Although featuring the attributes of machine and animal, Battle Beasts were ultimately anthropomorphic. The three factions of wood, fire, and water battled endlessly with no clear heroes or villains except those determined by kids themselves. The banal names defied the fantastic designs.
Pirate Lion and Ferocious Tiger hold only so much allure, while even the less obvious Slasher Sea Horse, Panzer Panda, Killer Koala and Frenzied Flamingo had a hard enough time surmounting their place on the food chain, let alone an asinine name. No more than a couple of inches in height, each figure also carried its own plastic weapon, generally some kind of blade or elaborate spear. But the power of each Battle Beast truly existed in the insignia stuck to their chest.
As Fire torched Wood, Wood in turn subjugated Water, while Water brought balance to the fray by dousing Fire. The “Battle Badges,” worn proudly on the front of each beast’s armor was the ultimate trump. A small number of Battle Beasts possessed an ace up their sleeve in the form of the “Sunburst” elemental. This rare power bested all others, thus giving a Hare Razing Rabbit the unlikely victory over, say Gruesome Gator. A few pull back vehicles and transforming bases in the shape of common animals were released as well to advance the wages of warfare.
Battle Beasts enjoyed a brief but frenzied popularity. Three generations were released in close succession, the creators mining more and more obscure animals to characters. The fourth series, Laser Beasts, abandoned the rubsign for an orb that revealed the character’s element when held up to the light.
Although the updated edition finally produced projectile weapons, the Battle Beasts craze had passed. Still, credit Hasbro for leveling the animal kingdom playing field. Never was a kid so humbled as when his fire-allied, pillaging polar bear was undone by another’s water-based squire squirrel. Such are the travesties of war.