It’s that time once again! Another game was picked from the Weekly Retro Game Master List, this time added to the list by Fernando, and it was a Survival Horror RPG for the Gamecube! Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem was released onto Nintendo’s console in June of 2002 to “near-universal” acclaim. It was praised almost across the board for its gameplay style and mechanics.
At the time of release, I was lucky enough to grab myself a copy and, like many, fell in love with the game. However, over time it moved to the back of my mind and eventually was sold. That’s why I was really excited to revisit this “cult classic” in Sunday’s stream. So, let’s take a look at what I thought of Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem when going back to it after so many years!
When I first started the game up, unfortunately before I started streaming, there was a wonderful reading out a quote from Edgar Allen Poe. That, in and of itself, was a great way to set the tone for what is really a type of psychological horror. From there, even the options screen was surprisingly interesting as, when you enter it, the face of the main character switches to show her skull.
From there, as soon as the introductory cutscene has ended, you’re thrown straight into combat. Now, back in the day you would have had a manual in the case that describes the button combinations so you know how to play. I didn’t have that… So, as you can see from the clip above, I had no idea how to aim. You see, in Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem you can aim at different body parts of your enemies. This makes for a lot of interesting fights and ways to approach combat. However, I did not remember how to do it at all.
Luckily, it turns out that I was just being a bit slow. Combat in the game is really simple as you just take aim and then use the joystick to highlight different body parts. This became a saving grave as we carried out through the game. But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem is split into multiple “story chapters” that are tied together by the adventures of Alexandra as she explores her family’s mansion. This split between the main story “levels” and the exploration of the house could have been very jarring. However, the developers actually managed to pull it off! Although, on emulators, the transition does glitch out a bit.
Despite all this, I was already invested into the game. Part of that might be because of my memories of the game. But honestly, I only remembered small fragments. So I feel safe saying that the opening of the game captured my attention.
Moving on to the game, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem features two main aspects; combat and puzzles. That’s pretty standard for a Survival Horror game. However, as I’ve already mentioned, the combat within Eternal Darkness is very different from most horror games at the time. When you take aim at an enemy, you get to select which section out of the following you are going to attack;
- Left Arm
- Right Arm
Attacking a section of the enemy’s body a couple of times will cause it to be destroyed. That, in turn, makes for some memorable moments. For example, if you are expecting that decapitating one of the enemies will kill it, you’d be wrong.
As you can see, the enemies will stand still and start attacking in random locations, even if you cut their heads off. That creates a tactic for fights against multiple enemies, as you can cut their heads off and then not worry about them anymore. It’s also worth saying that by lining up the enemies correctly and then cutting off their heads, they can actually attack each other. This saves your health. It doesn’t, however, refill your Sanity gauge.
Oh, did I forget to mention that your playable characters can basically go insane?
Since Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, takes a lot of inspiration from the likes of Lovecraft. Set up almost as a Cthulu game, Eternal Darkness features a mechanic where seeing monsters drains your sanity. From there, the game will start to play tricks on you.
Admittedly, these “tricks” work far better when playing on original hardware as it will probably freak you out. For example, the TV may “turn off”, or Alexandra’s head can just tear itself for her body and start to recite Shakespear. All of this creates one of the most memorable gaming experiences I have ever had!
As with all of the Weekly Retro Showcase rundown posts, the last thing to look at about the game is the enjoyment levels. Rather than being a set score for a game like a “review”, I just base this on whether I had fun playing it.
With Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, I really did. The combat, once I had remembered how to do it, was very entertaining. Being able to make use of the enemies to kill one another, or cutting off their heads so that I can progress easily was amazing.
The puzzles, at least during the bit that we played on stream, weren’t excessively difficult either. That means that Eternal Darkness is very accessible as a horror game in comparison to the likes of the piano puzzle from the first Silent Hill.
Even the soundtrack is done brilliantly, especially during the sequences with Alexandra. The developers made great use of silence, with there being very little sound as you move around the mansion, except for the occassional whispering that gets right under your skin. Considering the game isn’t filled with dark corridors and jump scares, tactics like that have a really powerful effect on you as you are playing. They may you expect that something is about to happen. Even after the tenth whisper, when nothing has actually happened, you still find yourself on edge.
In short, everything about Eternal Darkness comes together so well! As soon as you start playing it, you’ll understand why the game became a cult classic! From an enjoyment factor; if you like horror games but want something that completely breaks the mould, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem is exactly what you are looking for!
And That’s All Folks
In the end, going back to Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem was brilliant. I had so much fun revisiting the game, from its story to gameplay. Graphically, it hasn’t aged brilliantly but still looks really good considering when it came out. Plus, the use of minimal audio provides an extremely creepy atmosphere, even in the well-lit mansion that Alexandra’s part of the story takes place.
If you haven’t played Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, do yourself a favour and pick this one up. If you’re a fan of horror (or just adventure) then you should should try playing Eternal Darkness!
Have you played the game before? How far did you get? Let me know in the comments below.
Did you enjoy this post, or the clips in it? Then when not check out the Weekly Retro Showcase livestreams, every Sunday night over on my Twitch channel! Next week, we’ll be playing Digimon World 2003.