VR Troopers (Virtual Reality Troopers) is a syndicated live action show produced by Saban (creators of the similar Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series) from 1994 to 1996. The show tried to profit from the fascination with virtual reality in the early 1990s as well as the success of Power Rangers. The show featured early CGI and video effects mixed with Japanese stock footage from three different Metal Hero Series: Superhuman Machine Metalder, Dimensional Warrior Spielban, and Space Sheriff Shaider. This kind of adaptation technique, turning multiple shows into one show, was originally used in anime with shows like Robotech and Voltron. This was the first and only time this was used for a tokusatsu adaptation. On May 7, 2010 the copyright for VR Troopers was transferred from BVS International to SCG Power Rangers.
Saban's VR Troopers was the first official "sister series" to the most popular "action fighting kid show" at the time, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. Much like it, this was an Americanization of a Japanese tokusatsu children's program by Toei Company LTD.
The series was deemed successful, but not as successful as the Power Rangers franchise. Unfortunately, for the series, the Japanese footage was quickly exhausted due to extreme cases where multiple tokusatsu scenes were put together in a single episode to the point stock footage had to be reused multiple times throughout the series. Similarly, another Saban program, Big Bad Beetleborgs, would do well but ultimately end quickly due to a lack of stock footage. Both series were adapted from the Japanese Metal Hero genre, which ended in Japan around the same time. The show spawned a toy line and a video game for the Sega Genesis (Mega Drive).
The show focused on three young adults in their late teens, Ryan Steele, Kaitlin Star, and J.B. Reese, living in the fictional West Coast town of Cross World City. They regularly attended and were teachers at "Tao's Dojo", a karate studio. Ryan was the most focused martial artist; J.B. was the computer wizard; while Kaitlin was a photographer & budding reporter for the local newspaper, the Underground Voice Daily. One day, Ryan's search for his long-missing father led him and his two friends to a strange laboratory. Inside, a digitized head of Professor Horatio Hart, a friend of Ryan's father Tyler, explained the truth about his life's work of having developed extremely advanced virtual reality technology in secret. "VR" is a dimension existing alongside our own; within it lie mutants and monsters bent on conquering both worlds. The main ruler of these is a creature known as Grimlord, who, unbeknownst to anyone on Earth, has a human identity as billionaire industrialist Karl Ziktor. As Karl Ziktor tries to overcome the barriers of the true reality to allow his armies easy passage from virtual world, the responsibility falls to Ryan, Kaitlin, and J.B. of defending the planet on both sides of the dimensional barrier. They have assistance in the form of armored bodies having incredible firepower. This included eventual additions to their arsenal, such as a Turbo Cycle, Techno Bazooka, and a flying, laser-blasting Skybase.
Other regular characters on the show included Jeb, Ryan's hound dog, who, after an accident in Prof. Hart's lab, is now capable of human speech; Woody Stocker, Kaitlin's wacky hat-loving boss at the Underground Voice Daily; Percy Rooney, the local mayor's nephew and Kaitlin's bumbling rival reporter; and Tao, the wise martial arts sensei who owns the dojo and a family friend of the Steele Family. Recurring villains include General Ivar, a vicious rocket-shaped monster with his own tank; Colonel Icebot, a cold-blooded virtual menace; Decimator, a sword-wielding warrior; the Skugs, gold-headed foot soldiers, and more throughout.
During the second season, the show changed format very slightly. Ryan's father was finally found (having been restored to normal off-camera) and quickly left to help the government research further Virtual Reality-based technology. With him came Ryan's new V.R. armor and an upgrade to his powers. Grimlord's base of operation switched from a dungeon to a massive spacecraft, and added new Generals such as Doom Master and his Vixens, Oraclon, and Despera. The Skugs now had the ability to become more powerful in the form of Ultra-Skugs.
Main article: List of VR Troopers characters The show was originally called Psycon and Cybertron in pre-production with a more technogoical premise, but the title was later changed to VR Troopers.
The Psycon premise was similar to VR Troopers and Cybertron. The main differences include; the main character being named as Adam Steele, the robot army was known as Cyberdrones, the inclusion of Mouse MacKenzie as a supporting character, and Tao having a granddaughter named Mia.
The Cybertron pilot starred Jason David Frank as Adam Steele and drew its source footage from Metalder. Frank's character was depicted as a solo hero going up against an army of sentient robots known as Wardrones who were led by the evil Grimlord. Grimlord's alternate identity in the pilot was known as Cyrus Rikter (Gardner Baldwin) who also had a son named Percy Rikter, Adam's martial arts rival. Tao Chong (Richard Rabago) was also present and served as Adam's caretaker/sensei and Cybertron's mentor. Tao also had a daughter named Mia, and Doug Sloan played the part of Tyler Steele. A pair of bumbling news reporters named Elmo (played by Jamie Kennedy) and Scuzzy, who would've served as the series' comedy relief, were also featured.
According to early VR Troopers promotions, Kaitlin had a different last name. Instead of "Star", her surname was referred to as "Hall". Also in these early promos (seen at the beginning of many Power Rangers home videos), Professor Hart was played by a different actor, and had an entirely different voice and personality than the Professor that was later used.
