Flashback: The Quest for Identity

Sega/Shin Force 
| Sega Genesis Review

Sega/Shin Force > Systems > Sega Genesis > Reviews

Shin Force ~ Genesis ~
Flashback: The Quest for Identity
Geoffrey Duke
Sunsoft (JP)
U.S. Gold
Delphine Software
12 Megabit
Import / Domestic
Dec. 29, 1993
Feb. 20, 1993
Apr., 1993
6 Button
     > I really miss the 90's era of gaming. The Saturn broke my heart because many of its best games including RPGs weren't localized, but what really made Sega popular in the west back then was the Genesis/Mega Drive (in that order because the U.S. had the biggest console market).

     > The Genesis was home to a huge library of games. Many great, many not so great, and many above average inbetween. Flashback is one of the greatest games of that era in my opinion (along with Streets of Rage 2 which was a truly perfect game). I thought I'd share my thoughts on this piece of gaming history. In my own inimitable fashion of course.

     > Flashback was initially released for the Amiga in 1992, then ported to MS-DOS, Genesis and SNES is 1993. It's basically a 2D side scrolling action adventure game that has a nice balance of shooting action, platform jumping and fetch quest puzzles. You need to find items to unlock the way forward (both literally and metaphorically). It plays much like Prince of Persia on the Master System with respects to platform jumping, because you can easily fall to your death at times. What makes Flashback unique is that it uses motion captured animations, which makes character movement seem lifelike. Thus it stands out from its peers. Flashback is also a spiritual sequel to Another World because it has a similar graphics engine. 

     > Naturally, the title summarizes the theme of the game. The main character has forgotten who he is and needs to regain his memory. You receive a message from yourself urging you to find out the truth, and you will eventually remember why you forgot. Darkness gathers all around you until your only guiding light is your will to survive.

     > Characters animate fluidly, and the backgrounds are detailed. Yes yes the Genesis lacks color, but for the time, the backgrounds are a work of art. They are full of detail and have a great sense of distance. The graphics are still great despite the limited color pallet. I suppose you'd need to go back in time to appreciate it. Emulators can enhance the graphics if you're not a purist (we might as well take advantage of them, although many might prefer to remain as close to the original graphics as possible).

     > The graphics are more realistic than cartoony like we find in many platformers. This helps create a more serious atmosphere. The game has animated cutscenes, believe it or not. That's right. It's hard to believe for the time. It's very cinematic at times. Flashback exudes science fiction. The game is set in a futuristic universe where technology merges with nature. You begin the game in a jungle full of advanced technology, including forcefields and laser bridges, but later travel to a city with flying cars and spires that tower into the horizon. These graphics are quite impressive for the Genesis.

     > The main character moves smoothly, and the controls respond on time. You will spend a lot of time running and making death defying leaps between gaping chasms. A steady diet of climbing, while shooting and dodging enemies (by rolling and ducking) lay before you. The main character even feels like a normal human being as he turns without superhuman speed, but he has the necessary abilities to defeat enemies if used on time. It might take some time to adjust to the controls because it feels as if you are shifting gears at times, but once you become used to the controls everything falls into place.

     > You have a hand-gun with unlimited ammunition (not implausible in the future if weapons are energy and alchemy-based) so you can focus on action more than if it didn't. You also have a personal forcefield that absorbs a limited amount of enemy fire before needing to be recharged. Now this is what I call action adventure science fiction heaven. There are other items you can use, but I'll let you figure that out on your own because I don't want to ruin the experience.

     > The game is mostly silent except during more serious life or death situations, mysterious encounters and cutscenes. You could argue that the game lacks an immersive atmosphere due to this (I don't blame you), but the music emphasizes danger more this way. It immediately draws your attention (especially if you let your guard down). Attack sounds such as gunshots and explosions are included. All the standard sounds that you would come to expect from the science fiction genre, such as mechanical devices in motion, are present. Everything is perfect (for the platform) and easy on the ears.
     > I'm not going to spoil the story. Suffice it to say, you will play this mostly for the futuristic gameplay. Perhaps the game is a bit slow because the main character can be a bit too human, but if that is a criticism then you wouldn't play this game in the first place. 

     > You encounter many strange aliens and futuristic and robotic enemies that require quick reflexes to overcome (such as floating cyborgs and aliens that teleport to avoid gunfire). That, combined with ever-more fatal platform jumping, really define this game, in addition to puzzles that require items and careful timing to proceed. The game won't take long to complete, but at the same time, it's not easy. You should savor the experience while it lasts (some experiences are more rare than others). Genesis fans shouldn't miss this; it's a rare gem gameplay-wise (it would probably be too slow for people with short attention spans). I don't mean to state my opinion as fact. I'm stating my opinion as an opinion. As always, feel free to disagree.

Bottom Line
     > Flashback is one of the best games of the 90's era. The graphics have aged well thanks to the game's futuristic art. I highly recommend it to anyone who calls themself a gamer. It is truly an adventure. This game has a slow pace which means it might require some level of patience to enjoy, but I wouldn't let that stop you from enjoying it. If you are looking for pure action then you should play Gunstar Heroes or Contra: Hard Corps. In an ideal games industry there's something for everyone.

     > Personally I love solving mysteries, as do countless others. There will always be a market for that as long as there are mysteries to solve. Hopefully more developers supply it. All great ideas should be free to exist, and I am not alone in believing that. Games are interactive fiction that can make dreams come true. Or nightmares that we can slay in our collective imagination. I wish more people made games like this.

Overall: 9.4 | Graphics: 9.5 | Control: 9.5 | Sound: 9.0 | Fun: 9.4
~ Geoffrey Duke ~


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