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Super Prototype

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Left: Seraph 1.
Right: Seraph 13.

"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 — be it 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. To some degree, this trope is Truth in Television, with the typical reasons given in fiction more-or-less matching those given in real life. These include:

  1. Experimental Prototype which was 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 right-hand 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. In this instance, a common flaw for the Hero to have is that because the prototype is meant for performance but not longevity, there are no proper safeguards in place to protect the user or others nearby. This can lead to a power overload or damage to the prototype and/or the hero, effectively giving them a whole load of Dangerous Forbidden Techniques, in addition to the experimental technology itself.
  2. Overclocked Prototype which touches on aspects of a Flawed Prototype, a version which is more powerful but has a Drama-Preserving Handicap that the others don't. For the real-world equivalent, think of a phone or laptop. The latest model released isn't the absolute most powerful that the engineers could make, but it is the most powerful they could make that could last more than five minutes before shutting down or exploding. Basically, the mass-produced version that made it out of the lab is weaker because anything stronger can't be used for a prolonged period of time without too many drawbacks. Naturally, the hero is completely willing to take those drawbacks, even if the consequences can include things far more extreme like "break your back from the acceleration", "being driven insane" or "stuck in an another dimension".
  3. Overtuned Prototype that reaches into an Ace Custom, a version that takes engineering from the current rank-and-file model but is actually their intended successor. It is supposed to be an upgrade over the current standard, but justifies having any number of flaws in its systems or design by still being experimental and not properly tested.
  4. Enigmatic Prototype that has a foundation in a Black Box system, ancient Lost Technology, some form of incredible new material or otherwise created with Mad Science that no one else fully understands. It is thus unreplicable in its' entirety until someone can reverse engineer it. In fiction, a popular setup is when the prototype is made by a genius and only they fully understand the technology behind it. So when the genius dies and the prototype goes missing, the bad guys may have the notes and schematics, but there's only so much that they can figure out without the prototype itself. As a result, only weaker or imperfect versions of the prototype can be made. This gives the bad guys a strong motivation to retrieve the prototype, since studying it could allow them to produce perfect replicas. The hero must then keep it out of their hands at all costs. This is often used for more inexperienced heroes as it justifies the enemy not using all their resources against the heroes for fear of damaging the prototype.
  5. Fusion Prototype is when it was based on a known design but gained its' unique properties in an unexpected way. Maybe it was tampered with by outside forces, its onboard computer suddenly became self-aware, it fell into a giant vat of chemicals, the pilot has a special bond with the machine or was struck by a radioactive magical space rock. Regardless of the circumstance, what was once a tame improvement or even a standard device is now a unique existence that is much more than its original designs could ever have anticipated. Since nobody understands exactly what happened to change the original, attempts to replicate it with just the now-outdated schematics invariably produce lesser versions of it.
  6. High-Cost Prototype is when the simplest answer is a matter of cost and resources. The power core has three times the output but cost five times more, a cheaper engine can't move the invincible armor so they have to reduce weight, a BFG is way too limited in extended combat so it's replaced with a basic infantry package, etc. This often results in a general function Jack of All Stats and Master of None, but with a collection of high spec prototypes which alternate between faster speeds, heavier armor and specialty ranged weapons. Streamlining functionality is often the key process of mass production since replacement parts become easier to access and the cost of producing something grows non-linearly with complexity. Real wars (and markets) are won with efficiency of masses, not outstanding individual performances; over the course of history, many schools of thought perished over failing to adhere to this principle.

All that said, the real reason this tends to show up in any given story is to let The Hero be that much more awesome than everyone else.

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.

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.

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    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.
  • In the 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.
  • 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.
  • The Boys goes at this from every angle. Though it's not commonly known, every superhuman in the series is the result of "Compound V", a Super Serum created by Dr. Jonah Vogelbaum, a German scientist who fled the Nazi regime with his Super Prototype former Hitler Youth member Stormfront, a Flying Brick stronger than the vast majority of characters. However, Stormfront is nowhere near as powerful as his Ace Customs The Seven in general and his Magnum Opus Homelander in particular - and all of them cost truly ridiculous amounts of money. The protagonists got their enhanced strength and resilience from a Compound V knockoff that cost nineteen billion dollars per shot. When Vogelbaum died, the Mega-Corp that licensed them just plain stopped production, switching to recruiting "naturally occurring" superhumans — that actually got their powers from their constant experiments with the serum having contaminated the environment, causing random mutations that never really stack up to the Ace Custom nature of the original generation. Also, Vogelbaum didn't really die, but was recruited by the government to make The Boys' serum.
  • 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 & Black, and William Burnside, the 50's Cap) to creating the Hulk (Ultimate Marvel) and the Weapon Plus program (Wolverine, aka Weapon X/Ten; Steve 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.
  • It's suggested heavily in 52 that the Emerald Eye of Ekron (best known as the weapon of Legion Of Superheroes villain Emerald Empress) was essentially an early version of what would eventually become the Green Lantern rings. If that's the case, then they clearly broke the mold, as Emerald Empress is consistently shown as able to overpower Green Lanterns and Kryptonians, and has never shown any need to charge the Eye or any trouble with the traditional yellow weakness. On the other hand, it does have a rather unusual Kryptonite Factor (literally; for some reason kryptonite works on it).
  • The Incredible Hulk:
    • In a way, the Hulk is this for the other gamma mutates. While created by accident, Hulk was the first gamma mutant, and most following gamma beings (The Leader, The Abomination, Madman, Ravage, Red Hulk, etc) were created either by recreating that accident or copying his DNA. While some (Abomination and Ravage) have higher base-line strength than the Hulk, and most other gamma beings retain their higher intelligence (though not necessarily their full personality) while transformed, whereas the Hulk is most often shown to be a savage, which could be considered improvements, the Hulk's potential strength (increasing with anger) and secondary powers (Healing Factor, psychic resistance), as well as a somewhat intangible quality that makes the Hulk seemingly impossible to permanently cure, has shown that the Hulk, while flawed, is the most powerful gamma being created.
    • Another factor in the Hulk's Super Prototype-ness is the fact that Bruce Banner's psyche is so damaged, because of abuse he suffered as 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!
    • Although in Hulk (2014) Doc Green (yet another Hulk persona) once stated that She-Hulk is the Hulk's Superior Successor. The rest of the gamma crew are all a mess in one way or another, with their power and potential squandered by their psychological issues. But Jennifer has proven to be the most stable and heroic of them, which is why she is the only one he doesn't De-power.
    • It's hinted in Immortal Hulk that the Hulk may hold a different position vis-a-vis gamma radiation than the mutates who came afterwards, being associated with the idea of the keeper of the gamma door.
  • 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).
  • There's also Norman Osborn being the super prototype for the Goblin Formula. It was meant to increase intelligence, but also added Super-Strength, insanity and a powerful Healing Factor. Most other Goblin Formula users tend not to get the Healing Factor and double down on the insanity portion.
  • Robin (1993): Tim's Redbird is technically the prototype of a self-driving Wayne Tech car. The Redbird's ability to shift panels and its armor and many other capabilities are not included in the car, which never reaches full production but does appear at a car show as a promotional event.
  • The Silver Surfer is the most powerful or second most powerful Herald of Galactus. He was the first person to make the deal with Galactus and as such Galactus gave him a higher level of Power Cosmic than other succeeding Heralds. Even Heralds that are good friends with Galactus, such as Airwalker, haven't been given close to the amount of power the depowered Surfer got, let alone what he had originally. The only Herald to rival or exceed his power is Cosmic Ghost Rider, who's from an alternate future several millennia ahead during a very desperate time for Galactus, carries a number of artifact-level magical weapons (including a chain made from the bones of Cyttorak), and has the Spirit of Vengeance powers as well.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics), the Metal Sonic Troopers — which both Rotor and Uncle Chuck designed and built, based upon 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.
  • Super Dinosaur is superior to the successive Dino Men because of his armor which grants him unparalleled firepower.
  • 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.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): In this Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) fanfiction, Monster X precedes the Many's creation and is described by the author as a prototype to them. Unlike the Many, whilst Monster X is rebellious to Ghidorah's will, Monster X is also a lot more sane and capable of thinking for themselves. Keizer Ghidorah itself has a much higher regard for Monster X than it does for the Many, viewing its later "children" as little to nothing more than tools.
  • Another Way: Claire's bodyguard, Jonas, becomes the guinea pig for her experimental body enhancements, so at any given time, he's likely to be much stronger and tougher than the rank and file employees (to whom the enhancements trickle down later). He can bench press half a ton, and holds his own in melee against Hookwolf, while the Mercia in general are more like "highly athletic human plus subdermal armour".
  • 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 first models of the F-14E "Evangelions" (which in this alternate universe are experimental jet fighters rather than giant robots) 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.
  • Glitched Miko AU: Miko, as noted by her co-worker Zahra, is far more complex than any Glitch (i.e., living computer program) ever seen, with attention to detail so fine she's even coded to have individual blood cells. As a result, she can fully pass for human and Miko herself never suspected anything until she began regaining her memories and capabilities as a side effect of exposure to Glitch Tech equipment. The only one of her successors that comes close is M-2/Meico, who was made by other scientists in the lab attempting to recreate Professor Masaki's work, but whom the professor was tasked to finish the actual work on. Meanwhile, the M-3 units are far, far less complex than both girls; explicitly to allow for timely, larger-scale production, and implicitly because they're unable to figure out how Masaki managed to get the girls to grow beyond their programming. It's also implied that Miko and M-2 have an older sister that neither of them know of that may be the true super prototype.
    M-2: The mass-produced models are chumps. Dumb as a bag of rocks, those things are. We’re basically Terminators compared to them.
  • 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.
  • Played with in Marionettes. Trixie is the first Marionette, both as a whole and of the current Generation (her AI and the Magic Wand composing her horn having been transferred into a new body), and built to rival Sunset and Twilight in strength while Cover Story (another Marionette) is easily overpowered by the latter. However, the reason for this is because she was built to be The Rival to Sunset, and thus power was necessary, particularly since it was believed that Sunset and Twilight could become Alicorns. Another reason is the Magic Wand in her horn is one of two like it in existence, being one of Mage Meadowbrook's Enchanted Objects, and thus couldn't be replicated. Also Subverted overall, as generally the more advanced Marionettes are superior to the previous generations, including Trixie's new body to her original.
  • In Equestria: Across the Multiverse: All the Powered Armor suits have this for justified reasons. The prototype model (the 'Advanced' Model) for both the Paladin and RANGER Armors are far stronger than the mass production model, but are also impossible for a normal pony to use. The Advanced Model Paladin Armor's mana requirements are too high for anypony who's not exceptionally powerful (Shining Armor, Gifted Ponies, ect.) or has some magical artifact or ability (the Bearers, Alicorns, ect.) to actually sustain them for extended periods, thus the mass production versions, while much weaker, can be used by anyone while the Advanced versions are reserved for those who can actually use them. The RANGER armor's prototype turned out to be far too strenuous for a normal pony to use and Sincere Heart (Shining Armor's Tales universe Alternate Self) is the only pony available who can properly use it, while the mass production model is usable by anyone. The only suit not the have this trope attached is the Bard Armor, but that's because it runs on Innocence Magic, and only certain ponies can use that anyway.
  • In Codex Equus:
    • it turns out Machina's (an island nation of benevolent Mad Scientists) Colossus, a 100 meter tall 'mech golem with more weaponry than some armies and self-awareness is this. Later on, Machina creates the mass production Colossus units, which are much smaller (only 20 meters tall), have weaker armor, and far less heavily armed with no capacity for sapience.
    • The Stone-Piercer Bow, the signature weapon of the Starlight Stones (an Equestrian special forces squad), is a magically built bow designed to work with the Stones' Super-Toughness allowing them to pull weights that a normal Earth Pony couldn't. This, as the name suggests, makes them powerful enough to easily shoot an arrow through solid rock. However, the draw weight is too much for a normal Earth Pony, as a mass production version was made that's far weaker just so normal Earth Ponies can actually use it.

