Super Prototype

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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, Zero Punctuation

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

A question that often comes up is why the super prototype is so, well, super compared to the production model. The typical reason given is that the production model is far cheaper or easier to make in large numbers. Sometimes, the technology that makes the device so much more powerful is Black Box tech (although one wonders why a prototype of a future possible design would include tech the mass-produced versions would never be capable of including), and thus not easily replicated. Or the technology in the prototype is difficult to use, thus requiring an Ace Pilot to operate, while the later models are less powerful but stable enough for normal soldiers to use. Mass-production models were likely made (in the grand tradition of military equipment) by the lowest bidder, who cut corners wherever possible. But mostly, it just lets The Hero be that much more awesome.

In Real Life, a prototype is simply the first unit of a model to be built, usually made in order to do real-world tests of the design and correct any flaws before mass production begins. As such, you want your test unit to be as similar to your production unit as possible, so prototypes are frequently indistinguishable from standard models. A real-world concept that more closely resembles the super prototype is an experimental unit, which are intended to test out new technology without ever being meant for mass production at all, and frequently do have superior performance to eventual mass production models. This distinction is rarely made in fiction, however.

A specific instance of Older Is Better: the prototype came first, so it is better than all that came after it. The Opposite Tropes is the Flawed Prototype. A closely related trope is the Ace Custom. See also Bigger Stick.

Examples of Super Prototype include:

Anime and Manga

  • The Gundam metaseries makes extensive use this trope. Pretty much any mecha with "Gundam" in its name will be either a Super Prototype, an Ace Custom, or both.
  • Super Dimension Fortress Macross usually averts this, with the production models being built up from the prototype's capabilities. It's used in Macross Zero, though, where the prototype VF-0 Phoenix was head-and-shoulders above conventional aircraft and managed to win by surprising the enemy pilot. On the other hand, maintenance was a helluva nightmare, even compared to the Tomcat.
    • The majority of Macross Plus consists of a contest between two super prototypes (YF-19 and YF-21) competing to be the new mass production model. This is actually a realistic portrayal of the prototyping system; similar contests have actually occurred in real life.
  • One Piece has the World Government-developed Pacifistas. The original, created by rebuilding Badass Bartholemew Kuma into a Hollywood Cyborg, is able to make short work of some later models, though this is mostly because Kuma had Devil Fruit powers that apparently couldn't be transferred to the others or technologically duplicated. It is stated that more powerful models have been created over the Time Skip, though it has not yet been shown how well Kuma would stack up against them.
  • The police protagonists on Patlabor had three prototype AV-98 Ingram mechs. One episode focused on the introduction of a mass-produced line of Ingrams, subverting the trope a bit in that the prototypes weren't exceptionally good so much as the mass-produced ones were exceptionally shoddy. Also, other kinds of mass-produced police and military mechs are shown to be close in quality to the Ingrams.
    • The first film has the Type Zero which was supposed to be an advanced replacement for the AV-98. It proved to be a fearsome opponent in melee combat against other labors and when it was overtaken by the Babel virus, it completely mopped the floor with Ohta's Ingram and Noa barely managed to subdue it. Seeing as the Type Zero wasn't seen in the subsequent films, it can be assumed that the design was abandoned.
  • One character from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Subaru Nakajima is a self-admitted homage to Super Robot Wars. It turns out that she is the prototype to the Number cyborgs, stronger than the rest of them, and so is her sister Ginga. The special moves "borrowed" from such Super Robots like Gear Fighter Dendoh, GaoGaiGar, Combattler V and more make this homage especially apparent.
    • Fate Testarossa is another super prototype in a way—she was the very first successful Artificial Human created by an illegal cloning project run by the master of the Numbers, Jail Scaglietti. She bears the project's original name, and is the prototype that Jail used to create all the other Artificial Mages of the setting.
  • Simultaneously subverted and played straight in Sentou Mecha Xabungle. The titular mecha (referred to as such by the regularly no-fourth-wall characters) is both a production model—they get two of them, unheard of in a mecha show up to that point—and a prototype in the sense that a) no prior Walker Machine is built specifically for combat (hence the series name—Combat Mecha) and b) it incorporates a number of features that imply it to be a space machine. The Walker Gallier in the second half of the show is a textbook example (and even has a production model of sorts in the Brackary). It's famously "Super" enough to catch and throw a falling ICBM (albeit a museum copy, but still).
  • Ram-Dass in Soukou no Strain is an illegally made mecha where the Union only condones standard issue. Because Sara saved them in it, it's explained away as a "prototype" to anyone that asks. Her brother's Gloire, on the other hand, is an Ace Custom.
  • Remarked upon in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, in reference to the Grappals/Gulaparls compared to the Gurren Lagann:

Gimi: Anyway, aren't Grappals supposed to be superior to Gurren Lagann? There's something wrong with a prototype being stronger.

  • Code Geass features several super prototypes, progressing in power with the times. Supplementary materials explain the backstory of KMF development, where they were literally putting pieces together just to see how it worked.
  • Appears as an Unbuilt Trope in Mazinger Z, the archetypal Super Robot series. Mazinger Z was lacking a lot of its special features at first and regularly had to be upgraded and re-outfitted with new equipment. At the same time, the manga introduced the Mazinger Army, a trio of weaker robots each designed to wield one of Mazinger's distinctive weapons. All three made minor appearances in the Mazinkaiser movie, and all three were destroyed, with only Million Alpha putting up any kind of a fight.
    • Averted in, of all things, Great Mazinger—the Mikene Empire get a hold of Great's plans and mass produce it perfectly (with the exception of its wings). They usually show up in any Super Robot Wars installment when the Great Mazinger storyline is used.
    • And it was also averted in Mazinkaiser: Shin Great Mazinger and Mazinkaiser are explicitly stated to be the finished models, their predecessors are the prototypes.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion does strange things with this trope. Units 00, 01, and 02 are referred to as the prototype unit, test unit, and production unit, respectively, but they're functionally identical in operation. End of Evangelion features "mass produced Evas" that are superior in basically every way, but aren't really a refinement of the original Evas so much as the same underlying technology taken in a different direction.
  • Sky Girls features this: The three original Sonic Divers are prototypes, and they do their job well. Subverted in the fact that the mass production model can do just as well, but the WORM attacks the production assembly plant, making the only one model that was completed a super prototype in its own way.
    • Also used straight when the Vic Vipers make their debut, it is marketed as cheap, much better and more heavily-armed alternative to the Sonic Divers that the titular characters use, and hence, is mass-produced. Not only it really is underperfoming in comparison, the best thing it can do is act as support rather than replacement. It actually even gets beaten by an old, conventional fighter piloted by the show's The Ace in the end, and it's a two-against-one battle.
  • Metal Armor Dragonar plays with this a bit. The beginning of the series shows the Dragonars as a set of stolen super prototype units, but their pilots are inexperienced, and the Ace Custom units trounce them frequently. After a while, the Dragonars are used as the template for a new Mass Production model that has specs stronger than any of the Dragonar units. However, after Professor Plato guides the heroes back to the military, the Dragonars are upgraded into Ace Custom Super Prototypes.
  • Pretty much the only mechs that accomplish anything important in Eureka Seven are super prototypes, with the two Nirvash (which are actually alive) units being the most prominent. There's also Holland's late-series mount, the TB-303 Devilfish, which is ridiculously powerful and has enough firepower to wipe out multiple capital ships, but requires the pilot to take life-threatening drugs to operate it... Aside from those, the rest of the powerful LFO's are all Ace Customs. Anything with "KLF" or "Mon-Soono" in its name is utter cannon fodder.
