Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame Nomination: Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

Every week, we will present a new game to be nominated for the Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame and Hall of Shame. These nominations will occur every Monday and Friday, respectively. Our standards are just like the Baseball Hall of Fame: every game will be voted on by members of the staff, and any game that gets 75% of the vote – with a minimum of four votes – will be accepted – or thrown – into their respective Hall.

Game: Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
Developer: Silicon Knights
Publisher:Nintendo
Release Date: 06/23/2002
System Released On: Nintendo GameCube
Genre: Survival Horror

Who Nominated The Game: Yours truly, the lord high master of Diehard GameFAN himself – Alexander Lucard

Why Was It Nominated: I sometimes nominate games for esoteric reasons. First, we’ve only had a single survival horror game nominated in the nigh seven months we’ve been doing the Hall of Fame and I found myself wondering what, if any, game from that category would get in. Probably not Silent Hill as there wouldn’t be enough love. Clock Tower is insanely popular with some of our guys, but popular enough to make the Hall? I didn’t think so. Then you have all the awesome survival horror games like Shadow of the Comet, I Have No Mouth But I Must Scream, DarkFall and that like wouldn’t get the proper four commentators to even give the games a chance to get nominated. So what to do?

Then there was the fact we didn’t have a GameCube title nominated for the Hall yet. But really, what would get in? Wind Waker? Probably not. Ribbit King? Too weird and only Dave and I had probably played that anyway? Super Mario Sunshine? Not after the beat Super Mario Galaxy took from the staff here. There weren’t any real viable nominees for the GCN that I thought even stood a chance of getting in.

So in a case of, “You got chocolate in my peanut butter,” I thought of Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. Not only did it let me kill two birds with one stone by nominating it, but it stood a really good chance of making it in. A few years ago when we polled internally on what our favorite GCN title was, Eternal Darkness blew everything else away. I know it was my personal 2002 GOTY and I knew it was one of Kennedy’s favorite games of all time and since he hasn’t nominated anything yet, I’d be throwing a bone his way as well with this nomination. So Eternal Darkness seemed like the best possibility of seeing a Gamecube and/or survival horror title make it in, and that’s why it god the nod from me.

Besides the logical bits, there were numerous other reasons to nominate Eternal Darkness. The sheer outpouring of love the game received back in our 31 Days of Gaming Terror celebration back in 2008. It made #3 on my Top 30 Spooky Games Countdown. It received universal acclaim from reviewers upon its release. It was the first M rated title for the Cube and one of the only ones Nintendo of America has released stateside (Looks around for Fatal Frame 4 for the Wii). It is one of the few survival horror games in the past two console generations to actually focus on terror over gore. Perhaps most of all, it is considered the best ( or only good, depending on who you talk to) title by Silicon Knights, who is currently best remembered for the horrible failure that was Too Human. For all these reasons and more, Eternal Darkness deserved its eventual nomination to the Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame. Now the only question is whether or not it gets an actual spot.

All in Favour:

ML Kennedy: I was dirt poor when I got a Gamecube. My mother got it for me and the wife as a joint birthday present. We had no games; we couldn’t afford any. We had no memory card; we couldn’t afford any. We couldn’t afford a second controller.

But we did have a free rental coupon from Blockbuster. We picked Eternal Darkness.

I played the game. The wife played the game. Both of our friends that were living with us for the summer played the game. We passed around the controller, enjoying watching the game almost as much as playing. We played it for about six straight hours with no memory card, trying to beat the game without saving.

That night, we all scrounged up money for a memory card.

It was well worth the lack of food we had that week.

Really, what’s not to love about this game? Crazy sanity effects, being able to chop the arms off of zombies, multiple characters that play distinctly from one another, summoning monsters, the ability to build spells, and rewards for beating the game multiple times.

Great game.

Mohammad Al-Sadoon: I never really knew much about Lovecraftian literature other than the endless Cthulhu jokes you find online (and I doubt many of the nerds online haven’t really read any of Lovecraft’s novels either). So when I went into Eternal Darkness, I was witnessing a completely different type of horror game that just didn’t feel like anything I’ve played before. The storyline was epic, spanning several centuries but never feeling disjointed (An excellent example of how to reuse levels and not make it cheap.) and the controls were tight. It was a far cry from nearly every horror game at the time (I’m looking at you Resident Evil) and I DIDN’T have to run from every zombie and creature. In fact, the game actively encouraged you to kill everything in the game to refill your sanity meter.

Speaking of the sanity meter, it may have been a gimmick…but it’s the number one best gimmick of all time for me. Bleeding walls, statues coming to life and Kojima-esque fourth wall breaking will always haunt me no matter how long I stopped playing the game.

Oh Silicon Knights…Why aren’t you this awesome anymore?

B.J. Brown: This is one of the few games that I’ve NEVER played that I wish that I had simply because of the amount of gamers I’ve spoken to that absolutely love this game. It seemed to have one of the most in depth stories in gaming history from how people describe it to me. The different time shifts, the different characters you control. People had me geeked about going to get a GC just to play this game!!

Chris Bowen: I was almost tempted to say no to this, which would be punishing Eternal Darkness for the stupidity of Silicon Knights and Dennis Dyack in not doing anything with this series because of what Yahtzee Croshaw calls a, “crippling fear of money and success.” The game hasn’t cemented itself as a must-play franchise because it’s not a franchise. There have to be two entries for that to occur.