    Films — Animated 
  • Patlabor: The Movie: The AV-X0 "Type Zero" which was supposed to be an advanced replacement for the AV-98 Ingrams used by Division 2. 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 only barely managed to subdue it with a shotgun to the brain. Seeing as the Type Zero wasn't seen in the subsequent films (the AV-02 Valiant shows up instead), it can be assumed that the design was abandoned.
  • In UglyDolls, it is revealed that Lou is a prototype doll and the base mold of the Perfection Dolls. Most of his anger is steeped in the fact that he's unable to be given to a child, forced to watch the others pass on, as prototypes aren't meant to be sold.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Batman Begins had most of Batmans' gear be acquired from rejected R&D prototypes from Wayne Enterprises. The suit was rejected by the army because it was too expensive, while Bruce customized the suit to his preferences along with combining the built-in harness to work with a Grappling-Hook Pistol. The Tumbler was designed for jumping gaps to lay cables for bridges, the bridge system didn't work right but the vehicle itself was an impressive high mobility tank. This set a precedent across different media that much of Batmans' gear is him adopting and repurposing existing prototypes instead of custom building everything from scratch.
  • Firefox has two of the titular planes, and centers on the theft of one of them. Though in this case, it was the inferior version that was stolen (the Firefox taken by the US lacks the aerial refuelling capacity that the other one had).
  • Inspector Gadget (1999): Gadget and his Evil Twin RoboGadget are these. Gadget himself doesn't become a Flawed Prototype until Inspector Gadget 2.
  • The Indominus rex from Jurassic World is the first fully developed hybrid dinosaur born partly as a tourist attraction and partly as a testbed for train military hybrid dinosaurs. She's 18 feet tall, incredibly strong, highly intelligent and extremely durable with a camouflage ability. Her only physical threats are the park's resident elderly T. Tex, who still needed some help, and the much larger Mosasaurus. She's also insane and completely uncontrollable. The second attempt created the Indoraptor, while still intelligent and unhinged, is a fraction of the size and designed to respond to an infra-red targeting device. It's also something of a failed prototype itself as it has a genuine nasty streak and its' creators were looking for something more tameable, in addition to struggling in a fight against Blue, a Velociraptor a third of its size but with hunting and fighting experience.
  • In The Last Starfighter, Alex's Gunstar is stated to be an advanced prototype for the next model of Gunstars, featuring improvements in weapons, armor, and other experimental systems such as the Death Blossom. Because it's still a work-in-progress, it's kept in a separate area of the base from the main hanger, which is why it's the only Gunstar not destroyed in Xur's sneak attack which destroyed most of the Starfighters' base. Since it's the only Gunstar they've got left, they have no choice but to use it despite it being largely untested.
  • In the film version of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Canon Foreigner Lurtz appears to be one of these. He is the first Uruk-hai created by Saruman, and shown to be strong and skilled enough to shoot Boromir to death and give Aragorn a very close fight. The Uruks under his command don't pose half as much of a threat, and the ones that fight at the Hornburg one movie later are largely cut down en masse.
    • Word of God is that this was deliberate. The design crew wanted to subtly imply that the Uruk-hai, as artificial lifeforms and perversions of nature, were flawed and quick to degenerate physically and mentally. Each time an individual Uruk-hai is seen it looks progressively older and in worse physical condition, because they are literally falling apart on the genetic level.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • 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. It was also designed for Para-Rescue. Among the U.S.'s special forces units, Para-Rescue is among the most difficult to succeed in, on par with Seal Team 6, if not outright more difficult. Training is often nicknamed "Superhero School". Given that it would naturally have a low radar profile, it was probably meant to be a poor man's Iron Man but was too costly, too narrow in mission, and had little-to-no body armor to protect the much more valuable man wearing it.
    • Retroactively, Iron Man 3 made Tony's first Powered Armor suits (particularly the Mark VII he used in The Avengers (2012)) into these. Whereas Tony's first suits were made with quality over quantity, a new suit only being created to encompass several improvements at once, the dozens of suits he made between then and this film were comparatively slapdash, gimmicky, and overall individually impractical.
    • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 establishes that Rocket serves as this for the High Evolutionary. An Uplifted Animal created via Meat Grinder Surgery, he was only an experiment while the Evolutionary developed his more elegant Ani-Men. However, Rocket developed intelligence and creativity unique to him among the many experiments. The Evolutionary felt most of his creations failed due to Creative Sterility and was furious that a crude "monster" like Rocket was the sole exception. Most of the film's conflict is driven by the Evolutionary's attempt to capture Rocket and dissect him.
  • 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 failed 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.
  • 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 different model similar to 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 a droid army in which every soldier was capable of intelligent thought might turn against them.
    • Mandalorian armor is highly customized to the individual, but typically decked out with numerous weapons and gadgetry. Clone Trooper armor was based on Jango Fetts' Mandalorian armor but standardized and simplified.
  • Terminator Salvation: The T-800 prototype fought at the film’s climax is more resilient than the standard T-800s encountered in previous films. Notably, it survives exposure to molten metal, which killed a T-800 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. That being said, since it’s made clear that Skynet is aware of the time travel of the previous films, it’s possible it learned the T-800s' weaknesses and made them stronger in the new timeline.
  • Ultra Galaxy Legend Gaiden: Ultraman Zero vs. Darklops Zero has the debut of Darklops Zero, a powerful robotic duplicate of Ultraman Zero serving as the primary antagonist, which takes multiple battles and practically the entire film for Ultraman Zero to finally destroy... before the final scene reveals Darklops to be just a prototype. Further Darklops models have reappeared in later installments, but they're nowhere as dangerous or as intelligent as the original, where several of them gets defeated with ease in their next appearance, Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial while a trio of watered-down Darklopses plays a random Monster of the Week in Ultraman Geed years later.