  • Sagara Sousuke of Full Metal Panic! handles the ARX-7 Arbalest, one of the first mecha to be fielded by MITHRIL to possess a Lambda Driver. Later in the series he goes up against many enemy mecha with Lambda Drivers of their own, but proves his to be the more powerful while defeating them in combat. It is suggested that this is because the Lambda Driver in Sousuke's mecha is a prototype model compared to the mass-produced variants fielded by the enemy, and is capable of increased output at the cost of stability. It does, indeed, fail to function properly on a number of occasions, leading Sousuke to become thoroughly frustrated with it.
  • Partial subversion in Vipers Creed, in the last episode we see a prototype white mech with greater speed, armor and two additional arms; but its software is not optimized, so at critical moments it freezes from bugs.
  • Played straight in Outlaw Star. The XGP15A-II was purpose built using advanced military tech for the purpose of reaching the Galactic Leyline.
  • Chachamaru of Mahou Sensei Negima, the first of Hakase, Chao, and the engineering club's line of androids, which Chachamaru refers to as her little brothers and sisters. As Ku Fei mentioned before she kicked the asses of multiple mass-production versions of Chachamaru at once, as long as it's not Chachamaru herself, the fight is easy.
  • Clamp managed to do this in an episode of Angelic Layer to the titular toys when the design team unleashed against the tourney players a new prototype model with improved capabilities. Also, the original series can go to "Hypermode" which the later versions can't. Subverted by Shuko using a prototype that can barely move to beat the later version doll Wizard around like a, well, ragdoll even with vastly inferior tech and movements simply because she's that good.
  • Getter Robo Āḥ has mass-produced Getters who are nowhere near the godly power of Shin, who was too terrifyingly destructive to replicate. There's also the fact that limiting the amount of Getter Rays the machines can hold prevents them from turning sentient.
    • In Getter Robo Armageddon, Professor Saotome mass produces Getter Robo G in massive numbers with the sole purpose of forming them into Shin Dragon. Ryouma doesn't care and still beats the machines to a pulp.
  • The Hyper-Zoanoids in Guyver are, like ordinary Zoanoids, genetically-altered humans. The "hyper" designation is usually applied to prototype genetic templates, which are designed around an individual soldier's DNA; mass-production designs must be simplified to allow them to work on a wider range of humans, so the Hyper models tend to be considerably more powerful.
  • Genesic GaoGaiGar from GaoGaiGar FINAL -- GaoGaiGar and GaoFightGar are both based on its blueprints, but are significantly weaker, partialy due to humans being unable to perfectly copy ailen design, partialy on purpose, as some of original's weapons were modified to serve non-offensive purpose.
  • In Infinite Stratos, it turns out that Ichika's IS core is actually the very first one ever made. It's noted that the inventor "poured all your heart and soul into that core," since it was her first creation. Note that this is not the reason he can use the IS (he's the only male who can); rather, that is never revealed. Not even the original inventor understands why.
  • In Future GPX Cyber Formula, the Ogre AN-21 is the prototype to the Al-Zard NP-1. Ogre has the same bio-computer system as Al-Zard, but it also caused the deaths of 2 test drivers due to the fact the car was unable to satisfy the talent the bio-computer needed.
  • The Sizzlers of Gunbuster are mass-produced versions of the Gunbuster itself, smaller and weaker (yet powerful enough to fight dozens of alien bugs easily!)

