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Before I begin this review I must go on with a very small rant about maturity.
Obviously you must know that Eternal Darkness is a “Mature” rated title. Well it just so happens that this game, along with one of my other favorites, Shadowman, is one of the most mature games I have ever played in my life. Now the word mature can be spread out so very, very far. Not only does the game show mature content such as gratuitous acts of violence, but the game’s story, plot, and ideas surrounding it are ones that can only be understood by a mature mind. This is something that is extremely hard to find in a videogame since many games today tend to try to be playable to “everyone” and thus many elements of a story and even gameplay must be toned down for a wider audience. That said, the game has struck a chord in me and has complimented the very essence of what it is to be a mature gamer. The reason I say this is because there was not one time in the game when I felt like I was being catered to or helped along or treated like an adolescent. It treats you like a mature person. And I wholeheartedly value that treatment from all the fellow employees at Silicon Knights and Nintendo. On with the review!
If you have read any other review of this game, I am going to try my absolute hardest to be unlike all those other reviews. Not being a professional writer or reporter (if that’s what you call video game reviewers) my thoughts are not changed over time from playing too many games, or from getting paid, but they are from the mind of a real gamer, (as are all of the reviews on this site) and this gamer will tell you that ED is an absolutely great game. Like all games, however, this one is not without its flaws, and I think I’ll delve right into those right away.
One of the biggest problems I have with ED is the enemies and the combat system. There are basically 6 types enemies in the entire game. You’ve got your skeleton zombies, your red, green, and blue zombies, your RGB trappers (little scorpion-like things), your RGB big giant scary I’m-gonna-kill-you-in-one-hit monsters called “Horrors”, and 3 more types which I won’t spoil for you. There is a reason why there are red, green and blue types of everything, but I’ll get to that later. Don’t worry about them killing you, because the enemies are really easy to kill. Even though the combat system is cool and all, and how you can “target” different body parts of the enemies (Using the analog stick which highlights them), there isn’t really any reason to target any other body part but the head. Chopping off the head basically renders your enemies useless as they goofily fondle the empty space where their head used to be (except the ones who’s head grows back). So while you play the game you find yourself constantly holding down R, pushing up on the analog stick, and hack-hack-hacking away. It was fun for the first, oh-8 hours or so, but when I look down the road and see that I’m going to be playing through the game 2 more times I roll my eyes and sigh. And since you have your nifty little Sanity meter you almost have to kill every enemy that you encounter. You may think it’s fun at first, but believe me--it gets old.
Well now that I have that out of the way I will get on with the other major qualm I have and that is sanity meter. “WHAT?!” You may ask? “But, but the sanity meter is the coolest thing EVER!” Ah yes, but not when you can start predicting some of the exact “sanity effects” that happen in the game. Now don’t worry I’m not going to mention one little tidbit at all because if you do know beforehand it really spoils the fun. But while I was playing I found the sanity meter really gimmicky. It’s a great idea, and don’t get me wrong, it is pulled off almost perfectly—there was one time where I literally jumped out of my seat-- but once a bunch of stuff starts happening to you, your own mind starts to subconsciously tell you that a sanity effect is happening and it doesn’t catch you off guard anymore. Maybe that’s why the sanity effects in the later chapters of the game are so lame! I actually purposefully kept my sanity meter low because the game is so much more fun when you’re low on sanity. Really if SK thought it through just a tad bit more, there could have been some real kick ass sanity effects in the game. Here’s some examples that I personally thought would have been cool and are not in the game(so don’t look for them)—while you’re playing, your environment could have started to pulsate and morph on-the-fly to something completely different. Would have been an awesome effect that the Gamecube could pull off very well, but it never happened. Or maybe it could morph into a giant head and gobble you up, or maybe they could make it look like blood is dripping out of your TV, slowly down the screen. Eh, maybe I’m asking for too much, but the sanity meter could have been achieved a lot better than what I experienced in the game.
I’m not going to go on and on about graphics and sound because if you’ve read any other ED review you’ll hear the same thing. And they’re all right—ED sports some of the most detailed and complex polygon geometry I have ever seen in a game. If you’re playing it now and you think I’m nuts, just wait until you get towards the end. ED also should definitely played on a Dolby Pro Logic II surround sound hook-up if you have one, and if you don’t, use headphones. It’s probably the next-closest thing you’re going to get. The professional voice acting is superb and the dialogue is intelligently written. The gameplay is also on the money, where the character actually goes in the direction you tell it to, unlike Resident “fear-is-achieved-through-shitty-controls-and-bad-camera-angles” Evil.
Now before I close I have two more things left to say. The game’s plot focuses around 3 deities of blue, red and green, which also stand for mind, body, and soul. Blue is your magic meter, red is your health meter, and green is your sanity meter. They also are opposites of each other, Mind(B) controls body(R), body(R) controls soul(G), and soul(G) controls mind(B). This love-triangle of sorts is an ingenious element in the game and is just another wonderful aspect of the game’s depth. The second is that all the elements of the storyline are inspired by and based off of writings by famous gothic authors such as Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft. The game actually speaks of them in a corner of the library in the Roivas house. This leads me to the conclusion of why this game is so good: it plays like a videogame, and you play it on your TV, but it feels like a movie and it has the plot-depth of a novel. Crazy, eh? This is something that is extremely rare to find as far as videogames go, and it’s sad because many people will probably just shrug this game as another “Resident Evil” clone or something of the sort. The game is truly a breakthrough in gaming, and even though the flaws can be overlooked, it is something that you, as a Gamecube owner, should not. Pick this one up indefinitely.