Friday, March 15, 2013

Childhood Memories: Captain N

So, sticking to the theme of DiC Nintendo-based cartoon series, I might as well hit on the non-Mario member of the group. That would be a little series called "Captain N: The Game Master". The show's origins actually date back to the magazine Nintendo Power, as a comic created by editor Randy Studdard, and the original Nintendo Power incarnation was quite a bit different. In that incarnation, the character was called "Captain Nintendo", and he fought against a rogue Nintendo computer called Mother Brain, and he had the ability to bring life to Nintendo game characters temporarily, to help him do battle. Nintendo liked this idea, and used the core concept to shop around another cartoon series. And as such, Captain N the cartoon was produced by DiC, who had already handled their Mario cartoons. In it's more well known cartoon incarnation, Captain N took a different, and arguably cooler form (though to be fair, the original concept was pretty neat).

Saturday Morning Awesomeness

Debuting on September 9th, 1989 on NBC, "Captain N: The Game Master" starred the character Kevin Keene, a California teenager who was obsessed with Nintendo games. As shown in the opening credits, while playing a game (Punch Out in this case), Kevin's television turns into a portal, which sucks him and his dog Duke into "Videoland", a world where games from the Nintendo Entertainment System make up a network of independent but connected worlds. The central hub of Videoland, known as the "Palace of Power", is under attack by the villain from Metroid, Mother Brain, and her minions (made up of enemies from many other games, as well as Metroid itself), and the ruler, Princess Lana, is the one who sent for a hero to help tip the scales in an endless war. Kevin is ported into this strange land, and finds himself surrounded by heroes from many of his favorite video games, such as Mega Man, Kid Icarus, and Simon Belmont from Castlevania. He also finds that peripherals from his NES have become empowered weapons, such as a Light Gun that fires real laser shots, and an NES controller whose buttons allow him incredible feats, like the "Start" button allowing him to temporarily "pause" everything around him, or pressing directions on the "D-Pad" to make him jump very high or "slide" out of the way of harm.

Da Bad Guys

The show operated from that basic premise, with Princess Lana and the heroes, led by Kevin, known as "Captain N", against the evil Mother Brain, and her armies, including her main henchmen King Hippo from Punch Out and the Eggplant Wizard from Kid Icarus. Another semi-regular henchmen of sorts, was Dr. Wily from the Mega Man series, who provided various robot villains for Mother Brain to throw at the heroes in typically inane schemes. In a given episode, Mother Brain would usually either attack one of the video game worlds, or use one of the worlds to lure the heroes into some kind of trap.

The Original Mega Man........Robot Masters?

The list of NES games whose worlds were visited or represented was rather extensive. Such games included Donkey Kong, Mega Man, Castlevania, Kid Icarus, The Legend of Zelda, The Adventures of Bayou Billy, Dragon Quest, Tetris, Faxanadu, etc.  And as such, many of those game's enemies or even heroes would show up in the episodes. For example, major villains made appearances such as Count Dracula, Donkey Kong, the Dragonlord from Dragon Quest (at the time known as Dragon Warrior in the U.S.), the villain Malkil from Wizards & Warriors, Medusa from Kid Icarus, and even Ganon from The Legend of Zelda. As far as heroes, many big names show up to help the heroes, such as Bayou Billy, Doctor Light (here called Wright, which it was officially mistranslated as in one or more of the earliest Mega Man games in North America), Pero from Puss n Boots, Robin Hood, and even Link and Princess Zelda. The only major Nintendo franchise of the time that had come out by 1989/90 not represented at all, was obviously Super Mario Bros., because it had it's own show(s). On a cool side note, the two episodes that feature Link and Zelda have the same voice actors as from the Zelda episodes from the Super Mario Bros. Super Show (and the same for Ganon as well).

A Meeting of the Heroes

Much like the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, Captain N also features a lot of actual sound effects and even versions of music from the games themselves. The one major exception, and a stupid one at that, was Mega Man, as Capcom (the company that makes it), while allowing the characters, for some dumbass reason didn't allow them to use official sounds or music from the Mega Man games (which is a goddamn shame). But otherwise, the games were well represented. While there were some weird things, such as (if you look at the picture a ways up) how goofy the artists made Elecman (Robot Master from Mega Man) look, as a video game fan growing up, Captain N was a wonderful show, and a great compliment to the Mario shows. In the second season a couple of new heroes were introduced, one being Princess Lana's brother Lyle, who didn't feel like much of a hero and had left the palace to go live in Tetrisland, and the main one was Game Boy, literally a sentient Game Boy console sent to help the heroes by Lana's father King Charles, who had been abducted and exiled to the "Mirror Zone" by Mother Brain before the show's storyline began.

To the Rescue!