  • 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.
  • Chrysalis (RinoZ): Anthony, "the Eldest", effectively becomes this to the Colony, setting out the path for other ants to follow, but being individually much stronger than them as a result of gathering more biomass and cores — including special cores — with each evolutionary stage. The council of twenty, first of the new Formica Sapiens hatchlings, later serve a similar purpose, getting extra resource investments beyond the ants that will follow, even an additional "Special Hatchling" evolution, in order to help them lead. Justified because it's not practical to spend that many cores on every single ant.
  • In Daemon, the first AutoM8 is an armored, solid-tired Hummer that is Immune to Bullets. Later versions use normal cars as a base and are thus less survivable.
  • In Legends of Dune, Norma Cenva becomes the first Navigator. Unlike all subsequent Navigators, Norma has much more considerable Psychic Powers and is even capable of folding space on her own, without the use of a Holtzman engine. However, this is because of her Sorceress of Rossak genes, which none of the other Navigators possess.
  • 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.
  • The setting of Noob has the Empire's elite troops consist of an extreme case of Magically Inept Fighter called neomancers: a special injection cuts them off from the world's magic system in exchange of what amounts to Bio-Augmentation. It's known from the start that the injection contains genetic material from various beings that one could expect to find in a fantasy Adventure-Friendly World. The third novel reveals that mix is technically cells from Tabris, an entirely artificial super-being that was so powerful that the world's Physical Gods considered it a treat and requested his destruction in exchange of a very big favor. The neomancers are individually extremely weak by comparison to Tabris.
  • In Paranoia, the optical chip — a new technology that would revolutionize the entire technology industry — 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Star Trek: The Lost Era: "The Buried Age" gives this as the reason the Excelsior-class stays in operation for over eighty years. The first and original may have been a Flawed Prototype in that it epically failed to do the thing it was designed for, but that still left Starfleet with a class of ship designed for the stresses of transwarp drive that actually worked pretty well in every other aspect.
  • 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.
  • Nightblood from Warbreaker is revealed by Word of God to be the first attempt at replicating a Rosharan Shardblade using Nalthian Awakening. Nightblood is sapient and one of the most powerful entities in The Cosmere, second only to the Shards of Adonalsium, but he also devours the soul of anyone who draws him... and can compel most people to draw him. Subsequent refinements of the technique are considerably less powerful, but far safer to use.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Airwolf: the titular Airwolf had unique technology and the only remaining blueprints for it was stored in its databanks. There were 2 experimental helicopters made to rival or exceed the Airwolf, but while the HX-1 had more firepower with its multiple missile launchers it was also a cruder vehicle. The Redwolf was an attempt to make a new version of Airwolf with what existing info the F.I.R.M still had and it had a nice laser weapon but still couldn't match the Airwolf.
  • 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 Skull 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.
  • Doctor Who: Dalek reconnaissance scouts were the first kind of Dalek to leave Skaro in search of new worlds to conquer. As a result, they have capabilities beyond those of normal Daleks, such as being able to mind-control people. However, because they are from the early days of the species, their casings lack features such as Deflector Shields that modern, post-Time War Daleks have, which provide a glaring weak point for enemies to exploit.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Kamen Rider Agito: The first suit of Kamen Rider G3 armor is this, especially after being upgraded to the G3-X. Even the original G3 was stronger than the mass-production G3 Mild model, which was eventually mothballed due to its inadequacy compared to the prototype. When Agito is revisited in Kamen Rider Zi-O, it's revealed that G3 Mild was abandoned in favor of mass-producing the original G3 design, but G3-X remains the most powerful version and a one-off.
    • Kamen Rider 555: Zigzagged. The prototype Delta Gear provides the highest overall boost to its wearer's physical attributes, is regarded with fear and awe during the story arc in which it is introduced, and doesn't include the element of Power at a Price that its successors deliberately introduced in a failed effort to prevent a Phlebotinum Rebel. However, it lacks any of the supplementary gadgets or expansion slots that the Faiz and Kaixa Gear have, which makes a fully upgraded Faiz much more powerful than Delta, while a fully upgraded Kaixa breaks even. Faiz itself is the super prototype to the mass production Riotrooper Gear, which is for use by Mooks and combines all of the worst traits of the three prototypes.
    • 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 or when a second Birth user is needed.
    • 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 Gaim has the Forbidden Ringo and Dragon Fruits Energy Lockseeds as straight examples, and the Yomotsuheguri Lockseed as a subversion. Forbidden Ringo and Yomotsuheguri were created at an early stage of research of the Helheim Forest, while Dragon Fruits is the prototype for the other Energy Lockseeds. All three are vastly more powerful than most other Lockseeds, but Forbidden Ringo and Dragon Fruits will both eventually overload and turn the user into an Inves. Yomotsuheguri, meanwhile, is super on paper, but it has the much more straightforward drawback of killing the user, which it does so painfully that it's nearly useless in actual combat.
    • 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.
    • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: The prototype Gashats are more powerful than the regular ones, but cause permanent damage and disfigurement if used by a human even if they're compatible. For a Bugster, though, they can be used to transform into much more powerful versions of the oriignal ten suits. The prototypes also serve as the collective Soul Jar for anyone killed by the Bugster Virus, and can be used to revive them.
    • Kamen Rider Build: The Build Driver is the original belt the other transformation items in the show were based on, and most of them are supposedly stronger than it... but Sento builds and/or receives so many upgrades for it that it ends up vastly outclassing all of the later versions. It's very telling that by the time of the NEW WORLD special episodes, everyone using the supposedly more powerful later designs dropped them for customized Build Drivers. The Build Driver is itself based off the Evol Driver, an alien-made version that puts the Build Driver to shame.
    • Kamen Rider Saber: The holy swords of Light and Darkness were the first two swords of their set, and much more powerful than the other nine blades, to the point of almost having New Powers as the Plot Demands because they have so many. The Sword of Fire, the first production model, is also noted to have the potential to become even more powerful than the prototypes, although it isn't super by default.
    • Kamen Rider Revice: The Vail Driver was built 25 years before the main series, and greatly surpasses nearly all of its successors, especially its modern copy the Demons Driver.
  • 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.
  • 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 are 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.
  • Star Trek
    • 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 less than 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. For a while she really was superior to others of her class simply because the fixes for the bugs violated Starfleet safety standards and took a while to get around; this came up both times other ships of the class appeared on the show. In addition, the original Defiant has an Invisibility Cloak on loan from the Romulans; her sister ships don't.
    • The registry for Starfleet prototype ships usually have an NX (Naval eXperimental) prefix. The Excelsior was originally NX-2000 and was more of a testbed for the (ultimately failed) "Transwarp" engine more than anything else. The initial purpose was just to evoke a slight Upgrade Vs Prototype rivalry, as she was the next generation of starship as the Enterprise was being set up for decommission. Once the testing phase was over, Excelsior was given a proper NCC prefix. 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. At least some of these are, realistically, based on some of the flaws and workarounds Enterprise had with field experience. Production designs for the unproduced fifth season of Enterprise and Word of God statements from Doug Drexler 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". These were canonized in the Star Trek: Picard episode "The Bounty", when we see that the NX-01 at the Federation Fleet Museum is in this configuration.
    • The Star Trek: Voyager episode "Message In A Bottle" features the USS Prometheus, an advanced Starfleet warship packing tons of weaponry, flys faster than Voyager, has a shipwide holographic projection system, and can split into three smaller ships in combat. It's up to Voyager Doctor and the Prometheus own EMH to stop the Romulans trying to steal it.
  • 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.
  • Supernatural: Archangels were the first four angels created and much more powerful than their younger siblings. God eventually reveals this is because the Archangels were created using primordial power that takes a long time for him to make, meaning it takes him a lot longer to make an Archangel than the normal angels. This was problematic when the second fight with the Darkness happened, as by then, Lucifer was the only Archangel in fighting shape and resurrecting Raphael or Gabriel or making a new Archangel would've taken more time than they had.
  • Super Sentai:
    • Denji Sentai Megaranger:
      • The Mega Silver suit is a lot stronger than the others, but as a downside its power only lasts two and a half minutes, although that is fixed later on. note 
      • The Neziranger suits are stated by Dr. Kubota to have been the original designs of the Megaranger suits thought up by his colleague, Dr. Samejima, prior to his disappearance and Face–Heel Turn into Dr. Hinelar. However before the creation of the Nezirangers, they were only theoretical designs that were never actually made. The Mega Silver suit mentioned above is the true prototype.
    • Timefire from Mirai Sentai Timeranger is a prototype to the Timeranger suits, but is strong enough to take on monsters singlehandedly.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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 lacks these qualities but is still deadly. And since they retain teleportation ability, their strength in numbers does made up with it.

  • Demo versions of songs are often regarded as better than a final version, especially if the later version sounds overproduced. This can also apply to albums that had better mastering, featured more /longer versions of tracks and represented a group's concept before Executive Meddling. For example, many regard Tim Buckley's 1968 TV acoustic 12-string performance of "Song For The Siren" over the avant-garde 1970 version from 'Starsailor', to the point where it is the version that appears on most of his compilations and inspired most covers.
  • In The Mechanisms' Rock Opera Once Upon A Time In Space, Briar Rose was the first of the Clone Army created from Rose Red. She went rogue because her Brain Uploading of Rose's memories was too perfect, and she remembered that Rose was abducted from her wedding instead of volunteering, and the rest of the Rose Reds had to be degraded in memory recall and strength.

  • It's fairly common for the prototype versions of Pinball machines to have features that get stripped out for the actual production run, usually for cost or technical reasons. Enthusiasts today sometimes produce kits to restore the lost features. Some notable examples include:
    • The "Boogie Man" slingshots on Scared Stiff. The rubber figures on the slingshot bumpers were supposed to jolt each time the kicker fired, but it was found this would eventually cause the Boogie Men's arms to fly off, so they became fixed in place on the production versions; replacement kicker arms are available that make them mobile again.
    • The chime bars in The Who's Tommy. The theme was meant to evoke early electromechanical pinball machines which used metal chimes to produce their sounds. The prototypes had three chime bars, but these were removed in the production cabinets and electronic sounds were substituted. Some owners have retrofitted chime units from other games.
    • The Deadworld area in Judge Dredd was supposed to lock balls for multiball, but it was found to be unreliable. Custom kits exist to restore that feature.

  • 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. In a sense, that makes her a cause of sudden infant death syndrome.

    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").
    • There were 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. When production versions of the designs were printed, they largely tended to be less powerful due to having reduced advanced/experimental tech on them for the reason that either it was decided that it wasn't necessary for their intended roles so reducing the advanced tech on them made them cheaper, or the specific bit of tech was considered too difficult to keep working in the field and so older and more reliable equipment was used instead.
  • The Eberron setting of Dungeons & Dragons features a zigzagged example with the warforged. The majority of warforged existing in the modern day are the size and shape of humans, and only a bit tougher. However, the first ones were the warforged titans, which are gigantic, heavily armored, and superhumanly strong, able to take on whole combat platoons solo and win. They were discontinued in favor of the more common warforged largely due to being extremely costly to build and maintain. That said, the reason this is zigzagged is that warforged titans are also a lot dumber on the whole, due to the whole "sapient AI" thing still being in the concept stages, whereas the modern warforged is just as smart as a human. The reason they're so overbuilt seems to be because the vast majority of combat constructs (notably golems) have a similar design of focusing on brute power over practicality or versatility — after all, if your subject can't conceive of any concept more complicated than "follow orders" and "break stuff", then why build it for anything else?
  • 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.
  • 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. For the Jovians, one of their defense contractors even mentions it as a curse: Any untested, One-Of-A-Kind prototype is going to find itself in a combat situation.
  • 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. (The flip side is also present, as the power level of creatures has in many ways been steadily increasing, including creatures that are strictly better versions of older ones, making those early Magic creatures seem like flawed prototypes.
  • Shadowrun introduced a trio of uber-powerful, almost godlike A.I.s. Once the Crash 2.0 hit and the three of them are (apparently) gone, A.I.s are now roughly as powerful as human hackers in the Matrix (to the point where they are options for player characters).
  • The Saga Edition of Star Wars d20 features a ship template called Advanced Prototype, which improved most of the stats of a base ship — but because it is a fine-tuned machine (again, more of a concept than an actual prototype), you would have to perform maintenance more regularly.
  • 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.
  • 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, but it has been stated that bits and pieces of the Thunder Warriors process were adapted into their making. Unfortunately, as the comatose Emperor's Praetorian Guard, they spent millennia essentially confined to the role of the guarding the Imperial Palace since the Heresy, and only started going out again once Roboute Guilliman woke up and visited the Palace.
    • 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 that 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 their commanders. They were, however, basically Designer Babies (from the Emperor's DNA himself) where Space Marines are people born normally with genetic engineering applied later.
    • Much of the space marine legion's equipment are this to "modern day" 40k; the Cataphractii Terminator armor, Imperial Jetbikes, Hover Rhinos, Fellblade super-heavy tanks and the iconic Contemptor Dreadnoughts were all miles above their contemporaries in their roles and were once slated for mass production, but due to the onset of the Horus Heresy (where the majority of these went to the traitor legions and subsequently were destroyed) and the Imperium being gripped by superstition, they would never see it. After a few millennia, the method to make these were lost, and any existing suits were revered as relics, used only by the most hallowed member of their chapter or anyone already in possession of one. Many other such ancient pieces whose manufacture has been forgotten are also given to the Adeptus Custodes instead, making them the only force to field them in any significant capacity.
    • Somewhat inverted with the World Eaters. While their Butcher's Nails are only crude imitations of the ones implanted in their Primarch's head, these copies do not run the risk of killing them as the originals would have eventually done to Angron if he hadn't become a Daemon Prince first.
    • Be'lakor the Dark Master (in both 40K and Fantasy/Age of Sigmar) was the first daemon prince, created by the combined efforts of the Four Chaos Gods. He's a Manipulative Bastard par excellence, a powerful sorcerer, nearly impossible to put down, and an absolute monster in combat. However, Be'lakor proved impossible for any one god to control or turn against the others, eventually being cast out so the gods could focus their attention on individual aspirants instead of having to share power again. On the tabletop Be'lakor is massive and hits about as hard as the Four's Greater Daemons if not harder, while a regular Daemon Prince is about half the size and not nearly as powerful but is also cheaper in both points and real world money and can be easier to buff depending on the patron god and equipment purchased for it.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has pretty much the same phenomenon. For instance, Pot of Greed, the first draw Spell in the game's history, is also universally considered the most powerful and is banned basically everywhere. Many cards since then have had similar effects to Pot of Greed, but substantially toned down or offering major costs. When a card that renders large chunks of your deck unusable in exchange for Pot of Greed's effect is still considered incredibly useful, you can only imagine how broken the costless original was.
    • There exists a version of The Seal of Orichalcos that was printed in very limited quantities (around 15) for a tournament event. While the mass-production version of the Seal is pretty mediocre due to getting some heavy nerfs, the prototype Seal is just as good as its anime counterpart, if not better. Were it released, it would be the most powerful Field Spell ever made, being largely indestructible and letting the user control an extra five monsters. It's also the only card ever made that features the rule "The soul of whichever Duelist loses this Duel is forfeit to the winner." Who knows how the judges would handle that one...

