Fire, Wood & Water…. these might be some of the ingredients to some Kumbaya, outdoor camping trip but it’s also part of being a Battle Beast…
Words by Wayne Wilkins AKA Critical, Florida – USA
Two inches of solid rubber and 100% of pure attitude… If you were a kid in the mid to late 80’s then this might mean something to you. I know it definitely did to me which is why Battle Beasts are one of my favorite toy lines of all time.
I remember picking up these little kick-ass critters in some hole -in-the-wall discount store in Brooklyn, New York. It was the type of thing that parents could buy you to shut you the fuck up long enough for them to reconsider not leaving you abandoned in public and starting a new life of freedom before you came along (Hey, That was actually possible in the 80’s before Big Brother took over) but at that point, I could care less though because these tiny warriors looked incredibly awesome.
I was always drawn to anthropomorphic action figures.. maybe because I liked animals slightly more than people. Battle Beasts, originally spawning from Japan, made by Takara toys was initially intended to be a spin-off of The Transformers line and often referred to as Beastformers. They even made an appearance in an episode of Transformers called “Rebellion on Planet Beast” giving you a peak into the back story of their world explaining the connection tying them into the Transformers universe.
In the U.S., they were distributed by Hasbro and marketed as a completely separate entity but still were able to stand alone and gain popularity with that Pokémon-esque, “gotta collect them all or you’re a fuckin’ loser” marketing strategy that all gullible, completist children will eat up in a heartbeat.
All together there are 112 beasts to collect. In series 1-3, each figure came with a small, handy weapon that the average child with ADHD would lose within about 20 minutes after opening the package and a holographic, heat sensitive rub symbol sticker on the chest of each figure displaying either a wood, fire or water insignia. The gimmick was pretty similar to rock, paper, scissors where fire beats wood, water beats fire, wood beats water… you get the point! Of course there were other ways to play with them like when me & my childhood friend Bryan would use the Beasts to kidnap our sisters Barbies and roast them rotisserie style calling it a “Barbie-Q”(get it?) but those sociopathic, pyromaniac & ritualistic days are behind me now…
…Anyway, the fourth edition to the series were actually called Laser Beasts and came with a slightly different twist such as guns for weapons instead of swords & axes and most importantly a marble-like orb in the chest area replacing the hologram rub symbol which was a cool transition considering that if you abused your figures like I did with mine… the rub symbols were often missing.
The fourth series of the line is the rarest to come by due to being released mainly in Japan with a very limited release in North America. It isn’t a surprise to find them on ebay going for at least $75 & up for just one figurine. Which reminds me… beware of people over charging a small fortune for knock-offs claiming to be the real deal Holyfield and pretending to be the exclusive mail order variants which actually did exist and are super rare along with some small drill-like chariots. One interesting variant in particular is the the Lion figure that has a unique sunburst rub symbol on it’s chest which apparently is like pulling out an Ace… game over!
As far as other beast related merchandising goes, there a few small vehicles and tiny playsets, lunch boxes, costumes, T-shirts, posters, buttons, goggles, condoms( just kidding lol!), some smaller vending machine versions of the figures & even a short lived comic book series. Oh, there’s also a bandolier to carry your beasts in but unless you were affiliated with a street gang back then or had mad older brothers… that wasn’t a good idea. You just look like lunch showing up to the arcade or playground rockin’ that shit…
…Nowadays you should be good though… kids are out robbing each other for sneakers & iphones.
Within the last 5-6 years there has been some efforts to relaunch the Battle Beast brand with Beast Saga, which is a little more sophisticated version of the modified figures involving dice & a line of Minimates that seemed to fade away not long after it’s inception but no matter what, I am biased due to nostalgic reasons and prefer the original line over any new type of reboot.
This is a toy line that threw armor on non-threatening animals like frogs and penguins and made them look like hardcore killers with disturbing names of characters such as Manic Mandril & Jaded Jag & Slasher Seahorse… fuckin’ hilarious! For those of you still interested in collecting something strikingly similar and just as cool… I suggest checkin’ out this figure line called “Rise of the Beasts” created by an independent toy company, Plastic Imagination that took the kickstarter campaign route to successfully fund the manufacturing & release of these crafty collectibles that are definitely a legit tribute to the Almighty Battle Beasts we love!
Words by Wayne Wilkins AKA Critical – Florida. USA