Machine Robo Battlehackers is an interesting series. Bandai took a much more ‘Super Robot’-like approach to this series than with the previous Machine Robo releases, only releasing toys of the major characters. Not having seen the TV series, I cannot judge it, but from what I’ve read the change there was also quite noticeable. It can be said that Machine Robo Battlehackers was the first Machine Robo series where the toy line stopped being there first.
Toy-design-wise, Machine Robo evolved from simple, similar-sized designs in 1982-1985 towards more complicated ones in 1986-1987. Although many collectors consider the Machine Robo-600 series and related toys as the be-all and end-all of Machine Robo, I personally feel the later, more complicated designs are more fulfilling, together with the earlier, wonderful Big and DX Machine Robo. What attracts me in the latter two (mostly the last one) is the attention brought to small, but essential details, which somehow make the designs somewhat believable. Mechanical detail like hinges, tubing, pistons, they are all there, in locations where they would actually be useful.
This same attention to detail can be found back in some of the late 1986 designs. The Battle Team Wheelman toys are some of the nicest, most detailed Machine Robo toys ever released, easily comparable with, and probably a lot better than, those early DX toys, were it not for the lack of die-cast metal. They also felt a lot more ‘grown-up’ than previously released Machine Robo toys. They were the first indication of what was to come in the near future. The second consisted of the change in packaging the last two Wheelman toys featured.
Where previous Machine Robo toys had come in multi-color packaging, the last two Wheelman toys came in stylish black boxes, with sparse yellow stripes and pictures of the toy contained inside as sole decorations. This kind of packaging was to become the standard for the Machine Robo Battlehackers toy line.
The first Battlehackers toy was the Power Riser, a powered suit that came with a Kenpoh Robo figure. However, this toy will not be the subject of this Rumble (it will be covered in Part 2). Instead, I will write about its two sibblings, the Jet Riser and the Battle Riser. Both were released later on in the Battlehackers toy like, their numbers are BH-06 and BH-07 respectively.
Both toys come in the previously named packaging, gorgeous black boxes that give these toys an air of exclusivity. Front and back of the box give short explanations about the features of the toys. No words are wasted. Pictures are scarce but excellent. Inside, the various parts of the toys are seated in nice styrofoam trays. The presentation is perfect. All the essential parts are clearly visible, including the basic powered suit frame onto which the other parts will be added. Small parts and ammunition is stored in a specific slot in the tray. Also visible is each suit’s pilot, Akira Amachi for the Jet Riser and Luke Stewart for the Battle Riser. Each box also contains an instruction sheet, a catalogue, and a card you could send to Bandai. No sticker sheets, the few stickers these toys have are factory-applied.
The base of each toy is a powered suit frame. This frame features excellent internal detail, as well as a detailed control panel. The arms are fully articulated, and the hands can open and close. The legs feature chunks of die-cast to keep the toys upright. Each toy comes with a sensor pod and an antenna that can be attached at this stage (shown on the Battle Riser). The Luke and Akira pilot figures both feature a generic body, and their heads are decent representations of the animated versions. Each features more than enough articulation to be put correctly into the powered suit frame.
To complete the Jet Riser and the Battle Riser, the armor parts and the weapons are attached to the powered suit frames. Each toy features over a dozen of armor and weapon parts, which attach by simply sliding them onto the frame or onto pegs on other parts. Some parts, like the wings on the Jet Riser, snap into place. However, unlike on some other toys, everything can be taken apart again without any problems occurring. Indeed, the pegs and connectors used were all clearly designed with taking apart in mind. This is probably a good thing, as parts that snapped tightly into place would have broken quite fast on these toys. It felt more like I was assembling two plastic model kits than two toys, as the plastic used for the various armor and weapon parts is quite soft, and some parts feature very thin tabs and small pegs. Another reason why these toys feel more “grown up” than previous Machine Robo toys.
Both Jet and Battle Riser feature spring-loaded missile launchers in their fully completed state. Each toy is equipped with a BB-style pellet launcher on the right shoulder, which can fire the multicolor hard plastic pellets provided in a small bag in each the box. Each launcher features a compartment that can hold about 3-4 pellets at once, and that can be accessed by opening the top of the launcher. Launching a pellet is done by pulling back a lever on the back of each launcher, and subsequently letting go of it. The toys also feature conventional spring-loaded launchers on their left shoulders. Although it looks like these launchers can launch a lot of missiles at once, this is not the case, as part of the missiles are fake. The Jet Riser actually features a twin spring-loaded missile launcher, while the Battle Riser has a single spring-loaded missile launcher.
The toys do not have many other features. As mentioned previously, the Jet Riser features wings. It also features a lot of thrusters and a somewhat jet-like canopy. However, in comparison to the animation art, this canopy is placed too far up, giving the toy a somewhat strange look, which I found a bit disappointing. The Battle Riser is definitively the better and more fun toy, as it also features a grabbing claw and quad barreled cannon. Both toys can be put in pretty decent running poses (although they are hard to balance), too.
Overall, these toys are immensely satisfying, being some of the more interesting Machine Robo toys and just having a different feel than the toys that came before. Of course, not all Machine Robo Battlehackers toys are like this, which I will show in another upcoming Rumble…