Popful Mail Sound Box ’94


Review by · July 10, 2002

Is it just me or does Popful the elf look almost exactly like Lina Inverse from the “Slayers” anime? I’ve mistaken one for the other on several occasions. In fact, the artwork seems reminiscent of the show (cute, red-haired, money hungry female protagonist with a likable supporting cast) Then again, that isn’t such a bad thing – One of the best things about “Slayers” is the awesome music and I was curious to see what kind of score Falcom would give this lighthearted game.
Popful Mail Soundbox ’94 comes on two CD’s. Disc 1 is the Super Famicom version of the game’s score and Disc 2 contains the music from the Mega CD and PC-Engine versions (that’s “Super Nintendo”, “Sega CD” and “Turbo Grafx 16” respectively for the American gamers out there). At the end of disc 2, there is a vocal version of Disc 1’s ending, “Somebody Loves You.”
Personally, I listen to disc 1 the most. The Super Nintendo has always had a great sound chip and it does the music for this game justice. It’s not as harsh on the ears as the CD versions and it comes out much better than, say, the SNES version of Ys III. All tracks loop once, giving plenty of time to get a feel for the music. Speaking of which, a lot of the music on this disc didn’t make the cut to the CD versions. Not a big loss given how well it turned out here. “Welcome Popful Mail” pretty much sets the tone for the entire soundtrack, with a bouncy feel. “Quick Tempered Spirit” sounds remarkably like the NES classic “Ice Climber,” with a lighthearted, jazzy sound. Tracks 10, 15, 19, 20 and 21 are the ones that correspond to the “Battle” themes on disc 2. I don’t know why they aren’t listed identically on the tracklist on the back. These are pretty much the meat of the disc, as the “Exploration” themes have a bit of a bland feel to them. I’ve sampled the “Jungle Battle” of each set of tracks, so you can see how they differ. Overall, a great CD.
I haven’t played the CD versions of the game, so I can’t say for sure if the tracks on disc 2 follow the redbook audio. I say this because unlike other Falcom releases on CD that contain arrangements of the original music (the Ys games, most notably), these tracks play through once then fade out. At the very least, most redbook audio loops once or twice. These tracks give little to no variation to their disc 1 counterparts, differing only in synth quality (the Mega CD tracks have more of a lighthearted feel, while the PC-Engine ones are closer to the typical Falcom rock). Disappointingly, it pretty much only sticks to the stage themes, ignoring the tracks at the very beginning of disc 1. On top of that, the sound quality improvement isn’t that great. I don’t want to sound too hard on this disc because it has plenty of good tracks, but the disjointed listening experience puts a major damper on it.
“Opening” has a frantic around-and-around sound to it. The PC-Engine versions of “Volcanic Zone (Battle)” and “Geist Race” are excellent Falcom rock, and “Iceberg Zone (Battle)” has a great techno beat to it. Finally, the vocal version of “Somebody Loves You” is a great end for the disc. The soothing vocals lend themselves to another version of the song that is dead-on with its disc 1 version. A little disappointing, but this disc has enough good points to warrant a few listens here and there. For the most part, I prefer the PC-Engine versions over the Mega CD ones.
The linear notes are the icing on the cake. Inside are several black and white pictures of Popful’s adventures (there’s one that has her hugging a sword that costs 10,000 gold pieces, with the party completely broke. This was the one that really brought up the “Slayers” comparison). Very nice.
It’s not the most spectacular Falcom soundtrack, but for what it is (a gamey, lighthearted album for an anime-inspired action RPG), it gets the job done. This is the kind of music you put in and simply drift into a good mood with. Three different versions are a nice touch, although they all have their strong points and weaknesses. I have a soft spot for it, but the main people I would recommend it to are those who have fond memories of playing the game on the Sega CD, which miraculously made it to the US, thanks to Working Designs. People not familiar with the game should listen to the samples and approach with caution. This isn’t Ys or Sorcerian music, so you might be a bit let down with the somewhat weak compositions. For those looking for a great Falcom album to add to their collection, try the Super Arranged Version of these tracks that is found on Falcom Special Box ’94, it’s a much better overall listening experience. Also, keep in mind that this pretty much the only source of the original music. The PC version on Falcom Special Box ’93 is mind-numbingly 8-bit and the rest of the Popful Mail CD’s are drama albums.
As for tracking it down, it came out in 1994 and most Falcom albums from that time period are a pain to track down. This set is no exception. Sold on ebay, it will probably hit between $70-$100. It’s cheaper on Yahoo Japan, but still very infrequent. Falcom Special Box ’94 offers more bang for your buck, so I say go with that instead.

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