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Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem was released for the GameCube in 2002. Developed by Silicon Knights, it is the first game by Nintendo that has an M rating and one of the only horror games for the GameCube. However, unlike Resident Evil, the horror in Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem is more psychological than anything else.
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After Alex Roivas' grandfather was horrifically murdered, she moves into his Rhode Island mansion to find out why and becomes immersed humanity's struggle against the Ancients. She finds a book, The Tome of Eternal Darkness, and when she reads it you, the player, go into different time periods and play as different characters. Each character's story is connected to the Tome of Eternal Darkness is some way, and they all come together at the end (although I won't give it away). Apparently, some of the Ancients want to destroy humanity and you have to help stop it.
The story borrows heavily from H.P. Lovecraft with the whole Ancients thing (like his Ancient Ones). It is a nice homage to the man's work, if you are a fan. Otherwise, it's a little far fetched, but then so is a corporation that creates a zombie making virus.
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There are ups and downs in the gameplay of Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem. The controls are okay, but for the most part the GameCube controller feels underused. The joystick controls movement, A and B open doors and attack, and Magick is cast with Y and the directional pad. You can run with L (although not very fast, I might add) and lock onto an enemy with R. It is set up like a third person adventure game, however, there is no camera control and moving in general is very stiff and forced. I realize they wanted to make it more realistic and probably scarier, but that's not the case. Most of the time it is just downright annoying. For example, the targeting system doesn't work as well as it could. Many times I was targeting an enemy, but my character would swing their sword into empty air while they took a bunch of damage. Not cool!
As you play through the game you will notice each different character has different physical attributes. Some good and some bad. For instance, one character might be a fast runner, while the other can barley walk. Once again, the developers were going for realism, but it comes off as frustration instead. When there are a handful of zombies coming at me I don't want to walk away from them. I want to run! Thankfully, there is a life meter unlike Silent Hill 2, so you can tell how much damage your character has taken.
The game is divided up into parts inside the mansion with Alex, in which you have to solve puzzles to get clues to the past, and parts in different time periods. In the time period sections you will have to fight annoying enemies and also solve puzzles to unlock more of the story. An interesting touch is that you will revisit certain places more than once, in different time periods. That was pretty cool.
Unlike other games in the genre, Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem has a Magick system in which you collect runes to join together and cast spells. The quick cast system is set up nicely, but casting Magick in general relies too heavily on how fast you can press buttons and not any real amount of skill. However, you can cast spells to heal, which is much needed!
The best part of Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem is the sanity meter. It is like your characters life meter, but it controls their level of sanity instead. Sanity can be lowered by not finishing off enemies and taking damage, and can be brought back by finishing off enemies. But the coolest part is what happens when your character starts going insane. The walls may tilt and bleed. You may keep entering the same room, over and over. But the sanity meter doesn't just mess with your characters, it messes with you too. A fly will appear on the screen. In some cases the screen will go blank and claim the GameCube is no longer connected properly. It's great at messing with your head, and is the most innovative thing about the whole game. In fact, it gets a Good rating all by itself.
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Graphics and Sound
It looks really nice, for a GameCube game. The graphics are clear and the colors are drab and fit the mood nicely. There are some beautifully rendered lightening effects in the mansion portion that really impressed me, considering how old the game is. The character designs are nice, but they move really stiffly and seem out of date by today's standards.
The sounds are horror game to a tee. Creepy music follows your characters in every situation. There are occasional screams or whispers. Zombies moan and skeletons clack. It all adds to the mood and makes the game more frightening.
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This is where I'm up in the air. I loved making my characters go crazy, just to see what kind of Sanity effect I was going to get. I also enjoyed solving the puzzles, as they were interesting enough to keep me coming back. However, the actual combat is so irritating I wished I could have avoided it all together. I know combat is not the main focus of horror games, but if the developers where going to make it necessary to fight that much, they could have improved it.
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Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem is an under appreciated game. I'm not a huge fan of horror games in general, but I did enjoy playing it for the innovative Sanity meter. If you are a fan of horror games you should probably check it out. It's not that scary, but going insane is more fun than it should be.