Battle Beasts (ビーストフォーマー Bīsutofōmā , Beastformers) is a line of small 2" tall action figure toys, in the form of an anthropomorphised animal with body armor and a unique weapon. Several figures have their left hand replaced by a weapon of some kind. Battle Beasts were created and largely produced by Takara and distributed by Takara in Japan (under the name "BeastFormers") and by Hasbro outside of Japan, beginning in 1987.
Battle Beasts were created by Takara of Japan in 1986. Tomy Co., Ltd., aka K.K. Takara-Tomy, still owns the worldwide rights to the property. The heyday for the toyline came during the period in which it was licensed to Hasbro for distribution outside of Japan when Hasbro marketed the toys in America and many other parts of the world. Although in the Japanese market Takara branded the toys as a spin-off of Transformers and even named the toys "BeastFormers," their tie-in to the Transformers universe was not part of the Hasbro story or marketing. As part of the Takara strategy, many of the Battle Beasts appeared in the episode "Rebellion on Planet Beast" of the Japanese Transformers cartoon series Transformers: The Headmasters.
Four series were released overall. The first three contain beasts 1 - 76. Each figure has a heat sensitive rub sign on his chest and a hand-to-hand weapon. Three pull back vehicles and three transforming bases were also released. The fourth series had 36 figures and was renamed Laser Beasts, the renaming corresponded with some minor changes to the figures. The entire Laser Beast line was released in Japan, and in small numbers in America and Europe. These figures have orbs in their chest instead of rubs and each came with a gun that resembled the creature who held it. Some small chariots were also released as part of the Laser Beast line in Japan. In addition to these figures some promo figures were also made. These were made of clear plastic and were available only in special sets.
The figures were released in Japan in small boxes of individual figures and in larger multi-packs. In America Series 1, 2 and the 12 Laser Beasts were released on blister cards with two figures per card. Series 3 figures were only available in boxes of eight per package. The vehicles came in boxes and each came with a figure.
Series 1 - 3: Battle Beasts 
Battle Beasts came out in the late 80s and like most toys of the era, had a gimmick to help sales. Each Battle Beast had a heat sensitive sticker on his chest which, when rubbed would reveal the warrior's strength. The symbols would represent either fire, wood or water and could be used in a rock, paper, scissors type game—fire beat wood, wood beat water, water beat fire. Later a fourth emblem was added, the Sunburst, and it would beat all other types. The Sunburst was extremely rare, in a ten pack in Japan, or Pirate Leo was available in America as a variant, despite claims that there were others of that affiliation. Each Beast also carried his own distinctive weapon which could be identified to its Beast with the corresponding number.
In the U.S. Battle Beasts came in a packages of two, usually (but not always) in numerical order. It was impossible to tell which figure had a rub of fire, wood, or water until the package was opened. That came in handy with marketing, as their slogan was, Fire! Wood! Or Water!... You'll never know until you own them!. Also listed on the packages starting with Series 2 was the possibility of getting the Sunburst Warrior. There was a total of three series adding up to 76 Battle Beasts beginning with #1, Pirate Lion and ending with #76, Ossified Orangutan.
Series 1 & 2 were released in Japan, Europe and North America while Series 3 was only released in Japan and the U.S.
Series 4: Shadow Warriors 
The fourth and final Series released was renamed Shadow Warriors, or Laser Beasts in Japan. The heat sensitive sticker was replaced by an orb that could be seen through, depicting which clan the Beast represented.
The Shadow Warriors had a new slogan on the American package that read Fire! Wood! Water!... Only the crystal shield will reveal their strength!. Shadow Warriors carried guns instead of the hand-to-hand weapons that the Battle Beasts had, and each gun resembled the creature to which it belonged.
The entire new series of 36 Laser Beasts and new sleds were released mainly in Japan. North America only received 12 of the new Lasers, which were packaged as “Shadow Warriors” in two pack blister cards. These were mainly sold by Value City stores. No accessories, such as sleds or shields, were released, although they appeared on the packaging. Some of the lower numbered Lasers were produced in Europe and a few came with unique shields and sleds that like the guns, resembled the animal it belonged to. The sleds from Japan were available in two colors (grey and bordeaux) and both were included in the Six Shield Battler set. In France a third color, purple, appeared. This exclusive color was included in the blisters of Laserbeasts #93 to #96, the grey one was available with beasts #89 to #92, and the bordeaux was available with beasts #97 to #100. The main color of the sled is not the only difference. The color of the wheels change too. The grey sled has orange wheels, the bordeaux sled has black wheels and the purple sled has yellow wheels.
Six of the 12 shields were released only in Europe; #89 Brown Lion, #92 Hustlebear, #95 Dragon Seahorn, #97 Seapanic, #98 Puzzlecolor and #100 Scope Cougar.
