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Super Prototype

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Advertisement:propertag.cmd.push(function() { proper_display('tvtropes_mobile_ad_1'); })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. The typical reason given is that the production model is far cheaper or easier to make in large numbers. Except that this defeats the whole purpose of a prototype - something built to test the feasibility and capabilities of a final product and correct any flaws before mass production begins, meaning ideally you want your test unit to be as similar to your production unit as possible. As such, real-life prototypes are frequently highly similar to if not indistinguishable from standard models. Mostly, this is just a case of letting The Hero be that much more awesome than everyone else.
Advertisement:propertag.cmd.push(function() { proper_display('tvtropes_mobile_ad_2'); })Writers tend to find various reasons for why the Prototype is better which usually fall under a few general lines of reasoning.
A real-world concept that more closely resembles the super prototype is the experimental unit or "concept car," which is intended to test out new technology and its limits without ever being meant for mass production at all. As cost-effectiveness is less important, experimental units frequently do have superior performance to eventual mass production models. Military test pilots refer to this as "pushing the envelope" - the upper edge is height, the 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.A common fusion of the normally opposite tropes, Super Prototype and Flawed Prototype, is "The Hero's version is more powerful but has the Drama-Preserving Handicap that the others don't." Maybe all versions after The Hero's are weaker because the "use it for longer than five minutes and it shuts down/explodes/drives you insane" problem could not be fixed without losing some power. It would, of course, be equally workable for the hero to be less powerful but lack the handicap, but that's less popular.An alternate version that often combines aspects of the 1st and 2nd variety introduces a prototype not of the current rank-and-file model, but their intended successor. This justifies its superiority as being an upgrade over the current standard, while still being experimental justifies any flaws in untested systems.Another common version is when the prototype is made by a genius and only they fully understand the technology behind it. Then 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.Most prosaically, a project may simply have run into budget difficulties or been sidelined in favour of something else, resulting in significant cutbacks to the quality of the end product.Lastly, the prototype may not be a prototype but instead Black Box technology or if a prototype was made, black box technology was incorporated into the design and the "super" parts of the prototype are unreplicable. Advertisement:propertag.cmd.push(function() { proper_display('tvtropes_mobile_ad_3'); })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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Wipeout 2048 features unlockable prototypes which each has a huge drawback, but can be powerful compared to regular racers.
The first unlockable Prototype: The Feisar Prototype, can exceed massive speed but it only speeds up when hitting speed pads.
Second unlockable: The Auricom Prototype. It deals a decent amount of damage and doesn't get slowed down or wipes out when hit by a weapon. It can't pick up defensive weapons though and if you aren't careful, you won't notice when your craft is on low energy.
Third unlockable: AG-Systems Prototype. Fast, ultra-agile and hard-hitting, but has the weakest shielding in the game.
Fourth unlockable: Qirex Prototype. Sacrifices normal weapons for a special cannon which is even more powerful than the Plasma Bolt itself.
Final unlockable: Pir-Hana Prototype. The fastest ship in the game hands down, but cannot steer without airbrakes.
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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.
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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 ijection 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.
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Inspector Gadget and his Evil Twin RoboGadget are these. Gadget himself doesn't become a Flawed Prototype until the sequel.
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Another Gundam game, The Blue Destiny, features the three prototype Blue Destiny units, based on The 08th MS Team's RX-79(G) Gundam Ground Type units, extensively modified with a new control system. BD-1 used a GM head and was still ground-based, while BD-2 and BD-3 both sported Gundam heads and were modified for space use. Their control systems were based on a Zeon prototype, the MS-08TX(EXAM) Efreet Custom, whose designer defected from Zeon to the Federation.
Blue Destiny received a pseudo-sequel called Missing Link, which focuses on an offshoot of the EXAM project known as the HADES system. Only one prototype ever has the system installed: the RX-80PR Pale Rider. It's so powerful that the unit is still effective 10 years later, during the Neo-Zeon Wars, where it is finally taken down in a Mutual Kill with a Queen Mansa (one of the most successful Mobile Armor designs Neo-Zeon ever produced).
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Star Trek Online reveals that the prototype of the Advanced Escort ships, the U.S.S. Prometheus from Star Trek: Voyager, was this, as the mass produced Advanced Escorts removed the Multi-Vector Assault Mode (which allowed it to separate it into three parts) due to parts being easy to damage. Then, they put it back for the special variants.
For a fun thing, one of the purchasable add-ons is the NX prefix for all Federation ships. As it is cosmetic, there's nothing big about it beyond RP material, but with all the special high-ranking gear, you could pretty much say that you are flying a Super Prototype.
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It's also noteworthy that in Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam this trope becomes the shtick of Paptimus Scirocco. Over the course of the series he cranks out one-shot, scratch-built mobile suits at an astonishing rate. The Messala, Pallas Athena, Bolinoak Samaan and The-O are all unique Scirocco designs, while the Gabthley and Hambrabi are limited production models designed by Scirocco for the Federation's use and only 2-4 of each were ever made. In general, Scirocco's godlike ability to crank out butt-kicking mobile suits is used as a catch-all explanation for all Titans suits that aren't the Psyco Gundam.
And the Gundam Mk-II actually inverts this - even though it was a Super Prototype for the next generation of MS and, for awhile, could one-up the Titans' Hi-Zack units(current generation), there was nothing special about it outside of its special lighter frame system and it's easily outclassed early on. All it really is is an updated copy of the original RX-78 Gundam made using modern technologies, and thus ceased to be anything special when those same new technologies were incorporated into the new generation of mass-produced mobile suits.
Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory has a similar inversion with the Gundam GP01 "Zephyrantes", which was little more than an update to the original Gundam with new tech, it comes with the ground type and space type configuration, which is more powerful than the mass production model of the time at its specialized area but weaker when placed in the other, so it is just an exchange of spec instead of "Super" in all aspects. In fact, the proposed Gundam GP04 "Gerbera" was scrapped for being little more than a copy of the GP01; it was later reworked into a more Zeon-esque design, the Gerbera Tetra, and sold to the Zeon remnants.
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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.
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Prometheus, the last boss in the Starsiege human campaign, is the first Cybrid. For the Cybrid campaign, you become one once you reach the highest rank.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Legend of Galactic Heroes has a decent number of them, on both sides:
On the Imperial side, most dedicated flagships are unique vessels used to test new technologies that may or may not be employed on mass-produced ships, with the few that aren't being enlargements of more standard vessels or part of a couple of little-produced flagships;
On the Alliance side we have the Triglav (a new flagship design, superior to the standard Ajax-class and slated for mass production) and the Leda II (a new cruiser design with a curved armour design capable of deflect with little to no damage enemy weapon fire, at least at distance. She too was slated for mass production).
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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.
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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".
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Zone of the Enders has the Orbital Frame Jehuty, an Orbital Frame in its own tier of power compared to everything else. Unfortunately, due to very bad luck, it was launched without 90% of its equipment drivers installed, leaving its performance at the bare minimum of its specs. Even then it tears through other Orbital Frames, including ones produced years later. The bad news is: the bad guys got Jehuty's brother unit Anubis... and Anubis is at its full power. Do not try fighting Anubis before Jehuty has unlocked all of its equipment... it will not go well at all.
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Sonic the Hedgehog
Averted and then invoked in Sonic Adventure by E-102 Gamma. During his story, he faces off against his older brother E-101 Beta for a spot on Robotnik's E-100 series of enforcer mechs and soundly defeats him in battle. Later on, after revolting against Robotnik, Gamma goes on a mission to destroy his brothers to save the animals trapped inside. After handily defeating all of his brothers, E-101 shows up again, having gotten a dramatic overhaul with abilities far surpassing Gamma's. Gamma is still able to defeat him without too much trouble, though Beta sees to it that Gamma doesn't leave the battlefield.
Sonic Adventure 2 has the Biolizard, the prototype ultimate life form which was enormous compared to its successor Shadow the Hedgehog. It was locked in suspended animation by GUN until Dr. Eggman reactivated it in the process of inserting the Chaos Emeralds into the Eclipse Cannon and sent the ARK hurtling towards Earth, after which it was defeated by Shadow but recovered and merged with the Eclipse Cannon in order to ensure that the colony would fall, only to be defeated again by the combined efforts of Super Sonic and Super Shadow. It is subverted in that the Biolizard seems to suffer from severe asthma, and even with a huge life support system attached to it, it can't sustain combat for half a minute without getting tired.
Invoked (but not in any meaningful manner) in Sonic Heroes. One of E-123 Omega's combo-score quips is "Worthless consumer models!" Additionally, when he earns an E-Rank at the end of a stage, he laments that he couldn't even beat Gamma or Beta.
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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.
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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.
