Developer(s) – Silicon Knights
Publisher(s) – Nintendo
Director(s) – Dennis Dyack, Tatsuya Hishida & Hiroyuki Yamada
Producer(s) – Shigeru Miyamoto, Satoru Iwata & Kenji Miki
Released as a GameCube launch title back in 2002, along with the likes of Luigi’s Mansion, Pikmin and Super Smash Bros Melee, Eternal Darkness was one of Nintendo’s first forays into the survival horror genre, which had been well and truly established throughout the previous generation with the advent of both Resident Evil and Silent Hill. But rather than referring to it as a survival horror, developers Silicon Knights cited it as a psychological thriller, arguing that the story and overall atmosphere of Eternal Darkness wasn’t as reminiscent of the B-list movie scene as Resident Evil Was. In my opinion, that certainly shows.
Graphics – 7/10
The game did a pretty decent job of showing players what the Nintendo GameCube was capable of on a graphical level in the early stages of it’s shelf life, but more important and noticeable than that, in my opinion, is the gritty and shadowy atmosphere of Alex’s grandfather’s Rhode Island mansion. There is limited visibility, and a lot of the furniture, namely the bookcases and the piano, is finished with what look like Chinese lacquer, giving an almost red colour, alluding to blood; possibly a reference to the HG Wells short story, The Red Room. It can also make players see Luigi’s Mansion in a somewhat different and more disturbing light than before, as both games are set in mansions; most probably a reference to one another.
Gameplay – 6.5/10
For the most part, Eternal Darkness plays out very similarly to both Resident Evil and Silent Hill; linear action-adventure games with emphasis put on puzzle solving. But what sets this game apart from both of the aforementioned examples, as well as every other survival horror game ever made, is the revelation of the sanity meter; an in-game meter, which depletes the longer players spend time fighting enemies. Depletion of this meter causes unorthodox things to happen within the game, such as the appearance of distorted imagery and scenery, and even the breaking of the fourth wall designed to throw players off guard; for example, notices may pop up saying that the controller is unplugged when it isn’t. I’ve never seen anything remotely similar to this used in any other game apart from Don’t Starve, and in all honesty, it makes me wonder why the idea hasn’t caught on most other leading developers in the survival horror genre, because it is a very effective scare tactic to use within a video game.
Controls – 9/10
The control scheme of video games like the original Resident Evil and Silent Hill always frustrated me to an extent, since it seemed like a chore to turn the character around in a different or opposite direction; most probably why they added the feature to turn 180 degrees with a single button. It would also make combat pretty awkward too. It’s the same story in Eternal Darkness, but at least like in games such as Tunguska, it doesn’t cause enough of a problem to render it virtually unplayable, at least.
Lifespan – 6/10
The game can be made to last roughly 11 to 12 hours, which whilst isn’t that great, is actually a fair bit longer than prior games of it’s kind have been made to last. To put that in retrospect, that’s about the average amount of time it would take to finish the two playthroughs of Resident Evil 2. The one thing I wish could have been added to not just Eternal Darkness, but all other games made in the same vein, was a bit more incentive than simply trying to unlock every possible ending. Some games, like Silent Hill 2 have things like additional weapons to unlock, but I find that things like that don’t really give a game enough replay value.
Storyline – 7/10
A fairly well-conceived story, it revolves around a young woman named Alexandra Roivas, whom upon arriving at her late grandfather’s house to investigate his death, stumbles upon a secret room in the mansion containing a volume called The Tome of Eternal Darkness, which causes her to see into the experiences of past figures throughout human history. Alexandra must experience all of these past events to uncover the truth behind her grandfather’s death. The strongest point of this game’s story is undoubtedly the voice acting; featuring the voice talents of several cast members of the Metal Gear Solid games, such as David Hayter, Greg Eagles, and one of my personal favourite video game voice actors, Jennifer Hale.
Originality – 7/10
Though the game is largely unoriginal in terms of both general gameplay and it’s main hub world, there is however a fair bit of visual diversity in the rest of the game’s settings, as it takes place throughout a wide range of periods in human history, depicting a wide range of different cultures. In terms of gameplay, there is also the inclusion of the sanity meter, and the unpredictable effects it can have on the game as well as on the player.
In summation, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem to me, is one of the better action-adventure survival horror games out there, and I would highly recommend it to any fan of the genre who may have missed this title. It’s a classic example of how Nintendo isn’t just for kids, and it’s a survival horror experience that remains unlike any other to this day.