A number of vehicles were released throughout the line. For the Battle Beast line, three chariots and three bases were released that looked like animals, each came with one figure that was not unique to the vehicle. The chariots were able to hold up to three figures comfortably and each had its own name: Tearin' Tiger, which looked like a tiger, Big Horn which looked like a ram and Deer Stalker which looked like a deer. All the chariots had a pull-back motion that would spring the vehicle forward when it was released.
The three bases were the Blazing Eagle, Shocking Shark and Wood Beetle. Each base had a unique symbol theme that matched the "Fire, Wood, Water" concept that the line was based on. Each base could hold several figures and had a jail-cell with which to hold captured Beasts.
The Laser Beast line had several vehicles as well. Three Battle chariots which were smaller than the Battle Beast chariots could be purchased with a unique figure, and several types of Drills were released as well.
To date, there are four known types of Drills to exist, all of which are the same design but feature different colors; Gold, Maroon, Yellow and Blue. The Blue Drill is the rarest, with only three or four known to exist.
Premium Figures 
There were several promotional figures released in Japan throughout the run that could be obtained in certain ways, mainly through mail-aways or by purchasing special sets.
Most of the figures weren't exactly new, as most of the premium figures were just repaints of previously existing molds. Figures that were repaints were the Stone Cobra, Clear Gator, Clear Carp and the Striped Carp. The only exception to this rule was the mail-away offer for the #101 Skull Grotess figure, which was a completely original figure.
Premium figures were available in various ways. The Clear Gator and Sunburst Lion could be obtained by purchasing a Japanese 10-pack set that contained either one figure or the other although you couldn't tell until you opened the package. The Stone Cobra, could only be obtained through the mailing in of the two halves of the "Stone Tablet". One half could be found in the Japanese Fire Phoenix playset (which was the Japanese equivalent to the American Blazing Eagle set), while the other was in the Sunburst Lion set. The Stone Cobra was sent out in two different waves due to a larger demand than Takara originally expected. The first way came with no rub, the second came with a sticker that had White Leo's face on it.
The Clear and Striped Carps could be found in the Japanese "Punch Box" set, which was basically a box that had covers which you would "punch" to find a figure. The Striped Carp was much more rare than the Clear version.
The Skull Grotess figure could be purchased (along with a Gold Drill) through a mail-away offer exclusively. An order form advertising the figure could be found in almost all single figure packages sold in Japan.
To promote sales in Belgium and France, the company employed a gimmick where an employee dressed up as one of the characters attended youth events and handed out promotional scratch-away cards that revealed the same symbols as the beasts did. They were then requested to go to a fixed place to "battle the minion". The identically clothed employee located at the fixed post had one of the three signs present and, if the sign on the card the child received beat it, they received a free Battle Beasts figure to begin their collection.
Starting with the second series of figures in America, a 23" x 30" poster was available via mail order featuring drawings of all the Battle Beasts as well as their names.
A comic series simply titled Battle Beasts was published by Blackthorne Publishing in 1987. There were only four issues published by the company before it was canceled on a cliff-hanger. All four issues were published in black and white. The stories were written by John Stephenson and drawn by Andy Ice. They centered primarily on seven characters: Horny Toad, Knight Owl, and Gargantuan Gorilla dealing with the betrayal of Chameleon, Rocky Rhino, Blitzkrieg Bat, and Cutthroat Cuttlefish, who interrupted a ceremony with the Soulspirit causing madness and constant sign changes among their people. A sludgelike devil character was also featured. The final issue implied that Pirate Lion, piloting the Shocking Shark with first mate Webslinger Spider, was the Sunburst Warrior who would be able to set things aright. Two annuals were published as well, although by a different company and they were only released in Europe. The stories are unrelated to the Blackthorne series.
In 2011 Takara Tomy announced the Beast Saga line, a spiritual successor to the original figures. The line focuses on three factions - land, air and sea. The fire/wood/water battling mechanism was replaced by a dice launcher which enables a dice battle game between figures. The series was released in September 2012. Figures include shields in addition to weapons and are currently being released in monthly waves. Shonen Jump produces a manga based on the toy line and an anime is scheduled for 2013.
At the 2009 San Diego Comic Con, Diamond Select Toys, announced that it had acquired the Battle Beasts brand name after Hasbro allowed the trademark to lapse. They displayed a playset featuring a Minimates version of their new Battle Beasts line. The playset was to become available for sale on December 31, 2009, but was cancelled. Several repaints of the figure were sold in 2010, and at C2E2 2012 the company confirmed they would be going forward with a full line of figures. Additionally, a comic book based on the Minimates franchise was released by IDW Publishing in May 2012.
Also in 2012, a small company called Plastic Imagination! announced Rise of the Beasts, a forthcoming line of minifigures with articulated arms and necks inspired by the original 1980s toys. The project launched a successful Kickstarter campaign, but has since been cancelled.