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In Mega Man (Classic) series:
Proto Man is usually depicted as being much more capable than the later model, Mega Man, and due to a bug in his design, a flawed nuclear core, is the first robot in history to have full free will. On the flip-side, that same unstable core makes him far more vulnerable to damage and means his power reactor will catastrophically fail at some point (Implied to be quite soon in Mega Man 10). On the plus side, being built with an energy source far more raw and unrestrained generally makes his buster output more powerful than his brother or Bass, enabling the extremely potent Proto/Blues Strike.
Zigzagged in Mega Man 11 with Wily's Double Gear system, which he developed back in his college days. After being reminded of it, Wily decides to revisit the concept, outfitting his 8 Brainwashed and Crazy robot masters with Power and Speed Gears to vastly improve their capabilities. Fortunately, Dr. Light kept ahold of Wily's discarded prototype - containing both a Power and Speed Gear (compared to the robot masters who either have one or the other) - which he installs in Mega Man. However, at the end of the game, Wily reveals his own perfected Double Gear system installed in his personal Wily Capsule, which has all the benefits of Mega Man's plus an enhanced cooling system that ensures that it never overheats, thus unlike Mega Man he can leave both gears running at the same time indefinitely (which he does as his Desperation Attack.)
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The Living Failures of Bloodborne are meant to be a Flawed Prototype of Celestial Emissary since the test subject failed to ascend into kins of the Great Ones. Despite how "failed" it sounded like, they are far deadlier than their successors and can conjure meteors. One wonder why the Healing Church did not weaponise them instead.
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In Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, any prototype starts out one Morale (i.e. experience) level ahead of a normal unit produced at the same base. This means that, with a Command Center and Bioenhancement Center, a prototype is Elite right off the rack. However, this is justified in the background material: Factions entrust their newest tech to their most experienced and effective troops and crews; the actual equipment is not significantly different from that given to subsequent units. Furthermore, prototypes take longer to build (unless the base has a Skunkworks facility), indicating the extra resources needed to work out the kinks. The actual equipment is probably not a prototype at all, just first-generation production with a best-of-the-best crew.
An interesting exception is the Spartan Federation; because of their martial focus, one of their unique traits is that they do not have to prototype new unit designs, with the effect that (1) the first of a unit type does not take extra time to build but (2) the first of a new unit type doesn't get the experience advantage available to other factions. This is probably a game balance consideration, as all Spartan units get a +2 Morale advantage by default.
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Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey has the insanely overpowered Lightning, which is in many ways a fully-retrofitted version of the game's standard dimensional-crossing warship. She's got even Reality Warper tech (too energy-consuming to move or deploy the plasma shield, but still...) even in-game, the difference between the Lightning and the other ships is explicitly compared to a fully-tuned and upgraded car against one fresh from the dealership.
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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.
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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 Defense Forces. 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.
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One character from Lyrical Nanoha, Subaru Nakajima is a self-admitted homage to Super Robot Wars. It turns out that she is the prototype to the Number cyborgs, as is her sister Ginga, and while she's not technically stronger than the Number cyborgs, she does have an Inherent Skill that is very effective against cyborgs. 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. However, to her mother, Fate is a Flawed Prototype because she was meant to be a clone of her dead daughter Alicia, but ended up gaining quirks of her own, which royally pissed off mommy dearest.
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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans features two Super Prototypes:
The EB-05s Schwalbe Graze (lit. Swallow Graze) is a prototype of the mass produced Graze, however, being experimental weapon, they're modified to have multiple boosters to amplify its aerial combat, equipped with wire claw, as well as a rifle lance. There's a reason the Schwalbe Graze piloted by a select few elite Gjallarhorn pilots is called the EB-05s (as opposed to the standard EB-06 Graze) - according to the translated manual, it's one of several prototypes for the production model that was rejected for being too tricky to handle for regular pilots. Gjallarhorn went with a different design for the regular Graze, but built a few more Schwalbes for those elite pilots capable of drawing out its impressive performance without getting themselves killed. It earns its reputation as an Ace Custom for high rank officers.
The V08-1228 Grimgerde is one of the nine Valkyrie Mobile Suits developed by Gjallarhorn in Pre-Calamity War, Grimgerde serves as the prototype of the mass produced Graze as well as the Graze Swords carried by Carta Issue. Piloted by masked man Montag, he assists Tekkadan in overthrowing the current leader of Gjallarhorn.
The Gundam Frames units, unlike the traditions, are 72 limited production units featuring twin Ahab Reactors.
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Remarked upon in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, in reference to the Grappals/Gulaparls compared to the Gurren Lagann:
The trick here wasn't intentionally dumbing down the mass-produced version but rather the designers being ignorant of one crucial fact: the Gurren Lagann, like all Ganmen, is an Empathic Weapon. Simply copying the machinery won't help if they don't know what makes it tick. Once this fact is discovered, they quick-fix the situation with the addition of Spiral weaponry but they're still nowhere near enough Ganmen territory.
As seen in the movies, if your will is high enough, even the mass production models can grow into galaxy sized bots, a la "Tengen Toppa Grappal/Gulaparl" and fire planet system-sized shotgun rounds.
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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.
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Guilty Gear: Gears are artificially-engineered Humanoid Abomination Super Soldiers. The very first one ever created is leaps and bounds above the later ones in terms of power, cutting a swath through them and emerging unscathed in one encounter, but he seems to be the only one of his type. This Gear is Frederick, the brilliant scientist who created the Gears in the first instance, though he goes by the name Sol Badguy now.
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Batman's costume in Batman Begins is a prototype armor suit that was rejected by the army because it was too expensive. The same with the batmobile, which was designed for jumping gaps to lay cables for bridges.
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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 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 than spares them from a third.
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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?
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In Infinite Stratos, it turns out that Ichika's IS core is actually the very first one ever made. It's noted that the inventor "poured all [her] heart and soul into that core," since it was her first creation. Note that this is not the reason he can use the IS (he's the only male who can); rather, that is never revealed. Not even the original inventor understands why.
Houki's fourth-generation Aka Tsubaki might appear as an Ace Custom but one cannot forget that it was personally built by the inventor mentioned above and is thus guaranteed to be superior to future fourth-gen designs (for reference, various companies around the world have only begun prototyping and performance testing of third-gen IS units).
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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.
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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 said 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.
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Evangelion 303: The F-14E "Evangelions" (which in this alternate universe are experimental jet fighters rather giant robots). The first models are more powerful and have a better output than the latter ones. There also were talks to mass-produce them, but the Committee overseeing the project decided that it would be too expensive and the prototypes are good enough.
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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!)
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Mobile Suit Gundam 00 is very much this case, particularly with the Gundams of Celestial Being, and the more specialized units of the Earth Sphere Federation's A-Laws, and Innovade allies. Each of the main Gundams have a specific role, such as Sniper, Melee, Aerial Assault, or Heavy Artillery which secretly hides its real purpose, as a judge, jury, and executioner for those who betray Celestial Being's ideals with a system that shuts down a rogue Gundam's systems. Several side story visual novels and manga also detail the prototypes to the Gundams of the anime, and Mecha Expansion Packs that were never seen in the show, due to their limited purposes.
Extended even further, with its Black Box tech centered around its GN Drives. To create a true GN drive is a time and resource consuming and somewhat dangerous process, as in order to make a critical component, the Topological Defect Blanket, or TD Blanket for short,note This component allows Gundams to harness the power of Topological Defects giving them nearly unlimited power supply, and produces the greenish/blue GN particles. requires a dive into Jupiter's upper atmosphere to collect the materials needed. After 200 years of working in secret before publicly announcing their presence to the world, Celestial Being manged to produce a total of 5 GN Drives, and is indeed, considered more valuable than the Gundams themselves. It takes two years for Celestial Being, after the events of the anime and leading to the start of Gundam 00: A Wakening of the Trailblazer, to make two brand new GN Drives specially designed for the new 00 Qan[T], and it's remarked upon by several characters that this was considered to be fast. It takes another 50 years, according at the end of the movie, for Earth as a whole to be able to start mass producing True GN Drives, and not the GN Tau Drives they've been using.
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The MSN-010 Double Zeta is a massive power-house that can transform into a mobile armor, has two of the biggest beam sabers in all of Gundam, and its high mega cannon is powerful enough to turn any opposing Mobile Suits into little more than drops of melted steel. Unfortunately the high mega cannon drains almost all of its power supply in one shot, and its over-complicated transforming frame makes it structurally weak, turning it into something of a Glass Cannon.
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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.
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GaoGaiGar FINAL is a zig-zagging example that ultimately plays this straight. GaoGaiGar and GaoFightGar are both based on the blueprints of Genesic GaoGaiGar, but are significantly weaker; partially due to humans being unable to perfectly copy alien design, and partially on purpose, as some of the original's weapons were modified to serve non-offensive purpose. However, supplementary materials explain that Genesic GaoGaiGar would have actually performed worse against the earlier foes, since it was designed to combat the Sol Masters, while the later GaoGaiGar and GaoFighGar were purpose-built for taking on Zonders and the 31 Primevals. For all intents and purposes, however, Genesic GaoGaiGar is a straight upgrade when it's acquired, since the destruction of the Z-Master, and with it all Zonder metal, has rendered the later models' advantages moot.