    • Makuta Teridax seemed to have a habit of creating prototypes that were much stronger than the mass-produced versions that'd come later, though in his case that was usually because his creations tended to be too intelligent or ambitious to serve his goals, so he'd scale them back in power and intelligence to ensure they wouldn't become a threat. Also, he made them with limited lifespans to ensure they wouldn't remain a thorn in his side for too long even if he didn't bother with killing them.
    • One of Makuta's creations, the Karzahni, was this to its successor, the Morbuzakh. It had all the Morbuzakh's abilities (incredible strength, complete control of its vegetation, capable of intelligent thought and speaking), plus it lacked the need to feed off of fire and heat (since it survived just fine in the sun-less darkness of the tunnels between Metru Nui and Mata Nui) and possessed immunity to ice and cold (casually shattering a layer of ice over its form that would have crippled its successor for a time). However, it was far too ambitious and intelligent to be content with Makuta's plans for it and rebelled, so he banished it and made the Morbuzakh with the mentioned flaws (plus being less intelligent) so it would serve him alone. The Karzahni did not like that in the slightest and started planning Teridax's downfall and death.
    • The minor Dark Hunter Kraata-Kal was an attempt by Makuta to see if he could transform his kraata slugs into more than just Rahkshi by exposing a kraata to the same mutagenic substances that turn Bohrok into Bohrok-Kal. The result was a vastly more powerful and intelligent serpent with control over fire, water, and shadow, and Makuta one-upped himself by outfitting it with a suit of armor far superior to any Rakhshi armor for protection. Unfortunately for Makuta, Kal's increased intellect also came with higher personal ambitions and independence than any kraata (similar to how the Bohrok-Kal were independent of the Bahrag's control), so he jumped ship to the Dark Hunters after being put "on loan" to them and war broke out between the Hunters and the Brotherhood of Makuta. Makuta gave up on that line of thinking after that and just went back to using regular Rahkshi, making Kraata-Kal a Super Prototype of a line that was discontinued before it ever got to production.
    • The Av-Matoran were the first type of Matoran, and can actively make use of their elemental powers compared to the other types of Matoran, allowing them to fire blasts of light energy and change the apparent colors of their armor to disguise themselves as other types of Matoran. They also can access unique special abilities when linked with a Toa. note 
  • Super Soaker CPS 2000, a water gun released in 1996. Was the first Constant Pressure System (CPS) water gun ever made but is to this day the most powerful water gun ever sold in stores. It released a quart of water in one second in a consistent stream that went up to 53 feet. It was so powerful it hurt kids and due to multiple complaints by parents the later CPS models were made less powerful. Due to its rarity, it sells on eBay for hundreds of dollars and specialized homebrew water guns are specifically designed to be compared against the CPS 2000 to determine if they can beat it.
  • The Transformers toyline often shows off advanced test models that closely resemble their media counterparts, which are later modified/dumbed down to meet certain specifications, such as price, safety or quality standards (those with flight-capable alternate modes get more extensive drop tests). In some cases, a complex larger figure of a character gets a subsequent new mold that is smaller and simpler but are intended for some additional play value (such as Combining Mecha) or at least to offer a less costly version of the character. A particular example was the Transformers: Prime toyline — due to Troubled Production, the "preview" series of toys had a notably higher budget than the toyline that actually came out.
  • Beast Wars: Uprising: Rampage and Trans-Mutate were the only proto-former Cybertronians to be Point One Percenters, a fact that baffled the Builders. Trans-Mutate is neither Super nor Flawed, but Rampage manages to be super-strong, super-smart, and outright unkillable. He recovers from being atomized. And it took their creator a lot of trial-and-error experimentation to get there.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Area X, Elcia's dimensional watch is actually the original prototype watch that did not require a operator to choose which dimension a Time Negotiator travels to oversees the transfer. In the Sky path, Elcia does this freely to find out the truth behind Irina's death. Ferim's true identity, what Ciera is hiding from her and all the other mysteries plaguing her.
  • 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.
  • An interesting version of this is in Fate/stay night. Gilgamesh has almost all the prototypes of every Servant's Noble Phantasm (exceptions include Berserker's God Hand and Saber's Avalon), and goes on to explain exactly why his prototypes are that much more powerful. In this verse, Older Is Better and all magical items and creatures are Stronger with Age. Since the prototypes came first, they are naturally more powerful than what came after them. 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 watered-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. 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.

    Web Animation 
  • Averted in RWBY. In Volume 2, Team RWBY battle a prototype of the Atlesian Paladin hijacked by Roman Torchwick. With a bit of difficulty, the girls triumph and wreck the machine. When Weiss boasts this to Winter in Volume 3, Winter dismisses this, stating that the actual production models wouldn't be so weak as to fall to a team of first-year Hunters-in-training. Sure enough, when the Paladins are hijacked again by a computer virus during the Battle of Beacon, two of them give Weiss, Nora, Ren and the entirety of Teams CFVY, FNKI, SSSN and BRNZ an incredibly hard time and it's only thanks to Ruby's victory on the lead Atlesian battlecruiser that spares them from a third.
  • Subverted in Shed 17. Thomas, the first of the biofused locomotives, always seems to function perfectly and have no emotional trauma, whereas the other engines are riddled with problems. It eventually turns out that Thomas was cloned and converted dozens of times until the result was perfect, whereas the others were just sent out after the first attempt.

  • 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.
  • From Girl Genius: The one or two Dingbots that Agatha has actually personally built 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.
  • 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.
  • Sonic the Comic – Online! has a prototype for an advanced Guardian Robot called the Gizoid.
  • 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.
  • In Skin Horse, there is considerable variance with the intelligence of Captain Brams' uplifted Spitzes, but its noted that the last survivor of the original litter is continuing the Captain's research, while the alpha male of Sweetheart's generation is ... not the brightest.
    Unity: Wait, the Captain made this guy, then he made Buddy?
    Sweetheart: Sometimes we think Buddy is just a stray he picked up.

    Web Original 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Starwalker: Starwalker was built to test a new drive system.

