Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem

Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem Cover
Platform Gamecube
Genre Lovecraft-style Horror
MtAMinutes to Action 1
Score 8  Clock score of 8Gameplay: 7
Fun Factor: 7
Gfx/Sound: 8
Story: 9
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Eternal Darkness was released on the GameCube in 2002 and was actually the system's first M-rated game and I believe the first M-rated title published by Nintendo. I'm actually not very good with horror games (or anything horror in general) so it's a surprise to me that I'm even reviewing this game, but it's Halloween this week, so you are all in for a timely treat. I think I own two scary games, and Eternal Darkness is one of them (the other is Resident Evil REmake, also on the GameCube, and you will never see a review on here of that game, it's just too dang scary!).

Anyways, onto the actual game! Eternal Darkness features a unique sanity system unlike anything ever seen before. So addition to your health and magic meters, you have a sanity meter that measures just how stable you are. You lose sanity when you get hurt, or when you see something particularly freaky (which happens a lot). Losing sanity is nothing to laugh at either, because when it gets low, even more crazy stuff happens! I won't detail these "sanity effects" right now because some of them are pretty cool, but let's see what Eternal Darkness throws at us in our first hour together.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - I select Start Game and the hour begins! Monks are doing their Gregorian chant. A narrator begins the story, his name is Dr. Roivas, and he's dead. This story is about humanity, and how it is on the brink of extinction. The game's words, not mine.

01 - The guardians grow restless. The backgrounds are odd pictures of fur and flesh. We get a look at Dr. Roivas' grand-daughter, Alex. Holy crap, I'm already controller her and holding a shotgun! Zombies start coming at me!

02 - I'm taking out the zombies with my boomstick, their body parts are highlighted, it seems I can target different parts of their undead bodies. After a few moments, I run out of ammo in a really bad spot, but all of a sudden the zombies disappear and we see a ghostly old man...

03 - The granddaughter Alex Roivas wakes up and gets a call at 3:33 in the morning. Something happened to her grandfather. The scene cuts to her arriving at her grandfather's manor and being brought to the body. Alex screams as she sees the body of her dead, mutilated grandfather under a bloody sheet.

Eternal Darkness Alex Roivas 333

04 - She confirms that it is her grandfather while freaking out. They can't check dental records because there is no head! The detectives are stumped, and Alex is pissed.

05 - Two weeks later... the game tells me Alex is frustrated with the incompetence of the police and is going to discover the truth herself. I'm in the mansion, all by myself it appears.

06 - The game is very dark, is it always night time in this game? Probably, hence Eternal Darkness... duh.

07 - I'm walking around the house examining things. Nothing too interesting yet. And still no explanation what that zombie shotgun scene was at the beginning, must have been a very bad dream, or an early sanity effect!

09 - Just left some telescope room where I was messing with the mirrors, nothing seemed to be happening though.

10 - I find the brightness adjustment on the options screen, now I can see the beautiful details! Well, not beautiful but it looks pretty good.

Eternal Darkness Alex Explore Mansion

11 - Found some books written by Poe and Lovecraft. There sure is a lot of stuff to examine, just nothing of too much interest yet.

12 - I find a dresser key in a clock stuck at 3:33... creepy.

14 - I think I've exhausted my search of the first floor, heading up the stairs now to the second. I try my second floor key (that I started with) on the door. The key broke! Now I have a broken key and a locked door. Lame.

16 - I find a grandfather clock NOT set to 3:33, so I do the obvious and fix it! A secret passage has opened!

17 - Now this is a sweet grandfather manor room! Looks like the grandfather had a secret study lined with old books and weapons. Sweet! There's a glowing book on the desk.

Eternal Darkness Alex Secret Room

18 - But first I grab a gladius sword and equip it! Now I'm ready to read the book (always have a sword on hand while reading glowing books)!

19 - A cutscene starts of a series of scenes from different places, probably places I'll be in the next few hours. Alex begins reading the book.

20 - The book opens to a page that says "The Chosen One". Ancient Persia, 26 B.C. There's some soldiers talking now in a foreign language. The language semi-smoothly switches over to English mid-sentence.

