Flashback (1992 video game)

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Flashback
Flashback cover.png
Original Amiga cover art
Developer(s) Delphine Software International (Amiga, PC, MD, MCD)
Tiertex (SNES, PC-CD, 3DO, CD-i, Jaguar)
Publisher(s) U.S. Gold
Designer(s) Paul Cuisset
Platform(s) Amiga, Acorn Archimedes, Mega Drive/Genesis, MS-DOS (floppy disk & CD-ROM), NEC PC-9801, SNES, Mega-CD, FM Towns, 3DO, CD-i, Atari Jaguar, Mac OS, iPhone OS, Symbian, Maemo and platforms supported by REminiscence
Release date(s) 1992
Genre(s) Cinematic platformer
Mode(s) Single-player

Flashback, released as Flashback: The Quest for Identity in the United States, is a 1992 science fiction cinematic platform game developed by Delphine Software of France and published by U.S. Gold in United States and Europe, and Sunsoft in Japan.

The game was directed, written/designed and partially programmed by Paul Cuisset, who had previously created the adventure game Future Wars. Flashback was initially released for the Amiga in 1992, then ported to MS-DOS, Acorn Archimedes, Sega Mega Drive/Genesis and Super Nintendo in 1993. CD-ROM versions of Flashback for the Mega-CD, 3DO, CD-i, MS-DOS, Apple Macintosh and the FM Towns were released during 1994 and 1995, together with a cartridge version for the Atari Jaguar in 1995.

Originally advertised as a "CD-ROM game on a cartridge", the game features fully hand-drawn backdrops and all animation is rotoscoped, giving movements an unusual fluidity, similar to that of the earlier Prince of Persia. The capture technique of Flashback was invented independently of Prince of Persia, and used a more complicated method of first tracing video images onto transparencies.

The game was a commercial and critical success and was listed in the Guinness World Records as the best-selling French game of all time. It was followed by a sequel titled Fade to Black in 1995. In 2013, a Flashback remake by VectorCell was released for the PC and consoles.

Gameplay[edit]

Conrad, left, fighting two corrupt cops (Sega Mega Drive/Genesis version)

As a cinematic platformer, Flashback features gameplay similar to that of 1989's Prince of Persia, and Delphine's own Another World released in 1991. Each level spans a large number of non-scrolling screens, nearly all of which feature multiple levels of altitude — requiring the player character Conrad to jump, grab onto ledges, climb, use elevators, and drop onto lower levels. Conrad exhibits realistic human running speed and jumping ability, as well as realistic weakness — he will die if he falls from too great a height.

Conrad also carries a pistol with unlimited ammunition, a force shield (which absorbs a certain number of shots before needing recharging), and a portable force field (which can act as a barrier to deflect enemies' laser shots).

As Conrad progresses through the game's seven levels, he is increasingly presented with spatial puzzles, requiring the player to discover how to guide him toward his destination. Late in the game, Conrad receives a teleportation device, and is able to progress by throwing the device into areas that he would otherwise be unable to reach.

Plot[edit]

The game's protagonist, who is initially unnamed, begins the game by awakening in a jungle on Titan, completely unaware of who he is. After a short journey he retrieves a holocube which informs him that his name is Conrad B. Hart, an agent for the Galaxia Bureau of Investigation, and that during one of his investigations he discovered a plot to destroy the earth by shape shifting aliens that have disguised themselves as government officials. These shape-shifting aliens can be detected by the use of monoculars that measures molecular density. Upon discovering the aliens, Conrad uploaded a copy of his memory and gave it to his friend Ian before recording the holocube message for himself. As he feared, he was indeed captured and had his memory erased. The holocube message ends with the instruction to travel to New Washington, which is also on Titan, to meet with Ian and retrieve his memories. He eventually meets a wounded stranger who asks him to find his teleporter. After finding and returning his teleporter, the man teleports away but leaves behind an ID card, which Conrad later uses. Conrad then buys an anti-G belt from another stranger in order to jump down a hole that leads to New Washington.

