Long ago I read about a game called Eternal Darkness on the Nintendo 64. The game looked nice, but really never grabbed my attention because the hype never really heated up. The idea behind the game was that it spans both time and different characters. It sounded a lot like a computer RPG, which I have really never been a huge fan of. I did follow the production of ED for years though since it kept being delayed and delayed. The hope that Silicon Knights could duplicate the wondrous Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen kept me interested in how this game was progressing. The Nintendo 64 since died and the project was moved to Nintendo’s new system, the GameCube. The hype on this game has always been simmering, never really reaching the heights of games from the likes of Square and even Nintendo themselves. Many brushed the game aside as a buy since it had taken so long to make. Some even criticized the gaming press’ heaping of praise onto the game before it was released. This would be the first M-rated game brought out by Nintendo as a company, would it be good or would it be poor? The answer is that it is a semi-revolutionary game.
Many have compared Eternal Darkness to Resident Evil. It is an unfair comparison to both games. RE is a survival-horror game, the one that everyone says started the genre (when in fact it was probably Alone in the Dark that started it). ED is what I would call a psychological-horror game. It plays with your mind more than it plays off of your fear. Yes, there are a couple parts that will make you jump and you will be mostly confused about the story about a quarter through the chapters. This is a game you have to devote some time to. Compared to RE, ED has much more of a cohesive story to it. You have 12 playable characters that span a wide range of time. Each moves at different speeds and each has different levels of health, magic and sanity. Throughout all 12 chapters of the game you are given a huge overall story. This helps a lot in getting you immersed in the game. I have never been a fan of the RE series and was very hesitant with ED until I started reading more and more about it.The graphics are a mixed bag, but a good mixed bag. At the beginning you can tell that this game was once destined for the Nintendo 64. In the opening chapters it looks like the graphics were touched up from the N64 version onto the GameCube. The environments are still beautiful, but the way the characters look seems very blocky in their polygon presentation. This is not to say that the graphics in the beginning are not great, because they really are. As you get later and later into the game the graphics seem to get better and better for both environments and characters. The camera does have problems, but it is very rare. The easiest game off the top of my head I could compare it to is Devil May Cry. It moves along with you for most of the time, but in small rooms it is very static. There was only a few times where the camera gave me problems and that was mostly in the earlier parts of the game. The sound in the game is quite nice as well. There is not a whole lot of music, but there are a lot of sounds in the game. You constantly are being haunted by voices that are moaning, calling you by name or telling you where you need to go. It is psychologically scary at times and even had my spine tingling here and there. I am usually not frightened by games, but there are parts of this game that even shocked me. The game is easy to control. Whatever direction you press on the analog stick is the way your character goes, unlike Resident Evil. B is used to get details on objects, A is used for attacks. You can hold the R button and choose where you want to hit your enemy with the A button. The L button is for running. The directional pad and the Y button are for quick spells. After about 30 minutes at the most the controls will seem second-hand. From a gameplay perspective, this game rocks. The controls are easy to get the hang of after a while and unlike Resident Evil, where you move your stick is where your character goes. The enemies can get a bit tedious and are basically the same enemies over and over, but the pluses far outweigh the minuses.
This game is not very short in my estimation. It took me about 13 game hours to get through the game, but I did have to backtrack here and there at times. I would say for one time through it took me about 15-18 hours. You can finish the game 3 times and get a different ending and have the ability to go through the game in a God mode. Each time you go through you pick a different color to be your primary magic color (Red, Blue or Green). Each color has power over another: Red/Green, Green/Blue and Blue/Red. This is something you need to know as you go through because you can enchant your weapons a dominant color to defeat enemies more easily that are of the submissive color.
Overall I was pleasantly surprised by how good this game was. Sometimes hype generated by players themselves instead of the gaming press can help a game a lot. This game did live up to the hype the gaming press heaped upon it close to release though. A cohesive story and the ability to play 12 characters across a long range of time is exciting. Yes, different characters at different times has been done before in games like Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross and Phantasy Star III, but it just felt refreshing to see it again here.