Nathan (vovat) wrote,

Lower-Quality Adventures in Videoland

I think it's about time I turned to the final installment in the Mario and Captain N cartoon series, known as Captain N and the New Super Mario World. Yes, apparently "new" is officially part of the title, despite the fact that it's now over fifteen years old. I watched this show when it was new, but even then I realized that it was quite lacking when compared to the earlier cartoons of the same sort. And those weren't exactly masterpieces, so that's saying something. The animation was even cheaper and more lackluster than before, and the plots even seemed a bit thinner.

The Super Mario World cartoon took place in Dinosaur Land, where, for some reason, Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach Toadstool were living. Doesn't the Princess have her own kingdom to rule? Yoshi is there, but he's really annoying. I like Yoshi a lot, but I didn't care for this show's decision to make him into a bratty kid who speaks in broken English and baby talk. I think the Yoshi of the game was supposed to be an adult. I mean, he has his own house, and wrote a letter that Mario could read. Of course, there's more than one Yoshi in the game, but only one in the show. There are some other dinosaurs, though, as well as an indigenous human population that everyone calls "cave people," even though they actually live in a city of dome-shaped houses. As there's no hint of such people in the game, I don't know why they became such a central part of the cartoon. Mario and company are always trying to come up with ways to civilize them, which makes me wonder if their presence in Dinosaur Land is a Peace Corps sort of thing, or like a mission without the religion. Toad isn't in this series, supposedly because he wasn't in the game, but it's not like those cave people were either. There is a regular character named Oogtar, a badly behaved cave kid who has the same voice actor that Toad did in the earlier cartoons, but unfortunately he's sometimes even more irritating than Yoshi.

Also included in the show was the third season of Captain N, although it isn't part of the Complete Series DVD set, due to some weird legal issues making CN and SMW the same show, while I guess CN and SMB3 weren't. The season actually consisted of only seven episodes (the remaining Mario cartoons were accompanied by trimmed-down versions of episodes from the first two seasons), and they cut a lot of corners. They were shortened to half the length of the earlier cartoons in the series, only one episode featured the entire N Team, and they cut even more corners with the animation than they had before.

Fire Sale - The first episode has Kootie Pie Koopa (better known as Wendy O. Koopa, but this cartoon retained the Koopalings' alternate names from the SMB3 show) living in an ice palace with a Koopa Troopa who never talks. I always liked it when the minor enemies talked in these cartoons (even though a lot of them kind of sounded the same), so it's disappointing that most of them are silent in SMW. She decides she needs a source of heat in her frozen palace, so she and the Troopa kidnap Mama Fireplant, a Venus Fire Trap with the voice of a stereotypical Southern black lady, who provides the heat for the cave people's Dome City. Interestingly enough, the Venus Fire Trap is a SMB3 enemy that didn't make it into SMW, although there apparently were some of them in pre-release versions of the game. Mario, Luigi, the Princess, and Yoshi set out to rescue the plant, and arrive at the ice palace to find that it's melting. Gee, what a surprise! Kootie Pie apparently isn't the brightest reptile in the Mushroom World. But neither is Yoshi, whose main conflict in this episode is that he's afraid of water. Oh, come on! I'll buy that he's afraid of ghosts (a plot device that comes into play in a later episode), since he refuses to enter ghost houses, but the dinosaur has no trouble swimming. Anyway, he overcomes his fear for long enough to rescue Mama Fireplant, and...well, that's pretty much it. While none of the episodes exactly had intricate or complex plots, I do think they should have gone for something with a little more substance to use as the season premiere. Oh, well.