    Western Animation 
  • The Delightful Children From Down the Lane in Codename: Kids Next Door were the result of a botched experiment with the "Delightfulization Chamber". Essentially, 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.
  • 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!
  • LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures: Regular lightsabers are predated by the Kyber Saber, an ancient weapon that destroyed an entire moon with a single Sword Beam. When Baird Kantoo realized how dangerous his creation was, he broke it and had Jedi hide the pieces on different planets. After that, the Jedi used significantly weaker lightsabers.
  • 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 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.
  • In Phineas and Ferb, Norm's prototype head in the episode "Candace Disconnected" speaks more naturally and is capable of a wider range of emotions than the final model, but is a lot snarkier, which explains why Dr. Doofenshmirtz went with Norm's current head.
  • Justified in The Powerpuff Girls (1998). Dick Hardly, Professor Utonium's old lab assistant starts mass-producing the Powerpuff Girls. However, these duplicates end up shoddily made because they weren't made with love.
  • 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.
  • In Star Trek: Prodigy, we have the USS Protostar, a mysterious Starfleet spaceship that somehow ended up in the Delta Quadrant. In the episode "Terror Firma", we finally find out what makes it such a Super Prototype: it's outfitted with a special warp core powered by an actual protostar (a friggin' newborn star) that allows it to travel twice as fast as conventional matter/antimatter warp cores.
  • 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. The film version also has a large magazine of proton torpedoes as well, which allows a different form of heavy firepower.
  • In Thunderbirds Are Go, we learn Brains built a prototype rocket called the "TV21" which is stolen by the Mechanic. Scott attempts to capture it using Thunderbird 1's grappling hooks, only to learn from Brains that the TV21 has an engine that is far more powerful than that of Thunderbird 1. This is then demonstrated when the Mechanic increases the power to the TV21's engine, breaking off Thunderbird 1's grappling hooks and sending the latter craft out of control.
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • 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 the prototypes, while more powerful, may have their stats so high-powered they become self-damaging from simply doing anything. Hence finished versions have to be toned down.
  • Military prototypes coming out of less technologically-advanced countries often fall under this trope. The prototype is often hand-crafted by a procession of engineers and scientists that have access to extremely complex high-precision tools, thus granting superior performance. When the designs hit factory lines, though, such precision tools are often unavailable, and mass-production tends to favor production efficiency over precision. This can be mitigated by good quality control, but in desperate war-time situations, such steps can and will be skipped over in favor of increased production. For example, take the A6M Type Zero, the (in)famous WWII Japanese fighter. Without sufficient factories to meet wartime needs (with many suitable factories had been destroyed by US strategic bombing), high school students were occasionally conscripted as workers. Ultimately, this led to a significant amount of unusable parts, aircraft that were sometimes barely able to fly, and aircraft that would come apart during normal use.
    • Nazi Germany had a wide variety of tanks, aircraft, guns, munitions, systems, etc. that performed well as prototypes (though not as well as some fanboys would have you believe) but were anywhere from downgraded to disastrous in mass production. Why? Well, they used lots of concentration camp inmates and POWs as slave labor, which unsurprisingly bit their quality control in the ass. Some of these slaves, having been selected for their technical skills, came up with some fairly brilliant and hard-to-notice methods of sabotaging whatever the Nazis forced them to manufacture. Among the most prominent examples was the Me-262 jet fighter, whose engines were found to be extremely delicate and would often violently disengage themselves from the airframe if the pilot adjusted the throttle the wrong way. And even in instances where designs weren't being intentionally sabotaged, in an effort to get more production, the Nazi government had ordered that quality control be ceased so many tanks were sent off to the front lines with such flaws as cannons that couldn't shoot straight or armor that had been improperly tempered and would shatter the first time it was struck by enemy fire.
    • This was common with Chinese tank designs in the Cold War period. While some advanced prototypes were built, they contained technology that was built by hand, and beyond 1950s through 70s Chinese industry's capacity to mass produce. The actual mass-produced Chinese tanks during that era were instead incremental upgrades to the Soviet T-54, incorporating some reverse-engineered technology from a captured T-62 followed by imported American and European technology in the 1970s. It wasn't until the 1980s that Chinese industry was able to catch up with their tank designers.
  • 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.
  • This trope is just often played straight as it is averted with naval construction. Normally, naval designers construct ships in series, with a lead ship providing a standard template for other ships to follow. During construction, each subsequent vessel may in turn incorporate modifications based on experiences with the lead ship or any new technologies that arise during construction; over the course of their careers, each ship may undergo refits or remodels that are often unique to that particular ship. The end result is that not only the succeeding ships of each class are usually better than the lead ship, but also that no two ships in a class are ever truly identical. However, an exception to the former point often arises when the lead ship is the only member of a class, typically because of cost or other external factors.
    • Charles Parson's Turbinia, the first steam turbine-powered ship ever made, certainly counts. At the time of her launch in 1894, she was the single fastest ship in the world, employing Parson's turbine to drive three shafts with a total of nine propellers.
    • 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 incorporating a phased radar array predating the later Aegis system, the "Big E" was one of the largest warships ever put to sea, only surpassed in tonnage (but not length) by her Nimitz-class successors. The excessive cost of the Enterprise and her 8-reactor layout resulted in the Navy shelving the nuclear carrier concept, with other carriers then under construction being re-ordered or converted to conventionally-powered vessels. 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 extreme top speed due to her large number of reactors with 50 knots the figure typically being cited.note  These are generally untrue, with Enterprise achieving a 35-knot maximum speed like the fastest carriers with a conventional power plant; however, the powerplant layout allowed Enterprise to generate steam more quickly than her successors or her escorts, allowing for faster acceleration and less competition for steam between the catapults, electrical generators, and engines.note 
    • The one-of-a-kind WWII Japanese super destroyer "Shimakaze", armed with 15 torpedo tubes and 6 5-inch guns plus a top speed of 42 knots thanks to an experimental engine. Being the most powerful destroyer in the world was useless against the air attack that sank her in 1944.
    • 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 Seawolf, is instead slated to replace the Los Angeles class and already has four times the number of the Seawolf, with many more planned.
    • PLAN Shenzhen is the only ship of the Type 051B class, commissioned in 1998. She was mainly intended to be an experimental testbed and stepping stone for future Chinese ship designs. In 2015 and 2020 she recieved modernizations which made her somewhat more powerful than the more recent Type 054A frigates which were commissioned starting in 2008. Shenzhen also happens to be faster than the Type 054A although with less efficient engines.
  • 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 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.
    • The British Rail Pacers remain some of the most controversial trainsets ever built, with their poor ride quality and accessibility along with remaining in-service well past their intended retirement date making them broadly unpopular among rail travellers. With that said, the very first Pacer, the Class 140, was reportedly much better than its mass-produced descendants largely thanks to using a softer but more expensive suspension system and less reuse of parts from its donor bus chassis.
