Way, way back in 2010, I posted a retrospective about Tomy's toy robot line Zoids and two of its less popular spin-offs, Starriors and Z-Knights. I recently learned that Tomy produced two other spin-offs during the '80s that weren't sold in the United States: Tribots and the Robot Anti-Terror Squad (R.A.T.S.). These two other lines also less popular than Zoids, but that doesn't make them look any less fun. Click below for more details and pictures of these interesting yet obscure robot toys from the '80s, and how they fit in to Tomy's approach to motorized, mechanical play.
I learned about Tribots when I was looking around the ever-awesome Collection DX site. It posted a review of one of the Tribots toys, along with a picture that placed a Tribot and Starrior next to each other for comparison. Even though these robot figures are from different lines, both share Tomy's aesthetic of interchangeable parts and bulky, mechanical shapes--the same aesthetic that it had originally applied to its Zoids robots.
A Tribot (left) and a Starrior (photo courtesy of Collection DX).
Where Tribots differs from Zoids and Starriors is that the Tribots toys transform into vehicles and the others do not. Because the Tribots line didn't last long, only six figures were produced; of those six, only three figure types were designed. The three figure types transform into jets, tanks, and boats, and each type was produced in two different color schemes in order to identify whether the robot is "good" or "bad". The figures also contort into an "animal" mode, although I'm not sure what kind of animals they're supposed to be. Curiously, even though the faces of the robots look like cockpits that could accommodate a pilot figure (like the Zoids, Starriors and Z-Knights), the Tribots did not include any pilot figures. I suppose that this would make the Tribots the only "unmanned" robots of Tomy's toy lines from that era.
Above: The three different Tribot vehicle modes.
Below: All six Tribot figures.
In contrast to Tribots is the R.A.T.S. line, which looks like an extension of the non-transformable Starriors line but with a different name. Several of the figures look like they were lifted straight from the Starriors, while the other vehicles and accessories fit the scale of Starriors figures. I think that the R.A.T.S. line was only sold in Europe and Japan, although the name for the Japanese version is "Robot Anti-Transformation Squad", not "Anti-Terror".
It's a shame that these extra toys weren't included in the U.S. Starriors line, because it looks like the new vehicles and robots (which included a crawling robot centipede, a battery-powered robot claw, and a tank that fires discs) could have added more levels of giant robot fun. My guess is that these R.A.T.S. toys were originally produced for the Starriors line, by that line was pulled off the shelves and into the bargain bins before they were released; thus, the new toys were repackaged under the R.A.T.S. name and released outside of the U.S. Click here to see a complete list of the R.A.T.S. toys that were released in Europe.
One particularly cool R.A.T.S. toy that was released exclusively in Japan is a battery-powered robot called "Mauses" (at least I think that's what it's called). As you can see from the comparison picture below, Mauses is a super-sized Starriors figure that can walk.
Looking back, I think that Tomy should have released Starriors, Tribots, R.A.T.S. and Z-Knights as part of its more successful Zoids line. One thing that I appreciate about other Japanese robot toy lines like Micronauts and Machine Robo is that those lines experimented with different kinds of play instead of just repeating the same feature over and over again. Some toys in these lines transformed while others did not; some toys had to be assembled while others could be disassembled and/or reassembled into different toys. Tomy's different lines were close enough to each other in design to allow for complementary play, but each line provided something different for kids who were intrigued by the toy robot experience.