Posts Tagged ‘television’

A Different Kind of Retro

Hey RGB Fans, I wish I could tell you that I was taking all this time to craft some AWESOME review of Breath of Fire or any other game but that is not the case. Actually, most of my time has been taken up with the twins that my wife and I just had 3 weeks ago. When you add them to our current family, that is 5 kiddos to take care of which takes a LOT of time. I simply have not had much time to devote to powering through Breath Of Fire. I will get there though. Instead, I have been into a different kind of retro… retro Sci-Fi.

You see, the RGB did not begin life as a nerd, it was a gradual process. One of the primary executors of that purpose was my brother, Walt, a bonafide nerd through and through. When I was about 7 years old, my brother was concerned that I was not reading enough books or listening to stories beyond my TV. He would come home late at night after working his fingers to a pulp at Pizza Inn and would read to me. Sometimes he would read short stories such as those in various collections. At one time, he read through the first three books of the Chronicles of Narnia with me over a multi-month span. But one thing that always amazed me was his collection of Doctor Who books which he coveted and displayed on a broad bookshelf in his room.

By freak chance, one day I asked him if he would read one of the books to me, I was probably 8 or 9. He agreed to do so and selected “Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster” which was an interesting take on the classic Loch Ness myth. In this story, some aliens called the ‘Zygons’ created a spaceship designed to look like the famous mythical creature and used it to terrorize the people. Eventually, the doctor breaks the machine and stops the Zygons. I was hooked! My brother read other stories and introduced me to such great characters as K-9 (whom my brother could do a perfect impression of when reading his lines from the books), at an early age, my brother fostered a love for Doctor Who within me.

In time, my brother introduced me to his friend Justin who had a HUGE TARDIS bookshelf in his house that, once opened, held over 100 VHS tapes of Doctor Who that Justin had either recorded from the American airing of the show or had convinced a friend in the UK to tape and mail to him. It was like a crack house to me. EVERY time Walt went over to Justin’s, I would go over there and ‘rent’ a few of his Doctor Who tapes. I watched a decent supply of Tom Baker era all the way up to Logopolis/Castrovalva. I also watched a few of the Jon Pertwee episodes, at least those that Justin had. I attempted to watch a Patrick Troughton episode but since it was black and white and low quality, I didn’t really get into as much.

Eventually, my brother realized that he had gotten his little brother quite addicted to Doctor Who over a 3 year time frame. Reading books from Doctor Who was a common occurrence, I even read a few myself… or at least I tried. We would have occasional weekends where I would actually hang out with my brother and watch several episodes at a time. On one occasion, we finished the entire “Key To Time” series (The Ribos Operation, The Pirate Planet, The Stones of Blood, The Androids of Tara, The Power of Kroll, and The Armageddon Factor) in a single weekend. If my brother wanted to go to Tulsa, OK (the nearest big city to our hometown) I would beg to with him and bring money so I could buy Doctor Who books with my allowance!

I wish I could say that I stayed a fan of the series but when I got older, my brother moved away, and I had girls and anime to catch my attention, I lost sight of Doctor Who. Fast forward to 2005, I live in OKC and have a wife of my own and the series of my youth is rebooted with Chris Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor. I worked a night job at Cox Communications at that time and couldn’t be home many nights when the show premiered. In those days, we didn’t have DVR as prevalent so I ended up trying to record a few on my VCR. Sadly, I never really got started again because I missed too many episodes and it was virtually impossible to catch the recordings. So my love quieted again.

Well… TIMES HAVE CHANGED! I found that Doctor Who’s new seasons are out on Netflix and I have been trying to watch 1 or 2 episodes a night. I also got a membership to Hulu Plus because I discovered that they have almost all of the old Doctor Who series (now called “Classic Doctor Who”) available… even the almost extinct second doctor stories. Friend, my Doctor Who sickness is in full effect. This weekend I got enough time to watch the first episode of the Ribos Operation on Hulu Plus… it was like visiting my old friends that I hadn’t seen in a long time. Yeah… you could say I am a little obsessed! I am reading up on all the old doctors, learning about the sad fate of the Seventh Doctor and the short lived video career of the Eighth Doctor. I read some of the details about the darker days of Tom Baker including his failed marriage to Lalla Ward and his bizarre way of making The Doctor more and more haggard as the time went on to match his own life, etc. I read about the brashness and very insane period of the Sixth Doctor, Collin Baker (no relation to Tom) who was the most garish and insane Doctor in the whole series, etc. It’s amazing how much I still remember about the series and some of the main villains (the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Master, etc.) when my last exposure was over 20 years ago.

So why am I suddenly watching old television shows instead of plowing through retro games? Well let me ask you this. Have you ever tried holding a controller and playing a game while also holding one to two infant children? I have! It didn’t work very well. I can barely operate a mouse while feeding a baby a bottle. What about trying to play games while you have a baby trying to go back to sleep in your arms? Forget it! You know what I CAN do, though? Hold my iPad, fire up Netflix, plug in my headphones and visit the Ninth Doctor or the other doctors by firing up Hulu Plus. As a result, I suspect that I will be watching a lot of Doctor who over the next few months.

