Have any of you seen the Sonic Boom cartoon? Don’t watch it, it’s shit. Back in the day when Nintendo ruled gaming, they could afford to put out animated shows of their most beloved franchises, and they had their special moments, like The Legend of Zelda‘s “Well, EXCUSE ME, princess!” catchphrase, and Super Mario World‘s “MAMA LUIGI” skit, but there was another show that Nintendo commissioned which isn’t as oft-remembered as the others. On the 9th of September in 1989, DIC Entertainment rolled out the first episode of Captain N: The Game Master for NBC’s Saturday morning cartoon lineup – a show that featured a mish-mash of characters, worlds and themes from Nintendo’s big-wig games. Looking back on it 26 years later, it almost seems like a tribute akin to Wreck-It Ralph, but ‘nostalgia over a bygone Nintendo era’ wasn’t a phrase that was thrown around back in those days. So what was the show actually like?
Captain N: The Game Master takes place in Videoland, featuring the worlds of Castlevania, Metroid, Kongoland, Megaland, Mount-Icarus, and the bastion of the Palace of Power. I’ve only just rolled off the worlds in the show, and I’m already kinda excited by what to expect; a cartoon which takes place in the worlds of Kid Icarus, Metroid and Mega Man can only be awesome, right? Well, it just so happens that the plot of the show is that Mother Brain, the very same child-murdering dinosaur-brain of Metroid, has been unleashing her armies on the Palace of Power for the past seven years. Meanwhile, the ruler of the realm, Princess Lana (who?) and her loyal subjects aren’t able to hold out much longer. As they all lament over Mother Brain’s impending victory, a magical talking Power Glove tells of a prophecy that someone called Captain N will come and save everyone. The glove then opens the “Ultimate Warp Zone” and sucks some goofy-looking jock named Kevin and his faithful dog Duke from the real world into Videoland, just as he’s kicking King Hippo’s arse in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!! He enters the cartoon realm, and, like any dumb kid in a children’s show, he doesn’t question the fucking vortex that opened up in his house, but instead remarks that video games aren’t real. Enjoy the next three seasons, bitch. Though eventually, he comes around, takes up the mantle of Videoland’s saviour, and is rewarded a NES controller belt and a NES Zapper.
Pretty standard stuff for a kid’s show, yeah. However, this is a Nintendo tie-in, so there’s got to be more than just Mother Brain sending an army of Zubats to kill stuff. As it so happens, Princess Lana’s subjects are actually video game protagonists from some of the aforementioned worlds. There’s Kid Icarus (isn’t it supposed to be Pit?), who looks and sounds like a street urchin from Brooklyn that has big head mode enabled. Next, there’s Mega Man, who for some reason is a green midget that looks like the result of Booster Gold and Krillin conceiving a child, and has a voice like what the unintelligible fat pigeon from Animaniacs would’ve sounded like if he ever decided to correctly enunciate. Finally, there’s Simon Belmont – the biggest travesty of them all. Simon is essentially the Gaston of the show: he is a handsome and buff mountain of a man, yet as arrogant and meat-headed as one of those cocks on The Apprentice who wishes for nothing more than to suck Alan Sugar’s dick. He’d honestly be bettter off piecing Dracula back together, the bastard. I admit that Simon Belmont is quite headstrong and brash, as he’s been portrayed in Castlevania, but he’s not a complete airhead prat, and it was something that did bother me about the show.
The show features a host of characters from many of Nintendo’s classics, such as Doctor Wily from Mega Man, the original barrel-throwing Donkey Kong, the son of The Count,
Aloocard Alucard, the great manbearpig-warlock that is Ganon, and even some nice cameos from Princess Zelda, Link, and even freakin’ Bayou Billy. However, one of the two biggest problems I have with this show is with the main villain for the most part of the series: Mother Brain. Now, you remember what Mother Brain looks like, right? You remember what Mother Brain kinda sounds like, right? Well, this is Mother Brain from Captain N.
That’s right. This is the thing that murdered the Baby and induced an Earth-shattering rage from the gamer that sought to annihilate the bastard cerebrum with a fire that burnt brighter than a thousand supernovas, and here she is looking like a caricature of Mom from Futurama that was painted by Gerald Scarfe and made to torture poor Floyd in The Wall. And if you think that the shameless underselling of Mother Brain stops there, then buckle down and grab onto something to brace for the peristaltic waves of your bowel movements, because shit is goin’ down, son.
Mother Brain is voiced by Motown legend Levi Stubbs of The Four Tops fame. Now I’ve got no problem with characters being voiced by the opposite gender; Chris Adler pulled it off when voicing Cow from Cow and Chicken, and who can ignore Nancy Cartwright having voiced Bart Simpson. To add to that, I’ve got no beef with Levi Stubbs (I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch) is LEGIT), and I’ve nothing but respect for him. But it’s a real oddity when you find that Mother Brain sounds just like a Blaxploitation character. She’s constantly throwing shade and giving attitude to King Hippo and the Eggplant Wizard, and even though it’s just a cartoon, it’s jarring enough to feel like an injustice to the villain. Hell, imagine if Metroid was based off of Jackie Brown?
The other problem I have with this is the amount of references to Metroid. Look at it this way: there’s a realm dedicated to Metroid, Mother Brain is the main antagonist, there are enemies from the first area of the first game chasing the gang, and the damn title theme plays whenever they wander into the realm. Yet for all these references, there’s one vital thing missing:
You’re telling me that you’ve got Mega Man, Kid Icarus and Simon Belmont as your loyal subjects, and Donkey Kong as a main enemy, yet you can’t even include the MAIN CHARACTER OF METROID to rep her own game? Admittedly, she was present in the comic adaptation, but why then omit her from the cartoon? Man, who would’ve thought that Nintendo would just decide to disregard one of its most loved and cherished franchises? Imagine if this train of thought carried over 26 years later?
Despite its pre-teen goofiness and other shambles, the show is fun to watch. It provides a great tribute to many of Nintendo’s franchises, and it is nice to see most of their characters interact with each other like a more subdued Smash Bros. Yeah, it was the standard animation of the 80s creeping into the 90s, but it was a brave idea in an admittedly easier time to broadcast, and there’s no denying that fans wouldn’t want some sort of a reboot for more mature audiences where the characters have been portrayed correctly.
And if not, then you can always make do with Sonic Boom.
Just kidding. Not even once.