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The Flawed Prototype is just that, the first person or machine in a series that also happens to have a flaw or deficiency in its construction or performance. The prototype usually functions, maybe even exceeds expectations, but something just isn't quite right with it. At its most benign, it's "just OK" and is quickly eclipsed by the production models. If it's a machine, maybe it has a design flaw or weak point, it will explode if pushed too far, or has issues with its Power Source. If the prototype is a person, he may risk Heroic RROD or even a Superpower Meltdown every time his powers or Super Mode are engaged, have most of the ostensibly "safe" original functions or attacks be Dangerous Forbidden Techniques, require an addictive drug, or have a passive Power Degeneration that will kill him in short order. Or worst, will perform above expectations... and will have also gone insane.
The Flawed Prototype may be a protagonist, antagonist or supporting character. A protagonist who is a Flawed Prototype may be a Phlebotinum Rebel with the unenviable task of taking out his better made brothers, usually he will get the job done because he's Weak but Skilled. An antagonistic Flawed Prototype is usually a Beta Test Baddie who is jealous of the "perfect" hero, or is a Psycho Prototype who just wants to kill him for the lulz. Most commonly seen as a supporting character, the Flawed Prototype will usually act as a Big Brother Mentor for the hero, helping bail them out while they're learning how to use their abilities but (usually) being unable to help beat the Big Bad. For these reasons, the supporting flawed prototype is usually an Ensemble Darkhorse among fans.
A villain may end up using a Flawed Prototype out of desperation or overeagerness to destroy the hero, despite the warnings of his scientists that it hasn't been properly tested. This usually proves to be his undoing.
If the protagonist is a Science Hero with a suit of Powered Armor or the like, it's not uncommon for them to don an older model if the newer one is damaged or stolen. The hero will usually give it an Ace Custom treatment to help it deal with the threat at hand.
Anime and Manga
- The Lost Numbers in Guyver are failed Zoanoids, they have useful powers and abilities, but recreating them is impossible and they're biologically sterile. They had a driving force to prove themselves as valuable, having neither the dignity of being human or the pride of a normal Zoanoid.
- EVA Unit-00, identified as the prototype, supposedly has multiple flaws in its operation, from having minor synchronisation issues to going berserk in an activation test and nearly killing Rei. After these issues are worked out for Rei, it still goes berserk when Shinji attempts to operate the EVA. Unfortunately, that still doesn't save it from Rei triggering its self-destruct sequence.
- And then in episode 23 we're finally shown the failed Evangelion prototypes developed prior to Unit-00, stored in what is essentially an Evangelion graveyard. Or what's left of them, anyway; their organic parts have rotten away, leaving only deformed skeletons and orange helmets similar to Unit-00's. The depiction differs between the original version and the Director's Cut but the verdict is the same: at least fifty prototypes were rejected before Unit-00 finally passed.
- Leonard Testarossa's personal Arm Slave, the Plan 1055 Belial, is considered the most powerful Arm Slave ever made; however, it has no weapons to speak of since it relies entirely on the Lambda Driver for offense and defence. This leaves Leonard high and dry when Sousuke gets the Laevatein, which possesses the Lambda Driver-nullifying Angel Feather.
- The Laevatein itself is an example, as it is basically a heavily stripped-down Arbalest focused entirely on direct combat, lacking standard Arm Slave features like the ECM stealth cloak. Furthermore, due to the energy requirements of its muscle packages, has an operating time just shy of 30 hours, about a third that of standard Arm Slaves, the only reason the thing is even functional is because AL is supporting the OS, telling Sousuke that if he 'tore him out' the Laevatein would be a real piece of junk, and in the penultimate novel we learn that its systems are rapidly decaying and it can only operate for a two or three battles before it breaks down completely.
- The ZZ Gundam, enormous power requirements for its weapons aside, due to its transformation/combination gimmick the mobile suit is structually very weak, the full armour add-on was partially to make it structually sound enough so it wouldn't break apart if hit in the right spot.
- The Nu Gundam, despite being a beast of a machine, is an incomplete prototype, being rushed out of production with the psycoframe system and the fin funnels literally being tacked onto the basic design of a mobile suit. In Beltorchika's Children, the novel AU retelling of CCA, the Nu Gundam is completed as the Hi-Nu Gundam, which has a much more graceful integration of the fin funnels and improves on their operating time by being able to recharge them for repeated use, as well as improved acceleration, maneuverability, and firepower.
- The Tallgeese of Gundam Wing, Built with specs too high for a pilot to fly it safely, it ends up giving Zechs a heart attack when he first tries to fly it.
- Similarly, the Wing Zero Gundam. It was designed and served as the prototype for the five main gundams, but it's mental uplink system caused it's pilots to go mad unless they had great discipline. When Quatre got the plans out of storage and built the thing, the normally peaceful boy destroyed a whole colony with it.
- The EMS-04 Zudah (Later reclassified the "EMS-10" in a propaganda stunt) of MS Igloo contended with the Zaku I for Zeon's main fighting force machine. While all-around a superior machine, it has a bad habit of exploding when its engines are overexerted, thus causing it to lose out to the Zaku I.
- Many Mobile Suit Variants tend to be this. Among those, the GP-00 "Blossom", which was so off-balance with all of its equipment, it was destroyed during combat and the RX-178-0 Prototype Gundam Mk-II, which was utterly overpowered, had poor aiming skills and was expensive as all out.
- Suigintou of Rozen Maiden, the first doll and main antagonist of the first season, is short her torso. Her father never finished her, moving on to the next doll early, leading to certain personality problems.
- The girls in Gunslinger Girl may be this, as they are the first generation of cyborgs. Angelica gets special mention since she was the very first, and is especially flawed. Her memory doesn't work well, and in the manga, she has already died.
- Angelica's death has nothing to do with her flaws as a first gen cyborg, it's because of a close proximity car bomb she protected Marco from. Her memories are a problem though, and her clumsiness which apparently couldn't be programed out of her. None of the other first gens are affected by the same problems.
- Surprisingly the Super Prototype 3th generation Byakkushiki from Infinite Stratos counts as this since as stated by Chifuyu it has a very powerful weapon, but it doesn't have enough energy to sustain it. Not to mention so far that all of Ichika's battles consists of Guns vs. Swords.
- Likewise, the prototype Me-262 Jet Striker from the second season of Strike Witches. Powerful, but too dangerous for most Witches to use safely.
- In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, we have the first viable product of Project F, Fate Testarossa. Although a viable clone, in that she had a healthy body and retained the memories of her original, she developed her own personality rather than the personality of her original, and so was considered a failure. Later clones of the same technology do not have this issue, and appear to be perfect copies of the originals.
- HMX-12 Multi, the Robot Girl in To Heart, is an experimental maid robot who is not very good with any chores given to her. Her successor HMX-13 Serio is superior in every way. (Mostly. Multi is able to express and understand a range of emotions while Serio cannot, which makes her popular with the few students she interacted with.)
- Valentine Romanov in Nikolai Dante was the first to get a weapons crest, and is horribly scarred and mentally disturbed as a result. The rest got off pretty easy.
- Steve Rogers is actually the second Captain America. The original was Isaiah Bradley, the sole survivor of a battalion of black soldiers who were administered a early version of the serum. He only served in one major mission and was promptly imprisoned in Fort Leavenworth for decades for "desertion." It's unclear whether his current disabilities, similar to the symptoms of Alzheimers and steroid abuse, are a result of an unstable super-soldier formula or his treatment at Leavenworth.
- The infamous Clone Saga revealed that Ben Reilly was not the first clone of Spider-Man. Instead, it was Kaine, a psychotic, deformed clone with the powers of Spidey cranked Up to Eleven.
- The title characters of The Transformers were not Primus' first creations. Those were the Demons, a hyper-religious race of caveman-like mechanoids who turned on each other, forcing Primus to wipe the slate clean. Considering what defined the Cybertronians, that should say enough about how messed up the Demons were.
- In Robocop the title cybernetic cop worked reasonably well, but when the corporation tried to produce a second model by using a junkie, the results were quite unsavory. It turns out there are certain qualities the person must possess for the operation to work properly.
- The title Jurassic Park.
The power has gone out.
- The Mark 42 Iron Man armor in Iron Man 3. Despite its technological advancements compared to its predecessors, Tony built it while he was heavily sleep deprived. As a result, most of it weapons refuse to properly activate and while it can, as Tony intended, detach and reattach around its pilot's body, it does so too easily, frequently breaking apart. The Mark 43 in Avengers: Age of Ultron is much more successful.
