Guest Review > Beast Saga Series 1 (Takara-Tomy)

When I first heard the news earlier this year that Takara was tackling their phenomenal Battle Beasts line again with all new toys, I wound up in the emergency room with a severe concussion sustained from fainting and my head landing onto a comically large anvil. The doctors then told me I had a bad case of the retrovirus…not the virus that has genes encoded in RNA instead of DNA, but rather the one I suffered due to the announcement that a favorite vintage toy line of mine was being remade and that my wallet had better be prepared. Did they live up to my ridiculous expectations? Let’s find out!

You can clearly see the inspiration from the original toys in this side-by-side comparison. Takara-Tomy didn’t try to reinvent the wheel here. You’re still getting animal warriors in colorful armor with various weapons.

Obviously, the new Beast Saga figures are slightly larger than the originals. With a slightly larger build and advances in toy technology since the original toys were released more than a quarter century ago, you’d expect slightly better toys, and for the most part, I think that’s achieved.

The sculpting is excellent. There are a lot of small details in this first assortment of figures. The rendering of the fur and scales and feathers on these figures makes them seem a bit more lifelike than their predecessors. The armor does not appear to be as complex as some of the original designs, but it remains aesthetically pleasing, and each “tribe” has its own flavor.

The Land tribe (characters like the lion, giraffe, deer, hamster, etc.) has bulkier, more mechanical-looking armor. The Sea tribe (Shark, Dolphin, Swordfish, etc.) has smoother, more streamlined armor, sort of reflecting their liquid environment a bit better. The two characters from the Sky tribe (a bird of some kind and the bat) appear to have lighter armor that would allow them to fly with greater ease. Details like these that show that Takara-Tomy has a master plan, and they didn’t just slap on armor on animals just because they could.

The one part of the sculpt that had many collectors concerned was the “plunger” that appears on the back of every figure. The plunger is used to launch a die from the cavity of the figure’s chest as part of the new game that incorporates these figures. The figures do look better when they have a die in their chest, and many collectors thought that if you wanted to display a figure with a die or chest emblem inside of their chest cavity, they wouldn’t be able to stand upright with the plunger disrupting the weight. I can assure you that every figure stands on its own two feet without any trouble at all. If you look at the figures from the side, the plunger is noticeable, but from the front, it’s as though it doesn’t exist.

If there is one area where I think the vintage line does a better job in terms of sculpting, it’s the legs. In the original line, the animal warriors seemed to be more human-like with animal heads. In this line, most of the animals are bending down, sort of kneeling into their leg armor. It makes them look unnecessarily stubby and a little too top heavy in some cases. However, this is not the case with quite a few of the figures. The sea creatures and the flying characters tend to be a bit more balanced, and I think they harken back to the original designs a little bit more closely than the land mammals do.

The paint application ranges from very good to absolutely phenomenal. The standouts in my opinion are figures like the hamster, which has a very natural transitional fur color, and the sea creatures, especially figures like the piranha, where his scales have a slight shininess to them. Even though the paint apps aren’t quite as good as what we saw in the prototypes (the swordfish is a clear example of that), it’s certainly much better than what we see on most mass market toys. Other than one cross-eyed lion I received in my first batch, all of my figures have very solid paint applications with almost no smearing. These are well-made toys with a lot of emphasis placed on the colors, and it pays off in spades. Any line that tries to resemble Battle Beasts needs to be colorful, and while these aren’t quite as colorful as the original line, they still stand out on a shelf.

In terms of the accessories, these also fare a little bit better than their predecessors in that each one comes with a weapon AND a shield (and a few other extras, which I’ll get to in a bit). I think the original weapons in the vintage line displayed a bit more creativity in terms of designs. There aren’t a lot of weapons that seem to reflect the character holding them (the deer seems to be the most obvious, since his shield displays some antlers).

One issue many collectors are having with figures included in the blind box sets and the starter sets is that some of the swords, which are made from a very soft rubber, are coming out of the packages bent. If you flatten them under a book or some other object, it should do the trick, but be forewarned that virtually everybody who’s gotten these figures is dealing with this issue.

If there is one quality control issue that I noticed on these figures, it’s that some of the limbs were pretty loose, especially for figures that had never been out of the package before I received them. Others were extremely tight and became loose as I moved them for the first time. Thankfully, this doesn’t seem to be much of an issue in terms of displaying the figures. All of them are able to hold their shields and weapons high and they stand in place without falling over. I would handle them with care and not overuse the joints. Then again, these figures are not exactly the most articulated. The fact that their legs move puts them one small step ahead of the originals. The heads are still stationary, and if you were expecting waist articulation, then you’ve probably never owned any Battle Beasts before.