Eternal Darkness Pious Introduction

21 - The leader says we must retrieve an artifact, we're out in the open day right now, maybe this is an outdoor excursion! Pious Augustus is the man's name, and he's being led off by a mysterious voice.

22 - Suddenly some pillars engulf him in light and transport him somewhere... I'm in an ancient temple controlling Pious now. Controls are the same as when playing as Alex, and he seems to have the same sword that I just picked up...

23 - I climb down a ladder into the depths and a zombie skeleton wakes up and starts approaching me! I can use the R button to target different limbs and slowly chop him away! Sweet! I also do a finishing move as he's laying on the ground and he disappears.

25 - Two skeletons try to flank me but I take them out. Combat is basically just me hitting the A button a bunch while holding R.

Eternal Darkness Pious Targeting

26 - It's unclear if I have health or if I have to figure out my character's state from his movement, he seems to be stuttering a bit as he walks.

27 - Well this answers that question! I get hit and a popup tells me about my red health bar. When it reaches zero the character will die! Oh no!

28 - Seems like I have to "finish them" to actually kill off the zombies (I discover later you don't have to). I continue exploring and pick up different colored granite blocks along the way.

29 - Cool thing just happened, a torch just "popped" and Pious's head looked up at it. Neat effect.

32 - I find the room where all the granite stones should be places, so I start sticking them in the wall. After I do that a grate removes itself from a doorway like in a Zelda game.

33 - I just destroyed a statue of myself to move on. Foreshadowing?

Eternal Darkness Pious Statue

35 - Just fought off some skeletons in a narrow hallway. This was tough because my sword kept scraping the side of the walls (realism like that is cool). Also I found out if you take out the skeleton's heads they won't be able to see you and just wander around.

36 - Something I should mention is that Pious does control differently than Alex. With all his armor he's heavier and much more clunky to move around. If this was how everyone was controlled I'd be annoyed but it fits his character.

37 - I enter another teleport and am in a room with three figures on pedestals. Looks like I have to make some kind of choice...

38 - Red, green, or blue? Well, the game really gives me no explanation on what I'm doing, so I'll choose green, my favorite color. A cutscene starts as he grabs it, and the figure shoots a laser at Pious, making green light shine out of his eye! Crazy! Oh crap, Pious has been transformed into a very evil looking skeleton warrior!

Eternal Darkness Pious Red Green Blue Choices

39 - Chapter Complete! The narrator begins again, and then the game returns to Alex. She receives the Tome of Eternal Darkness.

40 - Right behind Alex on the wall is a page out of the book, the next chapter probably. First things first though, I want to check out a door I saw with a sword slit in it.

41 - The blade pushes back when I tried to put it in, well, time to read the next chapter I suppose. "The Binding of the Corpse God."

42 - A different narrator again, this time we're in Cambodia, 1150 A.D. There's a woman named Ellia reading a book, probably the Tome, on the floor of what looks like another temple. She has purple hair? Odd.

43 - A cutscene within a cutscene of evil Pious giving his soul to the darkness in front of a giant Jabba the Hutt eyeball thing. Looks like Pious is actually destroying it somehow. I'm confused.

Eternal Darkness Pious Mantorok

44 - The girl talks about discovering something fantastic in the temple, you're about to get your wish, woman. Now this chick runs fast! This feels much more natural than controlling Pious.

45 - I step on a switch and some blades come out of the wall ala Prince of Persia. More switches on the floor, but I can avoid them as they kind of stand out.

47 - A door closes behind me and a zombie stands up! The game tells me that when you're spotted by creatures, you lose sanity which is the green bar! Sanity affects perception and eventually health! Nasty! Performing a finishing move recovers sanity though, makes sense.

Eternal Darkness Ellia Zombie Strangle

48 - My sanity bar seems shorter than my health bar... maybe it's just me, or maybe it had something to do with that decision I had to make with Pious.

51 - I finish off a few more zombies and regain the sanity they took from me. Maybe I should intentionally lose some sanity?

53 - I find a blowgun laying on a pedestal so I take it, but then I fall into a trapdoor! The fall breaks my sword but now I have a range weapon!