- The Cobra novels by Timothy Zahn revolve around cybernetically enhanced soldiers --- and the implants cannot be removed. Late in the book, the main character finds there are certain side effects to the technology being inside someone for a long time.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, in all its various incarnations: Marvin the
Paranoid Androidperpetually depressed android.
Marvin: "Let's build robots with Genuine People Personalities," they said. So they tried it out with me. I'm a personality prototype. You can tell, can't you?
Live Action Television
- Knight Rider has KARR, the prototype for KITT. The design flaw being that KARR was programmed to place self-survival over everything else.
- In the new series, however, KARR can transform from a robot into a car, while KITT can only transform into various cars. Also, it is revealed that the military always intended to go with KARR, once KITT's AI was "mature" enough. KITT was a temporary necessity.
- Star Trek:
- Star Trek: The Next Generation has Lore, the prototype for Data, possessing the same strength, speed, endurance and physical design. But unlike Data, who only gained emotions later in life, Lore was created with them from the start, which led to him being amoral and mentally unstable. Lore initially claimed, and believed, that he was "too perfect" and that Data was created as an inferior model, though their creator later explained that they're perfectly equal and that the colonists weren't jealous of Lore's abilities, but terrified of his outbursts. It's later revealed that Data and Lore were the last and most successful of a string of prototype androids, with one of them, the childlike B-4, showing up in Star Trek Nemesis.
- The Defiant from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Stuffing the equivalent abilities of a Galaxy-class ship into something barely a quarter of that size made it extremely overpowered, engine-wise, to the point where it nearly tore itself to pieces on its shakedown cruise. It was also, due to the combat-exclusive focus of its design, poorly suited for everything else (in stark contrast to every other Federation starship), with the worst of these shortcomings being the criminally under-equipped medical facilities. It took the better part of a season and O'Brien replacing just about everything to make the blasted machine work as it was expected to.
- Comes up again when Nog and Jake run into the elite cadet group Red Squad, who are piloting another Defiant-class vessel. It has the same problems, only they can't fix them. Luckily, Nog has spent enough time paying attention to O'Brien that he does know, and thus he makes the ship work in a few minutes.
- This also happens with the Mirror Universe Defiant, built by Smiley (nickname given by Mirror!Sisko to Mirror!O'Brien as a play on his first name and perpetually sour mood) based on the specs he stole from the prime universe's databanks. However, once built, they hit on the same technical difficulties as the original, forcing them to kidnap Sisko and have him fix the problems. Surprisingly, Sisko is sympathetic and not only helps them fix the ship but also commands the battle against the Alliance's flagship (the Mirror version of the Negh'Var) and handily beats the massive warship, forcing Mirror!Worf to retreat.
- Sarah Corvus in the 2007 Bionic Woman. Her bionics are malfunctioning and she wants to steal Jaime's. Yes, they decided to start with the Evil Counterpart plot...
- This appears to be the case in The Invisible Man series in a episode where Darien keeps seeing another invisible man in his UV sight and assumes it's the previous test subject who has gone permanently invisible. Subverted when his boss wakes up and reveals that he personally shot the previous test subject, who tried to kill him, and had the same gland put into Darien. Darien was simply seeing RNA-induced hallucinations. Of course, if you consider the bigfoot gland to be the prototype, then that could still qualify.
- In Stargate SG-1, America decides to reveal the existence of the Stargate program to the rest of the world's superpowers, since the latest Big Bad is enough of a threat that they might not be able to handle it on their own. The Chinese ambassador is understandably upset at the Americans having access to spaceships and the like. The Russian ambassador, already a long-standing partner, explains that the American starships are flawed in numerous ways and ludicrously expensive. Once they work out the bugs, at great expense to themselves, they'll turn over the designs and the Russians can build effective copies at half the expense.
- Bionicle: Mata Nui resurrected his old broken prototype on Bara Magna to fight his evil brother, Makuta, who had taken over his body. It Makes Sense in Context.
- Proto Man is a good fighter, and certainly stylish, but a flaw in his power systems will someday kill him.
- In games where he is playable, he typically takes double damage due to these unstable systems.
- He usually has some form of enhanced offense to make up for it, though, making him a Glass Cannon.
- Don't forget he also has a kickass shield. Which doesn't work while you're firing or moving, naturally, but even so.
