March 31, 2018




Super Mario Odyssey was the first game in the Mario Bros. franchise to be released for the Nintendo Switch. Once again, Mario was tasked with rescuing Princess Peach from the clutches of Bowser. The game, released on October 27, 2017, saw a return to the 3D open worlds from Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine and a life meter last seen in Super Mario Galaxy. However, the traditional power-up system was replaced by a new ability/sidekick: Cappy. Cappy was a spirit that resembled Mario’s cap and allowed him to possess various beings in the world in order to use their unique abilities to complete objectives and pass obstacles. All the while, Mario had to collect Regional Coins and Power Moons in each level to progress and purchase new hats and costumes needed for certain tasks.

The game was a hit with fans and critics, being called one of the best in the series and taking home numerous awards. By the end of the year, it had sold over nine million copies. To help promote the game, Nintendo partnered with Kellogg’s to release a limited-edition cereal: Super Mario Cereal. This marked the first time Mario had headlined a cereal since Ralston’s Nintendo Cereal System at the end of the 1980s. The cereal was officially released in December of 2017 but didn’t hit store shelves until early 2018.

Back of the box.

Ironically, even though Odyssey doesn’t feature any of the usual power-ups from the franchise, the cereal based on it is full of them. The cereal pieces were shaped like Starmen with a hint of berry flavoring. The cereal also had marshmallows shaped like Question Mark Blocks, 1-Up Mushrooms, and Mario’s hat. On the back of the box, there was a maze game and Mario trivia amongst images of Mario, Bowser, Peach, Yoshi, coins, a goomba, piranha plants, Super Mushrooms and Fire Flowers (the latter two not even featured in the game).

A special feature of the box was that it’s also an amiibo that worked with the game. Amiibo are figurines that could be purchased to add content to various 3DS, Wii U and now Switch games by placing their base on a sensor. Similarly, the box has a chip located in a marked corner of the back of the box that can be held to the Switch’s scanner on the controller. Known as the “delicious amiibo”, it gave the players a number of coins and a heart, and could be used multiple times, and could be used with the in-game character Uncle amiibo for an extra Power Moon finder.

Comparison of the prototype box art and the newly released box.

In March of 2018, it was revealed that new boxes of Super Mario Cereal had begun hitting store shelves. These boxes closely resemble an early prototype, which featured Mario holding a spoon behind the cereal with the Mushroom Kingdom in the background. The official box included Bowser and Peach between Mario and the background. But, the biggest change seems to have been the removal of the amiibo functionality.

March 24, 2018


(Disney XD, Family Chrgd, Netflix, June 15, 2013-May 29, 2015 US
Tokyo MXTV, BS11, April 5, 2014-June 27, 2015 JAP)

41 Entertainment, Arad Animation Inc., Bandai Namco Entertainment, OLM Digital, Sprite Animation Studios

Erin Mathews – Pac-Man, Ms. Globular
Andrea Libman – Cylindria
Sam Vincent – Spiralton, Lord Betrayus Sneakerus Spheros, President Stratos Spheros, Count Pacula
Ian James Corlett – Blinky, Sir Cumference, The Pacinator
Lee Tockar – Inky, Mr. Dome, King Obtuse, Cyclops Ghosts, Tentacle Ghosts, Fuzbitz
Ashleigh Ball – Pinky, Spheria Suprema, The Easter Pac-Peep
Brian Drummond – Clyde, Butt-ler, Dr. A.H. Buttocks, Ogle, Professor Pointybrains

            Developed by Tom Ruegger and Paul Rugg, two of the people responsible for the Warner Bros. Television Animation renaissance of the 90s, and Avi Arad, who was responsible for the majority of Marvel Comics’ television and film output since the 1990s, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures saw the return of Namco’s classic character since the 1980s Hanna-Barbera cartoon.

Betrayus while he was still alive.

            The computer animated series centered around an orphaned and teenaged Pac-Man (Erin Mathews). His parents had fought in the war against the ghosts, led by Lord Betrayus Sneakerus Spheros (Sam Vincent), who tried to conquer Pac-World. He was stripped of his corporeal form and banished to the Netherworld with the ghosts. The seal to the Netherworld was accidentally opened by Pac when he was avoiding school bully Skeebo (Matt Hill), allowing Betrayus and his ghosts access to Pac-World once again.

The Ghost Gang: Blinky, Clyde, Inky and Pinky.

            As in the video games on which the show is based, Pac had the ability to eat ghosts and destroy their ectoplasm, leaving only their eyeballs to fly off and reconstitute their forms in a regeneration chamber. This was because he was a Yellow Pac, and one of the last—if not THE last—in all of Pac-World. The ghosts are made tastier when Pac eats berries from the Tree of Life, which also give him a variety of different powers and allow him to withstand the hostile environment of the Netherworld. Included from the games was the Ghost Gang: crafty leader Blinky (Ian James Corlett), smart and sarcastic Inky (Lee Tockar), dim-witted-though-wise and caring Clyde (Brain Drummond), and Pinky (Ashleigh Ball), who developed a crush on Pac. Unlike in the games, they only pretend to serve Betrayus; playing dumb and foiling his plans in an effort to aid Pac in exchange for access to their bodies held in the hidden repository.

