A Look Back at Flashback (Super NES)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from playing Flashback: The Quest for Identity and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

We live in an age in which software exclusivity defines not only the relevance of game consoles but also nature of the entire video game industry right down to the many varied communities of very avid fans (and fanboys).

While the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES or Super NES) and Sega Genesis each had their own exclusive games back in the 1990s, there was one particular game that was made for and released on not just one, not two but rather on more than fifteen different platforms – both consoles and computers – starting with Amiga way back in 1992. That game is none other than Flashback: The Quest for Identity which I first played on our Super NES back in 1994.

The cover of the game box.

For the newcomers reading this, Flashback was a 2D side-scrolling adventure game in the form of a cinematic platformer (note: similar to Prince of Persia and Out of This World) with a strong flavor of science fiction. It was cinematic in the sense that all the in-game animation were rotoscoped resulting unique smoothness combined with hand-drawn backgrounds and the computer-generated cutscenes were used in key parts of the game as the story progressed. Flashback on SNES in America even came with a Marvel Comics-published Flashback comic book and on the rear of the SNES game box were the words “The first CD-ROM game in a cartridge!”

A Flashback remake was released in 2013, followed by a port of the original game released on Sega Dreamcast in 2017, and a remastered version got released for varied platforms in 2018.

I got to play that game at a time when I have not even started playing Final Fantasy II (AKA Final Fantasy IV), Final Fantasy III (AKA Final Fantasy VI) and other great role-playing games (RPGs) of the Super NES. I also remember that Flashback was a nice change of pace for me after playing Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

With those details laid down, here is a look back at Flashback: The Quest for Identity, released on Super NES in 1993 by U.S. Gold and developed by Delphine Software International.

The start and options screen.

Early story

The story begins with Conrad running away from two armed persons chasing him. He flies away riding a solo vehicle but those chasing him (riding a huge vehicle) managed to get close and blast his vehicle causing to crash into the forest.

Sometime later, he wakes up and accidentally pushes a mechanical cube to fall down. He climbs down to reach it and activates it. The cube displays a holographic video of himself telling him that he recorded it without remembering it. As Conrad watches, he learns that he must contact a friend named Ian who can explain important things to him.

After viewing the message, Conrad sets off to find his way out of the jungle and somehow get to Ian in New Washington…

Game design and quality

You have to pay close attention to what’s going on, what items do you have and what the in-game prompts tell you.

This game is not your typical fast-paced, action-oriented 2D side-scrolling adventure in which you move from left to right to progress. As it is a cinematic platform game by design complete with very specific controls, players will have to be patient, adaptive and strategic in order to learn how exactly you can control your character, what moves will be executed (and when to execute). For one thing, the very fluid 24 frames-per-second animation on your character limits you in terms of control as timing is required.

To do things properly, you have to execute specific controls. To ascend on a lift, you press Up and the Y button. To do a small jump, have your character stand still and then press Up and Y button. To go down on level (on foot, no lift), stand by the edge of a level then press Down and Y button. To run and hang on to a higher floor automatically, have your character stand still, press Right and Y button, press Y button (once your character moves) and watch him pull it off. With controls like these, the usual 2D platforming approach is out of the question. In my experience, these controls are indeed challenging but never impossible to learn and eventually I got proficient with the controls as I played more.

The in-game animation for the characters are very good and there is also a sensation of weight with your character. Falling straight down from a very high place is a big no-no.

Apart from character controls, you don’t just move Conrad from one screen to the next…you also should do key objectives along the way apart from engaging in action scenes (read: shooting). That being said, you must watch out for icons that appear on screen when your character steps on a particular spot that requires interaction. For example, if you stop by a terminal, an icon will appear serving as a prompt to start the interaction. Another example is when your character steps on the same spot as an item located at which you can pick up once prompted.

More on the action on the screen, you will encounter armed enemies as well as high-tech machines (including floating drones). To overcome them, doing straightforward shooting is not recommended as you have to be strategic before firing a shot. You have to learn how each enemy or machine moves, how much physical space is available right there and how you can maximize your limited time and space to overcome them. In fact, you will also be compelled to take advantage of whatever seconds you have while the enemies’ animation (between moves) take place. There will also be times when you need to have your character armed with the gun before jumping to a lower level where an armed enemy is located and on the lookout. Coming down armed gives you an advantage to shoot first at the enemy who

Considering the 24 frames-per-second animation, you will have to time your moves carefully, especially during moments when you face an armed enemy.

Apart from shooting, you can also use grenades which requires opening your inventory to select a grenade and then do your timing and calculation of the distance in order to pull of a successful throw and explosion. You can also throw stones to distract enemies or to apply weight on key platforms in order to open mechanical doors.

With regards to the quality of gameplay, Flashback is enjoyable but only if you get over its rather high learning curve with regards to the controls which themselves serve as the game’s advantage and even as a disadvantage. In addition to being patient and strategic, you will really have to pace yourself, think more and get used to the rather slow pace of the game in relation to its cinematic platformer design. I should state that as you keep progressing, there will be places, or new obstacles or new enemies that will compel you to change your tactics in order to overcome them. Anyone who is used to playing 2D side-scrolling games the fast and easy way might find the high learning curve and pacing of Flashback a turnoff but if they are willing to learn, adjust and pace themselves, only then can this game’s gameplay be really enjoyed.

Cut scenes like this move at a sluggish pace which shows the limitations of the SNES and cartridge technology.

As for the visuals, the obvious highlight here is the 24 FPS animation which is the result of rotoscoping and careful visualizing (note: observe those alien humanoids who morph into moving blobs). The rotoscoped animation, however, would not have been that effective had the quality of the art used for the backgrounds been made of lower quality. I can say that the background artworks here look pretty good even by today’s standards. The standout among them were the background artworks of Morph’s home planet which really looked very alien and creepy at the same time. What hurts this particular version of Flashback is the lackluster (read: choppy) frame rate whenever the computer-generated cinematic cutscenes (obviously they were meant for more powerful PCs) play which, in my experience, took me out of the story. There were also bouts of slowdown during the gameplay, especially when you encounter enough enemies that were animated sophistically.

With regards to narrative, Conrad is literally your avatar to learn, discover and interact with the many elements of the universe he is part of. There is obvious influence that the game makers took from the movie Total Recall as they crafted Conrad to be someone who lost his memory, moves on to regain it and do a lot of things as he realizes his true purpose and what is really at stake. Unlike Total Recall’s protagonist, Conrad himself is not too interesting mainly due to the way the in-game story was structured. Just play as Conrad and do what needs to be done to complete the game.

When it comes to understanding the narrative, you will have to do lots of reading. You will spot and read the short description of the prompts that appear. You’ll also have to read the on-screen text whenever your character talks with someone during the levels of the game. And there are the captions shown during the slow animated cutscenes.

Conclusion

The background artworks during the late stage of the game are great and truly creative with science fiction in mind.

I can clearly say that Flashback: The Quest for Identity on Super NESis fun and engaging mainly to those who are willing to adjust themselves to it. If you don’t have patience, if you are not willing to think while playing, if you cannot pace yourself and if you are not willing to learn all the specific controls of the game, then you should not be playing Flashback. It is a cinematic platformer and that should tell you that you will need to adjust to enjoy it.

Overall, Flashback: The Quest for Identity on SNES is recommended.

+++++

Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A look back at Resident Evil 3: Nemesis

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First released in late 1999 on the PlayStation console in America, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (Japan title: Biohazard: Last Escape) was a notable game of the Resident Evil franchise that not only proved to be a lot of fun but also a memorable experience for fans. To this day the game is fondly remembered.

In recent times, the Resident Evil franchise made waves with gamers worldwide with Resident Evil 7 (which came with a very daring change of style and gameplay) and the Resident Evil 2 remake demo (which I played the full 30 minutes of). The RE2 demo instantly brought back my own memories of enjoying the PlayStation version of early 1998. Granted, Resident Evil 2 in 1998 was truly a great sequel and its concept was epic compared to its predecessor’s. Because that game was a major blockbuster, Capcom had to come up with worthy follow-ups.

Then something happened over at Capcom in Japan. The initial concept for a sequel to RE2 was in the form of a story set on a luxury cruise liner but the company decided it lacked the time to produce a game out of it and this was related to Sony’s unveiling of the PlayStation 2 console.

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After some shuffling of executives and creative people, a team composed of not-so-experienced talents led by game director Kazuhiro Aoyama was formed to produce a spin-off  with a plot penned by company writer Yasuhisa Kawamura. The story was reviewed and approved by Flagship (an internal team that led the creative charge of Resident Evil projects) and RE creator Shinji Mikami worked as producer on the project.

Regarding its status, Resident Evil 3 was developed in tandem with the Sega Dreamcast-bound game that became Resident Evil: Code Veronica which was a bigger project and was the true sequel to RE2. The tricky part was that Capcom decided that its RE games released on PlayStation will carry a number on the title for “consistency” while RE games released on other platforms would carry subtitles.

RE3 followed the exploits of Jill Valentine, who was a protagonist in the 1996 original Resident Evil game. The story begins with her stuck in the middle of Raccoon City surrounded by flesh-eating zombies and she has no choice but to fight, run and escape to survive. Along the way, she discovers that what she learned from Umbrella in the first game was nothing compared to the more sinister intentions of the company she discovers in RE3. Making matters even harder for her was Nemesis, a large walking bio-weapon whose purpose is to destroy members of the city’s police unit S.T.A.R.S. (which Jill belongs to).

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For what started as a spin-off, Resident Evil 3’s gameplay showed notable improvements over that of Resident Evil 2. As a survival horror game, it has the awkward tank-like controls, the static pre-rendered environments with fixed camera angles and challenges of moving from one place to another while dealing with zombies or monsters.

The most notable improvement made was the addition of the ability for players to do 180-degree quick turn-around movements when controlling the character. Not only does this make moving the character easier, it also adds more speed and strategy into the game itself especially when the protagonist is surrounded by many zombies or monsters. The pace of gameplay also quickened with the quick turn-around.

Another addition is the ammunition crafting system that allows you to make more ammo for your weapons by combining the raw material (example: gun powder) into the in-game ammo-making device. This results making different types of ammunition for different weapons. By the time you reached deeper into the game, more powerful ammunition for newer weapons can be made and used.

Meanwhile the game had key moments that compel players to make a decision as that the narrative and gameplay would move forward. The element of choice is a nice gameplay addition and each choice made showed different results as to what happened next. When Nemesis appears, the game’s movement slows down presenting choices for gamers to make. The good news here is the decision making affects the quality of the story’s ending.

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The one addition I find questionable in the game is the dodge which works rather unpredictably in terms of response. There are times it worked and there are times it failed. No matter how you use the controls and time them with the action, the results are always inconsistent.

The biggest addition, not to mention the biggest impact, made in the game is Nemesis himself. Unlike Mr. X in Resident Evil 2, Nemesis is the unrelenting stalker whose presence and action deepened the gaming experience. Not only was Nemesis tough to fight with, he also appeared when gamers least expected and he runs a lot to get to Jill (or the mercenary Carlos who was also controlled temporarily by players). The music accompanying Nemesis’ presence also heightened the fear factor. It is argued that Nemesis himself is the most defining feature of Resident Evil 3 and deserved to have the game’s subtitle made after him.

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In my honest opinion, Nemesis reminds me a lot of the horror icon Jason Voorhees from the Friday The 13th slasher horror movie franchise. Like Jason, Nemesis is heavily disfigured (horrific to look at), stalks his prey relentlessly and does a lot (and anything) to kill his prey. Nemesis’ killing of Brad only shows how deadly he is. Like Jason, Nemesis cannot be reasoned with nor does he feel any pity. He simply won’t stop until he kills you in the game.

In terms of technology, RE3 used the same game engine as RE and RE2. By this time, the technology experts at Capcom improved the visual quality and the 2D pre-rendered backgrounds always felt convincing to me each time I played. Rare are the times when I noticed the 3D polygonal characters or monsters stood out from the 2D environments. With regards to the anti-hero elements, the zombies are more varied and most of all the monsters are creepier to look at. The Hunters made a nice return as well.

In terms of exploration, Resident Evil 3 makes heavy use of the city environment complete with many varied interiors mixed with believable exteriors. There were these alleys, streets (with some stores to enter) and more. The many puzzles as well as machines that required key items to be retrieved provide a good challenge although some may find the backtracking a bit tedious.