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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.
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In a way, the Hulk. While created by accident, Hulk was the first gamma mutant, and most following gamma beings (the Leader, the Abomination, Madman, Ravage, etc) were based off either recreating that accident or specifically copying his DNA. While some have had greater base-line strength than the Hulk, and most have retained their higher intelligence whereas the Hulk is most often shown to be a savage, Hulk's potential strength (increasing with anger) and his other abilities (Healing Factor, psychic resistance) have shown him to be the most powerful of the gamma beings. Another factor in the Hulk's Super Prototype-ness is the fact that Bruce Banner's psyche is so damaged, because of abuse 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!
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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.)
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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.
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Ace Combat's love of Super Prototypes reaches absolutely absurd levels in Ace Combat Infinity, which brings in no less than six variants of the Morgan/FALKEN line, - starting from a "Block 1" Flawed Prototype of the Morgan, on through the regular Morgan, through to Pixy's version with higher stats, then on to the FALKEN, and from there on to the ADA-01 ADLER, a ground-focused counterpart to the FALKEN, and the Ace Combat 2 version of the original FALKEN.
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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.
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Super Prototype / int_44127c7c
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Super Prototype
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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's Mass Production Evas are a little ambiguous, but have very little resemblance to any of the prior Units in terms of how they work and operate.
If anything, Unit-00 is considered less reliable than its counterparts. As a prototype, Unit-00 wasn't intended for actual field deployment. And, Rei 1's soul is rather unstable and rebellious.
Rebuild of Evangelion gives us Provisional Unit-05 which is very much a Flawed Prototype, as it was rushed into service half-built to deal with an emergency situation. The only advantage it had over any other Evas were the flight thrusters. The third Rebuild movie subverts the trope by introducing even later Eva Units that are far superior to the prototypes they'd been using: with modular weapons packs that can quickly be swapped out mid-battle, portable batteries allowing them to operate without the umbilical cable, and the Eva Mark-09 has rocket boosters that allow it to fly under its own power and an Angel-level Healing Factor. Unit-13 appears to be Unit-01's successor and has Attack Drones and two sets of arms, in addition to Unit-01's ability to initiate an Impact Event under the right circumstances.
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Super Prototype
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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.
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Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception brought us the Fenrir. The original models had optical camouflage, ungodly maneuverability and a microwave weapon. The production models don't have any of that aside from the ungodly maneuverability at the cost of ammo. In the same vein, the Varcolac from Joint Assault is shown to have a rear mounted machine gun that shoots down any and all missiles that approach it. In game, it doesn't have that but it's still the best plane in the game if you give it the right mods.
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Super Prototype / int_479c8fff
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Super Prototype
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In Gundam Build Fighters Try, the Build Burning Gundam is this. Unlike Sei Iori's previous Gunpla, the Build Strike and its variants, it's not based on any kind of previous Gunpla and is completely scratch-built.
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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). Later, Hojo made a series of experimental transhumans called Sephiroth Clones, never meant for actual combat, to test some properties of the augmenting technology in question; one of these prototypes is our main protagonist, who ended up no less powerful than the original himself.
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Super Prototype / int_49a87cb3
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The fictional planes of Ace Combat occasionally fall under this trope, particularly the X-49 Night Raven of Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere and the ADFX-01 "Morgan" of Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, which is a super prototype of the later (in the series original world timeline) and much more advanced ADF-01 "FALKEN". The Morgan zig-zags this, however, as the Final Boss flies a Super Prototype of the Super Prototype (he gets an ADFX-02 that carries all three special weapons at once while your -01 is stuck with one at a time), and then the later FALKEN is overall somewhat better (it only gets a fuel-air bomb instead of the multi-purpose burst missile the Morgan gets, but its Tactical Laser System carries more shots, holds the beam twice as long, and deals more damage per second).
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 camouflage, ungodly maneuverability and a microwave weapon. The production models don't have any of that aside from the ungodly maneuverability at the cost of ammo. In the same vein, the Varcolac from Joint Assault is shown to have a rear mounted machine gun that shoots down any and all missiles that approach it. In game, it doesn't have that but it's still the best plane in the game if you give it the right mods.
Ace Combat's love of Super Prototypes reaches absolutely absurd levels in Ace Combat Infinity, which brings in no less than six variants of the Morgan/FALKEN line, - starting from a "Block 1" Flawed Prototype of the Morgan, on through the regular Morgan, through to Pixy's version with higher stats, then on to the FALKEN, and from there on to the ADA-01 ADLER, a ground-focused counterpart to the FALKEN, and the Ace Combat 2 version of the original FALKEN.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Starwalker: Starwalker was built to test a new drive system.
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Kamen Rider Agito: The Kamen Rider G3/G3-X armor boils down to being this, especially after the introduction (and later mothballing) of the Kamen Rider G3 Mild armor. This is ultimately Averted when Agito is revisited in Kamen Rider Zi-O and it is revealed that the G3 armor was actually mass produced and used for the G3 Team.
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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. Then it turns out that the Build Driver itself is a man-made bootleg of the Evol Driver, the show's real Super Prototype. As the power source of a planet-eating alien monster, that specific belt is ridiculously overpowered compared to everything else in the show, and most of the show's plot was its owner trying to get it back (along with its own power-up item, the Black Hole Trigger) to take his rightful place as the Big Bad.
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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.
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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.
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Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: The prototype gashats are more powerful than the regular ones if used correctly, but have unfortunate side effects. What exactly it's supposed to mean is not specified besides them being said to 'ruin the user's body'. The best indication given is when a normal person uses a Gashat? They get the Bugster Virus. When a normal person uses a prototype Gashat? They violently vomit up blood near instantly.
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The Edelweiss in Valkyria Chronicles, made by Isara's father for Welkin's father for the previous war. Unlike most super-prototypes.it was actually put forward to Gallian High Command. It was found to be an incredible tank, but it was too expensive for any kind of mass production.
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Zigzagged in Viper's Creed: in the last episode we see a prototype white mech with greater speed, armor and two additional arms; but its software is not optimized, so at critical moments it freezes from bugs.
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Super Prototype / int_553886c0
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Super Prototype
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In the Metal Gear series, the prototype Metal Gear RAY is of far superior quality to the mass-produced models later encountered by Raiden as a boss battle; then again, it may have been actually designed for its supposed purpose (to defeat REX derivatives) whereas the mass-produced versions were actually tactical defense units for Arsenal Gear. In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Bladewolf, a prototype unmanned gear, is self-aware and pretty durable, while the mass-produced Fenrirs go down much faster and have less intelligence than a real dog.
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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.
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Super Prototype / int_594531f
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Sonic Adventure 2 has the Biolizard, the prototype ultimate life form which was enormous compared to its successor Shadow the Hedgehog. It was locked in suspended animation by GUN until Dr. Eggman reactivated it in the process of inserting the Chaos Emeralds into the Eclipse Cannon and sent the ARK hurtling towards Earth, after which it was defeated by Shadow but recovered and merged with the Eclipse Cannon in order to ensure that the colony would fall, only to be defeated again by the combined efforts of Super Sonic and Super Shadow. It is subverted in that the Biolizard seems to suffer from severe asthma, and even with a huge life support system attached to it, it can't sustain combat for half a minute without getting tired.
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Fallout: New Vegas shows that at least one prototype model of eyebots had a TV-screen, and not just a built-in radio. ED-E, however, is not quite this trope, despite being a prototype and much more powerful than its mass-produced cousins: it was the prototype to a series of combat-adapted eyebots that were scrapped in favor of Hellfire power armor, with the common eyebot being its predecessor rather than its successor.
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Invoked (but not in any meaningful manner) in Sonic Heroes. One of E-123 Omega's combo-score quips is "Worthless consumer models!" Additionally, when he earns an E-Rank at the end of a stage, he laments that he couldn't even beat Gamma or Beta.
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In Warframe, Prime items are invariably stronger than their present-day Tenno reproductions. With Warframes, the difference tends to be fairly minor, but most Prime weapons see a significant boost in power over their production models. Naturally, Orokin technology was so far beyond anything the rest of the system could create even to this day that it's incredibly difficult to replicate; most efforts depend on scrounging up components and blueprints from Orokin ruins. Umbra Warframes serve as another level of this, crossing with Flawed Prototype and Psycho Prototype: while they were immensely powerful at taking down Sentients, their rage made them uncontrollable. Ivara's Leverian story later implies that Prime Warframes are NOT in fact, prototypes, subverting this. Rather, the non-Prime models were in fact the originals, and are tested to see if they're worth keeping. Those that survive their ordeals and prove their worth were rewarded with the superior, Primed versions of their models, while ones that failed were scrapped and forgotten.
