass production model is identical to the prototype. The Victory 2 was meant to be a limited-production model, but the other suits were destroyed prior to being fielded, leaving Uso's V2 as a unique unit.
      • On the whole, Victory shows a more realistic deployment: In the beginning, the V-Gundam takes the Superiority Fighter role while the Gun EZ takes the workhorse role. Then, the V-Gundam is mass-produced as the V-Gundam Hexa and takes the workhorse role, with the V-Dash Gundam filling in the Superiority Fighter role until the V2 is ready, at which point the V-Dash takes on a Joint Support role, covering both the V-Hexa workhorses and the V2. The Gun EZ and Jamesgun are relegated to the gunship role held by the Ball in the One Year War.
    • While it appears to be played straight in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, with the Strike Dagger being inferior to the Strike Gundam, sidestories reveal that Strike Dagger is merely a stopgap production; the actual mass production model, the 105 Dagger, is superior to the Strike Gundam. Sure, it has limited laminate armor instead of full body PS armor, but with pretty much every mobile suit using beam weaponry by that point, the latter isn't as useful as it was.
      • The Astray line is an odd case. The colored Frames (Red, Blue, Gold, Green and Mirage) were all prototypes, but weren't anything incredible. It's only by the wonders of their respective pilots customizing them that they became superior to the later mass produced M1 Astray units. And even then, the mass-produced Astrays could take on the prototypes, as the Red Frame was once easily taken down by a simple M1 Astray (granted one piloted by Coordinator).
      • However, Gundam SEED does play the trope straight with the Moebius mobile armor. The Moebius Zero prototype sports four detachable and independently maneuverable gunbarrels in a precursor to the DRAGOON system later used to great effect by certain Bigger Stick mecha like the Providence; the production model Moebius lacks these, using only the forward-fixed central cannon. This is justified in that only a select few OMNI pilots had the spatial awareness and piloting skills required to use the detachable gunbarrels effectively, and of those pilots very few (we basically know of Mu la Flaga only) survived the Battle of Endymion prior to the start of the anime, so paring down the design was an unfortunate necessity.
      • The GuAIZ prototype mounted the same weaponry as both the Freedom and the Justice, but was scaled back to the basics for the production model because it was incredibly expensive to maintain. The production models were massively scaled back because, at the time, it was near the closing moments of the war and the standard weaponry was deemed good enough (and it was, as the Gu AIZ was one of the most powerful production mobile suits to be used during the war). Unfortunately both suffered a case of So Last Season when the new ZAKU Warriors proved to be superior and cheaper.
      • The ZAKU Warrior is another inversion as its prototype, the ZAKU Trial Type, had no beam weaponry despite having an N-Jammer Canceller-outfitted nuclear engine.
    • After War Gundam X initially averts this, with the prologue showing that the titular Gundam (as well as the Airmaster and Leopard) was mass produced, and Garrod's is simply the last of its kind. At least until the United Nations Earth recovers Jamil's old Gundam X and upgrades it into the Double X.
      • The Frost Brothers' Virsago and Ashtaron seem to play this straight, but the SD Gundam G Generation series gave them their own Super Prototype: the Gundam Belphagor, a contemporary of the GX, Airmaster, and Leopard. Instead, the Virsago and Ashtaron essentially split the Belphagor's gimmicks in half and develop them in their own direction.
    • It's also noteworthy that in Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam this trope becomes the shtick of Paptimus Scirocco. Over the course of the series he cranks out one-shot, scratch-built mobile suits at an astonishing rate. The Messala, Pallas Athena, Bolinoak Samaan and The-O are all unique Scirocco designs, while the Gabthley and Hambrabi are limited production models designed by Scirocco for the Federation's use and only 2-4 of each were ever made. In general, Scirocco's godlike ability to crank out butt-kicking mobile suits is used as a catch-all explanation for all Titans suits that aren't the Psyco Gundam.
      • And the Gundam Mk-II actually inverts this - even though it was a Super Prototype and, for awhile, could one-up the Titans' Hi-Zack units, there was nothing special about it outside of its special lighter frame system and it's easily outclassed early on. All it really is is an updated copy of the original RX-78 Gundam made using modern technologies.
      • Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory has a similar inversion with the Gundam GP01 "Zephyrantes", which was little more than an update to the original Gundam with new tech. In fact, the proposed Gundam GP04 "Gerbera" was scrapped for being little more than a copy of the GP01; it was later reworked into a more Zeon-esque design, the Gerbera Tetra, and sold to the Zeon remnants.
    • Some of the U.C. super prototypes are depicted as being advanced for their era but with crippling flaws that are usually the result of being developed to field test a particular technology with little consideration to anything else;
      • The MSN-00100 Hyaku Shiki from the aforementioned Zeta Gundam was designed to test out beam-resistant armor and the concept of the Variable Frame. The beam-resistant armor worked. The transformation feature did not.
      • The MSN-010 Double Zeta is a massive power-house that can transform into a mobile armor, has two of the biggest beam sabers in all of Gundam, and its high mega cannon is powerful enough to turn any opposing Mobile Suits into little more than drops of melted steel. Unfortunately the high mega cannon drains almost all of its power supply in one shot, and its over-complicated transforming frame makes it structurally weak, turning it into something of a Glass Cannon.
      • The RX-0 Unicorn Gundam has psychoframes built into its entire structure. When these activate, it's an unstoppable killing machine with amazing speed that can hijack enemy-controlled psychoframes - for five minutes. Until the psychoframes go active, it's just a slightly-above-average MS with two beam sabers and one beam magnum (with only 15 shots).
    • The Tallgeese in Gundam Wing was the precursor to all mobile suits in that universe. It's so powerful it can hold its own against the first generation of Gundams in that series. It did have one glaring design flaw: it was so powerful that it killed its own pilots. This was because the Tallgeese effectively had no shock absorbers; it's gargantuan size and incredible thrusters transfered all of the G-Force to the pilot. The Leos that were based on its design are far weaker but also safer for people to pilot. The Wing Zero is, likewise, a super prototype to the Gundams, as it housed the dangerous ZERO System, which fed real-time tactical data directly into the minds of it's pilot. Unfortunately unless you actually know how to process that data, it just drives you insane. The comparatively downsized gundams each just settled for unique weapons tacked on to the general frame. Note that the Wing Zero was specifically designed to counter the Tallgeese.
    • The 08th MS Team actually averts this. The series is known for instead of making a traditional Gundam series about a boy Falling into the Cockpit and getting involved in the current war, and instead focuses on the everyday soldiers in the One Year War. Because of this, most pilots in the series don't have brand-new prototype Mobile Suits. Instead they have things like the RX-79(G) Gundam Ground Type, which is merely spare parts from the RX-78 Gundam program made into a mass-produced Gundam designed for ground combat. There's also the Gundam Ez 8, which is an RX-79(G) rebuilt with field-fabricated parts due to lack of spares. One poor unit even had its destroyed head replaced with that of a GM's. Still, the Ground Type Gundam's run was limited to about 20 units, with its GM counterpart, the RGM-79(G), only having 42 base units and a handful of Sniper variants built. That said, according to side materials the ground-type GM does have some Super Prototype-esque features over the standard GM - for one, it's still made out of the rarer and more durable luna titanium the original Gundam uses, rather than the standard GM's lighter but weaker titanium alloy. It's also compatible with a full-sized, full-power beam rifle, rather than the smaller and weaker "beam spray gun" the standard GM uses.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam F91's eponymous Mobile Suit (the Formula 91) plays with this; its prequel manga features the F91's predecessor (the Formula 90), of which two were made. The F90s sported multiple hardpoints all over their chassis which could be outfitted with different equipment, resulting in eight specialized configurations (though mixing and matching these components could result in up to 26 different configurations). S.N.R.I. (the company responsible for the Formula Project) then used the combat data from each configuration and built the F91 using optimized versions of the most effective and well-rounded F90 variant (namely the F90V). The F91 was later subject to limited mass production, though no changes were made to the mass produced units from the original F91. So in essence the F91 is only a super prototype in regards to the previous Formula Gundam, with its mass-produced equivalents being carbon copies.
    • On the Zeon side, the line between Super Prototype and Ace Custom is heavily blurred, because Zeon's MS design companies are all competing with each other in midwar to build the next generation of wunderwaffen, and very few prototypes actually pan out. However, Char Aznable's MS-14S Gelgoog, the prototype for the Gelgoog line, was faster (though less well-armored) than the mass-produced MS-14A model.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam 00 is very much this case, particularly with the Gundams of Celestial Being, and the more specialized units of the Earth Sphere Federation's A-Laws, and Innovade allies. Each of the main Gundams have a specific role, such as Sniper, Melee, High Mobility, or Fire Support Which secretly hides it's real purpose, as a judge, jury, and executioner for those who betray Celestial Being's ideals with a system that shuts down rogue Gundams systems. Several side story visual novels and mangas also detail the prototypes to the Gundams of the anime, and Mecha Expansion Packs that were never seen in the show, due to their limited purposes.
      • Extended even further, with it's Black Box tech centered round it's GN Drives. To create a true GN drive, is a time and resource consuming and somewhat dangerous process, as in order to make a critical component, the Topological Defect Blanket, or TD Blanket for shortnote , requires a dive into Jupiter's upper atmosphere to collect the materials needed. After 200 years of working in secret before publicly announcing their presence to the world, Celestial Being manged to produce a total of 5 GN Drives, and is indeed, considered more valuable than the Gundams themselves. It takes two years for Celestial Being after the events of the anime, and leading to the start of Gundam 00: A Wakening of the Trailblazer, to make two brand new GN Drives specially designed for the new 00 Qan[T], and is remarked upon by several characters that was considered to be fast. It takes another 50 years according at the end of the movie, for Earth as a whole to be able to start mass producing True GN Drives, and not the GN Tau Drives they've been using.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans features two Super Prototypes:
      • The EB-05s Schwalbe Graze (lit. Swallow Graze) is a prototype of the mass produced Graze, however, being experimental weapon, they're modified to have multiple boosters to amplify its aerial combat, equipped with wire claw, as well as a rifle lance. It earns its reputation as Ace Custom for high rank officers.
      • The V08-1228 Grimgerde is one of the nine Valkyrie Mobile Suits developed by Gjallarhorn in Pre-Calamity War, Grimgerde serves as the prototype of the mass produced Graze as well as the Graze Swords carried by Carta Issue. Piloted by masked man Montag, he assists Tekkadan to overthrow the current leader of Gjallarhorn.
  • Chi and Freya from Chobits were two of the first persocoms ever built, yet their capabilities exceed any that were built after them.
  • Super Dimension Fortress Macross usually averts this, with the production models being built up from the prototype's capabilities. Even Macross Zero only uses Flawed Prototype in the form of the VF-0 Phoenix: despite having flight performance head-and-shoulders above conventional jet aircraft and even limited capability for underwater operation, it's a maintenance-hog and the war's outbreak meant that the engineers couldn't wait until the intended space-capable reactor engines were completed so they simply slapped on the strongest airbreathing jet engine they could get their hands on and crossed their fingers.
    • The majority of Macross Plus consists of a contest between two super prototypes (YF-19 and YF-21) competing to be the new mass production model; they eventually choose the YF-19 after the YF-21's Unusual User Interface proves to be a little unsafe if the pilot gets distracted during flight; the destruction of the YF-21 prototype doesn't help either. This is actually a realistic portrayal of the prototyping system; similar contests have actually occurred in real life.
    • The VF-25 the good guys use in Macross Frontier also has superior performance to the military standard-issue VF-171 along with a redesigned Armored Pack that won't lock the Valkyrie into battroid mode; while the civilian protagonist recognizes it on sight, it's confirmed as still undergoing official performance evaluations.