But then, you remember the game itself, and the visceral ways it communicated your character’s loss of sanity, and transferred that loss of sanity onto you (“WHY THE FUCK IS MY CONTROLLER NOT WORKING WHY AM I SEEING AN ERROR MESSAGE FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK”). You remember that it was Nintendo’s growing up, finally, and acknowledging that they couldn’t simply rely on all-ages games anymore (ED was the first game Nintendo published with an M-rating). If you go on Metacritic, you can’t ignore the fact that the game was universally loved by critics, many of whom can be downright schizophrenic. This game succeeded commercially and critically despite a plethora of barriers in front of it – namely, it being an M rated game on Nintendo’s worst performing console – and leaves people clamouring for more to this very minute.

Despite Silicon Knights’ best efforts, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem is worthy of a Hall of Fame nod, and overdue for a sequel.

Alex Lucard: For many, Eternal Darkness is listed as both the best Gamecube game ever, but also the best console horror game ever. Silicon Knights managed to do what no game has done before or since and that’s tie together that atmospheric sense of dread and fear of things that no man should know exists that you generally only find in adventure horror, with the ability to slice up and butcher enemies that you tend to find in the not-at-all scary but action paced Survival Horror style of games.

You had a cast and crew of highly memorable characters in this love note to H.P. Lovecraft. Some of the protagonists you played as went mad, died horribly, or even turned to the dark side – all common themes in Mythos writing. Only a scant few survived their ordeals, but none survived intact or unscathed. God I loved this. This is what horror and terror games should be like. I also loved that each chapter highlighted a different time period and character and you still got to know each one in depth. Each character also had their own strengths and weaknesses, so Eternal Darkness felt like a series of episodic games with similar controls but very different experiences ala what Telltale would eventually unveil.

This doesn’t even cover the sanity effects. Sure they’re not as effective in 2010 because most gamers know what they are and have come to expect them. Even then, there are still that make you jump even if you don’t spaz out as the more outlandish and yet believable ones like “Please insert disc 2” or the game not recognizing your memory card or pretending to reset. The sanity effects alone make Eternal Darkness one of the most memorable and incredible games of all time and I’ve spent a decade wanting something to even come close to the sheer quality of this title.

Dave Olvera: Eternal Darkness is everything an eldrich horror game should be, in terms of both game play and story. A plot that spans centuries, light on combat, heavy on atmosphere and with a unique gimmick (the sanity effects) Eternal Darkness is one of the few games I enjoyed on the GameCube. The fact that Alexandra is a fine female protagonist is icing on the cake. The story itself is a classic Lovecraftian horror tale, in the spirit of the writer but not just retelling of a previous tale. Unique and a reason to own a Gamecube, Eternal Darkness is a game that helps to show why people play video games – the experience.

Aileen Coe: One of the first game to come to mind when the subject of good GameCube games comes up is this one, and with good reason. The combat and magic system worked well overall, and the controls felt tight. Despite the fact that you played as a different character every chapter, it was easy to get attached to each of them. The pacing never felt awkward or disjointed. Revisiting the same places and seeing the changes in them over time felt natural rather than as cheap rehashes. You’re also rewarded with a longer ending if you play through all three alignments.

Of course, there’re also the sanity effects. I admit I looked them up beforehand, partly because I tend to get freaked out easily as is, partly out of curiosity. Even with that, they still got me – it’s hard not to be affected by watching as the game “deletes” all your progress or as your character gets eviscerated as you look on helplessly and try to get your controller to respond. It was a unique feature that hasn’t been seen elsewhere since. And that’s a shame.

All Opposed:

Michael O’Reilly: I liked the initial concept, and I liked the messing with your head gameplay, but it annoyed me by hopping around from character to character, and the controls never quite felt right to me. I played it for an evening and could not bring myself to play it again. Thank goodness for rentals.
 
 
 
 

Mark B.:At the time Eternal Darkness came out, it was a pretty fantastic game. I have pretty fond memories of running through the game multiple times, assembling the whole ending out of the individual run-throughs, testing out the various sanity meter effects for laughs, and generally having a good time of fighting the various monsters that crossed my path. It also helps that the experience is very Lovecraftian in concept without actually being a Lovecraft work, so it’s allowed to take liberties with the execution but still maintain the feel and theme of the experience.

That said, I don’t find the game has held up especially well.

It’s not that Eternal Darkness is somehow horrible and scorn-worthy at this point, don’t get me wrong, but it simply doesn’t stir anything in me going back to it some several years after the fact. It’s a fine game, to be certain, but playing it recently it felt like it was lacking the ability to inspire the same feelings it did when I first played it, and I came away from it feeling like I’d maybe been more impressed with the game when it came out because of what it was trying to do instead of what it actually did. Either way, while I still think the game is good, even great, I don’t think it’s a Hall of Fame worthy game at this point.

Result: 7 In Favour, 2 Opposed, 78% Approval = ACCEPTED

Conclusion: Eternal Darkness makes it into the Hall of Fame pretty easily and becomes not only our ninth nominee to actually make it in, but the first survival horror game as well. Now the question is whether or not Silicon Knights can actually make another game even half as good as this one.

Next Week: We go from the GameCube back to the N64 as Nintendo systems try for two straight inductees.

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