WELCO METOT HENEX TLEVEL – Popful Mail

popfulmail_mcd_us_box_frontDeveloper: Sega Falcom
Publisher: Sega (Japan), Working Designs (US)
Released: 1994, 1995

Working Designs published four games total for the Sega CD – Lunar, Lunar 2, Vay and Popful Mail. Of those four, I’d still rank Lunar as my favourite, but Popful Mail is definitely the most unique of the bunch.

Originally developed by Nihon Falcom for the NEC PC-8801, Popful Mail is a side-scrolling action RPG along the lines of the company’s long-running Dragon Slayer series. Western gamers would mostly be familiar with installments like Legacy of the Wizard and Faxanadu (both for the NES). Popful Mail shares a lot of the same traits of these games, what with the upgraded gear, platforming, and even little things like Mail being in pain and doing a little hop when she falls too far from one platform to another.

Popful Mail is a bounty hunter…a pretty crappy bounty hunter. As the game opens we find her hot on the heels of the nefarious outlaw Nuts Cracker and his Gingerbread Grifter Gang. After a lot of running, slashing and explosions, Mail ends up with a useless head that’s worth zilch. At her lowest moment, though, she discovers a posting for a huge bounty on the wizard Muttonhead. And thus begins our story.

While the gameplay is pretty serious stuff, Popful Mail’s story is definitely all about the comedy. And thus, Working Designs’ notoriously pop-culture-y translation actually works really well in this context. And it’s a good thing, too, because the game features a tonne of digitized speech. So much, in fact, that the sample rate is noticeably low in order to fit it all on the disc, something that Working Designs itself cops to in the production notes found at the back of the manual.

Another thing Working Designs was notorious for back in the day was fiddling with game balancing. Popful Mail is a good example, as the English version of the game is actually a lot harder than its Japanese counterpart. Whether the game is too hard is debateable – I actually really dig the difficulty level – but there are definitely people out there that didn’t appreciate the tweaking.
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Eventually Mail meets two companions, the wizard Tatt and the monster Gaw. Players can switch between each character on the fly in order to take advantage of their different abilities, which are mostly based on movement speed and jump height. This is, once again, reminiscent of the game Legacy of the Wizard, where players took control of an entire family of adventurers with different abilities.

The Sega CD isn’t the only platform that saw a port of the original PC-8801 game. Both the PC-Engine CD-ROM and Super Famicom got their own versions of Mail’s adventure. My understanding is that the PC-Engine CD-ROM version is very similar to the original PC game, while both the Super Famicom and Sega CD versions are quite different both from the original title, and from each other. The Sega CD version is the only one to be translated to English and released in the west.

The Super Famicom version was actually the very first game Nihon Falcom developed for the console.
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The Sega CD version was developed by a company called Sega Falcom, which was a joint venture between Sega of Japan and Nihon Falcom. The label only lasted for four games, and Popful Mail is one of them. This Sega CD port is a much more streamlined game than the PC-8801 original.

Even more interesting to note is that this port was originally slated to be a Sonic game. Back around 1993, during the height of Sonic mania, EGM and other US mags started reporting on the existence of a game called Sister Sonic. Sister Sonic was to star Sonic’s long lost sister, and be an action RPG spinoff of the main series.

According to an interview with Working Designs head Victor Ireland on Hardcore Gaming 101, Sister Sonic was, in fact, Popful Mail. The Sonic reskin idea was apparently dropped due to fan complaints. Ireland claims that it was around this time that Mamoru Shigeta, the head of the Consumer Soft Division at Sega of Japan, offered him the game for localization.
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Ireland also says that this working relationship directly lead to Working Designs localizing and publishing both Dragon Force and Iron Storm for the Saturn a few years later.

There would be a Sonic RPG released eventually, of course, in the form of the BioWare-developed Sonic Chronicles released in 2008 for the Nintendo DS.

Unfortunately there were never any sequels to Popful Mail produced. Falcom used some of the characters in some drama CDs, and was apparently shopping a pitch video to various anime studios of the day in the hopes of turning the game into an animated series…but to no avail.

Popful Mail is one of those games that you really should experience for the Sega CD.

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515: Sucker for Massive Size

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This week! Hello Games PR, more game delays, Sonic Mania collector’s edition, Ethan gets an HTC Vive, Forza Horizon 3 demo, Pac-Man Championship 2, NASCAR Heat Evolution, Attack on Titan, Pokémon Go Plus and much more. Join us, won’t you?

Links of interest:

Check out Greg’s web series Generation 16 (Episode 18 now available) – click here. And take a trip over to Phil’s YouTube Channel to see some awesome retro game vids. Or check out Ethan’s gaming blog at gamingunicorn.com

Own an iPhone/iPod touch? We’ve got an app for that–the Player One Podcast player app is available now. Play shows new and old, read show notes, access the show Twitter, website, email, and more! Click here to download.

Got an Android device? You can now download our app on the Amazon Android Appstore. Find out all about it here.

Follow us on twitter at twitter.com/p1podcast.

Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to visit our new web site at www.playeronepodcast.com. Don’t forget to join our forums if you haven’t already!

Running time: 1:29:24

 
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514: Playing the One-Handed Mario

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This week! More 3DS talk, more Streetpass games, PS4 Pro, Super Mario Run, Pokémon Go, Picross 3D Round 2, Vita stuff and more! Join us, won’t you?

Links of interest:

Check out Greg’s web series Generation 16 (Episode 17 now available) – click here. And take a trip over to Phil’s YouTube Channel to see some awesome retro game vids. Or check out Ethan’s gaming blog at gamingunicorn.com

Own an iPhone/iPod touch? We’ve got an app for that–the Player One Podcast player app is available now. Play shows new and old, read show notes, access the show Twitter, website, email, and more! Click here to download.

Got an Android device? You can now download our app on the Amazon Android Appstore. Find out all about it here.

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Running time: 1:22:57

 
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513: Core Loop Size Matters

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This week! 3DS plans, NX specs, Gran Turismo Sport is delayed, PlayStation Now on PC, Deus Ex Revolution, Stein’s Gate, HeadLander, FIFA 17, Alone With You, Assetto Corsa and F1 2016! Join us, won’t you?

Check out Greg’s web series Generation 16 (Episode 17 now available) – click here. And take a trip over to Phil’s YouTube Channel to see some awesome retro game vids. Or check out Ethan’s gaming blog at gamingunicorn.com

Own an iPhone/iPod touch? We’ve got an app for that–the Player One Podcast player app is available now. Play shows new and old, read show notes, access the show Twitter, website, email, and more! Click here to download.

Got an Android device? You can now download our app on the Amazon Android Appstore. Find out all about it here.

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512: Been Here the Whole Time

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This week! Crystal Pepsi, Dunkin Donuts, Swedish Fish Oreos, CJ buys a N3DS, PS4 slim, ToeJam & Earl, No Man’s Sky, Alone With You, games that fan groups can go ahead and remake, and more! Join us, won’t you?

Links of interest:

Check out Greg’s web series Generation 16 (Episode 17 now available) – click here. And take a trip over to Phil’s YouTube Channel to see some awesome retro game vids. Or check out Ethan’s gaming blog at gamingunicorn.com

Own an iPhone/iPod touch? We’ve got an app for that–the Player One Podcast player app is available now. Play shows new and old, read show notes, access the show Twitter, website, email, and more! Click here to download.

Got an Android device? You can now download our app on the Amazon Android Appstore. Find out all about it here.

Follow us on twitter at twitter.com/p1podcast.

Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to visit our new web site at www.playeronepodcast.com. Don’t forget to join our forums if you haven’t already!

Running time: 1:09:48

 
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511: Slimmer Down Now

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This week! Delays, Metal Gear Survive, slim hardware, best-selling systems, more No Man’s Sky, Metroid Federation Force, Deus Ex Go, Xonic, F1 2016, playing retro games in the future and more. Join us, won’t you?

Links of interest:

Check out Greg’s web series Generation 16 (Episode 17 now available) – click here. And take a trip over to Phil’s YouTube Channel to see some awesome retro game vids. Or check out Ethan’s gaming blog at gamingunicorn.com

Own an iPhone/iPod touch? We’ve got an app for that–the Player One Podcast player app is available now. Play shows new and old, read show notes, access the show Twitter, website, email, and more! Click here to download.

Got an Android device? You can now download our app on the Amazon Android Appstore. Find out all about it here.

Follow us on twitter at twitter.com/p1podcast.

Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to visit our new web site at www.playeronepodcast.com. Don’t forget to join our forums if you haven’t already!

Running time: 1:34:18

 
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WELCO METOT HENEX TLEVEL – Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure

PitfalltMA_MCD_US_Box_FrontPublisher: Activision
Developer: Activision/Redline Games
Released: 1994

You know Pitfall, right? David Crane’s 1982 platformer basically defined a genre. Its success not only solidified Activision as a powerhouse publisher, but proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that great Atari 2600 games could come from somewhere other than Atari. For all intents and purposes, Pitfall Harry was basically Activision’s mascot back before video game companies had such a thing.

Activision would go on to port its megahit to multiple other platforms, including the Intellivision and Colecovision, as well as licensing it out for use on other platforms like the NES. It even licensed the game and its 1983 sequel to Sega so that it could bring Pitfall Harry to the arcade. Sega’s Pitfall arcade game mixed elements of both titles, and would eventually be ported to their SG-1000 home console.

After that, Pitfall Harry lay dormant for over a decade. In the meantime, Activision bought out Infocom, a merger which eventually lead to the company diversifying into business software, changing its name to Mediagenic, and ultimately being taken over by an investment group lead by Robert Kotick, who filed for Chapter 11 and rebuilt the company as the new Activision.

Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure is this new company’s first attempt at capitalizing on the once-mighty Activision’s premiere brand. It tells the story of Pitfall Harry Jr, on an expedition with his dad to find some sort of golden trinket. The opening scene shows Pitfall Harry Senior carried off by something just as the pair are about to cash in. Now Junior has to set off to find and rescue the old man.

If this game hadn’t been called Pitfall, Activision could have easily slapped an Indiana Jones license on it and no one would have batted an eyelash.
PITFALL001
Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure hit multiple systems back in 1994 and 1995. Besides the SNES, Genesis and Sega CD, it was eventually released for platforms like the Atari Jaguar and 32X.

The first thing that catches your eye when you fire up The Mayan Adventure is the wonderful animation. Junior moves very smoothly, and features a lot of really nice touches, like waving his arms wildly when he rides a mine cart or falling over backwards if he smacks into a wall while running at top speed.

For the most part, the Sega CD version features more frames of animation and more details throughout the game. For example, the little gold Harry statues in each level have a nice little sparkle to them in the CD game.

Plus, of course, you’re getting much better sound effects than what is found on the Genesis cartridge. Not to mention a very solid, redbook audio soundtrack that fits the game almost perfectly.
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And the levels are nicely varied as well. While the general jungle aesthetic exists throughout, there’s a nice mix of vertical and horizontal stages, as well as standard elements like caves and waterfalls to traverse.

If The Mayan Adventure struggles anywhere, it’s with combat. All that smooth animation comes at a price. Namely, Harry Junior just doesn’t feel that responsive. This is especially true if he gets surrounded by the various wildlife that all seems determined to kill him. Turning around just takes a tiny bit of extra time, as does crouching, so that usually by the time you’re in position to hit an enemy coming from behind or one approaching on the ground, they’re already on top of you. It’s a major blemish on what is otherwise a pretty decent game.

And the Sega CD version is my favourite, if only because of the redbook audio and higher quality sound effects. The 32X game appears to use slightly more colour, and maybe even a better resolution, but overall it still doesn’t beat the shiny disc.

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510: No Man’s Chester Cheetah

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This week! A heavy dose of No Man’s Sky (if your podcast client has chapter support you can skip to or past it!), fan games, new 3DSes, NX patents, mock-ups, and so much more. Join us, won’t you?

Links of interest:

Check out Greg’s web series Generation 16 (Episode 17 now available) – click here. And take a trip over to Phil’s YouTube Channel to see some awesome retro game vids. Or check out Ethan’s gaming blog at gamingunicorn.com

Own an iPhone/iPod touch? We’ve got an app for that–the Player One Podcast player app is available now. Play shows new and old, read show notes, access the show Twitter, website, email, and more! Click here to download.

Got an Android device? You can now download our app on the Amazon Android Appstore. Find out all about it here.

Follow us on twitter at twitter.com/p1podcast.

Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to visit our new web site at www.playeronepodcast.com. Don’t forget to join our forums if you haven’t already!

Running time: 1:43:02

 
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509: Meditatin’ Right

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This week! No Man’s Sky leaks/patches/all that stuff (use chapter stops to avoid any details), Nintendo Power hits the internet, Metroid, Telltale Batman, ABZU and so much more. Join us, won’t you?

Links of interest:

Check out Greg’s web series Generation 16 (Episode 17 now available) – click here. And take a trip over to Phil’s YouTube Channel to see some awesome retro game vids. Or check out Ethan’s gaming blog at gamingunicorn.com

Own an iPhone/iPod touch? We’ve got an app for that–the Player One Podcast player app is available now. Play shows new and old, read show notes, access the show Twitter, website, email, and more! Click here to download.

Got an Android device? You can now download our app on the Amazon Android Appstore. Find out all about it here.

Follow us on twitter at twitter.com/p1podcast.

Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to visit our new web site at www.playeronepodcast.com. Don’t forget to join our forums if you haven’t already!

Running time: 1:42:11

 
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508: Gone Reverse Larrabee

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This week! We’re joined by Kevin Larrabee for a long talk about Eurogamer’s Nintendo NX piece from last week. Then we dive into games like Headlander, F1 2015, and a whole lot of Vita stuff like UPPERS!, Trails of Cold Steel and Shiren the Wanderer. Oh, and this episode has a Shenmue II spoiler right at the front of Whatcha Been Playing, so watch out for that. Join us, won’t you?

Links of interest:

Check out Back In My Play at backinmyplay.com, The Fitcast Network at fitcast.network, and follow Kevin Larrabee on Twitter @kevinlarrabee.

Check out Greg’s web series Generation 16 (Episode 17 now available) – click here. And take a trip over to Phil’s YouTube Channel to see some awesome retro game vids. Or check out Ethan’s gaming blog at gamingunicorn.com

Own an iPhone/iPod touch? We’ve got an app for that–the Player One Podcast player app is available now. Play shows new and old, read show notes, access the show Twitter, website, email, and more! Click here to download.

Got an Android device? You can now download our app on the Amazon Android Appstore. Find out all about it here.

Follow us on twitter at twitter.com/p1podcast.

Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to visit our new web site at www.playeronepodcast.com. Don’t forget to join our forums if you haven’t already!

Running time: 1:39:46

 
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