  • In a way, Madara Uchiha and Hashirama Senju are this compared to most ninja in the Naruto universe. Due to living in an age of constant warfare, their abilities were brought to such a zenith that, as Kabuto Yakushi described, many people thought it was a fairy tale, specifically Hashirama. We've seen characters like Yamato, Danzo, even Tobi with Mokuton which doesn't remotely compare to Hashirama, and Sasuke and Itachi both achieved the same Mangekyo Sharingan powers as Madara, specifically the Powered Armor, Made of Diamond Susnao'o, but Madara's Susano'o is on such a far higher scale than both combined, Tsunade, one of the current Kages and one of the most powerful shinobi of her era, wondered how the fuck did her grandfather even fight Madara?
    • And the Biju themselves, even Kurama are far weaker than the original Biju, the Shinju or 'God Tree' which is in itself the Ten-Tails.
  • One Piece has the World Government-developed Pacifistas. The original, created by rebuilding Bad Ass Bartholemew Kuma into a Cyborg, is able to make short work of some later models, though this is mostly because Kuma had Devil Fruit powers that apparently couldn't be transferred to the others or technologically duplicated. It is stated that more powerful models have been created over the Time Skip, though it has not yet been shown how well Kuma would stack up against them.
    • Another example would be the sea train in Water 7, the original one, Rocket Man, is WAY faster than it's succesor, but it wasn't used as the city's train since it's extreme speed, lack of breaks, lack of steering controls and lack of momentum (if it crashed something it wouldn't lose speed but it would be sent flying in any other direction) was a high risk to safety for something meant to be a civilian train.
    • An aversion is implied with the ancient weapon Pluto; the government's "official" explanation in regards to it is that they either erase any chance of someone using it ever, or get the blueprints for it so they can make their own just in case, which implies that at the very least, they think they have the resources, manpower and skill needed to make/mass produce a model as good as the original just as long as they get the how.
  • The police protagonists on Patlabor had three prototype AV-98 Ingram mechs. One episode focused on the introduction of a mass-produced line of Ingrams, subverting the trope a bit in that the prototypes weren't exceptionally good so much as the mass-produced ones were exceptionally shoddy. Also, other kinds of mass-produced police and military mechs are shown to be close in quality to the Ingrams.
    • The first film has the Type Zero which was supposed to be an advanced replacement for the AV-98. It proved to be a fearsome opponent in melee combat against other labors and when it was overtaken by the Babel virus, it completely mopped the floor with Ohta's Ingram and Noa barely managed to subdue it. Seeing as the Type Zero wasn't seen in the subsequent films, it can be assumed that the design was abandoned.
  • One character from Lyrical Nanoha, Subaru Nakajima is a self-admitted homage to Super Robot Wars. It turns out that she is the prototype to the Number cyborgs, stronger than the rest of them, and so is her sister Ginga. The special moves "borrowed" from such Super Robots like GEAR Fighter Dendoh, GaoGaiGar, Combattler V and more make this homage especially apparent.
    • It's not that Subaru is stronger than the Numbers. She just happens to have a Inherent Skill which is very effective against cyborgs. Also both sisters are Lightning Bruisers compared to the Glass Cannon Numbers.
    • Fate Testarossa is another super prototype in a way — she was the very first successful Artificial Human created by an illegal cloning project run by the master of the Numbers, Jail Scaglietti. She bears the project's original name, and is the prototype that Jail used to create all the other Artificial Mages of the setting. However, to her mother, Fate is a Flawed Prototype because she was meant to be a clone of her dead daughter Alicia, but ended up gaining quirks of her own which royally pissed off mommy dearest.
  • Simultaneously subverted and played straight in Combat Mecha Xabungle. The titular mecha (referred to as such by the regularly no-fourth-wall characters) is both a production model — they get two of them, unheard of in a mecha show up to that point — and a prototype in the sense that a) no prior Walker Machine is built specifically for combat (hence the series name — Combat Mecha) and b) it incorporates a number of features that imply it to be a space machine. The Walker Gallier in the second half of the show is a textbook example (and even has a production model of sorts in the Brackary). It's famously "Super" enough to catch and throw a falling ICBM (albeit a museum copy, but still).
  • Ram-Dass in Str.A.In.: Strategic Armored Infantry is an illegally made mecha where the Union only condones standard issue. Because Sara saved them in it, it's explained away as a "prototype" to anyone that asks. Her brother's Gloire, on the other hand, is an Ace Custom.
  • Remarked upon in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, in reference to the Grappals/Gulaparls compared to the Gurren Lagann:
    Gimi: Anyway, aren't Grappals supposed to be superior to Gurren Lagann? There's something wrong with a prototype being stronger.
    • The trick here wasn't intentionally dumbing down the mass-produced version but rather the designers being ignorant of one crucial fact: the Gurren Lagann, like all Ganmen, is an Empathic Weapon. Simply copying the machinery won't help if they don't know what makes it tick. Once this fact is discovered, they quick-fix the situation with the addition of Spiral weaponry but they're still nowhere near enough Ganmen territory.
    • As seen in the movies, if your will is high enough, even the mass production models can grow into galaxy sized bots, a la "Tengen Toppa Grappal/Gulaparl" and fire planet system-sized shotgun rounds.
  • Code Geass features several super prototypes, progressing in power with the times. Supplementary materials explain the backstory of KMF development, where they were literally putting pieces together just to see how it worked.
    • The best subversion of this trope is the Ganymede, the earliest-built Knightmare to be shown in the series (3rd Generation). It has no internal power source, only batteries; no weapons, no closed cockpit and insufficient motive power to do anything other than harmlessly cruising. It can make the world's biggest pizza, though.
      • This is actually a Double Subversion. The Ganymede model was indeed the Super Prototype of its day, being a powerful mecha in the right hands. These hands being those of Marianne vi Britannia, nicknamed "the Flash" for her incredible skill with the Ganymede, rivalling the later Knight of One, Bismarck Waldstein who used his Geass to cheat, and STILL lost to Marianne. After Marianne's death, the Ganymede, being her signature Knightmare, fell out of favour and was decommissioned, having its weaponry removed and returned to the manufacturers, the Ashford Academy.
    • Another subversion is the Gawain; when Lelouch jacked it, it was an Awesome, but Impractical KMF. It could fly, but a flaw in the hadron cannons left the beam unfocused, causing it to spew energy in a wide arc which could just as easily hit friend as well as foe. That problem was fixed, making the beams extremely deadly, but it was still outmatched in close combat. Its mass-production version, the Gareth, had the cannons moved it its hands.
    • To a smaller extent, the Vincent: the Vincent Ward final version scraps the needle blazer weapon to ease production. Also Vincent's own Super Prototype, the Lancelot: the world's first seventh-generation KMF, later upgraded into the one-of-a-kind ninth-generation unholy terror known as the Lancelot Albion.
    • On the opposite side of the coin, Guren Nishiki gets two successors: the limited-production Gekka and the mass-production Akatsuki (as well as Tohdoh's Zangetsu). Neither can hold a candle to the original, especially after it receives its own ninth-gen upgrade into the Guren SEITEN.
      • That said, this may be due to the pilot, but no direct comparison is made between the Guren's abilities and any of it's MP derivatives. Also, the Prototype Radiation Arm used by the Guren Nishiki after it's original Radiation Arm is destroyed seems to be both weaker, and not as well built, but this is also difficult to compare.
  • Appears as an Unbuilt Trope in Mazinger Z, the archetypal Super Robot series. Mazinger Z was lacking a lot of its special features at first and regularly had to be upgraded and re-outfitted with new equipment. At the same time, the manga introduced the Mazinger Army, a trio of weaker robots each designed to wield one of Mazinger's distinctive weapons. All three made minor appearances in the Mazinkaiser movie, and all three were destroyed, with only Million Alpha putting up any kind of a fight.
    • Averted in, of all things, Great Mazinger — the Mikene Empire get a hold of Great's plans and mass produce it perfectly (with the exception of its wings). They usually show up in any Super Robot Wars installment when the Great Mazinger storyline is used.
    • And it was also averted in Mazinkaiser: Shin Great Mazinger and Mazinkaiser are explicitly stated to be the finished models, their predecessors are the prototypes.
    • And averted in Shin Mazinger as Energer-Z was able to go toe to toe with Mazinger-Z.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion does strange things with this trope. Units 00, 01, and 02 are referred to as the prototype unit, test unit, and production unit, respectively, but they're functionally identical in operation. End of Evangelion features "mass produced Evas" that are superior in basically every way, but aren't really a refinement of the original Evas so much as the same underlying technology taken in a different direction.
    • Rebuild of Evangelion gives us Provisional Unit-05 which is very much a Flawed Prototype, as it was rushed into service half-built to deal with an emergency situation. The only advantage it had over any other Evas were the flight thrusters. The third Rebuild movie subverts the trope by introducing even later Eva Units that are far superior to the prototypes they'd been using: with modular weapons packs that can quickly be swapped out mid-battle, portable batteries allowing them to operate without the umbilical cable, and the Eva Mark-09 has rocket boosters that allow it to fly under its own power and an Angel-level Healing Factor. Unit-13 appears to be Unit-01's successor and has Attack Drones and two sets of arms, in addition to Unit-01's ability to initiate an Impact Event under the right circumstances.
  • Sky Girls features this: The three original Sonic Divers are prototypes, and they do their job well. Subverted in the fact that the mass production model can do just as well, but the WORM attacks the production assembly plant, making the only one model that was completed a super prototype in its own way.
    • Also used straight when the Vic Vipers make their debut, it is marketed as cheap, much better and more heavily-armed alternative to the Sonic Divers that the titular characters use, and hence, is mass-produced. Not only it really is underperforming in comparison, the best thing it can do is act as support rather than replacement. It actually even gets beaten by an old, conventional fighter piloted by the show's The Ace in the end, and it's a two-against-one battle.
  • Metal Armor Dragonar plays with this a bit. The beginning of the series shows the Dragonars as a set of stolen super prototype units, but their pilots are inexperienced, and the Ace Custom units trounce them frequently. After a while, the Dragonars are used as the template for a new Mass Production model that has specs stronger than any of the Dragonar units. However, after Professor Plato guides the heroes back to the military, the Dragonars are upgraded into Ace Custom Super Prototypes.
  • Pretty much the only mechs that accomplish anything important in Eureka Seven are super prototypes, with the two Nirvash (which are actually alive) units being the most prominent. There's also Holland's late-series mount, the TB-303 Devilfish, which is ridiculously powerful and has enough firepower to wipe out multiple capital ships, but requires the pilot to take life-threatening drugs to operate it... Aside from those, the rest of the powerful LFO's are all Ace Customs. Anything with "KLF" or "Mon-Soono" in its name is utter cannon fodder.
  • Sagara Sousuke of Full Metal Panic! handles the ARX-7 Arbalest, one of the first mecha to be fielded by MITHRIL to possess a Lambda Driver. Later in the series he goes up against many enemy mecha with Lamba Drivers of their own, but proves his to be the more powerful while defeating them in combat. It is suggested that this is because the Lambda Driver in Sousuke's mecha is a prototype model compared to the mass-produced variants fielded by the enemy, and is capable of increased output at the cost of stability. It does, indeed, fail to function properly on a number of occasions, leading Sousuke to become thoroughly frustrated with it. Said Lambda Driver is later put into the ARX-8 Laevatein which, despite the serial number, is actually an Ace Custom put together in a hurry. It can still kick the asses of everything mass-produced, though.
  • Zigzagged in Viper's Creed: in the last episode we see a prototype white mech with greater speed, armor and two additional arms; but its software is not optimized, so at critical moments it freezes from bugs.
  • Played straight in Outlaw Star. The XGP15A-II was purpose built using advanced military tech for the purpose of reaching the Galactic Leyline.
  • Chachamaru of Mahou Sensei Negima!, the first of Hakase, Chao, and the engineering club's line of androids, which Chachamaru refers to as her little brothers and sisters. As Ku Fei mentioned before she kicked the asses of multiple mass-production versions of Chachamaru at once, as long as it's not Chachamaru herself, the fight is easy.
