Takara is sort of a "second tier" toy company in Japan. One could possibly
blame it on BanDai of Japan's influence over television stations some, given
more BanDai-related shows get more airtime. Add in that "piloted mecha" shows
still remain more popular than "sentient robot" ideas(piloted mecha shows seem
to do better with children in Japan. As I understand it, it's the whole idea
that a kid can pretend to be the pilot of a large robot. Sentient robots don't
offer that). Takara's recent merger with Tomy may even be another effort to keep
the company going.
So rewind to 2001. Word is that Takara hated Hasbro's US Transformers concept
Beast Machines(possibly backed up by various jabs taken even in the recent
Japanese dub of the show, which got a limited release), so Takara pumped out
their own line, Car Robots. Despite strong US import interest, the line didn't
go over too well in Japan. The line consisted more of recolors of old toy molds
than it did of new toys. So by the next year, while Hasbro was left to import
Car Robots to the US, Takara took a break from their long-standing Transformers
line and came up with Webdiver.
Takara has taken noticable breaks before, with lines such as Brave and GaoGaiGar.
These breaks are usually ignored by Hasbro, who, despite having the US master
license for Transformers with Takara, has never touched the other lines.
Webdiver was yet another shot, a series based in virtual reality battles in a
computer world. Not totally an original idea... effectively, Tron had started
the genre, and Gridman in Japan had crossed the idea with the typical "sentai"
The toy concept centered around Gladion(or Gradion, depending on translation.
Gladion, however, fits better with the knight/gladiator look of the character),
who was a large robot that transformed into a locomotive, as well as a game
Yes, GAME CONSOLE. A transformer with games.
In addition to all the nifty things that transforming robots have, a set fo
electronics was inside the torso with buttons on the back and a mini-type A/V
out hidden in a smokestack, as well as room for 4 AA batteries. Two games were
programmed in, and if you bought other toys, you could link them via IR sensor
to unlock extra features. The show even garned an anime series, albeit a
short-lived one. From the official description-
"Set in the year 2100 where the world is tied together by a computer network.
The children of the world become Web Divers, adapting their consciousnesses into
data, and love to play together in the cyber park called Magical Gate. However,
a mysterious computer virus appears beginning to destroy Magical Gate from the
inside out. In cyberspace, programs called Web Knights have been created to
protect the children. But, the computer virus has turned all the Web Knights
against the children. The only Web Knight to escape the "brainwashing" is
Gladion. Gladion seeks the help of Kaito Yuki, a Web Diver who is in the fourth
grade. When a Web Knight and a Web Diver synchronize, “they can have unlimited
power. Will Kaito and Gladion's combined power be enough to save Magical Gate?"
Webdiver ultimately didn't become the hit Takara was hoping for. While villain
toys, especially large villain toys, don't sell too well in Japan(note that
Power Rangers gets lots of big hero toys, and a few small villains), Webdiver
had NO villain toys. And most of the toys were expensive thanks to extra
electronics(and even then, 2 of the largest toys didn't unlock ANYTHING).
Connectivity was more a feature that was to look good with the toy atached, the
unlockable bonus was minimal in the games. The toys even hit cheap online prices
at the end. Ultimately, Takara turned back to Transformers.
I won't be reviewing the toy itself, just the games. For a toy review itself,
please go to http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/BW/Japan/WebDiver4
Gladion includes a 3 meter AV/ stereo cable. On his back are 4 directional
buttons and a single fire button, with a power switch recessed. The game you
play depends on which form the toy is in- train form gets you a rail riding
game, robot form gets you a shooter minigame.
The game system hardware itself was designed by Xavix, likely contracted out by
Takara. The graphics are early 16-bit level, and while the graphics are
primarily 3D, these are all pre-rendered 2D spirtes based on 3D models. Music
and sounds are okay, if not too impressive. There is some dialog, but it isn't
necessary to enjoy the games themselves. The game opens with a tarnsformation
sequence to whatever form the toy is in at startup, followed by a bio and some
The rail game is a simple minigame where you jump between 3 rails, dodging
computer chips. Most are static, though later levels introduce chips that fall
from the sky. Wrecking into one slows you down. Hitting the button gives you a
slight speed boost. Left and right are the functional directions, up and down
have no function. Your only goal is to reach the end before time runs out. Wreck
too many times and the game ends. Each round gets progressively harder.
The shooter game puts Gladion on one side of a canyon and a virus monster(a
Deletros) on the other. You can move in all 4 directions on your side of the
canyon. Fire shoots off a simple shot, and raising the right arm charges a super
shot. You have to lower and raise the arm each time to charge, however. Basic
shots whittle away at the virus' health meter while a super shot does far more
damage. The enemies come in 3 different colors, each with differences in their
own shots and in how well they dodge you. If you wait too long without killing
the virus, it runs off. Each round, teir health lowers less with each shot. You
also get a health meter.
Sprites and animation are okay. There's little to animate in the rail game
anyway, and Gladion slides on his surface rather than walking in shooter.
Both games are preceded by a level select screen, allowing you to start on
levels 1 through 4. The levels continue beyond, however. Each also starts with a
tutorial. You can change games without turning the system off by transforming
the toy. Various buttons at certain points are pressed down in robot form and
let up in train form. Transforming gives you the transformation sequence
animation. All the buttons are in the upper half of the toy, so it's best to do
the legs first so as not to fiddle around too much with the buttons. Reportedly,
you can crash the game during this, likely by reverse transforming.
Unfortunately, neither game holds a score, or even a continue option. Lose, and
you start over from level 4 at most.
Buying other toys and attaching them will unlock extra weapons in the shooter
game as well as their on-screen bio, by means of an IR sensor in the chest(a
recessed button is also likely pressed down, to activate the sensor). No new
games are unlocked, however. One would assume all the games to be programmed
into the toy, likely glop-topped to the board anyway. Using extra toys as "game
cartridges" would have required another connector cable entirely, I'm afraid...
still, it would have been a neat idea over extra weapons. Think about it- the
big toy is a game console, the toys are game cartridges. If they'd done that,
the line may have been more interesting. As it is, buting another expensive toy
to unlock a feature that doesn't change that game much wasn't a concept that
As a game console, it's an interesting try, though nothing more special than
you'd find in one of the cheaper TV game dedicated consoles. As a toy, it was
generally good, though as a combination, it was interesting. A nice idea that,
if worked out just a bit better, could have worked well. Between market
unpopularity and whatever interested parties buying them up while they could,
combined with it's foreign release, the toys are rather difficult to find. And
pricey, as boxed toys can go for about $80. A bit much for just the game, which
makes the toy of more interest to toy collectors than game enthusiasts. But with
the TV Game brand and other TV game consoles out, I hope Hasbro considers a US
release of the line if they ever need a filler toy line, if just to give more
gamers access to try one. It was idea that showed promise. Score: 7/10
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