The show lasted for 3 seasons, the second of which was paired with "The Adventures of Super Mario Bros 3", and the third season paired with the "Super Mario World" cartoon. The first two seasons were very strong, in my humble opinion, with great stories and game appearances, but much like the Mario World cartoon, the third season of Captain N also just felt sup-par. Not BAD, by any means, still entertaining. But it definitely felt like a decline, which was really too bad. Part of this was due to NBC cutting the budget for the Saturday morning lineup, as their corporate stiffs were trying to move away from cartoons (because they suck). Because of that, the animation was lesser quality, and they even had several episodes that left out Simon Belmont and Mega Man, simply because they didn't want to pay Konami and Capcom (the game publishers) royalties. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the kind of corporate bullshit that can and does ruin great stuff like this.

She sure is...

 Outside of the cartoon itself, Valiant Comics also put out several Captain N comic books as part of their "Nintendo Comic System" series. The comics were very close to the cartoon, with a few major exceptions. One being that Princess Lana had a bit more of an active role, using a magical Power Staff that she didn't actually use (but was featured with in promotional art) in the show, so she more actively fought in battles instead of just directing the heroes (or sometimes having to be rescued) in the cartoon. The other, bigger change, was (again to avoid royalties) the fact that the comics didn't feature any "third party" (meaning not made by Nintendo) characters, so Simon Belmont and Mega Man were absent. Instead, the comic did feature a couple of stories based on Metroid, in which the hero Samus Aran showed up to help fight her nemesis Mother Brain. These were cool appearances, as Samus for whatever reason had not been featured in the cartoon (even though the heroes had to go to "Metroid" a couple of times). I do believe this might have also been the first example of Samus actually talking and showing more of a character, which in these comics was more of a semi-ruthless (but still "heart of gold") bounty hunter, who happened to have the hots for Kevin. In general, the Captain N comics, similar to the Zelda comics, had a slightly darker, certainly less comical tone than the cartoons did, and honestly featured some great writing and stories. I'll have to write an entry dedicated completely to those "Nintendo Comic System" comics, because they were awesome.

From a personal perspective Captain N, along with the Mario cartoons, was a huge part of my childhood. As much as I loved video games, and my NES in particular, it was just mind blowing to have a cartoon about a guy who got to go and be a hero IN these video game worlds. There are certain things I've heard some people nitpick about, such as Mega Man being green, or Simon Belmont being a self-absorbed goof (though to be fair, he still has his bad ass moments). But really, I didn't care about that shit as a kid, and still really don't, because to me, it was just quality entertainment. My biggest cartoon "crush" in my later (almost adolescence) childhood in the early 90s, was of course the X-Men, but Captain N was absolutely right up there with it. It's a very good show, with tons of nostalgia, genuinely funny moments, and a few surprisingly cool stories "for a kid's cartoon" to boot. For anyone who is a fan of Nintendo, video games, or cartoons, I'd highly suggest checking it out. The first two seasons are on DVD, while the third can be found bundled with the Super Mario World cartoon. Hunt 'em down, and enjoy!


  1. I used to watch the show, but it was surprisingly not one one of my favorites, despite my love for Nintendo. Personally, I couldn't really get over how different the characters were from the games. I especially had a huge problem with Simon Belmont. Castlevania being one of my all time favorite franchises, and Simon being my favorite character of that franchise, I couldn't stand how they portrayed him in the show (though I guess it's still preferable to what Mercury Steam has done to the franchise). And his design always made me think more airplane pilot than bad ass vampire slayer (he actually always made me think of a human Launchpad Mcquack). I didn't really care for MegaMans overall design, but it didn't bother me nearly as bad as Simon. I guess I can kind of understand the confusion based on American artwork for the game (other than the green color I suppose). I always thought Pit's head was really strange, but other than that a decent design. Mother Brain was okay, but pretty weird, but they did a really good job on Eggplant Wizard, and King Hippo (despite his odd blue skin). Still, while not one of my favorites, and despite the problems I had with it, I did enjoy watching it. It had a completely awesome concept, I just always felt it could have been done much better.

  2. Yeah, I've had friends complain about Simon as well. I don't know, I didn't mind. I guess part of it was that at that point I actually hadn't played Castlevania yet. Out of all the NES games I rented from my local All The Best Video, somehow I never did get Castlevania, and I'm not sure why, as while the difficulty would have made me scream, I would have absolutely adored the concept, with all the monsters and shit. The first CV game I ever played, I do believe, was Super Castlevania IV, and it's still my favorite.

    But yeah, I agree that Simon deserves to be portrayed as a badass, but given the somewhat silly nature of the show, I guess somehow it fits. And yes, I'd far rather play a new game starring "Launchpad McQuack" Simon, than ANYTHING Mercury Steam has shit out. Thanks Konami. lol (Though to be fair I hated the PS2 CV games too).


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