Robo Machine was a toyline and media franchise created by Bandai, which ran from 1983 to 1987 in Europe. The primary rival of The Transformers in the European toy aisles of the mid-1980s, the line initially consisted largely of figures from Bandai's Japanese Machine Robo series.
While it was a Europe-wide line the franchise seems to have made little impact beyond Britain and France, though figures were also issued in the Netherlands, Germany and Italy.
The Robo Machine line evolved considerably over its life. After starting out as a straight import of Machine Robo the brand changed direction when Challenge of the GoBots began airing on the continent, leading to a shift towards Tonka-based names and a clumsy attempts to blend the two names together as Challenge of the GoBots - A Robo Machine Product, while numerous extant figures had GoBots logo stickers slapped on their boxes. The line's scant promotional material attempted to claim that the character-style names were secret "code names" that were intentionally left off the cards. Uh-huh.
The line featured the majority of toys released as GoBots in America and Machine Robo in Japan, but with several localised changes to names and colour schemes. Another feature of Robo Machine was that Bandai used it as a general catch-all for any robot toy they released in Europe, meaning the banner included figures drawn from Winch Robo, GoDaiKin and other even stranger places. Similarly the Rock Lords figures were all released under the Robo Machine banner, with GoBots branding also added.
Some limited fictional background was given via toy catalogues, while other media included:
Challenge of the GoBots aired under its' American name, allowing for local translations, and was never rebranded as part of Robo Machine. It was a notable success in France as Les Defi des GoBots, where it received a unique theme tune called "Go GoBots" and even saw the importing of the Japanese cartoon Machine Robo: Revenge of Cronos - which was dubbed and screened as La Revanche des GoBots (Revenge of the GoBots) with names and dialogue tweaked to make it a successor of sorts to the American series.
It was also released on home video in several markets, handled by Vestron Video in the countries where they had distribution - which included Britain, France, Spain (as El Desafio de Los GoBots), and Finland (also as GoBots).
In the UK, Fleetway published a comic strip serial in their Eagle weekly comic. It told the story of Stron-Domez and his Renegade Robo Machines, who fled from Robotron after an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate the planet's president and instead opted to conquer Earth. They were followed by Ex-El and the Security Forces The serial was published in 3-page episodes in the Eagle and was originally published between 10 November, 1984 and 29 July, 1985. The story took elements from the familiar GoBots mythos, notably the rough factions and names of most character names. It had a grittier feeling more in line with the war comics and the like prevalent in the British weekly comics of the period. Between the first and second stories the serial took a break and when it returned some of the original characters and concepts that didn't gel with Gobots were reduced or ignored - the term Guardians started to replace Security Forces, Turbo and Scooter were added to the cast, Stron-Domez became Zod and Ex-El simply disappeared from the story.
Also in the UK, World Distributors made a series of storybooks based on the line, as well as two annuals. These largely took their cues from the Challenge of the GoBots cartoon.
- The line received a sequel of sorts in 1993 when Bandai launched the short-lived European Robo Machines line.
- Early European adverts referred to the line as Robo Machines.