During the early ages of the Gamecube's lifecycle, before the golden age of Resident Evil 4 and its precedent on the horror genre, there were only a few games that were reaching out to that 'mature horror audience'. Really, there were only three games that I can recall: the Resident Evil remake, Luigi's Mansion (if you that type
of person) and Eternal Darkness. Unfortunately that last game is indeed 'last' and didn't grab the attention it should've to the gaming audience. In fact, the only reason I know about Eternal Darkness is because it was the most interesting looking game in the clearance bin at the local Gamestop.
Even though its a horror based video game, one really can't compare Eternal Darkness to games like Silent Hill or Resident Evil, nor could one really fit it into that Survival Horror genre. Some would rather put it in a sort of Action Horror genre, considering there is no Item Boxes to be found and the objective is to kill as many monsters as possible with various (mostly melee) weapons rather than avoid enemies and conserve bullets.
The story is also very different from that of most horror games. Its a hybrid of mythological fiction and psychological horror derived from authors such as H.P. Lovecraft. It begins in a modern day setting in the shoes of Alex Rovias, a twenty something year old trying to uncover the mystery behind the brutal murder of her grandfather. The only real clue she finds is an old Tome. Unknown to her, the mystery and the tome span all the way from the beginning of time itself and puts more than just the Rovias family at stake. Its filled with interesting, and mostly engaging characters who ultimately meet their doom in the same way her grandfather did. While the story isn't groundbreaking or award winning, it certainly is able to tie the player in and motivate them to help Alex find the resolution of her grandfather and maybe even save the world.
Both the graphics and gameplay were solid, however it was also somewhat simple and (not to discredit Nintendo) what you'd expect from an early Gamecube title. However, even with this setback, Eternal Darkness manages to use an original aspect to keep the game interesting and horrifying. This aspect is called the 'Sanity Meter'. Everytime your character alarms a monster of some kind or you do something insane such as kill a human NPC, the game punishes you by taking some of your character's sanity. They farther their sanity goes down, the higher the risk you run of dealing with a Sanity Effect. This is where the game really stands out. Any game that chooses to break the fourth wall gains a new level of intrigue and respect from me. This game not only breaks the fourth wall with these sanity effects, but does it exceptionally well. From heads/body parts blowing off randomly to TV screens going blank during intense boss battles, Eternal Darkness manages to give player a while new type of gaming horror experience as well as a new brown lump in their pants.
Even though the sanity meter was the main selling point of Eternal Darkness, there was much more behind the gimmick than most realize. Unfortunately, few were able to see any of the game at all and it failed commercially, further perpetuating Nintendo's kiddie stereotype and making Eternal Darkness one of the most underrated games of the generation. Whats even worse is that its developers, Silicon Knights had actually planned a trilogy, but this is now out of the question since Nintendo owns the rights to the sequels, dropped it's exclusive rights with Silicon Knights. There's also the fact that SK has decided to move on to other projects, such as Too Human for the Xbox 360. I can only hope those companies work something out and we finally see a sequel to this amazing game.
As a huge fan of this game, I've only found a few who share the same love for the game. Maybe this blog might attract the fans =P