Celebrating 25 Years of Captain N: The Game Master

Did you know? This week marked the 25th anniversary of Captain N: The Game Master, which means it also marks the first appearance of the Blue Bomber in an animated television series... even though he was looking a bit more green than blue this time out.

The series debuted September 9th, 1989 on NBC's Saturday morning lineup, and ran for three seasons. However, its road began earlier than that, from roughly two different points.

On one side, there was Captain Nintendo: A text story by Nintendo of America employee Randy Studdard, published across two parts in the November/December 1988 and January/February 1989 issues of Nintendo Power magazine. Studdard recalls his experiences at Nintendo Player.

The story involved a Nintendo employee who, through a freak accident, became infused with a new type of microchip that gave him the ability to manipulate various forms of light. He could also bring video game heroes such as Link to life to help him combat the recently-emerged Mother Brain, who could do the same with foes like Ganon.

On the other side, an artist named Fil Barlow worked with DiC Entertainment Executive Producer Richard Raynis to develop an animated production based on Nintendo video games. Before the idea of Captain N(intendo) crossed their desks, they put together a pitch for "Buddy Boy," a wackier, more comedic concept which nonetheless still featured Mega Man-- and his family! --as a main character.

"Lower Left shows Megaman's family, his Megamum, Megadad, Megabird and even Megarat. Megaman was more of a boy, a reflection of Buddy in the Game World."

This is also where the "green" Mega Man came from. Barlow explains (in the description and throughout the comments):

"As I explained to in the above comments I honestly thought Megaman was green, I was played the game for [one] night on a small TV. I had to rely on memory when I did the color for this pitch art. HOWEVER it proves the point that NO ONE in the production who came after me played the game and corrected his coloring. This includes the colorist and all of Executives from DIC and NINTENDO who were supposed to at least know their own franchise! Beyond the pitch art I had no control over the character's colors. I hope this solves your confusion."
"Basically Nintendo approached DiC back in 1989 to do an animated show based on any of their games. My boss Richard Raynis picked Buddy Boy as the hero of the show and I helped him develop ideas and characters from there. I was laid off from DiC by management above Richard as part of the yearly seasonal layoffs (I was the last artist left and had only been retained to work on the pitch art). My working Visa was attached to DiC so I had to leave the USA. I was in Australia while the show was developed into Captain N, I wasn't involved, although my character designs for Buddy Boy were reused by other artists."
"Megaman's parents were just the Incredibles idea ahead of it's time, they were once heroes, who had gotten out of shape. I wanted to base all of the character and creature designs of the games, that was the whole challenge for me."
"When I prepared this pitch there was no information on the existence of Roll, plus I couldn't finish the game, especially not in one night, I also didn't have the skill required. If Nintendo had presented me with any screen art I would have faithfully designed and included them."
"Who is 'they'? There was only me, and no back story to Megaman ... nada! Nintendo just dropped games off at the DiC offices and we had nothing more to work off. I was flying blind back in 1989."
"Trust me, if I had been presented with any conceptual information I would have kept to it faithfully, but Nintendo never supplied any so I made up the idea of Megaman having a mega-family, cos I thought it was funny."
"To put it in perspective, I had less than a couple of weeks to do the art posted here. I was the last artist to be seasonally laid off by DiC. Once fired my working Visa was terminated and I had to leave the country. I had one night to play the games and no further contact with the material, including the manuals. I had no idea who was involved in the making of the games, and I didn't know the name Capcom back then, but I wasn't in any position of authority to contact the clients at Nintendo. If anything it's surprising how much I got right, considering."

There is more he discusses in the comments of his deviantART post, if you'd care to read, but naturally, these excerpts were selected for their relevance to Mega Man.

On that note, for your viewing pleasure, here is the pilot and a few episodes which, of course, focused on our green Blue Bomber.

In the first episode, average gaming teenager Kevin Keene is summoned to Video Land by the Ultimate Warp Zone, where he must form the N-Team with Mega Man and other heroes to save Princess Lana from Mother Brain and her minions.

In this second of two parts (which recaps the first), Captain N, Duke, Lana, and Mega Man go on the offensive in Megaland against Dr. Wily and the Mega Man 1 set of Robot Masters.

It's Mega Man's birthday, but he's feeling... not much of anything, really. His lack of humanity is getting to him, and not even the introduction of a Mega sister named Mega Girl by Dr. Wright (as per the original manual) is enough to get him out of his deep blue... er, green funk. But it turns out there's a way he can make his wish come true...

Several of Kevin's friends are warped to the world of California Games, where they join with the N-Team to face off against the Mega Man 2 Robot Masters for control of Video Land. See if you can spot the reference to the abandoned Item #4/Sniper Armor concept!

Finally, in one of the last episodes from the third season (whose budget and running time were cut considerably in favor of more Saved by the Bell-styled fare on the network), we get a glimpse of Mega Man 3, including Drs. Wright and Wily working together to create a giant peace-keeping robot... that Wily plans to steal, naturally.

Do you have any favorite episodes or moments, or even just a typically wild design you really like from the show? Share your thoughts and/or memories of the cartoon in the comments below!