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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.
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Zigzagged in the X-Universe series. Prototype vessels tend to fare differently than their production versions, some having quirks that make them better or worse (such as higher weapon energy recharge but lower rudder speed). That said, some ships designated as prototypes fit the trope: The Paranid Hyperion Vanguard is a limited prototype run of Corvettes that far eclipses all other corvette classes (Among its many advantages, its the only one that can carry fighters and is either the top or tied for top in terms of speed, durability, and offensive potential amongst M6 vessels). The Hyperion Vanguard never entered full production run however (Which is why they cannot be bought by the player - only acquired through boarding existing copies). And all prototype ships, once they're acquired, can be reverse-engineered and then produced in the Player Headquarters in practice like the factory-produced versions. The only ship that cannot be reverse-engineered is the Xperimental Shuttle, making it Too Awesome to Use.
In X Rebirth, the player salvages a one-off prototype, the Pride of Albion (now the "Albion Skunk", much to the chagrin of the pilot), which was designed to fight in the Second Terraformer War. It's a hybridized ship combining the best features of both the old M3 Fighter and an M6 Corvette classes - it's maneuverable, very powerful, carries a compliment of drones in a wide variety of flavors, and one of the fastest ships around, but it was never put into mass production due to excessive production costs.
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Mobile Suit Victory Gundam twists it. While the eponymous Victory Gundam is superior to its simplified sister model Gun EZ, the actual mass production model is identical to the prototype. The Victory 2 was meant to be a limited-production model, but the other suits were destroyed prior to being fielded, leaving Uso's V2 as a unique unit.
On the whole, Victory shows a more realistic deployment: In the beginning, the V-Gundam takes the Superiority Fighter role while the Gun EZ takes the workhorse role. Then, the V-Gundam is mass-produced as the V-Gundam Hexa and takes the workhorse role, with the V-Dash Gundam filling in the Superiority Fighter role until the V2 is ready, at which point the V-Dash takes on a Joint Support role, covering both the V-Hexa workhorses and the V2. The Gun EZ and Jamesgun are relegated to the gunship role held by the Ball in the One Year War.
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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.
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In X Rebirth, the player salvages a one-off prototype, the Pride of Albion (now the "Albion Skunk", much to the chagrin of the pilot), which was designed to fight in the Second Terraformer War. It's a hybridized ship combining the best features of both the old M3 Fighter and an M6 Corvette classes - it's maneuverable, very powerful, carries a compliment of drones in a wide variety of flavors, and one of the fastest ships around, but it was never put into mass production due to excessive production costs.
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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.
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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.
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Mobile Suit Gundam F91's eponymous Mobile Suit (the Formula 91) plays with this; its prequel manga features the F91's predecessor (the Formula 90), of which two were made. The F90s sported multiple hardpoints all over their chassis which could be outfitted with different equipment, resulting in eight specialized configurations (later model line and settings expanded the equipment up to 26 different packs). S.N.R.I. (the company responsible for the Formula Project) then used the combat data from each configuration and built the F91 using optimized versions of the most effective and well-rounded F90 variant (namely the F90V). The F91 was later subject to limited mass production, though no changes were made to the mass produced units from the original F91. So in essence the F91 is only a super prototype in regards to the previous Formula Gundam, with its mass-produced equivalents being almost carbon copies, with the exception of the locked overdrive mode of its Bio-computer which over-heats the unit (but gives it a short performance boost) and fixed the paint shredding flaw (which gave the prototype a strange ability of splitting into multiple images on the enemy screen).
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The VF-25 the good guys use in Macross Frontier also has superior performance to the military standard-issue VF-171 along with a redesigned Armored Pack that won't lock the Valkyrie into battroid mode; while the civilian protagonist recognizes it on sight, it's confirmed as still undergoing official performance evaluations.
The Movies both subvert this, and then play it straight. The Tornado Pack is noted to be Awesome, but Impractical, itself the Flawed Prototype to Alto's YF-29 Durandal, whichi is pretty much confirmed to be the most advanced fighter craft in the Macross-verse at that date. Even then, its bright red color scheme is noted to be because of its status as a prototype, and not the other reason.
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Macross usually averts this, with the production models being built up from the prototype's capabilities. Even prequel Macross Zero only uses a Flawed Prototype in the form of the VF-0 Phoenix: despite having flight performance head-and-shoulders above conventional jet aircraft and even limited capability for underwater operation, it's a maintenance-hog and the war's outbreak meant that the engineers couldn't wait until the intended space-capable reactor engines were completed so they simply slapped on the strongest air-breathing jet engine they could get their hands on and crossed their fingers.
The majority of Macross Plus consists of a contest between two super prototypes (YF-19 and YF-21) competing to be the new mass production model; they eventually choose the YF-19 after the YF-21's Unusual User Interface proves to be a little unsafe if the pilot gets distracted during flight; the destruction of the YF-21 prototype doesn't help either. This is actually a realistic portrayal of the prototyping system; similar contests have actually occurred in real life.
The portrayal of the mass-produced models of the YF-19 and -21 is also somewhat realistic, as both prototypes performed too well, to the point that they could only be piloted by the best. Their mass-production models only saw limited use, and even the older VF-17 saw longer service.
The VF-25 the good guys use in Macross Frontier also has superior performance to the military standard-issue VF-171 along with a redesigned Armored Pack that won't lock the Valkyrie into battroid mode; while the civilian protagonist recognizes it on sight, it's confirmed as still undergoing official performance evaluations.
The Movies both subvert this, and then play it straight. The Tornado Pack is noted to be Awesome, but Impractical, itself the Flawed Prototype to Alto's YF-29 Durandal, whichi is pretty much confirmed to be the most advanced fighter craft in the Macross-verse at that date. Even then, its bright red color scheme is noted to be because of its status as a prototype, and not the other reason.
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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.
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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).
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Timefire from Mirai Sentai Timeranger is a prototype to the Timeranger suits, but is strong enough to take on monsters singlehandedly.
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Fallout 3 has some really powerful prototype stuff. Example: MPLX Novasurge, a unique plasma pistol which greatly increases damage and the critical multiplier at the cost of doubled power usage and weight. It was developed by a "Section: A61" shortly before the Great War broke out. The prototype survived the war by being beamed aboard Mothership Zeta approx. 200 years before the Lone Wanderer found it in the ship's cargo hold.. Or the MP-47/A power armor prototype with a built-in medical dispenser and an onboard AI. And the Capital Wasteland's sole set of T-51b power armor(not counting the indestructible Winterized version from Operation: Anchorage). Finally, there's Liberty Prime, a Humongous Mecha built for the Anchorage Reclamation, but kept out of battle due to problems with its power supply.
Fallout: New Vegas shows that at least one prototype model of eyebots had a TV-screen, and not just a built-in radio. ED-E, however, is not quite this trope, despite being a prototype and much more powerful than its mass-produced cousins: it was the prototype to a series of combat-adapted eyebots that were scrapped in favor of Hellfire power armor, with the common eyebot being its predecessor rather than its successor.
There's also the Tesla-Beaton Prototype, a unique Tesla cannon, and the AER-14, a prototype Laser Rifle with a green laser. The Q-35 Matter Modulator is an example and also has some backstory to retcon why the FO3 plasma rifle is so different from the original plasma rifle (dubbed the "Plasma Caster" in NV): The plasma caster was too expensive, had an awkward form factor, and required too much training to be proficient in, so a military project was started to adapt it to a more familiar pistol grip rifle form factor, and lower the cost. This is because the original plasma caster was meant as a construction tool rather than a weapon - it's basically a really big welding torch, and as a result, while it's one of the strongest energy weapons around, it also has a massive spread due to being completely unergonomic.
Old World Blues has the Stealth Suit Mark II, which like the Medic Power Armor, has an onboard AI that automatically dispenses Med-X and Stimpaks.
Fallout 4 adds the T-60 Power Armor, a step above the T-51 armor that was previously used. It was only beginning to be deployed experimentally (one of the Vault's military guards is wearing a suit of this armor in the pre-War sequence) when the Great War happened.
There's also a unique version of the Railway Rifle called "Prototype Railway Rifle". However, the player expecting it to follow the usual workings of this trope - and indeed of every other unique weapon in the game - will be disappointed: it gets subverted and does piddling damage, has poor range and only holds one round. It behaves, in other words, exactly how you'd expect from an unfinished prototype.
As revealed in Far Harbor, Nick Valentine was one of the two prototype Synths capable of independent thinking and judgement, the other being DiMA. Rather than being junked by the Institute as he believed, he actually escaped alongside his "brother" DiMA.
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Fallout 4 adds the T-60 Power Armor, a step above the T-51 armor that was previously used. It was only beginning to be deployed experimentally (one of the Vault's military guards is wearing a suit of this armor in the pre-War sequence) when the Great War happened.