There, he finds Ian being attacked by a pair of corrupt cops. Conrad kills them, and Ian uses a regenerator in order to give Conrad back his memory. Conrad asks Ian what to do in order to return to Earth. Ian says that the ticket price is huge, and the only way would be to be a contestant on the game show Death Tower.[1] Conrad asks if Ian can give him false papers, but Ian tells him that he needs to ask for Jack in the bar. When he gets there, Jack tells him that the cost is 1500 credits.[2] Conrad gets enough credits by getting a work permit and then completing jobs. Jack then gives him the papers, and Conrad enters Death Tower.

Conrad wins the contest. When he returns to Earth, a gang of corrupt cops discover him and try to kill him. As he fends them off and proceeds, he ends up in Paradise Club, which is really the aliens' hideout on Earth. Conrad sees three aliens, all but one in disguise, talking about how they have given the humans the ability to produce their needed power, and how millions of their warriors were soon going to be teleported to Earth to destroy mankind. The vent that Conrad is standing on falls, and the undisguised alien has him thrown in the dungeons and his gun taken from him. Soon, a Death Tower terminator opens Conrad's cell and tries to kill him, but he runs off and finds his gun, which he uses to kill the terminator.

Eventually, Conrad finds a teleporter that leads him to the very distant planet Morphs, which is the home of the aliens. There, Conrad finds a human prisoner named Phillip Howard Clark. As Conrad attempts to free him, a Morph shoots Phillip because his door is opened, only to then be killed by Conrad. Just before Phillip dies, he gives Conrad his atomic charge. He eventually finds his diary, which reveals Phillip's plan to destroy the Master Brain which controls the aliens. Conrad seeks out first the ancillary brain, and then the Master Brain. He destroys both. Then, at a certain spot, Conrad hears Phillip's voice tell him to put the atomic charge at the spot and then flee. Conrad does so as Morphs starts shaking and crumbling, and escapes via a spacecraft and gets out of Morphs's atmosphere just as it explodes.

The game then cuts to Conrad making a message in the spacecraft's journal.[3] Conrad is shown entering suspended animation as the last sentence of the message is shown.

Development and release[edit]

The PC version has an extended introductory sequence and more minor cut scenes than the Amiga version, such as when picking up items. In the Amiga version, the user can see these scenes by enabling them (although with few seconds of delay every time the animations load) or by playing the game entirely from the hard drive. The Amiga version also had an option to zoom in on the action whenever Conrad opens fire. Due to criticism of the look, it was removed from all other versions, although an option to play the game zoomed in remained in the PC version. The message that Conrad writes in the ending was also different in this release.[4]

The game was originally released on 3.5" floppy disk for MS-DOS. The re-release on CD-ROM for the Sega CD (later adapted to the PC CD-ROM, 3DO and CD-i) featured redone pre-rendered cinematic FMVs with audible dialog and sound. The Sega CD version also has voice work for gameplay and CD tracks for each level which were not carried to the other CD-ROM conversions. The Jaguar port has the title screen that these versions have, but the music is different and the game keeps the original cutscenes, being the CG title screen all that it has from the CD releases.

In North America, the Sega Genesis (Mega Drive), Super Nintendo and Sega CD versions featured a Marvel Comics comic book within the manual in order to explain the initial story. The PAL Mega Drive and Super Nintendo releases (there was no PAL Mega CD version) omitted the comic and instead featured a textual prologue. The Super Nintendo port featured some minor censorship due to Nintendo's content guidelines at the time. Changes included New Washington's bar becoming a cafe and Death Tower being renamed Cyber Tower, while the enemy mutants (who had natural skin colors in other versions) were recolored green.

A two-track CD soundtrack was released featuring music inspired by the game, but not directly from it.[5]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Review scores
Publication Score
MegaTech 94%[6]
Mega 94%[7]

The Mega Drive version became a bestseller.[8] In 1994, Mega placed the game at number eight in their list of top Mega Drive games of all time.[9] MegaTech magazine conceded that although there were "five big levels", finishing the game did not take very long.

