Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem Review

Publisher(s): Silicon Knights

Console(s): Nintendo GameCube

Developer(s): Nintendo

Release Date: November 1, 2002 (UK)/ June 23, 2002 (US)

Genre: Psychological Horror

Player(s): Single

Rating: M for Mature

-Arron Ferguson

For anyone lonely enough to take the time to analyze who writes what when on this glorious (read attention seeking) it may be clear that yet again I am reviewing a game for the GameCube. Is it because this was the first console I ever owned whilst old enough to pick the games myself? Is it because I am quite a small man so feel permanently attached to it’s easy to carry nature in comparison to the cumbersome consoles of today? Is it because I have too little money to afford more modern games so must return to the games of my youth for these articles? Whilst the answer to all of the above is as astounding yes it is also because it was a damn good console which I feel the vast majority of gamers unjustifiably` ignored. It may not have held the graphical prowess of its brethren nor perhaps their cooler games; it may have been, for many, Nintendo’s first foray into a console that didn’t capture the public’s attention at large (though console historians would be quick to point you int he way of the Virtual Boy before giggling incessantly) but as a machine of family orientated joy it was, at the time, unrivaled. 

Of course despite its reputation as a wee little bundle of fun for all the family with its slick platformers (see Super Mario Sunshine), fun time racing games (see Mario Kart Double Dash) and unexpected corkers (see Paper Mario: The Thousand year Door) every now and again it delved into territory the Xbox elite may not have seen coming and early release Eternal Darkness is one such example. 

At first glimpse it is yet another installment in the long line of “games where stuff jumps at you from dark corners” kind of release. You play as Alexandra, who is seeking answers into the mysterious death of her grandfather. This requires lots of sleuthing about and avoiding all the various bumps in the night. Things jump out, music gets tense. It’s all very “horror cliche” and it’s all very “obvious”. As time goes on the plot that develop into a somewhat more unique direction. Later on through various plots twists I won’t ruin you find yourself taking control of others who have come up against the many dangers of the mansion offering a nice time bending take on the tale. In spite of this though it is still very much just a bunch of people crawling through the horror infested creepy mansion at the end of a road, just with the occasional change in scenery to suit the unique jumping and chopping. 

Or is it?

A level of quality raises this up beyond what I suggest above, the characters fantastic int heir development and the narrative unique in its presentation. If this was the be all and end all of what Nintendo had to offer it would be a perfectly solid attempt at a horror but the fact of the matter it is not. To put it simply- in this long forgotten game that is, quite frankly, begging to have a sequel released one unique addition kicks it from its status as “great game” to one of “forgotten classic”. The sanity meter. 

Throughout your experiences Alexandera (or whichever of the many characters you come to control throughout the flash backs and time hopping) find themselves presented with a ‘sanity meter’. The more you come face to face with the many ghosts and ghouls the mansion has to offer the more your sanity meter is threatened and the more it is threatened the more Nintendo decide to kick back and throw whatever they can at you to ‘mess with your head’. 

This ‘head messing’ comes in many ways you might expect. Blood begins to drip from unexpected places; the screen may fluctuate in colour. Camera angles become distorted and bugs crawl over your screen. These are all fascination concepts and twists that take a while to get used to. Learning to play when your character is losing his mind is a fascinating experience. But of course Nintendo never want you to beat them so remain a few steps ahead. You may become used to this scenery bending use of sanity so they push into the realms of character. Soon when you start losing your mind you will find your character dying when in fact you had done nothing to warrant it leaving you in a state of panic before you finally realize this is just the sanity tricks playing up. Limbs will explode, guns will malfunctions and all manner of fake deaths will befall whichever protagonist is within your grasp at this stage of the narrative promptings fits of rage at the screen before it all flickers back to normal rendering the character safe and well but the player the laughing stock of Nintendo’s development staff. 

And as before you learn as you play- perhaps the greatest element of Eternal Darkness, an element that can certainly be seen in its natural descendants such as the sublime Dead Space saga. Soon neither the scenery nor character bending sanity effects take their hold. Your find yourself laughing back as you know the trickery being played and know you are safe. You have now beaten Nintendo and your only concerns are the very real monsters crawling the mansion before you.

Well no. Not quite. This where Eternal Darkness makes its leap to sublime. The true test of its player’s sanity comes in the form of metafictional exploits of delight. Soon when your sanity meter is suffering the game will tell such audacious lies as “the controller in port 1 is not working” just as a wave of zombies come to tear you apart” and “Save filed deleted” just when you think you are saving at an important narrative turning point. It takes a much better game player than I not to totally freak out when just as you are reaching what seems to be the most exciting point in the game this title card flashes up on screen:

“Thank you for playing the Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem demo”.

Um…. WHAT!

But of course it is merely the sanity meter having its fun. First it effects the character but then it affects you. The uses get more subtle, inventory screens look empty when not, dialogue begins to make no sense and you find yourself invited to watch sneak previews of sequels that do not exist. 

But of course a gimmick is only a gimmick unless the rest of the game holds up. As mentioned above the characters and narrative are solid and they are joined in the pantheon of quality by all escapes. The graphics are stellar (for their time) and the music as spine chilling as you will find in any horror game that doesn’t rely on something as unique as the sanity meter to generate its panics. 

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

For anyone lonely enough to take the time to analyze who writes what when on this glorious (read attention seeking) it may be clear that yet again I am reviewing a game for the GameCube. Is it because this was the first console I ever owned whilst old enough to pick the games myself? Is it be- Don’t worry. You are not reading the intro again. The sanity meter merely kicked in.

Overall score: 90%

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

For anyone lonely enough to take the time to analyze who writes what when on this glorious (read attention seeking) it may be clear that yet again I am reviewing a game for the GameCube. Is it because this was the first console I ever owned whilst old enough to pick the games myself? Is it be- 

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem- Sanity Effects

Seems like there’s something wrong with tumblr today. Lots of copies and fakes and… can you please reconnect your controller?