There's also a unique version of the Railway Rifle called "Prototype Railway Rifle". However, the player expecting it to follow the usual workings of this trope - and indeed of every other unique weapon in the game - will be disappointed: it gets subverted and does piddling damage, has poor range and only holds one round. It behaves, in other words, exactly how you'd expect from an unfinished prototype.
As revealed in Far Harbor, Nick Valentine was one of the two prototype Synths capable of independent thinking and judgement, the other being DiMA. Rather than being junked by the Institute as he believed, he actually escaped alongside his "brother" DiMA.
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Sky Girls features this: The three original Sonic Divers are prototypes, and they do their job well. Subverted in the fact that the mass production model can do just as well, but the WORM attacks the production assembly plant, making the only one model that was completed a super prototype in its own way.
Also used straight when the Vic Vipers make their debut, it is marketed as cheap, much better and more heavily-armed alternative to the Sonic Divers that the titular characters use, and hence, is mass-produced. Not only it really is underperforming in comparison, the best thing it can do is act as support rather than replacement. It actually even gets beaten by an old, conventional fighter piloted by the show's The Ace in the end, and it's a two-against-one battle.
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In Atlas Reactor PuP and Blackburn are both prototypes of their respective product line and superior to said product line. In both cases it's because they were subsequently modified beyond their original product specifications and not because they were designed that way. PuP's case is also reinforced by his remaining product line being destroyed by the AI ban; PuP surviving only because he was the Flawed Prototype at the time.
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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.
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In Rise of Legends, the Vinci faction has the Prototype Factory which allows the making of a Super Prototype unit. While these types of units are individually unique, choosing to make one will lead to overall bonuses to units that the Super Prototype was related to and these bonuses persisted even if the Super Prototype unit was destroyed. For example, making the unique Siege Zeppelin will lead to all your Steam Cannons becoming more powerful. These Super Prototype units are usually far better than the units that benefit from their development (such as the Siege Zeppelin to the Steam Cannons and Zeke the Robot to the Steam Fortress and Defense Tower).
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Halo:
The Spartan-IIs are this to the Spartan-IIIs and IVs. The IIs tend to be larger, stronger, and just more naturally talented overall, due being subject to a much more stringent selection criteria than their successors. On top of all that, their MJOLNIR armor is far better than the III's SPI armor (though not the IV's GEN2 MJOLNIR). On the other hand, the IIs were also much more costly to produce and equip, and the process of augmenting them had a much higher failure rate than with the IIIs and IVs, making them much fewer in numbers and much less expendable. That said, there were some IIIs that were considered the rough equals of the IIs, such as those of Noble Team, who were given their own sets of MJOLNIR.
The IVs are superior in both equipment quality and numbers compared to their III and II predecessors. However, while the IVs are highly-skilled volunteers drawn from the best veterans and recruits, the IIIs and IIs were both trained to be the perfect soldiers from childhood; this difference manifests itself most clearly in the comparatively lesser skill and professionalism of the IVs. Word of God has also stated that the IVs' physical augmentations are inferior to those of their predecessors.
Averted by the Spartan-I program, which did not have the success that the later programs did; if Sergeant Johnson and the "1.0s" in I Love Bees are any indication, they're just slightly better than the best Badass Normals. In fact, the Spartan program as a whole had to be renamed from "Project Orion" in order to distance the S-IIs from their predecessors (who themselves were retroactively renamed "Spartan-Is" to acknowledge they did provide the necessary data for the success of the later programs). Admittedly, the Orions were very effective soldiers, but just not quite good enough to prevent the Insurrection from spreading, not to mention that far too many of them started to experience severe degenerative side effects from the augmentations, both mental and physical.
There's also the HRUNTING/YGGDRASIL Mark I Powered Armor, which was this to the Mark IX "Mantis" Mini-Mecha. Whereas the Mark I had flight, rockets, chainguns, mines, a bubble shield, and a nuclear self-destruct system, the Mantis usually only has a chaingun, a rocket launcher, and standard Deflector Shields; the latter's still a force to be reckoned with, though.
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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.
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Subject Delta in BioShock 2 isn't just a Big Daddy — he's the first Big Daddy; unlike the production models, he's nimble and has plasmid powers. It's justified in-universe by a whole host of problems with that particular series: they were too costly, their free will made them far more difficult to control, and are permanently bonded to a single Little Sister and doomed to death or violent insanity once she's gone. The newer models, while not quite as advanced, are physically stronger, more durable, and lack free will, and have no preference for any particular Little Sister, all of which better suit the one task they are built for.
The Burial at Sea Downloadable Content for BioShock Infinite features a Bouncer Big Daddy that is able to launch its drill and pull enemies towards him. According to a chalkboard in Suchong's lab, this feature was removed because the hydraulic fluids/gases needed for this caused the Bouncer to become unstable.
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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.
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In Phineas and Ferb, Norm's prototype head in the episode "Candace Disconnected" is capable of a wider range of emotions than the final model and doesn't speak in a monotone, but is a lot snarkier.
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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.
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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.
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While it appears to be played straight in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, with the Strike Dagger being inferior to the Strike Gundam, sidestories reveal that Strike Dagger is merely a stopgap production; the actual mass production model, the 105 Dagger, is superior to the Strike Gundam. Sure, it has limited laminate armor instead of full body PS armor, but with pretty much every mobile suit using beam weaponry by that point, the latter isn't as useful as it was.
The Astray line is an odd case. The colored Frames (Red, Blue, Gold, Green and Mirage) were all prototypes, but weren't anything incredible. It's only by the wonders of their respective pilots customizing them that they became superior to the later mass produced M1 Astray units. And even then, the mass-produced Astrays could take on the prototypes, as the Red Frame was once easily taken down by a simple M1 Astray (granted one piloted by a Coordinator).
However, Gundam SEED does play the trope straight with the Moebius mobile armor. The Moebius Zero prototype sports four detachable and independently maneuverable gun barrels in a precursor to the DRAGOON system later used to great effect by certain Bigger Stick mecha like the Providence; the production model Moebius lacks these, using only the forward-fixed central cannon. This is justified in that only a select few OMNI pilots had the spatial awareness and piloting skills required to use the detachable gun barrels effectively, and of those pilots very few (we basically know of Mu la Flaga only) survived the Battle of Endymion prior to the start of the anime, so paring down the design was an unfortunate necessity.
The GuAIZ Experimental Firearms Type mounted the same weaponry as both the Freedom and the Justice, but was scaled back to the basics for the production model because it was incredibly expensive to maintain. The production models were massively scaled back because, at the time, it was near the closing moments of the war and the standard weaponry was deemed good enough (and it was, as the GuAIZ was one of the most powerful production mobile suits to be used during the war). Unfortunately both suffered a case of So Last Season when the new ZAKU Warriors proved to be superior and cheaper. Especially compared to the GuAIZ-R version that was introduced as a stopgap before the ZAKU Warrior, with scaled-down weapons and performance both to cut costs and because the "Extensional Arrestor" weapons (a combined rocket anchor, beam dagger and beam gun) that was so devastating in combat at the Battle of GENESIS proved impossible for all but the most elite pilots to control.
The ZAKU Warrior is another inversion as its prototype, the ZAKU Trial Type, had no beam weaponry despite having an N-Jammer Canceller-outfitted nuclear engine. The ZAKU Trial Type was intended for mass production, but the Treaty of Junius banned the military use of N-Jammer Cancellers and thus the design was reworked. The addition of superior weapons is probably explained by the extra couple of years of development.
The Extended 'Biological CPU' introduced in Gundam SEED is superior to the Extended introduced later in Gundam SEED Destiny, as they were able to pressure even high-end Coordinators like Kira and Athrun in combat. At the same time, they're also Flawed and Psycho Prototype, and compared to them, the Extended in SEED Destiny are practically bastions of mental stability.
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The Vayeate and Mercurius from Gundam Wing was this to the mass production Virgos. However this was due to both of the mobile suits being test beds for their respective systems; the Vayeate needed an external reactor to power its beam cannon while the Mercurius had to dedicate all of its power to the "Planet Defensors", leaving it with very little offensive capability beyond a beam saber-shield. The Virgo was designed to be something in-between; housing less than a quarter of the Mercurius' Planet Defensors so that it can wield a less powerful version of the Vayeate's Beam Cannon. This was acceptable, as the Virgo was to be mass produced and unmanned, so what they lacked in quality they made up for in overwhelming quantity. In fact when the two prototype suits were later rebuilt as unmanned Mobile Dolls as well, they fared much less effectively against the Gundams, as they were only marginally more effective, but there was only two of them compared to the dozens of Virgos flying around.
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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".
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Kamen Rider:
Kamen Rider Agito: The Kamen Rider G3/G3-X armor boils down to being this, especially after the introduction (and later mothballing) of the Kamen Rider G3 Mild armor. This is ultimately Averted when Agito is revisited in Kamen Rider Zi-O and it is revealed that the G3 armor was actually mass produced and used for the G3 Team.
