Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Eternal Darkness

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Rating: 5.0/5 (5 votes cast)

alex.jpg (1472 bytes)            Having been released within the first six months of the GameCube arriving on UK shores, you maybe wondering why it is now that I have chosen to review Eternal Darkness. Recent events have transpired which have led to the parting of the Canadian development team Silicon Knights from Nintendo’s field of second-party developers. And to that end, it’s pretty much guaranteed that both Eternal Darkness and Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes will reappear time and time again in the story of Nintendo, just as GoldenEye 007, Perfect Dark and Banjo-Kazooie do every time the Nintendo64 is mentioned… and the fate of Rare.

            For those of you who haven’t played the much underrated title, this was the first story-driven game published by Nintendo for the GameCube back in September 2002, ironically only two months before Rares’ only GameCube release, Starfox Adventures: Dinosaur Planet. The title has a film like quality to it, beginning with an amazing introduction revealing a rather messy murder, the murder of your Grandfather. You play as the tall, blonde heroine Alex Roivas, often touted as being the next Ms. Croft, but I honestly can’t see a sequel anywhere on the horizon. The gameplay begins with you stuck in a room with a shotgun, being surrounded by hundreds of skeletons. As you run out of ammo, and the enemy closes in, you awake to realise it was but a dream.

            The game plays unlike anything before it. You can draw similarities to Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, The Legend of Zelda and many, many more famous titles, but it’s bringing all those fantastic ideas together that makes this title so original. There’s puzzle solving, magic, combat weapons and artillery – which is surprisingly tight and well designed, a little worrying when looking at the rather poorly constructed combat in more recent title such as Enter The Matrix or True Crime: Streets of LA. As the story progresses, you will travel through time, taking on the roles of twelve different characters, each in their own time period. The levels are all incredibly well constructed, and later levels will see you returning to certain areas you have visited before, although in a different time period, so they’re not quite the same…

            Most of the levels feature boss fights, all of which are stunning. The game seamlessly moves from puzzle solving to three-dimensional combat without even a blink. One of the most interesting features in Eternal Darkness is that of the sanity meter. I’m sure by now you’ve all heard of this quirky feature that seems to have been inspired by the blood-draining technique in the Legacy of Kain series. Throughout the game, you not only have health and magic meters, but also a green sanity meter. Your sanity meter is recharged by performing a “finishing move” on the enemies. When the meter falls, things start getting a little weird. “No controller plugged into socket 1” appears on the screen – but I’m still controlling Alex?  Walk into the next room… is it just me, or am I shrinking? Isn’t that the ceiling I’m walking on? Many, many bizarre occurrences are featured and you might often find yourself letting your sanity meter fall just to see some of the quirky effects! The game also features a few nice background details, such as stone heads that follow you around the room, rats scurrying about and eerie flying books in the library.

            The title’s graphics are, even against today’s titles, more than adequate, and really show off some of the GameCube’s lighting effects. The animation is fantastic and all the characters are lip-synced in all the cut-scenes. The sound is amazing. With a 5.1 surround sound system, the game reaches new depths as spooky voices echo from all around, and screams can be heard in the distance. The game’s control is also a dependable feature, obviously having been demonstrated by Nintendo exactly what control means.

            Eternal Darkness is one of those games that, unfortunately, seems to have fallen by the way-side. The title is beautifully constructed and although the first play may only take about 15 hours to complete, with three slightly different storylines, and a new ending upon completion of the third, the game certainly has replay value. Being heavily story driven, the reason most people have attributed to the recent split from Nintendo, the title obviously plays very linear, but that’s not to say that there’s not a wealth of depth to the title, more than enough to please even the most hardcore horror fan.

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