Flashback: The Quest For Identity

You are Conrad B. Hart, agent of the Galaxia Bureau of Investigation. Suave, sophisticated - a real man's man. Problem is, you've inadvertently discovered that a hostile race of alien shape shifters are plotting to wipe out mankind. Fearing the worst, and also fearing everyone will think you've finally lost your mind, you quickly download your memories into a holographic storage device and then get yourself captured by said aliens. Pretty standard stuff. The next thing you know, you're alone and have no memory and are stranded on an alien world with no idea who you are or what to do. Luckily, you just happen to stumble upon a pre-recorded Princess Leia-esque message of yourself, telling you to get your ass to Mars (it's actually to find your trusted friend Ian, who can fill you in on what's happening but I couldn't resist a Total Recall reference) and eventually foil the aliens' undesirable plans for the human race. And that, in a nutshell is the opening and plot to the epic 2D action adventure yarn, Flashback: The Quest For Identity.

Originally released in 1992 for the Amiga and later ported to pretty much every 16, 32 and 64 bit system around, Flashback was a collaboration between French developer Delphine and British Publisher US Gold and very much took the baton from previous titles in this mould - namely Prince of Persia and Another World (also known as Out of This World). The action is viewed from a side-on perspective and you control Conrad directly. You have buttons for actioning, drawing your trusty sidearm and you are also required to use combinations of the d-pad and action buttons to make Conrad perform rolls, leaps and hang from ledges etc.


The thing that really sets Flashback apart from the other titles in this genre is that it really does feel as if you're playing a movie. There are cutscenes aplenty (certainly something you wouldn't have expected at the time the game originally came out) and the way the story unfolds is great. You literally have no idea what's going on at the beginning and find yourself doing fetch quests in a mysterious jungle inhabited by gun-wielding mutants and electrocuting robots. It's only when you get to the second stage - the brilliant underground city of New Washington - and get to ride the subway, get a work permit to earn money and fight with corrupt cops (oh, and have your memories restored via another fantastic cut-scene), that the story starts to flesh out and the bigger picture is revealed. Along the way you'll get to take part in a Running Man style gameshow, travel to a dystopian future-Earth run by corrupt cops and even take the fight to the alien home world - this game has scope and isn't afraid to lay on the tropes and general plot points you'd really only expect from a mindless action movie...and it's all the better for it. While the graphics do look a little dated by today's standards, there is a lot of detail packed into the levels and the rotoscoped animation of Conrad and the other characters is astounding for a title of this age. I was stunned by the fluidity of the main character's movements the first time I ever played Flashback on the Mega Drive all those years ago, and I'm still impressed now.

This Jaguar port of Flashback came out in 1995 and was the last official port of the original game, and it's something of a hybrid. While it features the same cutscenes and visuals of the original Amiga game, it has the title screen from the 3DO version and a totally reworked soundtrack which has a lot more bass than any of the other variants I own. That said, in some ways this Jaguar port could be described as a lazy cash-in as all Delphine has done is take a 16-bit game, added some newly created music and pushed it out the door. However, when the original package was so damn good in the first place...there's little to really complain about. If I was being picky, I'd possibly have preferred them to have maybe spruced up the background graphics a bit, or even better - released it as a Jag CD title and included the rendered cutscenes of the 3DO and CD-i game. As it is, this Jaguar port of Flashback is still a cracking adventure and is one of the finest games on the system. It's true that not many people realise that Conrad's adventure was even released on the Atari console, but it was - and it's a fantastic addition to the library.

1 comment:

  1. Great game to be ported over. I've always felt Flashback was one of the best games of the 16 bit generation anyway so at least it adds something really good to the Jag library.

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