Tooncrap #19 - Captain Planet: The NES Game

The power is YOURS!!! to not buy this game.
Mindscape: 1992

Written by: Raymond Gallant

Oh I did say I was going to wait a year until I went after Captain Planet again, but you know, there's just so much outright failure with this character that it's almost impossible to wait. Over the years, I've beaten down on Captain Planet so many times that it feels like there's nothing left to say. The cartoon, while trying to be environmentally conscious, was still pretty awful. But I'll take awful aids cartoons, drugged blintzes, and rat people over the awful NES game any day.
That's right, there's a Captain Planet video game. And yes, it's as bad as you'd think.

In 1992, the NES was starting it's eventual slowdown in terms of releases, what with the Super Nintendo released, and many companies moving to the new console, leaving the NES with what was for the most part a lot of the lesser gaming companies sticking around. And one of those companies was Mindscape, which gave us some pretty terrible licensed games like The Terminator, Conan, Days of Thunder, and the choice of review this week, Captain Planet and the Planeteers.

You know a game is bad when even the advertisement doesn't want to show gameplay footage.

So, is this game bad, or am I just giving the cap more slack? Let's review this thing and find out.

The game doesn't start off with any version of either of the Captain Planet themes. But this weird sounding techno tune that comes off extremely muddy on an 8-bit console. The NES wasn't an audio master, but most games knew how to take what they had and could make some great chiptunes. This fart techno is definitely not one of them.
The game was developed by Chris Gray Enterprises. Not too much other information can be found on them other than that they made B.O.B, as well as the Infiltrator games.

You start each level with a mission briefing from rather derp eyed Gaia, as well was what villain you face in each of the game's levels. In the first level you're dealing with Hoggish Greedly, who's trying to drill for oil in national parks. Oh boy, we get to play as the Planeteers and kick pollution's behind. So, maybe this game is platform based, or maybe a top down action title?

Or, it can primarily be a scrolling shooter. Okay then.

The game is broken into two different gameplay styles to use both Captain Planet and the Planeteers. The Planeteer mode is a shooter where you have to fly the geocrusier and destroy any oncoming attacker in sight. And your main weapons consist of the powers of the rings like the show. Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, and heart. Yes, even Heart is an actual attack in this game.

You move the Geocruiser with the D-Pad, shoot with the A button, and can turn it around with the B button. Start cycles the weapons, while Select pauses. I've always hated games that do that. Select usually makes more sense when it comes to cycling weapons, and start is an obvious pause.

Each of the planeteer's powers do a different ability. Wheeler's fire shoots a dinky little fireball, Gi's water shoots a tiny wave that moves... in a wave (Ha). Linka's wind turns out the most useful as it acts as a shield that destroys oncoming enemies. Kwame's earth brings a rock that barely gets much momentum as it just drops. And Ma-Ti's heart ability will save animals and other creatures below you.

All in all, this would be a fun concept, if everything else bout these areas didn't suck.

The controls on the ship are annoying. The ship descends and ascends way too fast, making it easy to end up in a poor position as enemies near you. And this game's poor hit detection means that you'll be killed even if you're an inch or two above or below an enemy. And because most of the weapons are terrible, or sometimes don't even work, you'll get slaughtered before you switch to something good. And the kicker is that you get hit once and you die.

Also, the meter on the top is a shared power meter for all your abilities. And they can deplete fast, meaning that you also have to conserve the weak as is abilities you have. In the end, you're pretty much using Fire.

So, the first level is pretty basic. Try to survive all the stuff being thrown at you and defeat these three walking tanker enemies, while avoiding every shot you can. Because if you do, getting game over will be almost inevitable. Eventually you'll make it to a landing pad, and finally you can be Captain Planet.

And I will admit, this isn't a bad looking cutscene.

And there's Captain Planet in all his 8-bit glory. You move him in all directions with the D-Pad, punch with A, and transform into the element chosen with the B button. Levels pretty much break down to Captain Planet having to avoid the pollution and using the different planeteer abilities to avoid certain pollutants. Once again, the bar above is how much of it you can use, but it also doubles as your life bar, and if it runs out, then Captain Planet dies.

These levels aren't as bad as the geocruiser levels, but still lack any real fun factor to them either. You need to use the different elemental abilities to help you pass further in each stage. For example, you'll need to become a tornado with wind to get through one area, but need earth to be a boulder to break through obstacles in your way. But these will be useless if you don't have much energy to keep them used. And the game sticks a knife in your further by intentionally lowering your energy over time. You can earn energy back from power ups, as well as invincibility, but that often requires using up energy, which makes things worse.

Not to mention that it's really questionable how much damage you can take at a time, making things even more inconsistent. Also, the game offers unlimited continues and passwords to help you move forward. But even that wouldn't stop someone from throwing their controller in frustration and agony from this game. Hell, on my own, I couldn't even get past the first Captain Planet stage without finally tapping out.

Sorry Gaia, maybe you should have went with Superman or somebody more competent.

Disregard that.

So, after giving up, I watched a walkthrough by a YouTuber named AqualungGameReviews, and surprisingly things don't get much better. You'll have to drive the geocopter to shoot more enemies, as well as carry elephants with the heart power to destroy missile launchers, while avoiding all the enemies that just make the game more frustrating. Another chopper stage where you have to destroy tanker trucks before they pollute the water, a terrible sub level. As well as more awful Captain Planet stages. There are five levels, broken into two stages each, Planeteer and Captain, and they get progressively worse.

That's all there really is to say about Captain Planet and the Planeteers. It's one of the worst licensed games on the NES. Poor controls, high difficulty, and at times it gets cryptic as to what you're supposed to do. Not to mention horrible sound and graphics (save for the whole transformation scene, which does look okay). I bought this game for cheap once many years ago, and it was one of the worst experiences in gaming I ever had. And revisiting it just shows much much worse it got. But then again, I should have known a crap cartoon would get a crap game.

And when you sit down and think about it. Considering that this game was made out of biodegradable plastic, and lord knows what other pollutants were involved in making it, it feels rather hypocritical that this "environmentally conscious" game even exists. And even more ironic is most likely many copies of this game are in landfills where they rightfully belong.