In Memoriam: Adobe Flash
I wasn’t planning on writing an article on Adobe Flash of all things. It definitely is a major part of my history as a young gamer, but I also haven’t really touched Flash games for many, many years. But now that we’ve reached the end of 2020, I’ve actually gained some news that is… pretty old actually, but it will see an immediate effect: Adobe Flash is ending.
Even though I’m not big on Flash games anymore, this came as shocking news. An entire history of video games will no longer be playable through a browser and in turn, I will also never be able to look back at them… or so I thought. Fortunately, sites such as Newgrounds have been working on the Newgrounds Flash Player so that you can still play Flash games from their site, but locally on your desktop. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also BlueMaxima’s Flashpoint which is mostly the same but also for games that were never part of Newgrounds. I was truly glad to hear that despite Adobe Flash being discontinued, our history of Flash games (and animations) will still persist.
Still, I wanted to take this chance to look at my personal history with Adobe Flash, and what interesting developments are happening in this area. So buckle up; it’s time to go down memory lane!
My history with Flash games
I first learned about Flash games through the playground in elementary school. While I didn’t have my own desktop, I was often allowed to use either my brother’s desktop, or my father’s. A friend of mine told me about this awesome website where you could play all kinds of games for free! That site itself is a bit irrelevant as it’s a Dutch site called Spele, but I quickly learned about Newgrounds because most games had a link to either that site, or Miniclip and ArmorGames. It was an… interesting experience to say the least. Early Newgrounds was–let’s not kid ourselves–a mess, with porn and highly violent games and animations floating around everywhere that my young eyes were not supposed to see. Can’t help but love the place though; Newgrounds had so much awesome stuff!
I don’t remember what my exact first Flash game was, but there are two games that come to mind. The first one is Ultimate Flash Sonic, as I was–and still am–a massive Sonic fan. Conveniently, it was also the first game I took a look at in the FlashPoint launcher and boy, have I forgotten how awkward it was to play Flash games sometimes. No invincibility frames, physics being absurd or just hits not making any sense, but c’mon; this was awesome to play as a kid. Two zones from both Sonic Advance and Advance 2 that have unique level layouts, and a total of 6 playable characters including Shadow! I can’t remember how many times I’ve played this Flash game, but the number surely is in the double digits.
While we’re on the topic of Sonic: there are also two RPG series that I followed quite intensely. The first is just called Sonic RPG, a crossover RPG between Sonic the Hedgehog and NiGHTS. It started off rough, but episode 9 in comparison looks very good; Actual cutscenes, good sprite work and even voice acting! Unfortunately it never finished, and that also goes for my favourite of the two: Final Fantasy Sonic X. God, I love that name. It was a pretty big crossover with characters from Square Enix, Nintendo and Capcom. The opening below is a good example of what I mean, but a short summary comes down to: Super Sonic has a Buster Sword, with which he fights the Slash Beast from Mega Man X4 in a pretty solid battle system with the battle theme from Final Fantasy X playing in the background. I don’t care how cheesy the story was; I love this so much. And hey, episode 5 used the opening music from Fullmetal Alchemist and that’s now my favourite anime of all time soo… thanks Final Fantasy Sonic X!
I could go on for a long time (as I discovered by searching everything with Sonic in the title in the Flashpoint Launcher), but let’s move past that for now and talk about the other game that I’ve played constantly: Super Smash Flash. Now, this is kind of ironic since I absolutely dislike Super Smash Bros. for the simple reason that I’m the worst Smash player on this planet, but surprisingly I am much better at Super Smash Flash. And since this game has Lloyd Irving that the official games still refuse to add in favour of Joker, I think I know what my favourite Smash game is. Joking aside, this flash game is awesome. It has so many unique characters and stages, and I remember unlocking all of them when I was young. Though this probably isn’t the best game to play anymore since there is a sequel… and the physics in the original are typical Flash game physics, I definitely have fond memories of this game. I did try out the sequel quickly, but I’ll probably go more in-depth on that at a later date as I couldn’t really find the time to do so right now.
I have of course played a lot of other Flash games as well. There was this games called Electro Air Hockey that I absolutely sucked at but somehow recognized immediately, and of course there’s Mario. Though surprisingly… I have played several of them like Super Mario 63, but the Flash games aren’t what I recognize most about my past with Mario in Adobe Flash. Cue segue!
