This version of Flashback is available exclusively for the Nintendo Switch, however the original version released on a number of platforms including the Sega Genesis, and MS-Dos.
Flashback is an old game. At the time of writing it originally released 26 years ago. A number of games released during this era of gaming have many of the same core gameplay hangups when you replay them today. They are extremely clunky in the control department, they are often cryptic to figure out, and many of them have failure states that will essentially lock you in an endless loop of despair as you realize you’ve wasted your time and have to start all the way at the beginning of the game. Unfortunately, this rerelease of Flashback for the Switch hits two of these points and thus has proven to be a somewhat painful experience for me to review.
To get my personal hang ups out of the way, let’s start with the controls. 26 years have not been good to this game. Flashback reminds me of a 2D version of a tank controlling game (like the original Resident Evil, as an example). Many of the movements feel clunky and unintuitive and artificially add to the challenge of the game. Now it’s almost impossible to try and judge something that was essentially an industry standard back in the day against what we have today. There weren’t even analog sticks when this game was released. However, where I think this version of Flashback misses an opportunity is that it IS 26 years later. Now a game like Flashback is clearly meant to appeal to a niche market, people that grew up with it or games like it. However, as a release of a game from 1992, Flashback is missing a beat by not including an option to use updated controls. This tends to be my opinion with most remakes or rereleases, why not make a new thing I can turn off? I don’t know what the answer to the question is for Flashback, but regardless I can’t help but feel the game would be more successful with an option for things like a dedicated run and jump button.
The datedness of the game also offers some things that are optional that i really enjoy. The first of which are the difficulty levels. One of the more unique and enjoyable mechanics of Flashback is that when you die, you don’t die. You are given the option to rewind time and return to a set point you were prior to death. How much time you are allowed to rewind depends on your difficulty level, easy grants you unlimited time, normal grants you 2 minutes per level, and hard only gives you 5 minutes for your entire game. These difficulty levels almost let me forget my hang ups about the controls. If I’m really having a hard time I can just play the game on easy mode and I’ll essentially have an unlimited number of attempts at a specific puzzle, without worrying about set checkpoints, as I want. The only limit would be my sanity.
Another fantastic little feature this version of the game adds is the amount of graphics and sound options offered to the player so they can experience the game how they want to. Now the option to switch between classic and remastered music is nothing new to those seasoned in the remaster market, and the option to choose between the old or updated graphics can also be seen in other remasters (like Halo Anniversary), but I have never seen another game offer a CRT simulation option. That’s right folks, if you don’t want to play the game from 1992 on your HD television but lament the fact that your Switch can’t connect to your CRT TV that only you and 4 other people on this planet still own, just slide on over to the graphics options and slam that simulated CRT check box. Although this obviously can’t give you the exact same results as the real thing could, it’s a very cute little touch added to Flashback that even I, someone born 3 years after the game was released can appreciate.
Flashback is a niche game by modern standards. It takes a pretty specific type of gamer or age group to truly appreciate everything it has to offer from a gameplay standpoint. While I think the game could benefit from an optional control scheme that’s more intuitive to branch outside this market, looking at this game purely from a rerelease/remaster perspective, it has a lot to offer. If you’re looking to reexperience Flashback or games like it that you grew up playing on the MS-Dos it’s definitely worth a look. If not, maybe it’s best to skip this one unless you’re okay with less than ideal controls based on a game design style long dead. Oh and play in CRT mode, it’s great.