Comic Books

  • This happens when any villain tries to replicate a Super Serum. The first villain to try it is bigger, stronger, faster than the original, but the original never pushes it to the limits because of the idiocy-inducing effects of an overdose, or the subject becoming completely musclebound or even exploding. On the rare occasions that the villains continue to use the super serum on Mooks, they will have much smaller doses and usually be sent in groups.
  • Related to the above, Captain America is the super prototype for the Super Soldier program. Villains are constantly trying to replicate his success with results ranging from mental retardation (Truth: Red, White and Black) to creating the Hulk (Ultimate Marvel) and the Weapon X program (Wolverine).
    • 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.
  • The comic book version of 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.)
  • 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.
  • In a way, The Hulk. While created by accident, Hulk was the first gamma mutant, and most subsequent gamma beings (the Leader, the Abomination, Madman, Ravage, etc) were based off either recreating that accident or specifically copying his DNA. While some have had greater base-line strength than the Hulk, and most have retained their higher intelligence where as the Hulk is most often shown to be a savage, Hulk's potential strength (increasing with anger) and his other abilities (Healing Factor, psychic resistance) have shown him to be the most powerful of the gamma beings.
  • Super Dinosaur is superior to the successive Dino Men because of his armor which grants him unparalleled firepower.

Fan Works

  • In Exoria, a modern-day Legend of Zelda Fanfic, 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.
  • In The Open Door, the Stiletto is the first craft built by newChaos as a test bed for the combination of the technologies available to them. Although officially rated as a frigate, it can punch far, far above its supposed weight. Eventually, with its long shakedown cruise over, its equipment receives rather drastic tonedown.
  • 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 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. Further sources state that technology from the prototype was used in the mass production variants.
    • 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. The official reason the EU gave was bureaucracy killing the intended upgrade's cost effectiveness.
  • Batman's costume in Batman Begins is a prototype armor suit that was rejected by the army because it was too expensive.


  • 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.
  • The Caterpillar Drive is the whole reason that there was a Hunt for Red October in the first place.
  • In the Star Trek novel Final Frontier (no relation to the fifth movie), it was revealed that the Enterprise was the prototype for the Constitution class line. It was deliberately overbuilt, explaining how Kirk (and Scotty) could constantly push it past its design limits. Constitution ships-of-the-line were economized, resulting in them being more delicate ships.
  • The Long Shot in Larry Niven's Known Space 'verse is the only Quantum II hyperdrive ship ever built. Big motor in the biggest hull made left no room for profitable cargo.
  • In Mad Skills by Walter Greatshell, coma patient Madeleine Grant is a testbed for an experimental brain surgery that uses leech brain cells to supercharge her mind to Singularity levels. Actually, she's a prototype testbed for a lot of separate projects, qualifying as an Artificial Human to some degree; her body is the repurposed shell of a brain-dead pop star, while her brain is entirely artificial and contains heavily-edited memories taken from an orphan girl who was quietly killed, and that brain is what's upgraded with the Leech-Tron. The Leech-Tron also incorporates a wi-fi connection that allows subliminal commands and advertisements to be beamed directly into her brain, but the amount of brainpower she has available allows her to slip the leash by mid-book.
  • In Daemon the first AutoM8 is an armoured, solid-tired Hummer that is Immune to Bullets. Later versions use normal cars as a base and are thus less survivable.
  • Mack Maloney's Wingman series makes liberal use of this trope, particularly in the case of Hawk Hunter, the titular Wingman. His main aircraft is arguably both a super prototype and an Ace Custom, as he usually flies an F-16XL[1] 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

