Judge David Johnson refers to his toilet as a "warp zone."
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.
Facts of the Case
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
• Princess Lana
• Simon Belmont
• Kid Icarus
• Mother Brain
• King Hippo and Eggplant Wizard
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!
Captain N may be ineffectual against Mother Brain and her legion of retards, but his show should bring a smile to the faces of Nintendo fanboys from way back when. The DVDs benefit from a snazzy front end, but the questionable video quality is a major letdown.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
• "Exploring Videoland" Concept Art
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