Working Designs was a unique company, to say the least. They did the unusual, ported games others wouldn’t touch and then went all out on the packaging. This overdoing the packaging quickly became their trademark- fans knew Working Designs not only cared about the game but also how it was presented. Most of, if not all of, their Sega CD offerings featured foil embossed, full color, manuals (something that comics were starting to exploit for their own gain). Popful Mail was no exception for fans that took a chance on this little gem, there was also a great game inside (another trademark of Working Designs ports). Not content with the girly front runner of other games, Popful Mail features an elvish bounty hunter that is all bad-ass and little apology for her attitude.
Interestingly, the Sega/Mega CD version of Popful Mail is not the first, or last, version. This game started life on the Japanese PC-8801, PC-9801 computers and looked quite different compared to what North American gamers got. While still colorful and interesting, the earlier versions are quite a bit rougher than what we got in the USA. Working Designs version featured full voice acting, large colorful portraits of characters and smoother graphics in the game.
While Nintendo was harping on Super Metroid, which was cool, Sega CD gamers were enjoying a similar game that went in the completely opposite direction graphically. You bounce around woods and other natural scenery attempting to take down the big bounty, Nuts Cracker. Nuts Cracker has a knack for escaping after Mail beats him, maybe she forgets to secure the restraints or something? Similar to how Dr. Robotnik, or Bowser for Mario, continually find ways to escape after defeat and return at the end of a future level to continue their torment.
Popful Mail is quite the collector’s item nowadays. It was available in a semi limited run on Sega CD just because there weren’t that many Sega CD units sold. This has helped demand outstrip supply on Ebay (sponsor link) and other sites. No digital distribution has occurred for Popful Mail so it is original copies all the way.
Click here for more coverage of Working Designs games here on Retro Gaming Magazine.