Pac with Spiral and Cylindria.

            Pac lived at Maze Academy, a boarding school in the city of Pacopolis, with his friends Cylindria (Andrea Libman) and Spiralton (Vincent). They often aided Pac in his adventures, and Cylindria tended to get into arguments with Pinky who believed she also had a crush on Pac. Sir Circumference (Corlett) was a goofy scientist who created a variety of gadgets to help fight against the ghosts and was in charge of the repository. The President of Pac-World was Stratos Spheros (Vincent), the younger brother of Betrayus.

Betrayus amidst a horde of ghosts with Dr. Buttocks and Butt-ler.

            Serving Betrayus was the mad scientist ghost Dr. A.H. Buttocks (Brian Drummond), who specialized in monster experimentation and created a variety of device to aid in Betrayus’ schemes. He often suspected that the Ghost Gang was working with Pac, but Betrayus chose to ignore his warnings. His brother, Butt-ler (also Drummond), served as Betrayus’ servant and sometimes spy. Specter (Brendon Ryan Barrett) was a spy ghost who was stronger and smarter than the others since he was never eaten by a Pac. Master Goo (Vincent Tong) was a calm yet cocky ninja ghost who was a master of Pac-Fu and trained Betrayus’ armies.

A mean genie.

            Aside from ghosts, other inhabitants of the Netherworld included Count Pacula (a play on Dracula, voiced by Vincent), a vampire who could only be summoned when two moons turned blue every 100 Halloweens; Madame Ghoulasha (Kathleen Barr), a witch who did favors for Betrayus in order to win his affections; Jean (Nicole Oliver), a genie used by Buttocks to trap Pac and keep the ghosts in Pac-World; The Easter Pac-Peep (Ball), a humanoid marshmallow chicken who became hostile due to Betrayus’ past pranks; Dentures of Doom (Paul Dobson), living dentures belonging to the Mummy Wizard (also Dobson) that brings him to life and gives him his powers; and Dr. Pacenstein (a play on Frankenstein), a mad scientist who was a talking brain in a glass jar whose limbs were granted autonomy and usually annoyed him. Aliens, known as Pointy Heads, also frequently set their sights on Pac-World; particularly their overlord, Apex (Colin Murdock), scientist Professor Pointybrains (Drummond), and minion Tip (Gabe Khouth).

Pac and his friends leaving Maze Academy.

            Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures debuted on Disney XD on June 15, 2013 in the United States. It subsequently ran on Disney XD, and later Family Chrgd, in Canada beginning on March 17, 2014, and on Tokyo MX and BS11 in Japan on April 5, 2014. The series was produced by 41 Entertainment, Arad Productions and Bandai Namco Entertainment, and was animated by Sprite Animation Studios and OLM Digitial, Inc. The theme was composed by William Anderson with lyrics by Arad, and performed by Gabriel C. Brown. The rest of the series’ music was composed by Tetsuya Takahashi, Naoyuki Horiko, Shogo Ohnishi, Reiji Kitazato, Masafumi Okubo and Kuniyuki Morohashi and often took cues from the games’ sound effects. Tetsuya Ishii was the lead character designer.

The Netherworld.

            The first season ran for 26 episodes. The second season was set to run for the same length but was instead cut in half by distributors to make a third season. The new third season aired in Japan first between January and April of 2015, while in the United States it didn’t begin until that May. Two specials were made: Santa Pac’s Merry Berry Day and Pac’s Scary Halloween, which were later broken up into the episodes “Happy Holidays and a Merry Berry Day” and “Santa Pac” and the two-part “Pac’s Very Scary Halloween” respectively. The Halloween and second Christmas episodes first aired on Netflix in the United States. The series was written by Arad, Ruegger and Rugg, along with Ken Pontac, Marcy Brown, Dennis Haley, Michael Maurer, Jymn Magon, Cydne Clark, Bob Forward, Steve Granat, Glenn Leopold, Eric Shaw, Len Uhley, Mark Young, Alexandra Bland and story editor Sean Catherine Derek.

Pinky flirts with Pac.

            Episodes of the series have been released to DVD beginning in 2013. In Australia, 12 episodes were released between the sets The Adventure Begins and Pac to the Future. In North America in 2014, The Adventure Begins was released containing only the first episode. Following that, each release contained four episodes each: Pac is Back (initially a Wal-Mart exclusive), All You Can Eat, Let the Games Begin! (exclusive to Target), Ghost Patrol! and A Berry Scary Night. Three-episode collections Indiana Pac and the Temple of Slime and Mission Impacable! were released exclusively to Redbox, with Pac to the Future going to Redbox Canada. Additional collections included Movie 4-Pac, Jurassic Pac and 8-Pac, as well as a 3-DVD collection. The series has also been made available for streaming on Amazon Prime and Netflix.

