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 writes news and produces video content for Destructoid (including Sup, Holmes?, Office Chat and Saturday Morning Hangover) and is 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.
Death By Cartoon follows my exploits as I attempt to watch and provide analysis on every episode of Captain N. It's a dangerous road, with thoughts of the sweet escape of suicide around every corner. Check back every Thursday for a new episode or check out the archive to see previous editions.
Uber-Short Synopsis: Lana becomes trapped in the Nightmare Zone after eating a poison apple. Kevin and Simon compete to save the Princess in Excalibur, the land of Wizards & Warriors.
In her lair on Metroid, Mother Brain asks her magic mirror the age-old question, "Who's the cutest of them all?"
Oh, sweet jack-hammering Jesus. It's gonna be one of those episodes.
We know who "the cutest of them all" is gonna be, and Mother Brain flies into a jealous rage when the mirror declares her to be unfit for the title. Assembling her cronies, she asks Eggplant Wizard to make her an apple.
We're certainly off to a good start, aren't we? After fumbling both with terribly written rhymes and his magic, he eventually succeeds in returning Mother Brain to normal and produces an apple in the process. Next the villainess requires a deep sleep potion from Dr. Wily. I wonder, whatever for?
I guess we'll just have to wait to find out, as the action shifts to the Palace of Power where Kevin is making a pizza for Lana. Calling it a "Captain N" special, he tops it with nuts, nectarines and nachos. I tried to think of a joke for that but, actually, adding some crunch to the middle of a pizza might be a worthwhile experiment.
Lana will never get the chance to find out, however, since Duke grabs the unfinished pizza from the counter and runs off. Just then, the doorbell rings and a poorly disguised Eggplant Wizard offers to sell Lana an apple. Figuring the odds of actually having lunch are unlikely, she buys it. Walking away from the closed door, Eggplant trips and more of his trademark veggies spill from his cloak, you know, in case we didn't know it was him.
Back inside, Lana tells Kevin not to worry about lunch and takes a bite of her newly purchased fruit. Immediately noticing something is wrong when her vision blurs, she calls out to Kevin but he's powerless to stop what is about to happen. She sinks to the floor in a fast slumber and a warp zone opens, drawing her in.
A vision of Mother Brain appears to Kevin and points out the obvious parallel's between this situation and the story of Snow White. I'm so glad they pointed that out, since I was getting the impression that it was Hansel & Gretel. The Princess is trapped in Castle Ironspire and Kevin has only until midnight to wake her out of the spell or the sleep will become eternal.
In the gallery, Simon is hanging a painting under the observant eyes of Kid Icarus and Megaman. Claiming that one important figure has been overlooked, he unveils a portrait of himself. And then he loses his balance on his stepstool and breaks it over his head. Hilarious.
Kevin has more pressing issues as he runs into the room and informs the gang of Lana's capture. Belmont suggests that Kevin lacks the necessary handsomeness to awaken the princess with a kiss. More concerned with the task at hand than his own physical shortcomings, he invites Simon to come with him, leaving the midgets behind to guard the palace.
As they run, jump and swing through Excalibur, Simon quickly takes a lead on Kevin and proclaims that he'll be the one to kiss Lana. As he's miming the action of holding her in his arms, a werewolf drops on to the tree branch next to him. Inexplicably, Simon then grabs the wolf and kisses it. Seriously, why would such a thing make sense to anyone?
Realizing his error when the wolf howls at him, Simon freaks out and manages to get himself tangled in his whip and hanging from the tree branch. Kevin blasts the werewolf with his zapper, which transforms into a shimmering diamond. Namedropping the evil Malkil (the main boss of Wizards & Warriors), Kevin warns against illusions and suggests they start collecting riches to bribe the guards at Castle Ironspire.
Elsewhere, Malkil watches the bickering heroes and correctly judges Simon for the moron that he is. Mixing some components and reciting another stupid rhyme, he summons a toad with a rat's tail and directs it through a warp.
The toad emerges from a knot hole in a tree. Belmont produces a golf club from his backpack and I prepare to witness the most awesome thing ever. As always, I am disappointed, since Simon changes his mind and grabs a bazooka instead. Oooooh, this is gonna be sweet.
Fooled again! The toad disappears in a puff of green smoke and is replaced by a green key. Kevin comments that there's something odd about it (you think?), but Simon shushes him and takes the key. Then, certain that he has what he needs to reach Lana first, he pushes Kevin through a magical tree-door with a pit. I honestly can't think of a better way to explain that. Kevin manages to grab a branch in the tree and realizes that the key must be some kind of trap,
Simon, unable or unwilling to hear Kevin's warning, finds a green door to match his key and finds himself in a lovely cottage. Emerging from warps, one at a time, Belmont is confronted by the "Seven Warp Dwarves". They are Slimy, Snakey, Smokey, Bony, Toothy, Stingy and Tiny. I think they were really reaching around the time they hit "Stingy". The Warp Dwarves tie Simon to a table with plans to eat him.
Back at the Palace of Power, Kid Icarus and Megaman wonder aloud if Kevin and Simon have managed to save Lana yet. Just then, Eggplant Wizard appears on the television with a special news bulletin which claims the Palace of Power is under attack. Totally disregarding the source of the news, Kid Icarus doesn't understand how that could be true if they're the only two at the Palace.
Leaping through the TV, using an ingenious new device from Dr. Wily which seems like it would be laughably impractical most of the time, Eggplant Wizard and King Hippo make the scene. Then, they make short work of the (arguably) two most useless members of the N Team. Using a tennis racket, Eggplant backhands two apples into the heroes' mouths and they fall unconscious, dragged into a sleep warp.
