An avid player of tabletop and video games throughout his life, Conrad has a passion for unique design mechanics and is a nut for gaming history. Conrad formerly wrote news and produced video content for Destructoid (including Sup, Holmes?, Office Chat and Saturday Morning Hangover) and was a regular host on Podtoid.
The mere inclusion of Rodney Dangerfield can vastly improve anything. Films, music, toasters, anything. In particular, the force of Rodney Dangerfield could elevate video games to the level in which they are accepted by the mainstream as a true art form, bringing together people of all races, creeds and tax brackets in peace and harmony.
Uber-Short Synopsis Kevin In Videoland: Kevin AKA "Captain N" first arrives in Videoland; Princess Lana is kidnapped and taken to Metroid; Kevin must convince Simon Belmont, Kid Icarus and Megaman to trust him and work as a team to rescue her.
This first episode does what a first episode should do. It introduces characters, gives us some exposition and lays the groundwork for what we can expect from future episodes. This will be a long post, as there's a lot of ground to cover, but I do hope you'll stick with me.
The Palace of Power in its darkest hour, much like my soul right now
We begin outside of the Palace of Power, the seat of the kingdom of Videoland. A narrator explains to us that Mother Brain's forces have been laying seige to the tower for seven years. After a quick cut, we're in Mother Brain's lair, where we see the primary villain for the first time along with the consistent henchmen King Hippo and Eggplant Wizard. Apparently, gloating over near victory is the exclusive domain of the Brain, as she roughs them up a bit for doing so and proceeds to laugh at the inevitability of her success.
I need to take a moment here to talk about Mother Brain. Nevermind that a huge part of the creepiness of the character that makes it such an effective villain is that it's incomprehensible what it could be thinking. She shouldn't even have a voice as it would shatter that tone. But silent bad guys don't make for good Saturday morning television, so it's understandable that my personal preference be denied here. The voice itself, though, that's something to talk about.
That shade of lipstick completely clashes with her complexion
She has a pretty distinctive voice, a kind of wild, mad tone to the dialogue. If you've ever heard her speak and draw a parallel to Audrey II (the carnivorous, alien plant from Little Shop of Horrors), there's a very good explanation for that. The same person made a highly memorable performance of the role in a 1986 film adaptation of the classic off-broadway musical. It was likely the reason for their involvement in Captain N.
This voice actor's presence is, in my opinion, one of the great tragedies regarding this show. Not because they are without talent, for this person had it in spades. Before taking on the role of Mother Brain, they were responsible for this:
Any of that sound familiar? Mother Brain's voice was supplied by Levi Stubbs, lead singer of The Four Tops, one of the finest R&B groups ever to come out on the revered Motown record label. Just thinking that this man's incredible baritone was wasted on drivel such as the villain in Captain N is enough to set my teeth to grinding.
Anyway, back to the show.
We move back to what we can assume is the throne room in the Palace of Power. Here we are introduced to the heroes of the show. Princess Lana, the young and probably very flexible ruler of Videoland, is coming to terms with her defeat. She moves about the room, praising Kid Icarus, Megaman and Simon Belmont in turn for their loyalty and courage.
This is the moment where we first see the abominable job DiC has done in translating the video game characters. Now, granted, none of them had the fleshing out we've come to expect from our game protagonists. Most instruction manuals of the time had less than 100 words of backstory. There are still many things that even the casual observer of video games would see that they've gotten wrong.
Kid Icarus is the best of the bunch, if for no other reason than he had practically no background whatsoever in his game. I mean, they got the name wrong but you can hardly fault them for wanting the character associated with the game (what kid is going to remember his name is Pit, after all) but at least he looks the part. We do, however, get a first taste of things to come. Kid Icarus has a highly annoying habit of ending words with "-icus" and usually does so several times an episode (see the end of each review for a full count). The writers, in all their brilliance are setting it up here as he refers to Lana as "your highnicus", which could come off a little lewd if it weren't for his near-pubescent voice.
Megaman's faults are a bit more noticeable. As a character who's popularly known as "the blue bomber", dude sure is wearing a lot of green, isn't he? And he's really short. We've already seen both Wily and Light in the Megaman games, so it's safe to assume he was intended to be the height of an adult male. The only explanation I can conceive of for his diminuitive stature is that the definition of "domestic robot" means "cunnilingus machine" since he's just the right size to service Lana without even lowering his head. He also has an annoying vocal practice, putting "mega" in front of seemingly random words, though it doesn't appear in the show for a few episodes.