            Bandai produced a line of toys to coincide with the show. They included standard figures of Pac and his friends, spinning figures, three versions of Pac with special tongue features, and plush dolls. There was also a giant Pac who could spit-up slime from his mouth, symbolizing his having just eaten some ghosts. K’Nex put out a several sets with figures to form a constructible maze playsetVideo games based on the show were also published by Bandai Namco. An endless runner for mobile devices called Pac-Man Dash! was developed by M2 and released in 2013. It was available until Bandai Namco had it removed from online stores in 2017. A 3D platformer sharing the show’s name was developed by Monkey Bar Games was released for home consoles in late 2013, with a 2D platformer for the Nintendo 3DS following by Inti Creates. A sequel for the home consoles followed in October 2014. The characters from the show were also featured in the menus of the compilation game Pac-Man Museum (the games based on the show, however, were not included).

Season 1:
“The Adventure Begins, Part I” (6/15/13) – Pac accidently unleashes ghosts on Pac-World and they manage to steal the Tree of Life.

“The Adventure Begins, Part II” (6/15/13) – When Pac and his friends fall into a trap, Pac pretends to have a crush on Pinky in order to be set free and escape with the Tree.

“No Pets Allowed…Especially Monsters!, Part I” (6/19/13) – Betrayus sends an army of cloned monsters after Pac.

“No Pets Allowed…Especially Monsters!, Part II” (6/20/13) – Dr. Buttocks creates a machine that makes monsters giant, forcing Pac to go on a size-changing adventure.

“All You Can Eat” (6/21/13) – Learning Pac’s weakness is food, Betrayus has his ghost minions feed Pac until he’s too full to eat ghosts.

“President Possessed!” (6/24/13) – Buttocks possesses President Spheros and turns the town against Pac.

“Is Zit You Or Is Zit Me?” (6/25/13) – When stress causes Pac to get a lot of zits, Betrayus sends ghosts to make sure Pac is nice and constantly stressed.

“Pac To The Future” (6/26/13)- Sir Cumference’s vehicle sends Pac back in time where he ends up babysitting himself as a baby.

“Heebo-Skeebo” (6/27/13) – Skeebo wants to be a hero so he steals Pac’s berries, which Obtuse and Betrayus want as well.

“Mission ImPacable!” (6/28/13) – Pac tries to gain some self-control over his eating just as Betrayus wants him to eat a ghost with a chip that will let him control Pac.

“No Body Knows” (7/1/13) – When President Spheros discovers slug cams in the roundhouse, Sir Cumference worries Betrayus may have discovered the repository.

“Seems Like Old Times” (7/2/13) – Sir Cumference needs a very dangerous Netherworld item for his latest invention, but he worries he isn’t the freedom fighter he used to be.

“Betrayus Turns the Heat Up” (7/3/13) – Buttocks creates a super furnace that increases the already high heat in PacWorld; a heat that threatens to dry out and kill the Tree of Life.

“Pac-Pong Fever” (7/5/13) – Betrayus challenges Pac’s aunt to a pac-pong game, believing she cheated him out of a victory many years ago.

“Driver’s Pac” (7/22/13) – As Pac and his friends learn to drive, Buttocks creates a giant drill to burrow into the netherworld that could sink the entire city.

“Jinxed” (7/23/13) – Buttocks discovers the ghosts have been helping Pac, and Betrayus sends for a curse from the netherworld to turn Pac into a jinx.

“Indiana Pac and the Temple of Slime” (8/31/13) – Pac and his friends discover a strange artifact that belong to his parents, and Buttocks discovers it holds the key to the secret of the Tree.

“Planet Pac” (9/14/13) – Buttocks lures in a planet-sized ghost to destroy PacWorld, but Betrayus discovers it would destroy the netherworld as well.

“Stand By Your Pac-Man” (9/21/13) – As Pinky and Cylindria fight for Pac’s affections, Betrayus summons the being who killed every other yellow pac: the Pacinator.

“PacLantis” (9/28/13) – Pac and his friends learn Betrayus plans to find PacLantis and the berry bush of youth, which could reanimate Betrayus back into his original form.

“Jurassic Pac” (10/5/13) – When Fuzbit finds a dinosaur bone, Buttocks uses his machine on it to create an army of radio-controlled dinos.

“A Berry Scary Night” (10/12/13) – It’s Halloween and Betrayus and his minions call upon Count Pacula to drain Pac.

“The Great Chase!” (10/19/13) – Betrayus possesses his mother as she visits President Spheros and Pac.

“Robo Woes” (10/26/13) – A giant alien robot named Apex seeks to take over PacWorld by kidnapping President Spheros and rendering the Power Berries powerless.

“The Spy Who Slimed Me” (11/2/13) – A spy ghost possesses Aunt Sphera’s dog in order to infiltrate Sir Cumference’s lab and conquer both PacWorld and the netherworld.

“Invasion of the Pointy Heads” (11/9/13) – Apex returns and proposes an alliance with Betrayus to lead an all-out assault, but Apex ends up betraying him in order to rule by himself.

Season 2:
“Ride the Wild Pac-Topus” (6/9/14) – Buttocks rigs various carnival rides in an attempt to steal a key Pac is guarding.

“Meanie Genie” (6/10/14) – Pac is tricked into finding a genie whose wishes turn out to be problematic.

“Cave Pac-Man” (6/11/14) – Pac discovers a prehistoric Cave Pac-Kid while attempting to stop Mt. Packinely from erupting.