Misadventures in Robin Hood Woods - Haven't you always wanted to see Captain N team up with Robin Hood? No? Well, too bad, because there a game version of Prince of Thieves had just recently come out on the NES at this point, and some genius apparently thought a cartoon based on a video game based on a movie based on a legend was a good idea. Yeah, I guess they kind of did the same thing with Puss in Boots back in "Once Upon a Time Machine," but that didn't seem as out of place. Anyway, the episode starts out with Captain N, Duke, and Kid Icarus having completed a mission on Dragon's Den (which, as far as I'm concerned, would have made a MUCH better episode), and they stop by the world of Nottingham to refuel the Warp Wagon. Why a world based on medieval England would have gas pumps isn't clear, but the heroes soon find themselves face to face with the Sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John, who are taking money from a shopkeeper. (Wow, the Prince Regent actually shows up in person to collect taxes? Talk about a personal touch!) The Captain and the Kid meet up with Link (okay, it's actually Robin Hood, but he looks pretty similar to how Link appears in this series, and it doesn't help matters that Maid Marian kind of looks like Zelda), and they drive off the Sheriff and meet up with the Merry Men. It turns out that there's an archery tournament that afternoon (great timing, huh?), and the Merry Men go in disguise to compete in it. The disguises are pretty lame (Robin's is just a fake nose and a different hat), but it's kind of amusing that even Duke got into the act, showing up disguised as a poodle. The Sheriff apparently wins the tournament, yet Robin claims the prize, which doesn't make much sense. It turns out that the Sheriff and the Prince had set a trap for Robin, which involved John dressing in drag and the real Marian being trapped in a tower. She falls out the window, but Kid Icarus saves the day by firing the golden arrow that was to be the prize in the tournament, and which turns out to form a bubble around the damsel in distress. Lucky break, huh? I think this episode was a good indication as to why licensed games aren't particularly effective fodder for Captain N plots. Besides, if Kevin was really intent on foiling Prince John's misrule, why didn't he just appeal to the Princess of Videoland, who just happens to be his girlfriend? Maybe she could have found a way to get Richard back from the Crusades.

The Wheel Thing - In the first of many episodes that focus on attempts to civilize the cave people, Mario introduces wheels to them in order to make their lives easier, and soon begins producing cars for them. There are a lot of Flintstones-like tools in this episode, including a fishbone used as a saw, a Piranha Plant that bites seats out of wood, and Goombas who provide the propulsive power for the cars. They don't take to driving very well, though (Luigi, in a cheesy but somewhat amusing line, tells Mario, "Maybe you should have invented driver's education first!"), and banish the Marios to the lava pits. While they're there, Kooky von Koopa shows up with Bowser in a giant city-crushing vehicle that he calls Mega-Mechanosaur (and which runs by means of a Tyrannosaurus chasing a doll; apparently the Koopas are also largely reduced to Stone Age technology while in Dinosaur Land), so the Princess calls the Mario Brothers back, and they use various traffic obstacles to wreck Kooky's invention. I think this episode was a definite improvement over the first one for several reasons, not least of which being that it includes Bowser, and doesn't focus on Yoshi's neuroses.

In Pursuit of the Magic Hoop - This might well be the worst Captain N episode in all three seasons, and I don't say that lightly. If you thought Robin Hood didn't fit into Captain N continuity, how about Larry Bird? I don't know whether he provided his own voice, but if he didn't, why did he agree to be in Space Jam? Even the worst Captain N episode is less embarrassing than that movie. And really, while I thought Larry being in Videoland didn't work so well, he wasn't what was so bad about this episode. It takes place on a basketball-themed world called Hoopland, where Captain N, Duke, and Princess Lana were visiting for Hoop-de-doo-dah Day. And don't worry, you'll hear the word "hoop" plenty more times in this episode. The main premise of the plot (such as it is) is that a short child inventor named Hoopless, who is drawn to resemble Steve Urkel, wants to be tall, so he sends his robot Rebound to sink a ball into the magic hoop in order to grant his wish. But the robot screws up the wish, and ends up becoming a giant, rampaging killing machine. (Okay, I don't think he actually kills anyone, but it sounds more impressive that way.) This week's representatives of the N Team join Larry and Hoopless in climbing Hoop Mountain to get another wish and reduce the robot's size, and find themselves pitted against this episode's main villain, a talking scoreboard named Clockman. So, yeah, pretty lame episode. In fairness, I think Nintendo sometimes chose what games they wanted the writers to include, and I guess I should give them props for getting ANY story out of Jordan vs. Bird. I think the only good to come out of this episode was this storyline in the Captain SNES comic, which somehow managed to bring together Captain N, the Acclaim Power Force, Schoolhouse Rock, Larry Bird, Darth Vader, and Ronald Reagan in a way that actually kind of made sense.
Tags: captain n, comics, mario, television, video games, zelda
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