So what does this mean for my blog? Well, not a whole lot. It just means that I might not have a lot of content of a retro gaming nature to report. Could I talk about Doctor Who? Well, it IS my blog and I could certainly fill a few posts about it but should I since this is about retro games? The answer is probably not. I have found too many blogs try to over-extend themselves in order to discuss a broader range of topics. If I talked about Sci-Fi movies with no gaming tie-ins, it could dilute the blog and I want to avoid that.

All that being said, enjoy the downtime and I will post new content as soon as I have something good to post!

Captain N Pt. 1 – The Good Guys

It has been a while since I last posted and I apologize, the world was a very busy place and then I fell head-first into the holidays and am still barely recovered but c ‘est la vie!

 So here we are in the wonderful late 1980’s and early1990’s, the US Economy is booming thanks to the Technology Explosion (the bubble has not been popped when this show hits). Starbucks is becoming well known for its coffee in major metro areas but is still a far cry from the daily staple it is now. A new generation of latchkey kids has emerged but they are rarely children of a single working parent who can’t be there with them because she works two jobs just to keep the family fed. No, this generation is the kids whose parents are too busy working 12 hour days because they WANT to. By this time, the Nintendo has grabbed hold of the attention of US gamers by the gazillions and a child without an NES is a sad child indeed. Their life is spent dealing with parents who don’t understand why they want to sit in front of a TV and push buttons on a controller instead of going outside to play but the world inside the game is much more interesting to them. In fact, the world is captivating to them! So the amazingly talented marketing team of Nintendo America comes up with a way to fuel the fire. Create a cartoon that fulfills every 90’s boy’s dream – to be sucked into the video game instead of having to clean their room!

The concept is raved about by folks in the USA but Nintendo of Japan is nursing wounds from being beaten up by game developers such as Konami or Capcom because of how the licensing for games and the subsequent royalties of said games are to be disbursed. The end result is that anything Nintendo corporation as a whole owned rights to could be used but although the names of game characters could be used, their actual likeness could not be identical to the likeness included on video games that were not created wholly by Nintendo. The final result… Captain N, the Game Master!

Captain N is actually a cool nickname given to a one, Kevin Keene, who lives in the wealthy suburb of Northridge in Los Angeles, California. He is the essence of the valley boy and looks like he would fit better as a character in Saved By the Bell. However Kevin is a different breed of valley boy. Sure, he might have the letter jacket (evidently from being awesome on the swim team) but he loves video games and has played MORE VIDEO GAMES THAN ANYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD. Because of his amazing knack for video games, he is summoned to Videoland, a world where Nintendo characters are very real and a Nintendo Zapper will blast away baddies like it’s nobody’s business. To make him even cooler, his Golden Retreiver Duke gets sucked in too (but Duke has a black circle over his eye when animated and the live version of Duke does not). He is armed with a nintendo game pad on his belt buckle (How’s THAT for a utility belt Batman?) and can do amazing things like pause the world, move at super speeds and various other cool Nintendo things. All while having his trusty dog at his side saving his bacon from time to time.

When Kevin first visits the world, he is greeted by the gorgeous (but rather ditzy) Princess Lana and this is where the character strangeness begins. If you look for Lana in any video game on the NES, she won’t be there. However, she bears a striking resmblence to a more humanized Princess Peach (who was, at this time, only known as Princess Toadstool… so her name COULD have been Lana…) but also has some characteristics similar to Princess Zelda. You see, Peach was already taken by Mario and appeared in the Super Mario Bros. Super Show which aired nearby and on the Friday shows of SMBSS you would get to watch an episode of Zelda instead of Mario brothers so Lana ends up becoming a mashup of every princess cliché known far and wide. She is a weird mixture of Girl Power in and Damsel in Distress with some instances where she appears relentlessly ditzy and can barely take care of herself, much less her kingdom then appearing to be a firm and devoted leader to the people of Videoland at others. As the story progresses, Lana becomes a bit more sure of herself and, as you would expect, falls head over heals for Kevin, the Nintendo game world equivalent of a super knight. This draws much ire from the next character in the good guy gaggle… Simon Belmont.

Now, I don’t know if I played a different game than you did but when I look at Simon in the actual Castlevania games, he looks more like a half dressed barbarian than this guy. I mean… I think THIS Simon belongs in California with Kevin. This is actually intentional because any retro gamer knows that the Castlevania franchise is owned by Konami. So Nintendo was forced to make this Simon ‘similar’ to the one in the games but having to look completely different in order to be legal. In the show he is a darkly tanned, narcissistic, hopeless romantic that is madly in love with Princess Lana. Even though he professes his love for her on countless occasions, she is… of course… completely taken by Captain N. You know how these princesses are, they always want someone who doesn’t live in their country to be their man. Much like the character of the video game, Simon does actually use the trademark leather whip as his character in the game uses but the whip sometimes acts like a character of its own by moving without warning and sometimes wrapping Simon up inside it. Even so, Simon proves his capability with the whip is quite high and saves the day on numerous occasions. He never does get the Princess though. On a few occasions you get to see Simon face his arch-nemesis, Dracula. But I can’t take Drac seriously since he is wearing a bright yellow leisure suit and looks like more like those cardboard cutout vampires you see at Halloween time than the real Dracula… of course, Konami owned rights to their version of Dracula too.

Next up comes Pit, aka Kid Icarus. You will remember this dude from one of the first Nintendo games where he flies about the world shooting baddies with his arrows and eventually saves the entire world from evil. However, the 8-bit representation of this character is much cooler than Pit in the series. Just look at the poor guy! He’s very feminine and wears white Mickey Mouse gloves with sandals and a toga. As if that wasn’t making Pit even less cool than before, the producers of the show decided to make him say “icus” after EVERY sentence. Example: “Holy cow! We have to fight Donkey Kong-icus! That’s impossiblicus!” I can’t make up diaglogue this bad! The conspiracy to make Pit seem like a wussy boy is worsened by the fact that in one particular episode, the crux of the story lies on how unimportant and useless he feels and how he is made to feel better by an arrow maker. Despite his apparent wussiness, Pit can fire some mad arrows at baddies and being able to fly comes in really handy at times.

Rounding out the main good guy group is this guy… No, he’s not some weird Dig Dug character or anything like that. He’s actually… ahem… Megaman. I will pause while you scream “FAIL” at the top of your lungs… done? Good! Any way, this is the single worst example of Nintendo’s licensing issues on characters. The totally awesome blue guy we know and love from the series that now has its own cult following is owned 100% by Capcom. When attempting to create the series, Nintendo wanted to use the blue guy and was harshly told “No”. The Capcom folks would let Megaman appear only if he was completely the opposite of the real Megaman and since he was the epitome of awesome, Megaman in this series is the epitome of loser. He is GREEN instead of blue because the blue version was too similar to the megaman in the games. Also, the real Megaman is about the size of a normal human being in most of the commercial art both past and present so they made this Megaman a dwarf. Yup… he’s…like… 3 feet tall at best. Furthermore, although Megaman had never actually been given a voice in the games to this point and didn’t actually get any kind of voice until around the PS2 and Gameboy Advance era (it was financially and technically impossible in those days) he is usually depicted as sounding something like a young teenager. Not THIS Megaman… nope… he reminds me of the character on South Park who speaks through a cancer harp (hole in the throat) with a very monotone and downright gross sounding voice, I wonder if this character smoked 4 packs of smokes a day while filming the show. Oh… and since Pit has to say ‘-icus’ AFTER everything he says, they make Megaman START everything he says with the words (*cringe*) Mega… In fact, in the opening sequence of the series, the camera pans over Megaworld and you here the starkly monotone words “Mega-Hi!” when we see Megaman. In countless diaglogue, we actually hear Megaman say something like “This is MEGA-bad news!” and Pit responds with “It really is bad-icus!” (I cry). However, despite his horrific voice, Megaman does have the ability to shoot stuff with his gun but due to licensing issues, it is not a gun-arm like we know but rather small projectile shooters (those little diamonds on his glvoes) that shoot his trademark white ball pellet gun. Making an unexpected appearance in the show later on, is a character named Megagirl who is clealry the Captain N variation of Roll. Again, she looks like a dwarf (only pink instead of sea green) but only appears in one episode. Also, Megaman does get other powers throughout the series but unlike the Megaman series of games, he just uses the robot masters’ weapons by throwing them back at them… being able to actually USE those powers would be too close for Capcom to approve.

Halfway through the second season of Captain N, Nintendo was trying desperately to launch their first portable device, the iconic “Gameboy” which was the precursor to a modern Nintendo DS. By this point, every video game playing kid was hooked on watching Captain N every time it was on so why not include the Gameboy? So here he is as a supporting character. But if you watch the episode that this guy first appeared in, you wonder if Nintendo was trying to make the Gameboy UNPOPULAR instead. In his first appearance, the Gameboy almost gets the N Team killed THREE times because he is a raving lunatic. For whatever reason, he was popular enough to keep so he remained but about all I ever saw him do was be a pretty bizzarre surfboard for the team and occasionally work like a ‘super computer’ to do technological things. Even so, I would often choose not to watch episodes which featured him because he was annoying. He also uses a weird high pitched synth-voice which makes it hard to listen to him at all. Thus rounds out our famous N Team! Of course, other NES staples such as Dr. Right (Light), and even the cool Bayou Billy from the under-appreciated NES game “The Adventures of Bayou Billy” with Link from Zelda appearing (after the SMBSS/Zelda block was not as popular).

With all these Good Guys around, what about the enemies? Who are they fighting? And… what did I think of the show? Well, I shall post follow ups to describe those things.