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Upgrade vs. Prototype Fight
Walton Simons: If you recall our chat in the breakroom at UNATCO, you know that I have the same augmentation technology as you.
JC Denton: Then this will be a good fight.
Walton Simons: With the exception that I have a newer version of the firmware.
Deus Ex

Few things are cooler than two robots fighting each other. But not all robots are created equal, and new models appear every day. Thus, to increase the tension, one of the robots will be more powerful than the other. The weaker one is usually the good guy, and makes it through the fight only through wits, pluck, and sheer force of will. Who will win? Easy, Underdogs Never Lose.

Note that this doesn't have apply solely to robots, just something created that has a successor.

Related to Super Prototype, David Versus Goliath. Compare Cain and Abel and Rock Beats Laser.


Anime and Manga
  • In the original Battle Angel Alita, the titular cyborg heroine Alita spends 10 years working as killer for a secret organization, who eventually decide to replace her with android replicas based on her combat data. When she finaly faces off against one of these AR (Alita Replicate) units, her former boss describes them as superior to her. In a subversion the replica does turn out to be superior and Alita only survives thanks to a friend's intervention. Ironical one of the copies decides that she wants to become an original on her by killing the other copies in order to show that she is better than them and the original. When she later faces off against Alita, she loses, playing the trope straight again.
  • Fairy Tail: Despite Natsu and Gajeel being first generation dragon slayers, they show themselves capable of curb-stomping third generation ones (dragon slayers who are not only taught by dragons, but have lacrima implanted in them).
  • In Shin Mazinger, Count Brocken hauls out Energer Z, the prototype of Mazinger Z, to fight Kouji and his robot. Energer Z proves to be the superior until Tsubaki reveals Zeus' hand and activates God Scrander.
  • In Shin Getter Robo vs. Neo Getter Robo, Shou and Gai end up piloting Neo Getter Robo against an army of Getter Prototypes piloted by members of the Dinosaur Empire. It's a massive curbstomp battle until Gou is able to reawaken Shin Getter Robo and has it absorb the prototypes' Getter Energy.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory, with the GP-02A "Physalis" Gundam (prototype) versus the GP-01 "Zephyranthes" Gundam (upgrade). The former is a new prototype version Gundam designed to deploy a nuclear warhead at close range, the later is a simple refinement of earlier Gundam designs. The Physalis is stolen in the first episode, and the Zephyranthes is deployed as part of the hunt to reclaim it.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam 00, twice over. In the final battle, the Setsuna pilots the 00-Raiser, the prototype for the Twin Drive System, against the Ribbons' Reborns Gundam, which was built from its data and improved upon. The two machines wreck each other, with the Reborns Gundam barely coming out on top. Thus, Ribbons switches over to the 0 Gundam, the prototype to all of the Gundams in the show, while Setsuna switches to a rebuilt Gundam Exia, which is a much stronger upgrade from the 0 Gundam, and destroys Ribbons and the 0 Gundam.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing:
    • The Tallgeese is an in-universe Super Prototype from which all other Mobile Suit designs originated, but was deemed too dangerous for the pilot and became nothing more than a museum exhibit and collector's curiosity. It's noted to carry a powerful beam cannon and incredible maneuverability, but to do this it was mounted with two very powerful vernier thruster jets. However there was no consideration for it's pilot and indeed when it was piloted by someone other than Zechs, it killed him from the G-force alone. The derivative Leo suit was designed with much lighter armaments and no jets. When the Gundams start raising hell of all kinds, the bad guys decide to Break Out the Museum Piece. The Tallgeese proves itself quite capable on the battlefield repeatedly afterwards with a good pilot inside it.
    • The Wing Gundam Zero is a subversion in that in-universe its design is 15 years old, but the suit wasn't built until during the series because the engineers originally thought it was too dangerous to build. The plans instead were passed on to each of the scientists and each made modifications to form the 5 subsequent Gundams. Its first major battle pitted it against a pair of Mobile Suits built to surpass the original five Gundams and it was ultimately used against the Epyon, which was built based on combat data of the original five.
  • There's a much earlier example in Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack: the Nu Gundam's psychoframe was built using data Char intentionally leaked to the development team so that Amuro could fight him on equal terms - data he collected while building the Sazabi's own psychoframe. In the final battle, the Nu Gundam completely trashes the Sazabi.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn has the Unicorn and its improved version, the Banshee. The two battle several times but a decisive outcome is never reached, although it is explicitly stated that Banagher is actively holding back the Unicorn to avoid hurting his opponent. In the end, the Banshee pulled a Heel-Face Turn and fought alongside the Unicorn as Back-to-Back Badasses, so the point became moot.
    • Another instance of this trope is the Sinanju Stein and the Unicorn, the Sinanju Stein being the testbed of the Unicorn's psycoframe that got stolen and remodeled to look like the Sazabi.
  • One of the final battles of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S had Fate facing against the Numbers Cyborgs Tre and Sette. Fate was the first successful Artificial Mage, while the Numbers Cyborgs are enhanced versions of that, with Tre in particular being the most powerful of the cyborgs in combat.
  • An early episode of Pokémon has Ash's Pikachu face off against Lt. Surge's Raichu, its evolved form. In the first battle, the older and more powerful Pokemon wipes the floor with Pikachu. Ash expects that the only way to for Pikachu to defeat it is to evolve as well, but his Pikachu doesn't want to evolve. Eventually they discover a solution: Since Raichu was evolved too quickly to learn speed attacks it was slower. So in a rematch Pikachu defeats it by dodging it over and over, until the Raichu gets impatient, attacks but uses its electricity supply too fast, and thus becomes an easy target for Pikachu to fell.
    • Mewtwo vs. Mew in Pokémon: The First Movie played out like this. Ultimately they turned out to be just as powerful as each other (unlike the games, where Mewtwo has greater stats but Mew has a wider movepool.)