Adobe Flash wasn’t just made for games after all, even though that’s what you hear about the most. Animations were also a huge part of my childhood, and especially Mario animations. Fortunately most of these have been backed up to Youtube or on Newgrounds themselves as they don’t require Adobe Flash necessarily. This is a far more relaxing alternative to watch them since Flash animations never really got a timeline or something. Hence why when you start up a Flash animation, there was usually an episode select to avoid having to watch everything all over again. Long live technology says this old fart who is living in the past!
This is also the part that I mentioned in the introduction of this article, how much of a mess it was with over-the-top violence and sexual content. The first two series that come to mind are Rise of the Mushroom Kingdom and Power Star. The first has Luigi and the Mushroom Kingdom go on a massacre against Bowser who killed Mario (which wasn’t actually the case, poor Bowser), and all of his minions get brutally murdered left and right. Power Star goes even further, having Mario be possessed by a ton of boos and then ends up slaughtering the entire Mushroom Kingdom. I can’t help it though; these are definitely part of my childhood, and I wouldn’t be objected to watching them again on a Saturday night when I’m drunk.
But as with the Flash games, there are two animations that I have to give massive credit. The first one is Super Mario Bros Z, a collab between Mario and Sonic versus an evil, overpowered Mecha Sonic. The animations in this flash movie were absolutely superb, and I’ve watched it over and over again. Unfortunately this animation never finished and ended on a cliffhanger, though I believe the creator, Mark Haynes, is working on a reboot so that is most definitely hype!
And of course, the other one I’m talking about is Nazo Unleashed. Unlike all the previously mentioned animations, Nazo Unleashed is completely hand-drawn. What it has in common with Super Mario Bros Z however, is that last letter. Both of them have these over-the-top Dragon Ball Z-like animations, and Nazo Unleashed takes it a step beyond with a fusion between Sonic and Shadow, and an almighty entity who has the power to destroy the world with dark-coloured spirit bombs. This series of animations also have a remastered version on Youtube, and the creator of this series, Chakra-X, is also working on a sequel! It’s a good time to be alive.
The future of Flash games
Nice header; I just have no idea what to say here. But I got your attention so let me come up with something.
Well, the obvious future of Flash games is dead since Adobe Flash itself is dead. As I’ve stated in the introduction, all Flash games have been archived in the Flashpoint Launcher, so we’ll always have a way to play them. Many developers have started upgrading their games however, or using different methods. Browser-developed games now mostly use HTML5, and others are now creating their own launcher for their Flash games instead. Two games that I’ve played to death in my childhood, namely DragonFable and Sherwood Dungeon, now both use a launcher so their legacy will live on. Also real talk; I completely forgot about these games until I’ve started writing this article and it uh, made me very nostalgic, so maybe I’ll return to them someday? We’ll see.
Some games were even more ambitious. Until writing this article, I also wasn’t aware there were like, seven Swords and Sandals games, but now I do. The original was also part of my childhood, and now all the games are on Steam! Flash games making their way to Steam is something that also happens pretty frequently. A pretty popular one is The Henry Stickmin Collection, which has become one of the most bought indie games of 2020 on Steam. A very recent example, which brought me the news of Flash shutting down and also inspired this article to begin with, is a future re-release of a forgotten “Nintendo” game called Mission in Snowdriftland. And who knows, probably many will follow over time? I’m definitely looking forward to it.
I’ve already stated it before, but I don’t think browser-exclusive games will disappear for a while either. Sites like Itch.io have an entire marketplace for HTML5 after all. There even is an option for Flash games to be converted to HTML5–if the creator has the desire to do so of course. There are many developed games of which the creators have long moved on but for these games, we have the Flashpoint and Newgrounds launchers.
Looking back on it all, I must say that I’ve enjoyed working on this project. I gained a lot of nostalgic feelings, and I’ll definitely be checking out some Flash games that I’ve played in the past. Many people look back on the Adobe Flash/Newgrounds era back and cringe at it and while I can understand where they come from… I also just want to embrace this era as something that has shaped me as I am now. That probably sounds exaggerated, but this article did make me remember why Shadow the Hedgehog is one of my favourite video game characters permanent. He was always so epic, so edgy, so overpowered… I love it. And every time I see a character that I genuinely enjoy being all overpowered and epic, I can’t help buy fanboy a bit inside.
We might have gone our separate ways ages ago Adobe Flash, but today is an appropriate time to say… thanks for the memories. This has been your host Nepiki, and I wish you all a Happy New Year!