Captain Planet and the Planeteers (1992)
I’ve done it, ladies and gentlemen. I’ve gone green. Seriously, I now have a green bin to maintain these days, alongside two other wheelie bins. And knowing what to put in each bin is always a headache, because you can’t just throw anything you want into the green bin and then feel good about yourself later, oh no.
I’ve come to learn that not everything can be recycled. I even learned just the other day about soft plastics and hard plastics. Now, what on earth? It’s just another way that the Green Party slows you down. The Green Party indeed, or the Headache Party as I call them. You must never vote for them. An Irish politician once said that, if the Green Party had their way, we’d all been going to work on ass and carts, and I’d have to agree with that.
They always clamp themselves on to a majority government like a barnacle anytime there’s even a slight chance that they’ll get into power. And when they do, you better believe that you’ll be paying more car tax, you’ll pay more alcohol at home, not to mention your house and heating bills. Even if you try to give something back, any kind of recycling is just going to be an absolute headache.
I like to think I have some in-depth personal knowledge of the Green Party, as well as some of the people that have joined the party, those do-gooders who like to pat themselves on the back. It’s just a load of middle class morality, you know, people who’ve made it in life but have nothing better to do in their lives, because they already live in an area with absolutely no anti-social behaviour. Bored housewives, you know how it is.
I think the problem with the Green Party is that a lot of them probably watched Captain Planet and the Planeteers on TV when they were when they were young kids, which brought plenty of its own problems. God, you had some properly cool cartoons on TV around the late 1980s into the early 1990s, the obvious candidates being Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, He-Man and M.A.S.K.
But Captain Planet could never be allowed to join a pantheon like that. This is the type of cartoon that Rod and Todd Flanders from The Simpsons would have grown up watching. The cartoon features five kids, or more accurately four kids and one wetty, who come from all over the world. Even the old Soviet Union gets a look in here, and the kids each represent a classic element – the powers of fire, as well as that band, earth, wind and fire. And then there’s also a fifth pilchard who represents “heart”, whatever the hell that is.
Whenever something goes wrong in the world, wherever that might be, the five kids travel there and combine their powers into this really laughable looking, blue-skinned superhero. He’s a bit like Superman except in every possible way. So he heads to the scene of the trouble and sorts it all out in a very pleasant, environmentally safe, non-polluted way, you guys. There’s no good violence of explosions, and he always succeeds in banishing the bad guys and keeps Gaia, played by Whoopi Goldberg, happy.
I simply must tell you though, as bad and forgettable as the cartoon series is, there is one particular episode that everyone in Ireland must watch. It’s the episode where the gang go to Belfast. It’s not a Belfast that you’d easily recognize though.
Around that time, a little thing called The Troubles were still raging, with divisions between Northern Ireland and the Republic, nationalists and loyalists, Catholics and Protestants, full fat and semi-skimmed – basically, any way you could differ from somebody, there was a row about it. This all dominated the television news and newspapers, so it was easy for outsiders get the wrong impression.
This happened to a friend of mine once when he was over in the United States in the mid to late 90s, when someone heard he was from Ireland, they told him, “sorry for your troubles back home”. You see, they were under the impression that my guy was fighting on the frontlines in some sort of awful war of attrition, the likes of which you’d see in the movies, every single day.
It’s this post-apocalyptic Belfast that we see in the infamous episode of Captain Planet. One of the lads heads to Belfast, having finally learned that there was some anti-social aggro going on there, petrol bombs that were devastating to the poor little environment, that type of thing.
When Captain Dogooder gets there, he finds that the city has already been decimated by constant explosions, and immediately finds a guy called Sean O’Reilly, who starts ranting about getting back at the Fenian Prods, with the worst Belfast accent you’ve ever heard. I suppose it’s not an easy accent for an outsider to take on, but it’s probably the only Norn Iron accent I’ve ever heard that hasn’t sounded menacing in any way. Even when he’s trying to be friendly, he doesn’t sound right, to say nothing of when he’s trying to stop a nuke going off in Belfast.
You really do have to watch this one for yourself, because it’s difficult for me to even explain just what the hell is going on. Catholics versus Protestants, like you’ve never seen it before, and it just makes a mockery out of Captain Planet, a character that was already a mockery anyway.
But anyway, am I here to rewrite Northern Ireland politics, or am I here to eviscerate a long-forgotten, decades old NES game? Unfortunately, there isn’t even an awful lot for me to tear apart, because the game gets its retaliation in first on me.
As we’ve discussed, with its edutainment properties, and its focus on saving the environment, Captain Planet was definitely ten million times less cool and popular than the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. Not only that, but the NES adaptation is even less playable as well.
While TMHT has been given both barrels for the difficulty of its infamous Dam level over the years, at least you can play the first ten minutes of the Ninja Turtles game and pretend to have a little fun. You can put off thinking about the upcoming underwater level, in the same way you put off existential crises by just not thinking about the inevitability of death.
But here, Captain Planet’s ship and everyone onboard get killed horribly in the first five seconds of the game. Yes, it’s instant deaths – and the requisite five lives. Wow, that’s generous isn’t it? Five strikes and you’re out, and so too is the cartridge, out of your NES and with any luck, out of your life. Developers for the NES seemed so deathly afraid of anyone, God forbid, actually beating and enjoying their games.
A little difficulty is one thing, but you’re telling me I can’t even make five mistakes? How long does this game last?! A half-hour, more?! And if I’m anything less than Godlike in predicting where to be next, I’m toast. I can’t even do Star Fox without making a dozen mistakes, so what makes you think I’m going to study Captain Planet NES as a night course, and become well-versed in it? Even horrendously difficult shooters like R-Type let you keep going indefinitely. One hit deaths indeed. So much for the powers combined – dying in one hit isn’t exactly superhero calibre.
You just won’t get any juice out of this one. There’s only five missions in the game, but when you start off the first mission, you’re on a Captain Planet-branded spaceship, and the game starts out as a horizontal shooter for some reason. And of course, you get hit once, and your ship comes tumbling out of the sky towards a fiery end. It’s actually quite funny when that happens, but anyway you’ve got to start again. And I’ve never got past this first level, though I skipped ahead with passwords and it’s awful music all the way. The graphics aren’t super either, although I do believe they get better later on.
I think the Planeteers should have planned ahead a little bit more. After all, whether you shoot down dozens of enemies, or when you’re inevitably blown away by the enemy ships yourself, you’re really causing a hell of a lot of pollution. I bet your craft ain’t hydrogen powered either, and the ship’s wreckage will proper lay waste to the ground below you.
That’s probably what happened to Belfast in that episode of the cartoon. This means that all the pollution, not to mention the nuclear fallout affecting Belfast, is really going to be your fault. So what have you achieved? A rubbish cartoon, an unplayable game, and a dreadful experience all round. And it just makes me want to throw the whole lot in my green bin and set it all on fire.
6 April 2021