To get ready for all the retro awesomness happening at AVGC this weekend, we headed back to 1989 to watch one half of Nintendo’s one-two punch of cartoon shows, Captain N: The Game Master.
Episode Title: Kevin in Videoland
Original Airdate: September 9, 1989
Did I Know Anything Going In?: I don’t think I ever saw a full episode as a kid but I did know about the show and it’s bizarre characterizations of classic Nintendo characters.
Airing along with The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, Captain N: The Game Master was part of Nintendo’s all out domination of pop culture in the late 80’s and into the 90’s as the NES revived the entire video game industry following it’s collapse after the Atari era. The show is set in “Videoland” which is apparently a sort of Wreck It Ralph amalgamated Nintendo universe where every character, with the major exception of the Mario Bros and Zelda/Link because they were busy on the Super Show, exist together and it’s broken up into themed areas like Megaland and Metroid. On the side of good you have Princess Lana (Venus Terzo), who is ruling the Palace of Power after her father disappeared and she has Simon Belmont (Andrew Kavadas), Mega Man (Doug Parker) and Kid Icarus (Alessandro Juliani) helping her battle the evil diva Mother Brain (Levi Stubbs of The Four Tops), who has henchmen in King Hippo (Garry Chalk) and Eggplant Wizard (Michael Donovan). Probably the most baffling thing about Captain N is how off-model most of the characters are, especially the heroes. It’s almost as if the guy who drew that terrible cover for the first Mega Man was in charge of everything or the people running the show just got a list of names from Nintendo and no reference material. Simon Belmont is basically Zapp Brannigan and looks more like he’s going climb Mt. Everest than fight Dracula, Mega Man is the wrong color and sounds like he smokes 10 packs a day and Kid Icarus, while looking the most like his game counterpart, has a lisp and the weird tic of adding -icus to words, like King Hippicus instead of King Hippo. The villains are easily the most entertaining part of the show, especially Mother Brain, who is clearly inspired by Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors and is just a hilarious, vain megalomaniac.
With Mother Brain’s forces marching on the Palace of Power, a strange omniscient voice that seems like the narrator we hear throughout the episode but is also like the palace’s AI or something(?) unleashes the power of a Power Glove and opens The Ultimate Warp Zone to bring the legendary hero Captain N to Videoland and defeat Mother Brain. The warp zone actually zaps in regular Nintendo fanatic Kevin Keene (Matt Hill) and his dog Duke, who pretty reasonably wants nothing to do with a war between his favorite Nintendo characters but the warp zone closes before Kevin can go home and he’s stuck until it can be reopened. Opening the warp zone drains the Palace of Power’s shields however, allowing King Hippo and Eggplant Wizard to kidnap Lana despite Kevin realizing his Zapper and controller now give him superpowers in Videoland, with the Zapper being an actual laser gun and his controller giving him abilities like a super jump and time freezing. Using his knowledge of games, Kevin says he knows where a warp to Metroid is but Simon arrogantly leads them to a different warp that takes them to Kongaland, the home of Donkey Kong, who is the size of King Kong in Videoland. The team interrupts DK’s bath and he chases them all over the jungle until Kevin leads them to a volcano which can warp them to Metroid. Kevin also gains the trust of Kid Icarus and Mega Man after showing off some heroics against DK but Simon is still a bastard to him.
Finally getting to Metroid, Kevin and Lana are forced into the “corridors of Metroid” and have to fight off a bunch of random Metroid creatures and obstacles and manage to get to Mother Brain’s chamber but Kevin is out of power on his weapons but, luckily, the entire team arrives to help and they manage to put Mother Brain into some sort of overload and escape back to the Palace of Power. The Ultimate Warp Zone is reopened but, hearing that he has to do homework and chores, Kevin decides to stay in Videoland and help battle the forces of evil, which is maybe the weakest excuse ever to risk almost certain death ever.
Despite some of the questionable characterizations and design of some of the characters, Captain N is still a pretty fun and entertaining show and it’s cool to see such a crazy mashup of different characters and more were added as the series went on for it’s 3 seasons. The entire show is available on DVD but I found episodes on Youtube as well and if you’re a retro gaming/Nintendo fan, it’s definitely worth watching or re-watching.
(If you’re going to be anywhere near Parsippany, NJ on September 9th and 10th, definitely come out to A Video Game Con, head here for all the details: http://www.avideogamecon.com/)