A Look Back At Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
Released in 2002 for the Nintendo GameCube, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem was somewhat of a sleeper hit. Known best for it’s Sanity Effects, Eternal Darkness also featured a rich story and unique game play aspects. I found myself replaying the game recently, so I figured I should share my thoughts on why you should track this gem down if you happened to miss it before.
Although it may seem gimmicky at first, I find that the Sanity Effects are the glue that hold Eternal Darkness together. Sanity Effects occur when your Sanity Gauge is low or completely empty. Whenever an enemy spots your character, your Sanity Gauge lowers. The only way to recover sanity is if you finish off enemies after downing them, or cast a recovery spell. Think of them as hallucinations that the characters experience. Although the most memorable Sanity Effect only happens once when you check the upstairs bathroom as Alex Roivas, the central character, I feel that it’s an aspect that never gets old. The most interesting Sanity Effects are the ones that screw with you, the player. There is no way you can ever prepare for the game acting like your TV shut off, or that your controller was somehow accidentally unplugged. Other Sanity Effects are interesting as well. Every single time my character’s body explodes when I try to cast a heal spell catches me off guard every single time.
Eternal Darkness tells a story that spans across two thousand years. It all starts in 26 b.c. when a Roman Centurion, Pious Augustus, discovers an ancient ruin. At the darkest depths of the ruin, Pious is corrupted by one of the three Ancient Essences, which is the player’s choice. From there you control various “chosen ones” throughout time. The coolest aspect about the story is how it takes real life history and ties it into the game’s universe in very plausible ways. By no means is Eternal Darkness the first to do something like that, but when you find out the “real” reason why World World I started, it makes the overall story to that point much more grim and terrifying. It’s almost as if the game itself tries to trick you into believing that maybe something in the real world is off, and darkness is just around the corner…
What about the gameplay? Well, Eternal Darkness brings a unique combat system to the table. Think Dead Space was the first game that made you dismember some enemies to best them? Eternal Darkness had that covered in 2002. What’s great is how simple and fluid combat is while challenging the player perfectly. Whatever limb you target is highlighted so there is no mistake on what you are aiming at. If you want to switch targets, just tap the target button. Since you control multiple characters across many centuries, you are free to play with a wide variety of weapons. I personally had more fun using melee weapons, even if I was in a time period where firearms were invented. As mentioned before, simply downing enemies aren’t enough. If you don’t specifically finish them off, they may get back up or simply disappear, leaving you with less and less sanity. While I already pointed out how much I love the Sanity Effects, bear in mind that once your Sanity Gauge is gone the enemies start to drain your health by just looking at you. One or two enemies aren’t a problem, but when you are in a room full of them, prepare for an engaging battle.
While Eternal Darkness didn’t bomb by any means, I think it had the unfortunate fate of being on the GameCube. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved the GameCube, but you can’t deny a more mature game would have done better on the Playstation 2 or XBox back in 2002. Nintendo had an unfortunate reputation of only catering to a more family friendly market in those days (which is actually more true now than back then). While it wasn’t as bad as more negative anti-Nintendo gamers would have you believe, there was some truth to that line of thought thanks to how Nintendo handled the Nintendo 64.
Another problem was the graphics. While not terrible, didn’t take advantage of the GameCube’s full potential. I’m always torn between two theories on why that is. Eternal Darkness was originally to be developed for the Nintendo 64, so maybe Silicon Knights, the developer, didn’t have enough time to convert what they already had created for the N64 build. The other theory is that Silicon Knights has trouble making a great looking game. The perfect example of this is the Metal Gear Solid remake: Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes. While Twin Snakes looked infinitely better than Eternal Darkness, the graphics paled in comparison to Metal Gear Solid 2. Bear in mind that Twin Snakes was released in 2004 while MGS2 came out in 2001. Personally, I don’t let the rough look of Eternal Darkness bother me all that much, but I feel that it was a contributing factor which held the game back from a wider audience.
At the end of the day, I feel that enough time has passed where the shortcomings of Eternal Darkness can be overlooked because of what it did right. If you skipped over the GameCube and own a Wii, you owe to yourself to track down a copy of this game (along with a GameCube controller and memory card), especially if you are any kind of horror fan. Note that didn’t say “survival horror” because it’s easy to survive, and by no means is the game just another Resident Evil or Silent Hill. On the other hand, it’s hard to keep your characters sane, so I would classify it as more of a psychological horror game than anything. The point is that if you avoided the madness in 2002, maybe it’s time for you to lose your sanity and play Eternal Darkness.