Beast Saga Action Figures
Item No.: BS-04 Manufacturer:Takara-Tomy Includes:Sword, claw weapon, 2 dice, trading card Action Feature:Dice launch out of stomach Retail:525 yen (or about $7) Availability: September 2012 Other: Clearly the Hero Character Here
Despite a two-year lead in the marketplace, the new Battle Beasts line due later this year or early next year seems to be facing some stiff competition which makes it tough to pick a favorite. The Armorvor has made the rounds, and now so has Beast Saga with Raioga (or more likely Lioga/Lio-ga), a lion which has no fewer than 4 unique releases planned so far. So far, there's this one, one with niftier gear in a 3-pack, one in an upcoming capsule toy collection, and a blind-boxed clear version in burning "fire" colors which is pretty dang sweet.
Unquestionably inspired by the classic Battle Beasts toy line, Takara-Tomy decided to update these figures with enhanced paint jobs, twice the articulation, and a dice launcher replacing the classic fire/wood/water stickers. You shoot the dice, you see who has the higher number, you shoot again for an effect or another number, and that person wins. There's a card game too, but as I did not play Magic: The Gathering these things are foreign to me. Kinetic toys with battle, games, or battle games are pretty big with toy companies right now even in some lines where they managed to do "collectible" and "figure" and "action" but have no rules for what seems like a "game." With Transformers Bot Shots and Beast Saga it makes a little more sense, particularly given there seem to be no vehicles or legitimate toy playsets for them to fight around in. The figure is the toy, not the accessory, and my data shows there should be 30 unique character molds before 2013 starts, and counting all the color variants and promo figures easily north of 45-50 figures this year. That's not bad for four months, the original Battle Beasts line had about 88 figures in the USA and 112 unique sculpts in a couple of years!
But this is just the preamble. How's the figure?
Don't get this single-carded Raioga. That's the one in the middle in the above photo. Consider getting a lion, but remember there are four Raioga figures and the single carded one offers nothing unique compared to the others. There's one in 3-pack BS-01 (with a hamster and deer, on the left) which has a unique sword and shield which are way, way cooler. The carded one (this one, BS-04) just has the bat's weapons. The blind-boxed clear Raioga (BS-03) also has the bat weapons, but it's a) clear and b) on fire. Since they all seem to have the same basic dice, this one is the one that's the most redundant. But being stupid and loose with my toy money, well, here we are. A capsule toy version of Raioga is on the way but color photos have yet to surface.
Of the figures in the line, this may be my least favorite sculpt of the first wave despite having a toothy urinal on his crotch. Positioned as the hero, Raioga brings in some hallmarks of the old line, like a crazy green mane and bright red armor with gold highlights, while adding some new things. Like what appears to be a toothy urinal where his crotch goes. The head sculpt has what appears to be an articulated jaw, but it isn't-- only the arms and legs can move, and they're also removable and swappable with other figures. The sword is a very tight fit in his closed fist, the shield fits easily, and the eyes tend to be a little wonky with one looking up and the other not looking up. Aside from the eye, the paint seems to be pretty clean and on par with most modern toy figures. My only real complaint about the deco is that they didn't bother to mix it up and change up the armor to be blue or white or really anything else to make buying the figure worthwhile.
If you're a beast fan, you're going to buy one or more of these at an importer-- I suggest the 3-pack or another figure entirely. Raioga's neat and weird, and as what appears to be the line's hero it's one you'll no doubt get eventually. There are things I like about it, but the vintage Battle Beasts are better at gripping weapons, Diamond's line captures the original single-color eyes and largely improves on proportions, while the Armorvor is all kinds of fun and is a fantastic, solid toy to futz with. Beast Saga does an excellent job of bringing back the texture of a bygone era, but I don't believe it captures the heart of those older line the same way the Armorvor and Minimates managed to do... and it certainly lacks customization options if you're into that sort of thing.
Raioga's arms move pretty freely while the legs have limited movement, and the figure is indeed rubbery like the original Battle Beasts. The legs on most figures are not capable of swinging forward, so if you wanted Raioga to sit in your small vehicles from other toy lines it ain't gonna happen. Thanks to the figures huge feet, they have no problems standing unassisted-- which is important, because the game element requires you apply some force to the figure. A plunger in his back is made of a harder plastic piece, and the whole launcher assembly may be removed from the torso. You can cram a dice in it, and the non-spring-loaded launcher shoots the die out with about the same amount of force you shove on it. It's actually quite a bit of fun and well-designed. The niftiest thing about the launcher is how they decided to light-pipe the die. You see, the launcher is cast in clear plastic with a tiny prism-like cut, which beams light into the die and makes it glow a bit in a well-lit room. Nice! I don't fully grasp the game rules yet, but I'm guessing it's about as fun as the Bot Shots game I don't play and the Battle Beasts fire/wood/water thing I also never played as a kid. But with more shooting.
These are cheap figures. The main barrier to entry in collecting them today is importers, because you can look at Amazon Japan and see they're selling for as little as 373-420 yen, or about US $5ish. Were they to be issued in the USA, I would wager a $4.99 single/$8.99 double price point. I didn't get the giddy headrush of nostalgia I found with the Battle Beasts Minimates. Beast Saga figures like Raioga are beefier, chunkier, and more Galactic Heroes-like in their proportions. Raioga feels like a 1990s, or perhaps early '00s design while the Minimates do feel more modern while also retaining much of the aesthetic of the original figures. This isn't to say Raigoa is a junker. Far from it, as a new toy thing goes it's quite neat and I have to say it's been so long since I've seen a toy line aimed squarely at kids that I felt the urge to buy in bulk.
It's not a bad figure at all. After a few years of wondering what (if anything) Takara Tomy might do with the brand in response to Diamond, I expected more... or maybe less. Either way, I'm eager to see more toys for this line, but my interest in collecting all the variants has already been tempered. (I'll buy every damn sea tribe figure they make, and heaven help us if we ever get dinosaurs!) They may not be the beast Beasts, but the Beast Saga line certainly fits the bill of the most retro and action-packed of the herd so far.
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