  • Clamp managed to do this in an episode of Angelic Layer to the titular toys when the design team unleashed against the tourney players a new prototype model with improved capabilities. Also, the original series can go to "Hypermode" which the later versions can't. Subverted by Shuko using a prototype that can barely move to beat the later version doll Wizard around like a, well, ragdoll even with vastly inferior tech and movements simply because she's that good.
  • Getter Robo Āḥ has mass-produced Getters who are nowhere near the godly power of Shin, who was too terrifyingly destructive to replicate. There's also the fact that limiting the amount of Getter Rays the machines can hold prevents them from turning sentient. In Getter Robo Armageddon, Professor Saotome mass produces Getter Robo G in massive numbers with the sole purpose of forming them into Shin Dragon. Ryouma doesn't care and still beats the machines to a pulp.
  • The Hyper-Zoanoids in Guyver are, like ordinary Zoanoids, genetically-altered humans. The "hyper" designation is usually applied to prototype genetic templates, which are designed around an individual soldier's DNA; mass-production designs must be simplified to allow them to work on a wider range of humans, so the Hyper models tend to be considerably more powerful.
  • Genesic GaoGaigar from GaoGaiGar FINAL GaoGaiGar and GaoFightGar are both based on its blueprints, but are significantly weaker, partialy due to humans being unable to perfectly copy alien design, partially on purpose, as some of original's weapons were modified to serve non-offensive purpose.
  • In Infinite Stratos, it turns out that Ichika's IS core is actually the very first one ever made. It's noted that the inventor "poured all [her] heart and soul into that core," since it was her first creation. Note that this is not the reason he can use the IS (he's the only male who can); rather, that is never revealed. Not even the original inventor understands why.
    • Houki's fourth-generation Aka Tsubaki might appear as an Ace Custom but one cannot forget that it was personally built by the inventor mentioned above and is thus guaranteed to be superior to future fourth-gen designs (for reference, various companies around the world have only begun prototyping and performance testing of third-gen IS units).
  • In Future GPX Cyber Formula, the Ogre AN-21 is the prototype to the Al-Zard NP-1. Ogre has the same bio-computer system as Al-Zard, but it also caused the deaths of 2 test drivers due to the fact the car was unable to satisfy the talent the bio-computer needed.
  • The Sizzlers of GunBuster are mass-produced versions of the Gunbuster itself, smaller and weaker (yet powerful enough to fight dozens of alien bugs easily!)
  • Martian Successor Nadesico had a lot of fun with this. The original Aestivalis were already Super Prototypes when two more appeared, Akatsuki's special Aestivalis (with new armor material and engine, befitting the CEO of Nergal) and the Flawed Prototype X-Aestivalis. By the time of the movie, they've mass produced the Aestivalis to remove its Mecha Expansion Pack and the need to be constantly recharged and they still build Super Prototypes of the Aestis, in this case the Aestivalis Customs and the Super Aestivalis.
  • An interesting twist on this trope is utilized in Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet. The Machine Caliber, "Chamber", is just one of many of the Galactic Alliance's Real Robot troops fighting against the hostile alien force known as the Hideauze in outer space, and many are destroyed in the first battle during episode 1. However, on Earth, due to their much less advanced technology, Chamber is essentially a this trope. It is so advanced compared to the Earthling's mechs that they can't even make a dent in its hull, even with jackhammers.
  • Legend of Galactic Heroes has a decent number of them, on both sides:
    • On the Imperial side, most dedicated flagships are unique vessels used to test new technologies that may or may not be employed on mass-produced ships, with the few that aren't being enlargements of more standard vessels or part of a couple of little-produced flagships;
    • On the Alliance side we have the Triglav (a new flagship design, superior to the standard Ajax-class and slated for mass production) and the Leda II (a new cruiser design with a curved armour design capable of deflect with little to no damage enemy weapon fire, at least at distance. She too was slated for mass production).

    Comic Books 
  • This happens when any villain tries to replicate a Super Serum. The first villain to try it is bigger, stronger, faster than the original, but the original never pushes it to the limits because of the idiocy-inducing effects of an overdose, or the subject becoming completely musclebound or even exploding. On the rare occasions that the villains continue to use the super serum on Mooks, they will have much smaller doses and usually be sent in groups.
  • Related to the above, Captain America is the super prototype for the Super Soldier program. Others are constantly trying to replicate his success with results ranging from severe mental deterioration (Isaiah Bradley from Truth: Red, White and Black, and William Burnside, the 50's Cap) to creating the Incredible Hulk (Ultimate Marvel) and the Weapon Plus program (Wolverine, aka Weapon X/Ten; Rogers is Weapon I). Captain America's shield is a Super Prototype as well, being the precursor to adamantium. Adamantium is the attempt to recreate the material of his shield, but even primary adamantium is weaker than it.
  • Iron Man both subverts this trope and plays it straight. The subversion comes from Stark constantly producing improved models after the original prototype. The straight examples come from any even vaguely mass-produced derivatives, like the Guardsman armors, which are never on par with Iron Man's own gear. Of course, readers probably wouldn't want a bunch of glorified prison guards to be as powerful as the superhero. And, in fact, it's explained that Iron Man himself doesn't want a bunch of glorified prison guards to be as powerful as he is. He deliberately withholds the best tech for himself and even goes so far as to build in exploitable weaknesses in case the armors are ever used against him. Considering the number of times Stark's technology has been stolen, duplicated or reverse-engineered, he's got a right to be paranoid and hold back technology. (Although, as seen in the Armor Wars story, sometimes he takes that right too far, beating up innocent people like Stingray and Captain America.)
  • In a way, the Hulk. While created by accident, Hulk was the first gamma mutant, and most following gamma beings (the Leader, the Abomination, Madman, Ravage, etc) were based off either recreating that accident or specifically copying his DNA. While some have had greater base-line strength than the Hulk, and most have retained their higher intelligence whereas the Hulk is most often shown to be a savage, Hulk's potential strength (increasing with anger) and his other abilities (Healing Factor, psychic resistance) have shown him to be the most powerful of the gamma beings. Another factor in the Hulk's Super Prototype-ness is the fact that Bruce Banner's psyche is so damaged, because of abuse when he was a kid, that it allows him to do whatever he wishes. Becoming a gamma beast meant unleashing a particular repressed trait. The reason the Hulk is stronger than the others? Because they're not as screwed up as Banner!
  • While the massive Continuity Snarl in X-Men makes saying this definitively difficult, there's a fairly good chance Exodus was this for X-Men Big Bad Apocalypse. Empowered by Apoc in the 12th century, Crusader knight Bennet du Paris rebelled against his would-be master and was sealed away for over 800 years as a result. When Magneto woke him up in the present day and recruited him to his Acolytes, Exodus proved capable of throwing down with the entirety of the Avengers and X-Men teams simultaneously while also crushing the entirety of an island nation's capital city beneath the power of his telekinesis. Not a single one of Apocalypse's other later minions, from Mr. Sinister to the Four Horsemen, have exhibited anything near this kind of power.
  • The Blackhawks' aircraft during World War II was the Grumman XF5F Skyrocket, an aircraft that never made it past the prototype stage in Real Life.
  • Super Dinosaur is superior to the successive Dino Men because of his armor which grants him unparalleled firepower.
  • In Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog, the Metal Sonic Troopers, Rotor and Uncle Chuck-designed and built Metal Sonics based off of the original Metal Sonic, are easily dispatched when they're turned against everyone, compared to the original Metal Sonic, who gave Sonic and co. a very hard time. And then there's all those replacement Metal Sonics Eggman keeps making, which always get rolled out and blown up within five pages. They've practically become a running gag.
  • In Astro City story "Pastoral", Roustabout escaped the experimenters who made him superhuman and killed the rest of their subjects. Team Carnivore, their apparent next attempt, came to track him down because they were not so successful, and their bosses hope to take him apart and learn the trick.

    Fan Works 
  • In Exoria, a modern-day Zelda Fan Fic, Epona is a prototype military motorcycle, codenamed MRX-402A (second prototype model of the fourth generation military reconnaissance X-series). Aside from being able to achieve speeds over three hundred kilometers per hour, it has onboard electronic systems that allow it to analyze the terrain ahead instantly and adjust the suspensions real-time. It also has an auto-drive function, and two .50 machine guns. Seatbelt not included.
  • Evangelion 303: The F-14E "Evangelions" (which in this alternate universe are experimental jet fighters rather giant robots). The first models are more powerful and have a better output than the latter ones. There also were talks to mass-produce them, but the Committee overseeing the project decided that it would be too expensive and the prototypes are good enough.
  • HERZ: Unit 00, 01 and 02 were the prototype, test type and production models respectively. However 01 was the most powerful of the trio. The MP-Evas were the mass production model, meant to be more advanced (they flew, had unlimited power, quick regeneration and were armed with replicas of the Lance of Longinus). Still Asuka piloting Unit 02 tore them apart nearly completely, and Shinji riding Unit 01 finished them off. In 2027 SEELE built even more powerful mass production Evas, but the three pilots easily defeated them using their old models.
  • Subverted and defied in An Entry with a Bang!: The first GDI monitor is an unstable hodgepodge of Clancy-Earth and BattleTech… uh, tech. The first prototype BearCat aerospace fighter is not mounting weapons. Both in-universe and at the writers' level, there has generally been agreement to take things slow and not do any funky stuff.
  • In Project Ignition, there's the TYPE-Sione new model NEXT, which is obscenely powerful... The three stolen TYPE-Siones are actually production models, not prototypes. The Prototype is actually the exact same machine given to an unknown pilot. However, the Union stealing the TYPE-Sione is enough to start the Interior-Omer war. Also there's the XAF-Kushina, a prototype Arms Fort that actually is serving as Omer Science Technology's Main AF The Kushina is merely a prototype attempt at creating an XG-70 with Kojima Technology— it doesn't perform to Omer's standards, despite being able to lay waste to an entire continent., lastly there's the Fudai, a Light-weight NEXT being developed by Arisawa, following a recommendation from Tadashiro- subverted in that the Zephyr Fudai is merely a TYPE-Lahire with proof of concept parts, and is quite inferior to what Tadashiro has in mind for the actual Fudai. It matches one on one with Adler's Zephiris, and Tadashiro has never piloted a NEXT before that point.
  • C.L. Werner's New Era Godzilla stories were set to feature the Ultra-Gyaos, progenitor of the entire Gyaos race. It was a creation of ancient Atlantis meant to be used to destroy Mu, but when they saw it was powerful enough to betray and destroy them, the Atlanteans were rightly frightened and sealed it away in an orihalcyon chamber deep beneath their kingdom
  • In Fallout: Equestria - Empty Quiver, we have the XB/A-1 Valkyrie, an experimental delta-wing supersonic attack bomber capable of effectively flying indefinitely, vertical takeoff and landing, and carrying 5 tons of bombs meanwhile, with no less than four turreted tesla cannons for defense and two 40mm autocannons for offense. It was still in the process of being tested when the bombs fell, preventing its use and ultimately its mass production, making it the only one of it's kind.
  • In Sonic X: Dark Chaos, Tsali himself was this to the Tsali Endoskeletons. It's later revealed to be a Justified Trope - the endoskeletons were built in the last days of the Demon-Seedrian War, with the Seedrians nearly wiped out and scraping together anything to slow the Demons down.

  • In Star Wars, Darth Vader's TIE fighter was a custom model with a distinct appearance. At least one Expanded Universe technical manual says it's one of a Low-Rate Initial Production batch of unsuccessful Super Prototypes; the design was rejected as too expensive and the TIE Interceptor was selected instead.
    • This was further explained in the Expanded Universe, specifically the TIE Fighter game. They had designed a model of Vader's TIE Advanced X1 that was intended for mass production, known as the TIE Avenger, but it and its successor, the TIE Defender, were shelved due to too many resources expended during internal civil war. Which was probably a good thing for the Rebels, seeing as how the Defender was widely considered to be the most advanced starfighter of its time.
