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Popful Mail (Sega CD)

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Title Screen

Popful Mail

Developer: Nihon Falcom
Publishers: Sega (JP), Working Designs (US)
Platform: Sega CD
Released in JP: April 1, 1994
Released in US: February 23, 1995


TextIcon.png This game has unused text.
DebugIcon.png This game has debugging material.
SoundtestIcon.png This game has a hidden sound test.
RegionIcon.png This game has regional differences.


Popful Mail for the Sega CD is a port/remake of Falcom's 1991 side-scrolling RPG for the PC-88. It would probably have remained Japan-exclusive had not Working Designs stepped in and given it a US release (and the less said of Sister Sonic, the better).

Working Designs also made sure that the word "biffed" remained strong in your memory. And made a few very small cosmetic changes. Just a few.

Text

The Japanese version of the game is peppered with various plaintext debug and error messages, e.g.

Not enough M-memory !
FILENAME is not defined
Illegal destination

in GM01.BIN.

Interestingly, most of these were commented out of the US version.

Test Mode

Popful Mail SCD Test Mode.png

At the main menu, select Quit Game and leave "No" highlighted at the confirmation prompt. Then press Left, Right, Left, Right, Left, Right, Right, Right, A. The Utilities menu will now contain a new Test Mode option featuring a sound test, voice test, and cutscene viewer.

(Source: GameFAQs)

In the Japanese version, the code is instead Left, Right, Left, Right, Right, A. Since the Utilities menu doesn't exist there, the Test Mode option is in the main menu.

(Source: http://kihaku01.web.fc2.com/md/mdura.html)

Crash Handler

PopfulCD crash.png

The game has a basic crash handler that dumps the main CPU's registers in the event that something goes wrong. To see it, well, crash the game. In the Japanese version, overwriting byte 0x0C of GM00.BIN (which is at 0x11780C in an ISO) with 0xFF should make this show up after pressing Start at the title screen.

Regional Differences

It's that time again, folks: WORKING DESIGNS presents a Working Designs game performed by Working Designs featuring Working Designs developed by Falcom starring Working Designs. Lots of stuff got changed around for the US version, sometimes for good reason and sometimes decidedly not. Let's start with the more innocuous additions and work our way down.

Title Screen

The game's startup sequence was significantly altered for the US release.

In the Japanese version, the game always boots directly to the title screen. Idling there for long enough will play the game's opening cutscene. Pressing Start on the title screen leads to the main menu, and starting a new game from the menu leads directly to the world map.

In the US version, this is much more complicated:

PopfulCD wd us.png
  • First of all, Working Designs' logo appears for a few seconds before the game begins.
PopfulCD splash us.png
  • After the publisher logo, this new splash screen featuring the title logo shows up.
  • The game then plays the first half of the original Japanese opening (the "legend") until it finishes or the player presses Start, then cuts to the title screen.
  • In the Japanese version, the title screen is completely silent, but in the US version it's actually accompanied by a new track done by the American staff!
  • Idling on the title screen does nothing.
  • After pressing Start on the title screen, the game checks if any save files exist. If none do, it skips the main menu and immediately starts a new game.
  • Whenever a new game is started, the game plays the second half of the original opening scene (Mail's pursuit of the Nuts Cracker).

Main Menu

JP US
PopfulCD menu jp.png PopfulCD menu us.png

The US version significantly reworks the main menu, for whatever reason.

In the Japanese version, there are six options: Opening, Continue, New Game, Erase Data, Listen to Song, and Quit Game. Opening plays the game's opening, Erase Data deletes all the save data, and Listen to Song plays the game's vocal theme.

The US version reduces this to just New Game, Continue, a new "Utilities" option, and Quit Game. The Utilities submenu now contains the Delete Data option, as well as an extra "Options" menu. The Options menu itself is the same as the "BGM" menu accessible in-game.

JP US
PopfulCD load jp.png PopfulCD load us.png

The US version reformats the Save and Load menus slightly so that they display the amount of time elapsed on each file. In both versions, the most recently saved file is selected by default when the menu is opened.

Additionally, the US version will automatically close the menu and return to the title screen if it's left idle for long enough.

Cutscenes

  • The first part of the opening scene is actually significantly different in the US release. The Japanese version has written narration over each scene, but the US version erases the text entirely in favor of a voice-over by Mail.
(Source: [1],[2])
  • The US cutscenes have different music tracks from the Japanese version. Sometimes they're recreations of the originals using a different synthesizer, but in other cases (such as the second half of the opening, and the ending) the music has been completely rewritten. There's a good possibility that Working Designs didn't get the original backing tracks from Falcom, just the finished versions with baked-in Japanese voice-overs, and they ended up having to remake them from scratch in order to get the English dub in.
(Source: [3],[4])
  • The ending theme was rewritten into English. As with the cutscenes, the localizers apparently didn't have access to the original backing tracks; the English song has been recreated from scratch, resulting in very different instrumentation and mixing.