“Cosmic Contest” (6/12/14) – When the constant battles awaken an ancient napping alien race, three teams are made to compete in a race to settle the conflict once and for all.

“That Smarts!” (6/16/14) – A brainy berry leads to a giant robot battle between Pac and Buttocks while Betrayus spires on Sir C’s romantic getaway with Spheria and becomes depressed.

“Pac-Mania” (6/17/14) – Pac gets a TV show based on his life, but the fame doesn’t seem worth he and his friends being made to look like fools.

“Rip Van Packle” (6/23/14) – A wormhole sends Pac 70 years into the future where Betrayus rules Pacworld.

“Spooka-Bazooka!” (6/24/14) – Buttocks puts Pac out of a job by inventing a bazooka that can catch ghosts, but it secretly puts its user to sleep for 100 minutes to allow Betrayus to invade.

“The Pac Be With You” (6/30/14) – A ninja ghost trains Betrayus’ army, prompting Blinky to train Pac with a new fighting technique.

“The Shadow of the Were-Pac” (10/8/14) – Were-Pac attacks threaten the President’s spookiest Halloween party.

“Cap’n Banshee and his Interstellar Buccaneers” (10/14/14) – A summer cruise is interrupted by ghostly pirates from outer space.

“A Hard Dazed Knight” (10/15/14) – Buttocks develops an armor coating that allows a ghostly army to avoid being eaten by Pac.

“Happy Holidays and a Merry Berry Day” (12/2/14) – When Pac’s parents return from a top-secret mission, Pac goes to great lengths to hide them from his friends.

Season 3:
“Peace Without Slime” (1/31/15 JAP, 5/18/15 US) – Betrayus rigs the Pac-World election to get Obtuse into power while Cylindria and Skeebo run for class president.

“The Ghost Behind the Throne” (2/7/15 JAP, 5/19/15 US) – Pac and his friends smuggle the Tree of Life and the repository out of the Round House before Obtuse can be sworn in.

“Nerd is the Word” (2/14/15 JAP, 5/20/15 US) – Betrauys and Buttocks send Butt-ler to spy on Pac and his friends, but their kindness towards him leads him to betray his evil masters.

“Bride of the Griner” (2/21/15 JAP, 5/21/15 US) – Grinder builds a girlfriend for himself which Buttocks steals and plans to use for his next evil plot.

“The Legend of Creepy Hollow” (3/7/15 JAP, 5/22/15 US) – When Skeebo scares Pac and his friends with the legend of Hugefoot, Betrayus has Buttocks build a robot version of the myth.

“Easter Egg Island” (2/28/15 JAP, 5/26/15 US) – The Pac-Peep has kidnapped all the ghosts from the Netherworld, prompting Betrayus to ask for Pac’s help to retrieve them.

“The Wizard of Odd” (3/14/15 JAP, 5/27/15 US) – A space worm summoned by Buttocks sends Pac and Fuzbitz to an alternate dimension.

“Indiana Pac and the Dentures of Doom” (3/21/15 JAP, 5/28/15 US) – If an evil mummy is reunited with his cursed dentures, it could spell the end for Pacworld.

“Honey, I Digitized the Pac-Man” (3/28/15 JAP, 5/29/15 US) – Sir C sends Pac into cyberspace to stop Buttocks’ deadly computer virus.

“Pac’s Very Scary Halloween – Part One” (4/4/15 JAP, 10/4/16 US) – Dr. Pacenstein invites Pac and his friends to his castle for a Halloween dinner and ends up trading bodies with Pac.

“Pac’s Very Scary Halloween – Part Two” (4/11/15 JAP, 10/4/16 US) – Spiral and Cylindria try to get help from Count Pacula to stop Dr. Pacenstein.

“Santa Pac” (4/18/15 JAP, 9/5/15 US) – Pac has to save Santa-Pac and his round-deer after they’re kidnapped to the Netherworld.

“New Girl in Town” (4/25/15 JAP, 5/29/15 US) – Betrayus plans to use the President’s beautiful niece to seduce Pac and lead him to the repository.

March 17, 2018


(CBS, September 17-December 3, 1983)

Ruby-Spears Productions

Robert Ridgely – Pitfall Harry
Noelle North – Rhonda
Kenneth Mars – Quickclaw

            In 1979, game developer David Crane came up with the technology that could display a realistic running man in a video game. Searching for a suitable game to use it in, Crane sat down with a piece of paper and ended up scribbling down a stick figure man running through a jungle collecting treasures and avoiding enemies. That simple idea became the basis for Pitfall!

The player controlled Pitfall Harry as he ran through a maze-like jungle to collect 32 treasures comprised of bags of money, gold and silver bars and diamond rings within a set time limit. Meanwhile, Harry had to avoid numerous obstacles such as pits, quicksand, rolling logs, fire, snakes, scorpions and crocodiles, by jumping over them, climbing, or swinging on vines (which was accompanied by a Tarzan-like yell sound effect). Points would be lost whenever Harry fell into a hole or hit a log, and a life with every other peril.

