Little Things: The Falcom Bounce

Video games diverge when it comes to falling. A harsh, semi-realistic adventure like Dark Souls shows no mercy to anyone who drops too far a distance. A cute side-scroller like Super Mario Bros. 3 or Dino City lets you plummet from great heights unharmed, provided there’s a place to land and you’re not just tumbling into a bottomless pit. There’s not much to it: if you fall, you either take damage or walk away cartoonishly unscathed.

Some games from Falcom put a little more thought into this. Characters don’t just fall. They bounce.

A good example appears in Legacy of the Wizard for the NES. It’s technically part of Falcom’s Dragon Slayer series, and it sends an adventurous family (and their pet) through a ludicrously complex maze. The gameplay resembles a side-scroller, so the members of the clan can jump, climb ladders, and, of course, fall from great heights.

Observe this example with Pochi, the family’s loyal monster pet. I’m using him because he's a dog in the family portrait and a dino-dragon in the game and therefore the best character.

Upon striking the ground, Pochi bounces a little, complete with a stunned posture and squeaky sound effect…

…And then he’s back to normal, losing only one tiny life bar for his trouble. It’s an amusing detail that Falcom clearly didn’t need to include. But they did anyway.

Popful Mail, my favorite Falcom game, follows suit. It’s a bright and silly side-scroller starring a greedy elf warrior, a humble magician, and a cave dragon cute enough for stuffed toy lines. You can find versions of Popful Mail on several consoles and computers, but the Sega CD outing gets my recommendation; it has the largest characters, while the Sega-refined gameplay reminds me of Monster World. Working Designs also gave it an appropriately humorous translation.

Lots of entertaining details appear in Popful Mail. Maneuver our heroine, Mail, or her companions too close to a ledge, and they’ll wobble uncertainly.

And if they fall, they’ll carom off the surface in goggle-eyed confusion. They’re also invulnerable for this moment of rubbery stupefaction, and that’s a good thing when you’re playing the toughened-up Sega CD version of Popful Mail.

Do other Falcom games bounce your character around? I hope so. The company’s older games lean toward overhead action-RPGs, so there’s less opportunity for falling and rebounding.

Let’s see if Ys III: Wanderers from Ys lets you bounce.

Nope. I guess Ys is too serious for that.


  1. Anonymous3:28 AM

    Just in case you haven't heard about this:

    - Terramax

  2. Thanks! I'm reluctant to write about Anatomia again, though, just because I'll get sad about it probably never showing up in English.