Simon Belmont really takes the cake. One possible explanation for Megaman's color might be that they decided to use that color for Belmont instead, even though he's always depicted in earth tones for every pixel or piece of art I've ever seen him in. Blond hair, goggles, scarf... he's not even close. Add to this that his response to the Princess' gratitude is an arrogant "I know" and it's already plain to see that the only similarity between this figure and his namesake is a whip.
After congratulating everyone on successfully losing the war, a booming voice reminiscent of Zordon says that all is not yet lost. A prophecy foretells of a warrior coming through the "Ultimate Warp Zone" to save Videoland. Hmm... I wonder who that could be?
Enter live-action video. Kevin, a teenager in a high school letterman's jacket with an emblazoned "N". OH! I GET IT! CAPTAIN N! We first see him playing Punch-Out with a NES Advantage (gotta sell those accessories) when the screen turns to static, and lightning shoots out. Wrapped in the electrical storm that should really just burn him alive and end my misery, he's dragged into the television set and we're treated to the finest CG animation a 1989 cartoon budget has to offer.
OMG! It's just like The Lawnmower Man!
Crash landing from the warp into the Palace of Power, quickly followed by his dog, Kevin makes a great first impression. After dragging his ass off the floor and recognizing the heroes from his video games (somehow he pegs Belmont instantly; he must have mastered some game I've never seen), poking them to verify that they're real, Lana introduces herself.
At this point the camera does exactly what I would have, starting at Lana's feet and slowly working its way up, though I probably would have stopped somewhere around the neck and worked my way back down again. Kevin's testicles immediately descend. Lana tells him about the prophecy and points out his new toys: A "Super Power Pad" (an NES controller on his belt) and a Zapper.
Kevin calls bullshit on this and attempts to demonstrate that the Zapper is little more than a toy, nearly killing Simon and making all my dreams come true. Still, he's no hero and he's not going to be saddled with this responsibility. A distraught Lana runs out of the room, Simon shortly behind like a lapdog, leaving Kevin alone with a very disappointed Kid Icarus and Megaman who head off after failing to make Kevin feel guilty about his decision.
In her room, Lana looks at a photo of her father and gets all emo about what a shitty ruler she is. Well, duh. Anybody worth their salt would have executed the three hangers-on she's with and found some effective fighters.
Back on Metroid, Mother Brain observes that the Palace's defenses shut down when the Ultimate Warp Zone opens up and decides that it's time to strike. But instead of ordering her army, you know, the one that's been laying siege to the Palace for SEVEN FUCKING YEARS to invade en masse, slaying all in their path, what does she do? Send in King Hippo and Eggplant Wizard to kidnap Lana. No wonder she can't fucking win.
And, now that I think of it, why the fuck is King Hippo blue? They can make King Hippo blue, but not Megaman? I fucking hate this show.
Meanwhile, the Videoland heroes decide they must comfort their matron. I have a few suggestions on how it could be done and Simon would no doubt agree, as he steps up to the plate in a show of supreme arrogance. At the same time, Kevin heads off to look for Lana in hopes that she can provide a way home.
"Does this glove smell like chloroform to you?"
As everyone makes their way to her royal chambers, the villains crash through a wall and enter the Palace. Spotting Simon, they toss his pansy ass into a sack and chuck him through a warp zone before snatching Lana and rolling her in a rug. Sacks? Rugs? How cliche can you possibly get?
Kevin hits the scene and, like any courteous kid who doesn't know that sometimes you have to take the pussy, knocks politely on the bedroom door. After a brief bit of pathetic imitation from King Hippo, Captain N figures out that something isn't right and disintegrates the bedroom door while likely wondering if it would work the same on Lana's clothing.
Facing the ne'er-do-wells, we get a first look at what the Super Power Pad can do, swiftly moving Kevin out of the path of a tomato thrown by Eggplant Wizard. While Captain N is initially successful in fending off the attack, he overconfidently accepts a quickdraw challenge and Eggplant Wizard traps him in a giant banana peel. By the time he escapes, Lana has been taken to Metroid.
Of course, this means the damsel in distress must be rescued. As expected, however, Simon (who's now dropped back into the palace) is an insufferable prick and gets Megaman and Icarus into a pissing match with him. Kevin, while witnessing this, exhibits another ability of the Power Pad: Pause. He uses it to shut everyone up long enough to refocus their priorities on the task at hand. Apparently, this power merely stops people from moving and they can still comprehend what's going on around them while paused.
