NES on NBC on VHS

Will Keaton

Press Start

The year was 1990 and I was four years old. I owned a Nintendo Entertainment System that I loved dearly. The crown jewel of my admittedly spartan NES collection was Super Mario Bros. 3. Many hours were spent playing that game on the TV downstairs. One day I was watching television when I came across a segment of an unusual animated program. It showed a pair of dogs running and jumping about to some very familiar sound effects. There was also a group of astronauts present, two of whom appeared much too small for their suits. A moment later the suits were removed revealing two of the Koopa Kids from my beloved game. Shortly after that the dogs acquired a magic wand and turned themselves into Luigi and one of the seven mushroom kings.

I could not believe what I had just witnessed. There was a cartoon based off of the greatest NES game ever. Too young to tell time or know the days of the week I told my mother and for weeks afterwards she would record this program on our VCR. When all was said and done we had ten and a half episodes of Captain N & The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3. The show ran for 13 episodes under this title and we failed to record several episodes but the collection was mostly complete. I also have several other shows recorded from back in the day, such as Tiny Toon Adventures, Bucky O'Hare and of course Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. However we're here to talk about Mario and Captain N.

Most of you are probably aware of the The Super Mario Bros. Super Show that aired at the end of the 1980's. It would be a few years before I personally saw episodes of the Super Show broadcast on Sunday mornings on YTV. Because of the popularity of that show another series was created based specifically off the Mario Bros. 3 game. As we recorded our program on Saturday mornings on NBC we recorded not only Super Mario Bros., like I wanted, but we also ended up recording a show called Captain N: The Game Master. Unbeknownst to me this was the second season of the show. It would be many years later that I was able to view any of the first season episodes online. The program was organized thusly: one 15 minute episode of Mario Bros. 3, one 30 minute episode of Captain N and one more 15 minute episode of Mario Bros. 3. These numbers include commercials, obviously. I have many fond memories of watching these VHS tapes as a small child. In fact I am relatively certain this was the first TV show I ever watched that was not aimed specifically at preschool kids, as Care Bears and Sesame Street were.

Later a new show based on Super Mario World aired alongside the third season of Captain N. We'll touch upon that series later. This summary will focus solely on the Mario Bros. 3 cartoon and season two of Captain N, which in my opinion is the high point of both series.

Anyway, let's get started.

The Adventure of Super Mario Bros. 3

The Mario 3 cartoon was a different beast from The Super Mario Bros. Super Show that preceded it. The Super Show spent every episode in a new location paying homage to (or just plain ripping off) much more well-known and well-written works ranging from Goldfinger to Star Wars to Robocop. By the same token Bowser, called King Koopa here, would have a unique persona, complete with a Punny Name and costume to go along with it.

Conversely the Mario 3 cartoon was consistently set in the Mushroom Kingdom, ruled by Princess Toadstool. A typical episode would have Mario and Luigi do their best to prevent King Koopa from pulling off whatever nasty plot he had schemed that day. In addition to King Koopa the brothers also had to fend off Koopa's seven children. We spend a lot of time with the royal Koopa family and get to see them in all their dysfunction, playing off each other. For me it's the most interesting part of the show. They're much more interesting than the good guys and you want to see them succeed. Kind of. The seven kids are obviously based on the seven kids from the video game, but this show began production before official names and personalities were given to the kids, meaning they all have different names than their game counterparts and in a few cases had wildly divergent personalities. Also, the live action segments from the Super Show have been completely excised meaning everything in the show is animated.

One other element that cropped up regularly was the “Real World.” Basically Earth as we know it. Long before the video games suggested that Mario and Luigi were natives of the Mushroom World it was established they were plumbers from Brooklyn. Many of the Koopas' schemes involved traveling to the “Real World” for one reason or another. Oddly everyone seems to use the term “Real World” even though, logically speaking, only Mario and Luigi would have a reason to identify it as such.

