What was the Battletech TYCO Toyline?
This was the TYCO produced mecha-centered toyline that was tied-into the 1994 Saban Entertainment BattleTech: The Animated Series that was being broadcasted on FOX stations in America. This military science fiction cartoon was being marketed to kids who were interested in manga/anime, giant robot warriors, as well as established fans of the BT/MW universe. It was hoped by Saban, FASA, and TYCO, that the popularity of the BattleTech wargame and the Mechwarrior RPG would be extended into the realm of TV and toys. The toyline would appear on American toy shelves in 1994 and last until 1995 with only one real wave of mecha, figures, and vehicles being released by TYCO before cancellation of both the toyline and the cartoon.
Who was TYCO Toys?
The Historical Context of the TYCO BattleTech Toyline
The Toyline and Its Issues:
Unlike many other boy toylines before it, TYCO's BattleTech was nearly 100% laser-focused on the mecha, which was the real star of the animated series along with the original FASA wargame/RPG. Of all the released toys in the 1994/1995 line, only one was not mecha. Most of the mechs featured "battle-damage" panels, so that kids could aim and fire their spring-loaded projectiles at the panels (and their eyes), having the mech toy react with ejecting the pilot or body parts. Each Mech and vehicle came with a tiny character from the television show. How tiny? Try 2 3/4 inches. Since the toyline is quite limited, I will be discussing each mech in some depth and even comparing the toy vision to the original wargame version. How does the 1995 line differ from the 1994 line? Not much. The 1995 line of mecha was simply repainted with some bold color and patterns, and unlike the original 1994 release, the 1995 release was much harder to find. These colors and patterns were called "Tiger Camo" and "Assault Color". The overall quality of the TYCO BT toyline is just okay, and it is a kick in the balls when you realize just how small the actual figures are for the mecha and how poorly done they are. The mecha themselves seemed to have been designed to accept figures as an afterthought. Why did TYCO design their line around 2 3/4 inch figures? Price and scale. Unlike the more standard 3 3/4 inch size of GI Joe and Star Wars figures, these BT:TAS figures were very small in comparison, especially considering the size of the original Matchbox ROBOTECH figures.
The Inner Sphere AXEMAN Heavy 'Mech
One of the most iconic mecha toys for the line was the Inner Sphere AXEMAN heavy mech that carried the melee axe of the original BattleTech wargame model. This was based on an actual mech from the FASA wargame, and it was more or less reproduced with the basic design of the AXEMAN. The cockpit/head of the mech was altered to easier access for figures. Some fans of the original wargame actually bought this due to its presentation for a decorative piece on their bookshelf. This is one of the more popular mechs in the entire toyline due to its axe and double missile packs. The ejecting escape pod was a nice touch to the battle-damage feature and shows wer future additions to the toyline may have been going.
The Inner Sphere MAULER Assault 'Mech
The MAULER assault mech was another classic BattleTech mech brought into plastic reality by TYCO, and it is one of my favorites of the entire line. I hope to own one for the FWS offices one day. The interesting thing about the MAULER is that is armed for more long-range engagements and it is unsuited for urban or close mech-to-mech combat. This was mech was fielded in 3050 during the uncomfortable peace between the Inner Sphere and the Clans. I think that TYCO got the MAULER pretty close. This is the largest mech in the toyline, and features another ejecting cockpit for the battle damage function
The Inner Sphere BUSHWACKER Medium 'Mech
The Inner Sphere SLOTH Heavy Battle-Armor
The Inner Sphere INFILTRATOR Battle-Armor
After the Invasion of the Clans in 3049, their new ways of combat altered the ways of the Inner Sphere factions. One of those was the Battle-Armor AKA Powered Armor CLASS I & II that was exemplified by the Clans' Elemental CLASS I APS. The Inner Sphere responded with Battle-Armor like the INFILTRATOR. The use of the INFILTRATOR by the Inner Sphere was to be an intelligence gathering/scout sneak suit using advanced stealth technology. This Inner Sphere battle-armor was in both the original game and the toyline. I've always felt that this mech in the BT:TAS toyline was ugly and misplaced.
The Clan THOR Omni 'Mech
In the Clans, the THOR is actually called the "summoner", but this is one of the common Omni-Mechs used by Clan Jade Falcon. The THOR was considered a well-balanced mech with being a general used mech. This is one of the weaker translations of the drawing in the original games to plastic, but it does feature the battle-damage feature by ejecting either arm when the action panel is hit.
