We all know full-well that licensing with regards to older shows can be a bit of a pain in the butt. Such is the case with classic cartoons from the 80's and 90's. In particular we have already watched Captain N: The Game Master on DVD as a "Complete Series". However, the set was anything but complete though due to licensing restrictions the remaining episodes were lumped together with The New Super Mario World show. Thankfully Shout Factory has gone the extra mile to obtain the rights to publish both series and fans of Captain N can finally have a complete collection.
In case you aren't familiar with Captain N let me fill you in. Back in the day when Nintendo dominated the gaming market and was taking the world by storm the American conglomerate was looking for a way to spread their wings. They wanted to get on the cartoon bandwagon and join the plethora of other shows marking their product to kids across the country with blocks of animation.
Rather than focus on one series in particular like Mario Brothers or Legend of Zelda, Captain N took a look at the Nintendo universe. The premise revolve around your average teenage gamer of the time period, Kevin Keene, being sucked into his television with nothing but his trusty dog Duke and a Zapper gun. Once there he is heralded as the hero of the land and joined forces with Kid Icarus, Mega Man, Simon Belmont, Game Boy (yes, that's right; a Game Boy), and animated hotty Princess Lana. Together they fought for justice against the oppressive Mother Brain and her cronies such as the Eggplant Wizard and King Hippo.
Kevin's adventures took him throughout many of the realms of Nintendo's franchises and it really made liberal use of the licenses. The fact that so many characters from so many different games were tossed together was one thing but add to that the ability to travel between worlds and you have one shameless plug after another. When I was younger I used to sit, transfixed and entertained by the program but now I have to admit that the luster has worn off. I can see Captain N for what it was and only by shutting my brain off at the door was I able to appreciate it on some level. It was a simplistic, goofy, and shameless show that gamers today may want to check out if only for the fact that you can have a good laugh.
Now, around the same time period another Nintendo show was released and in many ways it was shown with Captain N. The New Super Mario World was a shameless marking ploy to capitalize on the popularity of the Mario character and then recently released game for the Super Nintendo. The series took place in Dinosaur land where Yoshi lived though oddly enough the rest of the population was cavemen rather than other dinosaurs. As you'd imagine the series featured the likes of Mario, Luigi, and Princess Toadstool fighting to save themselves and other people from the Koopas.
By today's standards neither show would win any awards for quality writing, animation, or voice acting though they are entertaining enough to revisit. There's a certain sense of nostalgia that comes from taking a trip back in time to watch these series and finally having them all on DVD is certainly a nice thing. Considering these shows were basically categorized together and as such Shout Factory had to release them that way there are a few surprises on this release.
For starters the last seven episodes of Captain N are featured across these two discs. Considering these adventures were at the tale end of the show's run I do have to say that their quality suffers immensely. Of the seven only two were what I'd consider to be good. The best of which was the final episode, "The Fracture Fantasy of Captain N". In that particular episode we got to see the world of Final Fantasy as the crew meets up with Matoya the Witch. It's kind of funny how the last episode of the show offered the most promise though I did appreciate "Return to Castlevania" because it featured Dracula and a plot that revolved around Simon and Kevin.
Now, Super Mario World only ran for one season and had thirteen episodes to call its own; all of which are presented here. The series was a definite step up in quality from Captain N and in many ways it felt as good or better than prior Mario cartoons. With episodes like "Mama Luigi", "Rock TV", and "King Scoopa Koopa" the show seemed to have a little more focus than its counterpart on these DVDs. This series itself was a shameless promotion though watching both side by side showcased the differences in quality. Shout Factory has included a nice way of watching these shows and from the main menu you'll be able to select whether or not you want to watch Captain N, Super Mario World, or both together. This way if you just want to catch the adventures of Mario you can skip Kevin's whacky world or vice versa.
If you grew up watching both of these shows or you have already purchased the first Captain N DVD release and enjoyed it you'll want to check this one out. I'm not going to beat around the bush and say that the shows were great or ahead of their time because quite frankly they weren't. However, they serve as a fun way to look at a part of video game history and if you were ever a Nintendo fanboy or ate Zelda cereal you'll enjoy yourself just enough to warrant checking out this release. It toes the fine line between buying and renting it and in the end that decision is up to how much you feel you'll appreciate it. With the quality that is presented in these episodes I do have admit that I'm leaning towards a rental suggestion.
Captain N and The New Super Mario World is presented with its original full frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It's not surprising in the least since this is the expected output for a pair of series from the 80's and very early 90's. As far as the quality of the video is concerned it holds up fairly well considering the age but there are some problems that could most likely be attributed to the source. There is quite a bit of grain in every scene, dirt permeates the transfer, and the image is faded with a washed out appearance. It looks like no attempt was made to clean up the picture and that's really a shame after seeing the efforts put out by other publishers such as BCI. I do have admit that The New Super Mario World fairs a little better than the Captain N segments but even then they aren't the best. This presentation is undoubtedly better for fans than trying to watch beat up VHS tapes and is comparable to the first DVD release.
The audio for both of these shows come in the form of a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo English track. The presence on the soundstage is decent for a show of this age but as you'd expect there is limited range and not a lot of diversity. The quality of the audio has remained intact but it's roughly on par with the video presentation. There are a fair amount of muted moments and some noise here and there. It's not "bad" by the standards of shows from this time period but it doesn't sound as crisp as it should. No subtitles are included.
The first disc of this release contains a storyboard sequence for the opening titles of both shows. They're fun to check out but the artwork is very crude and there is process shown to how it became animated. The second disc includes a few black and white Yoshi design sketches with some random clips of animation thrown in for good measure.
Now that Captain N: The Game Master is complete and Super Mario World has been released gamers can finally settle in for a silly trip back in time. Both shows are a throwback to the days when shameless commercialization drove children's programming. The result was a fun and irreverent pairing of shows that entertained more than they impressed. The quality all around is relatively low and in order to appreciate both series you truly need to leave your brain at the door. However, if you can do that you'll find something iconic from the gaming industry's younger days. This release is at least worth a rental though some people will find more mileage out of the series than others.
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