Combining the classically cute with the technologically terrifying, Battle Beasts brought animal and mineral together in a way that could render one into a vegetable. As if playing with them wasn’t fun enough, just looking at the amazingly unique and endlessly creative designs was enough to occupy a kid for hours.
A bat with a computerized monocle, a deer with a rock drill for a hand and laser visor, a piranha with dual shoulder cannons – each of the multitude of half-beast, half-machine warriors featured their own specialized design. Some of them were appropriate to the animal (the mole with the head lamp or the rat with the shovel for a hand) while others were simply for effect (the lion with the eye patch).
Battle Beasts also incorporated the entirety of the animal kingdom. While kid favorites such as sharks, bears, and elephants received their due, there was equal, admirable, and sinister attention given to perennial cutie-pies such as ducks, penguins, and koala bears. Even classic no-names like flamingos and sea horses joined the fray, each with its own design.
The battle in question was an adaptation of rock, paper, scissors featuring the elemental properties of earth, fire, and water. When Japanese toy maker Takara added the Beast Formers subset to their Transformers line in the mid-80’s, they included the heat-sensitive “rubsigns,” a small sticker that – when rubbed or pressed by a finger – revealed the character’s allegiance.
As with the Autobot and Decepticon rubsigns from Transformers, the Beast Formers wore their loyalties on their chest (and their emotions on their sleeves if the commercials were any indicator). When Hasbro brought the toys to the U.S. in 1986, the Transformers connection was severed and Battle Beasts began to distinguish themselves.