  • 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 were designed. The T-43, which was a sort of answer to the Pz.V Panther, addressed most of the T-34's existing flaws; however, the realities of the war time made sure that it never was mass-produced because it was not enough of an improvement to warrant stopping the assembly lines for as much as a whole month, meaning some thousands of T-34 wont get to the frontline. Instead, most of its major features, namely its improved drivetrain and larger turret, were incorporated into the T-34 instead.
  • 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. The Germans wanted to put the entire crew in the hull, the Americans wanted most of the crew in the turret, the Americans preferred the lighter, more capable air-cooeld continental engine, while the Germans were pushing a heavier, more fragile, water-cooled Daimler-Benz for a piddly 30 more horsepower. The Americans wanted a heavier, more durable tank, the Germans wanted it lighter. And they couldn't even decide whether the thing was to be built using Customary or Metric units. The resulting kerfluffle led to the project being torn in two, resulted in the two nations pulling the project apart and working on their own machines, the Abrams and Leopard.
  • 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. Unsurprisingly, 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 (and also to improve the balance by counterweighting the very long gun barrel) 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 Watch_Dogs, with rain and lighting effects shown in its E3 trailer Dummied Out of the PC version. Sometimes this is for sound technical reasons like causing performance problems on anything but a very specific combination of hardware or just using too much processor power for all but the most expensive kit to run acceptably, but sometimes Executive Meddling plays a part; in the case of the aforementioned Watch_Dogs, it's been alleged that the game was downgraded at the insistence of Sony and/or Microsoft because they didn't want to hurt console sales by having the PC version look better, as modders have successfully patched these effects back in and found them to work fine even on mid-range hardware.
  • 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 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.
  • The MG 34 was the predecessor to the famous MG 42note . The MG 34 featured both a sturdier construction than its successor and was capable of sustaining a higher rate of fire. It also had a innovative crescent double trigger that allows the user to change between firing semi and full auto without the need of a selector switch. The 34 was to expensive and time intensive to manufacture so Germany designed the easy to manufacture 42 to take its place.
  • Even merchandise isn't immune to this trope. For example, a plush toy of the Hunter from Half-Life was made. Look up a picture of the Hunter, then look up the plush. Now, look up the more accurate and arguably more superior prototype of the plush.
    • Toys in general tend to go through this, as the prototypes that eventually get used as the basis for the production molds are handmade and consequently tend to feature better paint jobs and sharper details than the finished versions. This is especially common in Transformers, due to the complex engineering involved and the somewhat inconsistent budgets — for instance, compare the prototype claw mode of Leobreaker to that of the retail release. This overlaps with Flawed Prototype, however, as they're made of resin and therefore quite fragile.
    • When Jakks Pacific produced WWE figures, they were so well known for producing great prototypes for toy shows but cutting corners on the final release that it even had its own Memetic Mutation, "Chinese New Year". This is in response to an infamous occurrence of cost-cutting in Adrenaline Series 13 wherein Jakks used leftover, barely articulated arms from their first series Titantron Live, which featured the only figure ever of Sylvain Grenier. Jakks employee Jeremy Padawer's asserted that the switch had happened because the employees in charge of producing the arms were away for Chinese New Year yet WWE wanted the company to keep to schedule.
  • The infamous Power Glove's original proof of concept, the Data Glove, functioned near perfectly and could do far more than the final product. The problem was the design was way too pricey to make to be profitable, and the designers only had five months to reduce the price to reasonable levels, resulting in the flawed final product.
  • Occurs with videogame consoles where the prototype or launch models have features that are then scaled back on later versions, usually for cost reasons. The first PS3 consoles included backwards compatibility, but subsequent units lost this feature. Or how the first Xbox 360s featured internal hard drives, whereas later ones required a customer to spend more than $100 to buy their own separate Xbox hard drive.
  • The Rocketdyne F-1 (the engine that powered the Saturn V rockets) to every U.S. rocket engine since then. It was so powerful that the first examples built, scaled up from existing rocket designs, were unable to stand up to the force they were delivering and literally ripped themselves apart on the test stand. To test their stabilizing capabilities, NASA essentially built a grenade launcher to fire explosives into the rocket plume while the engine was running. Each individual flying F-1 engine was hand-built and hand-tuned, making the whole production run of fifty engines a series of Super Prototypes designed to work with four other Super Prototypes in concert. This answers the very common question as to why NASA doesn't just build more F-1 engines for future long range missions: since each engine was hand-crafted, there's no such thing as a standardized F-1 engine design that can be mass-produced, and the knowledge of how to hand-craft each engine is nearly completely gone with the ageing and deceased engineers who built them.
  • The Super Foonly F-1, whose famous application was rendering the CG in TRON, was the most powerful PDP-10 minicomputer ever made. However, only one was ever produced; DARPA withdrew funding for the project, and later computers produced by the Foonly company were slower and less efficient.
  • When the Empire State Building was built, it was much taller than any other skyscraper had been, and no one really knew just how strong it had to be to stay up. So they overbuilt it to such a degree that less than two decades later, it survived a direct impact by a B-25 Mitchell medium bomber. Fourteen people were killed, but the building stayed up (and remains so more than 75 years later), and was open for business within 48 hours. (Later skyscrapers, having learned from its example, are much weaker and much cheaper to build.) One account of just how durable the building is, states that it's not just held up by the internal steel skeleton; the walls themselves are made of limestone and granite, and are so thick that they're actually load-bearing. Where more modern skyscrapers are designed to bend and sway in high winds and during earthquakes, the Empire State is one big solid rock that does not flex at all.
  • Even the Game Boy Advance had a mild case of this trope. In 2000, long before its actual release, Nintendo sent out press photos of the console in two gorgeous color schemes: a two-tone combination of silver with orange accents, or silver with blue accents. When the Game Boy Advance finally went on sale in 2001, it was available only in relatively mundane colors like white, purple, and translucent blue. All of these color choices featured identical gray accents. In the end, the original two-tone color schemes from 2000 were never actually offered for sale.
  • The 1964 Pontiac Banshee XP-833. Taking inspiration from previous GM prototypes (specifically the Corvair Monza), the Banshee was conceived by engineer John DeLorean (yes, THAT DeLorean) as a direct counter to Ford's new darling, the Mustang and a midrange product between GM's premium Corvette and the coming entry level muscle car, the Chevy Camaro. By offering a wide range of options while keeping costs down with stock parts and innovative engineering, the Banshee could've been a game changer for the Pontiac brand and GM in general. But GM's upper management, spurred on by the Chevrolet division (who were jealously guarding their position as THE premium sports car division of GM), halted development of the Banshee after only two prototypes (a hardtop and a convertible). They then promptly swiped much of DeLorean's work and applied it to the 1968 Corvette Stingray.