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Finished!! – Popful Mail: Magical Fantasy Adventure

System: Sega CD
Developer: Falcom
Publisher: Working Designs
Released: 1995

Completed: January 20, 2014

I was always a Nintendo fanboy growing up. I don’t dislike Sega; in fact, I like Sega and its systems more than any of Nintendo’s other competitors. Growing up, almost none of friends had a Genesis, so we never had the Super Nintendo vs. Genesis debates on the playground. In fact, my first experience with Sega was when the Dreamcast was about to come out. Ames was getting rid of their Genesis and most of their Saturn inventory to make way for the new console, which meant big savings. Brother #3 got a Genesis model 3 along with Sonic Classics (1, 2, and Mean Bean Machine) and Castlevania Bloodlines. I figured I might as well pick up Sonic 3. I loved those games, and we would often play them along with the latest Nintendo games!

When I started collecting games, my first second-hand “console” purchase was a Sega CD version 2.0.0. I put that in quotes since it barely qualifies as its own console: it needs a Genesis to work with it. No problem, my brother had one that I could borrow.

Except remember that he got the model 3? Yeah, they’re incompatible…

For about a year, the Sega CD sat around doing absolutely nothing until I could find a model 2 (the model 1 looked really unappealing and required an extra piece to work with the CD add-on). In the meantime, I kept reading up on the high failure rate of the Sega CD, and since the eBay auction for my Sega CD was an As-Is, I was left hanging for a while. Eventually, the one store I frequent got a model 2 Genesis in decent enough condition, so I bought it and happily took it home.

While I was connecting the Sega CD to the Genesis, I noticed a piece missing from the box: the heat protector. It’s a slab of metal that goes between the two systems in case the Genesis overheats, protecting the plastic tray of the Sega CD. I don’t want a melted system! Once again, the Sega CD was sent to the confines of its dilapidated box…

How hard is it to do this, Sega CD??

How hard is it to do this, Sega CD??

If you are persistent, you can find anything online. I eventually got the metal piece for my CDenesis monstrosity. Now was the day of reckoning! I assembled it and turned on the Genesis. It was able to play Sonic just fine. I removed the cartridge so it would play the CD (I think I tested it with Dragon’s Lair. Why I have that game, I’m still not sure). Nothing. No start up screen, no sound, nothing.

Not gonna lie, this bummed me out a bit. The Sega CD did not cost much at all, but it still meant I had games I couldn’t play. I checked the connections and everything was plugged in, which was part of the problem. The power adapter for the CD was in a dead outlet. I switched it to a live outlet, wherein the Sega CD boot screen came up! I played Dragon’s Lair for a while until I noticed something odd: no sound again. Maybe the game didn’t have sound because it sucks.

Slap in Sonic CD, and… nope. Big bag of nope ripped open right in front of me. Smelled like nope.

The Sega CD connects through the side slot of the Genesis model 2. The Genesis then can connect to the television with an A/V chord. Curiously, there are stereo audio outputs from the Sega CD. The instructions made it sound like the A/V chord from the Genesis was enough. On a whim, I unplugged the audio from the A/V chord and led another audio chord from the CD unit to the television input. I got the awesome start up music, letting me know I was awesome as well. Life is great sometimes!

Due to the sheer amount of wires, the two power sources needed, and the relatively small library of games, the Sega CD did not get much use initially. In fact, I started playing Popful Mail, getting up to Tatto in my team, and subsequently stopping when my next game shipment came in. Once I moved and set up my new entertainment system, I decided to get the Genesis and Sega CD hooked up and finish Popful Mail.

The problem was the data got corrupted. How does that even happen? I understand if the internal battery died, but it was able to save games later. There was no other use or games played except Popful Mail, making me very confused!

Long story short, I had to restart Popful Mail. From the beginning.

Golden Axe CDDoes not make cookiesPopful Mail is a game about Mail (who may or may not be full of pop), a young elfin bounty hunter after some of the shiny stuff. There’s also a backstory about a male, female, and dwarf warrior, though I’ve already played Golden Axe. Thundershield is the best, by the way. That’s not an opinion, that’s fact. Mail is chasing after Nuts Cracker, an Italian stereotype bomb expert who happens to lead the Gingerbread Grifter Gang. He explodes, which I’m sure is a crack at Italians somehow, and Mail is only left with the head. Since that isn’t worth diddly-squat, Mail leaves empty handed. She catches wind of a rogue wizard named Muttonhead, who has a sizable bounty on his head.

