Friday, November 13, 2009

Relics of Youth - A Look Back at Toys From the Past

Back in the 1980s, toys used to kick ass.  We had all the coolest toys back then: He-Man, GI Joe, Transformers, Laser Tag...  In light of all those fond childhood memories, I'm starting a new segment that looks back at all the cool shit I used to play with and how superior they are to these crappy ass toys of today.

Now, I've already talked about Voltron toys (and my severe lack of any of them) in a previous post and I'll definitely get to some of the above mentioned toy lines at a later time.  Today, I want to start off with a toy line that, while not as remembered as some of these other toys, remained a favorite of everyone who grew up with them.  Today, we're going to look at...

Battle Beasts were released in 1987 and became a toy that every boy wanted for some time.  In Japan, they were called Beastformers and were considered an offshoot of the Transformers line.  They were even featured in an episode for Transformers that only aired in Japan.

The premise behind Battle Beasts was simple - they were these anthropomorphic warriors that had emblems on their armor.  Each emblem was one of three different elements: Water, Fire, and Wood.  Now, some of you might say, "wood's not an element."  Well, it is in Japan.  The Japanese have five elements as opposed to our four.  Their elements also don't include air, so they are as follows: earth, fire, water, wood, and METAAAAAAAAAL! (No, seriously, one of their elements is metal.  How fucking awesome is that?).

Anyway, these three elements act like the popular Japanese pastime of Jan Ken Pon (also known as rock-paper-scissors) and are used for the beasts to battle each other.  Pretty much fire beats wood, wood beats water, and water beats fire.  To keep your beast's element a secret, the emblems used heat sensitive technology to keep them dark until you rubbed your finger on them when the emblem would reveal which symbol it had (Transformers toys used the same thing to hide Autobot and Decepticon symbols).  The elemental symbols were random, so two kids with the same figure didn't have the same symbol.  Basically, playing with the elemental symbols lasted about ten seconds, then you got sick with it and just started battling them like you did with other action figures.  Fortunately, these figures had awesome weapons, so you didn't have to keep saying, "My wood beats your water!"  (That sounds dirty...)

They were a hit for a while in the States.  They put out figures up to series four.  Series four, which was called Shadow Warriors in the US and Laser Beasts in Japan, actually was different because they got rid of the color changing emlbems and replaced them with little windows in each of the beasts chests.  If you hold the figures up to the light and looked through the window, you saw their elemental symbol.  Actually, the Battle Beasts craze was dying down by that time, so very few of the Shadow Warriors figures were released.

As far as I can tell, there is somewhat of a modern counterpart to Battle Beasts. The Gormiti line of toys that were released sometime last year is kind of similar in ways.  There is an elemental aspect to the factions and some of the figures are anthropomorphic.  But that's where the similarities end.  Gormiti figures have no articulation, no weapons, and a stupid card game that involves adding the number on the card to the number on the figure's foot.  Now heat sensitive stickers may not have been the best toy gimmick, but it certainly was better than just adding two numbers together.

Nowadays, you can find Battle Beasts at the same place you can for any other classic toys, ebay.  Right now, I'm looking on there to see what's being sold.  I'm seeing a lot of collections going up and it doesn't seem like they're going for that much, though I did see one Shadow Warrior figure going for $325.  Still, if you remember these as fondly as I do and want to relive your childhood, you can pick some up without necesarilly going broke.

Until next time, my toys still kick ass.

Kaiser out

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