The cartoon regularly used sound effects and music taken straight from the NES game. In addition every episode would have an action montage set to music. Often it was set to a song created for the show and sung by the Koopa Kids' voice actors, though sometimes they would perform a rendition of a well known hit. The original songs ranged from terrible to great and would usually play at the climax, often turning the montage into the centrepiece of the episode. Tragically when the series aired years later on another network renditions of copyrighted songs were cut out and replaced with other music, specifically an instrumental rendition of Megamove. The altered versions of these episode are the ones included on the DVD release of the series, making an episode with the original audio hard to find.

Characters:

When the DVD's for this show were released they shipped with segments outlining the basic outline for the series as well as information on every major character. Fortunately this writer's bible is available online right here. Definitely worth checking out.

Mario: The older of the two Mario brothers and the designated hero of the show. Mario will run headfirst into danger with little regard for his own safety, or his brother's. Mario is a big eater and tends to make pasta puns, though thankfully this trait is not as omnipresent as it was in the Super Show.

Luigi: The younger of the two brothers, Luigi tends to have reservations about some of the more intense situations they get themselves into. Long before this trait was incorporated into the Luigi of the video games, this Luigi's reluctance to jump into danger saw its origins both here and on the Super Show that preceded it.

Princess Toadstool: Crown Princess of the Mushroom Kingdom. In the video games Toadstool has a reputation for being kidnapped on a regular basis, however such a thing only happened on occasion in the series. She is shown to be intelligent and resourceful, and according to the writer's bible, is apparently 17. She certainly doesn't act like she's 17. Well, except for the one time she went to that Milli Vanilli concert.

Toad: The last of the protagonists is this native of the Mushroom Kingdom. In episodes that focused on him Toad was often shown to make bad judgment calls and ignore the advice of others in order to teach the viewers at home a lesson. A prime example is the time he used a magician's wand when he wasn't supposed to and ended up causing mayhem with it.

King Koopa: Known in the video games as Bowser, King Koopa is the ruler of Dark Land and has an army of baddies that follow his command. His schemes fluctuate between trying to conquer something and teaching his seven children how to be bad. That or caving in to Kootie Pie's demands. While he was a blank slate in the early games, this series, like the Super Show, demonstrated that Koopa wanted to be bad but was never shown to be truly evil. When you get right down to it Koopa's all bark and no bite. Though his plots involve conquest, kidnapping and stealing no one is ever really hurt in his schemes. This same boastfulness, goofiness and general lack of malice would later become part of his character in the video games, displaying itself most prominently in the RPGs. Also, his kids all call him "King Dad," which I think is cute.

Cheatsy Koopa: Known in the video games as Larry, Cheatsy is the one most often chosen by his father to accompany him on missions. In most of his appearances Koopa attempts to teach Cheatsy the ways of dishonesty and cheating. Cheatsy learns his lessons well and absolutely loves anything underhanded.

Kootie Pie Koopa: Known in the games as Wendy O., Kootie Pie is a spoiled brat. Constantly wailing whenever she doesn't get what she wants, many of her father's schemes are initiated by him caving in and giving his only daughter whatever she wants. In the games Wendy has been described as being a singer and Kootie Pie has demonstrated enjoying both listening to music and singing herself.

Kooky Von Koopa: Known in the games as Ludwig Von Koopa, Kooky manages to somehow keep the Von part of his name. Kooky is a mad scientist who cooks up all kinds of mechanical mischief. In the games Ludwig was described as a tone deaf composer while it was Iggy that was known to be the mad scientist type. Kooky's hair is also a complete mess.

Bigmouth Koopa: Known in the games as Morton Jr., this Koopa will talk your ear off. Constantly spewing a deluge of verbal diarrhea Bigmouth is often silenced by physical abuse from his brother Bully. Interestingly the fact that his game counterpart is named after talk show host Morton Downey Jr. would suggest that incarnation loves to talk as well.

Bully Koopa: Known in the games as Roy, Bully is known for using brute force in all situations and getting Bigmouth to shut up when he goes off on one of his many diatribes. Both incarnations of the character are regarded as “tough guys” despite being coloured pink.

