Flashback (1992 video game)
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Original Amiga cover art
|Platform(s)||Amiga, Acorn Archimedes, Mega Drive/Genesis, MS-DOS, NEC PC-9801, Super NES, Sega CD, FM Towns, 3DO, CD-i, Atari Jaguar, Mac OS, iPhone OS, Symbian, Maemo, Dreamcast, Nintendo Switch|
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, although originally created for the Mega Drive/Genesis, and then ported to MS-DOS, Acorn Archimedes and Super NES in 1993 - at which time the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis version was also released. CD-ROM versions of Flashback for the Sega 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. In 2017, the game was released worldwide on the Sega Dreamcast featuring graphic assets and cutscenes taken from the MS-DOS version and music from the Amiga version. An updated port for the Nintendo Switch titled Flashback: Remastered Edition was released on June 7, 2018 in North America, Europe and Australia.
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.
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, acting as Conrad's health, how many attacks he can survive before dying, and a portable force field with unlimited use, which can act as a temporary barrier to block enemies' 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 and teleporting into otherwise unreachable areas.
In the year 2140, amnesiac Conrad B. Hart is chased by mutants and crash-lands his hover bike in a jungle on Titan. He finds a holocube which fell from his pocket. It contains a recorded message from himself, telling him to meet his friend Ian in New Washington. He makes his way through the jungle and purchases an anti-gravity belt in order to enter New Washington via chasm.
He finds Ian being attacked by police. After he kills them, Ian uses a regenerator to restore Conrad's memories: For his "end of year thesis" he had built glasses which measure molecular density and inadvertently discovered that shapeshifting aliens called Morphs, distinguished by their high density, had mixed into the human population. The Morphs realized he was investigating and targeted him. Anticipating memory erasure, he recorded the holocube, and sent a copy of his memory to Ian. Conrad is determined to return to Earth. Ian tells him that the only a way he can afford a ticket to Earth is to win one in Death Tower, a game show in which contestants fight to the death, and false papers are required for a pass. To pay for the forged papers, Conrad takes a series of dangerous jobs in the city. He finds himself continually targeted by police, who have presumably been misled by Morph infiltrators.
Conrad wins Death Tower, and travels to Earth. His false papers get him past the checkpoint, but the Morphs soon realize who he is and Conrad is pursued by more cops. He takes a taxi to the Paradise Club, which conceals the Morphs' hideout. He spies on three Morphs through a ceiling vent. They discuss their plan to conquer Earth within hours. Conrad falls through the vent and is taken to a prison cell. Soon, Morphs enter his cell to kill him. Conrad runs past them and picks up a discarded alien gun. Exploring the facility, he discovers a teleporter, and uses it to transport himself to the Morphs' home planet.
He finds a human prisoner named Phillip Howard Clark. As he opens his prison, a Morph appears and executes Phillip. Dying, Phillip gives Conrad an atomic charge. Phillip's diary reveals he had planned to destroy the "Master Brain" that controls the aliens, located at the planet's core, but the "Auxiliary Brain" must be destroyed to open up the communication pathways to the Master Brain. Conrad destroys the Auxiliary Brain and finds the Master Brain's pathway. As he arrives at a certain spot, he hears Phillip's voice, telling him that the atomic charge should be placed on a loose platform. After he does so, he throws a switch, awakening the brain to cause a tremor, which drops the charge towards the core. Conrad escapes to the hangar and takes a Morph's spacecraft out of the planet's atmosphere before it detonates. As he cannot navigate home due to the Morphs' galaxy not being on any human star charts, he instead puts himself in suspended animation while his ship drifts into space, leading up to the events of Fade to Black.
Development and release
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.
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 voice acting and sound effects. 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 cutscenes are as on the original releases.
In North America, the Genesis, Super NES and Sega CD versions featured a Marvel comic book within the manual in order to explain the initial story. The PAL releases of the Mega Drive and Super NES versions (there was no Mega CD version in the PAL region) omitted the comic and instead featured a textual prologue. The Super NES 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.
Flashback sold roughly 750,000 copies by 1995.
Computer Gaming World approved of Flashback's "superbly rotoscoped graphics", "fluid movement", and sound card audio. While criticizing the awkward interface and use of save points, the magazine concluded that it "is an excellent game that truly creates a sense of reality". Electronic Gaming Monthly praised the SNES version for having improved graphics and music over the Genesis version. They remarked that Flashback is slow-paced at times, but retains the player's interest through its compelling plot and involving puzzles. MegaTech magazine conceded that although there were "five big levels", finishing the game did not take very long. Nintendo Power praised the graphics, story and animation calling it "almost cinematic" while noting that the play control takes "some getting used to".
