Before we start…no, there was no such game titled “The Eternal Castle”. In my research, no such game was ever documented to even be in production. The Eternal Castle [REMASTERED] is a game developed by a small three-man group who are in love with the cinematic adventure platformer games of the early 90’s like Prince of Persia, Another World, and Flashback. With beautiful pixel art and a rich soundtrack, Eternal Castle offers a nostalgic romp to a sub-genre rarely explored but extremely treasured by those who’ve played them.
Note: In this Polygon article, Jeff Ramos offers an interesting perspective on why the developers of The Eternal Castle are adamant to maintain a narrative behind the game’s crafted history.
Animated Violence: Though not depicted in realistic art, violence is shown through stylized blood splatter by having it be the same color of the character art. Players can use a variety of weapons like bladed weapons and guns to kill other enemies like humanoids, animals, and an assortment of other creatures. There is one section where you are practically forced to pick up a full-automatic rifle to fire on a mass of humanoid enemies who charge at you. Another section has an underground arena where you suddenly have to fight another humanoid to the death while people behind a window cheer on. After finding special pickups at the end of levels, you are transported back to your hub area where your character vomits, possibly from the transportation.
Spiritual Content: Save points have some spiritual significance to them as your character takes a meditation pose in front of it to save and restore health. Rarely, text dialogue appears with phrases telling you to “wake up” or “escape the dream”.
The Eternal Castle is a great, modern cinematic platformer that delivers its intended Amiga console aesthetic very well. Backed by an incredible soundtrack and pixel art, I was immediately drawn into the game from the start. After a short text exposition and choosing what character to play as, you’re immediately thrust into the prologue and the game begins.
The Eternal Castle is pretty straightforward. You can walk, run, jump interact, and attack in order to overcome whatever obstacle is in your path. There are five levels along with a tutorial level, each with their own specific environment and story arc. Completing each level rewards you with a key piece that will grant you access to the final level after obtaining all four.
The game follows the exact same progression as old Nintendo adventure games. So…I guess this like a Zelda CD-I game, but actually good and without the inane animated cutscenes. The game is incredibly solid for its gameplay, visuals, and length. The only downside is that it shares a common weakness with other cinematic platformer titles, where progression is hindered by the controls.
For those unfamiliar with cinematic platformers, these games are known for their distinct visual style and intentional control input to emulate the feel that you were controlling a real human character. Games like Another World and Flashback are classic titles of this genre while modern titles like Limbo and Inside evolved from those games. Their controls are notorious for delayed input feedback. This forces players to second guess their own instincts on when to jump, making mistakes when forced to make an immediate decision in some scenarios. As a result, these games died out quickly.
Cinematic platformers were adored titles by those who played them but died out quickly due to the difficulty with controls. It was assumed that cinematic platformers would not reemerge but then Limbo released back in 2010 and revitalized interest. Because of its success, people were now motivated to make cinematic platformers again.
However, some people who played these games in their hayday adored them, and The Eternal Castle is a testament to those older games. The developers invested their time in not just the game but also everything around its release. Announcing their title to be a “remake” of a lost game, The Eternal Castle is a call-to-action for cinematic platformers to return.
In the game, you can choose either “Adam” or “Eve” but the story is the same. Your mission is to eject a corrupted A.I. from Earth and your ship crashes on entry. Four ship parts are lost during the crash and must be found in four areas: the Wilderness near your crash site, an Ancient Ruin site, a Forgotten City, and an Unholy Lab.
Each area has its own story and gameplay segment, the Wilderness serves as the tutorial and layout of each stage. The Ancient Ruins is a gauntlet against hordes of enemies you must fight past while the Forgotten City has a civil war between its inhabitants. The Unholy Lab has monsters you must sneak your way past as you search the lab. After finding the four parts, you make your way to The Castle to finish your mission.
The Eternal Castle innovates on the formula, giving you free reign to complete the first four levels in any order you want to. The game is also filled with secrets; there are a total of ten optional items that give you small passive upgrades and certain secret areas that are optional boss fights. Speaking of which, have I talked about the boss fights? Fantastic.
The boss fights are not difficult, but the visuals and music for these sequences are amazing. You’re feeling the energy as you play, which helps when you make a mistake; you’re disappointed for not playing the sequence perfectly, but are still motivated by the energy in that moment you were just in. And that’s the main pull of The Eternal Castle: the visuals and soundtrack add so much to the game that you feel the journey you took to reach the end was much longer than it actually was.
It’s hard to go into a lot of detail about why I love this game so much. Besides my love for this particular style, The Eternal Castle is a well-crafted package of an experience that I would recommend anybody to play this game. There isn’t much to think about; it’s simply a good game. I would love to see another title from this same team in the future.