    • The Trade Federation in The Phantom Menace uses two types of battle droids, that look the exact same. You have the OOM models, which possess advanced and independent programming, and the B1 models, which are dumb as a box of rocks. The kicker, the OOMs are the prototypes. You would think that with code being easily replicated, ALL battle droids would be OOMs, but instead the Trade Federation decided to shoot themselves in the foot. Expanded Universe sources indicate that they feared an droid army in which every soldier was capable of intelligent thought might turn against them.
  • Batman's costume in Batman Begins is a prototype armor suit that was rejected by the army because it was too expensive. The same with the batmobile, which was designed for jumping gaps to lay cables for bridges.
  • Steve's nearly-indestructible shield in Captain America: The First Avenger. When he asks why it isn't standard issue for normal soldiers, Howard Stark says it's because the metal used to make it is too rare to produce more copies.
  • The Falcon's flying exo-suit in Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a military prototype. No reason is given for why the suits never saw mass production, but it's implied that the other users had all been killed during combat in the Middle East.
  • The RoboCop program arguably nailed the concept in their first try, but failed to deliver a single functional/reliable cyborg after that. In RoboCop 2 a string of subsequent models fails in increasingly gruesome ways - it turns out there are certain qualities the person must possess for the operation to work properly. Knowing this, the corporation resorted to a junkie drug lord with a messiah complex as source material, reasoning that his addiction and vanity would help keep him in line (It Makes Sense in Context). The results were quite unsavory, to say the least.
  • Firefox has two of the titular planes, and centers on the theft of one of them.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Apocryphally, Lilith. The first woman created by God, made of dust (like Adam) instead of being made from part of Adam. She wanted to be treated as Adam's equal but her strong will caused a bunch of relationship troubles, so they got divorced and God settled for a more passive production-model woman in Eve who would be more supportive (and/or more subservient) to Adam. She's also something of a Flawed Prototype, given that she, while still angry over her would-be marital issues, declared she would kill newborns if they didn't have amulets with the names of certain angels transcribed on them as part of a deal to get them to leave her alone. She is essentially the mythological origin of sudden infant death syndrome,

  • In Joel Shepherd's Cassandra Kresnov trilogy, the title character is a prototype of a new and improved version of the "GIs" used as soldiers in interstellar combat. The main improvement is in her intelligence rather than her physical capabilities. She is creative and capable of lateral thought, making her more flexible and independent than lower level GIs who mostly serve as grunts that follow orders.
  • In the Star Trek novel Final Frontier (no relation to the fifth movie), it was revealed that the Enterprise was the prototype for the Constitution class line. It was deliberately overbuilt, explaining how Kirk (and Scotty) could constantly push it past its design limits. Constitution ships-of-the-line were economized, resulting in them being more delicate ships.
  • The Long Shot in Larry Niven's Known Space 'verse is the only Quantum II hyperdrive ship ever built. Big motor in the biggest hull made left no room for profitable cargo.
  • In Mad Skills by Walter Greatshell, coma patient Madeleine Grant is a testbed for an experimental brain surgery that uses leech brain cells to supercharge her mind to Singularity levels. Actually, she's a prototype testbed for a lot of separate projects, qualifying as an Artificial Human to some degree; her body is the repurposed shell of a brain-dead pop star, while her brain is entirely artificial and contains heavily-edited memories taken from an orphan girl who was quietly killed, and that brain is what's upgraded with the Leech-Tron. The Leech-Tron also incorporates a wi-fi connection that allows subliminal commands and advertisements to be beamed directly into her brain, but the amount of brainpower she has available allows her to slip the leash by mid-book.
  • In Daemon the first AutoM8 is an armoured, solid-tired Hummer that is Immune to Bullets. Later versions use normal cars as a base and are thus less survivable.
  • Mack Maloney's Wingman series makes liberal use of this trope, particularly in the case of Hawk Hunter, the titular Wingman. His main aircraft is arguably both a super prototype and an Ace Custom, as he usually flies an F-16XLnote  which he has further modified with More Dakka and advanced avionics. When circumstances force the Wingman to use a different type of aircraft for more than a chapter, he will generally take the time to similarly customize his new plane, often even transplanting the avionics from his F-16 into the aircraft.
  • Justified Trope in Raising Steam. Dick Simnel, the inventor of the steam engine on the Discworld, feels very proud of his prototype, Iron Girder. So every time he has a new idea for improving the engines it gets added to Iron Girder before the others, for testing purposes and because Dick can't stand the thought of her not being the best engine on the railway.
  • In Literature/Paranoia, The optical chip, a new technology that would revolutionize the entire technology industry, that is the macguffin for the majority of the book. It doesn't exist, and was a bluff created by Goddard to get Wyatt to bankrupt his company by buying a company that had the hold on making the process, thereby allowing Goddard to buy out Wyatt's company once it ran out of capital and his debts were called in.
  • In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the potion responsible for separating Jekyll and Hyde only worked because of an unspecified impurity in one of the ingredients. When Jekyll/Hyde ran out of the one contaminated batch, it didn't work anymore.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Compare how good Adam's performance is to Forrest's—though he purposely made Forrest "nearly as bad" as him.
  • The Cool Starship equivalent is the USS Defiant in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In its debut, it took a dozen Jem'hadar attack ships (just three of which had shown themselves capable of easily destroying the previous most powerful ship in Starfleet) to disable the Defiant, and that was after it was heavily damaged in an ambush. Not to mention, they hadn't even worked all the bugs out of the design yet; in later appearances it was even more formidable. The specs indicated that it was about 1/10 the mass of the Enterprise-D yet carried armament equal to it. Starfleet eventually does make others which are apparently just as powerful (including a replacement for the original when the Dominion finally manages to destroy it), but it takes a while to get them into production.
    • Star Trek actually kept a pretty good eye on its tech level as various ships are introduced. The registry for the prototype ships usually have an NX prefix. The Excelsior was originally NX-2000 and was more of a testbed for the (ultimately failed) "Transwarp" engine more than anything else. Once the testing phase was over, she was given a proper NCC prefix. Otherwise, it didn't appear to completely outclass other starships like the Enterprise in terms of combat performance. In later series it seemed that the Excelsior design was actually one of the most versatile in terms of longevity, the design showed up as modern starships as late as Deep Space Nine's fourth season, more than 80 years after it was introduced.
      • The titular ship of Star Trek: Enterprise, the NX-01 Enterprise, also subverted the super prototype as her successor, the NX-02 Columbia, left drydock with capabilities that surpassed and were later retrofitted into Enterprise. Production designs for the unproduced fifth season of Enterprise and Word of God statements from Doug Drexler recently revealed that the entire NX class was one big work-in-progress and that every ship was its own prototype, as evidenced by these sketches showing off the engineering hull that was to be added to the "NX-01.5".
  • Western subversion: Knight Rider: In "Trust Doesn't Rust", KARR takes KITT for an "inferior production-line model" and assumes himself to be a super prototype. He turns out not to have any apparent technological advantage over KITT (of course, KITT is hardly "production-line"), aside from a slightly improved speech module (In the next episode, KITT's is replaced by one similar to KARR's), though when KARR reappears in the third season, while still not more advanced than KITT, he does possess a number of features which KITT had only gained during the second season.
    • In the 2008 series, KARR is a Transforming Mecha, specifically designed for front-line combat. However, it was a failure, and a number of people died. KITT was designed as a car that could transform into other cars (e.g. a Mustang transforming into a pickup truck) and mainly designed for policing duties. However, the episode where KITT is shut down reveals that the military has always planned for KITT to be a temporary project. The goal was to have KITT develop as a fully-functional AI and then port that AI into KARR. The kicker? Both KARR and KITT have the same driver, the son of the original Michael Knight.
  • Super Sentai:
    • Denji Sentai Megaranger: The Megasilver suit is a lot stronger than the others... until we find out that its power only lasts two and a half minutes. (In Power Rangers in Space, the 2.5 minute problem existed for different reasons and the suit wasn't a prototype.)
    • Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger: Tobaspino, the first Zyudenryu (number 00), demonstrates this each time it appears. Its first appearance was as a foe that could take on all of the other mecha on its own.
      • In a later appearance where the five Zyuden Giants have to split up to take on five clones of a monster in five different parts of the world, Tobaspino's Zyuden Giant form, Spinodai-Oh, takes out its opponent in mere minutes while the others (even the powerful Bragigas) are stuck fighting for hours.
      • Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger has Abare Killer, whose powers are stronger than any of the others but comes with a slight drawback: Unlike the later Dino Braces, Abare Killer's Dino Minder will eventually explode with enough force to leave a smoldering crater where the city used to be.
  • Power Rangers:
    • Power Rangers RPM has the Paleozords, abandoned mecha from the early days of Project Ranger. The reason they were abandoned is because the zord tech hinges on bio-energy fields of living beings, and the Paleozords (based on dinosaurs, as you might have guessed from the name) were trying to connect to creatures that no longer existed, which made them powerful but uncontrollable. By the time the Rangers rediscovered them, the technology had advanced enough to bring them under control. Another example with the morphers. The morphers used by Gem and Gemma are prototypes and thus do not carry the same energy limitations that the later versions used by the rest of the team. However, they also don't have the Burst Attacks.
    • In Power Rangers Time Force, the Quantum Ranger morpher and Quantasaurus Rex Zord were created during the early days of Time Force, and lost in an early time travel experiment until being rediscovered. However, they're quite stronger than the main five Rangers and any of their tech. However, there's a drawback: the main five have a DNA lock, so only you or your Identical Grandson can use it (hence Wes). The Quantum powers have a voice lock, making it easier for, say, the Monster of the Week to sic your Zord on the Rangers with just a voice imitation device.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Kamen Rider Agito: The Kamen Rider G3/G3-X armor boils down to being this, especially after the introduction (and later mothballing) of the Kamen Rider G3 Mild armor.
    • Kamen Rider Faiz: The mass-produced Riot Trooper gears are nowhere near as good as the unique Faiz gear (the fact that the Faiz gear has two alternate forms and a bike that can transform into backup in a pinch not withstanding).
    • Kamen Rider Double: Kamen Rider Skull is the single-user prototype for Double, but is just as good in combat, best illustrated by its being a jack-of-all-trades combination of Shotaro's Memories (melee brawler like Joker, good defense like Metal, The Gunslinger like Trigger).
    • Kamen Rider OOO: Averted with Kamen Rider Proto-Birth, as the prototype Birth Driver has only a few of the functions of the later model, and is used as a backup when the main driver is damaged. Then Date returns, and takes the prototype in order to back up Goto.
    • Kamen Rider Wizard has Kamen Rider Beast, who uses an ancient belt while Wizard uses a modern one. Despite this, Beast's default form is as strong as Wizard's Mid-Season Upgrade form. Possibly subverted, as the White Wizard later implies that Wizard is overly weak for a spellcaster and what counts for him as a Mid-Season Upgrade is where everyone else naturally starts at.
    • Kamen Rider Drive: The prototype for the Roidmudes is number 000, aka Proto-Zero or more commonly, Chase. He's one of the strongest fighters in the series, and both the Roidmudes and the Kamen Riders seek to have him fight alongside them.
  • The eponymous "super-sub" in Gerry Anderson's series Stingray (1964). All the other W.A.S.P. ships that we see are more-or-less conventional-looking (for the 1960s) submarines, and there is no indication that there is more than one of the class. Expanded Universe material in the TV Century 21 comic and official novels imply either that a second Stingray-class sub has been built (and enters service just in time to be stolen by the Mysterons) or that Stingray is an ungraded version of a standard W.A.S.P. patrol vessel with superior capabilities to its sister craft.
  • The robot Imperiser/Imperialiser from Ultraman Mebius is insanely hard to destroy with thick armor capable of self-regeneration and can evolve right in the middle of battle. The mass production version lacking said qualities, they are still deadly nonetheless. And since they retain teleportation ability, their strength in numbers does made up with it.
  • The Battlestar Galactica prequel Caprica features a super prototype, the first U87 Cylon equipped with a metacognitive processor displays the potential for near human autonomy. The problem with this is this level of intelligence is only achieved in a single prototype, if the MCP is placed in a different cylon it does not display sentience.
    • The Original Battlestar Galactica series had the C.O.R.A. Viper. Very fast, full A.I. computer piloting system, equipped for long range patrols, double the thrusting power of any other Viper — at the expense of the guns!
  • On Chuck, Chuck is the first successful Intersect and remains the only prototype due to repeated sabotage of the project. However, when they finally decide to create more Intersect agents, they turn out to be way too inflexible in their thinking and tend to overreact in combat situations. In this case, it's a matter of No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup for both device and user: nobody can reproduce the perfect version of the Intersect that Bryce Larkin only entrusted to Chuck, and when it comes to the wielder, well, there's a reason Bryce only trusted Chuck with it. With later attempts to produce it, you got fatal My Brain Runneth Over cases, madness-inducing cases, and a version that damages your memory with each use to the point that it was once used as a form of Brain Washing. The only non-Chuck person who appears to have had a fully functional Intersect was a Big Bad.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • The Brickspider Bot v1.0 of Dino Attack RPG is the original prototype of the Brickster-Bot Spiders that would later be mass-produced by OGEL Robotics, Inc. In comparison with the later models, the v1.0 is far more intelligent and cunning with its own distinct personality. This was deliberately toned down for the later models by its creators when they realized that something so intelligent would not want to act as a mere Mook.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Largely averted in BattleTech; while it is true that during the still-popular late Succession Wars era such older "lostech" designs as still existed in half-decent shape could be superior to anything of more modern manufacture, those were generally leftover ancient production models. Actual prototypes and first-generation designs using newly recovered or developed technologies tend to play another trope rather more straight (one very common fandom term for this is "new toy syndrome").
    • Actually there are a number of prototypes in the Jihad era that are incredibly effective, and mount a number of high end "experimental" technologies that usually only show up on or two at a time on production models, at least until the Dark Age era, 70 years later. Due to the game's Battle Value system most of these units end up being wildly overpriced, but in a straight ton-for-ton comparison these prototypes are frequently more than a match for anything in full-scale production.
  • Since they're one of the only factions in Warhammer 40,000 whose technology is actually improving, the Tau exhibit this trope when it comes to their battlesuits. Ace battlesuit jockeys are given the chance to field-test advanced prototypes, and if a Tau commander does really well they may end up with their own Ace Custom suit. Unfortunately these shiny new features tend to come with a drawback or two, something notably absent in normal Tau technology.
    • This kinda applies to any sort of technology used by the Humans (of any faction). The most powerful weapons are inevitably some super-ancient prototype relic. Kind of hand-waved due to a.) the Adeptus Mechanicus's fear of inventing, b.) the relics themselves being of Alien origin and/or a sacred relic and c.) sometimes the owners flat out refuse to let anyone tinker around with their one-of-a-kind toy.
      • The Thunder Warriors are specifically stated to be cruder, more poorly armored versions of the process that creates modern Space Marines, but at the same time, a single Thunder Warrior is to a squad of marines what marines themselves are to a squad of regular guardsmen. Unfortunately they are nowhere near as stable, mentally or physically. The Emperor had them all (mostly) wiped out after conquering Earth in favor of the more reliable Space Marines.
      • The Adeptus Custodes may qualify, as superior warriors rumored to be forged from the Emperor's gene-code, rather than a Primarch's. It's not clear whether the Custodes or the Space Marines came first. Unfortunately, as the comatose Emperor's Praetorian Guard, they have been essentially confined to the role of the guarding the Imperial Palace since the Heresy.
    • Played straight with the Primarchs, who are superior to any other soldier the Imperium has and are the templates for almost all of the Space Marines in existence today. However, the process which created them was extremely intensive and may or may not have involved stealing power from Hell to achieve and the Emperor only managed to create 20 of them, which he later deemed to be used as the templates for the Space Marine Legions and commanders for said legions. They were, however, basically Designer Babies (from the Emperor's DNA himself) where Space Marines are people born normally with genetic engineering applied later.
  • Jovian Chronicles, Dream Pod 9's Gundam inspired setting, is naturally filled with them. A couple of the prototypes do get mass produced versions, but they pale in comparison to their predecessors.
  • Magic: The Gathering manages to avert it in one respect; the Myr Prototype is way overpriced for what it actually does.
    • This trope is prevalent in Magic on a more "meta" level: The designers are constantly trying to make more balanced versions of older, overpowered cards. Black Lotus, the original Moxen, and the original dual lands are among the game's many Super Prototypes.
  • Shadowrun introduced a trio of uber-powerful, almost godlike AIs. Once the Crash 2.0 hit and the three of them are (apparently) gone, AIs are now roughly as powerful as human hackers in the Matrix (to the point where they are options for player characters).
  • Appears in Heavy Gear, specifically as the background to the South's Gold Mamba design. The Gold Mamba was basically a prototype built at the same time as the common Black Mamba, but contrary to typical design theory (build something up until it works at the level you want), its designers approached it from the other side of the spectrum (put the most expensive equipment you can find on it and scale down until it doesn't work). This means that the Gold Mamba is an extremely powerful combat machine that is head and shoulders above the Black Mamba's performance, but ultimately it is extremely expensive and rare.
  • The proxies of Trinity were the first humans to become psions, and their psychic powers are noted to be significantly more powerful than later psions, as the process that created the proxies differed in important respects from the one used for other psions.

    Video Games 
  • Proto Man of the Mega Man (Classic) series is usually depicted as being much more capable than the later model, Mega Man, and due to a bug in his design, a flawed nuclear core, is the first robot in history to have full free will. On the flip-side, that same unstable core makes him far more vulnerable to damage and means his power reactor will catastrophically fail at some point (Implied to be quite soon in Mega Man 10). On the plus side, being built with an energy source far more raw and unrestrained generally makes his buster output more powerful than his brother or Bass, enabling the extremely potent Proto/Blues Strike.
    • Mega Man X is himself a Super Prototype to all of the Reploids that were created afterwards. He was built with the ability to make his own decisions like Proto Man above, but was built with a "suffering circuit" that would allow him to weigh the consequences of his actions. This, plus over a century of self-checks made X a perfect machine. The Reploids that were built from his blueprints, however, lacked the same power of his suffering circuit and the checks, which caused many of them to become Mavericks. In general, the whole of the Mega Man franchise typically provides some viable explanation as to why a first draft might be superior to the later models.
  • The Original Generation mecha of Super Robot Wars is overloaded with super prototypes (and Ace Customs), there's far too many to mention. Averted in Super Robot Wars 3. When you begin the game, the Getter Robo team is piloting the Proto-Getter Robo. instead of normal Getter Robo. When Proto-Getter attacks and doesn't kill an enemy, Ryouma gripes that the Proto-Getter is just weaker than the normal Getter and is actually happy when the original Getter is dropped in a few stages later.
  • In the Metal Gear series, the prototype Metal Gear RAY is of far superior quality to the mass-produced models later encountered by Raiden as a boss battle; then again, it may have been actually designed for its supposed purpose (to defeat REX derivatives) whereas the mass-produced versions were actually tactical defense units for Arsenal Gear. In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Bladewolf, a prototype unmanned gear, is self-aware and pretty durable, while the mass-produced Fenrirs go down much faster and have less intelligence than a real dog.
  • The Delphinus from Skies of Arcadia is a possible example, but it's not entirely clear whether the weaker mass-produced equivalent (the Spectre-class battleships) are scaled-back mass production versions or the immediate predecessors of the Delphinus.
    • The Delphinus was a proof-of-concept model, but doesn't necessarily fit the trope, and THE Flagship for the entire Armada- it was overkill for the reason of it being an Ace Custom essentially.
    • The trope is directly subverted in the terms of the Moonstone Cannon. When you encounter the prototype, it's terrifyingly powerful. The Delphinus has the PRODUCTION Model of the weapon. It's easily several times as powerful as the "Test Cannon".
  • The fictional planes of Ace Combat occasionally fall under this trope, particularly the X-49 Night Raven of Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere and the ADFX-01 "Morgan" of Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, which is a super prototype of the latter (in the series original world timeline) and much more advanced ADF-01 "FALKEN".
    • The real planes also have a bit of this. 5 in particular both subverts it (the F-15 S/MTD is better than the stock F-15 it was modified from) and plays it straight (the S-32 is better than the later Su-47)
      • The F-15 S/MTD, (Also known in some games by it's later version, the F-15 ACTIVE), actually really did do this in real life. It's a modified F-15 Eagle that manufacturer McDonnell Douglas, the U.S. Air Force, and NASA all worked on together to test out various technology ideas. S/MTD stands for "Short take off and landing, Maneuver Technology Demonstrator, while ACTIVE stands for Advanced Control Technology for Integrated Vehicles.
    • Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception brought us the Fenrir. The original models had optical camouflage, ungodly maneuverability and a microwave weapon. The production models don't have any of that aside from the ungodly maneuverability at the cost of ammo. In the same vein, the Varcolac from Joint Assault is shown to have a rear mounted machine gun that shoots down any and all missiles that approach it. In game, it doesn't have that but it's still the best plane in the game if you give it the right mods.
    • Ace Combat's love of Super Prototypes, reaches absolutely absurd levels, in Ace Combat Infinity, where we're introduced to the ADFX-01 "Morgan" Block 1 Variant. It's a Prototype of the Super Prototype, of another Super Prototype. Though, technically, it's a Flawed Prototype, as it's Prototype Tactical Laser System has far fewer charges than "proper" ADFX-01 Morgan. Then toss on the fact that first appearance of the Morgan, back in Ace Combat Zero, the final boss flies an Ace Custom variant known as the ADFX-02 "Morgan" that was able to carry an ECM system, Regular Missiles, a 30mm Rotary Cannon, Multi-Purpose Burst Missiles, the Tactical Laser system, a Nuclear Ballistic Missile Launch system to remotely launch them from a base, and could tank more missiles and MG fire than even an A-10 Warthog, or hell, an actual friggin tank. Then they also added the ADFX-01 Pixy, which is an upgraded stats version. For those you who lost track, that means there is 5 variants of 1 Super Prototype frame. 6 if you count it's appearance as a non-playable Ace Custom back in Ace Combat 2.
  • The Living Failures of Bloodborne is meant to be a Flawed Prototype of Celestial Emissary since the test subject failed to ascend into kins of the Great Ones. Despite how "failed" it sounded like, they are far deadlier than their successors and can conjure meteors. One wonder why the Healing Church did not weaponise them instead.
  • The Smithy Gang in Super Mario RPG (Mack, Bowyer, Yaridovich and the Axem Rangers) are the super prototype models for their production lines. When you reach the last area, you discover that Smithy is creating an entire army of the bosses, though the machine-made versions are less powerful than the actual bosses.
  • The Edelweiss in Valkyria Chronicles, made by Isara's father for Welkin's father for the previous war. It was found to be an incredible tank, but it was too expensive for any kind of mass production.
  • Subject Delta BioShock 2 isn't just a Big Daddy — he's the first Big Daddy; unlike the production models, he's nimble and has plasmid powers. It's justified in-universe by a whole host of problems with that particular series: they were too costly, their free will made them far more difficult to control, and are permanently bonded to a single Little Sister and doomed to death or violent insanity once she's gone. The newer models, while not quite as advanced, are physically stronger, more durable, and lack free will, and have no preference for any particular Little Sister, all of which better suit the one task they are built for.
  • Vivi, like all Black Mages in Final Fantasy IX, is an animated doll. However, as the prototype model, his power is greater than that of his "brothers", and his lifespan is much longer, as well.Also in a far darker sense Kuja is a Prototype of the real Angel of Death Zidane, though it is arguable who is more powerful/competent
  • A Continuity Nod in the Thunder Force series. The mass production model of Styx in III appear as NPC in IV; The Rynex in IV has its production model appear in VI and also serve as prototype of Gauntlet in V. It take Mid-Season Upgrade the Gauntlet into Ace Custom Vambrace and Mecha Expansion Pack Brigandine module that Earth's fighter can fight the Rynex. It's justified since Gauntlet is Earthling's replica, built with alien technology they aren't fully understand.
