Name: Battle Base
Line: Machine Robo (Japan)
Price: Unknown (yen)
I've always had an interest in obscure toys or toys never released in the U.S. for some reason. I often pour over several websites and internet searches looking for more info on (fill in the blank) toy or where to purchase one. One such instance is when I first flipped through the awesome Machine Robo Wedge book I imported. Without going into too much history and detail, Bandai had created a toy line of simple transforming vehicles/robots for the Japan market in the late 70's/early 80's. Several of these toys were eventually brought to America by a joint venture with Tonka under the brand Go-Bots. Often considered the "poor man's Transformers", the Machine Robo line in Japan offered a vastly superior line-up than what we received in the States. Today's review is of one such item. Called the Battle Base, this was a fairly large transforming playset that offered plenty of play value for kids...no matter what continent you lived on. So follow me as I attempt to describe the awesomeness of this toy.
I should preface my review with this bit of information. The majority of this toy is molded in white plastic and with age and exposure to sunlight it has started to yellow quite a bit. Seeing how hard it is to find this item I decided to go ahead w/ my purchase anyhow.
As you can tell from the above photo this isn't a small toy. It measures approximately 18" long, 12" wide and 3" tall in this mode. Upon my first interaction w/ this toy my imagination immediately took off as I thought of how this would have been utilized by the robots. The bottom portion of has black treads molded into the sides to give you the impression that it could traverse most flat surfaces. There are free rolling wheels on the underside of these tank treads which was a nice touch. Other things you can see include a runway of sorts on the top, a helicopter landing pad and towards the rear a set of small red wings.
Turn the Battle Base around and you'll see a large sticker featuring 6 jet engines. I don't know about you, but the number of engines gave me the idea that the base was capable of traveling quite the distance through space. Interstellar perhaps?
One thing I wanted to point out in this angle. Notice the chrome missile launcher at the front. This piece can be folded and tucked inside or flipped out for some minor firepower. Unfortunately mine didn't have the missiles and I doubt I'll ever find any for sale.
I wanted to include this close-up of behind the missile launcher. There is a small hatch that opens up to reveal what appears to be a small cockpit of sorts. You can also see the aforementioned yellowing of the plastic. See how snow white the plastic is on the underside of the hatch compared to the main body?
You'll have to excuse the use of the phrase "there's more than meets the eye" here as we take a look at the amber colored landing pad. This translucent piece flips up to reveal a holding area large enough for 2 vehicles. Fold out the blue ramp and now the vehicles are ready to speed into battle. Again small, but nice touches in terms of play value.
Now you may ask what is so special about this toy? Well the play value doesn't stop here. There is small black tab on the front of the base that when depressed allows you to transform the base into a much larger playset. In this form the base stands at an impressive 20" tall!
You notice the bottom of the base has several things going on. On the left you'll see a set of train tracks. One of the earlier Machine Robo toys released was a small black locomotive aptly name Loco. In the middle is another run way for a jet vehicle. On the right is smaller ramp with a extendable ramp. You'll notice a small red mechanism at the rear of this ramp. There is a fairly powerful spring that allows you to pull the red tab back and when released, it would spring forward and launch a vehicle out of the base and down the ramp. I also want to point out that the entire bottom is one large piece of cardboard. Since stickers and easily tear and peel off I thought this was a nice touch by Bandai. Towards the rear is an elevator shaft that actually functions.
The second level features a command type area with a large computer sticker on the back wall. Sadly most of the details are either cardboard inserts or stickers. Not much detail in the interior portion of the base is molded into the plastic. Here you can also see the corkscrew mechanism behind the blue elevator floor.
At the top of the base you'll again see that chromed missile launcher along with a blue knob that when turned operates the elevator. Not much else is to be said of this area.
Here are a few other angles.
In closing, I think this is a good toy. Is it great? Maybe not when you compare it to today's standards. Is it a fun toy? Depending on your level of imagination I'd say yes. As a simple playset it stands head and shoulders above the often compared to Go-Bots Command Center. It seems much more "sci-fi" in nature and not nearly as goofy looking as the Go-Bots base of operations. I've only seen this for sale twice in the last 5 years or so. The last one I saw was on eBay and was in similar condition and the seller wanted around $100. I'm glad mine only cost me $25. I have seen these appear more frequently (and sometimes boxed) on Yahoo! Japan auctions, but be prepared to pay a pretty penny since most of us would have to resort to using a third party to bid.
Vintage Japanese toy commercial featuring the Battle Base: