The Shout! Factory knows how to tickle gamers sweet spots. They've released a plethora of '80s and '90s video game cartoons such as The Super Mario Bros. Super Show and The Legend of Zelda. Of course these series are hit and miss, but don't shoot the messenger. It's great that a company has the jewels to release such "gems."
For those unfamiliar with Captain N, basically he's a simple game player who is summoned to a parallel universe (Videoland) where fictitious video game characters are not only real, but they exist and interact with one another. The hero characters often stay together to defend their home worlds against evil doers hell bent on conquering said worlds. Is there any other way to live? Captain N comes equipped with a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) Zapper and an NES controller. These tools give Captain N the powers necessary to deliver Videoland from evil.
Please note, while I can't confirm this, some Internet resources on this series claim that it (this DVD set) is in fact incomplete. Anyway (I’ll take their word that it is complete), the complete series spans four discs which consists of every Captain N: The Game Master episode, 26 in all. As with other Shout! Factory DVD sets I've had the pleasure of viewing, the video quality leaves much to be desired. Each episode has its share of dust and scratches, some more severe than others. Colors are inconsistent, sometimes muddy, but every once in a while you may get a scene that's clean. Jagged edges also appear on characters and backgrounds, but are far less annoying (and severe) when compared to other noted problems. Overall, expect a visual quality a bracket above VHS.
The audio thankfully is heads and tails above the visuals. The voice and background music recordings are crisp and clean, just the way fans will remember! The actual animation is on par with other Saturday morning offerings of the time. Nothing to write home, but gets the job done. Apparently a different animation house was used for the last episodes in the series, but fear not, the animation more or less matches up on this set.
The episodes are a mixed bag. Some are sub-par that consist of the N Team battling Mother Brain and her minions. These can be skipped. When the series focuses on certain N Team characters such as Simon Belmont of Castlevania fame, the series hits its highs. I never thought some of the most bizarre imagery I'd ever be privy to exists on this set. My favorite episode, where Simon Belmont hits himself with a "love arrow" is just too funny. He's struck with said arrow and the first "person" he views he falls in love with. It just happens that he sees the head baddie Mother Brain. For those unfamiliar with Mother Brain, she's the villain from the fabled Metroid series. She's basically an enormous grotesque brain in a jar with a spinal column, eyes, mouth, tendons, tentacles, and attitude. After Simon convinces her that his feelings for her are genuine, a montage kicks in where they prepare to be wed. The bizarre imagery lies in this montage where Simon, a blonde dashing hunk, is picking out wedding rings and the like with Mother Brain. Fucking hilarious and not to be missed!
Nintendo purists may be put off by the unfaithful characterizations of their favorite NES characters. Megaman is green and is missing his famous "arm blaster." The actor who voiced him sounds like his genitals were thrashed repeatedly while battling a serious case of throat cancer. Simon Belmont is a pompous, yet funny jerk. King Hippo looks like he's been dead for a year or two and apparently spent his formidable years in Texas. The list goes on and on. I wasn't offended by altered renditions of sacred gaming icons, but some geek in his momma's basement may be.
One of the coolest parts of the series is the main characters' ability to "warp" to other game lands. In one episode the main characters go to a Tetris-themed world, in another they visit Hyrule from The Legend of Zelda series. Interestingly enough, they never run into the largest Nintendo character of them all: Mario. Why the big M never appeared is puzzling, but at least his presence is felt through certain sound effects lifted from the Super Mario Bros. games.
Captain N: The Game Master series has its fair share of flaws. The idea that our favorite game characters are alive and well in some alternate universe is charming. Some of the episodes are truly entertaining and are elevated above the average Saturday morning cartoon fair. If you're a fan of the NES and are looking for a cartoon series that was relevant in a time when Saturday morning cartoons meant something, I highly recommend this series. Thirty bones to warp back to a simpler time filled with fun is worth it!