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23 Endings
Game Over: Flashback and the Importance of Sad Endings
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on December 21, 2017   |   Episode 21 (Show Archive)  

Welcome to the twenty-first episode of 23 Endings: The Early Years, the show where we put old school video game endings into proper context. Today we're trying our hardest to remember Flashback: The Quest for Identity by Delphine Software. Will Conrad Hart be able to remember what happened before it's too late? Find out when you watch this brand new episode of 23 Endings: The Early Years!

So the year is 2140 and Conrad Hart has recently crash-landed his hover bike on Titan. He has no recollection of what happened, but finds a holocube containing a recorded message from himself telling the amnesiac to meet a friend in New Washington. This sets up a twisted neo-noir where he'll stop at nothing to piece his shattered memory back together.

The first order of business is to explore the jungle and find enough credits to pay an old guy for an anti-gravity belt. Why? Because the only way to get to New Washington from here is to literally jump into a giant hole in the ground. I'm not kidding.

Once there, Hart fights off a bunch of cops and discovers that his friend Ian has a special memory chair. It turns out that Conrad had created a pair of sunglasses that can identify these shapeshifting aliens called Morphs that are secretly living amongst us. You know, just like They Live with Keith David and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper.

So now that he has his memories back, Hart realizes that he needs to return to Earth. Unfortunately, he doesn't have the money, so Ian suggests going on a Running Man-style game show called Death Tower. Of course, the problem is that he doesn't even have enough money to get the forged documents to get on the game show, so he sets out to do a bunch of boring odd jobs in order to fight to the death on television. What could possibly go wrong?

Long story short, he wins Death Tower and travels back to Earth. Unfortunately, the forged documents only get him so far and the Morphs quickly realize who he is. This takes him to the Paradise Club, which just so happens to double as a Morph hideout. He spies through the ceiling vent and discovers a plan to conquer Earth within hours. That's not a lot of time, but at least Conrad knows the plan and can save the ... oh no! He falls through the vent and gets captured by the aliens. Earth is doomed.

Don't worry, Conrad is fine. He has an insanely easy time outsmarting the guards and escaping his cell, which leads to him finding a gun and killing a bunch of aliens. He investigates the alien prison in hopes of finding a way out, but instead comes across something a lot more useful -- a teleporter that will take him straight to the alien planet.

Speaking of things that are convenient, Conrad discovers a journal from another human who had previously tried to stop the aliens. He laid out the planet's vulnerability, explained how he planned on blowing up the core and even located a getaway vehicle. Unfortunately, this brave human died before completing his mission, but not before giving Conrad an atomic charge and the instructions he needs to blow up the planet. He is able to destroy the core and escape to the hanger where he commandeers an alien spaceship. This is what happens next.

What, you expected a happy ending? No way, this is yet another downbeat ending that leaves us on something of a cliffhanger. In fact, this is the second game in a row that has done that, and both starred an action hero named Hart. What a strange coincidence.

Downbeat or not, I kind of like the way this game concludes. Sure, it's a punch to the gut and isn't all that satisfying, but it does a good job of bringing Conrad full circle. He started the game alone and confused, and ends the game alone and confused. He may have his memories back, but what good are they to him now? He might as well just go to into an extended hibernation and hope for a great sequel. Sadly, that's not what he got.


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