            Activision released the game on April 20, 1982 for the Atari 2600. The technical achievements of Crane’s programming meant that multiple animated sprites could appear on the screen without causing any flickering on the otherwise primitive graphics hardware. The game was a hit, spending 64 weeks as a #1 best-seller and receiving high praise for its graphics and gameplay; often credited with creating the side-scrolling genre (even though it didn’t actually scroll). It was even awarded “Best Adventure Video Game” in the 4th annual Arkie Awards. The game was subsequently ported to the various gaming systems available at the time and went on to sell over 4 million copies throughout the 1980s.

Around the time of the game’s release, CBS was looking to get in on the video game craze and to combat ABC’s Pac-Man produced by Hanna-Barbera. Figuring to hedge their bets, they licensed several gaming properties and commissioned former Hanna-Barbera employees Joe Ruby and Ken Spears to handle it through their company Ruby-Spears Productions. The resulting series was Saturday Supercade.

Harry with Rhonda and Quickclaw.

Making up the Supercade every week were segments based on Frogger, Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr., while Pitfall! alternated its slot with Q*Bert. As in the game, Pitfall Harry (Robert Ridgely) navigated the many perils of the jungle as he searched for all kinds of treasure. Joining him were the newly created characters of his adventure-seeking niece, Rhonda (Noelle North), and their eyepatch-wearing cowardly pet mountain lion, Quickclaw (Kenneth Mars). Ken Boyer and Patrick A. Ventura served as Supercade’s character designers and fleshed out Harry from his pixelated blocky form.

Harry and Quickclaw hanging out with Donkey Kong.

Pitfall! debuted with the rest of Supercade on September 17, 1983. It had the shortest run of all the featured segments, topping out at only seven episodes. When Supercade was renewed for a second season, Pitfall!, along with Frogger  and Donkey Kong Jr., were dropped in favor of new segments Space Ace and Kangaroo.

Before Pitfall!’s cancellation, work had begun on the 1984 sequel to the game, Pitfall II: Lost Caverns. The game was the last major release for the Atari 2600 and featured further technological advancements by Crane; such as a soundtrack and 27 horizontal levels. Included in the game were the characters of Rhonda and Quickclaw, both of whom needed to be collected in order to win the game. Like the earlier game, Pitfall II was ported to additional systems. The Atari 5200 and 8-bit versions were called Adventurer’s Edition due to the extra level added by designer Mike Lorenzen, while the Famicom (the Japanese name for the Nintendo Entertainment System) got a loose remake called Super Pitfall. In 1985, Sega licensed the game to create an arcade version, which was actually a combination of both Pitfall games with better detailed graphics. The Quickclaw name was later reused for a jaguar included in the sixth and final Pitfall game, 2004’s The Lost Expedition (known as The Big Adventure on Nintendo Wii)

“Pitfall’s Panda Puzzle” (9/17/83) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

“Amazon Jungle Bungle” (9/24/83) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

“Raiders of the Lost Shark” (10/8/83) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

“Tibetan Treasure Trouble” (10/22/83) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

“Masked Menace Mess” (11/5/83) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

“The Sabretooth Goof” (11/19/83) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

“The Pyramid Panic” (12/3/83) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

March 10, 2018


(TV Tokyo, October 7, 2003-September 28, 2004 JAP
FOX, September 4, 2004-March 5, 2005 US)

Ashi Productions (JAP), 4Kids Entertainment (US)

Toshiyuki Morikawa (Japanese) & Gregory Abbey (as John Campbell, English) – Rick Wheeler/Ryu Suzaku
Hideyuki Tanaka (Japanese) – Captain Falcon/Kyaputen Farukon/Bart Lemming/Burt Lemming/Andy Summer
David Willis (English) – Captain Falcon/Kyaputen Farukon/Bart Lemming/Burt Lemming/Andy Summer, Super Arrow
Kikuko Inoue (Japanese) & Veronica Taylor (English) – Jody Summer/Jodi Sama
Kazuki Yao (Japanese) – Jack Levin/Jakku Rebin
Marc Thompson (English) – Jack Levin/Jakku Rebin, Bio Rex, Samurai Goroh
Nobuo Tobita (Japanese) – Dr. Robert Stewart/Dokuta Suchuato
Dan Green (English) – Dr. Robert Stewart/Dokuta Suchuato, Michael Chain, narrator
Nana Mizuki (Japanese) - Lucy Liberty/Rushi Ribati
Amy Birnbaum (English) – Lucy Liberty/Rushi Ribati, Misaki Haruka, Clank Hughes/Tek Hughes, various
Isshin Chiba (Japanese) – Dr. Clash/Kurasshu, John Tanaka
Marc Diraison (English) – Dr. Clash/Kurasshu, Antonio Guster, Silver Neelson (young)
Yasunobu Iwata (Japanese) – Mr. EAD, Samurai Goroh
Wayne Grayson (English) – Mr. EAD, Mighty Gazelle
David Lapkin (English) – John Tanaka
Eric Stuart (English) – Black Shadow, Octoman
Shinpachi Tsuji (Japanese) & Jamie McGonnigal (English) – Zoda
Sayuri Yoshida (Japanese) – Misaki Haruka/Luna Ryder/Miss Killer
Karen Neill (English) - Luna Ryder/Miss Killer, Kate Alen

            F-Zero was one of the launch titles for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) upon its release in Japan on November 21, 1990. The game was created by Shigeru Miyamoto and developed by Nintendo Entertainment Analysis & Development (EAD), the largest division inside Nintendo.

