The 90s was a weird snapshot of history in terms of TV and music. I mean, we got the likes of the Spice Girls hitting us with girl power every moment we could, Ace of Base were singing about a woman who wanted to pop out a few more sprogs and I’m fairly sure that Europe created the same song 56 different times with a slightly different set of lyrics and we all fell for it each time. And then we had the Power Rangers running, jumping and flipping their way around the screens and Gladiators… running, jumping and flipping their way around the screens.
But with the Power Rangers influx came a buttload of copycat shows… from the same studio. Indeed, Saban Entertainment shovelled out four of these same styles of shows in the 90s, with Power Rangers clearly being the most popular, while the other three got lost in the shuffle rather… deservedly. As such, we were also treated to the delights of VR Troopers, Masked Rider and Big Bad Beetleborgs.
Yes. You heard that right: BIG. BAD. BEETLEBORGS.
Perhaps this one, VR Troopers is the least bad of the three shows but not by much. It isn’t Big Bad Beetleborgs so be thankful for small mercies. And even better? That never received a game adaptation.
But unfortunately for us, this one still did.
And it looks like this.
And it is as bad as it looks.
VR Troopers manages quite amazingly brilliantly at being one of the most ineptly produced fighting games to ever grace any system for plenty of reasons. If you imagine the furore that Rise of the Robots made for being the piece of shit it ended up being, then you’re going to absolutely lose your shit over the way this game manages to pretty much outdo it in every single department. It’s more inept than Captain Inept on the most inept day of his inept life doing the most inept things ineptly possible.
VR Troopers is nothing short of woeful at best.
It is excruciatingly bad at worst.
And given Rise of the Robots’ infamous position in the standings of poor fighting games… we’re off to an unenviably bad start. Go go VR Troopers! Wait… that’s not how it goes. SHIT. This game is already shit cos it’s confusing me!
Disturbingly, this game doesn’t really do anything right. As a matter of fact, it makes a mockery of fighting games in that it manages to even fuck up what is essentially arcade mode. The game’s ‘Story Mode’ isn’t so much a story as it is a thinly veiled attempt at adding in some vague exposition… which really doesn’t even work or make much sense. It’s one of those stories that tries to follow the plot of some part of the TV show but amalgamates them into one lumpy, turgid mess of nothingness that ends up being “so your next opponent is this monster” – BASICALLY THE PLOT OF ANY FIGHTING GAME’S ARCADE MODE. But for all intents and purposes, the show’s villain, Grimlord, has sent an arcade machine to the local arcade and it sucks up the main characters and makes them fight against Grimlord’s lackeys.
I seriously wish I was joking. If that hasn’t made you want to jump right in then guess what? THEY GIVE YOU THIS TO FRIGHTEN/ENCOURAGE YOU INTO FIGHTING:
HOLY SHIT. LOOK AT THE STATE OF IT. FREAKY KALEIDOSCOPIC BACKGROUND WITH NUMBERS PLUS PRIEST-LIKE OLD DUDE WITHOUT A HUMAN-LIKE FACE STARING OUT INTO THE ABYSS OF YOUR COLD, DEAD SOUL BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO PLAY THIS GAME.
You don’t have to though. YOU REALLY SHOULDN’T.
If I’m going to be slightly – SLIGHTLY – positive, then I will say that the life bars are probably this game’s nicest features. The design behind them works, even though the character names are not there.
And therein lies the game’s one redeeming feature: THE LIFE BARS. I AM NOT FUCKING KIDDING YOU. I WISH I WAS.
Now… should I return to the fighting game rules template that I’ve used twice before or should I try and actually rip apart this game in a slightly more cruel way?
RULE NUMBER ONE: Make sure the combat system actually works. Does it?
VR Troopers manages to basically make their game’s hit boxes and combat mechanics so loose and yet so unfathomably unfair and wonky that it doesn’t really make any sense. Some moves hit for ridiculous levels of damage. Some moves don’t hit for much at all, making them pretty useless, and then some standard moves hit for far too much and pretty make make the game an absolute waste of time in the first place. You could punch and kick eternally and probably hit your opponent, standing in the same space of the game screen about 50% of the time. Sometimes it works… sometimes it doesn’t. And to be honest… that’s criminally bad.
The point to special moves in fighting games is that you have to input the commands properly, which adds a definite element of hand trickery and manoeuvrability that segues in combos and whatnot. This game has no proper combos – which isn’t a huge problem given that Street Fighter 2 didn’t really have combos as such until Super Street Fighter 2 (well… grey area. Let’s not go there. I’m not an expert…) – but by the same token, the combat feels clunky and unbalanced. It’s literally like every attack pushes back the opponent out of reach, meaning that mashing the punch button does nothing useful. It is basically “WHO CAN ATTACK FIRST” most of the time and that isn’t really the most fun idea that you could have programmed. It might as well have been slap fight the videogame for all the attention they poured into this shit.