It was listed in the Guinness World Records as the best-selling French game of all time.[10] In February 2011, Wirtualna Polska ranked it as the 17th best Amiga game[11] and the Polish edition of CHIP ranked it as the tenth best Amiga game.[12] In 2004, readers of Retro Gamer voted Flashback as the 65th top retro game.[13]

Legacy[edit]

A sequel titled Fade to Black was produced by Delphine Software International in 1995 for the PC and PlayStation as a 3D game. A third game in the series, Flashback Legends, was in development by both Delphine Software International and Adeline Software International for a planned released in 2003, but was cancelled when the company went bankrupt and ceased operations at the end of 2002.

In early 2013, a game titled Flashback Origins was rumoured to be in development, with the French website Gameblog stating that €300,000 of government funding had been granted to Cuisset's VectorCell in 2011.[14][15] On April 11, 2013, a remake of Flashback was announced with a reveal trailer.[14]

Related software[edit]

REminiscence, a game engine recreation, was created by Gregory Montoir (cyx). The engine is available for Amiga OS4, Dreamcast, GP2X, iPhone, Linux, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Maemo, MorphOS, Nintendo DS, Wii, Palm OS, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Sega Saturn and Windows CE. There is also one for the Xbox 360 by MagicSeb.[16] A port for Symbian and Maemo 5 by Ronen K is available.[17][18]

OnEscapee was originally developed as an Amiga CD title, and has since been released as PC freeware. The game contains many similarities to both the Flashback style of gameplay and concept.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Conrad: Ian, what do you have to do to get to Earth? Ian: The cost of the ticket is astronomical. The only way would be for you to take part in Death Tower. Conrad: Death Tower? Ian: Yes, it's a television game. The winner gets a ticket. Conrad: Okay. Can you supply false papers? Ian: No problemo. Go to the bar and ask for Jack. Say I sent you. Oh, by the way, I left the force field you asked me for in your pocket. Conrad: Great. Thank you, Ian. 'Till the next time... Ian: Good luck. I'll be in touch when you get to Earth.
  2. ^ Jack: I'm Jack. You're after some false papers? Conrad: Yes, and as quickly as possible. Jack: 1500 credits! Conrad: 1500??? Jack: Yeah, I'm taking a big risk here. Conrad: But I don't have enough... Jack: Go to the employment office. You'll find work there. And come back to me when you've got the money.
  3. ^ That's my story, just the way I lived it. The galaxy I am in today doesn't appear on any of our navigation charts. It's impossible for me to calculate my return trajectory. I'll probably drift in space for a very long time...
  4. ^ Here is the story as far as I know. My current position is unknown. I can't find the galaxy I am in on any of my many star-maps. With no start point I cannot even calculate a return trajectory so I seem doomed to a life of aimless drifting...
  5. ^ Lost Flashback Soundtrack at Binary Bonsai
  6. ^ MegaTech rating, EMAP, issue 22, page 99, October 1993
  7. ^ Mega review, issue 9, page 53, June 1993
  8. ^ Official Gallup UK Mega Drive sales chart, August 1993, published in Mega issue 11
  9. ^ Mega magazine issue 26, page 74, Maverick Magazines, November 1994
  10. ^ "The making of...Flashback". Edge (Future Publishing): 104–107. 
  11. ^ "17. Flashback. - 30 najlepszych gier na Amigę" [17. Flashback. - 30 best games for the Amiga] (in Polish). Wirtualna Polska. 19 February 2011. Retrieved 16 September 2014. 
  12. ^ (Polish) Michał Wierzbicki, Dziesięć najlepszych gier na Amigę, Chip.pl, 23.02.2010
  13. ^ Retro Gamer 8, page 67.
  14. ^ a b Martin, Liam (January 22, 2013). "'Flashback' HD remake 'in the works' as new image surfaces". Digital Spy. Retrieved January 25, 2013. 
  15. ^ "'Flashback' remake suggested as image and funding emerge". Hindustan Times. January 23, 2013. Retrieved January 25, 2013. 
  16. ^ REminiscence homepage
  17. ^ Symbian port
  18. ^ Maemo 5 port

External links[edit]