            The game was set in the futuristic world of 2560, where lethargic multi-billionaires created a new form of entertainment based on Formula One races. The player was allowed to choose between four different characters that came with a different hovercars with their own respective performance strengths and weaknesses. The goal was to win the race without destroying your car from collisions with other cars, the electrified guardrail, or mines on the track. The game featured 15 tracks divided into three leagues—Knight, Queen and King—representing higher levels of difficulty.

Perspective is key.

            The game made extensive use of Mode 7. Mode 7 was a graphics mode found on the SNES that allowed background layers to be rotated and scaled to create different effects, such as the illusion of 3D perspective, without processing any polygons. This allowed the tracks to be scaled and rotated around the vehicle creating the illusion of movement and maintaining a high visual presentation. This, coupled with the speed of the gameplay, gained F-Zero recognition from critics and fans. The game is often credited as setting the standard for the racing genre and inventing the futuristic racing subgenre.

F-Zero box art depicting some of the story.

            The game proved a success in Japan and in other markets when it was released the following year. Nintendo quickly turned it into a franchise and greenlit sequels that added new tracks, new cars, new modes and new leagues while following a consistent narrative. The next games, BS F-Zero Grand Prix and Grand Prix 2 were unfinished games released in 1996 and 1997 as a download via the Satellaview attachment of the Super Famicom (the Japanese version of SNES). Zero Racers (G-Zero) was a cancelled game for the failed Virtual Boy system. 1998’s F-Zero X for the N64 brought he game out of pseudo-3D and into real 3D; however some of the graphics were sacrificed in order to have it run at optimal speeds. In 2000, an expansion was released exclusively in Japan for the Nintendo 64DD; a short-lived disk drive add-on to the N64. Maximum Velocity was built using Mode 7 and released in 2001 for the Game Boy Advance, featuring a return to the classic F-Zero style. It’s considered a reboot to the overall storyline of the games as it served as more of a direct sequel to the original game set 25 years later and starring the descendants of the original characters. F-Zero GX, released in 2003 for the GameCube, returned to the established storyline as a direct sequel to F-Zero X. In the first major collaboration between Nintendo and Sega, F-Zero AX was released to arcades that same year.

Captain Falcon and the Blue Falcon.

            One of the series’ debut characters, Captain Falcon, was intended to be the flagship character of the SNES; however, that never panned out as he was rarely featured in Nintendo media. Instead, he became the de facto mascot of the F-Zero franchise and represented it as a fighter in the Super Smash Bros. series. Falcon was a man of mystery, one of the best F-Zero pilots who moonlit as a renowned bounty hunter. His car was the Blue Falcon for races, and the midsized spacecraft, the Falcon Flyer, for bounty missions. F-Zero X established that Falcon’s “captain” rank may have been earned from his rumored time in the Internova Police Force. Falcon wouldn’t be featured in the games again until GX, where he was pitted against the evil Black Shadow and Deathborn, members of the sinister Dark Million Organization.

Anime promo image.

            It was this game that inspired the anime based on the franchise. Developed by Ashi Productions, the series was set in the year 2201 where races from all over the universe came together to compete in the F-Zero Grand Prix. Amongst them were members of The Dark Million Organization, run by the sinister Black Shadow (Norio Wakamoto & Eric Stuart). Black Shadow was a massive bull-like man with a strategic mind and seeming supernatural abilities. His plan was to use the F-Zero prizes to fund his master plan: creating the Dark Reactor which would cause the universe to implode and be reborn into a new one filled with evil.

Black Shadow and Zoda.

Aiding in his schemes was Zoda (Shinpachi Tsuji & Jamie McGonnigal) in the Death Anchor, a criminal from 150 years in the past revived and transformed into an alien-like being to serve Black Shadow; Miss Killer (Luna Ryder in America, voiced by Sayuri Yoshida & Karen Neill) in the Moon Shadow, Black Shadow’s right-hand woman who frequently won her races; Deathborn (Wakamoto) in the Dark Schneider, a mysterious cyborg who was the sitting chairman of the F-Zero Association; Don Genie (Chafurin) in the Fat Shark, a wealthy and powerful gangster; Octoman (Takeshi Yamato & Eric Stuart) in the Deep Claw, an octopus-like being from the planet Takora who was forced to join the organization in order to keep his creditors at bay; Bio Rex (Takayuki Fujimoto & Marc Thompson) in the Big Fang, a genetically engineered dinosaur man who began racing to prove his superiority to normal humans; Baba (Yasunobu Iwata & Sean Schemmel) in the Iron Tiger, a wild child from the planet Giant with animal instincts whose spirituality was a direct cause of his immense strength; The Skull (Fujimoto & Andrew Rennells) in the Sonic Phantom, the reanimated skeleton of a racer from 200 years in the past with an affinity for black magic; Pico (Kenichi Mochizuki & Schemmell) in the Wild Goose, an ex-military pilot that carried out particularly dangerous missions; and Blood Falcon (Banjou Ginga) in the Blood Hawk, the clone of Captain Falcon (Hideyuki Tanaka & David Willis) made from DNA stolen while Falcon was recovering from an accident. (It should be noted that some of these characters had no definitive alignment in the games in which they debuted—the anime made them villains simply because they looked villainous).