  • The Cool Starship equivalent is the USS Defiant in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In its debut, it took a dozen Jem'hadar attack ships (just three of which had shown themselves capable of easily destroying the previous most powerful ship in Starfleet) to disable the Defiant, and that was after it was heavily damaged in an ambush. Not to mention, they hadn't even worked all the bugs out of the design yet; in later appearances it was even more formidable. The specs indicated that it was about 1/10 the mass of the Enterprise-D yet carried armament equal to it. Starfleet eventually does make others which are apparently just as powerful (including a replacement for the original when the Dominion finally manages to destroy it), but it takes a while to get them into production.
    • Star Trek actually kept a pretty good eye on its tech level as various ships are introduced. The registry for the prototype ships usually have an NX prefix. The Excelsior was originally NX-2000 and was more of a testbed for the (ultimately failed) "Transwarp" engine more than anything else. Once the testing phase was over, she was given a proper NCC prefix. Otherwise, it didn't appear to completely outclass other starships like the Enterprise in terms of combat performance. In later series it seemed that the Excelsior design was actually one of the most versatile in terms of longevity, the design showed up as modern starships as late as Deep Space Nine's fourth season, more than 80 years after it was introduced.
      • The titular ship of Star Trek: Enterprise, the NX-01 Enterprise, also subverted the super prototype as her successor, the NX-02 Columbia, left drydock with capabilities that surpassed and were later retrofitted into Enterprise. Production designs for the unproduced fifth season of Enterprise and Word of God statements from Doug Drexler recently revealed that the entire NX class was one big work-in-progress and that every ship was its own prototype, as evidenced by these sketches showing off the engineering hull that was to be added to the "NX-01.5".
  • Western subversion: Knight Rider: In "Trust Doesn't Rust", KARR takes KITT for an "inferior production-line model" and assumes himself to be a super prototype. He turns out not to have any apparent technological advantage over KITT (of course, KITT is hardly "production-line"), aside from a slightly improved speech module (In the next episode, KITT's is replaced by one similar to KARR's), though when KARR reappears in the third season, while still not more advanced than KITT, he does possess a number of features which KITT had only gained during the second season.
  • 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.
    • In Power Rangers Time Force, the Quantum Ranger and his 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.
  • In Denji Sentai Megaranger, the Megasilver suit is a lot stronger than the others... until we find out that its power only lasts two and a half minutes. (In Power Rangers in Space, the 2.5 minute problem existed for different reasons and the suit wasn't a prototype.)
  • Averted in Kamen Rider, but played straight in spin-off Kamen Rider Faiz, the Riot Troopers are nowhere as good as Faiz, though this may be due to Faiz being far more experienced and an extremely powerful Orphnoch to boot.
    • Also, the prototype Kamen Rider Birth suit in Kamen Rider OOO has fewer weapons than the main Birth suit.
  • The eponymous "super-sub" in Gerry Anderson's series Stingray. All the other W.A.S.P. ships that we see are more-or-less conventional-looking (for the 1960s) submarines, and there is no indication that there is more than one of the class. Expanded Universe material in the TV Century 21 comic and official novels imply either that a second Stingray-class sub has been built (and enters service just in time to be stolen by the Mysterons) or that Stingray is an ungraded version of a standard W.A.S.P. patrol vessel with superior capabilities to its sister craft.
  • The robot Imperiser/Imperialiser from Ultraman Mebius is insanely hard to destroy with thick armor capable of self-regeneration and can evolve right in the middle of battle. The mass production version lacking said qualities, they are still deadly nonetheless. And since they retain teleportation ability, their strength in numbers does made up with it.
  • The Battlestar Galactica prequel Caprica features a super prototype, the first U87 Cylon equipped with a metacognitive processor displays the potential for near human autonomy. The problem with this is this level of intelligence is only achieved in a single prototype, if the MCP is placed in a different cylon it does not display sentience.
    • The original Battlestar Galactica series had the C.O.R.A. Viper. Very fast, full A.I. computer piloting system, equipped for long range patrols, double the thrusting power of any other Viper—at the expense of the guns!
  • On Chuck, Chuck is the first successful Intersect and remains the only prototype due to repeated sabotage of the project. However, when they finally decide to create more Intersect agents, they turn out to be way too inflexible in their thinking and tend to overreact in combat situations.

Tabletop Games

  • Done in the BattleTech setting, which involves a lot of Lost Technology from the Star League era, technology which was only just catching up to where it had been around the time of the Clan invasion. Depending on the narrative era a Battletech game is set in, it is quite plausible to find older, more powerful versions of later knock-off technology.
  • 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' 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.
    • Played straight with the Primarchs, who are superior to any other soldier the Imperium has and are the templates for almost all of the Space Marines in existence today. However, the process which created them were extremely intensive and the Emperor only managed to create 20 of them, which he later deemed to be used as the templates for the Space Marine Legions and commanders for said legions. They were, however, basically Designer Babies (from the Emperor's DNA himself) where Space Marines are people born normally with genetic engineering applied later.
  • Jovian Chronicles, Dream Pod 9's Gundam inspired setting is naturally filled with them. A couple of the prototypes do get mass produced version, but they pale in comparison to their predecessors.
  • Magic: The Gathering manages to avert it in one respect; the Myr Prototype is way overpriced for what it actually does.
  • Shadowrun introduced a trio of uber-powerful, almost godlike AIs. Once the Crash 2.0 hit and the three of them are (apparently) gone, AIs are now roughly as powerful as human hackers in the Matrix (to the point where they are options for player characters).