Gameplay

The US version alters the control scheme. In the Japanese version, B is jump while A and C both perform attacks (they're treated identically). The menu is opened with Start.

In the US version, A and B work the same, but C instead opens the menu.

PopfulCD pause us opt.gif

Pressing Start now opens this new, animated pause screen, which keeps track of the time elapsed on the current file.

JP US
PopfulCD status jp.png PopfulCD status us.png

The Status subwindow has been expanded to incorporate the time elapsed on the current file. (All these time-related changes actually have a purpose – more on that later.)

Miscellaneous

  • In the Japanese version, the clouds in the background of Elf Woods use a parallax scrolling effect, but only move when the player scrolls the screen. In the US version, they constantly move to the left independently of the screen's movement.
  • The US version adds extra dialogue from the characters on the Game Over screen. This didn't exist at all in the Japanese release.
  • The reason so many extra time displays were added around the game is a new feature added to the game: depending on how quickly it's beaten, a certain number of outtakes from the voice-over recording sessions are played after the "The End" screen. To hear them in full requires beating the game in under five hours.
(Source: http://www.gamefaqs.com/segacd/587980-popful-mail/faqs/8276)
  • Oh, and it goes without saying, but a lot of the US script is made up. It's similar to Lunar: Eternal Blue, where the English dialogue was produced by some combination of exaggerations of the original lines combined with extra "jokes" or other innovations inserted by the localizers. Overall, it's perhaps a bit less severely mangled than some Working Designs games, if only because the original material wasn't very serious in the first place.
  • On a related note, most of the English names are different, too (e.g. "Blackie" became "Slick", and "Material" became "Muttonhead").

Shop Prices

So everything up to here is pretty much window dressing and nice little bonuses, right? Added title music, extra secrets? Well, that's not the end of it.

To start with, the US version of the game inflates many items' prices by massive amounts. A prominent victim is the invincibility-granting Amulet, which costs a mere 100 Gold in the Japanese version but 1500 Gold in the US version. Or there's the Melon, which goes for 300 Gold in Japan but 1000 Gold in the States. The sell prices have mostly been increased too, but rarely by enough to make selling things actually useful. The sell price of Gold Bullion (which exists only to be sold) was actually slashed in half from 1000 to 500 Gold.

Generally, the idea seems to have been to make healing items and buffs much harder to get. A side effect of the repricing is that while all healing items have the same cost/restoration ratio in the Japanese version (3 Gold per HP restored, versus 4.5 Gold per in the US version), the US version actually makes the two highest-end items a worse value for the money (8.125 and 10 Gold per, for the Banana and Melon respectively). Since the lower-end items are easily obtainable by backtracking, this means it's a massive waste to buy those items in the US version!

The prices of weapons and armor were left alone.

Item Buy Price Sell Price Item Buy Price Sell Price Item Buy Price Sell Price Item Buy Price Sell Price
Amulet 100 -> 1500

+1400, 1400%

10 -> 100

+90, 900%

Helmet 150 -> 400

+250, 167%

10 -> 50

+40, 400%

Stone Shoes 100 -> 1000

+900, 900%

10 -> 30

+20, 200%

Ice Shoes 100 -> 250

+150, 150%

10 -> 30

+20, 200%

Spiked Boots 100 -> 500

+400, 400%

10 -> 60

+50, 500%

Orange 60 -> 90

+30, 50%

10 -> 15

+5, 50%

Cherry 120 -> 180

+60, 50%

20 -> 30

+10, 50%

Apple 180 -> 270

+90, 50%

30 -> 45

+15, 50%

Banana 240 -> 650

+410, 171%

40 -> 60

+20, 50%

Melon 300 -> 1000

+700, 233%

50 -> 75

+25, 50%

Gold Bullion 0 1000 -> 500

-500, -50%

Elixyr 10000 200 -> 500

+300, 150%

Hazard Damage

The damage done by passive hazards (spikes, lava, etc.) is much higher in the US version. The amount of damage done is computed directly from the internal ID of the current stage (the Elf Woods are 0, Treesun is 1, and so on following the game's linear order). In the Japanese version, the formula is (damage = (levelnum / 8) + 3); in the US version, it's (damage = (levelnum / 2) + 5). This results in the following table of damages in each version:

Passive Hazard Damage
Stage JP US Stage JP US Stage JP US Stage JP US Stage JP US Stage JP US
Elf Woods 3 5 Treesun 3 5 Golem Tower 3 6 Wind Cave 3 6 Fossil Rock 3 7 Hot Springs 3 7
Deviant Den 3 8 Panic Peak 3 8 Mine 4 9 Zoth Shrine 4 9 Fort Fryght 4 10 Icycal 4 10
Mt. Rip 4 11 Gyp Ship 4 11 Crystal Palace 4 12 Freaky Foyer 4 12 Hassle Hall 5 13 Manic Mazes 5 13
Orb Tower 5 14 Morgal 5 14 Necros 5 15 The Overlord 5 15

Enemy Stats

These are by far the most significant changes to the game. Per Working Designs' highly idiosyncratic localization practices, the vast majority of the enemies in the game received boosts to their stats...very, very large boosts. If you thought Lunar: Eternal Blue got it bad, wait 'til you see this.