- The Mega Man Megamix manga explains in his bio why he won't let Dr. Light fix it: Dr. Light is responsible for it in the first place. Proto Man wasn't built with that flaw, it's there because Dr. Light tried to install a buggy version of the three laws in order to control him and it messed up his power systems. No wonder he's paranoid about Dr. Light taking his free will away if given the opportunity and won't let Dr. Light 'fix' him: Proto Man is dying because Dr. Light already tried to do that.
- Bizarrely, Dr. Light rebuilds Protoman during the ending of Rockman And Forte (where he should have been able to fix the power issues) but 9 and 10 are explicitly after that game and have the double damage thing.
- The misshapen and vicious Troggs of World of Warcraft were the Titans' first attempt at creating creatures of living stone. The Dwarves were a more stable and successful experiment.
- The Earthen, actually, who eventually evolved into flesh-and-blood Dwarves after sleeping for millennia.
- The Curse of Flesh of Yogg-Saron probably had a hand in this, much like it turn Mimiron's robotic helpers into flesh and blood gnomes.
- The Earthen, actually, who eventually evolved into flesh-and-blood Dwarves after sleeping for millennia.
- Both the Alteisen and Weissritter of Super Robot Wars Original Generation were exceptionally expensive to mass-produce as the next-generation line of mecha for The Federation, the former practically being unpilotable, due to it being too heavy and deemed clumsy because of its weaponry (as a matter of fact. the Alteisen's upgrade requires two standard flight engines just to stand upright). Both are rejected; fortunately, the mechanical designer found two pilots able to use the Alt and Weiss to capable, if not, Badass Abnormal levels that it ultimately subverts this trope by turning the mecha into Ace Customs.
- There's also the Huckebein 008-L, one of two units armed with the Black Hole Engine. The "Vanishing Trooper" Incident, in which its companion unit - 008-R - exploded when its Engine went up, causing the L to be locked away. All other Huckebeins after that - the 009, the Mk-II, the Mk-III and the M Ps - use normal nuclear engines or, in the case of the Mk-III, the Tromium Engine. Of course, there was a reason - Shu Shirakawa, the man who helped build the Black Hole Engine, realized this was a test from aliens and that, if they completed it successfully, those aliens would invade Earth. All Shu did was buy enough time for Earth to really get down the art of making robots.
- In Final Fantasy IX, the antagonist, Kuja, and protagonist, Zidane, are both constructs. Kuja is revealed to be a flawed prototype, causing his Freak-Out on disk 3.
- Also Vivi. Much more powerful than normal black mages and a longer life span, but he was never zombie-like and easily controllable like the others.
- Subject Delta, from Bioshock 2. You're the prototype Big Daddy. While the later production-line Big Daddies are large, extremely well defended beings who can move very fast when they are angry, you're a much weaker version, taking a lot more damage from almost everything.
- Delta is more accurately a Glass Cannon Big Daddy. After all, unlike other Big Daddies he can freely use Plasmids along with his drill and gun.
- Somewhat justified, story-wise, since the Alpha series was scrapped due to their overly-developed tie to specific Little Sisters. Being apart from their specific Little Sister left them weaker and prone to depression or agression, this being a major reason for their scrapping. While understandable it is still frustrating, since now that you can control a Big Daddy, you're controlling the crappy one.
- The Evil Counterpart Alpha Series prototypes you fight towards the end of the game are likewise weaker and able to take less damage than the regular Big Daddies, although they compensate with noticeably increased speed, better tactics, and often attacking in pairs or alongside Splicers.
- The Kingdom Hearts series has Xion, the very first living puppet created by the Organization. Who's unfortunately very prone to breakdowns of both the mental and physical sort.
- E-101 Beta from Sonic Adventure is, as the name indicates, a beta test of Eggman's E-series robots. He's beaten easily, causing Eggman to rebuild him into a Super Prototype.
- The Biolizard from Sonic Adventure 2 is a prototype of the ultimate life form. Shadow is the perfected ultimate life form. The former is a giant lizard covered with gills that has to hyperventilate through its (equally huge) life-support system frequently in order to survive. The latter is an anthropomorphic hedgehog who doesn't seem to have any form of machine hooked up to him, save for the rocket skates and Power Limiters on his wrists, and he can lose those without any shown ill effect. Oh, and Shadow takes on his prototype and wins.
- In Street Fighter, Cammy, Necro, Seth and maybe Abel are all flawed prototypes.