Video Games

  • The Original Generation mecha of Super Robot Wars is overloaded with super prototypes (and Ace Customs), there's far too many to mention.
  • In the Metal Gear Solid series, the prototype Metal Gear RAY is of far superior quality to the mass-produced models later encountered by Raiden as a boss battle; then again, it may have been actually designed for its supposed purpose (to defeat REX derivatives) whereas the mass-produced versions were actually tactical defense units for Arsenal Gear.
  • Mega Man is regularly one-upped by his older "brother" Proto Man. Sometimes explained as having to do with Mega Man originally being a lab assistant, or alternatively, Proto Man's nuclear core (which is apparently pretty dangerous and thus, not being used for Mega Man, who instead uses a solar reactor).
    • Not to mention, of course, that Mega Man regularly wipes the floor with armies of robot masters presumably based off his own design, made by one of the same two creators. And it's even worse with Mega Man X, where a robot built at least 60 years before the start of the series and presumably upgraded only by parts which were also built decades before it starts does the same thing with futuristic robots with AI based off his own. Then Zero is presumably a hundred years out of date by the time his series starts...
  • Early in Star FOX Assault, the player is attacked by a powerful enemy, referred to only as "some kind of prototype." The same enemy reappears in the last level, more powerful than ever. (You'd think the Aparoids could have mass-produced it by now!)
  • The Delphinus from Skies of Arcadia is a possible example, but it's not entirely clear whether the weaker mass-produced equivalent (the Spectre-class battleships) are scaled-back mass production versions or the immediate predecessors of the Delphinus.
  • The fictional planes of Ace Combat occasionally fall under this trope, particularly the X-02 Wyvern "Switchblade" of Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies (and which can be unlocked in both 5 and Zero) and the ADFX-01 "Morgan" of Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War.
    • The real planes also have a bit of this. 5 in particular both subverts it (the F-15 S/MTD is better than the stock F-15 it was modified from) and plays it straight (the S-32 is better than the later Su-47)
    • Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception brought us the Fenrir. The original models had optical camoflage, ungodly maneuverability and a microwave weapon. the production models don't have any of that aside from the ungodly maneuverability at the cost of ammo. In the same vein, the Varcolac from Joint Assault is shown to have a rear mounted machine gun that shoots down any and all missiles that approach it. In game, it doesn't have that but it's still the best plane in the game if you give it the right mods.
  • The Smithy Gang in Super Mario RPG (Mack, Bowyer, Yaridovich and the Axem Rangers) are the super prototype models for their production lines. When you reach the last area, you discover that Smithy is creating an entire army of the bosses, though the Machine-Made versions are less powerful than the actual bosses.
  • The Edelweiss in Valkyria Chronicles, made by Isara's father for Welkin's father for the previous war. It was found to be an incredible tank, but it was too expensive for any kind of mass production.
  • Subject Delta BioShock 2 isn't just a Big Daddy—he's the first Big Daddy; unlike the production models, he's nimble and has plasmid powers. Yahtzee pokes fun at this trope in his review of the game.
  • Vivi, like all Black Mages in Final Fantasy IX, is an animated doll. However, as the prototype model, his power is greater than that of his "brothers", and his lifespan is much longer, as well.
  • A Continuity Nod in Thunder Force series. The mass production model of Styx in III appear as NPC in IV; The Rynex in IV has its production model appear in VI and also serve as prototype of Gauntlet in V. It take Mid-Season Upgrade the Gauntlet into Ace Custom Vambrace and Mecha Expansion Pack Brigandine module that Earth's fighter can fight the Rynex. It's justified since Gauntlet is Earthling's replica, built with alien technology they aren't fully understand.
  • Final Fantasy VI's Kefka was the very first Magitek Knight (a normal human given magical powers by way of an infusion from an Esper). He consistently has much stronger magic then Celes, a later-generation Magitek Knight that joins your party.[2] Unfortunately, as a prototype, he was exposed to an imperfect version of the infusion process, which resulted in him going just a teensy bit insane.
  • In the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth is a super prototype who is much stronger and more powerful than regular SOLDIERs and much more physically stable than the competing Project G prototypes Angeal and Genesis, who are subject to degradation. Unfortunately, Sephiroth could not be duplicated and he cannot replicate his genetic traits in monsters (like Angeal) or in humans (like Genesis).