  • Final Fantasy VI's Kefka was the very first Magitek Knight (a normal human given magical powers by way of an infusion from an Esper). He consistently has much stronger magic then Celes, a later-generation Magitek Knight that joins your party.note  Unfortunately, as a prototype, he was exposed to an imperfect version of the infusion process, which resulted in him going just a teensy bit insane.
  • In the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth is a super prototype who is much stronger and more powerful than regular SOLDIERs and much more physically stable than the competing Project G prototypes Angeal and Genesis, who are subject to degradation. Unfortunately, Sephiroth could not be duplicated and he cannot replicate his genetic traits in monsters (like Angeal) or in humans (like Genesis).
  • An interesting version of this is in Fate/stay night. Gilgamesh has all the prototypes of every Servant's Noble Phantasm, and goes on to explain exactly why his prototypes are that much more powerful. However, this is subverted in Unlimited Blade Works when Shiro "traces" or copies all of Gilgamesh's super prototypes with his Reality Marble, essentially creating a water-downed mass production type version of each one; right after explaining although his versions are weaker imitations, there is no rule about the imitations losing to the originals, he states that he will prove his imitations are superior by destroying all of Gilgamesh's weapons and Gilgamesh himself. Cue Crowning Moment of Awesome.
    • It gets a little complicated after this. Gilgamesh's versions are actually more powerful in a one to one contest, but the copies can be spammed via a combination of Zerg Rush and Taking You with Me: "breaking" one of the weapons unleashes a very powerful attack (at the obvious cost of sacrificing the weapon) but since unlimited copies can be made this weakness no longer applies to them.
  • Front Mission 3 has a couple interesting examples. In the start of the game your character is a test pilot for Kirishima Heavy Industries and your first mission is actually a final test run of a new prototype Wanzer for the Japanese Military. The Shunyo Mk. 111 is far more powerful than the test Wanzers you fight against. The true Super Prototype of the game, though, is the Hoshun. This is a Wanzer that is somehow sent to you through the Internet and not only has more HP than any other pilotable Wanzer, but also has one of the only beam rifles in existence.
    • Interestingly, the starting wanzer Kazuki pilots, the Zenith RV (misromanized as Zenislev), is the super prototype of the next game, Front Mission 4, obtainable in Elsa's scenario. Since 4 canonically happens before 3, this indicates how much Wanzer development has progressed.
  • Prometheus, the last boss in Starsiege human campaign is the first Cybrid. For the Cybrid campaign, you become one once you reach the highest rank.
  • Phantasy Star Zero makes fun of this trope to a degree. Occasionally you will find messages with tips in them. A message talking about a particular robotic enemy in that area says, "Production model & Prototype. Do we need to spell out which one is more powerful?"
  • The backstory of Virtual-ON provides both aversions and straight examples. Some prototypes like Viper Alpha and Proto Temjin have inferior armaments to their production model. Original Fei Yen is much more powerful than the production model but is sentient and eventually runs away from lab.
  • Near the end of the first planet in Knights of the Old Republic, you get to win a swoop bike race on a bike modified with a prototype accelerator. The adversary tries to deny your prize on the grounds that it was an unfair advantage, but the prize, being a Jedi, takes matters into her own hands by breaking out and killing most of the bad guys.
  • In Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, any prototype starts out one experience level ahead of a normal unit. This means that, with a Command Center and Bioenhancement Center, a prototype is Elite right off the rack. However, this is justified in the background material: Factions entrust their newest tech to their most experienced and effective troops and crews; the actual equipment is not significantly different from that given to subsequent units. Furthermore, prototypes take longer to build (unless the base has a Skunkworks), indicating the extra resources needed to work out the kinks. The actual equipment is probably not a prototype at all, but first-generation production.
  • Fallout 3 has some really powerful prototype stuff. Example: MPLX Novasurge, a unique plasma pistol which greatly increases damage and the critical multiplier at the cost of doubled power usage and weight. It was developed by a "Section: A61" shortly before the Great War broke out. The prototype survived the war by being beamed aboard Mothership Zeta approx. 200 years before the Lone Wanderer found it in the ship's cargo hold.. Or the MP-47/A power armor prototype with a built-in medical dispenser and an onboard AI. And the Capital Wasteland's sole set of T-51b power armor(not counting the indestructible Winterized version from Operation: Anchorage). Finally, there's Liberty Prime, a Humongous Mecha built for the Anchorage Reclamation, but kept out of battle due to problems with its power supply.
    • Fallout: New Vegas shows that at least one prototype model of eyebots had a TV-screen, and not just a built-in radio. ED-E, however, is not quite this trope, despite being a prototype and much more powerful than its mass-produced cousins: it was the prototype to a series of combat-adapted eyebots that were scrapped in favor of Hellfire power armor, with the common eyebot being its predecessor rather than its successor.
    • There's also the Tesla-Beaton Prototype, a unique Tesla cannon, and the AER-14, a prototype Laser Rifle with a green laser. The Q-35 Matter Modulator is an example and also has some backstory to retcon why the FO3 plasma rifle is so different from the original plasma rifle (dubbed the "Plasma Caster" in NV): The plasma caster was too expensive, had an awkward form factor, and required too much training to be proficient in, so a military project was started to adapt it to a more familiar pistol grip rifle form factor, and lower the cost.
      • Old World Blues has the Stealth Suit Mark II, which like the Medic Power Armor, has an onboard AI that automatically dispenses Med-X and Stimpaks.
    • Fallout 4 adds the T-60 Power Armor, a step above the T-51 armor that was previously used. It was only beginning to be deployed experimentally (one of the Vault's military guards is wearing a suit of this armor in the pre-War sequence) when the Great War happened.
  • A similar effect occurs with the Supreme Commander Experimental units. Any player will realize that these 'experiments' are always a great success, and utterly trounce dozens if not hundreds of the 'tested' units. And although you can build more than one of them, the too-expensive-justification is in full effect, as you need a very solid economy before you can start building one.
  • Happens in StarCraft II where a prototype superweapon called Odin is stolen from the Dominion. It doesn't just have more hit points than any other unit in the game and do more damage than anything short of hero units — it's also got several luxury amenities, including a restroom for the driver and an onboard nuke launcher. Rory Swann, the engineer of Hyperion, says it's too impractical to mass-produce, at least with the facilities available to Raynor's Raiders, so a scaled-down machine called a Thor is slated for mass production. (Oddly, the Dominion seems to have agreed with Swann, as the Odin is one of a kind and the Dominion only ever fields Thors aside from it.) There's also the Loki, a prototype for a new class of battleship, which boasts ridiculous firepower and toughness, completed at the same research station. The Loki at least is destroyed, which may be why that never went anywhere.
  • In Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, the King Oni is a hulking behemoth capable of bull-charging enemy tanks and shoot Eye Beams for the glory of the Empire of the Rising Sun. Apparently, the original King Oni is a super prototype, given to Emperor Yoshiro as a gift, which he uses when the enemy approaches his palace. It notably includes a set of Rocket Launchers for dealing with aerial threats, something the standard King Oni lacks. It's implied that this King Oni takes much more maintenance to take care of than the standard King Oni, but given that it's the Emperor's personal machine, no expense was spared.
    • In the Uprising expansion, the Soviet Reaper unit is a super prototype for the Sickle. While the Sickle is only armed with machine guns, the Reaper boasts automatic grenade launchers and a roof-mounted rocket launcher. However, unlike the Sickle, the Reaper's legs can barely support its weight and will snap off if it tries to leap like a Sickle. This is reflected in its special ability, which allows it to leap once and become a stationary turret wherever you want it to land.
  • Played with by Prototype Jack in Tekken. While it's unknown what happened between him and Jack (both survived the original tournament), P. Jack was soundly scrapped by Jack-2 in Tekken 2. However, P. Jack's ability to fly was implemented in all subsequent playable Jack models.
  • In Vanquish, the ARS armor that Sam Gideon is wearing is a prototype of a new weapons system being developed by DARPA, and he is taking it along on the assault on Providence for two reasons: to test out its capabilities in live fire combat, and because the military is desperate for any weapon they can use to stop the colony's microwave array from being fired. In-game, it is indicated that the ARS has several limitations, primarily among them being that the suit will explode if it overheats too much.
  • The Excavated ATACs in Vanguard Bandits are super prototypes from which all basic ATACs were reverse-engineered.
  • Custom Robo is all about "ace customs" but your "super prototype" has a drawback for each advantage it has against mass produced robos of the same class.
  • The Unholy War has a regular unit called Razorfane, a robot that attacks with circular saw blades. One of the secret unlockable characters is called Betarazor, which is basically just an upgraded version of Razorfane, with more health and more powerful attacks.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog
    • Invoked (but not in any meaningful manner) in Sonic Heroes. One of E-123 Omega's combo-score quips is "Worthless consumer models!" Additionally, when he earns an E-Rank at the end of a stage, he laments that he couldn't even beat Gamma or Beta.
    • Averted and then invoked in Sonic Adventure by Omega's predecessor E-102 Gamma. During his story, he faces off against his older brother E-101 Beta for a spot on Robotnik's E-100 series of enforcer mechs and soundly defeats him in battle. Later on, after revolting against Robotnik, Gamma goes on a mission to destroy his brothers to save the animals trapped inside. After handily defeating all of his brothers, E-101 shows up again, having gotten a dramatic overhaul with abilities far surpassing Gamma's. Gamma is still able to defeat him without too much trouble, though Beta sees to it that Gamma doesn't leave the battlefield.
    • Sonic Adventure 2 has the Biolizard, the prototype ultimate life form which was enormous compared to its successor Shadow the Hedgehog. It was locked in suspended animation by GUN until Dr. Eggman reactivated it in the process of inserting the Chaos Emeralds into the Eclipse Cannon and sent the ARK hurtling towards Earth, after which it was defeated by Shadow but recovered and merged with the Eclipse Cannon in order to ensure that the colony would fall, only to be defeated again by the combined efforts of Super Sonic and Super Shadow. It is subverted in that the Biolizard seems to suffer from severe asthma, and even with a huge life support system attached to it, it can't sustain combat for half a minute without getting tired.
  • Demonbane has this trope play on two examples. First is the Destroyer Robot, while the prototypes are still far inferior to Magitek-based Deus Machina, at least it can withstand some beating. The mass production model can be destroyed by Demonbane's head vulcan guns and one of them even got disabled by Winfield, who punched through its sensor camera, on foot. The second examples are various grimoire, their original appear as little girls with magic power, the copies are just books.
  • The eponymous armor from Vay has been copied and mass-produced by the Danek Empire to create their massive robotic army. However, once the five magic orbs are retrieved and the Vay Armor's power is fully realized, it can stand toe-to-toe with almost anything Danek can throw at it.
  • Subverted and played straight in Homeworld Cataclysm: the player ship Kuun Lan subverts it as, while the second of the two Explorer-class ships built by the Soomtaw, has superior armour, engines and module capacity than the prototype due correction of design flaws discovered during construction, while the Soomtaw Acolyte-class fighter plays it straight, as it's based on a Bentusi design that is slightly faster, has about five times its number of hit points and sports guns about twice as powerful.
  • The Spartan-IIs of Halo serve as this to the Spartan-IIIs and IVs. The IIs tend to be larger, stronger, and just more naturally talented overall, due being subject to a much more stringent selection criteria than their successors. On top of all that, their MJOLNIR armor is far better than the III's SPI armor (though not the IV's GEN2 MJOLNIR). On the other hand, the IIs were also much more costly to produce and equip, and the process of augmenting them had a much higher failure rate than with the IIIs and IVs, making them much fewer in numbers and much less expendable. Halo: Reach gives a good example of this trope, where Jorge, The Big Guy of Noble Team and its only Spartan-II, towers above his Spartan-III squadmates and effortlessly carries a giant machine gun that the others would be greatly slowed down by.