Comic Books
  • The Starcraft: Frontline comics features a dogfight between a Viking, the Dominion's new experimental transforming gunship, and the Wyrm, the Viking's vastly inferior prototype.
  • In the Iron Man comics, Tony Stark has had to face off occasionally against advanced versions of his armor using older models. Some examples include when he battled his own armor gone Yandere in the Sentient Armor arc, and later facing off against Norman Osborn, who was using his Dark Avengers "Iron Patriot" suit, with a suit (literally) made in a cave, with a box of scraps. This idea was played with in Matt Fraction's "Five Nightmares of Tony Stark" storyline. In that story, a villain got his hands on some of Stark's tech, and used it to create armies of cheap, expendable Iron Men suicide bombers. Though Tony never fought the knock-offs directly, the situation was one of his titular nightmares: not a better version of his suit but a cheaper one, something that could be mass-produced.
  • The Carnage symbiote is less weak to attacks that affect Venom, plus it (and its user) are a veritable Swiss Army Knife of violence next to Eddie Brock's simple brawling style-but since Carnage is a villain next to Brock's Anti-Hero (and pretty often there's other heroes like Spider-Man there to help 'soften up' Carnage), Venom comes out on top. This is played with during the Minimum Carnage arc, where Flash is forced to emulate Carnage in order to defeat him.
  • As well, Hulk and Rulk (and Ultimates Hulk vs. Ultimate Abomination): Both are supposed to be 'improved' versions of The Hulk (among other things because they retain their full personality while Hulk is his typical "Hulk Smash!" self). Unfortunately, all of those improvements cannot really factor in that Hulk is just gonna get madder and more dogged to win such a situation... and eventually he's gonna get mad enough to be able to smash them flat, superior intelligence, battle tactics and powers be damned.
    Ultimate Hulk as he rips Ultimate Abomination's head off: "You think too much!"