  • An interesting version of this is in Fate/stay night. Gilgamesh has all the prototypes of every Servant's Noble Phantasm, and goes on to explain exactly why his prototypes are that much more powerful. However, this is subverted in Unlimited Blade Works when Shiro "traces" or copies all of Gilgamesh's super prototypes with his Reality Marble, essentially creating a water-downed mass production type version of each one; right after explaining although his versions are weaker imitations, there is no rule about the imitations losing to the originals, he states that he will prove his imitations are superior by destroying all of Gilgamesh's weapons and Gilgamesh himself. Cue Crowning Moment of Awesome.
  • Front Mission 3 has a couple interesting examples. In the start of the game your character is a test pilot for Kirishima Heavy Industries and your first mission is actually a final test run of a new prototype Wanzer for the Japanese Military. The Shunyo Mk. 111 is far more powerful than the test Wanzers you fight against. The true Super Prototype of the game, though, is the Hoshun. This is a Wanzer that is somehow sent to you through the Internet and not only has more HP than any other pilotable Wanzer, but also has one of the only beam rifles in existence.
    • Interestingly, the starting wanzer Kazuki pilots, the Zenith RV (misromanized as Zenislev), is the super prototype of the next game, Front Mission 4, obtainable in Elsa's scenario. Since 4 canonically happens before 3, this indicates how much Wanzer development has progressed.
  • Prometheus, the last boss in Starsiege human campaign is the first Cybrid. For Cybrid campaign, you become one once reach highest rank.
  • X3 Terran Conflict plays this trope straight with Super Prototype spaceships, which are generally superior to the mass-produced versions and cannot be mass-produced by reserve-engineering in player headquarters.
  • Phantasy Star Zero makes fun of this trope to a degree. Occasionally you will find messages with tips in them. A message talking about a particular robotic enemy in that area says, "Production model & Prototype. Do we need to spell out which one is more powerful?"
  • The backstory of Virtual On provides both aversions and straight examples. Some prototypes like Viper Alpha and Proto Temjin have inferior armaments to their production model. Original Fei Yen is much more powerful than the production model but is sentient and eventually runs away from lab.
  • Near the end of the first planet in Knights of the Old Republic, you get to win a swoop bike race on a bike modified with a prototype accelerator. The adversary tries to deny your prize on the grounds that it was an unfair advantage, but the prize, being a Jedi, takes matters into her own hands by breaking out and killing most of the bad guys.
  • In Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, any prototype starts out one experience level ahead of a normal unit. This means that, with a Command Center and Bioenhancement Center, a prototype is Elite right off the rack, though this is explained as being due to the soldiers being more experienced, rather than technological superiority.
  • Fallout 3 has some really powerful prototype stuff. Example: MPLX Novasurge, a unique plasma pistol which greatly increases damage and the critical multiplier at the cost of doubled power usage and weight. It was developed by a "Section A61" shortly before the Great War broke out. The prototype survived the war by being beamed aboard Mothership Zeta approx. 200 years before the Lone Wanderer found it in the ship's cargo hold.. Or the MP-47/A power armor prototype with a built-in medical dispenser and an onboard AI.
    • Fallout: New Vegas shows that at least one prototype model of eyebots had a TV-screen, and not just a built-in radio. ED-E, however, is not quite this trope, despite being a prototype and much more powerful than its mass-produced cousins: it was the prototype to a series of combat-adapted eyebots that were scrapped in favour of Hellfire power armor, with the common eyebot being its predecessor rather than its successor.
    • There's also the Tesla-Beaton Prototype, a unique Tesla cannon, and a prototype Laser Rifle with a green laser.
  • A similar effect occurs with the Supreme Commander Experimental units. Any player will realize that these 'experiments' are always a great success, and utterly trounce dozens if not hundreds of the 'tested' units. And although you can build more than one of them, the too-expensive-justification is in full effect, as you need a very solid economy before you can start building one.
  • Happens in StarCraft II where a prototype superweapon called Odin is stolen from the Dominion. It doesn't just have more hit points than any other unit in the game and do more damage than anything short of hero units—it's also got several luxury amenities, including a restroom for the driver and an onboard nuke launcher. Rory Swann, the engineer of Hyperion, says it's too impractical to mass-produce, at least with the facilities available to Raynor's Raiders, so a scaled-down machine called a Thor is slated for mass production. (Oddly, the Dominion seems to have agreed with Swann, as the Odin is one of a kind and the Dominion only ever fields Thors aside from it.) There's also the Loki, a prototype for a new class of battleship, which boasts ridiculous firepower and toughness, completed at the same research station.