Hanging from the branch in his pit, Kevin is besieged by two very large spiders. He swings upward and manages to grab their web and climb out of the pit. A vision of Lana appears near him, begging to be rescued. Then, a second cry for help comes from Simon.
Bound and helpless, the vampire hunter is being chewed on by the Warp Dwarves. Bursting into the room, Kevin points his zapper at the fiends, who call it a showdown. But, instead of just shooting the little fuckers so we can all move on, he actually concedes to their interest in a quick draw contest. The dwarves, standing in a circle around Captain N, eind up shooting each other as Kevin uses his power pad to zip out of harms way. Warp Dwarves defeated, they turn into a pile of shimmering riches.
After a crossfade, the heroes arrive at Castle Ironspire. Bribing the guard, they gain entrance and quickly find the Princess, who is sleeping in what looks like a casket. Both Kevin, Simon and even Duke all try to awaken her with a kiss to no avail. Mother Brain and Malkil appear to them now and explain that it was all a ruse.
The real way to rescue the Princess is to join her in the Nightmare Zone by taking a bite from one of the laced apples. The Nightmare Zone makes your worst fears reality, Malkil explains, and failing to escape means never waking from that dream.
Simon is loathe to eat the apple, but Kevin sees no other option and takes a bite. Duke does the same. Unwilling to allow Kevin the glory of rescuing Lana, Simon decides to join them. Any choice on his part is removed when a worm pops out and bites him on the nose, which apparently has the same effect as actually eating the apple, and he passes out.
Walking through the Nightmare Zone, Kevin finds a cowering Lana who begs him not to come closer. OMG! She's turned ugly! That's a little weird for the character of Lana. She's attractive, no doubt, but she never struck me as the sort of person who was so attached to their beauty that becoming ugly would be her worst nightmare.
She returns to her former appearance in short order, as Kevin explains that it's all a bad dream. The Nightmare Zone really doesn't seem too threatening. If realizing that you're in it cancels out its effects, what's the point? Regardless, the pair are reunited and begin the search for a warp zone out.
As they pass through a glowing door, Kevin realizes that they're in his bedroom! Oh, there's no place like home, especially with the nubile princess in tow. Even the disembodied voice of his mother is here, urging him to clean up his room. Completely forgetting that he was in a place which made nightmares real (or, you know, that there's a girl in his bedroom), Kevin begins to tidy up. Upon opening his closet, piles of junk fall out. Over time, more and more stuff starts moving around, cluttering the room further.
Alright, these guys have some seriously crappy nightmares. When I was Kevin's age, I lived that way. And when my mother told me to clean my room, I told her I would and then I didn't do it. I had no fear of having a messy room (that only developed recently; you do not fuck with a neat freak girlfriend). Where's the fucking monster under the bed?
Oh, wait, there it is. The mass of junk that has filled the room starts to take the form of a hideous clutterbeast (TM 2008, Conrad Zimmerman) and roars at Kevin and Lana as they flee the bedroom.
Elsewhere, Simon Belmont is strolling along when a spotlight hits him. An announcer's voice declares this the "Mr. Videoland Universe Contest" and introduces Simon while the clothes fly off his upper body. Striking pose after pose for an appreciative audience, Simon is loving every minute of it.
Suddenly, the sound of hissing air can be heard as Simon's muscles deflate. As he stares in terror, his teeth and hair fall out of his skull and blemishes begin to form on his chin. Now, see that? That's how you take a complex character and build a believable fear based on their personality. Groan with me.
Fleeing the jeers of the audience, Simon runs into Kid Icarus and Megaman. For the first time ever, Megaman actually looks befitting of the title "Blue Bomber", as he's been frozen by Ice Man. Kid Icarus is covered in arrows after his bow took on a life of its own and attacked him.
Kevin and Lana join them as well, and they set to the task of whining about how they can't figure out how to leave the Nightmare Zone. After Belmont curses Kevin for making him enter "this sleepless nightmare", it hits them. If going to sleep caused them to enter the Nightmare Zone, perhaps it could work for returning as well. The N Team curls up on the floor for a little shut eye.
Back at the Palace of Power, the villains are making a toast to Mother Brain. The doorbell rings and Eggplant Wizard looks through the peephole to see a cloaked figure who offers a gift to the new Queen of Videoland.
Now, this isn't as obvious as when Eggplant pulled the same trick earlier on, but it's Megaman under the cloak. The cloak works better for him and he's actually made an effort to disguise his voice because, frankly, you'd be able to recognize that freak in a second. Here's what he sounds like:
Count your blessings. He could have had that voice through the whole of the series.
With the door opened, a wagon full of apples is wheeled into the throne room. Oh, the irony. What a clever way to exact vengeance. Do I really need to go further? The N Team forces apples down their throats with witty one-liners and they all get sucked into a warp to the Nightmare Zone.
What a pointless act of retribution. Sure, it gets them out of the Palace, but there's pretty good odds that they already know the secret to getting out.
When it's all said and done, Captain N works up the massive amount of courage to say that he's disappointed that didn't wake Lana with a kiss. You go boy! Tap that ass! He's rewarded with a peck but, hell, it's the late 80's and he's sitting around his bedroom playing Nintendo all the time. That's more action than he's probably ever had from anyone but his mother.
There's a lot of stupid in this episode. First off, they started us out with a completely derivative story that we were all familiar with already. Then, just as they introduce a concept that could kick it up a notch, the nightmares are (with the exception of Simon's) bland, predictable and largely out-of-character for them.
Ask yourself this question: Who the fuck is afraid of a cute robot in a parka?
-ICUS Rating: 112% of eight lines
THIS IS NOT A TYPO. Kid Icarus is afflicted by his vocal tic more times in this episode than the number of lines he has.
Kevin-icus(x2), Simon-ious (x2), Highn-icus(x2), sir-icus, us-icus, too-icus