Ah, nostalgia! Be it that old cartoon, a favorite toy or a comic book from days gone by, isn’t it great, when out of the blue, the memories come flooding back, and you’ve no choice but to exclaim “Holy Crap! Remember…“?
Not long ago, I revisited the insanity that was the Pog fad of the early-to-mid 1990′s as proof that kids will buy anything if you tell them it’s cool. This barely scratched the surface of the mound of junk we amassed in our collective youth. There were countless flash-in-the-pan sensations that have come and gone since then. But every so often, toy-of-the-minute steps out of the spotlight, leaving behind a glimmer of a future, a core concept that is bizarre yet endearing enough to get another shot once the world is ready for it again.
One such toy was the Spin Fighters. They were tops… Sure, you can dress it up all you want, but they were tops. If someone were to hand you a top and tell you to go wild, you’d have kicked them in the knee, but these had Power Rangers and Street Fighter II characters on them, so that made it okay. And of course there’s also the conflict factor. They were Spin FIGHTERS, after all. That made them cool. The premise couldn’t be simpler. The small metal spinning tops were sold in packs of two, one with a hero’s face and one with a villain’s. They were loaded into a launcher (sold separately) and then dropped into a concave “battle arena.” They spun around clanging into one another until one of them inevitably flew out of the ring or stopped spinning. You win! Hooray! The black plastic spin tip could be removed so that they could be worn like pins. But the post on the metal part was square and stubby, so getting the tip to actually go back on with anything between it and the post was practically impossible, but hey! Extra play feature FTW.
It’s a ridiculous concept that somehow sold. These were nowhere near the phenomenon that Pogs or Tamagotchis were (I’m getting to them, too. Don’t worry), but they were successful. And they were just tops! Fighting tops! And this is where the glimmer I spoke of before comes in. The “fighting top” angle would come into play several more times in the following decade and a half. Results were mixed. Examples include anything from the aptly-named “Battle Tops” to the insanity that was Spinjas to the mind-breakingly successful Beyblade. Beyblade exists in the here and now and there was a time when stores couldn’t keep them on the shelves. Of course, Beyblade has a fiction backing it up so it’s not quite as shallow as Spin Fighters, but the toys are still just tops. They’re pretty cool tops, I guess, but they’re tops nonetheless.
It’s endearing in a way to think that even with all the insane technology kids today have at their disposal that they, too, can fall victim to the hypnotic siren’s call of the fighting top. It’s crazy to think that tops of all things can have such an ebb and flow of popularity, depending on some sort of intangible toy climate. Somewhere, the Ball-in-a-Cup guy is kicking himself in the ass and generally hating life, I’m sure.