  • In Red Alert 3, the King Oni is a hulking behemoth capable of bull-charging enemy tanks and shoot Eye Beams for the glory of the Empire of the Rising Sun. Apparently, the original King Oni is a super prototype, given to Emperor Yoshiro as a gift, which he uses when the enemy approaches his palace.
  • Played with by Prototype Jack in Tekken. While it's unknown what happened between him and Jack (both survived the original tournament), P. Jack was soundly scrapped by Jack-2 in Tekken 2. However, P. Jack's ability to fly was implemented in all subsequent playable Jack models.
  • In Vanquish, the ARS armor that Sam Gideon is wearing is a prototype of a new weapons system being developed by DARPA, and he is taking it along on the assault on Providence for two reasons: to test out its capabilities in live fire combat, and because the military is desperate for any weapon they can use to stop the colony's microwave array from being fired. In-game, it is indicated that the ARS has several limitations, primarily among them being that the suit will explode if it overheats too much.
  • The Excavated ATACs in Vanguard Bandits are super prototypes from which all basic ATACs were reverse-engineered.
  • Custom Robo is all about "ace customs" but your "super prototype" has a drawback for each advantage it has against mass produced robos of the same class.
  • The Unholy War has a regular unit called Razorfane, a robot that attacks with circular saw blades. One of the secret unlockable characters is called Betarazor, which is basically just an upgraded version of Razorfane, with more health and more powerfull attacks.
  • Invoked (but not in any meaningful manner) in Sonic Heroes. One of E-123 Omega's combo-score quips is "Worthless consumer models!"
  • 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 oneof them even got disabled by Winfield, who punched through its sensor camera, on foot. The second examples are various grimoire, their original appear as little girls with magic power, the copies are just books.
  • The eponymous armor from Vay has been copied and mass-produced by the Danek Empire to create their massive robotic army. However, once the five magic orbs are retrieved and the Vay Armor's power is fully realized, it can stand toe-to-toe with almost anything Danek can throw at it.
  • Subverted and played straight in Homeworld: Cataclysm: the player ship Kuun Lan subverts it as, while the second of the two Explorer-class ships built by the Soomtaw, has superior armour, engines and module capacity than the prototype due correction of design flaws discovered during construction, while the Soomtaw Acolyte-class fighter plays it straight, as it's based on a Bentusi design that is slightly faster, has about five times its number of hit points and sports guns about twice as powerful.
  • Sonic Adventure 2 has the Biolizard, the prototype ultimate life form which was enormous compared to its successor Shadow the Hedgehog. It was locked in suspended animation by GUN until Dr. Eggman reactivated it in the process of inserting the Chaos Emeralds into the Eclipse Cannon and sent the ARK hurtling towards Earth, after which it was defeated by Shadow but recovered and merged with the Eclipse Cannon in order to ensure that the colony would fall, only to be defeated again by the combined efforts of Super Sonic and Super Shadow.
  • Averted by Kenshi, where "prototype" is, in-fact, the worst grade of armor that can be crafted, below "shoddy" and "standard". This has proven confusing to new players, as it's not clearly explained and can initially only be realized by comparing two pieces of otherwise identical equipment with different grades.

Web Comics

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

Web Original

  • There's twenty-six Ilivais prototypes that fit this to a T in Ilivais X (well, twenty-five, as A is Weak but Skilled 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.

Western Animation

  • Megas XLR is both a super prototype and an Ace Custom (so customized, in fact, that no one but Coop can pilot it, simply because he changed the controls that much). Megas was originally a Glorft design, stolen by Kiva.
  • The titular 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 Mass Empowering 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!

Real Life

  • The infamous British SA80 is said to have become worse with every revision because nobody working on it had ever fired a gun before and was unequipped to fix the design problems with the gun as it was modified away from the AR18.
  1. only 2 were ever built
  2. The first time you fight him as a boss, he is Level 18, and has spells like Blizzara, Poison, Drain, and all three 1st level Fire, Ice, Lightning spells. Celes would only have Blizzard, Antidote, Imp, Cure, and Scan at that same level.