Looking at how incredibly protective Nintendo is now with their properties, it’s funny to look back and see how freely the licensed them out in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The garbage Mario and Zelda games that appeared on non-Nintendo consoles is a discussion for another time. Years before that, we had a plethora of Nintendo cartoons. Along side the 3 versions of Mario cartoons, there was Captain N: The Game Master. High school varsity swimmer and video gamer Kevin Keene along with his dog Duke, are transported to Videoland after being sucked into a vortex through his television called the Ultimate Warp Zone. There he fulfills the prophecy of becoming Captain N, the Game Master, who must battle Mother Brain and her forces (other game villains), as they have taken over most of Videoland.
With the exception of Kevin, every character on the show was annoying. All of them. Even the ones you think you’d like, no, they sucked too. Kevin’s team consisted of Princess Lana, the regent of Videoland, Simon Belmont from Castlevania, Pit from Kid Icarus, Mega Man, and Game Boy. Simon Belmont bears no resemblance to his video game counterpart, looking more like a mountain climber than the leather clad vampire hunter. Not only that he was vain and narcissistic, caring primarily about his looks. At least he had a whip. Pit (Kid Icarus) had a speech impediment where he added ‘icus’ to the end of most of his sentences, and apparently was perpetually stuck in puberty. Mega Man was squat and green instead of blue. He had a rough voice and suffered a similar debility to Pit where he started most sentences with Mega. Season 2 introduced a giant flying sentient Game Boy that followed them around and played with the dog. I stopped asking question at this point.
Captain N carried the zapper (the duck hunt gun), and wore a NES controller as a belt buckle. The controller gave him powers like high jump by pressing A, super speed by using the D-Pad, and the ability to freeze time by pushing pause. I remember asking for a holster for my zapper after seeing the show.
The N-team fought against Mother Brain (Metroid), Dr. Wily (Mega Man), and her henchmen King Hippo (Punch-Out!) and Eggplant Wizard (Kid Icarus). There isn’t much to say about the later three, but Mother Brain, wow. A brain (I guess) in a jar, she more so resembled plastic surgery gone wrong with her collogen filled lips, eye shadow, and no nose. Much like the other characters on the show, her voice was terrible.
Most of the voice acting on the show was atrocious. I think this was more attributed to bad direction than poor acting. These voices were done on purpose. This was someone’s ‘vision.’
As the series went on, the N-Team visited many different worlds from the NES library. Other than the obvious inclusion of worlds from staple characters, we also saw Donkey Kong (where DK was a villain), Zelda, BurgerTime, Tetris, and even Paperboy. Don’t ask me how the latter three worked. I remember being really excited to see Zelda and Link on the show. Staying true to continuity, they went with the characterization established from the 1989 Zelda cartoon where Link was a dick. That and they used the Zelda II incarnation, which still stands out differently from the rest of the series having 2-D side-scrolling levels and jump potions.
While the quality was all over the place, mostly hovering on the low end, it was still commendable that Nintendo was able to bring all these properties together. Most of these characters weren’t owned by Nintendo, requiring licensing from Konami, Capcom, Squaresoft, and others. It was a simpler time then, where companies weren’t as fiercely protective of their IPs as they are now. Still, I don’t think anyone but Nintendo could have done it. Look at Smash Bro. Brawl which included Sonic and Snake.