Kamen Rider Faiz: The mass-produced Riot Trooper gears are nowhere near as good as the unique Faiz gear (the fact that the Faiz gear has two alternate forms and a bike that can transform into backup in a pinch not withstanding).
Kamen Rider Double: Kamen Rider Skull is the single-user prototype for Double, but is just as good in combat, best illustrated by its being a jack-of-all-trades combination of Shotaro's Memories (melee brawler like Joker, good defense like Metal, The Gunslinger like Trigger).
Kamen Rider OOO: Averted with Kamen Rider Proto-Birth, as the prototype Birth Driver has only a few of the functions of the later model, and is used as a backup when the main driver is damaged. Then Date returns, and takes the prototype in order to back up Goto.
Kamen Rider Wizard has Kamen Rider Beast, who uses an ancient belt while Wizard uses a modern one. Despite this, Beast's default form is as strong as Wizard's Mid-Season Upgrade form. Possibly subverted, as the White Wizard later implies that Wizard is overly weak for a spellcaster and what counts for him as a Mid-Season Upgrade is where everyone else naturally starts at.
Kamen Rider Gaim has the Yomotsuheguri and Forbidden Ringo lockseeds, which were both created at an early stage of research of the Helheim forest. They are vastly more powerful than most other lockseeds, but using them kills the user. Both serve as Godzilla Threshold of sort at some point of time.
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 if used correctly, but have unfortunate side effects. What exactly it's supposed to mean is not specified besides them being said to 'ruin the user's body'. The best indication given is when a normal person uses a Gashat? They get the Bugster Virus. When a normal person uses a prototype Gashat? They violently vomit up blood near instantly.
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. Then it turns out that the Build Driver itself is a man-made bootleg of the Evol Driver, the show's real Super Prototype. As the power source of a planet-eating alien monster, that specific belt is ridiculously overpowered compared to everything else in the show, and most of the show's plot was its owner trying to get it back (along with its own power-up item, the Black Hole Trigger) to take his rightful place as the Big Bad.
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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.
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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.
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Vivi, like all Black Mages in Final Fantasy IX, is an animated doll. However, as the prototype model, his power is greater than that of his "brothers", and his lifespan is much longer, as well.Also in a far darker sense Kuja is a Prototype of the real Angel of Death Zidane, though it is arguable who is more powerful/competent
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Final Fantasy VI's Kefka was the very first Magitek Knight (a normal human given magical powers by way of an infusion from an Esper). He consistently has much stronger magic then Celes, a later-generation Magitek Knight that joins your party.note  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. 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.
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From Girl Genius: The one or two Dingbots that Agatha has actually personally built, referred to as Dingbot Prime, are much better in every way than their successors. This is because most Dingbots are built by other Dingbots, and each generation has diminishing returns in quality, leading inexorably to this trope.
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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. Said Lambda Driver is later put into the ARX-8 Laevatein which, despite the serial number, is actually an Ace Custom put together in a hurry. It can still kick the asses of everything mass-produced, though.
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Averted and then invoked in Sonic Adventure by E-102 Gamma. During his story, he faces off against his older brother E-101 Beta for a spot on Robotnik's E-100 series of enforcer mechs and soundly defeats him in battle. Later on, after revolting against Robotnik, Gamma goes on a mission to destroy his brothers to save the animals trapped inside. After handily defeating all of his brothers, E-101 shows up again, having gotten a dramatic overhaul with abilities far surpassing Gamma's. Gamma is still able to defeat him without too much trouble, though Beta sees to it that Gamma doesn't leave the battlefield.
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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.
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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.
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As one might expect from a Gundam game, Gihren's Greed has its share of Super Prototypes. However, it plays both the "production cost" and "only super until obsolete" angles brutally straight. For the former, building an army of Gundams is prohibitively expensive while a force of GMs will do the job at a fraction of the cost and so the Super Prototypes are best used as force multipliers at the hands of ace pilots, while for the latter as technology marches on Super Prototypes from earlier in the game will struggle against and later be completely outclassed by later models (e.g. the original RX-78 Gundam will barely be able to keep up against Zeta era mooks like Hi-Zacks).
This is actually mentioned with the Prototype Gundam Mk-II's backstory: the machine was stupidly powerful and was made with performance over cost in mind; thus, when it was done, it was a machine that couldn't be piloted unless you were extremely skilled (or a Newtype) and it cost as much as a fleet of Pegasus-class warshipsnote That's the same class as the White Base.
Of course, being based on Gundam this is sometimes played with or even subverted:
The prototype versions of some machines like the Gouf or Dom are actually inferior in some regards to their mass produced brothers due to being testbeds for new technology rather than being combat models.
The prototype Gelgoog is slightly more powerful than the mass produced version (usually shown via higher health and other stats), but is otherwise exactly the same as the mass produced version. The ace customs versions, however, are often much more potent.
Some Super Prototypes have unique features that result in them still seeing use long after becoming obsolete. The RX-78 is one of the only Federation mobile suits that can fight underwater, and vastly outperforms the other two options the Aqua GM and Aqua Gundam (which is just an Aqua GM with a Gundam-style head and a beam gun). As a result, a Federation player may feel desperate enough to build the RX-78 to counter the much more numerour underwater MS Neo Zeon can field. The Xamel and Rhinoceros both have extremely long range artillery cannons that can still make them useful long after they become obsolete.
The prototype Pegasus is inferior to the White Base, which is treated in-game like an Ace Custom unit instead. Mass produced Pegasus class ships are based on the protoype.
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Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory has a similar inversion with the Gundam GP01 "Zephyrantes", which was little more than an update to the original Gundam with new tech, it comes with the ground type and space type configuration, which is more powerful than the mass production model of the time at its specialized area but weaker when placed in the other, so it is just an exchange of spec instead of "Super" in all aspects. In fact, the proposed Gundam GP04 "Gerbera" was scrapped for being little more than a copy of the GP01; it was later reworked into a more Zeon-esque design, the Gerbera Tetra, and sold to the Zeon remnants.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Subverted with Poppi in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Despite her initial form being labelled "alpha", when asked about it she says she's feature-complete and only carries the moniker because her creator wanted to tweak her U.I. It actually goes deeper than that, as it's discovered Poppi isn't the first functional artificial Blade... which means she benefits from additional development time and a superior power source, and can fight her predecessors to a standstill easily.
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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.
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Xenogears normally averts this trope, and hero Gears are usually either Ace Customs or relics of Lost Technology. The one major case of a prototype that's clearly superior to the followup model is Grahf's Alpha Weltall, which is built using 4000-year-old Lost Nanotechnology that can't be replicated in the modern world. Fei's Weltall is essentially a kitbashed knockoff designed by modern engineers, and is itself a Flawed Prototype. Several of the compromises in the original design are patched out when Weltall is redesigned by Taura, but it's still no match for the Alpha because Taura still lacks access to the Zeboim nanotech.
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Kamen Rider OOO: Averted with Kamen Rider Proto-Birth, as the prototype Birth Driver has only a few of the functions of the later model, and is used as a backup when the main driver is damaged. Then Date returns, and takes the prototype in order to back up Goto.
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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.
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The RX-0 Unicorn Gundam has psychoframes built into its entire structure. When these activate, it's an unstoppable killing machine with amazing speed that can hijack enemy-controlled psychoframes—for five minutes. Until the psychoframes go active, it's just a slightly-above-average MS with two beam sabers and one beam magnum (with only 15 shots).
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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.
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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.
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World of Tanks is rife with this. Many of the more powerful vehicles are prototypes that were never produced in any significant number in Real Life, but any number of them can be used in the game. They also lack the flaws that made them Awesome, but Impractical in reality. Many of the tier upgrades are from real tanks to prototype upgrades that never saw service.
To give you an idea of the extent of it, of the 32 Tier X (the most powerful. Count as of patch 8.10) Tanks/TD's/SPG's, three were ever mass produced, with one having just over 200 built.
Although in most cases, the super prototype is a prototype of the next tank, where the next tank might be overpowered for gameplay purposes. For example, the Germans get prototypes of the Tiger, Panther, and Leopard tanks. The prototypes are tougher and perform better than any of their lower-tier vehicles in their tech tree... but do not perform better than the Tiger, Panther, and Leopard themselves.
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The majority of Macross Plus consists of a contest between two super prototypes (YF-19 and YF-21) competing to be the new mass production model; they eventually choose the YF-19 after the YF-21's Unusual User Interface proves to be a little unsafe if the pilot gets distracted during flight; the destruction of the YF-21 prototype doesn't help either. This is actually a realistic portrayal of the prototyping system; similar contests have actually occurred in real life.
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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.
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Super Dinosaur is superior to the successive Dino Men because of his armor which grants him unparalleled firepower.
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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.