Hip & Hop Koopa: Known in the games as Lemmy and Iggy respectively, these two are twins in the cartoon and as a result do everything together, even finish each other's sentences. They're also the youngest of the seven kids. While the other kids are teens these two are said to be 6 years old by the character bible. In the games Iggy has sometimes been regarded as a demented inventor, the kind of person who could build and army of robots from a pile of spare parts yet forget how to dress himself. Not that he wears clothes to begin with. Hop and Lemmy however are basically the same, as both enjoy goofing off far more than following through with any evil schemes.

Captain N

Captain N: The Game Master had aired for one season before it was combined with Super Mario Bros. for its second season. Its third season would air together with Super Mario World with half length episodes and much worse animation.

The story of Captain N tells of a place called Videoland where video game characters, or people that bear a passing resemblance to video game characters, live. Portals called Warp Zones act to connect one video game realm to another. Seven years ago Mother Brain started a war by trying to conquer the Palace of Power, the heart of Videoland. During the conflict the king of the palace, King Charles, was thrown into another dimension. His daughter Princess Lana then took over and with the help of three heroes defended the palace from Mother Brain. In the first episode of the series something called the Ultimate Warp Zone opened a warp to our world and brought a teenager named Kevin Keene who is supposed to defeat Mother Brain and save Videoland.

The opening used during season two episodes is different from the one used during season one. This opening mentions an “ancient prophecy,” regarding a person from another world, something that is never once mentioned in the actual show.

Captain N has a reputation for being a poor representation of the video games it purports to represent. Characters often look and act nothing like they're supposed to, though when I first watched the show I hadn't played most of the games in question so I personally didn't know that anything was wrong.

Those of you familiar with the Super Show know that every fifth episode was not a Mario episode but focused on characters from The Legend of Zelda. The main cast of these Zelda cartoons reappear here in several Captain N episodes with only minor changes to their costumes.

As with the Mario cartoon, Captain N relied heavily on game sound effects and music. In addition most episodes would also have an action montage accompanied by a popular hit song performed by the studio's in-house recording team. In season one these songs were straight covers, however in season two the lyrics were changed, presumably to avoid copyright issues. For example the song "Freak," is a cover of "Monster Mash" that plays during the first episode of the season. For this reason later airings of season one episodes would have some of the music replaced with something else, again usually an instrumental version of "Megamove." However season two songs remain untouched even on the DVD, almost certainly because of the changes in the lyrics.

Characters:

N Team

Kevin Keene, AKA Captain N: The hero of the story. Kevin is an ordinary kid who got sucked into Videoland unexpectedly. He stays to help defeat Mother Brain and because he doesn't want to clean his room. He has a zapper for shooting things and an NES game pad that gives him special powers. Pressing the D-pad lets him move quickly in a given direction, while pressing A would let him jump high. He also frequently pauses the game. However the animators made a mistake and 99% of the time Kevin presses the Select button to pause the game. He also has a crush on Lana, much to Simon's chagrin.

Duke: When Kevin was brought to Videoland by The Ultimate Warp Zone his dog Duke got brought with him. Duke, does, well.. he does dog things I guess. He doesn't really have a significant role in the series.

Princess Lana: Princess of the Palace of Power and the ruler of Videoland, despite the fact that it is an amalgamation of dozens of independent worlds that each look after themselves. Don't sweat the details. Has a crush on Kevin, much to Simon's chagrin. I know I said this already but Simon really doesn't like it.

Simon Belmont: Hero of Castlevania. While the Simon of the video games is a fearless warrior this Simon is not. Not at all. The writers turned Simon into a comic relief character obsessed with his own ego. Not an episode goes by without Simon looking at himself in his hand mirror. He's the last one to rush into danger and the first one to run away screaming. Simon dresses like a biplane pilot with goggles and everything. He is attracted to Princess Lana. His feelings are not reciprocated. Simon also hits on any other female character that he deems to be pretty, making me question if he actually likes Lana or just tries to romance anything with a pretty face.

