Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Flashback: The Quest For Identity Minicomic

I recently pulled out my old Sega Genesis and fired up Flashback: The Quest for Identity. I remembered it being a great game, and I was pleased to see how well it holds up. It had a really good storyline, some excellent design work, and the graphics still look pretty decent considering it came out almost 20 years ago.

But what surprised me was that the manual included an original 14-page comic that acted as a prelude to the game itself. It was evidently contracted by Delphine Software to Marvel Comics. It was written by James Moore, drawn by Mike Harris and Frank Percy, and lettered by Rick Parker. I can't find any credits for the cover art, but it doesn't look like the work of Harris and/or Percy to me.

I noticed several bits about the comic that strike me as interesting. First, the game itself centers around the hero, Conrad, who wakes up on a jungle planet with no memory of who he is or how he got there. As the gamer, your first job is to figure out who Conrad is and why so many people are trying to kill him. The comic, chronologically set before the game, largely answers that question. I don't think that takes away from the game play per se -- the comic can only relay so much in 14 pages after all -- but it's curious that it would be explained right off the bat.

Second, the comic provides Conrad with Sonya, a love interest who mysteriously vanishes (presumably captured) near the end of the comic. There's also mention of a friend Ian who left suddenly just before the comic takes place. In the game, Ian makes an appearance and helps Conrad out. There is, however, no mention of Sonya in the game; in fact, there's hardly any mention of women in the game at all, and the couple that do appear are older, overweight and appear in the briefest of cameos. I can somewhat understand where that might've come from within the game, but why then introduce a totally new character for this comic? The only answer I could hazard a guess at might be that the cover art was done with a rather generic blond thrown in, and Moore wanted or was asked to explain her appearance on the cover art through the comic. (Since the image itself would otherwise be quite at odds with the dearth of females in the actual game.)

As a minor point of curiosity, a few speech balloons unnecessarily break out of the confines of the panel borders on pages six, seven and nine. All of them could easily have fit within the panel borders, and would've then been more consistent with the rest of the comic. Similarly, the gutters begin to disappear on the last two pages and we're provided with one action panel -- the only one in the comic -- in which the art breaks the boundaries of the panel border. None of these are a huge deal, but it does seem a little incongruousness with the rest of the comic. The only possible explanation I can think of is a looming deadline that caused the last pages to be whipped out more quickly than the others.

Anyway, here's the comic if you're actually interested...

7 comments:

Matt K said...

Ah, now we're talkin'.

I have some vague memory of reading about this game and the comic, though I don't believe I ever came across either. And ad somewhere, maybe.

Perhaps the plot of the game was changed at some point.

Sean Kleefeld said...

A change in the game is possible, certainly, but I would assume that the game's longer lead time necessary for development would have meant that the comic wasn't done until the game was nearly, if not completely, programmed.

Craig said...

A bit slow to respond to this thread, but I only just found these images. ;)

Thanks very much for posting those pages, Sean! We didn't get the comic included in our game manual here in NZ, so I've been curious about it for years!

To those of you who haven't played the game (and you should, it's easily one of the best Megadrive/Genesis games around), there are spoilers ahead.

Man, I have to say that comic was pretty bad. As you say, it was a strange move to give away the big reveal of the game - the discovery of the Morphs in human society thanks to the end-of-year thesis - Molecular Density glasses. You don't find out this information until you get to New Washington (the 2nd level/area of the game). Not much of a "Quest for Identity" if you already know who Conrad was before you play the game. Ruins all the "Total Recall" moments in the story (Flashback was released in 1992 and Total Recall was released in 1990, in case you were wondering).

You'd think the comic (if it had to show Conrad's previous life) would show a meeting with Ian, rather than just talking about some guy who quit the GBI. Then when you meet this "forgotten" friend in the 2nd level of the game, it would have more significance.

I don't remember Conrad having any involvement with a "Galaxia Bureau of Investigation", but it helps explain his skill with guns and athletics. I'm glad they gave Ian some credit for helping create the MD glasses. It would be a bit much if Conrad was good at everything! I'd always assumed someone else invented the glasses and Conrad was more of a Private Investigator. But why is he always late in the comic? Conrad proves himself to be very capable in the field. I guess they were giving him one more flaw so he wasn't perfect.

