Captain Planet and the Planeteers

Captain Planet and the Planeteers USA Captain Planet and the Planeteers NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotDeveloper:
 Chris Grey Enterprises

Released: August 1991
US Cartridge ID: NES-5C-USA

Players:  1
Genre: Action-Platform
Supported Peripherals: Controller

ROM Size: 2 megabit
Mapper: MMC3 (128k PRG, 128k CHR)

Requires Flash10

Captain Planet and the Planeteers, the wildly popular cartoon series from the 1990s, succeeded in selling its left wing environmentalist agenda to kids by disguising itself as an exciting and well-produced sci-fi superhero adventure. BasedCaptain Planet and the Planeteers USA 001 256x224 Captain Planet and the Planeteers NES Nintendo Review Screenshot on the first season of the television show, Captain Planet and the Planeteers for the NES closely mirrors the story of its politically motivated Saturday morning counterpart: Gaia, the spirit of Earth, can no longer protect the Earth with her powers alone. She sends forth five elemental rings, each capable of imbuing their bearers with the ability to harness the element’s power.   The recipients of these rings are teenagers from remote corners of the world. Becoming Planeteers, Kwame, Wheeler, Linka, Gi, and Ma-Ti fight to save the earth from its inevitable destruction, driven by the memories they carry of environmental disasters they’ve suffered in their home countries. Individually they are capable and strong, but by combining all five powers, the Planeteers can summon Captain Planet, the superhuman enemy to pollution and global warming.

Captain Planet’s eponymous NES title pits the intrepid group of teenagers against Captain Planet’s arch-nemesis, Duke Nukem (not Apogee’s foul mouthed PC game protagonist of the same name), seeking to foil his insidious plan to destroy the earth with a nuclear-powered CFC production plant. Before the final showdown, however, the Planeteers must take on Hoggish Greedly, responsible for an oil refinery and the illegal poaching of dolphins; Dr. Blight, who has hacked a federal computer in order to turn Yellowstone into a toxic waste dump; and Looten Plunder,Captain Planet and the Planeteers USA 062 256x224 Captain Planet and the Planeteers NES Nintendo Review Screenshot
a madman slaughtering African elephants for ivory. The adventure takes place over five levels, each following the shows episodic format: the first half of each level involves navigating the Planeteers’ eco-friendly vehicles through dangerous environs while using the rings’ elemental powers to put a stop to the evil acts. Once completing the objective, the teenagers combine their powers to bring forth Captain Planet, who flies through the offending maze-like facility, searching for those responsible.

Alternating stage types do their best to keep the action fresh, but both are poorly done. The vehicle stages resemble side-scrolling shooters like Gradius and Silver
, but are hampered by awful hit detection, slow-to-respond vehicle controls, impossibly narrow corridors, and hazards that are unavoidable unless their locations have already been memorized. Captain Planet’s factory maze stages don’t fare much better; trial-and-error “puzzles” involve the Captain using his powers both to destroy obstacles and to avoid toxic waste (his kryptonite – it’s Captain Planet and the Planeteers USA 245 256x224 Captain Planet and the Planeteers NES Nintendo Review Screenshotcapable of killing him instantly). There are no distinguishable points of reference in these mazes, meaning that players will aimlessly search the same places over and over again in search of the boss, and the awkward, loose controls will send the superhero unexpectedly careening into lethal enemies and traps. Both level types also suffer from the lack of balancing stemming from the superpower mechanic. The start button cycles through usable powers, but the game does not pause while the player makes their choice, meaning that lives will typically be lost while attempting to find the right power. Furthermore, every time an elemental power is used, its required power is drawn directly from the life gauge. Since each level specifically requires the use of multiple powers, the player will rarely have much life, leaving them susceptible to one-hit deaths.

Captain Planet and the Planeteers‘ graphics are a relative strength, featuring well animated, easily recognizable sprites. Unfortunately, most of the sprite work is displayed over nondescript, repetitively tiled backgrounds that appear grainy due to the huge amounts of color dithering present. Plot driving cutscenes between stages feature respectable portraits of the show’s characters, and Captain Planet’s Captain Planet and the Planeteers USA 281 256x224 Captain Planet and the Planeteers NES Nintendo Review Screenshotappearance in each level is marked by a nicely animated cinematic.  The sound is terrible, featuring beepy music that loops incessantly, and the sound effects consist solely of white noise played at different pitches.

Captain Planet‘s unreliable controls, confusing stage objectives, awful sound design, and reliance on trial-and-error gameplay make this a frustrating and boring game,  ensuring that even the most diehard fans of Captain Planet and the Planeteers will have difficulty sticking with this one through the end.

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Mindscape, 8/1990