Pilot One-Offs: Captain N the Game Master
As people should know Captain N: The Game Master is my favourite video-game based cartoon show. This is evident from the fact that a whole section of my blog is devoted to it. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything related to the show, so I decided it would be fun to point out a few elements that were only ever seen in the series’ pilot.
These are what I call “Pilot One-Offs”, elements of the show presented in the very first (pilot) episode of a series but either ignored or simply omitted in the rest of the series. In some cases pilots of shows can be quite drastically different (“The Cage”, Star Trek) but especially in the case of cartoons, the pilots are usually aired as regular episodes regardless of any discontinuity they might cause.
The pilot episode of Captain N is “Kevin in Videoland”. The episode itself doesn’t contain anything too drastically different from the rest of the show, but there are a few really funny powers shown by Kevin that never really appear later in the series.
At the start of the episode, a big deal is made about Mother Brain holding the Palace of Power besieged (“for 3 long years”). This is also enforced by the display of Mother Brain’s forces marching around the palace. These include an array of random Metroid baddies as well as some generic monsters.
What’s ironic is that these soldiers are almost never seen again after the pilot. It’s never explained where they went after the pilot, if Kevin and company chased them off after rescuing Lana during the episode. In fact, most times Mother Brain gets by simply with the help of King Hippo, Eggplant Wizard, Dr. Wily and whatever villain of the day happens to join forces with her. Seems terribly inefficient considering that she has a whole army at her command.
When I said that we almost never see Mother Brain’s lackeys, there are two episodes which form an exception. We see the random Metroid guards in “Mega Trouble in Megaland”. We finally see a glimpse of the Metroid army in full force in “Metroid, Sweet Metroid” where Kevin is tricked into handing over his power-pad, thinking that he’s going home, and Mother Brain over-runs Videoland. However, we never see Mother Brain command a large force in any future episode (with the possible exception of “The Invasion of the Paper Pedallers” where he zombifies the whole neighbourhood from Paper Boy).
Kevin’s ability to pause time and space would have been useful in way more episodes than where it was actually used. You have to really wonder if Kevin just conveniently forgets that he has this power in each episode. In that regard, what Kevin can and can’t pause is also a little loosely defined. However, in episodes past “Kevin in Videoland”, Kevin’s pause works on friend and foe alike with Kevin only displaying any immunity to it (except when Cyborg Mike Vincent pauses the N-Team in “The Most Deadly Game Master”).
Kevin’s pause ability is quite fluid in its effects in the first episode. When Simon, Mega Man and Kid Icarus start fighting half-way through the episode, he’s able to pause them but he and Duke have immunity while Kevin comments on the N-Team’s incapability to work together. Later, when the team is running away from Donkey Kong, Kevin pauses some boulders shooting out from a volcano, but doesn’t pause any of the N-Team members. This is the only time when Kevin pauses something and someone other than himself is immune to the pause’s effects, although when Kevin used the ability in “Mr & Mrs Mother Brain”, Lana was still able to talk to him despite being paused.
One thing that is, ironically, consistent with the rest of the series is that Kevin always pushes the wrong button to pause (Select, whereas in most Nintendo games it was Start).
After Kevin’s first pause episode, Simon pulls out a map of video-land. This map is not seen again until “Mr & Mrs Mother Brain”. It’s interesting to note that all the worlds on the map do seem to roughly equate to the locations of the worlds as shown during the show’s intro, although on Simon’s map they are all simply represented as balls with letters in them.
What’s more impressive that Simon can have a flat two-dimensional map of Videoland which is (presumably) a three-dimensional multiverse of different worlds is that the heroes take a completely pointless detour through Kongoland before heading for Metroid. However, we can definitely pin this one on Simon being a complete moron, since he later jumps into the wrong warp zone on Metroid as well. However, the N Team rarely seems to be in need to check routes and just know which Warp Zones to jump into.
This episode does however confirm that it’s actually possible to travel between different worlds in Videoland through means other than warp-zones, although this is also confirmed with the presence of the Warp Wagon later in the series.
This one is definitely never repeated in any future episode. While running away from Donkey Kong, Kevin briefly turns into a small ball of light and zips off. This power is obviously the morph ball from Metroid as used by the game’s protagonist Samus Aran.
However, its usage here is oddly out-of-place considering the lore rules of Captain N. Now yes, Kevin definitely displays unusual abilities whenever he uses his power-pad in different game-worlds. Sometimes hitting B allows him to shoot more accurately or with more power and sometimes hitting A allows him to hop effortlessly across platforms or high up into the air.
However, since Kevin only displays these abilities in their respective game-worlds, it can deduced that Kevin’s power pad operates similarly to the context-sensitive buttons in Conker’s Bad Fur Day, their effect being directly related to the “game” (situation/context) Kevin is playing. Which is why the morph ball appears oddly out-of-place, since Kevin is in Kongoland and not Metroid when he uses it.
If you’ve ever wondered what that extra row of green buttons on top of Kevin’s power pad is, the pilot is the only episode that ever delves into the matter. Both Kevin’s Zapper and Power Pad only have a limited amount of energy. Kevin realises this when he finally faces off against Mother Brain at the end and notices that his Zapper is not working.
Kevin running out of energy is an interesting plot point but also, sadly, one that is never really explored in any future episodes. It seems the episode writers felt it was just a hassle to keep reminding the audience of how much energy Kevin had left and instead chose to ignore this little tidbit.
Also, the episode never bothers to explain how Kevin was supposed to regain his energy in time for the next episode, another element the writers thought was more hassle to write about in-depth from episode to episode. I do wish it would have been explored more, but then again, it would have made too many things rely solely on Kevin’s abilities, whereas the charm of the show in my view was always in the way the characters work as a team.