Eternal Castle [REMASTERED] by Leonard Menchiari, Daniele Vicinanzo, Giulio Perrone
I remember the first time I encountered Lucky Wonderboy – that legendary mythic stand-up arcade game catalogue-cum-Pynchon-esque magical realism fiction novella created by DB Weiss, who would go on to write and run the Game of Thrones TV series). Back then he was just a fan-fic writer who created this wonderfully post-modern work about a legendary game wherein – at a certain junction – you could enter into a mythic, psychedelic secret level if you knew the right button combo.
The Castle Contains All…Or Does It?
Eternal Castle is the synthesis of all those delicious things that we hope and yearn for in a perfect game.
It has eye-popping handcrafted pixel art; the darkness, the numinousness of a Castlevania, Lovecraftian, a noir mystery, a ’50’s or ’90s pulp sci-fi paperback and an enigmatic backstory that whispers of secret magical code and unknown video gaming histories.
The action of Prince of Persia. The storytelling of Another World or /Inside.
And OK combat.
Also, though it is clearly stated that this is a REMASTER of the original 1987 MS-DOS game (and trust me, I loved my 5-inch floppy games, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy being my favorite), it is actually a Blair Witch-style found-footage marketing tactic that belies the tricksters within.
In other words – there was no 1987 game (or so we think). The devs just wanted to believe that something this awesome existed back then.
Thus Eternal Castle is the anachronistic composite of all your favorite memories of 1980s pixel Sierra Online art games with every new cool thing and genres that happened since then fighting its way into the design. It features 20 levels across five themed worlds, from the Gothic to the post-apocalyptic. This is a gaming feast, and it wants you to eat it whole.
So does it succeed?
Is the Adventure Truly Eternal?
In the fever dream that is your mad dash through the eldritch corridors of the titular castle, you can pick up a variety of weapons (a total of 10 currently) with limited ammo, or you can just use your fists or kicks to attempt to overcome various monsters and bosses when you’re not busy rolling or jumping or swinging across various obstacles.
A total of 10 different items, from an AR map to a teleporter back to the safety of your ship – we don’t want to spoil the rest – give you special actions to make your way through the treacherous landscapes and locales. When you fail, you revisit the dream. But eventually, you can really die.
But the real joy in this game is moving forward to discover yet another extraordinary vista or haunted interior. Truly the cinematography and visual design of the game is one for the ages. The angles, the 2.5D, the dripping vaporwave treatment, scrawling across your screen like emulsified tar on a tinted pane of glass…it all gives you incentive enough to pick your way through the deadly, puzzle-based challenges blocking your path to Gnosis and freedom.
If I have a qualm it’s that the load times can be long between zones, and controls with the Switch can be a little bit oversensitive; I was often over-running targets, and I wish I’d had a little bit more precision there.
The Siren Song of the Citadel
Giacomo Langella’s (Kiiro) score is a wonderful mix of ominous smoky electro dread, contemplative ambient drones and ’80s new wave punk and metal, plus of course the almost-mandatory Vangelis arpeggiator fare.
That said, there are some fun sound design elements like in A.I. – digital horns stacking up in cascading couplets against increasingly glitched out timpani, rapidly degrading like the nightmare visuals that erode ever so beautifully, or the hypnotic underwater clangs of “Suburbia,” summoning you like sirens ever deeper into the abyss.
Overall, Eternal Castle is a great tribute to some of our favorite games, an amazingly animated production that makes it worth the purchase price on its own, and a contender to becoming a new gaming classic.
Oh, and I also love the nod to Guru Mediation at save points I still have my Atari 2600 – and that this little epic for Switch clocks in under 500 mb.
One of those games that I would get out of bed for.
Check out The Eternal Castle [REMASTERED] on the Nintendo Switch store or on Steam.
Check out the official trailer for Eternal Castle [REMASTERED] below: