The Adaptation: The disasterpiece that was Captain N


Mega Promoted Blog-icus!

[Where were you when it happened? What’s “it,” you ask?Captain N: The Game Masterbeing on your TV on Saturday mornings, of course! Join jaygerbomb as he takes us through the ups and downs of the series in all of its campy-early-’90s-cartoon glory for this month’s Bloggers Wanted prompt. Want to see your work on the Front Page? Write something! – Wes]

A long, long time ago, before the FCC managed to screw up a perfectly good thing, I absolutely lived for Saturday mornings. Why? Because that was the day of a five-hour block of cartoons, followed by two hours of wrestling. And shitloads of toy commercials. It was everything I loved distilled into seven hours, laced with at least two huge bowls of Cocoa Puffs, Cocoa Pebbles, or Lucky Charms (but only marshmallow bits, because who eats that oat shit, amirite?).

The funny thing was my favorite cartoons – He-Man, Transformers, GI Joe, and Thundercats – all came on weekdays after school. But still, Saturday mornings were packed full of good stuff too. The local UPN (before it was UPN) affiliate aired Voltron and a VERY HEAVILY EDITED Fist of the North Star, which got me started on anime, and the main three networks had their heavy hitters: Smurfs, Garfield, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Bionic Six, and The (Real) Ghostbusters. Celebrities like Mr. T, Gary Coleman, and John Candy even had their own cartoons. Hell, I’d even watch shit I didn’t care about like The Wuzzles and Kissyfur. I was a god damned Saturday morning cartoon addict, and I had to have my fix.

But this blog isn’t about the golden era of Saturday mornings. This blog is about one shining gem every self-respecting Nintendo gamer my age should remember. As the era of Saturday morning cartoons came to a close, we were treated to the brilliance of Captain N: The Game Master.

For the uninitiated, Captain Nis the tale of teenager named Kevin Keene, who is supposed to be highly proficient at video games – yet he can’t seem to figure out King Hippo’s pattern in the intro – who is pulled through his TV screen into Videoland, where all the various characters live their lives. Sounds pretty awesome, eh? I mean, could you imagine getting pulled into a world populated by Nintendo IPs, and getting a chance to hang with Mario and Luigi? Oh, too bad they’re not in this show. See, the Mario gang had their own Super Mario Brothers Super Show featuring live action sequences in which Captain Lou Albano portrayed Mario, so they were off limits for this show. For the first season, Link and Zelda were too, seeing as they had a weekly spot on the aforementioned Mario show. So we’re already down to the B-listers to start filling out the ranks of the so called “N Team.”

Simon Belmont

Or at the very least, a guy claiming to be Simon Belmont. He had a whip, I’ll give him that. But otherwise, he was nothing like the vampire-hunting warrior the first two Castlevania games introduced to us. No, this guy was an egotistical jerk obsessed with his own reflection, and he looked like a human Launchpad McQuack. His design looked nothing like any depiction of anyBelmont in any official media ever. Brace yourselves, because this is going to be a trend in this series – characters that feature some superficial similarities to their namesake, but are otherwise way off.

Now as I said, Simon in this show is very vain, and he is quite miffed that Kevin was pulled through the warp zone to be the savior of Videoland; he thought he had things under control himself. He’s a rival to Kevin in the series, and competes with him for the affections of one:

Princess Lana

So Lana is the princess and de facto ruler of Videoland as her father has been banished to another dimension by Mother Brain (the main villain of the series, more on that later). She’s the one who activated the Warp Zone to pull Kevin into their world, because she couldn’t get enough of him whiffing punches on King Hippo’s heavily-guarded gut. I really don’t have a lot to say about her – she was your typical ’80s/’90s obligatory cartoon action girl. The fact that she was an original character and not from an actual video game kind of soured me on her, to be honest.

Kid Icarus

Well, the look is overall okay, at least as far as the original Kid Icarus game goes. I don’t believe they ever once referred to him as “Pit,” though – he was always just called “Kid Icarus.” But yeah, he was a short little flying dude in a toga with a bow and arrows. He always added the suffix “-icus” to pretty much everything he said. There’s not much to say about him either; he was really somewhat of a throwaway character without much development, unlike:

Mega Man

Awesome! The main character from my favorite NES game is in the – OH MY GOD! WHAT THE FUCK?! WHAT IS THIS ABOMINATION? Yes, long before there was “Bad Box Art Mega Man,” there was “Captain N: The Game Master Mega Man,”and it’s almost as bad. And it’s fairly obvious that his character design was pretty much lifted straight from the American box art of the original NES game. Why else would “The Blue Bomber” be green?

