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Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future (system

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Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future was a light gun video game toy franchise released in 1987 by Mattel.

The XT-7 looks like a toy airplane, but its bottoms side reviles its light gun functionality. The system is powered by one 9 V cell in the back and two double A cells in the handle. Sound is emitted through a built in speaker. There is a non documented TRS socket, which doesn't seem to be a headphone output. The tip of the plane is rubberized in order to avoid the plane damaging the TV screen when frustrated players come too close to it. On the back of the plane is a button which lights up as soon as a shootable target appears on screen. If being pushed the number of remaining lives is reveled using the built in speaker. Besides an on/off switch there is a second switch which allows the player to choose between the interactive TV game or a laser tag mode. In the latter the second jet nozzle acts as a light emitter, which allows shooting other players, while the first nozzle remains vulnerable. This allows me to redirect the light along my hand back to the sensor in order to cause the jet to lose lives. After a certain number of hits the cockpit is eventually ejected. There are no real sights to speak of, but the manual suggests putting the two poles of the used nozzle in congruence in order to aim. That is the left nozzle for the light gun game and the right nozzle for the laser tag game.

The plane comes with a manual for both, the light gun game and the laser tag game, a second manual for the plane itself, stickers for the plane, an info card, and a kit to build a reflective laser tag training enemy. Furthermore there are two cannons which can be applied to the jet's wings.

The light gun works on a frequency based manner. If the gun receives light which flashes with a certain frequency a corresponding action is triggered. The targets flash every other frame. Enemy fire flashes at half this frequency. The bars in the targets which look like scan lines serve now purpose but to make the flashing less disturbing to the player and are not essential.

The packaging is colorful and looks intriguing. However just as the original TV commercial the false claim is made that the jet emits light towards the television, which is of course untrue.

Besides this jet another plane and a gun turret were released which are similar light guns. The gun turret provides an actual cross hair and a numeric score counter, but it is otherwise less gun like.

There is a multitude of games which can be played with the Captain Power light guns. My personal favorites are three FMV based games which are drawn in a Japanese anime style and were released on VHS tapes. These simply work the best, but they also look very appealing. The three tapes are similar but they are of increasing difficulty.

Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future had a live action TV show with light gun segments in every episode. Some objects and enemies sport a surface which acts as a target for the gun. The prototype light guns the developers of the show used to plan the first few episodes worked far better than the final retail jets. When the team realized that the jets have difficulties in hitting the targets, they supported them with flashing fog, smoke and the like in order to increase the hit box in later episodes. The show ran for 22 episodes and spawned feature films created of rearranged episodes. Today the show is acknowledged as being very influential to the science fiction genre as a whole. Its presentation was very mature and therefore also found an adult audience besides the obvious target group. The show is notable for being amongst the first TV shows to frequently use computer generated imagery. One of its main writers went on to create Babylon 5.

I made the discovery that the Captain Power light guns and games are largely compatible with the Takara Video Challenger light gun and its games. The Captain Power guns can be used on the Video Challenger games and the Video Challenger gun can be used on the Captain Power games. Generally targets which should increase the score will do so, and objects which are supposed to decrease the score will do so too, but the interchangeability is not perfect. Some few objects won't act as expected and the light sensitivity of both kinds of guns is quite different.

Personally I like the Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future light gun system. Amongst the three similar systems Worlds of Wonder ActionMax, Takara Video Challenger and this I think Captain Power works the worst and is the least appealing. I think for science fiction enthusiasts it compensates its weaknesses with the superb TV show. Otherwise I can't recommend the system for its light gun functionality as such.