Captain N: The Game Master.. A look back
While playing videogames Kevin gets zapped and travels to Videoland! He was chosen as the Gamemaster who must travel to different video games and save Videoland. I don’t know about you but the concept of this cartoon is awesome. I have vague memories of Captain N: The Game Master as a kid but not many since I was very young when it aired so it was mostly like watching the it for the first time for me since all I recognized was a little bit of the character models. Let’s not forget that Captain N is part of the Nintendo Animated Universe. So lets take a look at the show.
The show is from 1989 so its plagued with a lot of the stuff that makes 80s shows inferior to ones from say the 90s or 00s. That will probably tick off fans of 80s shows but its the truth even if I do enjoy some 80s animation. Its not a bad show but it really isn’t anything special either that I could recommend to any normal person. Its also hard to recommend to say all video game fans or fans of the franchises that are shown such as Castlevania or Mega Man since fans will no doubt be angry at the portrayal of the characters they like. But I really can’t blame the show too much, I mean this was during the time when videogames had very basic storylines not to mention artwork wasn’t stellar either so of course they took their own liberties, especially when being inspired by 8 bit models.
That’s how you have to view the cartoon so I think I can definitely recommend this to retro gamers as they’ll understand this. I also think anyone who finds the concept of a guy going into the 8-bit videoland a la Wreck it Ralph interesting will have fun since it’s one of my favorite underused concepts in fiction. I’m sure other non-retro gamers could enjoy it but not the majority since the show isn’t strong enough on itself, its mostly entertaining to see the different videogames represented oddly and the crossover of different characters.
Apparently Captain N has a somewhat active fandom which is surprising to me but I think i’ts pretty cool that a short lived cartoon like it can have a fandom. I enjoyed watching through the first season and the travelling to different videogame worlds, though by the end of it you start to get tired of the concept. The second season however keeps things fresh and keeps your interest by adding a talking Gameboy as a character as well as the Link / Zelda crossover. Then there is the third season, which is apparently thought of as inferior. I’d disagree, even if the animation is much cheaper I liked seeing new more streamlined character designs as it helped it have a different look my interest because of it. Counting episodes are now only half the time since they shared the programming block with Super Mario, the episodes go by much quicker keeping your interest even if they’re a bit weaker, but really the plots weren’t much different than before. In fact they were not stretched twice as long which does help the pace.
Also most of the episodes lacked Mother Brain in the third season which was a big plus since most of the episodes in the first two seasons were all related to her. I’ve read that they didn’t use third party characters in the third season because of money but I don’t necessarily think that’s true as there is no evidence and they still visit third party games worlds every single episode not to mention that you do get episodes with Simon Belmont and Mega Man. I believe it had to do with either not wanting to pay so many voice actors so instead of having the entire cast they reduced each episode to only include 3 of the N team in any one episode or just because its easier to tell a story in 12 minutes when you have a smaller cast.
There is also the clip show episode “When mother Brain Attacks” which apparently might not be an official episode and just an episode the network created and I definitely believe this is the case, I hate clipshows and I’ve seen plenty of bad ones but this is easily the worst clip show ever made. The whole 22 minute episode just seems random clips that have no dialog to piece it together, there is no theme or any relevance between them either. All we get is a short narrator in the beginning and then after hearing basically just music and sound effects for many minutes the voice actor of Simon Belmont starts saying a few sentences occasionally in character about the N-team and the things they face but they have nothing to do with the clips being shown and they are only a few random phrases. Just skip this one as its no better than any fan clip show could be. The DVD removed the music from season 1 and replaced it with a song called Mega Move from a later episode. The covers of licensed music however most of the time are pretty bad so I actually liked hearing Mega Move instead, only a few times did the cover music fit with the show so no big loss.
I got to read the comics made by Valiant and they are pretty decent, the stories are nothing special since they are for kids however there are some nice character interactions. The comic is a bit different from the show which isn’t bad and includes various stories in each issue. The one with Kevin being gone for 7 years or so is pretty interesting and Samus of Metroid is in the comic and she’s awesome. There are no third party characters in the comic book but you don’t mind not seeing Simon and Mega Man since they’re short stories anyway. I’ll take a closer look at all the characters including Samus from the comic in another post.
Now I do want to mention the videogames they go into, that’s part of what makes the show somemorable to me. They actually visit plenty of iconic games likes Final Fantasy, Tetris and more niche classics like Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest. Now the interpretations of the games vary a lot in how faithful they are to the source material but like I mentioned earlier this was during a time they didn’t have much to work with and its interesting to see how they interpret it, that’s part of the charm. I wouldn’t be surprised if for many episodes all they got was pixelated in game images of the game they were adapting into an episode and had to write an episode based only on that. I’d also argue that great stories like “you are the hero save the princess” led them to take their own liberties to tell a more interesting story.
Pretty much in every episode they visit different worlds and sometimes re-visit earlier ones. Now a lot of the worlds you don’t even recognize unless you are very familiar or you wiki’d it and I definitely went to wikipedia to find out more about the games they chose. It’s definitely interesting, I mean its not like they knew back then if Bayou was going to fade into obscurity or that Final Fantasy would become a system seller, so even if it looks like they picked a bunch of crappy games its not like they knew which games would become AAA franchises and which ones would fade to obscurity. We did get the first three Mega Man games represented, Mega Man 2 was the most unfaithful but hey I found it cool in a way, it represented the same games the Sega Genesis did with their Megaman All Stars game.
I already mentioned how this isn’t a show I can recommend to most people unless you can get a kick out of old videogames like I do in which case, give it a shot. I think Captain N is a great concept, I’d love to see it revived either as a modern version with newer games or even a retro version based strictly on old games. Even if it were just a comic book so it wouldn’t be excessively expensive. It’d be a great way to advertise games cheaply too but I don’t think Nintendo will ever give it a chance and if you want more Captain N, then I suggest you check out The new Adventures of Captain S which was inspired by this show among other 90s stuff.