Much like Kid Icarus had the “-icus” verbal tic, Mega Man managed to sneak the world “mega” into his sentences quite frequently. Despite completely screwing up his look, they did get a lot of his backstory correct: Dr. Light (though called Dr. Wright here because of poor translations) and Dr. Wily were key parts of the show, and many of the robot masters from the first few games showed up from time to time. Of all the mainline N-Team members, Mega Man was the least disappointing adaptation. Generally speaking, the villains fared better. Generally.

Mother Brain

Okay, Mother Brain is a giant brain (check) that lives in a glass tank (check) with a humanoid face (huh?) that lives on an asteroid called Metroid (WTF?) voiced by the late Levi Stubbs from the Four Tops (…I’m okay with this). She is the leader of the “Forces of Chaos,” and the mastermind behind all the N-Team’s woes.

So, if Mother Brain is the leader of the bad guys, surely Samus must show up at some point, right? Wrong. She did actually play a big role in the Captain N comics, but only because Simon and Mega Man didn’t appear due to licensing issues. She never once showed up on the TV show. See, Metroid fans? Even back in the late ’80s/early ’90s Samus was getting shit on.

Eggplant Wizard

Eggplant Wizard was an odd Kid Icarus enemy – and not even a major one – that had the ability to turn Pit into a walking eggplant. So of course he gets a prominent role in the cartoon based on all things Nintendo. Honestly, they nailed him visually – he’s pretty much exactly what his sprite and official artwork portrays. I’m not sure how you can really screw up a walking eggplant with a staff, but I’ll give credit where its due. But his main function on the show was being part of a comedy duo with:

King Hippo

Well, other than the blue skin, I think they got his appearance right. King Hippo in this series serves as the hired muscle for the bad guys. He’s frequently paired up with Eggplant Wizard, and the two play off each other very well. In fact, the Laurel and Hardy-esque dynamic between these guys is one of the show’s few redeeming qualities as I come back to it nearly three decades later.

Dr. Wily

Not really a part of the main group of villains, Dr. Wily would pop up from time to time to lend Mother Brain a helping hand or make Mega Man’s life hell. Again, they did pretty good covering his storyline from the games – former partner of Dr. Light, helped create original robot masters, turned evil and reprogrammed them all to kill. He also wheezed when he talked – no idea what that was about.

Other characters, both first- and third-party, showed up throughout the series. As I mentioned, Link and Zelda made a handful of appearances from Season Two-onward after their role in TheSuper Mario Bros Super Show came to an end. Donkey Kong was a frequent chaotic neutral force to be reckoned with, and they even managed to make an episode based on Tetris, for crying out loud. Some IPs were more accurately portrayed than others, with no real discernible pattern to those that were handled properly.

Make no mistake –Captain N was a clusterfuck, and the end result of a great premise mired by horrible execution. It has aged poorly, as most DIC shows from that era have. It really didn’t even fulfill its basic premise to be a commercial for all things Nintendo. So why do I look back on it with fondness? Well, two reasons, really.

First of all, it ventures into “so bad it’s good” territory quite frequently. It is literally, “get a bunch of people who don’t play video games to create a show about video games,” and it shows. Is it frustrating that Simon is nothing like his video game counterpart? Absolutely. But the Simon on this show is endearing in his own way. Some of the slapstick and banter between Hippo and Eggplant are truly cringeworthy, but it works for them. The random obscure third-party games showing up as plotlines and getting nonsensical stories attached to them like an Elvish Elvis impersonator as the Elven King in Faxanadu simultaneously make me weep and fill me with joy.

But the other big thing that pulled me into this show was that Kevin Keene was living the life I wanted to live. I wanted to get sucked into a video game world by a hot princess, and help save her kingdom. Why not me, damn it? I can beat King Hippo, unlike that Kevin fucker. You’ve got to PUNCH HIM WHEN HIS MOUTH IS OPEN, YOU MORON! WHY NOT ME, LANA?! WHY NOT ME?