Megaman: A little too short and a little too green to be confused with his game counterpart, Megman's role on the team is either to be the robot or the strong guy. His role as the robot was brought up a few times in season one but in this season Gameboy takes over as the machine on the team. He's still strong though. And he sounds like he has a frog in his throat. He tends to prefix certain phrases with “Mega.” Sometimes this is tolerable while other times it's Mega-annoying. In the show he comes from a place called Megaland.

Kid Icarus: Though he's called Pit in his games, the writers named him Kid Icarus after the title of the games he's in. Though it doesn't come up in this season Kid Icarus' native game world is called Mount Icarus. Kid Icarus' show design is among the closest to his game design of the main cast. The writer's took the Kid part of his name and ran with it making him naive and childlike, at least in the episodes where he's the focus. Tends to use the suffix -icus in an attempt to sound latin.

Gameboy: A new addition to the team, Gameboy is a giant talking, well, Game Boy, who debuts in the first episode of season two, appropriately titled "Gameboy." His powers include the ability to morph his screen into various shapes and to talk like a speak-and-spell.

Mother Brain's crew

Mother Brian: The Evil Mother Brain hails from the game world of Metroid, which in this show is not a species of energy parasite but a giant brain-shaped ship. Whereas the video game version of Mother Brain never really talks, this one won't shut up. Voiced by Levi Stubbs, this brain in a jar is a living impersonation of Audrey II form Little Shop of Horrors. This is probably the only show where you'll see a disembodied brain in a jar talk about how beautiful she is. They also gave her a face, which is a pair of eyeballs and a mouth attached to what appears to be pink tissue hanging from the brain. It's both kind of unsettling and silly at the same time. I got Super Metroid as a Christmas present in 1994, but the Mother Brain in that game and the Captain N version were so different I wouldn't realize they were supposed to be the same character till years later.

Dr. Albert Wily: Nemesis of Megaman, Dr Albert Wily is Mother Brain's mad scientist. Any time something evil needs to be built he's the man for the job. Wily managed to come out looking basically the same as his game counterpart.

Eggplant Wizard: One of Mother Brain's two henchmen. Hailing from Kid Icarus he's basically a perfect transfer of his game likeness, if a little cornier. Uses magic vegetables to do basically everything. He's also big into vegetable puns. The guy knows his schtick and doesn't see any reason to branch out.

King Hippo: The other one of Mother Brain's henchmen. Hailing from Punch-Out!! he works with Eggplant Wizard to pull off schemes and provide comic relief for the villains. He's as big and round as he is in the games but here he's blue for some reason.

Recurring characters

Princess Zelda: Princess of Hyrule. Zelda was one of the main characters from the Legend of Zelda segment of the Super Mario Super Show. She appears here more or less the same save for a slight costume change.

Link: As with Zelda, Link brings the same voice actor and basic appearance with him from Super Show. Although his face has changed shape slightly. Maybe he had some work done? Does Hyrule have plastic surgeons?

Donkey Kong: Like the video game Donkey Kong we all know and love this Kong is a big gorilla. However the writers for the show paid more attention to the Kong part of the name than they needed to and turned DK into a King Kong sized ape. DK never speaks, only communicating by grunting noises.

With the basics covered we're going to get into the thirteen episodes that make up the show. We are going to cover the episodes as they appear on my old VHS tapes then swing around to the ones that we missed afterwards. This show came on Saturday mornings after a show called Camp Candy on NBC. I know this because the VHS tape would catch the end credits for Camp Candy just as it started recording. Using the power of the internet I have learned that a show called Gravedale High aired after Captain N and Mario, though I never once saw an ad for it, or Camp Candy for that matter.

Each episode would open with a short teaser telling about what was going to happen in the Captain N episode, followed by one for the second Mario show. The first Mario episode never got such a teaser, presumably because one wouldn’t have to wait long for that episode to start. After the teasers had finished the opening for the show would play. Then it was a Mario episode, Captain N, then a second Mario episode. Finally the end credits would roll.

Comments

Laniv 20th Nov 15
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/lb_i.php?lb_id=13841235770B61727900