The Eternal Castle [REMASTERED] - Switch Review
The Eternal Castle [REMASTERED] touches upon the relationship that humans have with the ever-growing landscape of technology. The game is set in a distant post-apocalyptic future, where what remains is a shell of the technological marvels that civilisation embraced yesteryear. However, the concern is how this message may hinder The Eternal Castle [REMASTERED]‘s experience as what it is at the end of the day: a video game.
The Eternal Castle [REMASTERED] plays like a standard 2D sides scrolling action game, much like you’d expect from many others within the genre. It doesn’t do anything unique in this aspect with it relying on you to have quick reflexes and be conservative with your ammo. The boss battles are quite simple in their design and I found that frantically rolling about with the odd jab with slowly but surely did the job.
Truth be told, the combat often feels clunky and unintuitive, with your dodges rolls and sudden turns feeling awkward and unpredictable. I tried to avoid combat as much as possible as it seemed like more of a chore than it was fun.
Leading up to certain key boss fights, there were some glaringly harsh difficulty spikes that halted my progress for extended periods of time. However sometimes, if you have the right weapon, the fight can turn from impossibly difficult to eye-rollingly easy, allowing you to button-mash your way to victory. The AI can be clever, I’ll give it that – one time, I threw my axe at a boss enemy and when they got up, they picked up the axe and started coming at me with it.
The final boss fight (without giving too much away) is very clever and was one of the most satisfying bosses in the entire game. It was certainly challenging, like all boss fights should be, but it never felt impossible to the point of absolute frustration. What did cause frustration, however, was when I beat the final boss and the closing scene was taking place; the game crashed on me and it didn’t save, causing me to do the entire fight again; it wasn’t as fun the second time round with that bitter aftertaste lingering in my mouth. On top of that, when I finally beat the final boss and the closing scene cued correctly, it continued to replay itself in a never-ending loop. I actually thought that this was part of the game until five minutes had passed; I looked up the ending on YouTube and no, it is not supposed to loop. I never did see the closing credits roll on my Switch.
There were also some strange gameplay bugs where control inputs were receiving lengthy delays. On more than one occasion, my character stopped in his tracks and stood there for 15-20 seconds without any movement, no matter what I did; then, all of a sudden, it would all happen at once and trying to do so many actions in a single second made it look like the character was pulling off an uncoordinated breakdance. There was another moment where the camera stopped focussing on the character and I had no choice but to die and go back to the last checkpoint. These are all bugs that can be patched in an update, but it’s disappointing at the time of this review.
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The game’s use of HD Rumble works well in intense moments, such as the heartbeat intensifying and enemy gun shots vibrating through your hands. The tactile feedback is incredibly welcomed in a game that relies so heavily on making you feel on edge and uncomfortable.
World / Level Design
Each levels seems clunky, with platforms that are difficult to manoeuvre. I’m not sure whether it was the art style or not, but I found it difficult to discern whether I’d reach certain platforms with a jump based off of a glance or if there was even a pitfall to be mindful of at all.
Many segments require a lot of trial and error, determining how to best approach situations by dying a few (dozen) times. This can cause frustration, especially when you die due to awkward controls, but the checkpoints are generous and a second (or sixth) attempt doesn’t feel as taxing because of it.
Despite the initial blurb at the beginning and a short cutscene, The Eternal Castle [REMASTERED] prefers to tell its story throughout its approximate three hour runtime by allowing the player to soak in the world on their own accord. From dishevelled writing on the walls to the barren post-apocalyptic wasteland, it all culminates in a world that provides lore and depth the more that you go off the beaten path.
Graphics / Art Direction
The art direction is the first aspect of this game that any player (or potential buyer) is sure to notice. It’s 2-bit aesthetic, coupled with a classic 80s PC game inspiration and an ambiance of computer data going haywire is immediately unnerving, making the player question their nostalgic memories. The models and cutscene animations are smooth, with everything moving way too fluently, making you question what you remembered from a time long since passed.
This aesthetic, whilst it compliments the game’s themes well, often hindered gameplay segments, throwing off the player’s perspective in regards to enemy locations, pitfalls and objects to interact with. It also gave my eyes a strain after long play sessions, leaving me to put it down every 20-30 minutes to rest them.
Music / Sound Design
The Eternal Castle [REMASTERED] uses sound well by creating a notion of uncertainty and discomfort whilst utilising sharp tone shifts to keep the player on edge. I primarily noticed this when I was standing in the entrance to a cave and I stopped to listen to the hollow openness along with a bird chirping in the distance. This suddenly changed when I proceeded to take a few steps forward and was skewered by a trap that cued sharp-toned stringed instruments, scaring the absolute bejesus out of me!
Final Score: 70%
Despite its technical hiccups and vexing gameplay, The Eternal Castle [REMASTERED] demonstrates that its glaringly retro aesthetic within a post-apocalyptic sci-fi setting makes it an assuredly memorable experience. Its overt themes of our complicated relationship with the ever-evolving nature of technology and the moral subjectivism that arises from a world plunged into chaos is an uncomfortable social commentary on our potential future, reaffirming that the video game medium can truly project an experience like no other.
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