The return of Jill

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Jill Valentine made a nice return as the protagonist of the game. Right from the start, it was explained that she had resigned from the police force. Regarding her skimpy appearance (the blue tube top she wore with short skirt and boots), it turned out she was on her way out of town when the zombie infestation of Raccoon City begins in RE3.

More on Jill’s sexy default appearance in the game, I believe that Capcom’s creative team designed her like that in response to the sexy, armed woman charm popularized by Lara Croft of the best-selling Tomb Raider game franchise.

Take note of this. The first Resident Evil was released in 1996 many months before the first Tomb Raider came out. By the time Resident Evil 3 was released, the Tomb Raider franchise already had three games (note: there was a 12-month cycle for releasing sequels back then) that each sold in the millions and Lara Croft was quickly established as not only as a pop culture icon but also as a digital sex symbol idolized by millions of guys worldwide. I have this theory that some members of the Resident Evil 3 team subconsciously came up with the tube top look for Jill Valentine with Lara Croft as an influence. To say the least, both Jill and Lara are brave women capable of fighting with varied types of guns.

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Sex appeal aside, Resident Evil 3’s story is truly a defining tale of Jill Valentine as a character. By connecting her RE3 tale with that of the events of the first game from 1996, I come to realize that her stories made sense. Her becoming disillusioned with the failure of the city police department to go against Umbrella and eventual quitting from the police force was believable. In addition, Nemesis proved to be the ultimate monster she ever faced and all the monsters she encountered in the first game paled in comparison to him.

Alone and without having access to police resources, Jill’s struggle in Resident Evil 3 is a story that won’t be forgotten and the game’s fun and engaging gameplay only made her story even more memorable.

The cinematic “adaptation”

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Sienna Guillory as the cinematic Jill Valentine at the left. With her were Sophie Vavasseur as Angela Ashford and director Alexander Witt. (credit: Screen Gems, Inc.)

In 2004, the second Resident Evil live-action movie Resident Evil: Apocalypse was released in cinemas starring Milla Jovovich. The concepts of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis were carelessly adapted by the movie showing a Raccoon City filled with zombies and a live-action Jill Valentine played by Sienna Guillory who appeared with the tube top, short skirt and boots. In a sequence in the movie, Guillory even tried moving like her character’s video game counterpart.

While attention was paid on Jill’s Resident Evil 3 look, Guillory’s portrayal of her was nothing special and this has a lot to do with the screenplay by Paul W.S. Anderson, the directing by Alexander Witt (not really a prolific director) and notably Milla Jovovich’s dominance of the spotlight.

Whenever I watch Guilloy’s Jill in the movie, I really never felt like watching RE3’s Jill at all. Also the film had Jill being inferior to Alice (Milla Jovovich) on screen. There are two scenes in the movie wherein Jill does something to solve the problem, Alice comes in to do it better than her.

Having seen all Resident Evil live-action movies, which I regret for the most part, it is no secret that the filmmakers treated the concepts, characters and other elements from the RE video games with no real respect and certainly with no care about the concerns of Resident Evil game fans.

If you have not seen Resident Evil: Apocalypse and have been interested to see it for the RE3 elements, better not waste your time. Better play the video game instead.

Conclusion

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Ultimately Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is a classic even though it was never meant to be the big budget sequel to the classic Resident Evil 2. The game deservedly got released on the Sega Dreamcast, the Nintendo GameCube and Windows PC.

Now that Resident Evil mania is back in gamers’ minds right now, I should say that Capcom should consider re-releasing digitally RE3 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and Windows 10 if ever possible. Even though its tank-like controls are very outdated by today’s standards, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is a classic that gamers of different ages must enjoy without having to go through the hassle of acquiring old existing copies of it (not to mention having an existing old console to play it). I myself am willing to pay for RE3 to be re-released and play it on my Xbox One. Very recently an enhanced re-release of Onimusha: Warlords was done by Capcom. Making the same treatment with RE3 only makes sense.

Who knows what impact a re-released RE3 would create? Such a re-release could lead to a popular demand for Capcom to make a big budget remake of Resident Evil 3 similar to what they have done with RE2. This will also give today’s gamers an opportunity to experience the one defining story of Jill Valentine.

In ending this article, I posted some YouTube videos of RE3 for your enjoyment.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article to be engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco.