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The continuing evolution of LEGO BIONICLE

Since the re-launch of LEGO BIONICLE, there has been some interesting changes that are worth to discuss. The 2016 LEGO BIONICLE sets are markedly different than the 2015 ones, noticeable even by those who are not deeply involved with the LEGO BIONICLE universe. So let’s take a closer look at what happened, and what does this mean to LEGO fans. 🙂

2016 LEGO Bionicle Sets

To get a full understanding on how LEGO BIONICLE evolved, it is helpful to briefly look back at the history of Constaction (Construction + Action) Figures, as this is what BIONICLE uses for the large, articulated characters. As a building system, LEGO BIONICLE was an offshoot of LEGO Technic, which meant that from the very beginning the characters looked very mechanical and robot-like. Besides using standard LEGO Technic elements, the look of the characters was improved by the addition of many-many specialized pieces. In fact there were so many unique pieces in the LEGO BIONICLE line, at some point it just didn’t make sense to maintain them. Also, because the pieces were quite detailed they were prone to breaking, and the joint pieces were also finicky.

#10204 LEGO Bionicle Set

LEGO BIONICLE was discontinued in 2010, and was replaced by LEGO Hero Factory. With the new theme the entire Constraction System was also renewed, with improved ball-joints and a simplified selection of pieces. The playability and poseability of the characters much improved with the updated system. No more dealing with breaking pieces and cranky joints. Aesthetically speaking, the reduced number of pieces meant that the new characters looked more uniform, and the improved quality resulted in chunkier, simpler forms.

LEGO Hero Factory

In 2015 LEGO Hero Factory was discontinued, and after much prodding from LEGO fans, LEGO BIONICLE was brought back. For the new line of LEGO BIONICLE sets LEGO used the new and improved Constraction Figure System that was introduced with LEGO Hero Factory. In fact, the 2015 LEGO BIONICLE characters look very much like the ones in LEGO Hero Factory; simple, uniform and chunky.

LEGO Bionicle Tahu

While the LEGO Hero Factory building system was definitely much better and much improved over the original Constraction System, LEGO BIONICLE fans were not happy that the same style was applied to their own beloved heroes and villains. They wanted them to look more like the ones in the original sets.


LEGO designers listened to these wishes and complaints, and in 2016 they updated all the characters in the LEGO BIONICLE theme with a more complex design. While the pieces are still strong and sturdy, and the skeleton system is still the same improved design, the armor pieces got more detailed and textured to mimic the pieces in the original sets. This change is most noticeable on the Toa, as they all have both a 2015 and a 2016 version. In the video below JANGBRiCKS will show you these differences and upgrades in more detail.

At least to me, the new LEGO BIONICLE heroes still look more chunky than the original versions. Personally I don’t mind this – especially since I’m a fan of LEGO Hero Factory – but I’m curious to hear the opinion of original LEGO BIONICLE fans. LEGO definitely made a good effort making the characters more detailed with texturing the armor pieces and even printing some of the details to make them more interesting. I think this is a good compromise that LEGO designers can continue to refine as they get feedback from their fans.

2016 LEGO Bionicle

If you are not a LEGO BIONICLE fan, these changes can be beneficial to you as well. The original LEGO BIONICLE parts are well known to be some of the best and most interesting pieces to use for detailing (also referred to as greebling) vehicles, machinery, spaceships and other LEGO creations that need to look mechanical. The LEGO Hero Factory system with its simple and smooth pieces, and less connection points did not serve the same need. But now that LEGO BIONICLE is getting more detailed again, some of the new parts can add unique details to standard LEGO creations. For example, take a look at this dwarf by Djordje, using a new BIONICLE piece for the beard! 😀

LEGO BIONICLE Dwarf by Djordje

In summary, I would say that it is worth continuing to follow the development of BIONICLE, even if you are not a fan of the original line, or may not even be a fan of the new story. The characters, pieces and building techniques are interesting, and it seems like LEGO is committed to continue to improve them. If you haven’t done so already, you can take a look at all the new sets under the LEGO BIONICLE section of the Online LEGO Shop.

Shop LEGO Bionicle 2016

So what do you think? How do you like the upgrades and changes to LEGO BIONICLE, and how do you think the new system compares to the old? Do you use LEGO BIONICLE parts for your other LEGO creations? Feel free to share in the comment section below! 😉

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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • brickmaster March 31, 2016, 12:26 PM

    That’s really interesting! I didn’t realize there were so many changes between the 2015 and 2016 characters!

  • legozebra March 31, 2016, 1:24 PM

    As a major fan of Bionicle Gen1 and a follower of the line since its inception, despite the fact that I loved the old sets, the G2 sets are a huge and tangible improvement over all of the old sets. Speaking of the 2015 sets, I’m not too sure what you mean by their uniformity – in fact, they are more unique and distinct that any of the old Bionicle Gen1 sets, where “clone sets” were abundant throughout 2001 to 2006, with only some uniqueness between builds appearing in latter years of its run. This is why the 2015 sets are actually really beloved among the Bionicle community – they utilize CCBS (The Hero Factory building system) to such a unique and expressive extent. Just look at 2015 Onua versus 2015 Gali – Onua is short, squat, and broad-shouldered, with a unique system of friction for his geared arms. On the other hand, Gali is tall, thin, and streamlined. This is actually why the 2016 wave of Toa is largely criticized by most of the fan community – the designers added overly detailed parts covered in pistons (such as the chest element) that seems to have been included only to make these sets appear like the Gen1 sets. A set such as Tahu, in that case, has now been mismatched with several different styles – he has the cluttered chest piece, which may have been alright and fit in except for the fact that he has plain CCBS shells, the Crystal add-on, and the 2015 piston add-on. These clashing styles make him a decidedly worse figure than the 2015 sets. In addition, Comparing Onua and Gali from this wave, there’s little difference because of the attempts to make them uniform, which is why I believe that this wave of Toa is actually not an improvement over the old wave.

    Just some thoughts… Thanks for the thought-provoking article.

    • admin March 31, 2016, 1:39 PM

      Very interesting perspective. Thanks for sharing. I guess it may take LEGO a while to figure out how to please both first gen BIONICLE fans, and those who got introduced to BIONICLE recently. I do know that first gen fans were not happy with the 2015 BIONICLE sets because they looked too much like Hero Factory; chunky, smooth, and too simple. Now LEGO is moving towards the more detailed design, but there are obviously still things to work out.

      Personally I prefer the 2015 sets, but that’s because I’m a Hero Factory fan and like the more chunky style. However I also very much like the first gen parts and accessories because they are great for greebling. I do suggest to regularly give LEGO feedback and let them know what you think. As they are definitely listening and would like to get it right. It may just take a while… 😉

  • JediToa March 31, 2016, 10:17 PM

    Good article! What really sold BIONICLE Gen 1 in my opinion was its strong storyline. We can’t really discount the books and movies made on account of it. On the other hand, the Hero Factory had little to no plot variation. The new BIONICLE, while their sets are more varied, still have not lived up to the epic lore of BIONICLE 2001.
    That’s my thought that I felt was missing.

    • admin April 1, 2016, 10:04 AM

      That is a very good point. The first generation BIONICLE story was mesmerizing, intriguing, and very surprising. I read somewhere that LEGO decided against such a complex storyline this time around, because some kids got confused by the original BIONICLE story. I don’t know it that’s true though. Kids can be surprisingly clever to figure things out.

  • insectoid19 April 2, 2016, 7:40 PM

    That dwarf warrior one is so cool 🙂

    • admin April 4, 2016, 10:55 AM

      Yeah, I like him very much too! 😀

  • shoptrethovn December 28, 2017, 5:03 AM

    That’s really interesting! I didn’t realize there were so many changes between the 2015 and 2016 characters!

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