Some of these really have to be seen to be believed, such as the cluster of four Wizard enemies just above Namo's cell in Treesun. In the Japanese version, they have an Attack of 20, and a typically equipped player at this point in the game will take 5 damage per hit from them. In the US version, they have an Attack of 60, meaning the player takes 45 damage per hit from them and their projectiles, not to mention that their HP has been more than tripled from 25 (2 hits to kill) to 80 (4 hits). Factor in that player invincibility time after getting hit is only 40 frames, that the player's maximum HP is permanently fixed at 100, and that Amulets and healing items are much more costly to get in the US version, and perhaps you get the picture: for the average player, the US version is so frustrating it borders on unplayable.

Some arbitrary tinkering was also done to the amounts of Gold dropped by various enemies. Surprisingly, it was actually increased in several cases.

When reading the chart below, bear in mind that damage calculation in this game is very simple: The damage dealt is the attacker's Attack minus the defender's Defense, or 1 if this comes out to 0 or less. This applies to both player characters and enemies.

In the tables below, instances in which a stat changed to make the game harder have been marked in red. The rare cases where a stat change actually benefits the player are marked in green. Instances in which a stat changed detrimentally by more than 5 points and constituted a change of 66% or greater from the original amount appear in magenta. Enemies whose stats didn't change are omitted.

Hmmm...
To do:
Label enemies. This is made more difficult by the fact that they don't have names, at least not in-game. Include their sprites if needed.
Enemy Stat Changes
ID # HP Attack Defense Gold ID # HP Attack Defense Gold ID # HP Attack Defense Gold
00 25 20 -> 22