The MTF: Dr. Stewart, Jody, Jack, Dr. Clash, Mr. EAD, Rick and Lucy.

            Opposing the Dark Million’s plans was the Mobile Task Force: a group of racers with ties to the Galactic Space Federation who raced to keep the prizes out of Dark Million’s hands. The MTF was led by the strict Jodi Sama (Jody Summer in America, voiced by Kikuko Inoue & Veronica Taylor) in the White Cat, who had to have half her body replaced with cybernetics because of an accident that claimed the life of her brother, Andy. Serving under her was Jakku Rebin (Jack Levin in America, voiced by Kazuki Yao & Thompson) in the Astro Robin, a brash ladies’ man who often gets himself into trouble who was once part of a criminal gang until Jodi arrested him; Mr. EAD (Yosunobu Iwata & Wayne Grayson) in the Great Star, an experimental android who races to complete the final testing of his IQ and AI programming (and bore a strong resemblance to Nintendo’s Mario); Dokuta Suchuato (Dr. Robert Stewart in America, voiced by Nobuo Tobita & Dan Green) in the Golden Fox, a former medical doctor who took up racing and eventually his father’s place in F-Zero following his death; Kurasshu (Dr. Clash in America, voiced by Isshin Chiba & Marc Diraison) in the Crazy Bear, an engineer who dreamed of becoming a racer and developed devices to compensate for his shortcomings; John Tanaka (Chiba & David Lapkin) in the Wonder Wasp, head cop of the MTF and an engineer with the Federation who had strong feelings for Jodi; and their newest recruit Rushi Ribati (Lucy Liberty in America, voiced by Nana Mizuki & Amy Birnbaum) in the Elegance Liberty, an enthusiastic F-Zero fan and an engineer. Allies to the MTF included the superhero racing legend Super Arrow (Yuichi Nagashima & Willis) and his wife, Mrs. Arrow (Yuka Komatsu & Lisa Ortiz), and space pirate Samurai Goroh (Iwata & Thompson).

Ryu or Rick, he's a man lost in time.

            Joining the MTF was series protagonist Ryu Suzaku (whose appearance and name was inspired by Street Fighter’s Ryu, renamed Rick Wheeler in America and voiced by Toshiyuki Morikawa & John Campbell) in the Dragon Bird, a racer and police detective from New York in the year 2051. While in pursuit of Zoda, Ryu got into a fatal accident and was put into cryo-sleep. He was revived in the future because he was destined to be the savior of the universe. He was often at odds with Jakku until the two grew into friendship and sought to take out Zoda by any means necessary. It was also eventually revealed that Miss Killer was actually Ryu’s supposedly dead girlfriend Misaki Haruka (Birnbaum in the English version). She was believed to have been killed in the accident that claimed Ryu, but she was found in deep freeze and brainwashed by Black Shadow.

Captain Falcon. Remember him? He's here, too.

Sharing the series’ focus was popular racer and bounty hunter Captain Falcon. In this version, Falcon was shrouded in mystery and owned a bar under the alias Bart Lemming (renamed Burt in the American version). The Falcon name became a title that was earned by the best and only given to those that could beat the prior Falcon. Falcon also played a role in the central legend driving the series: that Captain Falcon and Black Shadow were the living embodiments of light and dark, the Yin and Yang, and couldn’t defeat each other on their own. It was eventually revealed that Falcon was, in fact, Jodi’s long-lost brother Andy.

F-Zero: Farukon Densetsu (Legend of the Falcon) debuted on TV Tokyo on October 7, 2003 and ran every Thursday until September 28, 2004 for a total of 51 episodes. The series used a blend of traditional 2D animation for the characters, designed by Toyoo Ashida, and 3D CGI graphics for the cars, designed by Katsushi Murakami, and races. The original episodes were written by Akiyoshi Sakai, Ami Tomobuki, Isao Shizuya, Konosuke Takahashi, Masahiro SonodaNami Ichino, Shigeru Yanagawa, Takao Koyama, Tsuyoshi Tamai, Yuichiro Takeda, Yuki Enatsu and Yukihito Nonaka. Japanese pop singer HIRO-X was signed to perform the series’ theme, “The Meaning of Truth”, while Ai Maeda performed the closing themes “Resolution” and “Forever” for the final episode. To tie into the series, a new similarly-titled game was released for the Game Boy Advance; however, they took some liberties with elements in the story making it somewhat different from the anime depiction.

