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June 2021

Flashback: Remastered Edition

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Microïds
Release Date: July 31, 2018 (US), June 19, 2018 (EU)


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Switch Review - 'Flashback: Remastered Edition'

by Cody Medellin on April 1, 2019 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Flashback is back, updated by its original creator, a new generation of players can now experience a game that helped define sci-fi action/adventure games.

Buy Flashback: Remastered Edition

When it was first released 25 years ago, Flashback looked amazing. Going off of the work pioneered in Out Of This World, also known as Another World, the game had absolutely gorgeous animation and a fully animated opening cut scene that wowed people who thought that such a thing couldn't be done on a cartridge. It also helped that the game played well once you got used to the slow pace. Just like its predecessor, Flashback: Remastered Edition has returned for a remastering on modern platforms, and those who played that previous remastering should know what to expect here.

The year is 2142. You play as Conrad B. Hart, a scientist fleeing from his captors who crash-lands on Titan, one of the many moons of Saturn. Waking up in a jungle, he stumbles upon a holocube with a recording of himself. He soon discovers that he has amnesia, purposefully done to protect the secrets he once knew from falling into the wrong hands. With a hint telling him to return to Earth, he's on a race to recover his memories and find a way to stop a future threat from occurring.

The best way to describe the gameplay of Flashback is that it mimics another classic title, Prince of Persia. Instead of moving around each environment at a steady pace, you're moving everywhere on a screen-by-screen basis. The emphasis on fluid animation means that your character has some noticeable weight. Taking a normal leap up sees Conrad crouch first before jumping, and running in any direction means having to skid to a stop or fully turn around when going in the opposite direction. You have a gun, but you need to pull it out of its holster before you can fire, and while you have unlimited ammo, your personal shield can only take so many hits before you die. Without any checkpoints or an automatic saving system at your disposal, you'll need to find and manually activate any save points in the game so you don't lose too much progress.

Despite having a gun, Flashback really isn't a shooter. There are still some shooting segments, but the combat segments are rather brief. Instead, the game is more of a side-scrolling adventure, where most of your troubles come from platforming and fitting pieces together. Most of this will require you to go back and forth between places and try out every possible combination because the game provides no real indicator about what should be done next. There are general hints about where to go and what to look for, but the title forces you to think and experiment, perfectly content to let you get lost in difficult puzzles. That classic game mentality might be jarring to those who grew up in this modern era where hints are everywhere, but it also provides a sense of satisfaction once you solve something.

Whether you're familiar with the game or new to it, one thing you'll have to get acclimated to are the controls, which can feel rather alien compared to its contemporaries. This is mostly due to the fact that the A button is a general-purpose button. Jumping up requires pressing the A button. Running requires holding the A button while simultaneously indicating a direction. Jumping requires you to hold the A button and then tap on a direction. The A button is also used to pick up everything. The jack-of-all-trades feature of the A button seems like it would make everything easier, but in practice, you have to constantly remember if you're using the A button in the correct situation, sometimes causing you to run off a ledge instead of attempting a leap. You'll get used to it eventually, but it is odd how the A button gets the heavy workload while other buttons on the controller are essentially good for one specific use.

From a gameplay perspective, playing with the remastered version only grants a few advantages over the classic iteration. For one, you get tutorial hints at the opening level that go through how the game is controlled. The hints pop up when they're needed to show you the basic controls, and that's it. You can accidentally skip over them if you're hasty, but you have the option to pause the game and look over the controls again, so that isn't a big deal. The more significant change comes from a rewind feature, which lets you complement save points with the ability to rewind time to correct mistakes. This might seem like a cheat mechanic for veterans of the old game, but your ability to rewind is governed by the difficulty level you've chosen. For example, playing on easy gives you unlimited rewind time, while normal gives you only two hours of total rewind time for the entire run. It's a neat twist since it still forces you to be good at the game, but it can be a nice lifesaver for those who are coming into the game absolutely cold.

For a title billed as a remaster, it's amazing how little has been done on the presentation side. Aside from an anti-aliasing filter, the graphics are the same whether you choose the original 1993 version or the more modern take. That means a 4:3 screen ratio at all times (except for cut scenes), and an optional side border takes the sides of the environment, blows them up, and then blurs them. You can add scanlines and even artificial bloom and distortion to mimic a CRT TV, but due to them being more fun than useful, you'll likely opt to leave off those options. The color palette is rather deep despite working with the original technical constraints of the time, while the animation is fluid thanks to the heavy rotoscoping done, something further emphasized by the smoother frame rate. If you choose to play the more updated version, that means you get a chance to hear the updated sound, which is only enhanced a bit compared to the original source material. It sounds meatier but not altogether different, so it's a perfect complement to the visuals.

Flashback: Remastered Edition remains a stone-cold classic, and old players will love how so little has been done to it, helping to preserve what caught people's attention in the first place as opposed to covering it all up with a more modern sheen. Newer players who aren't accustomed to the classic single-screen style of gameplay might find the control scheme and lack of real help frustrating at first. Stick with it and you'll discover why Flashback was more than just a display of pretty graphics. Overall, this title is a worthy addition to the Switch library.

Score: 8.0/10

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