+2, 10%

0 5 01 25 20 -> 30

+10, 50%

0 10 02 45 20 -> 30

+10, 50%

0 10
03 100 25 -> 30

+5, 20%

10 0 04 45 -> 46

+1, 2%

25 -> 27

+2, 8%

0 20 05 45 25 -> 35

+10, 40%

0 20
06 20 -> 45

+25, 125%

25 -> 35

+10, 40%

0 60 -> 75

+15, 25%

07 25 -> 50

+25, 100%

25 -> 40

+15, 60%

0 -> 10

+10, -%

30 -> 1

-29, -97%

09 100 30 -> 37

+7, 23%

15 0
0A 100 30 -> 45

+15, 50%

10 -> 15

+5, 50%

0 0B 100 30 -> 55

+25, 83%

15 -> 18

+3, 20%

0 -> 10

+10, -%

0C 25 -> 50

+25, 100%

20 -> 45

+25, 125%

0 -> 5

+5, -%

5 -> 0

-5, -100%

0D 25 -> 80

+55, 220%

20 -> 60

+40, 200%

0 -> 10

+10, -%

0 0E 20 30 -> 40

+10, 33%

0 60 0F 20 -> 21

+1, 5%

30 -> 40

+10, 33%

0 80
10 30 -> 35

+5, 17%

30 -> 45

+15, 50%

0 -> 5

+5, -%

120 -> 100

-20, -17%

11 30 -> 25

-5, -17%

0 -> 40

+40, -%

0 -> 5

+5, -%

140 -> 120

-20, -14%

12 20 -> 24

+4, 20%

30 -> 40

+10, 33%

0 120
13 50 -> 55

+5, 10%

30 -> 45

+15, 50%

0 80 14 25 -> 30

+5, 20%

0 -> 15

+15, -%

0 0 15 25 -> 30

+5, 20%

30 -> 45

+15, 50%

0 120
16 100 35 -> 60

+25, 71%

15 -> 17

+2, 13%

0 18 50 30 -> 55

+25, 83%

0 140 19 20 -> 45

+25, 125%

30 -> 60

+30, 100%

0 -> 5

+5, -%

80 -> 180

+100, 125%

1A 50 -> 52

+2, 4%

30 -> 40

+10, 33%

0 100 1B 100 35 -> 60

+25, 71%

15 -> 18

+3, 20%

0 1C 20 -> 28

+8, 40%

30 -> 40

+10, 33%

0 100
1D 100 35 -> 60

+25, 71%

25 0 1E 100 35 -> 60

+25, 71%

25 -> 27

+2, 8%

0 1F 50 -> 60

+10, 20%

30 -> 50

+20, 67%

0 -> 10

+10, -%

100 -> 150

+50, 50%

21 50 -> 54

+4, 8%

35 -> 45

+10, 29%

0 180 22 30 -> 35

+5, 17%

35 -> 65

+30, 86%

0 -> 10

+10, -%

180 23 80 35 -> 70

+35, 100%

0 -> 15

+15, -%

200
24 80 -> 85

+5, 6%

35 -> 90

+55, 157%

0 -> 25

+25, -%

200 -> 0

-200, -100%

25 80 -> 85

+5, 6%

35 -> 60

+25, 71%

0 -> 5

+5, -%

200 26 20 -> 21

+1, 5%

35 -> 45

+10, 29%

0 180
27 20 -> 60

+40, 200%

35 -> 90

+55, 157%

0 0 28 50 -> 60

+10, 20%

35 -> 55

+20, 57%

0 -> 5

+5, -%

180 29 80 35 -> 70

+35, 100%

0 -> 10

+10, -%

180
2A 50 -> 60

+10, 20%

35 -> 50

+15, 43%

0 -> 10

+10, -%

180 2B 100 35 -> 60

+25, 71%

20 -> 25

+5, 25%

0 2D 100 35 -> 60

+25, 71%

20 -> 27

+7, 35%

0
2F 100 35 -> 70

+35, 100%

20 -> 25

+5, 25%

0 32 100 40 -> 65

+25, 62%

25 -> 27

+2, 8%

0 34 80 -> 90

+10, 12%

35 -> 75

+40, 114%

0 -> 15

+15, -%

0
35 35 -> 50

+15, 43%

40 -> 60

+20, 50%

0 -> 10

+10, -%

200 36 35 -> 55

+20, 57%

40 -> 60

+20, 50%

0 -> 12

+12, -%

200 37 35 -> 55

+20, 57%

40 -> 60

+20, 50%

0 -> 10

+10, -%

200
38 70 -> 71

+1, 1%

40 -> 60

+20, 50%

0 200 39 70 -> 75

+5, 7%

40 -> 65

+25, 62%

0 -> 10

+10, -%

240 3A 35 -> 40

+5, 14%

40 -> 65

+25, 62%

0 300
3B 35 -> 60

+25, 71%

40 -> 100

+60, 150%

0 -> 17

+17, -%

200 -> 300

+100, 50%

3C 70 -> 72

+2, 3%

40 -> 60

+20, 50%

0 200 3D 70 -> 77

+7, 10%

40 -> 80

+40, 100%

0 -> 10

+10, -%

250
3E 70 -> 75

+5, 7%

40 -> 70

+30, 75%

0 -> 15

+15, -%

250 3F 70 40 -> 60

+20, 50%

0 -> 17

+17, -%

250 40 20 -> 30

+10, 50%

40 0 20 -> 1

-19, -95%

42 35 -> 50

+15, 43%

1 -> 20

+19, 1900%

0 -> 5

+5, -%

200 -> 40

-160, -80%

43 35 -> 50

+15, 43%

1 -> 20

+19, 1900%

0 -> 5

+5, -%

200 -> 40

-160, -80%

44 100 40 -> 60

+20, 50%

0 -> 20

+20, -%

300 -> 350

+50, 17%

45 100 40 -> 80

+40, 100%

25 -> 29

+4, 16%

0 47 100 40 -> 80

+40, 100%

25 -> 30

+5, 20%

0 4A 100 45 -> 65

+20, 44%

25 -> 31

+6, 24%

0
4B 100 45 -> 75

+30, 67%

30 -> 36

+6, 20%

0 4D 40 -> 60

+20, 50%

45 -> 75

+30, 67%

30 -> 32

+2, 7%

380 4E 40 -> 55

+15, 38%

45 -> 70

+25, 56%

30 450
4F 40 -> 50

+10, 25%

45 -> 70

+25, 56%

30 -> 25

-5, -17%

300 50 60 -> 80

+20, 33%

45 -> 70

+25, 56%

30 -> 35

+5, 17%

300 51 40 -> 60

+20, 50%

45 -> 75

+30, 67%

30 -> 32

+2, 7%

480
52 100 48 -> 75

+27, 56%

45 -> 46

+1, 2%

0 53 100 45 -> 75

+30, 67%

45 -> 48

+3, 7%

0 54 100 45 -> 80

+35, 78%

45 -> 47

+2, 4%

0
55 100 48 -> 55

+7, 15%

42 0 56 100 50 -> 75

+25, 50%

45 -> 47

+2, 4%

0 57 100 55 -> 85

+30, 55%

50 0
58 100 50 -> 77

+27, 54%

45 -> 46

+1, 2%

0 59 100 55 -> 75

+20, 36%

46 -> 47

+1, 2%

0