Friday, October 3, 2014

Nerdicus Gamecube Review #2: Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem

The following is part of my weekly Friday HORROR / ZOMBIE reviews for the ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE DEFENSE FORCE - check it out!

Title : Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requieum

Publisher : Nintendo

Developer : Silicon Knights

Genre : Action Adventure

Players : 1 Player

Release Date : 2002

Estimated Value (as of today's date) : $25-$30

Well, it's October. You know what that means? A month of frights, and ghouls, and zombies, and people putting up really lame Halloween decorations. Seriously, since when did Halloween meaning putting up orange Christmas lights? Listen, I'm all for decorations, but you have to make your house look absolutely terrifying, not a Disney World version of Mickey Mouse's spook fest.

Side note, I did go to that and it was actually a lot of fun. You pay a little extra for tickets that get you in after the park closes and there's a whole slew of "spooky" activity. Mainly for kids, but the best part is NO ONE is waiting on lines for the rides because they are mostly watching those kiddy parades. Five times in a row on Splash Mountain and Space Mountain? Don't mind if I do.

Wow, I'm supposed to be talking about video games. Seeing how it's October, and I have been tasked reviewing horror games, I figured this month would be the perfect opportunity to go through some of my favorites that I have played through the years. And what better way to kick things off, then by playing one of the most bizarre games in Nintendo history -

Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requieum for the Gamecube. Originally targeted for a release on the N64, the game went through a series of issues with development that forced Silicon Knights (makers of the famed Legacy of Kain series) to push the product back to Nintendo's newer system. Let me tell you, it was worth the wait.

Well, I can just imagine what you're thinking. Nintendo? Making "horror games"? Don't be so hasty to toss Nintendo aside. Eternal Darkness was one of the games that not only was successful in creeping you out, but it also played tricks on you like no other game has done before.  Not to mention it has one of the most highly developed storylines in any "horror" genre-game that I have played.

There is still a bit of a debate as to whether or not Eternal Darkness is REALLY a horror game. There aren't many "jump scare" moments, but then again, does that really define a horror game? To me, this is all about messing with your head, and pulling you into a world that seems as if IT is trying to PHYSICALLY do so. Trust me, there were times I thought my disc was haunted.

Sit back, relax, and prepare your mind. You're about to lose your sanity....

Taking place primarily in a seemingly "haunted" mansion in Rhode Island, and spanning across twenty centuries of time periods and twelve (that's right, TWELVE) characters, Eternal Darkness is a long journey into the deepest confines of your mind. It primarily revolves around the character, Alexandra Rovias, who discovers her grandfathers body decapitated in that very mansion which strange activity has been occurring. The police are clueless and seemingly want no involvement, so it's up to you to unravel the mystery or lose your mind trying.

The story is actually very reminiscent and very much inspired by Lovecraft's Cthulu. It revolves entirely around the resurrection of "ancient God's" bent on controlling humanity. That's about all I'm going to tell you, because this plot is INCREDIBLY in depth, and it would most likely take my entire review just to discuss it.

If you jump into this game, thinking you're going to get something like Silent Hill or Resident Evil, you will be sorely disappointed. In fact, the only thing the games have in common is the somewhat similar third-person view. That's about it. This game is meant for the long haul, and it requires you to really sit and pay attention to the world around you and not just anticipate the next jump scare or monster that's coming to devour you.

If you have the patience, you will be rewarded with a story filled with disturbing twists and shocks that makes you wonder if by some subliminal level that the way you played may have had an impact on the ending of the game. Which I won't spoil for you, but it MIGHT!

Like most horror games, it really comes down to an effective combat system when facing off against your foes, and let me tell you that Eternal Darkness has one of the most FLUID systems out there even to this day. The combat is effortless and rewarding, with your motions feeling real and responsive each time you interact with an enemy. 

You feel the weight of your weapon depending on what your wielding. A heavier sword requires a longer follow through, while lighter weapons such as guns or light daggers move much faster. Not only that, but the game allows you to target where on the enemy you wish to strike. Looking to lob off an arm? No problem. Want to chop off that dude's head? Go for it. You'll have a wide arsenal of weapons to choose from that will change as you make your way through each sub plot of the game.

Accompany that with a brilliantly designed magika system. Throughout the game, you'll discover runes that grant you special abilities to either use as defensive, supportive, or offensive spells in your quests. It sounds simple, but it's actually quite complex. Spells are separated by colors, with each color (red / blue / green) being more or less effective against another. Not only that, but the runes are actually "words" when combined with other runes produce different spells with different effects. There are seemingly thousands upon thousands of combinations (not sure if that's an accurate range, but it certainly seems like it). You can play through this game numerous times and discover a new way to conjure magic that you didn't think was possible the first time around.

It's not just about the combat either, it's also about the incredibly difficult puzzles you will be forced to solve throughout the game that will drive you absolutely crazy. And speaking of CRAZY, let's talk about what really sets this game apart from the rest of the horror games out there. A little something called "THE SANITY METER"

There is a little green bar on your screen that represents your current sanity. Now of course, being trapped inside a haunted mansion as ancient Gods attempt to reawaken is cause for anyone to go insane, but this game takes it to a whole new level. It's not just your character that will be going crazy, it's you. The lower your sanity meter drops (from casting spells, being damaged or affected by creatures or environmental changes, and other effects). the more of an effect it has on the game. And I am talking about BIZARRE effects.

First you may notice that somebody or something is whispering around you. The sound on your game becomes garbled, and then the screen resolution starts to change. Is your disc scratched? No, it can't be. Then the screen becomes skewed, and it begins to feel like you are in a fun house. A sudden sense of vertigo overtakes you as you notice that it's INDEED the game beginning to sway every so slightly. Then you'll find your character slipping through walls, and re-appearing in rooms that did not exist before. Monsters begin to appear and swarm you, but are they really there? Then your health meter drops...ever so slowly.

That's not all.....this game breaks the fourth wall. Error messages will start to appear, static will appear on the screen, and the game will suddenly appear to shut off. Is it really happening? Or is it in YOUR head. This idea of making the user feel like he or she is going absolutely crazy is what makes this game so fantastic. Never have I felt such a connection to the gameplay in a game as I did with Eternal Darkness. It truly is something that you need to experience for yourself.

Let's put it simply. This game is an absolute masterpiece. Visually stunning, with an incredible soundtrack and a story line to match that will leave you breathless. It's not surprising to say that it remains to be one of my favorite games of all time (And that's saying something)

Oddly enough, the game did not receive much commercial success. In fact, it's really only maintained it's popularity thanks to it's cult following, and has actually been hyped as one of the most underrated horror / psychological thriller games in video game history. With good reason. There has yet to be a game like Eternal Darkness where fluid controls, brilliant visuals, and an intriguing player-interactive "sanity effect" have come together to bring forth an epic gaming experience.

Do yourself a favor. Plug in your old Gamecube, find a copy of this game, and devote a weekend to playing through Eternal Darkness. I promise you. You won't be disappointed.

Final Score (out of 5 zombie heads):

Until next time, remember: Aim for the Head.



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