Giving Conrad a codename of "Flash" was a terrible idea though. What, so when Conrad regains his memories it's "Flash" back? :| That's an awful joke, if that's what they were aiming for.

My guess is that the introduction of a new female character in the comic (Sonya) is the stereotypical action movie method of blatantly proving that Conrad is heterosexual by having a token female love interest. Kinda pointless.

If Conrad's a GBI agent, why couldn't he have discovered the Morphs on his own (as he does in the game)? Instead, Sonya is the one that makes the big discovery then disappears into obscurity (it gives her a bigger role in the comic, I guess).

However, I think they should have made Sonya a Morph so that the aliens were spying on Conrad the entire time that he was making his invention. The Morphs, keeping an eye on humans who could discover they had infiltrated society, find out from Sonya that the MD glasses actually work. So they shoot Conrad in the back, kidnap him and erase his memory (luckily it was already backed-up and sent to Ian). Then Conrad escapes and the game begins.

The Morphs themselves were quite clearly based on reptiles (snakes and lizards in appearance, probably chameleons in ability), so it was another strange move to make them look like weird block dudes in the comic (they seem more like the aliens from Delphine's previous game "Another World"). However, their reptilian form wasn't revealed until Conrad reached the Paradise club on Earth (the 4th area of the game), so I guess it was just a visual clue that there was something not right with certain people in authority (including cops and a politician running for President. lol).

Sadly, I can't help but feel the reality of the comic has crushed my expectations on how it could have complemented the game, but at least I've now been able to read it. Perhaps Delphine should have got some French comic creators to make it, instead of using Marvel. In the end, I'm pretty glad I got to play the game without having read the comic first. ;)

Ben said...

For whatever bizarre reason I decided to put some effort into figuring out who the cover artist was on this and confirmed from the artist's agent that it was done by Mike Grell.

Sean Kleefeld said...

Excellent find. It totally looks like Grell now that I look at it, too. Cheers, Ben! :)

Anonymous said...

why can i not look all pages at Flashback: The Quest for Identity?
http://kleefeldoncomics.blogspot.com/2010/07/flashback-quest-for-identity-minicomic.html
i really like the game and i'd like to read the comic too.
i haven't got it for the pc disc version!

Anonymous said...

I read this page comic some years ago too bad i dint post any comment, but now I'm reading again ......Thanks so much Kleefeld for uploading those pages. In 2013, things flashed back for the people who did that game 20 years ago....
They Screwed up. The whole thing.


WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS OF THE REMAKE
As you might know at this time. Yesterday was the official launch of FLASHBACK THE 2013 REMAKE. Done by Ubisoft and Vectorcell. The team included some of the cast that made the original FB:TQFI in 1992.
Result: Sort of a Disaster.
The Graphics and Special Effects are incredible. They connected some dots in the stry that weren't clear in the manual, in the game and not in this comic. For example, what was the Paradise Club. The Characters were explained and the plot was complemented.

Some good news: The old man in the jungle who gave you the antiG belt was removed, so was Jack, the forger. Both were replaced by some guy Joe.

The guy that is saved in the jungle that left his ID card behind got a name and appear later in the game.

The shooting controls are better.

The DeathTower show is a complete reality show and it goes deeper in the alien plot.

The restricted are 3 with mutants has now a background story.

The earth now look more futuristic.

The annoying green bubbles that disitegrate were changed by some weird laser ray.

Conrad has a better face than the superman guy that appear in the comics on this blog.

There is a new character called the professor.

The soundtrack of Paradise club and AirBike scene is so cool!!

There is now a chance to ride the bike of the beginning of the game :D

Sonya appeared, but only in a cartoon form :(

NOW THE BAD PART:

The mini robots that shocked were removed.

The CUT SCENES were removed and changed for some horrible comic style story boards.

The music is monotonous. Except the bike stage, the generator job and the Paradise Club.

Sonya is never shown in the game :(

Ian ended up to e a morph. WTF

IAN chair was removed.

Conrad dint loose his memory because of the morphs but because of himself. WTF

The balls were changed by some weird flying droids.

There are some new fruits that explode but are pretty useless.

The history of the MDGlasses was totally removed.

to be continued....

- Conrad