- Genesis, the Big Bad of Crisis Core suffers from degeneration from his indirect prenatal exposure to Jenova cells as one of the subjects of Project G. His desperate attempts to fix this problem bring tragedy to the setting.
- The first power-armor model from the Fallout series allowed soldiers to become one-man tanks, but issues with power supply made mobility difficult, meaning that soldiers were stationed somewhere, hooked up to a generator, and left to kill as many Chinese as possible.
- Fallout Tactics has a prototype Pulse Rifle that deals less damage and has a lower ammo capacity than the mass-produced version.
- This is a possibility with the prototype feature in Sword of the Stars II: The Lords of Winter. The first ship of any new design takes longer to build and requires more resources. It also has a random chance of being either better or worse at certain things than the following ships of the same design, as evidenced by the prototype's nickname.
- Valkyria Chronicles II: The V0 Power Armor. While it's extremely powerful, it destroyed Leon Hardins, reducing him into a shadow of his former self, who people then know as Dirk Gassenarl. Attempts to create Artifical Valkyria power generally result in this trope.
- Very tragic example in Professor Layton and the Unwound Future. Two aspiring scientists actually managed to construct a prototype time machine. One of them noticed a flaw in its design and tried to postpone the first test. This was in vain, as the other made a deal with a wealthy company for the power source, and wanted to demonstrate its viability as soon as possible. The result? BOOM. The greedy scientist miraculously survived, and used the money from the deal to cover up the explosion and become Prime Minister of Britain. The explosion took out a neighboring block of flats, and killed the test subject... but the time machine temporarily sent her ten years forward in time, then dragged her back to the time of the explosion.
- Truth in Television: This trope is the very reason why beta testing a new unreleased game is an absolute necessity!
- Bob and George: Dr. Light explains the previous robots as this: they ran off to fight evil instead of helping him about the lab.
- The Specialists: Hartmann. From the Nazi POV looking less Aryan was the sticking point. The Berserk Button, even though it's actual combat, didn't exactly help.
- The three original Dinobots could be seen as this in The Transformers. Grimlock, Slag and Sludge were initially built with very low intellect and within a few minutes of being activated went on a rampage and forcing Optimus Prime to order them shut down. Afterward Wheeljack fiddled with their brains to increase their intelligence to levels that made them somewhat more reasonable. They had a bit more success later with Swoop and Snarl.
- On Phineas and Ferb, one of Dr. Doofenshmirtz's plans involves making several clones of Perry to frame him. The very first one out is Jerry the Platypus, a dumb, imperfect version that Doofenshmirtz can't bear to throw out.
- Batman: The Brave And The Bold: In the episode "The Plague of the Prototypes!" Batman must use his bumbling beta-test robot "Proto" to combat his Bat-Robots that have been taken over by Black Mask.
- Like the Video Game example above, Protoman in the Mega Man cartoon, when first activated, suffers from just a slight flaw.
- From Danny Phantom, any of Vlad's flawed clones of Danny would qualify - most blatant being Danielle.
- Mr. Sheepman from Clone High. His name says it all.
- In Young Justice, Superboy's predecessor Match was Cadmus' first attempt to clone Superman. They had trouble cloning Kryptonian genetic material, and the missing sequences in the DNA created a clone that had all of Superman's powers and clinical insanity. Superboy was created with human DNA specifically Lex Luthor's filling in the missing sequences. He doesn't have all of Superman's powers (no flight or heat vision), but he's sane.
- Ben 10: Ultimate Alien reveals that the Omnitrix that Ben used in Ben 10 and Ben 10: Alien Force was the prototype, with Azmuth dismissing it as a flawed and barely usable compared to the perfect Omnitrix seen in Ben 10: Omniverse. Though as Ben points out, the "perfect" Omnitrix isn't that much better than its predecessors.
- The Ultimatrix is implied to have been built out of a failed core for the prototype Omnitrix, one that Azmuth deemed too unstable. When Azmuth sees the Ultimatrix, he has nothing but scorn for it.
- When doing or making anything for the first time, it generally takes a few tries or some time to work out the kinks and bugs and what-not.
- So usually that -- the first phonograph record worked right the first time. Edison's reaction? "I was always afraid of things that worked the first time."
- Since it was meant to fight the Borg, the expectation was that either the Borg ship would be destroyed, in which case any injured could be treated on another ship, or the Federation fleet would be wiped out. Against a Borg invasion, there's no middle ground and no long-term sustained fighting.