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One Piece has the World Government-developed Pacifistas. The original, created by rebuilding Bartholemew Kuma into a Cyborg, is able to make short work of some later models, though this is mostly because Kuma had Devil Fruit powers that apparently couldn't be transferred to the others or technologically duplicated. It is stated that more powerful models have been created over the Time Skip, though it has not yet been shown how well Kuma would stack up against them.
Another example would be the sea train in Water 7, the original one, Rocket Man, is WAY faster than it's successor, but it wasn't used as the city's train since it's extreme speed, lack of breaks, lack of steering controls and lack of momentum (if it crashed something it wouldn't lose speed but it would be sent flying in any other direction) was a high risk to safety for something meant to be a civilian train.
An aversion is implied with the ancient weapon Pluto; the government's "official" explanation in regards to it is that they either erase any chance of someone using it ever, or get the blueprints for it so they can make their own just in case, which implies that at the very least, they think they have the resources, manpower and skill needed to make/mass produce a model as good as the original just as long as they get the how.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Code Geass features several super prototypes, progressing in power with the times. Supplementary materials explain the backstory of KMF development, where they were literally putting pieces together just to see how it worked.
The best subversion of this trope is the Ganymede, the earliest-built Knightmare to be shown in the series (3rd Generation). It has no internal power source, only batteries; no weapons, no closed cockpit and insufficient motive power to do anything other than harmlessly cruising. It can make the world's biggest pizza, though.
This is actually a Double Subversion. The Ganymede model was indeed the Super Prototype of its day, being a powerful mecha in the right hands. These hands being those of Marianne vi Britannia, nicknamed "the Flash" for her incredible skill with the Ganymede, rivalling the later Knight of One, Bismarck Waldstein who used his Geass to cheat, and STILL lost to Marianne. After Marianne's death, the Ganymede, being her signature Knightmare, fell out of favour and was decommissioned, having its weaponry removed and returned to the manufacturers, the Ashford Academy.
Another subversion is the Gawain; when Lelouch jacked it, it was an Awesome, but Impractical KMF. It could fly, but a flaw in the hadron cannons left the beam unfocused, causing it to spew energy in a wide arc which could just as easily hit friend as well as foe. That problem was fixed, making the beams extremely deadly, but it was still outmatched in close combat. Its mass-production version, the Gareth, had the cannons moved it its hands.
To a smaller extent, the Vincent: the Vincent Ward final version scraps the needle blazer weapon to ease production. Also Vincent's own Super Prototype, the Lancelot: the world's first seventh-generation KMF, later upgraded into the one-of-a-kind ninth-generation unholy terror known as the Lancelot Albion.
On the opposite side of the coin, Guren Nishiki gets two successors: the limited-production Gekka and the mass-production Akatsuki (as well as Tohdoh's Zangetsu). Neither can hold a candle to the original, especially after it receives its own ninth-gen upgrade into the Guren SEITEN.
That said, this may be due to the pilot, but no direct comparison is made between the Guren's abilities and any of it's MP derivatives. Also, the Prototype Radiation Arm used by the Guren Nishiki after it's original Radiation Arm is destroyed seems to be both weaker, and not as well built, but this is also difficult to compare.
The Gekka at the very least are roughly on par with the original Guren in terms of specs and build. They simply lack the Radiation Wave technology that made it so dangerous and have to rely on their swords, but still can run rings around the standard Sutherland and even keep up with the Lancelot. The Akatsuki are harder to judge because by the time they're released Britannia has revamped their military to have a new generation of mass produced units as well as more single custom knightmares like the Knights of the Round's units.
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Proto Man is usually depicted as being much more capable than the later model, Mega Man, and due to a bug in his design, a flawed nuclear core, is the first robot in history to have full free will. On the flip-side, that same unstable core makes him far more vulnerable to damage and means his power reactor will catastrophically fail at some point (Implied to be quite soon in Mega Man 10). On the plus side, being built with an energy source far more raw and unrestrained generally makes his buster output more powerful than his brother or Bass, enabling the extremely potent Proto/Blues Strike.
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Zigzagged in Mega Man 11 with Wily's Double Gear system, which he developed back in his college days. After being reminded of it, Wily decides to revisit the concept, outfitting his 8 Brainwashed and Crazy robot masters with Power and Speed Gears to vastly improve their capabilities. Fortunately, Dr. Light kept ahold of Wily's discarded prototype - containing both a Power and Speed Gear (compared to the robot masters who either have one or the other) - which he installs in Mega Man. However, at the end of the game, Wily reveals his own perfected Double Gear system installed in his personal Wily Capsule, which has all the benefits of Mega Man's plus an enhanced cooling system that ensures that it never overheats, thus unlike Mega Man he can leave both gears running at the same time indefinitely (which he does as his Desperation Attack.)
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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.
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God Eater: Soma Schicksal is the original God Eater, created by being injected with Oracle Cells in utero. The result is someone with Super Senses and Super Strength, able to fight Aragami from the age of twelve, and resistant to being devoured thanks to internally producing their own Bias Factor. However, this creation process was morally objectionable (one of the scientists involved admitted to the Godzilla Threshold but objected so strongly they walked off the project), incredibly dangerous, and their birth resulted in an incident that destroyed the medical lab and cost their mother their life. As a result, the process was refined to be used on compatible volunteers instead, which was much safer but came at the cost of deriving their abilities from interfacing with their God Arc and being dependent on regular injections of Bias Factor from an outside source.
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Several cards in Yu-Gi-Oh! have a fairly justified case of this: they were created, playtested, and discovered to be far too broken to see mass play. As a result, only a handful of copies exist, and they're naturally rather powerful. Toon World, Blue-Eyes White Dragon, the Destiny Heroes, and Gold Castle of Stromberg all exist in small numbers, and all dominate their user's strategies.
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Chi and Freya from Chobits were two of the first persocoms ever built, yet their capabilities exceed any that were built after them.
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After War Gundam X initially averts this, with the prologue showing that the titular Gundam (as well as the Airmaster and Leopard) was mass produced, and Garrod's is simply the last of its kind. At least until the United Nations Earth recovers Jamil's old Gundam X and upgrades it into the Double X.
The Frost Brothers' Virsago and Ashtaron seem to play this straight, but the SD Gundam G Generation series gave them their own Super Prototype: the Gundam Belphagor, a contemporary of the GX, Airmaster, and Leopard. Instead, the Virsago and Ashtaron essentially split the Belphagor's gimmicks in half and develop them in their own direction.
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Rebuild of Evangelion gives us Provisional Unit-05 which is very much a Flawed Prototype, as it was rushed into service half-built to deal with an emergency situation. The only advantage it had over any other Evas were the flight thrusters. The third Rebuild movie subverts the trope by introducing even later Eva Units that are far superior to the prototypes they'd been using: with modular weapons packs that can quickly be swapped out mid-battle, portable batteries allowing them to operate without the umbilical cable, and the Eva Mark-09 has rocket boosters that allow it to fly under its own power and an Angel-level Healing Factor. Unit-13 appears to be Unit-01's successor and has Attack Drones and two sets of arms, in addition to Unit-01's ability to initiate an Impact Event under the right circumstances.
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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.
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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!
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Played straight in Outlaw Star. The XGP15A-II was purpose built using advanced military tech for the purpose of reaching the Galactic Leyline.
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In Sakura Wars (2019), Sumire Kanzaki had Reiji Shiba develop the Oubu, a Mini-Mecha which served as the prototype to the Koubu's successors, the Mugen. Sakura Amamiya uses it after Yasha destroys her Koubu in Chapter 4.
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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.
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Related to the above, Captain America is the super prototype for the Super Soldier program. Others are constantly trying to replicate his success with results ranging from severe mental deterioration (Isaiah Bradley from Truth: Red, White and Black, and William Burnside, the 50's Cap) to creating the Incredible Hulk (Ultimate Marvel) and the Weapon Plus program (Wolverine, aka Weapon X/Ten; 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.
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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.
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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.
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Super Sentai:
Denji Sentai Megaranger:
The Megasilver suit is a lot stronger than the others... until we find out that its power only lasts two and a half minutes. (In Power Rangers in Space, the 2.5 minute problem existed for different reasons and the suit wasn't a prototype.)
The Nejiranger suits are implied to be the prototypes of the Megaranger suits, but are able to take down the Megarangers with ease.
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.
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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.
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Granblue Fantasy: The Nightcypher, the speedship the crew uses in Platinum Sky, is ancient according to Sierokarte and lacks the fancy weapons that modern speedships have, but it has a powerful speed boost and it uses lost technology from the War, making it actually superior to its modern contemporaries.
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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).
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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 which created them was extremely intensive and may or may not have involved stealing power from Hell to achieve and the Emperor only managed to create 20 of them, which he later deemed to be used as the templates for the Space Marine Legions and commanders for said legions. They were, however, basically Designer Babies (from the Emperor's DNA himself) where Space Marines are people born normally with genetic engineering applied later.