    • The IVs are superior in both equipment quality and numbers compared to both the IIIs and IIs. However, while the former are highly-skilled volunteers drawn from the best veterans and recruits, the latter were both trained to be the perfect soldiers from childhood; this difference manifests itself most clearly in the somewhat unprofessional demeanor of some of the IVs. Word of God has also stated that the IVs' physical augmentations are inferior to those of their predecessors.
    • Averted by the Spartan-I program, which did not have the success that the later programs did; if Sergeant Johnson is any indication, they're just slightly better than the best Badass Normals. In fact, the Spartan program as a whole had to be renamed from "Project Orion" in order to distance the S-IIs from their predecessors (who themselves were retroactively renamed "Spartan-Is" to acknowledge they did provide the necessary data for the success of the later programs).
    • There's also the HRUNTING/YGGDRASIL Mark I Powered Armor, which was this to the Mark IX "Mantis" Mini-Mecha. Whereas the Mark I had flight, rockets, chainguns, mines, a bubble shield, and a nuclear self-destruct system, the Mantis only has a chaingun, a rocket launcher, and standard Deflector Shields; the latter's still a force to be reckoned with, though.
  • Xenogears normally averts this trope, and hero Gears are usually either Ace Customs or relics of Lost Technology. The one major case of a prototype that's clearly superior to the followup model is Grahf's Alpha Weltall, which is built using 4000-year-old Lost Nanotechnology that can't be replicated in the modern world. Fei's Weltall is essentially a kitbashed knockoff designed by modern engineers, and is itself a Flawed Prototype; several of the compromises in the original design are patched out when Weltall is redesigned by Taura.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey has the insanely overpowered Lightning, which is in many ways a fully-retrofitted version of the game's standard dimensional-crossing warship. It's got even Reality Warper tech (too energy-consuming to move or deploy the plasma shield, but still...) even in-game, the difference between the Lightning and the other ships is explicitly compared to a fully-tuned and upgraded car against one fresh from the dealership.
  • Zigzagged in the X-Universe series. Prototype vessels tend to fare differently than their production versions, some having quirks that make them better or worse (such as higher weapon energy recharge but lower rudder speed). That said, some ships designated as prototypes fit the trope: The Paranid Hyperion Vanguard is a limited prototype run of Corvettes that far eclipses all other corvette classes (Among its many advantages, its the only one that can carry fighters and is either the top or tied for top in terms of speed, durability, and offensive potential amongst M6 vessels). The Hyperion Vanguard never entered full production run however (Which is why they cannot be bought by the player - only acquired through boarding existing copies). And all prototype ships, once they're acquired, can be reverse-engineered and then produced in the Player Headquarters in practice like the factory-produced versions. The only ship that cannot be reverse-engineered is the Xperimental Shuttle, making it Too Awesome to Use.
  • As one might expect from a Gundam game, Gihren’s Greed has its share of Super Prototypes. However, it plays the "production cost" angle brutally straight; building an army of Gundams is prohibitively expensive, but a force of GMs will do the job at a fraction of the cost, so super mobile suits are best used as force multipliers in the hands of your aces.
    • This is actually mentioned with the Prototype Gundam Mk-II's backstory: the machine was stupidly powerful and was made with performance over cost in mind; thus, when it was done, it was a machine that couldn't be piloted unless you were extremely skilled (or a Newtype) and it cost as much as a fleet of Pegasus-class warshipsnote 
  • Another Gundam game, The Blue Destiny, features the three prototype Blue Destiny units, based on The 08th MS Team's RX-79(G) Gundam Ground Type units, extensively modified with a new control system. BD-1 used a GM head and was still ground-based, while BD-2 and BD-3 both sported Gundam heads and were modified for space use. Their control systems were based on a Zeon prototype, the MS-08TX(EXAM) Efreet Custom, whose designer defected from Zeon to the Federation.
    • Blue Destiny received a pseudo-sequel called Missing Link, which focuses on an offshoot of the EXAM project known as the HADES system. Only one prototype ever has the system installed: the RX-80PR Pale Rider. It's so powerful that the unit is still effective 10 years later, during the Neo-Zeon Wars, where it is finally taken down in a Mutual Kill with a Queen Mansa (one of the most successful Mobile Armor designs Neo-Zeon ever produced).
  • Wipeout 2048 features unlockable prototypes which each has a huge drawback, but can be powerful compared to regular racers.
    • The first unlockable Prototype: The Feisar Prototype, can exceed massive speed but it only speeds up when hitting speed pads.
    • Second unlockable: The Auricom Prototype. It deals a decent amount of damage and doesn't get slowed down or wipes out when hit by a weapon. It can't pick up defensive weapons though and if you aren't careful, you won't notice when your craft is on low energy.
    • Third unlockable: AG-Systems Prototype. Fast, ultra-agile and hard-hitting, but has the weakest shielding in the game.
    • Fourth unlockable: Qirex Prototype. Sacrifices normal weapons for a special cannon which is even more powerful than the Plasma Bolt itself.
    • Final unlockable: Pir-Hana Prototype. The fastest ship in the game hands down, but cannot steer without airbrakes.
  • Star Trek Online reveals that the prototype of the Advanced Escort ships, the U.S.S. Prometheus from Star Trek: Voyager was this, as the mass produced Advanced Escorts removed the Multi-Vector Assault Mode (which allowed it to separate it into three parts) due to parts being easy to damage. Then, they put it back for the special variants.
    • For a fun thing, one of the purchasable add-ons is the NX prefix for all Federation ships. As it is cosmetic, there's nothing big about it beyond RP material, but with all the special high-ranking gear, you could pretty much say that you are flying a Super Prototype.
  • World of Tanks is rife with this. Many of the more powerful vehicles are prototypes that were never produced in any significant number in Real Life, but any number of them can be used in the game. They also lack the flaws that made them Awesome, but Impractical in reality. Many of the tier upgrades are from real tanks to prototype upgrades that never saw service.
    • To give you an idea of the extent of it, of the 32 Tier X (the most powerful. Count as of patch 8.10) Tanks/TD's/SPG's, three were ever mass produced, with one having just over 200 built.
    • Although in most cases, the super prototype is a prototype of the next tank, where the next tank might be overpowered for gameplay purposes. For example, the Germans get prototypes of the Tiger, Panther, and Leopard tanks. The prototypes are tougher and perform better than any of their lower-tier vehicles in their tech tree... but do not perform better than the Tiger, Panther, and Leopard themselves.
  • Guilty Gear: Gears are artificially-engineered Humanoid Abomination Super Soldiers. The very first one ever created is leaps and bounds above the later ones in terms of power, cutting a swath through them and emerging unscathed in one encounter, but he seems to be the only one of his type. This Gear is Frederick, the brilliant scientist who created the Gears in the first instance, though he goes by the name Sol Badguy now.
  • No Man's Sky features prototype spaceships in each of its three ship classes (Trader, Explorer, and Fighter) that are incredibly rare (not to mention extremely cost-intensive) but are leaps and bounds above most of the other ships you can find.
  • The ultra-powerful Genesis Weapons wielded by the ARKS Council of Six in Phantasy Star Online 2 are actually the first photon weapons ever made. Every usable weapon in the game utilizes the same technology but severely scaled back for mass production, as the original units are too powerful for most people to be able to control.
  • Zone of the Enders has the Orbital Frame Jehuty, an Orbital Frame in its own tier of power compared to everything else. Unfortunately, due to very bad luck, it was launched without 90% of its equipment drivers installed, leaving its performance at the bare minimum of its specs. Even then it tears through other Orbital Frames, including ones produced years later. The bad news is: the bad guys got Jehuty's brother unit Anubis... and Anubis is at its full power. Do not try fighting Anubis before Jehuty has unlocked all of its equipment... it will not go well at all.

    Web Comics 
  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, uberninja Mongo, the result of early ninja gene experimentation, wields chainsaw nunchucks and has "All the speed, agility, martial arts ability [of a ninja], combined with giant like strength and general insane awesomeness." The reason they didn't make more? It's too expensive. The "Inverse Ninja Law" is an actual in-universe force and the maker knows this, so that might also be a factor.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court has a room full of them. Most notably, the first robot of the Seraph series, S1, looks much better than the more recent ones. And it has actual hands, rather than the simple claws of the later S models. The explanation given is that, since the original designer died, no one (not even the prototypes themselves) understands the cutting-edge technology underpinning them (for example, these robots have no visible power source, or motor, or means of moving their limbs). The robots were forced to simplify their designs just for future robot generations to survive.
    • This trope is actually deconstructed in time. When one of the first generation robots is revived, he's impressed by the design of his descendants, because their simpler parts are more efficient and easier to repair.
  • From Girl Genius: The one or two Dingbots that Agatha has actually personally built, referred to as Dingbot Prime, are much better in every way than their successors. This is because most Dingbots are built by other Dingbots, and each generation has diminishing returns in quality, leading inexorably to this trope.
  • According to Spinnerette, the 1st Edition Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook is indeed a magic book that the Drow-themed Evil Spinnerette uses to turn herself into a Drider.
  • Sonic the Comic – Online! has a prototype for an advanced Guardian Robot called the Gizoid.

    Web Original 
  • There's twenty-six Ilivais prototypes that fit this to a T in Ilivais X (well, twenty-five, as A is anything but "super". They range from having slightly stronger weaponry to controlling six classical elements at once to being powered by a freaking Perpetual Motion Machine, but all of them are way more powerful than the MP units. The Aztecs hardly rely on them — their tactics are built specifically to best make use of a One-Man Army unit.
  • Starwalker: Starwalker was built to test a new drive system
  • In the Dbagbo arc of The Solstice War several prototype tanks appear and duke it out, making the battle a showdown between their respective R&Ds (and the ace tank pilots responsible for each prototype). Of these, the Raktapata, an alternate universe version of the Soviet T-44 main battle tank a few years before its time is especially worthy of title, being seemingly indestructible if mechanically unreliable.

    Western Animation 
  • Megas XLR is both a super prototype and an Ace Custom (so customized, in fact, that no one but Coop can pilot it, simply because he changed the controls that much). Megas was originally a Glorft design, stolen by Kiva.
  • The eponymous character in Generator Rex. Rex's nanites come from an earlier batch that had already received full programming and testing. The nanites that were spread all over the world in the Nanite Event came from a later batch with incomplete programming.
    • Alpha, the Big Bad of the crossover with Ben 10, is a prototype model control nanite from when the creators were still working out a way to control the nanites. Alpha is so powerful he has the potential to destroy the world single-handedly!
  • The main character of My Life as a Teenage Robot is notably much smaller than the previous robot in the XJ line. She lampshades this in a late-series episode to which her creator explains that she had to cut down on her size to fit her personality in.
  • Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles has the Cybernetic Humanoid Assault System, or C.H.A.S; when introduced, it's a walking tank with heavy armour, enough strength to tear trooper bugs apart in hand-to-hand combat, a number of armaments, the sensors of a bomb-sniffing robot, and an "adaptive learning AI" — in essence, the ability to mentally grow and develop as a result of its experiences, something that leads it to performing a Heroic Sacrifice. Later versions, seen in a couple of episodes, are pretty much Mecha-Mooks and easily taken down by a single bug each. Justified when one remembers the end of the episode featuring the first C.H.A.S notes that the project was more or less scrapped because they were considered "less cost-effective" than human soldiers.
  • The Delightful Children From Down the Lane in Codename: Kids Next Door were the result of a botched experiment with the "Delightfulization Chamber". Essencially, the machine that made them so Brainwashed and Crazy worked far better and the effects were rendered permanent, but because it was an accident the effect could never be replicated.
  • In Transformers Prime, Predaking, the first Predacon clone, is an absolute powerhouse in battle, and turned out far more intelligent than his Decepticon handlers expected. The other Decepticons began to regard him as a potential threat, rather than an asset. The next two Predacons, Skylynx and Darksteel, were made dumber so they could be more easily controlled, and Predaking was able to defeat both of them at once in a fight.