54 - Someone is in trouble, they're being stalked by a zombie! Ellia to the rescue! I take out the zombies but I'm getting hurt. The girl is staggering around slowly. I use an evil looking necklace I found to heal me. A dark voice growls as I get healed.

56 - The guard I saved is able to repair my sword, thanks! I'd rather use a sword than a blowgun...

Eternal Darkness Ellia Sword

58 - I enter a room and a red and green zombie are fighting each other... I'll let them battle it out.

59 - WOAH! My first sanity effect! My sanity is so low from not finishing zombies off, the screen is staggering, and then suddenly the screen went blank like someone turned the TV off! A second later it turned back on but that was creepy! There are tons of voices moaning now and the screen is not stable!

60 - I find the room where Pious destroyed the eye monster, but it's still alive! And killing natives! Pious walks up and calls the monster Mantorok. He's ignoring Ellia, but then Mantorok zaps her with a purple laser. It is now Ellia's destiny to fight the Eternal Darkness. She is given a heart of Mantorok and her eyes glow purple. Times up, just as I regain control of her...

Now for some scores out of 10.

Eternal Darkness Evil Pious Skeleton

First Hour Scores

Minutes to Action: 1

Gameplay: 7
The game falters a bit here, it is kind of an awkward game to play. It always feels like I'm hitting the wrong button when investigating (B) and attacking (A), but I'm probably just not used to the GameCube controller (there was a nasty layer of sticky dust on top of mine when I dug it out). Targeting different body parts is a cool effect, but it doesn't feel very natural, I think it would have been better with maybe buttons for high, mid, and low attacks. The camera follows the character well but you have no control over it, probably to up the creepiness level. But when you compare the gameplay to other survival horror games, Eternal Darkness really shines. My friend sums it up pretty well: "it doesn't play like I'm trying to control a klutzy slow kid with huge comprehension issues like RE games".

Fun Factor: 7
The game is a horror game, but it's really only scary when controlling Alex in her grandfather's manor. I'm not sure if this was for pacing or gameplay reasons, but when you're playing as Pious or Ellia, the game is easy and simply not even a little bit frightening. And this is coming from someone who got nightmares from Poltergeist! When you're playing as Alex the game just feels creepy and hard, even though there's no bad guys within the first hour for Alex to fight off, it's all psychological. This is kind of disappointing and though I don't consider getting scared as fun, I have to dock a few points. Fighting off zombies isn't frightening and more about finding a good position in a room and tapping the A button a bunch. This game had more potential in these aspects.

Graphics and Sound: 8
The graphics are pretty good for the game, with decently detailed environments and very good looking characters. The faces lack the extreme detail of this generation but for being five years old I think Silicon Knights did a great job with Eternal Darkness. I think the music and sound really stand out though as highlights as there's a great variety of creepy tunes and bass-rumbling voices. The narration is also very good - a polar opposite of Okami's total lack of voice acting during its excessive story telling.

Story: 9
Dark, foreboding, and interesting. Eternal Darkness's first hour is laying the groundwork of a very cool plot. The idea of controlling Alex Roivas as a central hub character and then branching out to control long lost dead people (her ancestors?) that are integral to the story is a great way to keep the gameplay varied and the story interesting. Throw in lots of darkness, zombies, and macabre and you have one of the most innovative stories from last generation. Like I said in the introduction, I don't have a lot of experience with the horror genre, so maybe the game isn't that original, but it appeals to me.

Overall: 8
Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem's first hour is a great combination of action and story. The game starts with about a five minute opening but right in the middle of that you get a short, but intense action sequence. After that the game moves a little slower but it's the perfect pace for a psychological horror. I really like the concept of Alex Roivas not only investigating her grandfather's death but also investigating his life by basically going back in time and experiencing the origins of the Tome of Eternal Darkness. The gameplay is not as strong as I was expecting but before Resident Evil 4, the genre was not really a powerhouse in terms of "this just feels right." Silicon Knights is finally going to release their first original game since Eternal Darkness, Too Human, in a few months so people looking for a little history in the developer should check this game out. Also anyone interested in the genre or fans of H. P. Lovecraft will undoubtedly enjoy Eternal Darkness.

Eternal Darkness Emily Weber Pious Art
Art by Emily Weber - used with permission.

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