Monday, October 8, 2012

BATTLE BEASTS

Hasbro's Battle Beasts Logo

HASBRO
1987 - 1988

"Battle Beasts-- transform and roll out!"

Wait-- what???

That's right, the origins of what we here in the US call "Battle Beasts" actually has direct ties to the Transformers toy line and cartoons in Japan.

Takara Japan's Battle Beasts Logo
Note the Autobot and Decepticon logos on the Beasformers box art. 

First appearing in the Transformers: Headmasters cartoon series (only aired in Japan, but available in the US now on DVD) in the episode "Rebellion on Beast Planet", Beastformers were created and marketed by Takara alongside their Transformers line (presumably to ensure greater sales.)

Takara Japan's Battle Beasts Figure - Boxed
 Takara's Battlefomers packaging.

When Hasbro decided to import the Takara's line-- as they had done with Transformers-- they decided not to tie the line into the Transformers, but instead let it stand on it's own, renamed "Battle Beasts".

Hasbro's Battle Beasts Ad

No changes were made to the actual figures in their US release, and the "game" of Battleformers remained the same: the battle of Fire, Water and Wood.

Each Beast had a rub sign [clan symbol] on its chest that you would heat active by rubbing it with your finger. Once you saw what symbol that beast had (any beast could have any symbol, they were not specific to that beast) you could "battle" with friends using the logic of Fire beats Wood, Water beats Fire and Wood beats Water.

But the cool part, for me at least, were just the design of the Beasts themselves.

Hasbro's Battle Beasts Carded Figures
They stood 2" tall and only had articulation in the arms, but when you take animals, anthropomorphize them, and put them in some bad-ass futuristic Gundam-type armor, kids are helpless but to think they are the coolest things ever!

Each figure also came with some sort of weapon, like a sword, spear or other edged weapon that it could hold in either hand.

Hasbro's Battle Beasts Carded Figures

Sold in packs of two (how else are you gonna make them "battle", right?) three series were produced with a total of 76 beasts made. There were also a few vehicles sets made along with some transforming playset bases.

There was also a 4th series released in short supply called "Laser Beasts" where the rub sign was replace with a clear lens that you could look through to see the character's clan affiliation.

The line continued longer in Japan, but after Series 3 here in the US, it died out pretty quickly, but that didn't keep so many of us from remembering this very cool, unique and collectible figure line very fondly.

The line is currently seeing a resurgence in two forms.

Here in the US, Diamond Select has created a line similar to the original Battle Beasts concept of anthropomorphized animals in armor fighting one another-- but without the rub sign "battle" concept. And while they carry the same name and concept of the original Battle Beasts line, they actually have no official affiliation with Habro/Takara's original toys. 

Diamond Select's Battle Beasts Figures
Diamond Select/Art Asylum's new Battle Beasts line using the minimates bodies as a base.

In Japan, however, Takara has officially revived their original concept from the 80's, albeit with a few changes. Gone are the rub signs of the originals, now being replaced with different dice that can be inserted into the chest of the figure and then "rolled" by pushing a lever on the figure's back. Takara also incorporated the "gaming" element of the line in a more focused way this time out with the figures being less about "toys" and more about part of the game itself (similar to HeroClix.) They also renamed the line "Beast Saga".

Takara/Tomy's Beast Saga Figures
Takara/Tomy's Beast Saga figures.

The original figures can carry a bit of a hefty price tag these days, and the loose ones are hard to find in good condition-- and with their weapons. So, if you're looking for a nice alternative, perhaps one of these new lines might be for you! But, let's be honest, nothing is ever going to be as truly awesome as those original beasts!

Hasbro's Battle Beasts Loose Figures
 The white Lion character with the eye patch was considered the leader of the "Autobot" animals in Japan.

Hasbro's Battle Beasts Loose Figures
The crab guy was always my favorite character as a kid!

Awesome original Battle Beasts commercial!

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