Electronic Gaming Monthly commented that the Sega CD version is "virtually identical" to the Genesis version, but that Flashback is still an essential purchase for those who do not already own a different version. GamePro, in contrast, argued that the reworked cutscenes "look so awesome that even gamers who've already completed this game on another platform will want to play it again just to see all the new CD footage". They also praised the addition of a CD-quality soundtrack and voices. A reviewer for Next Generation acknowledged that the Sega CD version makes considerable improvements, but argued that they are all standard cartridge-to-Sega CD enhancements which have no impact on the gameplay. However, he lauded Flashback itself for its graphics, animation, and "fiendishly clever puzzles", and said that though the game superficially resembles Another World and Heart of the Alien, it is "in a class by itself that easily surpasses them". Reviewing the Jaguar version, GamePro noted that it was merely a straight port with no enhancements to take advantage of the hardware, but that "the game is no less enjoyable" than when it was first released to game consoles over a year before.
Reviewing the Macintosh version in Next Generation, a critic applauded the game's animation, story sequences, plot, level design, and longevity.
Next Generation reviewed the 3DO version of the game, and stated that "this title is still the same great game that we've been looking at for a couple of years. And one last note, the 3DO controller, for once, doesn't interfere (much) with the game's demanding control scheme."
In 1994, Mega placed the game at number eight in their list of top Mega Drive games of all time. In February 2011, Wirtualna Polska ranked it as the 17th best Amiga game and the Polish edition of CHIP ranked it as the tenth best Amiga game. In 2004, readers of Retro Gamer voted Flashback as the 65th top retro game. In 1994, PC Gamer UK named Flashback the 17th best computer game of all time. The editors wrote, "Flashback proves that, when it comes to producing original, stylish and challenging games, there are few more adept than the French."
Entertainment Weekly gave the game a B and wrote that "Finally limping onto Sega CD almost two years after its Genesis debut, this futuristic role-playing thriller is still worth checking out — there hasn't been a game since that has matched its unique, almost hypnotic dynamic (languorous stretches of exploration and problem-solving punctuated by bursts of realistic gunplay). But keep this in mind: Because of its atmospheric soundtrack and cinematic interludes, the original Genesis Flashback was advertised as a CD game in a cartridge — while the Sega CD Flashback version has so many access delays (and improves so marginally on the original) that you'll wonder which format was being complimented."
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. On April 11, 2013, a remake of Flashback was announced with a reveal trailer.
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. A port for Symbian and Maemo 5 by Ronen K is available.
- Retro Gamer magazine #118
- "Review: Flashback". www.thedreamcastjunkyard.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-01-02.
- Flashback™: Release Date And Collector Edition
- "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..."
- Lost Flashback Soundtrack at Binary Bonsai Archived 2012-11-10 at the Wayback Machine
- MegaTech rating, EMAP, issue 22, page 99, October 1993
- Mega review, issue 9, page 53, June 1993
- "Natural". Next Generation. Imagine Media (4): 93. April 1995.
- "Finals". Next Generation. No. 5. Imagine Media. May 1995. p. 89.
- "Flashback". Next Generation. Imagine Media (6): 109. June 1995.
- "Review Crew: Flashback". Electronic Gaming Monthly. Sendai Publishing (56): 34. March 1994.
- "Review Crew: Flashback". Electronic Gaming Monthly. Sendai Publishing (65): 44. December 1994.
- "Flashback - Awards". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 65. Ziff Davis. December 1994. p. 157.
- Klett, Steve (November 1995). "Fade to Black". PC Games. Archived from the original on October 18, 1996.
- Pyron, Dave (October 1993). "Flash Forward to Flashback". Computer Gaming World. pp. 60, 62. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
- "Now Playing". Nintendo Power. Nintendo of America Inc. 56: 103. January 1994.
- "ProReview: Flashback". GamePro. IDG (66): 58. January 1995.
- "ProReview: Flashback". GamePro. IDG (69): 92. April 1995.
- "The making of... Flashback". Edge. Future Publishing: 104–107.
- Official Gallup UK Mega Drive sales chart, August 1993, published in Mega issue 11
- Mega magazine issue 26, page 74, Maverick Magazines, November 1994
- "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.
- (in Polish) Michał Wierzbicki, Dziesięć najlepszych gier na Amigę, Chip.pl, 23.02.2010
- Retro Gamer 8, page 67.
- Staff (April 1994). "The PC Gamer Top 50 PC Games of All Time". PC Gamer UK (5): 43–56.
- Martin, Liam (January 22, 2013). "'Flashback' HD remake 'in the works' as new image surfaces". Digital Spy. Retrieved January 25, 2013.
- "'Flashback' remake suggested as image and funding emerge". Hindustan Times. January 23, 2013. Archived from the original on February 1, 2013. Retrieved January 25, 2013.
- REminiscence homepage
- Symbian port
- Maemo 5 port