  • Star Wars Rebels features a prototype of the B-Wing starfighter from Return of the Jedi. It has a powerful superlaser cannon that can take out a cruiser in one or two shots, but has several power issues that readily explain why the ones we see in the film don't.
  • In Phineas and Ferb, Norm's prototype head is capable of a wider range of emotions than the final model and doesn't speak in a monotone, but is a lot snarkier.

  • On expos showing new cars or military technology, the displayed products will almost always have superior stats or better looks than the finished versions. This however is because said prototypes, while more powerful, may have their stats so highpowered they become self-damaging from simply doing anything. Hence finished versions have to be toned down.

    Real Life 
  • As a general rule of thumb, there are two types of prototypes: concepts that barely work, and just demonstrate what the finished product could be; and stuff that has more buttons and features and flashing lights than you can imagine, and is prohibitively expensive or complicated to make on a wide scale. Super Prototypes are the latter category.
  • Performance automobiles enter this arena. It's not unusual for the actual prototypes to a new sports car to begin as non-functional mockups (sometimes even clay sculptures) to test things like aerodynamics and weight distribution. However when the vehicle is shown off at highly prominent car shows, automakers will reveal a pre-production model with body options and engine features that are not street legal, exuberantly expensive to manufacture, inherently dangerous (no safety equipment or pollution control), and even one-of-a-kind. These things can make the show car have performance capabilities above and beyond what the consumer would get from the production version without major aftermarket modifications.
    • One particular example was the Jaguar XJ220, unveiled as a concept for a car show and never intended for production, but so many were prepared to buy one they decided to modify it to make it suitable for production, taking deposits of fifty thousand pounds, non-refundable, locking buyers into contracts to oblige them to buy the final product at three hundred and fifty thousand pounds. The concept had everything a man in crisis could want - V12 powerplant to rival the Italian supercar brands, scissor doors, 4-wheel-drive, 4-wheel-steering; three years later Jaguar tells you the car has only rear-wheel-drive, front-wheel-steering, normal doors, and the engine is now only a V6 with awful turbo-lag, and the price had actually increased by over forty thousand pounds. You were given the option of buying your way out of the contract. Try to sue and the court will find in Jaguars' favour. Really, they wouldn't, under the right conditions, have ever needed to deliver a single car. World economic problems added to this, and eventually only 275 cars out of a projected 350 were built, and not all of them sold.
  • Bell P-39 Airacobra, whose prototype had powerful armament and turbosupercharger. USAAF wanted the production aircraft without the turbo and heavily armoured, reducing the performance dramatically.
    • Subverted with the Lend-Lease Airacobras supplied to the USSR. Because the Soviets used them in a completely different role (as low-altitude frontline fighters, instead of the high-altitude escorts), the lack of turbocharger didn't bother them much, as it mainly affected the high-altitude perfomancenote , but Soviet pilots appreciated the heavy armor and powerful armament very much. In the Soviet Union Airacobra turned out to be the Ace Pilot machine, and most of the Allies best aces flew P-39 during some part of their careers, but the original prototype probably wouldn't shine there so much, as it was geared for the different mission.
  • The world's first Nuclear Powered Aircraft Carrier, USS Enterprise (CVN-65) was a one of a kind super prototype of the later Nimitz Class carriers. Equipped with 8(!) nuclear reactorsnote  and advanced electronic systems on a unique square island structure the "Big E" was later surpassed in displacement by the Nimitz carriers, but remained the longest military vessel in the world until her retirement in 2013. The excessive cost of the Enterprise and its 8 reactor layout resulted in the Navy shelving the nuclear carrier concept with proposed sister ship USS America being re-ordered as a conventionally powered Kitty Hawk class carrier and the USS John F. Kennedy also being converted to conventional propulsion during construction. The US Navy would not commission another nuclear carrier until 13 years later in 1975.
    • Enterprise is the subject of a number of rumors about having an Up to Eleven top speed due to her large number of reactors with 50 knots the figure typically being cited. These are generally untrue with Enterprise achieving a 35 knot maximum speed like the fastest carriers with a conventional powerplant, however the 8 reactor plant allowed Enterprise to generate steam more quickly than her successors or her escortsnote  allowing for faster acceleration and less competition for steam between the catapults, electrical generators and engines.
  • The Pennsylvania Railroad was known to have built more than a few super prototype locomotives which were then never duplicated or scaled back for production. One of these was the class FF1 electric locomotive which was built in 1917 to test concepts related to electrifying steep mountain grades. Equipped with 4 1150hp synchronous AC motors the unit, nicknamed "Big Liz", developed a then astonishing 140,000 pounds of tractive effort. Unfortunately Big Liz turned out to be an example of Tim Taylor Technology. When pulling trains her power would pull out the couplers. When reassigned to pusher service Big Liz pushed with so much force that on one test train cars began to pop out of the middle. Big Liz was simply too much power in one locomotive for 1917 rolling stock.
    • The other PRR example was the class S1 duplex steam locomotive with its distinctive design became Trope Codifier for 1930's art deco streamlined locomotives even though only one was ever built. The longest steam locomotive ever built, the S1 spent its first two years of life on display at the 1939/40 New York World's Fair before being released to service. Designed to haul 1000 tons at 100 mph it frequently was capable of much more, but its great length restricted it to service on one section of main track between Crestline, OH and Chicago. It also had a nasty wheelslip problem that could destroy the running gear in seconds if not quickly corrected at high speed. The 52 production T1 class locomotives were much less ambitious while still providing stellar performance.
    • In the UK, the Great Eastern Railway Class A55 Decapod: a steam locomotive built to match the acceleration of then-current electric trains. Built to prove a political point, the design never went into production.
    • Zigzagged with the British Rail Standard Class 8 passenger steam locomotive. Only one was built, 71000 Duke of Gloucester, and performed poorly in service, burning too much coal and not producing enough power. Since BR was planning on getting rid of steam in the near future, it was decided not to go through the expensive and extensive engineering process of improving the Duke, which was withdrawn after only eight years of service. It was rescued from the scrapyard, however, and during its restoration it was found that the deficiencies were caused by minor flaws in design of certain elements, as well as certain features being altered or omitted on the order of higher-ups. With these flaws corrected, the Duke is not only one of the most efficient steam locomotives ever built, but is significantly more powerful than the diesels that replaced it.
    • The Intercity Experimental, prototype predecessor to the Intercity Express of Deutsche Bahn, had a lot of features that would only be seen in revenue service decades later or never. It also had a higher top speed (which is an Enforced Trope, as trial runs in Europe have to be done with the top speed +10% to give a safety reserve)
    • There were trial runs with prototype electric trains in 1903 on a military railway in Prussia that was equipped with prototype overhead wires for that purpose. The trains reached 200 km/h, but none of them ever entered revenue service and neither did the electrification system.
    • The British Advanced Passenger Train holds several records that have yet to be broken by regular trains on British Rails. It was plagued with trying to do too many things at once and ultimately killed by politicians who had expected it too early (meaning it was rushed to market before it was ready) and then complained of its "greenness". Some of the patents, notably that for active tilting were later sold to Italy and used to develop a new class of Pendolino tilting trains that have been sold - to Great Britain among others.
  • Early models of a new-concept product such as a digital camera, being designed by-geeks-for-geeks, can sometimes have advanced features (foldout screens, own programming language) which get dropped in later models as the product goes mass-market. This can lead to howls of dismay from enthusiasts, who were expecting a new model to improve everything, only to find that a choice feature has been removed to save money or dumb-down the product for the average consumer.
  • The Soviet WWII era T-34 tank plays this trope straight, subverts it and generally zigzags it ten ways to Friday. Initial prewar batches of it were more carefully built and better outfitted than the wartime construction, but the model 1940 variant with its petrol engine suffered various engine-related teething problems that made them difficult to use, quite unreliable and the maintenance hogs to boot.note  The model 1941 with the famous and reliable Kharkiv V-2 engine was brought into production and the T-34S variant with a three-man turret was tested as a prototype, but once the war started, the Soviets couldn't afford refitting the production lines to the T-34S variant. Wartime production models were incredibly rushed, crudely finished to the point of sometimes forgoing the paint, but the design itself was polished and improved. It didn't help that there were significant quality differences between the vehicles at different factories, with those from Factory 183 being the best and those from Factory 112 being notoriously unreliable. And then in the midst of a war the real Super Prototype tanks was designed, the T-43, which was a sort of answer to the Pz.V Panther and addressed all of the T-34 flaws than remained unsolved — but the realities of the war time made sure that it never was mass-produced, because it still was inadequately armored and doing so would once again mean stopping the assembly lines for as much as a whole month, meaning some thousands of T-34 wont get to the frontline. Instead, all of its features that could be applied to the T-34 without stopping the production (like a new transmission and new variant of the V-2 engine) were transferred to the old workhorse model along with a new, three-man turret, resulting in the definitive T-34-85 model.
  • Frequently happens in wartime with things that are going to be mass produced. A good example would be submachine guns. Both the Sten and MP-40 prototypes were carefully machined and had carved wooden furniture. When it came to the production models the wood gave way to wire and the guns were made by anybody with the ability to bash metal.
  • The MBT-70 was the direct precursor to the famous Leopard II and M1 Abrams main battle tanks, and for a while was technically superior to both. The catch? The fact that it required a practical PHD in engineering in order to operate meant that only a select number of people could operate it, and it certainly wasn't reasonable to devote a whole base of logistics for only a dozen tanks. The other problem was that the Germans and Americans at the time had incompatible ideas of what they wanted out their next main battle tank, which was why the American version of the MBT-70 carried a 152mm rifled gun that was also capable of launching missiles while the German version used a 120mm smoothbore gun that only fired shells. (In the end, both armies used the German gun for their later tanks, so if not for Pentagon stubbornness a further-developed and simplified MBT-70 probably would've worked out fine.)
  • When the Russians in The Oughts decided to develop a new Main Battle Tank, they pulled out all stops, the final result being an object 195 (better known as T-95) prototype. With its 6" cannon, an unmanned turret, radar, the 30 mm Anti-Air gun and all high-tech gizmos the money could buy, it turned out too large, too heavy and, most important, too complex and expensive to build more than a handful. Unsurprizingly, it was canceled in 2010, with most of its usable features migrating to a still very ambitious, but notably more reasonable object 148 (AKA T-14 Armata) MBT, first displayed in May 2015.
  • The M-26E1 "Super Pershing" (It's even in the name!) fits this to a T. A new model with an upgraded gun the very first pilot model was rushed into battle straight from the factory late in the war amid continuing calls for tanks with still more firepower to battle the very heaviest German vehiclesnote . Only this single unit was ever deployed in combat however and was then further modified by its mechanics by having scavenged armor welded onto it to improve protection before being assigned to an elite crew.
  • The demos for some games can fall in this category, showing graphical effects not present in the final product. One example was WatchDogs, with rain and lighting effects shown in its E3 trailer DummiedOut of the PC version.
  • Pre-release versions of the Kinect, a camera accessory for the Xbox 360, included a relatively beefy built-in processor to handle its functions without taking resources away from game performance. The processor was stripped out at the last minute to reduce the cost, making the final version much less versatile.
  • The US Navy's Seawolf-class nuclear attack submarine was originally meant to be a larger production run meant to replace the predecessor class in that role, the Los Angeles-class. Instead, only three were made. The Virginia-class, a more cost-effective (though not quite as capable) evolution of the Sea Wolf is instead slated to replace the Los Angeles class. and already have four times the number of the Sea Wolf, with many more planned.
  • The Heckler & Koch G11 is an experimental assault rifle which uses caseless ammunition, it has a slow full auto firing mode and an absurdly quick and accurate three round burst mode. It also looks boxy and futuristic thanks to its unique loading mechanism. Unfortunately, despite being a huge success, the cost inefficiency has terminated its production.