The names in this game. Working Designs must have had fun during the translation process.

Mail chases after her new target, though she becomes entangled in a plot much larger than herself. It seems that the cast from Golden Axe sealed away a great evil many years ago in the Imprisoning War. Mandrag Overlord Ganon is manipulating a powerful wizard, Muttonhead, to help him escape and wreak havoc once more, creating some sort of link to the past.

Okay, so the plot is far from original.

The gameplay is a standard hack and slash affair. The player starts with 100 HP, which can get quickly robbed as there is little to no invincibility after taking damage. Some attacks, mostly ranged attacks, take up part of a power meter. The power meter replenishes itself, forcing the player to be cautious in when to use it and when to take a rest, especially during a boss fight. Enemies have an energy meter as well, which is a really nice feature. In accordance to Mail’s greedy nature, gold is a huge element to the RPG aspect of the game. This assures you that you will be killing many raccoons with togas, robbing them of their woodland gold.

Toga! Toga!

Toga! Toga!

Fan of huge hats!Along the way, Mail gets two companions, Tatto and Gaw (I think he’s usually referred to as Tatto, but the game also calls him Tatt. Dunno if that’s an error or a nickname). Tatto is an apprentice wizard who studied under Muttonhead. One day, Muttonhead went berserk and ran off, with Tatto, his best student, chasing after to find out why he changed from his previously good nature. This guy was pivotal in boss fights since he is a powerhouse with the definite reach. I would often use Mail during the platforming portion, allowing Tatto to take on the boss with full health.

Fan of Big Macs!!Then you have the fat worthless jerk named Gaw. He’s a blob that ends every sentence with the word ‘Gaw.’ That is also the name of the species. Everyone is named Gaw. Why? Is it too hard to come up with names? Are there nuances in how the names are said?

Gaw jumps higher than everyone else. This allows him to bypass certain obstacles. He also has a propensity toward death. Gaw was often the designated meat shield. Gaw.

The world map operates as a stage select reminiscent of Super Mario Bros. 3, though to go back, the level must be beaten in reverse. Since this is the case, it would have been fine to make it one big playable map, like Metroid. Gameplay is all about platforming and using the strength of each hero to progress through each stage. At first it is going from point A to point B, but as the game progresses, there are some fetch quests needed to solve puzzles and continue on the journey to find Muttonhead. It keeps things interesting, though I found myself getting lost in some of the cavern stages with no idea how to proceed.

The humor is spot-on. The mishaps of Slick, another elf that pops up every now and again, really adds a significant amount of dialogue to keep you smiling. Sven T. Uncommon, the completely unsubtle Schwarzenegger-esque boss, was hysterical enough to warrant replaying the battle as different characters just to hear how the dialogue changes! Almost all of the dialogue has vocals, and I think the voice acting was very well done (consider some examples from the time like Mega Man 8 and you will see that it is an easy category to win), and the animated cutscenes are nice to look at. Even the visuals during gameplay are pleasant and colorful!

That's some epic running right there

That’s some epic running right there

The game itself is not very hard if you are up for some exploration. Sometimes it requires grinding to get every piece of equipment for all three characters, and this gets frustrating when you end up finding something better in the very next town. Each area is diverse and features different enemies. Mail and company will find themselves facing the likes of the aforementioned Sven, Nuts Cracker, and Venuncio and his Happy Flames of Death. The bosses usually have some easy way to defeat them (usually using a homing weapon from a certain safe zone), so they can be beat after one or two tries.

Burning with a smile

I’m gonna adorably incinerate you!!

I enjoyed this game. It takes a little bit to get into it, but after getting the entire party, I feel the game really picks up in its pacing! Plus, it has an entire empire of penguins!! If there were more games like this, the Sega CD would have been a much better… “console.”

Listen to me now and fear me pretty soon!

Literary gold

Recommendation:

This game is pretty much Zelda II Lite. I feel the humor adds a great amount to the game, and I became captivated to progress, not for the plot, but to hear what they would say next! It is a solid game and, aside from Sonic CD, one of the only reasons to get a Sega CD.

My arbitrary score based on nothing is 11 out of 100 (base 2).

The Legend of Tatto: A Gaw Too Many

The Legend of Tatto: A Gaw Too Many

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