With the current Legacy line ploughing swiftly through almost every deep, dark corner of Transformers history (we even had a Kiss Players nod unveiled this week!), a glaring omission remains. Yes, I do mean Beast Machines.
True, the turn-of-the-millennium series is rarely classed as any one person’s absolute favourite era of the franchise (don’t @ me), but that doesn’t mean it deserves its unfavourable rep in the fandom either. Despite having never recovered in the public consciousness since its notorious initial debut almost twenty-five years ago, there are tons of things the series did right. In many ways, it remains one of the biggest shake-ups of the Transformers brand since.
One thing most collectors can typically agree on, however, is that the Vehicon portion of the toy line had a lot of promise to it, with many of the toys sporting unique and often highly creative designs. As proof, here are 8 of those toys that are still worth a look today!
#8: Beast Wars Returns Jetstorm
Jetstorm was the most well-known of all the Vehicon characters in the show, with his distinctive and aerodynamic robot form standing out from anything we’d ever seen in Transformers prior to that point. Despite having two toys to his name, neither of them quite matched the on-screen appearance of the character’s cartoon model, but they’re both pretty great besides. Sadly, the initial Ultra release is famed for a significant flaw, with the vacuum-metalised chrome finish flaking off even inside sealed boxes of the figure. Fortunately, this was seemingly rectified for the even-more-striking Takara release in 2005, giving you all the joy of a fabulous figure in a now slightly-more-screen-accurate paint job without any of the drama. Other than the faff of tracking this one down, what’s not to love?
It was a strange thing after the initial wave of Beast Machines toys dropped and it immediately became apparent that none of them particularly matched the corresponding characters we were watching in the cartoon. Fans had become increasingly accustomed to the idea of show accuracy throughout the three seasons of Beast Wars, with the final run bringing the toys to life more faithfully than we’d ever seen in Transformers by this point. So, when the likes of Tankor arrived on the scene looking very little like the animation, it was a surprise to many, which explains why we swiftly received the likes of the newly-designed Tank Drone just a year or so later. Here’s the thing, though, pop cartoon slavishness to one side for a second, and you may find you’re actually delighted by the Mega Tankor toy, especially as it’s a surprisingly creative design with a fantastic aesthetic and a ton of play value to boot. If nothing else, it’s the only Transformers figure I can think of with a single-moving-eye gimmick in both its robot and vehicle modes!
#6: Beast Wars Returns Obsidian
Obsidian is one of the coolest characters to grace the screen in Beast Machines, and although his toy doesn’t quite match the lanky stature of its cartoon counterpart, it’s still a wonderful design nonetheless. Would it have been better served as a Deluxe or Mega class design instead of a miniature Basic figure? Sure, but it’s loaded with charm, nonetheless, and has been served up in some exceptional colour schemes over the years, too. For my money, though, there’s no beating the Takara release from 2005, which steered significantly closer to the screen in terms of colour choices and looks beyond glorious as a result. Seriously, check out that neon green, eh? The only consideration with this one is finding it for a not ridiculous price, but it’s worth it if you can!
As one of the first toys in the line to release, Mirage was also largely responsible for our first impressions of Beast Machines in 1999. Back then, I’m not sure many collectors knew quite what to make of a design like this, as it certainly didn’t look anything like what we’d become accustomed to throughout Beast Wars. Looking back now, I think that’s a good thing, even if it wasn’t always easy to appreciate at the time! Every bit the Formula One car on steroids, it’s an incredibly quirky design with an almost baffling transformation considering the Basic class size. The bright yellow and translucent blue colour scheme is certainly striking, although I admit it’s a shame we’ve never seen the figure released in the hot rod red from its concept designs. Still, this guy is most definitely guaranteed to get your motor running!
When we semi-recently ran through the Beast Machines toy line as part of a Tripe Takeover chat, this was one of the Vehicon designs that most vividly stood out to my two uninitiated co-hosts. True, that was partly because they thought it largely resembled the Saw Boss vehicle from Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, but that aside, it’s still an enjoyable and inherently quirky little figure! Transforming into a quasi-construction vehicle of sorts, Scavenger also boasts a transformation unlike any other toy I’ve ever come across, contorting into a wholly unique robot mode as he goes. Design touches such as worn chrome claws and a head that appears to be peaking out of a snood all make this lad stand out in the best way possible.
#3: Deluxe Jetstorm
The other, smaller Jetstorm toy has almost transcended the Beast Machines line in a way exceedingly few of the other designs can quite compete with. It’s since been repainted for lines like RID 2001 and Universe and has become a fan-favourite over the decades since its first release. I know collectors who would never, ever consider themselves fans of this series but will still hold this one toy in high regard; such is its reputation somehow. In truth, it deserves all of those accolades, as it packs a bizarre but almost timeless transformation into a Deluxe class design in a way that feels fluid and elegant, and even manages to incorporate clever design touches such as the flight-mode feet and a pilot mask theme for the face. A classic.
Like Tankor, many collectors believe that the original Thrust design was surpassed by its more cartoon-accurate Motorcycle Drone successor a year or so later, despite that figure’s significantly smaller stature. In fairness, this Deluxe effort is a bit of an odd duck in several ways, not least for the fact that one must decide whether to display it either on a pair of naff-looking spindly legs with salad tong toes and tyre ankles or have it falling over repeatedly thanks to its non-secure single Gizmoduck wheel. Still, as peculiar as it all is and as much as it doesn’t slavishly capture the essence of the on-screen character, there’s so much to admire about this one as long as you’re willing to step outside the confines of what’s considered typical in terms of Transformers toys. If nothing else, that gorgeous purple, electrifying neon green and blinging chrome need to be witnessed up close. It’s weird, but so, so lovely to look at.
#1: Beast Wars Returns Megahead Megatron
Never released during Beast Machines itself, this one counts if only by the grace of being realised in Takara’s take on the line a half-decade later. Given its initial shelving, it’s also incredible to think that this is now just one of three different versions we received of this design over the years, the other two cropping up during Robots in Disguise. Arguably though, the best was saved till last, as it avoids the floppy joints and GPS of its respective forebears and firmly boasts the undeniably superior palette of the three to boot! Just look at that purple, won’t you? Yes, this is a supremely strange design through and through, transforming from a not-so-giant robot head to one of the more unusual Megatrons you’re ever likely to see, but if you’re going to embrace this kind of oddity, at least do it in these colours.
So that’s our list! Which Vehicon toys are your favourite?