RPG Review #103: Popful Mail

NuMetalManiak Could you believe it? I beat an RPG within one day! Popful Mail: A Magical Fantasy Adventure was released by Falcom, the same guys responsible for the Ys series, and as you could probably guess, this one plays sort of like it! I sort of straddle the line by calling this an RPG though. It's sort of a Metroidvania game, so it's a 2D platformer, but it does have notable RPG elements. Even more straddling of the line, there are several ports to this game, the best port to get is for the Sega CD which was the only translated port. The original port for Popful Mail was for the PC-8801, then also PC-9801, PC, and finally, the port I played on, the SNES. Yep, I played an untranslated version of this game, which made things more confusing for me. But still I prevailed and beat this within the span of one day.

Gameplay: So yeah, this is a Metroidvania game in that you are in a 2D platformer, with several ways to attack and enemies to defeat, along with mazes to conquer and such. The actual HP and MP counters cap out at 100, and HP needs to be refilled with healing items purchasable from a store while MP recharges on its own. Enemy health bars also show up when you fight. For the RPG elements, besides the HP and MP bars, there's different kinds of equips available, and killing enemies adds to the money, although these seem like rewards at first, they need to be cashed in before making any equipment purchases. There's no level up mechanism in Popful Mail though. Also you can save in stores. Finally, the reason I considered this to be sort of-RPG is the fact you can change characters on the fly. Yep, there's three main characters in this one, and in my case the R button can switch them out. More on that in the section below, but overall, I give Popful Mail credit for the fun side of things, even if it's quite simplistic and not too memorable. Grade: B

Mail: Mail is our main character, a female elf bounty hunter who is the fighter archetype. She wields a sword and is only useful in close-range combat, but has the farthest jump reach.
Tatt: Tatt (or Tatto) is the mage archetype. He gains several spells along the way which work for long range, and can even upgrade as he goes along. His jump sucks and his defense does too, but he's integral for boss fights.
Gaw: A monster of a cave species of the same name, this Gaw tags along with Mail and Tatt and gains several interesting abilities like whipping with his tail or breathing fire. His jumping ability is the highest, but not necessarily the farthest, and his abilities are strong.

Using the R button changes these characters on the fly. You might think some are situational, but really there's a bit of diversity with who can be used, which helps the score for this a bit. Again, these multiple characters are the reason I decided to consider this an RPG. Grade: B+

Plot: Well this is a problem, because I played a Japanese version and therefore I couldn't understand much of the plot. Here's what I can salvage. So Mail's a bounty hunter searching to get that bounty, and is on the hunt for a certain Nuts Cracker. While she does manage to retrieve his head, his body escapes. Now, this actually doesn't happen in the SNES version, where she instead starts in town where she finds out about a 2 million dollar reward for a different bounty, this time for a criminal wizard named Muttonhead. In the SNES version she retrieves Nuts Cracker's bounty at this time and meets Tatt along the way before the two venture into the caves. They help the Gaw race as they go with one of them joining after everything is done. At some ruins, the Muttonhead guy shows up, and some guy named Eric (I think) causes trouble. They then are treated by some mystics at the ice world before infiltrating the final castle. Each of Mail's party members has an individual boss battle against some demonic creatures, and seem to also make sacrifices. Then Mail finds Muttonhead and defeats an ultimate evil so that the game can end. Well, I really don't know what to make of this, it's something I've definitely seen before. Grade: D

Music: Like any action RPG or Metroidvania, the music can be one of two things, fairly chaotic but consonant in sound, or generally atmospheric to work with the location. This is the former, and nothing's wrong with that. Always got to keep the blood pumping in these locations. Grade: B+

Overall Grade: C+

It's short and simplistic, somewhere that straddles the line between actual action RPG and Metroidvania. Not much else to really say.