Time Machine Toychest: Battle Beasts
Long before Pokémon invaded the shores of American television sets in the mid-90s there were Battle Beasts, a collective army of small monsters whose powers related to the elements of nature (wood, fire or water).
Created by the same toy company responsible for Transformers* and licensed in the U.S. by Hasbro, Battle Beasts were essentially an overblown game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Each beast had their very own heat-sensitive, holographic battle badge that revealed their elemental power. Water beats fire. Fire beats wood. Wood beats water. (How they came to the conclusion that wood beats water is beyond me, but have you ever seen an over-watered plant? It’s not pretty.)
Much like Pokémon or Pogs (we’ll get to those later), the proposed fun of Battle Beasts was collecting them, fighting your friends, trading and fighting again. As many of the toy properties of the late 80s there was a cartoon series, comic books, lunch boxes, tshirts, Halloween costumes, and so on. I don’t recall reading the comics or seeing the cartoon, but I do remember being pretty infatuated with the toys themselves (in particular my brother and I battled with Dragoon Raccoon and Powerhouse Mouse respectively). Besides… what elementary school boy doesn’t like asking a girl he likes if they want to see his fire-powered pocket monster?
*According to Wikipedia, Battle Beasts even made an appearance in a Japanese Transformers cartoon episode entitled Rebellion on Planet Beast.