  • Terminator:
    • Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a classic example. With the good guys, you have the T-800: powerful, sturdy, and good with weapons. But for the bad guys there is the T-1000: just as strong, just as smart, and able to morph its body into almost anything. The two face each other directly at the end of the film, and only barely does the T-800 win.
    • Later good T-800s similarly have had to face off against the T-1000000 (in T2-3D: Battle Across Time) and the T-X (in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines). The former is a gigantic spider-bot made of liquid metal and the latter is a much more powerful, tough and better equipped (and fully armed) endoskeleton with a liquid metal cover for better infiltration.
  • Iron Man
    • Iron Man has a sort-of example: The Iron Monger suit is based off research from the original Mark I armor, and is certainly larger and more powerful than Tony's. The latter's Mark III is also an upgrade, but is weaker because it's using the Mark I's old arc reactor. Tony managed to temporarily win against it due to him having tested his jets beforehand and knew that there was an icing issue at a certain altitude, which was why the Mark III was made out of a gold alloy rather than the steel one used in the Mark II, which Stane did not account for.
    • Iron Man 2: Rhodey puts on the Mark II and faces off against a drunken Tony in his Mark IV, but doesn't do too well initially because it's his first time using it and Tony's more experienced. However, he improves, while Tony is still drunk and they end up battling each other into a stalemate.
  • Played with in I Robot: U.S. Robotics releases a new NS-5 robot model. Of course, the robots inevitably rebel against their masters. The old model robots try to protect the humans, to no avail. Then Sonny, one of the NS-5s, is revealed to have a special prototype brain, which prevents VIKI from controlling him. Sonny helps detective Del Spooner to defeat the other NS-5s.
  • RoboCop 2. The OCP corporation decides to replace Robocop with Robocop 2, another robot with a human brain controlling it. At the climax of the movie, Robocop battles Robocop 2 to the death.
  • There's a form of this with The Incredible Hulk versus the Abomination. The former is the meek scientist Bruce Banner with an inferior version of the Captain America formula. The latter is the veteran marine Emile Blonsky with a more advanced version of the formula and the Hulk's blood. Consequently the Abomination is larger and stronger.
  • Solo involves the titular character being a prototype android built as a perfect fighting machine. When his programming develops flaws (i.e. conscience and compassion), he is ordered to be reprogrammed. Solo escapes into the Central American jungle and befriends the locals. After beating the vengeful Colonel Madden's soldiers sent after him, he faces off against Solo MkII, a more advanced android with Madden's face and a multi-barreled gun instead of one hand. Solo manages to beat the MkII having learned to bluff from a local boy and convinces the military that he died along with the MkII in the resulting explosion.
  • Toy Story 2 has Andy's Buzz vs Utility Belt Buzz. UB Buzz initially wins, still remembering his combat training, but later on Andy's Buzz takes advantage of UB Buzz still thinking he's a real astronaut by opening his helmet, causing him to panic and start choking.
  • The 2014 Robocop remake has Robocop beta-tested against the established line of battle robots. The trope gets played both ways, as Robo's "upgrade" (a human personality) causes him to lose despite his mechanical superiority, then a further upgrade (basically undoing the first) allows him to win.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger: The Red Skull is a superhuman who stole an imperfect augmentation formula, which disfigured him, turned him more evil than before, and gave him super-strength. Captain America is a Nice Guy who was given the completed formula, which made him stronger, even more heroic, and made ladies really take notice of him. The two of them clash at the climax but, being of equal strength, it's a difficult fight.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Cap's newest foe is the titular Winter Soldier, who is just as powerful as Cap but has a significant upgrade: a cybernetic arm with even more strength than his augmented flesh one. And seemingly no conscience.

  • Paul Bunyan the giant lumberjack once faced off against a giant chainsaw. He lost and left into the wilderness.
  • The legend of John Henry and his hammer. He technically won against the steam powered drill, but died in his exertion to do so.

Live Action TV
  • On Knight Rider, KITT (upgrade) vs. KARR (prototype). The new series also includes a battle between the two, but this KARR is actually a Transforming Mecha, while KITT can only transform into different cars.