Okay, now that you’ve read about all the various aspects of the figures that you come to expect in a review about a new figure or line of figures, I want to get to the fun part! Even though many collectors of Battle Beasts care only about the figures, the main “selling point” with those original beasts was that it was a glorified game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. In the case of Battle Beasts, fire burned wood, wood floated on water, and water put out fire. Each of the figures had a heat sensitive sticker (much like the rubsigns on G1 Transformers) that revealed to you which power your beast had in battle. It’s about as complex as learning the alphabet, perhaps even less so.

This time, they’ve updated it to include the aforementioned dice. When your beasts fight this time around, you launch two separate dice out of their chest cavities. I don’t read Japanese, but it looks like you launch one die exclusively for that beast (always denoted through a picture of the beast on one side) and then you launch a secondary die that gives you a bonus. The bonus always correlates to the frequency in which it appears on the die. So if you shoot the die with a lower bonus (+3), you’re more likely to hit, but if you shoot the die with the highest bonus (+6), the bonus is greater but the chances of you hitting that number are lower.

The point is that there is an actual game element to these figures that lasts beyond just a simple game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, and that, in my mind, is a massive improvement over the original line.

The boosters follow the classic blind-box formula popular with smaller Japanese toys. You don’t know what you’re going to get! And boy howdy, was that true when we ordered our “booster cases” for the line. Each booster case contains 24 figures.

From my experience with the booster case, it breaks down like this: ALL of the figures are clear versions of the ones that you could get in the starter sets and on blister cards. So the sculpts are the same, but all the figures are slightly different. There are eight different sculpts, and in a case of 24, they are evenly packed, so each case will yield three complete sets.

There are two exceptions. One random booster with have an extra die (the aforementioned +6 bonus die, which is not available in the starter sets or with the carded figures), and other will have a trading card of either the lion or the shark with gold foil along the edges. These are the only “chase” elements to the boosters so far, so if you only care about the figures and not the dice or the trading cards, then you have nothing to fear.

Finally, there’s one factor that is tough to evaluate, and that’s nostalgia. Obviously, I bought these toys because they reminded me of one of my favorite toy lines of all time. We do this all the time as collectors. Whether you’re buying new Star Wars, Masters of the Universe Classics, DC Classics, Transformers, etc., you’re doing so because you have a strong connection to the original toy line. The inherent problem with all of these is that, while they remind you of your childhood, they aren’t actually a part of your childhood. Sure, the sculpting, articulation, and paint apps might give these toys the level of detail that you may have wanted as a kid, but they are simply not the toys you played with as a kid.

So while Beast Saga might be better from a quantitative perspective (better game, better sculpting, better paint, more realistic animal designs, etc.), I still like the original Battle Beasts better. I think the originals are more colorful and the designs a bit more abstract than these, but this is only the first series of Beast Saga figures. I’ve already seen sculpts of upcoming figures that have me very excited.

Overall, I’m very pleased to have these new figures, and for now, I plan on supporting the line with a completist mentality. I think a lot of what makes me love this line is the nostalgia I have for the original Battle Beasts, but I’d like to think that these toys stand well enough on their own that someone who never experienced the fun of Battle Beasts the first time around would get really excited about these new toys.

Where to Buy:

When Ben Leach isn’t asking Poe to pick up rare toys in Massachusetts for him, he’s busy checking every flea market and toy show in the New Jersey / Pennsylvania / Delaware region looking for obscure crap like Tacky Stretchoid Warriors and Galoob’s Army Gear (mostly because he’s a glutton for punishment and only seems to want the most absurdly rare stuff for his collection). He has written about action figures for Toyfare, Lee’s Toy Review, about.com, and thejawa.com. You can read about his current collecting adventures, along with those of the rest of his family, at CollectorGene.com. And yes, ladies who read poeghostal.com, he’s single!

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  • I would have loved these figures if the weapons weren't gummy and the shield had an L-shaped handle. On their own they're very cool, but the weapons really bring them down for me. Doesn't mean I'm not going to continue collecting these, but I'm going to be selective in my choices.

  • I'd be all over these if it wasn't for the die in the chest. That just ruins the look for me.

  • I really appreciated this review; thanks. I still look forward to seeing an English version of the game to convince me whether to buy some of these.

  • I'm not going to pay import prices on these, but if they come stateside i might be in trouble.

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