The Clan HUNCHBACK Medium 'Mech
The HUNCHBACK is a standard Medium mech of the Inner Sphere, and copies were taken with the exodus fleet. Respected and accomplished, the HUNCHBACK is seen in most Inner Sphere military organizations. The central armament of the HUNCHBACK is the single shoulder-mounted Autocannon that fires a HEAP projectile doing 20 points of damage to their target. The TYCO plastic translation features twin 20's on either shoulder, making the BT:TAS version very deadly, but these spring-loaded firing cannons fire more "missile" like projectiles rather than shells. The HUNCHBACK does feature the battle-damage feature by ejecting either arm via the action panel
The Clan ELEMENTAL/TOAD Battle-Armor
This is one of the most iconic mecha of the Clan Invasion
period of 3049-3050, and it is my personal favorite of the TYCO toyline. I bought this toy in the original 1994 release and I still own it today. Overall, the Elemental or TOAD appears similar to the original game version, but with the laser-arm being replaced with an projectile firing arm and the twin missiles on the shoulders being only decorative. The real issue with the TOAD is the "V" sticker on the chest...it comes off and peels, and the figure rattles around inside. I've been on the lookout for the 1995 repaint that features a bold red colored exterior. Overall, I enjoy having this one in my decorative collection.
The Inner Sphere BSE-X BANSHEE Experimental AeroFighter
The BANSHEE transformable fighter has the distinction of being the only non-mech produced for the TYCO tie-in toyline and being the only one that is not rooted in the original FASA wargame. The BANSHEE is seen in the fourth episode of the BT:TAS and was designed to be a dual-atmospheric combat aerofighter that could hover using VTOL thrusters for greater endoatmospheric combat abilities. However, it was highly experimental and the project never achieve full in-field acceptance during the Clan Invasion. I've never seen the aerofighter in the real world, and it looks like a reject design from a bad Wing Commander game. I am not sure why TYCO decided to produce this instead of another mech. Bad call. This was added into the BattleTech game via the 1st Somerset Strikers sourcebook that attempted to add an element of the BT:TAS into the canonized game material.
Cancelled Prototypes and Rumors
Tyco Battletech Archive, has a picture of the only known prototype mecha for the toyline: the Clan VULTURE Heavy 'Mech. However, over the years of playing and discussing BT/MW, I've heard rumors of what could have been and what was planned. Take these rumors with an whole ocean of salt because I have no idea how true they are and no really way to validate them. Of course, TYCO was going to put out more mecha for their toyline, and that is a no-brainer, but it was TWO specific rumors I heard over the years I wanted to discuss here. One being an extension of the "battle damage" feature on most of the original line. Some of these rumors point to larger mecha being produced like the ATLAS and the MAD CAT that would have allowed for "combat" via IR signals and sensors. If a hit was registered, there would be battle damage like the original line, with pieces of the mech flying off. If it was serious enough, the mech would go critical, and the pilot figure would be ejected out of the mech using springs like the AXEMAN mech ejection feature. We know that TYCO was eyeballing the MAD CAT for production and this could have been a way to inject something new into the toyline. The other interesting rumor was the expansion of the vehicles. Some say that TYCO was going to make a vast Dropship spherical playset or even an Jumpship playset. This would be similar in concept to the Matchbox ROBOTECH SDF-1 playset from the rumors I heard, but it never made it beyond the discussion phase.
The Playmate/FASA/Harmony Gold Lawsuits
Could Have TYCO's BattleTech Toyline Been a Success?
My Own Experiences with the TYCO BT Toyline
When the BattleTech animated series was being aired on FOX in fall of 1994, I was a senior in High School in northern Oklahoma, and BattleTech was still something I played with my friends and I still bought the FASA technical manuals. When the BT:TAS came out, I attempted to watch one episode, and I was horrified at just how shitty it was and how they betrayed the entire FASA BattleTech/Mechwarrior universe and its basic foundation. However, TYCO did produce one of my favorite mecha into plastic reality: the Clans' Elemental powered armor. So, I journeyed to the Ponca City Super Wal-Mart, and bought TYCO's plastic copy of the Elemental. I still have the toy to this day, and while it does indeed look like the Elemental (or "Toad") in the wargame, it has a cartoony color scheme, limited movement, and an oddball micro Jade Falcon Clan figure. This figure was one of the weak links in the entire toyline. My Clan warrior just rattled around inside the mech, and I couldn't see this little shitty figure being as imposing as the Clan warriors in the original game. The stickers never stayed on well enough and it seemed to be less playable than other robot toys...however, it does make a nice decorative piece for my bookshelf.
The BattleTech Toyline Now and Its Legacy
Next Time on FWS...
every punk can fire from across the room, but it takes a man to get close enough to stab", but why not both? Firearms sometimes can be use as a melee weapon and as a tool. Bayonet stabbing, Buttstoke kick, barber wire cutter, window breaker… in the next installment of FWS Armory, we'll examine closely the different ways a firearm can cause harm without any trigger pull whatsoever.