Like Power Rangers, VR Troopers used a combination of American footage spliced with fight scenes from Japanese shows. The Japanese shows adapted in to VR Troopers are Space Sheriff Shaider, Dimensional Warrior Spielban, and Super Machine Metalder. All three come from Toei's Metal Hero Series. Super Machine Metalder provided footage of Ryan Steele's season one robotic suit, Grimlord, the Virtual Dungeon, Grimlord's four lieutenants, Dark Heart, and the military-type robots that are featured in several episodes. Dimensional Warrior Spielban provided footage of J.B.'s and Kaitlin's robotic suits, Ivar, Icebot, skugs, and the battle scenes involving the Skybase, shark cruisers, tanks, and fighter jets. Space Sheriff Shaider provided the new footage for season two, including Ryan Steele's season two robotic suit and the ultra-skugs.
Out of all of Saban's tokusatsu adaptations, VR Troopers uses the oldest source-footage of any series. Shaider was aired from 1984 to early 1985, making it 10 years old when first used for VR Troopers in 1995; Spielban was aired from 1986 to early 1987, making it eight years old when originally used in 1994; and Metalder was originally aired in 1987 to early 1988, making it seven years old when it was adapted in 1994.
Because more than one Japanese show was used in an episode at any given time, Ryan's alter-ego was never in the same action scene as JB or Kaitlin's (since they were taken from two different shows). Due to this, many episodes involved some sort of plot device that separated Ryan from the other two, forcing them to fight separately. Almost every episode ended with either Ryan or JB destroying the monster of the day (Kaitlin never got to destroy any on her own), at which point his missing comrade(s) would come running up to inquire how the fight went. The only time the group fought "together" or in battle grid mode was all original American footage, with the Battle Grid suits being low-quality spandex and the helmets simple recolors of the red ranger's from Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. For the show's first season, there was almost never any original American footage outside of the Battle Grid. Similar to Power Rangers, more U.S. fights were featured in the show's second season.
VR Troopers as an adaptation is different in many ways from Power Rangers and Big Bad Beetleborgs. Because it was syndicated, the monsters were destroyed more violently; mutant/robot destructions included the monster being split in half, impaled, and decapitated. None of the VR Trooper forms were given names since none of them had one main color.
The show lasted two seasons (1994-'95 and '95-'96) with nearly 100 episodes before it was cancelled in favor of Big Bad Beetleborgs, which continued to use footage from the Metal Hero Series Juukou B-Fighter and B-Fighter Kabuto.
Despite the high ratings and almost successful as the Power Rangers franchise, the series was cancelled because all the fight footage was used up. All three of the Metal Hero shows used in the series had a lot of human vs. human battles. However, because the fights featured close-ups of Japanese actors, it was deemed unusable. Distance shots of Japanese actors from Shaider were usable in some of the fights, and battles with the monster footage were also kind of limited (splicing up to 2-3 episodes), but otherwise such footage was limited. In addition, because many episodes of fight footage from Metalder/Shaider and Spielban were being used in a single episode, the footage ran out faster.
In Season 1, the show would open with the traditional "Today on Saban's VR Troopers" teaser, showing scenes from the episode and narrated by Dave Mallow. After the "Quest For Power" mini-series in Season 2, however, Ryan, Kaitlin, or J.B. took over the part and narrated the teaser (and in the first-person to boot).
Various voice actors were listed under different pseudonyms in this series. For example, in the Season 1 end credits, Kerrigan Mahan was credited under his pseudonym, Ryan O'Flannigan (which was also the name credited for doing the voice of Goldar in the early seasons of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers); in Season 2, he would be credited under his real name and was properly identified as Jeb's voiceover. Likewise, Richard Epcar was occasionally listed in the end credits under a pseudonym of his own, Richard George (although he was credited under his real name for the first two episodes of the series), and Mike Reynolds was credited under the name Ray Michaels.
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VHS, DVD, and Online ReleaseEdit
In the US five VHS videos were released: Lost Memories, Oh Brother, Computer Captive, Error in the System and Virtual V6.
In the UK four DVDs were released by Jetix Films. They included three single disc Volumes and a Mega Disc DVD that contained 8 various episodes that were released across the first three Volumes.
On June 15, 2011 all episodes of VR Troopers were made available on Netflix.
On March 12, 2012, it was revealed in Home Media Magazine that Power Rangers (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to Power Rangers RPM), VR Troopers, Big Bad Beetleborgs/Beetleborgs Metallix, and Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation would be released on DVD through a deal signed by Shout! Factory and Saban Brands.
Jeb's Rescue, Ryan's Challenge, and JB's Battle
Three games for MGA's Game Wizard.
VR Troopers - When Worlds Collide
A handheld game by Tiger.
Saban's VR Troopers
A board game by Milton Bradley.
- VR Troopers at the Internet Movie Database
- TVShowsOnDVD.com, vote for VR Troopers to be released onto DVD.
- ^ A Saban Brands logo can be seen at the end of the show credits on Netflix Internet Stream
- ^ Mangan, Jennifer (August 3, 1994). "V.R. Troopers' To Hit Airwaves - And Store Shelves". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-08-28.
- ^ United States Copyright Office Public Catalog Search the name "SCG Power Rangers".
- ^ Will the Will - Psycon Pilot Script (Scans)
- ^ YouTube - Cybertron pilot presentation
- ^ Latchem, John (2012-03-12). "Shout! Factory to distribute 'Power Rangers,' other Saban titles". Home Media Magazine. Retrieved 2012-03-14.
- ^ "It's Morphin Time! Power Rangers coming to DVD and Blu-ray". CSICon.org. 2012-03-12. Retrieved 2012-03-14.
- ^ Ford, Rebecca (2012-03-12). "Shout! Factory, Saban sign home entertainment distribution deal". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2012-03-14.