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.
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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).
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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In Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, the King Oni is a hulking behemoth capable of bull-charging enemy tanks and shoot Eye Beams for the glory of the Empire of the Rising Sun. Apparently, the original King Oni is a super prototype, given to Emperor Yoshiro as a gift, which he uses when the enemy approaches his palace. It notably includes a set of Rocket Launchers for dealing with aerial threats, something the standard King Oni lacks. It's implied that this King Oni takes much more maintenance to take care of than the standard King Oni, but given that it's the Emperor's personal machine, no expense was spared.
In the Uprising expansion, the Soviet Reaper unit is a super prototype for the Sickle. While the Sickle is only armed with machine guns, the Reaper boasts automatic grenade launchers and a roof-mounted rocket launcher. However, unlike the Sickle, the Reaper's legs can barely support its weight and will snap off if it tries to leap like a Sickle. This is reflected in its special ability, which allows it to leap once and become a stationary turret wherever you want it to land.
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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.
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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.)
The Nejiranger suits are implied to be the prototypes of the Megaranger suits, but are able to take down the Megarangers with ease.
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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.
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And averted in Shin Mazinger as Energer-Z was able to go toe to toe with Mazinger-Z.
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An interesting twist on this trope is utilized in Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet. The Machine Caliber, "Chamber", is just one of many of the Galactic Alliance's Real Robot troops fighting against the hostile alien force known as the Hideauze in outer space, and many are destroyed in the first battle during episode 1. However, on Earth, due to their much less advanced technology, Chamber is essentially a this trope. It is so advanced compared to the Earthling's mechs that they can't even make a dent in its hull, even with jackhammers.
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Also used straight when the Vic Vipers make their debut, it is marketed as cheap, much better and more heavily-armed alternative to the Sonic Divers that the titular characters use, and hence, is mass-produced. Not only it really is underperforming in comparison, the best thing it can do is act as support rather than replacement. It actually even gets beaten by an old, conventional fighter piloted by the show's The Ace in the end, and it's a two-against-one battle.
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Kamen Rider Faiz: The mass-produced Riot Trooper gears are nowhere near as good as the unique Faiz gear (the fact that the Faiz gear has two alternate forms and a bike that can transform into backup in a pinch not withstanding).
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Super Prototype / int_d11daccd
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Kamen Rider Gaim has the Yomotsuheguri and Forbidden Ringo lockseeds, which were both created at an early stage of research of the Helheim forest. They are vastly more powerful than most other lockseeds, but using them kills the user. Both serve as Godzilla Threshold of sort at some point of time.
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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.
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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!
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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!
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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.
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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.
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In Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog, 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.
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Firefox has two of the titular planes, and centers on the theft of one of them.
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In Mega Man X: X a Super Prototype to all of the Reploids that were created afterwards. He was built with the ability to make his own decisions like Proto Man above, but was built with a "suffering circuit" that would allow him to weigh the consequences of his actions. This, plus over a century of self-checks made X a perfect machine. The Reploids that were built from his blueprints, however, lacked the same power of his suffering circuit and the checks, which caused many of them to become Mavericks. In general, the whole of the Mega Man franchise typically provides some viable explanation as to why a first draft might be superior to the later models.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Ram-Dass in Str.A.In.: Strategic Armored Infantry is an illegally made mecha where the Union only condones standard issue. Because Sara saved them in it, it's explained away as a "prototype" to anyone that asks. Her brother's Gloire, on the other hand, is an Ace Custom.
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In the original Mobile Suit Gundam, while the RX-78-2 Gundam was intended to be a quantum leap over Zeon's Zaku II (hence its Super Prototype status), it was also experimental in that the Earth Federation was still learning how to make a mobile suit at all. Some of the features were intended less for combat utility than to ensure that the testing data would be preserved (a "Learning Computer" that not only recorded even the most minute details of its performance but also analyzed the data in real-time, and an elaborate Escape Pod that transformed into a functional jet fighter to maximize the odds of survival for the Learning Computer in the event of a disaster), and other elements simply couldn't be produced cheaply enough to justify inclusion in the mass-production RGM-79 GM. Thus, the GM lacked any escape pod at all, used ordinary titanium armor instead of the exotic "luna titanium" alloy that at the time could only be produced in a single laboratory, and carried a "beam spray gun" pistol that was equal in lethality to the Gundam's beam rifle but shorter-ranged and less accurate. And by the time the One Year War ended, Zeon's latest mass-production mobile suit, the Gelgoog, actually exceeded the Gundam's performance in all aspects except armor; at this point it was Amuro Ray's own skills rather than the power of the Gundam that made him nearly unstoppable in battle, and the Gundam had to be upgraded with magnetic coating on its joints to compensate for him.
The Guncannon and Guntank are also this, as later in the war a limited number of mass production versions were produced with weaker weapons and lacking the core block system.
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The ultra-powerful Genesis Weapons wielded by the ARKS Council of Six in Phantasy Star Online 2 are actually the first photon weapons ever made. Every usable weapon in the game utilizes the same technology but severely scaled back for mass production, as the original units are too powerful for most people to be able to control.
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Happens in StarCraft II where a prototype superweapon called Odin is stolen from the Dominion. It doesn't just have more hit points than any other unit in the game and do more damage than anything short of hero units — it's also got several luxury amenities, including a restroom for the driver and an onboard nuke launcher. Rory Swann, the engineer of Hyperion, says it's too impractical to mass-produce, at least with the facilities available to Raynor's Raiders, so a scaled-down machine called a Thor is slated for mass production. (Oddly, the Dominion seems to have agreed with Swann, as the Odin is one of a kind and the Dominion only ever fields Thors aside from it.) There's also the Loki, a prototype for a new class of battleship, which boasts ridiculous firepower and toughness, completed at the same research station. The Loki at least is destroyed, which may be why that never went anywhere.
The Loki may have been destroyed, but during the "Fire in the Sky" Zerg mission multiple similar looking Battlecruiser's appear, which may be the mass produced version to the Loki's super prototype. There's also the Pride of Augustgrad, and the Jackson's Revenge mercenary ship, both of which look identical to the Loki; the implication is that Jackson's Revenge is an old ship retrofitted to be competitive on the modern battlefield, an Ace Custom of sorts, and perhaps the Pride of Augustgrad and Loki were test beds for normalizing such upgrades for the production models fought in the Zerg campaign.
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No Man's Sky features prototype spaceships in each of its three ship classes (Trader, Explorer, and Fighter) that are incredibly rare (not to mention extremely cost-intensive) but are leaps and bounds above most of the other ships you can find.
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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?"
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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.
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Martian Successor Nadesico had a lot of fun with this. The original Aestivalis were already Super Prototypes when two more appeared, Akatsuki's special Aestivalis (with new armor material and engine, befitting the CEO of Nergal) and the Flawed Prototype X-Aestivalis. By the time of the movie, they've mass produced the Aestivalis to remove its Mecha Expansion Pack and the need to be constantly recharged and they still build Super Prototypes of the Aestis, in this case the Aestivalis Customs and the Super Aestivalis.
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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.
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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...
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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.
Roughnecks HO!
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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.
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The original X-Blade from Kingdom Hearts was practically this to the keyblade. It originally coexisted with the true Kingdom Hearts, acting as its guardian. However, numerous people used the X-Blade as the basis for their own keyblades, leading up to the inevitable Keyblade War for control over Kingdom Hearts, which sunk the world in darkness, killed every last keyblade wielder, and split the X-Blade into seven lights and thirteen darknesses.
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Sonic the Comic – Online! has a prototype for an advanced Guardian Robot called the Gizoid.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Glitched Miko AU: Somewhat. Miko, as noted by Zahra is far more complex than any Glitch ever seen, with attention to detail so fine that Zahra was able to take a blood sample and find blood cells that were made of ones and zeros. Phil even notes that it should have been impossible for Miko to get into the base without being found out, yet she did.
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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).
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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.
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The Unholy War has a regular unit called Razorfane, a robot that attacks with circular saw blades. One of the secret unlockable characters is called Betarazor, which is basically just an upgraded version of Razorfane, with more health and more powerful attacks.
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The following is a list of statements referring to the current page from other pages.

 Super Prototype
processingCategory2
Speculative Fiction Tropes
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type
Super Prototype
 Mobile Suit Gundam AGE / int_5e782d0c
type
Super Prototype
 Mobile Suit Victory Gundam / int_5e782d0c
type
Super Prototype
 HERZ (Fanfic) / int_5e782d0c
type
Super Prototype
 Undocumented Features / Fan Fic / int_5e782d0c
type
Super Prototype
 superprototype
sameAs
Super Prototype
 Appleseed (Manga) / int_5e782d0c
type
Super Prototype
 Sword of the Stars (Video Game) / int_5e782d0c
type
Super Prototype
 Gaia Online (Website) / int_5e782d0c
type
Super Prototype