Behold, the ultimate warpzone!!!
It’s 1989. Nintendo has captured the motor neurons of kids the world over with their unstoppable NES video game system. Building on the colossal popularity of the Nintendo Entertainment System, DiC Entertainment unleashes a brand new cartoon series about the adventures of a human teenager in Videoland, as he squares off with the forces of evil using his zapper gun, mystical control pad and dope varsity jacket. Really, though, the entire series of Captain N: The Game Master is nothing more than a 10-hour Nintendo commercial.
Kevin Keene is your typical teenage boy, circa 1989, minus the sweaty ogling of scrambled Cinemax channels. One night, while playing a vigorous round of the NES classic Punch Out!, Kevin is zapped by a mysterious energy from his television, and he and his loyal mutt Duke are sucked into Videoland, the alternate universe where video game characters live and breathe.
Kevin has been summoned by the lovely Princess Lana to ward off the sinister schemes of Mother Brain and her cronies. While in Videoland, Kevin assumes the mantle of Captain N: The Game Master, and is armed with a working light gun and a control pad that grants him super agility. Joining Kevin against Mother Brain’s horde is a cross-platform sampling of Nintendo’s biggest characters: Donkey Kong, Kid Icarus, Simon Belmont, Megaman, even Gameboy (?). But Mother Brain has her own minions, including the…Eggplant Wizard.
How is she not dead yet?
Oh, how we were all slaves to the Big N back in the day. We would cough up five weeks worth of allowance for turds like Urban Champion and Hyde Lyde and obediently save up for Airwolf and Jimmy Connors Tennis. We’d plead with our parents to buy us the Power Glove for Christmas — heck, that gift is good enough for three Christmases — only to lament its utter uselessness. Yep, Nintendo lorded over us back in the day and a benefit of the serfdom was exposure to stealth infomercials like The Wizard and Captain N. Yet we paid for out tickets and spent the half-hours every Saturday morning willingly.
Yes Captain N is blatant marketing dressed up as a cartoon, but what cartoon isn’t? He-Man, She-Ra, GI Joe, they all hocked action figures; Captain N dealt in the seductive blow of square plastic cartridges. As an animated series, Captain N delivers a strong dose of nostalgic fun, and should especially appeal to the gamers of yore. The show has a very potent ’80s taste to it, from the mix of live action, animation and rudimentary CGI in the opening to the Videoland population ripped straight from your bedroom: Link, Zelda, Donkey Kong, even Bayou Billy (that guy’s set for a comeback).
A quick look at the characters:
* Captain N
He’s the overall do-gooder, nurturing a crush on Princess Lana and competing with Simon Belmont for her affections. Why he didn’t use the “I’m a master at using my joystick” line on her, I’ll never know.
* Princess Lana
Smart, bold and not afraid to fight through the Videoland glass ceiling. A true woman of the ’80s…except for that whorish one-piece.
* Simon Belmont
The Castlevania stud knows how to whip sprites across their heads, but is a self-involved a-hole.
* Kid Icarus
The most irritating member of the N Team. The winged midget feels it’s necessary to end all of his sentences with “-icus.” No wonder he died in the 8-bit era.
This guy is a Nintendo icon, but kind of gets the shaft in the series. He’s always left behind to guard the palace. Maybe if he didn’t talk like a Brooklyn fishmonger with a tracheotomy he’d be invited on a few more adventures.
This dude showed up halfway through the season. The writers weren’t even trying to make this plug subtle: he’s an actual Gameboy that floats around and displays message on his aged zucchini-green screen.
* Mother Brain
The main heavy of the series, this Metroid villain combined the personality of an ill-tempered Soul Train diva with the looks of an autopsy lab. She’s a brain in a jar with lipstick — and the N Team was never able to defeat her.
* King Hippo and Eggplant Wizard
As if that wasn’t pathetic enough, Mother Brain surrounded herself with idiots. King Hippo is a fat, washed-up boxer that can never get up after falling down, as every Mike Tyson’s Punch Out aficionado knows. And Eggplant Wizard is a one-eyed eggplant that creates vegetable ex nihilo. If Mother Brain really wanted to take over Videoland, she would have dropped these two in the nearest lava pit and recruited Piston Honda and King Slender.
The plotlines are the typical sugar-coated ADHD variety of Saturday morning sensory overload, just set in video game worlds and peppered with sound effects from Super Mario Brothers. Again, not a big departure from shows of its ilk back in the day, and Captain N executes the game-plan in fine fashion. Episodes move crisply and manage to be highly energetic without Koopa-leaping into excruciating territory. A few of my favorites: “Quest for the Potion of Power,” introduces Zelda and Link into the series, though Link is quickly emasculated by Captain N; I don’t know how they wrote a coherent episode about Tetris of all games, but they did with “The Trouble with Tetris”; “Germ Wars,” the series finale, has the whole N Tram miniaturized and transported inside Kevin to battle off an infection — weird, but satisfying.
All 26 episodes get the full frame treatment, yet sadly, the quality ranges from adequate to bad. Like Chubby Cherub-bad. Flaws abound, and the animation sometimes shifts in and out of focus. Bonus material is thin: the concept-art gallery “Exploring Videoland” and animated character bios show up on each disc. Disc four offers the six-page story “Captain Nintendo,” which appeared in Nintendo Power, and was apparently the inspiration for the show. Great. Text!
A winner is you!