In 2004, Nintendo awarded 4Kids Entertainment the international broadcast rights to the anime. As with the rest of their acquired programming, 4Kids made extensive changes to the series. They sought to localize it so that American audiences could find familiarity with elements of a production and edited any scenes or content they felt were inappropriate for their target demographic (usually in the 6-11-year age range) or projected negative stereotypes. The original score (which featured reworkings of music from the games) was dropped in favor of a cheaper, generic techno score composed by Matt McGuire, Elik Alvarez, Louis Cortelezzi, Joel Douek, Josh Heineman, Freddy Sheinfeld and Russell Velazquez. Likewise, the themes were cut and replaced with an instrumental by Phil Garrod and Reed Hays. The scripts and storylines were translated and completely reworked by John Touhey, Martina Broner and Michael Haigney to reduce Captain Falcon’s role and put the narrative focus on Ryu, now called Rick Wheeler (originally, it was going to be “Pace” which was retained in some of the early commercials--like the one above), as well as to make them more kid-friendly. After learning that Miss Killer was renamed “Luna Ryder” in the 4Kids dub, Nintendo of America (who hated that name) stepped in to insist that what few untouched names remained the same.

Luna Ryder suffers an identity crisis.

As for the show’s name, that one wasn’t entirely a 4Kids creation. Nintendo of America was working on the localization of the game with a planned release for the fall of 2004 to coincide with the debut of the 4Kids dub. Nintendo of Europe, however, had no intentions of bringing the anime over into their market and put the game out in June of that year. To distinguish it from the anime, they changed the game’s name to GP Legend. As the 4Kids dub was already in production while Nintendo of America was still working on the game, they opted to utilize the European name in order to churn out promotional materials advertising the show. That, in turn, forced Nintendo of America to use it on their release of the game.

Super Arrow and Mrs. Arrow.

The newly-christened F-Zero: GP Legend debuted on FOX’s FoxBox programming block on September 4, 2004. To promote the series and the game, FOX ran a two-week contest sponsored by Nintendo called “The F-Zero Zero Zero Mega Moolah Sweepstakes.” The prizes included a Game Boy Advance SP and cash up to $5,000. While GP Legend the game proved to be a hit, albeit less so when compared to previous entries in the franchise, the 4Kids dub turned out to be a ratings flop. Only 15 episodes aired, with the final one delayed until that March following FoxBox’s rebranding as 4KidsTV. Rumors of at least two additional dubbed episodes existing have spread, but nothing else has aired beyond the initial run.

Following the success of the game, a direct sequel was developed by Suzak Inc. was released in 2004 called F-Zero Climax. Available in Japan only, the game introduced a track editor which allowed players to make their own tracks to race on and share with other players. That was the most applauded feature; while the rest of the game got a lukewarm response in regards to reused elements and uneven gameplay. It was after this release that the franchise went on indefinite hiatus, with creator Miyamoto essentially stating that they’ve done all they could with the franchise until such time that Nintendo developed a unique controller interface that would enhance the gameplay experience. Until then, Nintendo continues to give the franchise exposure by incorporating it into other games; such as Captain Falcon and The Blue Falcon being in Mario Kart Wii and as downloadable content for Mario Kart 8, a mini-game called “Captain Falcon’s Twister Race” in Nintendo Land, and a Captain Falcon alternate skin for the Bryan Fury character in the Wii U version of Tekken Tag Tournament 2.         

“The Legend Begins” (9/4/04) – During a race, Rick Wheeler recalls the events that led him to join the MTF.

“The Racer’s Edge” (9/25/04) – While the others head to a race on Planet Ninte, Rick meets Lucy Liberty before her bus to Ninte is attacked by a motorcycle gang.

“Burn Out on Planet Clifoto” (10/2/04) – Lucy damages the Dragon Bird while training to join the team, potentially robbing Rick of his revenge against Zoda.

“The Samurai’s Secret” (10/9/04) – Rick goes after Samruai Goroh to retrieve a medicine he stole but soon learns his target may not be who he thinks it is.

“A Risky Rendezvous” (10/16/04) – Dr. Stewart and Rick try to retrieve the Astro Robin from Lisa Brilliant during the F-Zero race.

“Chain Reaction” (10/23/04) – Rick becomes so focused on winning the race and beating Zoda that someone gets hurt in the process.

“The Trap of Michael Chain” (10/30/04) – Rick, Lucy, Super Arrow and Mrs. Arrow help a rich man get out of being forced to kidnap top racers.

“The Secret Within” (11/6/04) – The Skull sends a doppelganger of Haruka to assassinate Rick and uses a lock of Rick’s hair to curse him whenever Rick speaks her name.

“The Promise” (11/13/04) – Rick races against Roger and Draq in order to win the galactic blended fruit needed to help a sick boy.

“Double Jeopardy” (11/20/04) – Zoda seeks revenge against Luna Ryder for beating him and disables the shield that keeps asteroids from crashing onto the racetrack.

“Blow Out” (11/27/04) – Zoda pays Antonio Guster to betray Samurai Goroh and drive a car that can destroy him in the race.

“Flashback” (12/4/04) – A boy named Tek steals the Dragon Bird to give to Zoda in exchange for passage to Earth, but Captain Falcon steps in to prevent the trade-off.

“Dangerous Diva” (12/11/04) – The team is tasked with protecting pop star Kate Alan from Zoda, but who’s going to protect the team from her?

“Old Rivals” (12/18/04) – Jack turns to old racer Silver Neelson for training to beat Rick just as Silver’s old rival is revived from cold sleep to challenge him to a career-ending race.

“Target: Tanaka” (3/5/05) – After Tanaka is targeted by Zoda, he’s put under 24-hour guard by the team.