Video Games
  • Sonic the Hedgehog
    • Sonic Adventure: Gamma the robot is made to fight his "brother" Beta, who is the more advanced of the two. To Dr. Eggman's surprise, Gamma wins, so he is charged with carrying out the doctor's missions. Later, Beta is rebuilt and battles Gamma again. Gamma just barely manages to win again, but unlike the previous battle it results in his death.
    • This also happens in Sonic Adventure 2 in the final story where the two Ultimate Life Forms fight. Shadow, the perfected one, vs the Biolizard, the failed prototype.
  • Metal Gear Solid: Solid Snake and Liquid Snake are both born from an experiment to create clones of Big Boss, one clone superior and the other inferior. Later, the two face off inside Metal Gears, Snake in the original REX mecha, and Liquid in the RAY mecha designed to hunt down REX.
  • A non-mechanical example happen in Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten with the biological weapons Desco and Des-X. Although the latter is supposed to be more advanced of the two, they actually have near identical stats and skills. The former actually gains her ultimate skill while the latter don't.
  • Halo 3's Terminals reveal that the Forerunners built an AI called Mendicant Bias to defeat the Flood, but he went rogue. To counter him, another AI was built called Offensive Bias, as his successor. Offensive wins but only because he was stalling for the Forerunners to fire the Halos that thus destroyed every organic being in the galaxy, robbing Mendicant's fleet of its crew.
  • At the end of Hitman: Codename 47, the genetically engineered clone Agent 47 faces not one, but an entire army of the new-and-upgraded "48" clones. He manages to defeat them, of course… (though it helps that he finds a minigun lying around.) To be fair, he has to kill one of the 48s to get said minigun.
  • In First Encounter Assault Recon, the Point Man, who is the first attempt by Armacham to create a psychic commander, manages to overcome Paxton Fettel, the second and successfull attempt, despite lacking psychic powers and thus being considered a failure.
  • BioShock 2: Whenever the player characters Subject Delta or Subject Sigma battle with production model Big Daddies.
  • Mega Man 3 has Mega Man face off against his "older brother" Proto Man (a.k.a. Break Man) a few times. Mega Man 7 repeats this as a Bonus Boss.
  • In the Prototype series this trope turns up several times: Alex Mercer (upgrade) vs. Elizabeth Greene (prototype) and Alex Mercer (prototype) vs. Supreme Hunter (upgrade) in the original game, and Alex Mercer (prototype) vs. James Heller (upgrade) in Prototype 2.
  • Almost happened in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords with HK-47 and the serial HK-50 models. However, time constraints forced the developers to cut the content, meaning your character won't fight any more HK-50s after reactivating HK-47. Played straighter in the sequel MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic, should you take your companion HK-51 to your encounter with HK-47, his predecessor. They'll also get into an argument over which series was superior.
  • Can be invoked by the player in Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War. After beating the game once, the ADFX-01 superplane is unlocked, and able to field either a Tactical Laser System, Multi-Purpose Burst Missile, or an Electronic Warfare Pod. Then they can take that plane into battle against the final boss, which uses an ADFX-02 that has all the aforementioned weapon systems. However, if you're fielding the laser, he goes down in three hits when it took dozens of normal missiles to do the same.
    • You can also do this with its technical descendent, the FALKEN.
    • Also invokable in Ace Combat Infinity, this time with the Block1 Morgan versus the prototype Morgan.
  • Xenogears has a few. The most obvious is Maria's Siebzehn (prototype) vs his father Nikolai's Achtzehn (upgrade). We also have Fei's Weltall vs Grahf's Alpha/True Weltall, but although Alpha Weltall is a Super Prototype using Lost Technology, Fei's Weltall is more an Ace Custom inspired from the former and can't really be considered an "upgrade".
  • Splinter Cell: Conviction has this. While storming his former HQ, Sam Fisher battles several newer Splinter Cell agents. Of course, being the first Splinter Cell ever created, he easily trashes all of the Upgrades despite being outnumbered.
  • Several examples of forces co-opting one another's equipment show up in Mass Effect 3 multiplayer. For instance, the second multiplayer DLC pack introduces Project Phoenix, ex-Cerberus agents who use new biotic lash technology in close-quarters fighting. In the fourth pack, Cerberus finally fields their own version, the Dragoon. True to the trope, the enemy version is tougher and more numerous, but the player's customization ability gives them a decisive edge. The N7 forces, released in the Earth pack, show a few examples of this with Cerberus's own troops as the "prototypes" (making this more of a Mook vs. Ace Custom match). For instance, the Demolisher Engineer shares many similarities with a Cerberus Combat Engineer, as does the N7 Paladin with the Cerberus Guardian. The N7 Shadow and N7 Slayer are an unusual example in that they're both upgrades of the same unit, the Cerberus Phantom, albeit focusing on different abilities of the original.
  • In the finale of Einhänder, it's revealed that your mission was to fight Earth forces in a Suicide Mission to get battle data for the latest unmanned EOS fighters' AI. Your superior Hyperion then tries to off you after that, so you end up fighting two entire squadrons of them (and another one after that after you off Hyperion). You win.
  • In Tekken, JACK (and subsequent versions) vs Prototype JACK. It's even in his name.

Visual Novels
  • Gilgamesh vs any other Servant's Noble Phantasm ends up like this. The king who possessed all the treasures of the world, every myth and every mythical object is a descendent of the original prototypes possessed by him. Because Older Is Better in the Nasuverse, this places him on a tier unreachable by other Heroes. "The King of Heroes" is titled such for a reason.

Web Comics
  • The fight between Klik and Evil Klik in Goblins is this trope to a t; with an older model facing off against a stronger, more violent, evil model. The underdog doesn't win in this one, though.

Western Animation
  • Dexter's Laboratory:
    • In the Dynomutt Dog Wonder crossover "Dyno-Might," the original Dynomutt confronts the out-of-control Dynomutt X-90 Dexter created to replace him, but X-90 dismisses him, declaring that the "Dynomutt prototype" is no threat. Dynomutt quickly proves him wrong.
    • The episode "Robo-Dexo 3000" has Dexter replace his Humongous Mecha Robo-Dexo 2000 with the new-and-improved Robo-Dexo 3000. However, when the RD 3000 dismisses Dexter's plan to deal with an alien energy thief and ejects him, Dexter takes back the RD 2000. It's ultimately a Defied Trope, however: by the time Dexter arrives on the scene, the energy thief has sucked the Robo-Dexo 3000 dry.

Trial by CombatDueling TropesWizard Duel
Stronger with AgeOlder Is Better    
Unnecessarily Creepy RobotRobot Roll Call    
Unusual Weapon MountingMecha TropesVertical Mecha Fins
Unnecessary Combat RollFight SceneUntouchable Until Tagged

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