Having the X, Y and Z buttons feels like cheating. Even though the game tells you how to perform each move without these buttons, there really is no point if you have a 6-button controller because… X, Y, Z. I mean, come on. Are you going to roll a dragon punch motion if you can just press X instead? Are you? Fuck no.
RULE NUMBER TWO: Make sure your cast of characters is varied and interesting. Are they?
Look… given that the TV show has a cast of villainous characters in much the same way as Power Rangers did, to choose any of those crappy one-shot-kill characters really doesn’t amount to much. It’s not as though the game hasn’t got decent characters but given that they’re so bland and underdeveloped as character themselves, we’re very much left in the dark as to what they’re even there for other than to fill up space in the game. I’ll be honest, reminding myself of the characters in this show made me wince wholeheartedly. It’s a shockingly poor show that’s so one-dimensional and bland that it actually makes Power Rangers look worthy of an Emmy or something. And throwing in a heap of crappy villains that really made no actual difference to the show itself is less exciting than picking the barnacles of the bottom of a boat.
At least the barnacles are more interesting. But that doesn’t help VR Troopers much.
Even the main three characters are all very much of a muchness. The show didn’t really develop their characters too much until they actually had to for the sake of an episode or three. And even then, we didn’t get the decent storytelling to make any difference. They all seemed incredibly stereotypical and bland as characters that even playing as their VR versions doesn’t add anything to the game.
The fact they’re having to shove in these also-ran characters like people should know who they are is stolen somewhat from the Turtles Tournament Fighters game which threw it Sisyphus and Ray like we were meant to know who THEY were. YOU HAVE SO MANY CHARACTERS IN YOUR UNIVERSE, TURTLES, AND YOU GIVE US APRIL O’NEAL IN RAGS AND A MANTA RAY THAT HAS NO BUSINESS BEING IN YOUR GAME.
And the character names are just as bland and generic as the names they give them in these types of shows. Decimator, Kongbot – a gorilla robot no less – and The Magician.
Sorry, too exciting.
This is another example, just like Power Rangers, that shows the game really wasn’t suited to be a one on one fighting game. A scrolling beat ’em up would have been a better alternative. And seriously, someone out there, with the Power Rangers film coming out, you better be getting onto that shit and making that Power Rangers beat ’em up or else I’m hounding Koei for a Dynasty Warriors-style version and no one wants that apart from maybe me.
RULE NUMBER THREE: Make sure the game looks nice enough. Does it?
FUCK N- HAVEN’T YOU FIGURED THIS OUT BY NOW? LOOK AT THIS SHIT.
Look… it’s not bad when it’s moving but the horrendously bland sprites and boring as fuck backgrounds do not help make this game anything other than a generically cobbled together mess. The actual sprites look horrific – a hazy, dirty, dingy mess of low-res grey tones and patches of colour blobbed in for good measure. Every character feels like they’re trying to be taken too seriously. The colour palette is dingy and grimy-looking and in no way represents the show itself. Now, given the show is a mish-mash of wobbly storytelling anyway, that’s not exactly hard to do but that doesn’t quite… correlate with what I’m saying about the graphics so let’s… just… not… OK. Shush, Wellsy. Tangents.
Backgrounds BARELY move at all. There’s no life, no oomph, no pizzazz to them. They feel dull and robotic and have no flair or fun behind them.
The problem is that everything feels so… glum and serious. It’s a series about three teens fighting against a campy selection of enemy characters who flounce and skip and flip about the screen like they’re attempting to get into the Bolshoi or something. It just doesn’t fit the mood or atmosphere of the source material. It feels as though this is what they WANTED it to be and yet didn’t have the guts to do in the show. ORRRRRRRRRR… they just got some really shit designers involved and they fucked it up by not watching the show.
I mean I understand them not watching it cos it sucks but still… audience. Know it and all that.
“Are you sure this show is super serious?”
“OF COURSE IT IS. HOW CAN YOU DOUBT ME?”
“Because the VHS is still sealed in the packaging…”
“I HAVE MAGICAL POWERS LIKE… THE VD TRUMPETS!”
“VR Troopers, sir?”
“YOU RUIN EVERYTHING.”
You will, therefore, be unsurprised to learn that VR Troopers is a massive fail on many, many levels. The presentation is abysmal, the music sounds like someone plugged themselves into a plus socket and recorded the noises they made, the voices are garbled beyond human comprehension – I don’t even know if the game even knows what it’s saying half of the time – the feel of the game is lacklustre and floaty, the whole point behind it all seems forced and contrived and everything that it tries to do is just overshadowed by the fact that a DOG randomly appears on the screen to tell you that you’re doing a good job of beating everyone.
THE FACT THAT A DOG CANNOT MAKE THIS GAME BETTER IS TESTAMENT TO HOW TRULY AWFUL IT IS.
Fuck you, VR Troopers, for making dogs looks bad.