Flashback (1992 video game)
Original Amiga cover art
|Developer(s)||Delphine Software International (Amiga, PC, MD, MCD)
Tiertex (SNES, PC-CD, 3DO, CD-i, Jaguar)
|Genre(s)||Cinematic platformer, Metroidvania|
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 Genesis/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.
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), 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.
The game begins in the year 2140 as the currently unnamed protagonist awakes in a jungle on Titan after he was chased by mutants with a speeder and crashed-landed. Completely unaware of who he is, he retrieves a holocube. The holocube instructs him that his name is Conrad B. Hart and to meet his friend Ian in New Washington. After series of perilous obstacles and mutants guarding his way, he purchases an anti-gravity belt from a man using credits in order to enter New Washington via chasm.
He locates Ian being attacked by a pair of corrupted cops. After he destroys them, Ian thankfully uses a regenerator to bring Conrad back his memories: For his "end of the year thesis" he had built glasses which measure molecular density and inadvertently discovered that shapeshifting aliens had mixed into the human population. The aliens realized he was investigating them and began to target him. Fearing memory erasure, he recorded himself using the holocube with instructions, and sent a copy of his memory to Ian. Captured, his memories were erased by an unknown man and whom he then escaped from. To return to Earth, Ian informs him that the ticket is too costly and the only way to get one is the game show named Death Tower, and false papers, owned by Jack working in the bar, is required for a pass. But due to the papers' expensive cost, Jack advises him to get a job with the work permit from the boss. After completing the series of dangerous jobs and allocating enough credits, Conrad obtains false papers and then attends Death Tower.
Conrad wins the contest with grand prize, a ticket to Earth. Arrived in the destination, he gives away false papers at the security pass. Gang of cops threaten him on the way. He makes his way to the Paradise Club, the aliens' hideout. When he avoids being disintegrated by a green trap, he hides in the ceiling vent to spy three aliens known as Morphs, and one of them is his captor in human disguise. The aliens reveal a plot to manifest humans with the ability to produce their needed power and to destroy human kind. However, Conrad accidentally breaks through the vent and is detected, thus taken away.
Soon, a Death Tower terminator opens Conrad's cell and tries to kill him, but Conrad narrowly escapes by retrieving his gun and shoot it off. After exploring the facility deeper, he discovers a teleporter, and uses it to immediately transport himself to the Morph's very distant home planet.
He finds a human prisoner named Phillip Howard Clark. As he opens his prison, the Morph appears and executes Phillip. After eliminating the alien, dying Phillip gives Conrad an atomic charge. Conrad soon finds the diary, which reveals that Phillip had also discovered that "they" wanted to eradicate their race. Phillip had planned to destroy the "Master Brain" that controls the aliens, located at the planet's core, but the "Auxiliary Brain" that controls the planet should be damaged first. Conrad, risking his life against numerous Morph forces, manages to complete the tasks. As he arrives at a certain spot, he hears Phillip's voice, telling him that an atomic charge should be placed on a loose platform and activate the Master Brain. When he does so, the Master Brain awakes, causing a tremor which in turn sets the bomb off and falls towards the core. He runs away to the hangar where Phillip's spacecraft is landed. He quickly departs the planet's atmosphere before it detonates.
Due to lack of navigational trajectory to return home within the galaxy, he submits himself to suspended animation while his ship drifts into space for fifty years, 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 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 issue #118 of Retro Gamer, Paul Cussiet told the magazine that “The best version for me is the Mega Drive version. The game was created for this platform.”, contrary to what many had believed before this article was published.
In North America, the Genesis, Super NES and Sega CD versions featured a Marvel Comics 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.
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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 don't 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.
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.
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.
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2012) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)|
- Yoon, Andrew (April 11, 2013). "Flashback 're-imagined' for 20th anniversary, coming to PS3 and Xbox 360". Shack News. Retrieved July 9, 2016.
Released in 1992, the game is considered a platforming classic, an early precursor to the Metroidvania genre.
- Retro Gamer magazine #118
- 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
- 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.
- "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.
- 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.
- (Polish) Michał Wierzbicki, Dziesięć najlepszych gier na Amigę, Chip.pl, 23.02.2010
- Retro Gamer 8, page 67.
- 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. Retrieved January 25, 2013.
- REminiscence homepage
- Symbian port
- Maemo 5 port