The original Bionicle saga ended in a bit of a mess. While it was all round a happy ending, with evil being defeated and the Matoran and Agori coming together to build a new society, there were a lot of loose ends. From a Toa-killing monster being set free, to the Toa having to work with the Glatorian… All the way to Lewa and company being missing and Kopaka and Pohatu being trapped in the mysterious Red Star… None of the original saga was truly finished. But rather than tie up these loose ends, we ended up getting something else.
Instead of any actual continuation, we got Generation 2 of Bionicle. A complete fresh start.
Generation 2 though didn’t last very long.
Bionicle Gen 2 only lasted two years, from 2015 to 2016. We got a half-decent amount of sets, as well as animated shows for both 2015 and 2016. These shows were in very different styles and varying amounts of voice acting, with the 2016 animations basically being its own cartoon show.
And over the space of those 2 years, things were somewhat interesting. Sure, things weren’t as mysterious and magical as they were when the original Toa Mata were released in 2001, but there was an attempt to bring that back. Just didn’t go as planned.
The story was pretty basic. At least, on the surface.
The biggest and most obvious thing was how… basic Generation 2 was. At least, for the first year. A lot of it was actually the same premise. Six mysterious beings have appeared on an island to save the day. There’s even the twist that the Toa had to prove themselves to be heroes to the villagers. I’d say that 2015’s story was basically a watered down version of 2001’s story, complete with how Makuta isn’t really defeated and you still have a problem with mind control.
2016 though had a deeper story, what with Makuta ramping up his mind control, the appearance of skeletal enemies, magical elemental creatures guarding ancient artifacts and the Toa having to learn how to work with these elemental beings. In fact, 2016 is probably a lot more reminiscent of old Bionicle, to the point that the Toa end up sacrificing themselves and turning into elemental stars in the sky in order to save the world.
To get to the cooler (although still somewhat simple) story of 2016 though, you needed to traipse through the rather mediocre 2015 story.
The sets, however, were amazing.
One of the biggest issues of things like Hero Factory, which appeared after Generation 1 of Bionicle ended, was that the sets were just pose-able action figures. This could be seen slowly happening at the later end of Generation 1, but Hero Factory lacked the charm that allowed people to look past that. Gen 2 Bionicle sets though flawlessly combined the cool gears and action features of early Generation 1, with the action pose ways of Hero Factory. So not only did you get some cool gear action that you build yourself, but you’re also not locked into it and can pose your Bionicles as you want.
All the Toa sets, both Masters and Uniters, were excellent. The Protectors and the Elemental Creatures were great as well. All these sets were a bit expensive, but they were great. We had an extreme lack of decent bad guys. The Lord of the Skull Spiders was a mediocre set, and the Elemental Beasts kinda sucked too. The Skull Baddies were alright but had too much open space.
That being said, Umarak the Hunter is probably one of the best Bionicle sets I have ever owned. It is just all-round a badass set, as cool as the Bohrok, Rahkshi and Piraka.
Things just weren’t the same though.
There are some things you just can’t get around. For example, the little beings running around were just called Okotans, or villagers with no real name, protected by, uh, Protectors. Even the island itself had a different name, and frankly Okoto just didn’t sound as interesting or as catchy as Mata Nui. While some names are kept the same and others sound badass (for example, Umarak the Hunter), many of the changed names just didn’t ring the same bells.
The bad guys didn’t help. Weirdly, we had a complete lack of actual bad guys, especially when it came to sets. Umarak was a great character, but everyone else was basically evil cannon fodder. The lack of actual bad guys to fight in the first Bionicle wave didn’t really help. Even if you had every set, you’d end up with way more good guys than bad guys. There was no sneaky Roodaka and there was no traitorous Nidhiki. And we had only one scheming Makuta.
Generation 2 however fucking ruined Pohatu
The thing that always put me off though was how Pohatu’s personality was changed. All the Toa changed personalities slightly, but Pohatu was basically rewritten. He went from the friendly guy who always tried to bring everyone together to… I don’t know. Tahu V3, I think. Somehow, somewhere along the line, it was decided that only Lewa could be the friendly, joking one. Pohatu had to be an asshole. His personality because a lesser version of that of Tahu or Kopaka, being stubborn and butting heads with his fellow Toa. But worse, he was also kinda inconsistent. Like, how can you be brave and be scared of the dark as well?
Generation 1 Pohatu was a vastly different character, a genuine nice guy and the FRIENDLIEST of the Toa. Pohatu is the happy, joking guy who tries to bring people together. Frankly, I think Gen 1 Pohatu would have been upset at what he became in Gen 2.
But at the end of the day, I don’t think Bionicle Gen 2 did very well
It just wasn’t really sustainable. The Toa had their story, they saved the day and that was it. There wasn’t as much depth and things were simpler. But more importantly, it was basically impossible for LEGO to capture the same purity and awe that the original Bionicle saga created. We already knew a lot of the mystery, which made Generation 2 far more predictable.
There’s another issue though. When Generation 2 came out, the sets were more expensive and I couldn’t buy them. I did eventually get all the Toa, but I had more disposable income back then. More importantly, I was LUCKY to have disposable income. Most people my age, who had been fans of Bionicle when they were kids as well, were in the middle of college or university. Our generation didn’t have the money or need to buy Bionicles.
Had LEGO waited a bit longer… Well, we still wouldn’t have been able to afford Bionicle sets because of the global pandemic. But I think LEGO didn’t wait long enough for the nostalgia to kick in, for people to really want a reboot.
Oh well. We got some badass LEGO sets out of it, at least.