Thursday, October 31, 2013


Eternal Darkness Haunted My Gamecube

I've never been very interested in horror in general or horror games in particular, but I was once the kind of Nintendo fanboy who'd buy any damned thing the internet told me to, so I did end up playing Eternal Darkness when it first came out.

I never got further than about halfway through it, but I did rather like the gimmick; an energy bar measured your character's sanity, and the more horrors you subjected yourself to, the lower the bar would get.  When you didn't have enough sanity, the game would start doing little things to mess with you -- the camera would tilt ever so slightly, blood would drip from the walls, voices and screams would come from the distance.  At the higher levels of sanity loss, the game would even go so far as to simulate television and console malfunctions -- it would make you believe that your save data was deleted or that your TV was adjusting its own tint settings, that sort of thing.  There were ways to recover sanity and end the effects, but the internet assured me that the best way to play the game was to lose your sanity so that you could see all of the cool ways that it could mess with your mind.

What I didn't realize was how far it was prepared to go.

I decided to return to the game one day after forgetting about it for several months, and since I'd forgotten where I was, I started over from the beginning.  The first time I'd played, I had skipped as many insanity effects as I could, so this time I decided that I'd go through without healing my sanity.  I played for several hours and, not really being used to horror, it increasingly put me on edge.  It came to a head when I suffered an instant death from a creepy glowing skeleton creature that had crawled under my character's skin and taken him over when I hadn't shaken it off in time.  I felt physically ill to my stomach and a little twitchy.  I decided to calm down with some Super Smash Brothers Melee.

One of my favorite things to do in the Smash Brothers games is to play around with the options and see what kinds of crazy results I can get.  On this particular day, it occurred to me to see what would happen if I went to the Item options, turned off every individual item, but set the item appearance rate to Very High.  What happened actually makes a lot of sense.  All of the containers -- barrels, crates, capsules -- appeared at a ridiculously high rate, but when they were broken open, nothing came out of them.  So I set up a long one on one battle at the Final Destination stage and amused myself for a while with Mario, chucking crates and things back and forth at an AI Bowser.  I was just starting to zone out from the monotony.  Then it happened.

A crate popped open and a zombie burst out of it.

I screamed.  I dropped the controller.  The zombie latched onto Mario and started sucking out his life force.  My mind did cartwheels.  Somehow -- SOMEHOW -- Eternal Darkness was still there.  Not content to mess with my head only when I was playing it, it had spread into my Gamecube, and now it was attacking me with zombies in a completely unrelated game.  How?  HOW?!!

This can't be happening.

... Of course, the explanation was obvious, and I realized it a moment later.  On rare occasions, enemies from Adventure Mode will come out of the containers when you break them open.  Since I'd set item appearance to Very High, turned off every item except the containers, and started a long match, it was only a matter of time before that rare occasion came up.  And it just happened to be the zombie-like Redeads from Link's stage, and it just happened to be at the perfect moment of vulnerability when the unease was still fresh in my mind but I was starting to feel safe again.

Luckily, no one was around to see how silly I had been.  But I'd had enough video games for one day.

I never played Eternal Darkness again.  And I never forgot just how good it was at testing my sanity.


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