Captain N: The Game Master
Captain N: The Game Master is a television show produced by DIC Entertainment which spans three seasons and thirty-four episodes, involving an Earth teenager sucked into "Videoland", where he uses an NES controller and NES Zapper to lead a group of video game heroes against video game villains. There were 34 episodes in the series.
Captain N was also a segment of the Nintendo Comics System, but because of licensing restrictions only characters from Nintendo-produced games appeared. Samus Aran, who never appeared in the show (although her enemy did), was a regular character in the comic.
While playing Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! on his NES, Kevin Keene is sucked into a vortex formed in the television, and his dog Duke jumps in after him. After falling through the Ultimate Warp Zone, Kevin lands in Videoland. To save Videoland from Mother Brain, the villain of Metroid, and to fulfill an ancient prophecy, Kevin must become Captain N.
Kevin appears before the N Team, made up of Princess Lana (ruler of Videoland), Simon Belmont, Megaman, and Kid Icarus. Princess Lana is captured, and the team comes together to save her. The group continues to battle Mother Brain and her group of villains, made up of King Hippo (from Punch-Out) and Eggplant Wizard (from Kid Icarus) over the course of the show. The second season adds a sentient talking Game Boy send by the displaced king of Videoland to the main cast. Other recurring villains and neutral parties included Mega Man's Dr. Wily, The Count (Castlevania) and Donkey Kong.
Captain N was episodic in nature, with most episodes centering around the N Team foiling a new scheme by Mother Brain or exploring a new world. Like the concurrently-airing The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, the first season featured covers of popular songs from the time which were replaced in syndication and home video releases.
Despite crossing over many of the NES's most popular franchises, Captain N would soon become infamous among its target audience for its loose portrayal of video games, with many of the games and characters represented bearing little resemblance to their source material in appearance or personality. According to members of the show's staff, such as first season writer Jeffrey Scott and model sheet designer Fil Barlow, most of the staff behind Captain N were not familiar with video games before production began, and had little to no reference material from the licensors beside copies of the video games and a NES to play them on.
The premise was originally created by Nintendo Power's Randy Studdard. The original idea revolved around Nintendo's main computer going rogue after an accident with coffee reacted with sensitive microchips, which also had exploded near a Nintendo employee, giving him the power to create illusions, and called himself "Captain Nintendo". Although the Nintendo computer became sentient, it was actually an ally that helped Captain Nintendo, and warned him that his powers were only temporary. The villain of the story was Mother Brain, who had been brought to life through this accident and was bringing other villains such as Ganon to life. Captain Nintendo countered this by bringing the Nintendo hero Link into the real world. The story ended when a defeated Mother Brain retreated into a state of hibernation, but the computer warned that she would return at full power, and Captain Nintendo resolves to be ready when she returns and stop her from threatening the Earth.
Although Mario did not make an appearance, possibly because he had his own show, there are many mentions of characters and terms from the Mario series. For example, the characters routinely use a Warp Zone as a means of travel; in the first episode Kevin compares this to the Warp Zones in Super Mario Bros. Snapjaws and Nitpickers from Donkey Kong Jr. are featured as enemies, each in a separate episode.
Many sound effects from the early Mario games are used in the show, and some background music from The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! was used in Captain N as well. Of note that whenever an enemy in the show is defeated, it uses either the "enemy stomped" or "loss of life" sound effects from Super Mario Bros.
Donkey Kong in Captain N: The Game Master
Donkey Kong is depicted as a giant ape who does not like visitors, acting primarily as a direct parody to King Kong. He attacks anyone who enters Kongoland, his home in the show. Donkey Kong is first seen in the first episode when the N Team takes the wrong Warp Zone and ends up right in his shower. In "Videolympics", he competes on Mother Brain's team and easily defeats Captain N and Kid Icarus in a wrestling match by sitting on them. In the same episode, Captain N plays a "life-sized" simulated version of the original Donkey Kong game.
In "Simon the Ape-Man", Simon gets amnesia and believes he's Donkey Kong Jr. In "Queen of the Apes", a brain-swapping device malfunctions and swaps the brains of Donkey Kong, Mother Brain and Game Boy; this causes Donkey Kong to end up in Game Boy's body, while Game Boy is swapped into Mother Brain's body, and Mother Brain is given Donkey Kong's body. In "The Lost City of Kongoland", Donkey Kong ends up helping the N Team get rid of the plant creatures overrunning his home, with him fittingly battling a Godzilla-like plant monster. Additionally, this episode incidentally featured him wearing a tie and living in a tree house four years before this was true for his game appearances. From time to time, Donkey Kong is also shown to be the hero of a series of movies that parodies and pokes fun at Indiana Jones.
Concept art shows that in the original pitch for the show, called "Buddy Boy" at that stage, a fully-clothed Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. would have been among the characters.
The series was produced by DiC Entertainment (the first season in association with Saban) with Andy Heyward as the executive producer. The music for the first season is credited to Haim Saban and Shuki Levy*, and to Michael Tavera for seasons two and three. The first season was produced and directed by Michael Maliani (one of DiC's top executive). For the show's second season, Maliani took the role of supervising producer with comic book veteran Chuck Patton as the director. For season three, John Grusd served as the producer and director. Captain N's first season was written entirely by Jeffrey Scott, while the following twos were edited by Dorothy Middleton and written by a variety of writers.
*It should be noted that Saban and Levy did not compose a large number of the series they were credited to, the pair hiring ghost composers and only including their own name on the cue sheets to get all royalties for music. Michael Tavera is credited for "Orchestration and arrangement" on the first season of Captain N.
Most of the voice actors and actresses for Captain N were based in Canada, directed by Greg Morton (season 1-2), Marsha Goodman (season 1), Stu Rosen (season 1), and Madeleine Bascom (season 3), and cast by Josanne Lovick and Doug Parker (who also voiced Mega Man). Captain N was the voice acting debut for several personalities who would go on to have a long and profilic voice acting career: the show's main cast include Garry Chalk as Donkey Kong, Dracula, and King Hippo, Michael Donovan as Eggplant Wizard, Andrew Kavadas as Simon Belmont, Venus Terzo as Princess Lana, Ian James Corlett as Dr. Wily, Alucard, and Dr. Light, Alessandro Juliani as Kid Icarus and Matt Hill as Kevin Keene. Acclaimed soul musician Levi Stubbs provided the voice of Mother Brain, in a performance similar to his previous portrayal of Audrey II in the 1986 film adaptation of Little Shop of Horrors.
Season 1: 1989
Season 2: 1990
Season 3: 1991
Note: Captain N: The Game Master was played as part of Captain N & The Video Game Masters during syndication airings.