Even seven years since it’s release, Silicon Knights’ Gamecube title, Eternal Darkness, still remains as a model of stellar game development. Whether or not you have an aversion to software on any of Nintendo’s platforms, a product of this magnitude cannot be denied. Without becoming a commercial success(even though it’s worked itself into this journalist’s wallet three or four times), Eternal Darkness has been influential in the way stories are told interactively. For those that do not know, the game’s story follows the paths of twelve different characters- all in various time periods ranging from 26BC to 2000AD. It is described by Wikipedia as a “third-person psychological horror” game and is often compared loosely to the Resident Evil series. In it’s own right, though, Eternal Darkness has a variety of spectacular characteristics.
#5. Voice acting and sound design are tremendous. Let’s face it, sound design can make or break any game. Audio is best implemented when it is not a focal point, but rather adds to the over all experience. The soundtrack in Eternal Darkness captured the essence of each time period accurately. Voice-over work was also incredible- Alexandra Roivas, the game’s main protagonist, was voiced by Jennifer Hale. Hale must have been busy that year, as she also aurally portrayed the bounty hunter Samus Aran. Also on ED’s voice talent list was cult great Michael Bell. Gamer culture followers will recognize him as G.I. Joe’s “Duke” and such G1 Transformers voices as Prowl, Sideswipe, and Swoop. Both have gone on to flourishing careers at voice actors.
4#. The “Sanity Effects” system has been unrivaled thus far. Eternal Darkness provided players with a “Sanity Meter” that could be incrementally refilled by killing enemies with a finishing blow. If the meter dropped too low, the game would initiate mindgames with the player. These consisted of a fake television volume bar being turned down while sound faded, a splash screen as if the game had reset without saving progress, or the on-screen avatar walking on the ceiling. Implementing any such system in any game could be viewed as overly derivative.
#3. Nintendo recognizes quality(or used to). It is speculated that Nintendo had great interest in Eternal Darkness from early in it’s development cycle(originally planned for release on the Nintendo64). Silicon Knights entered into contract with Nintendo in 1998 and published the title to the Gamecube platform. Eternal Darkness marked the FIRST M-rated game to be published by Nintendo.
#2. Review scores were extremely favorable. Eternal Darkness scored a 92 out of 100 on Metacritic as a result of 41 scores. Breaking that 90% barrier is something difficult to achieve for a first-party title, let alone second-party. No recorded review dips below an 8 out of 10.
#1. Eternal Darkness remains the greatest example of storytelling in gaming to date. Some titles simply have that magical “thing” about them. Eternal Darkness is no different. Every story under the umbrella that was the main plot line made itself distinguishable from every other. At the same time, the over-arcing individual tales of each character bled through to two or three of the others, weaving one of the greatest interactive tales of our time. Eternal Darkness won the “Outstanding Achievement in Character or Story Development” at the 6th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards, and for good reason. Even overshadowed by the original Metroid Prime, the game still managed to rack up critical acclaim.
Storytelling is one game component in which the industry remains a fledgling and there is still massive room to grow. Until we reach that point, Eternal Darkness reigns supreme. Consider this the reason your Wii is backward compatible.