Darkness Sanity's Requiem
Before the release of the Nintendo GameCube it was often assumed that Nintendo consoles offered little for gamers who wanted the more adult edge to their games. Of course whilst it was true it must be remembered that Nintendo have always intended the games that were going to be used on their consoles to be enjoyed by all, the gameplay never suffered. With the GameCube however, Nintendo intended to appeal to all kind of gamers and the news that Capcom's Resident Evil series was going to become a GameCube exclusive sent shockwaves throughout the gaming globe. What's more Nintendo would be publishing a survival horror game of their own, Eternal Darkness Sanity's Requiem.
The game's story is firmly focused on the evil events that have surrounded the Roivas family through the ages. The Roivas family have close ties with a book called the Tome of Darkness which contains the necessary knowledge and wisdom on how to stop the Ancients. The modern day character in the game,Alexandra Roivas, begins the game receiving a phone call that informs her of her grandfather's murder. Alex arrives at her grandfathers house, sees the gruesome sight and refuses to leave until she has worked out what has happened to her grandfather. Not long after exploring the house she comes across the Tome of Darkness and begins reading it. Reading the parts of the book triggers the games chapters and introduces the Roivas family members. Of course the game wouldn't be much fun if there wasn't some deadly threat to the characters you control and in the shape of the evil race of Ancients, who are thought to have occupied the universe before humanity, that very threat exists.
What makes this game special is the strength of the story and the differences in the characters that you control. The characters include Alexandra Roivas (Rhode Island, 2000 A.D.), Pius Augustus (Persia, 26 BC), Ellia (Cambodia, 1150 AD), Karim (Persia 565, AD), Dr. Maximillian Roivas (Rhode Island, 1760 AD) and Dr. Edward Roivas (Rhode Island, 1952 AD). The gameplay with each of these characters is slightly different. The combat in the game differs according to the character you're controlling too. Some characters use swords whilst others use projectiles, guns etc. Most of the game's characters will be able to run out of the enemies path but whilst controlling the portly Maximillian Rovias this really isn't an option. The need to change tactics depending on what character you control helps keep the gameplay fresh and interesting.
Whilst we are on the subject of combat it's also great to see that hits to your opponent can be made to specific body parts. Holding down the R button will lock on to a single enemy and whilst you are locked on you can use the control stick to aim at specific body parts. This is far superior to the hit and hope method used in the Resident Evil games. There is even the option to use magic (or magick as the game spells it) with certain characters which again adds variety to the gameplay. Spells can be collected as you progress through the game. Once you've defeated an enemy you also get the opportunity to finish him. As well as ridding yourself of the enemy this also serves another purpose as we shall see later on. Another improvement upon the Resident Evil games is the control system which is totally intuitive and not like the push right to go left control system that is so common place in the genre. Because the control system is so good you won't find yourself struggling to fight or indeed avoid enemies which makes the game far more enjoyable.
Perhaps the biggest innovation with the game is the sanity feature. If any of you played The Thing you may remember that some of the game's characters could lose their mind if not properly cared for. Eternal Darkness offers a more refined method of character fear by use of the Sanity meter. Whilst your character will combat many evil characters, it is wise to think about their sanity as well as safety. When spotted by the evil foes, your character will incur a small sanity loss. Should the Sanity meter fall too low your character will begin to hallucinate and even lose health. To regain lost sanity it is important to finish characters after defeating them, as this will replace some of the lost sanity. Be careful whilst using Maximillian though as he has the ability to perform an autopsy on the enemies before finishing them off.
The best news of all with Eternal Darkness is that it's subtitled. We had very high hopes indeed when we knew we where going to be reviewing Resident Evil last year. These high hopes were soon be crushed though as the game didn't contain any subtitles. Thankfully Silicon Knights have subtitled Eternal Darkness and this allows deaf gamers to enjoy what is arguably the best PAL GameCube release to date. It was particularly impressive to see the noises, such as the phone ringing, captioned in one of the game's early cutscenes. Not all of the games noises are captioned but there is no important information that is kept from the deaf gamer. The use of force feedback in the game is also very satisfying. I began playing the game with the Wavebird controller, which of course doesn't have force feedback, and I was very surprised at how much the force feedback added to the game when I switched to the standard controller.
Perhaps the only part of Eternal Darkness that doesn't really set the benchmark for the survival horror genre is the graphics. That's not to say they aren't good though and they certainly look as good as most GameCube games to date. Whilst there is some magnificent details in the games monuments and temple murals etc., there are also some rather angular looking character models too. The way a cutscene blends into the game action is effective and has been nicely done. Those of you with widescreen televisions will be pleased to know that the game supports the 16:9 ratio. You can also select a 60Hz option too if you TV supports it.
There were probably some who doubted that Nintendo would come up with the goods when it was known that they were going to publish a survival horror game. As always Nintendo have proved that you should never doubt them. Eternal Darkness is a first class game in virtually every respect. The replay value of the title is also great as there are three distinct paths in the game that branch off as early as the first chapter. To fully complete the game is going to take you a long while which is very good news indeed. Some might argue that the puzzles and combat is perhaps not difficult enough but the positive side of this is that you never become stuck at a specific point and loose interest out of sheer frustration. Eternal Darkness is a must for fans of survival horror genre and also for those of you who just like a game with a very good story behind it.
Game Rating: 9.3/10