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MIA - Eternal Darkness


Friday is upon us again and that means it’s time for yet another installment of Missing in Action!  For those of you that are new to these electronic pages, MIA is a bi-weekly column where we highlight a game or franchise of old that could use a shot in the arm and a current generation makeover.

To qualify for the MIA treatment a game must not be on any current generation console or currently in development for one, though unconfirmed rumors and speculation of a new entry are okay.  The title or franchise should also be well suited for the current generation – it is better that some series, such as Bubsy, should be forever forgotten.

This week we present for your consideration, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

Developed by then-prestigious developer Silicon Knights, Eternal Darkness was ushered to the GameCube on June 24, 2002 in North America.  The action-adventure-horror game is notable for being the first game directly published by Nintendo that received an M for Mature rating by the ESRB.

The main protagonist of the game is Alexandra Rovias, granddaughter to Edward Rovias, whose murder she is investigating.  During her investigation, Alexandra comes across a book called The Tome of Eternal Darkness.  Through her reading, she experiences the life and memories of several other characters that have also had contact with the tome through the centuries. 

Chief amongst these characters is Pious Augustus, a young Roman Centurion who becomes the game’s main antagonist after being corrupted by and transformed into a Liche by one of three artifacts he finds in a mysterious underground temple.  The artifact chosen by the player determines which of the Ancients Pious becomes enslaved to; these ancients are terrifying, godlike entities who are determined to blanket the universe in eternal darkness.

Throughout the game you’ll visit interesting locales that could have been pulled straight from Lovecraft’s pulp writings, including an underground city that may as well be R’leyh (pronounced ri-lay) – a city sunken in the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean that serves as the burial place of C’thulhu.  Even though the game is not officially tied to the C’thulhu mythos, it serves as a spiritual entry that succeeds far more than games with a direct connection have.  This is chiefly due to the Sanity System.

Eternal Darkness employs the use of a “sanity meter.” This green bar steadily depletes as your character runs into horrifying creatures and otherworldly situations.  As it gets closer to being completely empty, your character begins to hallucinate.  Instead of having insanity simply affect the avatar on screen, the developers devised a series of unexpected events that would also affect the player.  The game volume would suddenly be reduced with an accompanying graphic on screen, large numbers of enemies would suddenly appear and disappear, the walls would start bleeding and most famously the game would glitch to the title screen, making you think you had lost all of your unsaved progress before returning to the action.

This feature, patented by Nintendo, stands as a unique feature of the game that really helped it to stand out and build tension in a way no other horror game ever has.

The game was a smashing critical success, but far from a commercial one.  In 2006 Denis Dyack, founder and president of Silicon Knights as well as developer of Eternal Darkness stated that he would absolutely like to pursue a sequel to the title – not a direct sequel, but a game that takes place in the same world.  To this day there has been no other mention of another title showing up.

Eternal Darkness would fit in perfectly with today’s modern consoles.  Developers could create a more compelling and immersive world than before through the use of more realistic graphics and true surround sound (the GameCube only supported Dolby Pro Logic 2).

Of the titles we have done MIA articles on so far, Eternal Darkness would require the least amount of changes to work today.  The game could simply be remastered and it would still be an excellent title.  With that in mind, the following suggestions are more like a wish list than anything.

  • More insanity – As stated before, the insanity effects are really one of the shining features of this game.  With newer technology these can be added to and expanded upon.  The game could give you fake achievements/trophies, ‘erase’ save and game data, tell you that fake gamers are online, bring you to the games dashboard, etc…  This doesn’t even scratch the surface of what could be done.  Whatever they do, these effects need to actually worry the player and blur the lines as to what is actually really happening in the game and what isn’t.
  • Co-op insanity – I don’t think that actual co-op would work in this mode, but here is an idea to get multiple players involved.  While someone is playing the single player mode, other players can jump in while the player’s sanity meter is low and run amok.  Players could jump from game to game, unleashing insanity effects and perhaps even appearing in the game as an apparition.  Once the character regains sanity, the other player would cease to be able to affect the game world until the sanity meter drops again. 
  • Kill Alexandra – Or at least drive her insane.  One of the most interesting things about Lovecraft’s stories is that humanity never really won.  You could only delay the coming of the Old Ancient Ones, but you could never completely stop it.  This feeling of despair should be conveyed in the game, and you should start by killing off the old protagonist, or at least make her completely batty.

Eternal Darkness is well overdue for a new entry in the series.  Whether it comes out on Nintendo’s Wii U or across multiple platforms it shouldn’t matter.  The industry is in desperate need of a truly unnerving game, and nothing can deliver that better than Eternal Darkness.

Have any cool stories from the game that you’d like to share?  Any other ways that this game could be improved for the current generation?  Let your thoughts be known by sounding off in the comments section below!



Julian Titus Senior Editor

10/28/2011 at 05:40 PM

Dude, hopping into the games of other players would be amazing. I think using your headset would be a great way of adding to the terror. Imagine hearing strange voices muttering into your ear, Manhunt-style.

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