Monday, October 31, 2011

Captain N The Game Master - Return to Castlevania

While the late 80’s into the early 90’s saw DiC producing a number of awful (and one surprisingly watchable) cartoon shows based on videogames on both sides of the console war, few are reviled in quite the same way as Captain N. Unlike the other shows that focused on one particular franchise, it attempted to be the point where all the well-known games of the era (that didn’t already have their own show) met.

However, the reason it’s infamous among gamers is the writers appear to have spent about as much time playing a game as the Irate Gamer before sitting down to do the project. As in, not much. The Super Mario Bros. Super Show took some liberties with where its stories were set, but the enemies and the power-ups and Mario being able to breathe underwater were more or less accurate. Not here. The hero of Kid Icarus is actually named Pit, for instance, and it’s anybody’s guess why Jeffrey Scott thought adding “acus” to the end of half his dialogue would be endearing. Mega Man wears green instead of blue. And Samus Aran from Metroid didn’t appear in the show because Scott “never heard of her,” heavily implying he never played the game at all because all you have to do is hit Start and there she is. Not to mention the villain of her game was the main villain for this entire show. For what it’s worth, Samus was a regular in the tie-in comic.

Truth be told…I kind of like the show. There’s something endearing about the cheesiness and only occasionally-accurate research. For all its faults, there’s one thing I can say about Captain N that I can’t about the other cartoons I’ve reviewed: it’s hardly ever boring. And let’s be fair, they were adapting games from an era only with only slightly more developed plots and characters than the ones that showed up on Saturday Supercade. Obviously, this forced the writers to wing it on those fronts. I’m not saying most or even a lot of their choices for characterization were good ones, but the developers didn’t give them much to work with.

Anyway, the basic story of Captain N was that Kevin, the most bodacious gamer to ever pick up a controller, is pulled into the universe where the characters of his favorite games are real. Or some of them, anyway, or goofier likenesses of them, anyway, and he becomes the superhero Captain N to save it from the forces of evil. The show ran for two and a half seasons.

I say two and a half because this episode comes from the third, where the episodes where shortened to run in a half-hour block with the cartoon based on Super Mario World (which took a few too many of its story cues from The Flintstones for my taste, but whatever). The animation budget was noticeably lower, the scripts were lamer, and well I think we all knew this was probably the last roundup for both shows.

"Return to Castlevania" opens on Simon Belmont, whip-cracking, vampire-slaying hero of the Castlevania games where you kill all the movie monsters of old. In this show he was probably the most loathed of all the characters, being a narcissistic clod who’s also such a fraidycat you wonder how he ever managed to acquire a reputation as a master vampire hunter. The smarmy voice of his didn’t help (although believe it or not, the actor made a decent King Arthur).

Anyway, Simon’s attending a ceremony where he’ll be bequeathed the weapons used by his ancestor, Trevor Belmont (from Castlevania III, actually a prequel which some people apparently don’t realize), who used them to defeat Count Dracula who can only be called “the Count” for legal reasons. There to present the weapons is the Poltergeist King, the unseen benefactor who supposedly puts all those weapons in candles for heroes to find. Rather than congratulate Simon for the bravery of his ancestor, though, the Poltergeist King says Trevor was a coward and HE was the one who defeated the Count. The crowd at the ceremony appears to have been expecting this, as they always do, and starts pelting the stage with produce.

Elsewhere it turns out the Poltergeist King wasn’t really the Poltergeist King, he was the Count himself disguised as the Poltergeist King thanks to the kidnapped Poltergeist King’s stolen magic staff. Which he uses to make his captive think twice about escaping captivity by setting the rope on fire. And I just noticed Dracula’s wearing a bowtie. To think people get mad at Twilight for making vampires look sissy. Not to say it doesn’t, of course…

The Poltergeist King was able to attempt an escape in the first place because the Count put his deadbeat son on guard duty (Ian Corlett doing an embarrassing surfer dude voice, which feels a little weird to my mind because Matt Hill, who did Captain N, tended to have a hard time sounding like someone who wasn’t from SoCal. He made for a weird-sounding samurai, at least to my ears). Incidentally, said son’s also from Castlevania III, Alucard. So you can’t say “Dracula” but you can say it backward. The Count kicks him out of the castle for being worthless.

Captain N tracks Simon down to a graveyard where Trevor’s buried, and where Simon accidentally wakes up an absent-minded old wizard who helped Trevor stomp the Count before and says Castlevania never produced a braver man. This character’s never named, but it’s probably meant to be Sypha Belnades, one of three sidekicks you could pick up in the game (Alucard was one of the other ones). Fans loved this one because if you actually do beat the Count with Sypha as your sidekick, it turns out he’s actually a woman. At least they got that right when Samus appeared at all.

Sypha immediately proves his worth by accidentally animating a skeleton that tries to kill Simon, and Captain N proves his worth by trying to shoot it and only clipping off one of its horns, which prompts Sypha to remember the magic words for freezing monsters.

The Barely Competent Brigade end up in a tunnel somewhere and the Poltergeist King appears and promises to make them pay for invading his domain, but Captain N shoots the ceiling, which he somehow knows will dump water on the King. This serves to make his disguise go poof and turn him back into the Count. Huh? I thought the magic staff was supposed to be pretty badass, but you can cancel it out with water?

Anyway the Count creates some descending spiked chandeliers (what? Things from the actual game?), and after Sypha “accidentally” teleports himself away from these other idiots, Alucard shows up and offers to help the others defeat his dad. The Count watches and voices disappointment that his own son’s turned traitor. Even though Alucard’s another sidekick in the game because he disagrees with his father’s evil ways and will help you once you prove yourself worthy. And that game’s set a century before Simon was around.

Alucard leads them to his dad’s tomb, but immediately switches sides back, and shoots fireballs from his cape to wake up mummies to attack Simon and Captain N. During this Simon whips a candle that turns it into a boomerang that goes flying at the Count. Is that supposed to be like how you can get boomerangs from candles in the game?

He has the one gun, but can shoot them at the same time.

Simon swings on his whip, yelling like Tarzan for some reason even though he’s from a horror game, and defeats the Count by knocking him into his coffin. Which if I’m not mistaken is where he sleeps anyway, so what exactly did that accomplish? Captain N then remarks it’s time to “wrap things up,” which makes no sense because he beats the mummies by un-wrapping them. Then he knocks Alucard into a coffin too.

That’s treated like a victory, because next thing we know we’re at the ceremony from the beginning, take two. Captain N gets tired of Simon’s long-winded speech, and they apparently picked Sypha up again because he uses a spell to wrap Simon up like a mummy. Which I didn’t think was funny even when I was a kid and this episode was brand new.

1 comment:

  1. It's painfully obvious the people at DiC never played Castlevania III.