After things have calmed down, Simon produces a map that seemingly shows no valuable data whatsoever and points out a location that will warp them directly to Metroid. Captain N disagrees, saying, "Look, I've played this game a hundred times." Okay, Captain N, I'll play your little game. WHAT FUCKING GAME HAVE YOU PLAYED THAT IN ANY WAY RESEMBLES THIS SITUATION?! Simon suggests they decide which way they're going with a coin toss, uses a trick coin and provides still more reason to hate him (as if I needed more).
Trudging on their way, our heroes hop into the warp zone and OMG it's KONGO LAND, the home of Donkey Kong! Who's fucking surprised? I am, because DK is in the bath, wearing an embroidered towel and a shower cap. Ooo-kay. How do you fuck up Donkey Kong? You wouldn't think it possible. Leave it to DiC to defy all expectation.
To escape Kongo Land, Kevin brings the gang to the top of a volcano with DK in hot pursuit. "Look," he says, "I've played Donkey Kong enough times to know what I'm doing." Now, I've played enough Donkey Kong to know that there's not a single volcano in the entire fucking game. Nevertheless, Kevin hits pause just as a group of boulders surface in the volcano's chewy center, has everyone cop a squat on a boulder and unpauses. The boulders launch into the skies and they fly their way to Metroid.
Say it with me people: It's just a cartoon. It's just a cartoon.
Once they arrive, conveniently right outside the tower Princess Lana is imprisoned in, Simon resumes his arrogant bandying about and resolves that he's going to rescue Lana all on his own. Okay, we get it, it's about teamwork. Please make it stop. He takes a shot in the mouth from a perfume bottle (WHAT?! Nobody puts breath spray in a bottle like that! NOBODY!) and heads off on his own to a warp zone which, of course, does not go the right way.
Let's try to remember one thing, real quick. Kid Icarus can fly. He could easily make his way up to the top of the tower, looking for an access point. But no, that wouldn't be funny. Instead, Kevin has Megaman give him a boost, launching him into the air and causing him to crash through the roof of the tower. It's not funny either.
After a touching scene between The Cap'n and Lana, in which Kevin wishes he were touching a little more but finally admits that this is real, Megaman and Kid Icarus emerge through a door which closes behind them. They're trapped. NO THEY FUCKING AREN'T! THERE'S A BIG FUCKING HOLE IN THE CEILING THAT THEY COULD EASILY ESCAPE THROUGH! Instead, Mother Brain appears in the form of a hologram (that only Sam can see and hear... alright, I think I'm losing it a bit), mocks them and Kevin and Lana fall through a trap door into the heart of Metroid.
ACTION MONTAGE! These are always the best parts of this show because there's very little to get pissed off about. Kevin kicks some ass, Lana follows and they make it to Mother Brain's chambers.
As he pulls the trigger, his Zapper runs out of juice. And this is the part where we learn that no man is an island, teamwork solves everything and sleeping pills are a viable alternative to this. And, of all people to deliver the moral, fucking Simon Belmont swings in to save the day. Christ, now he'll never shut up. Megaman and Kid Icky quickly follow suit and everyone contributes to annoying me in equal proportion.
Oh, and Simon's whip is alive. ALIVE! He doesn't even have to swing the fucking thing!
Having returned to the Palace of Power, congratulations are handed out to everyone and Lana tries to convince Kevin to stick around. What she should have done is hiked her skirt up a bit, because Kevin's not biting. At least, he's not until he hears his mother telling him to do his homework through the Ultimate Warp Zone. Finally, a trait in one of these characters I can identify with.
Agreeing to stay, Captain N twirls his Zapper and fires at the "camera" while I secretly hope the Ultimate Warp Zone will open into my apartment at this exact moment, allowing the laser to pass through and reduce me to atoms.
Here's the thing: This isn't a bad episode, all things considered. Everyone has a relatively minor role, since there's so much stuff that needs to be set up for the show. Less screen time for individual characters helps to keep things moving. The more things move, the less time you have to think about how fucking terrible the show is. Sadly, things get much, much worse. Just wait until Gameboy shows up.
SLITOMETER: Level 2
-ICUS count: 4 Highn-icus, Kevin-icus(x2), Lose-icus. A mercifully low score.