Review: “The Eternal Castle [REMASTERED]” (Nintendo Switch, Steam PC)

Retro revivals are a dime a dozen, so it takes a lot to stand out in the crowd. The Eternal Castle [REMASTERED] might just have an edge on that competition, if you’re willing to forgive a few rough edges.*

Originally released in 1987 for MS-DOS, The Eternal Castle (or El Castillo De La Eternidad, if you prefer) is a side-scrolling adventure game set on a terrifying interpretation of future Earth. The vestiges of humanity escaped to the stars years ago, but a resource-collecting expedition has gone missing, and it’s up to either Adam or Eve (your choice) to travel to Earth and undertake the treacherous rescue mission. This new “Remastered” version of The Eternal Castle was published by Playsaurus and developed by the small team of Leonard Menchiari, Daniele Vicinanzo, Giulio Perrone, making this game quite a feat, all things considered.

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The haunting opening scene

Adam and Eve Get Busy

I never tried the 1987 original, but having played games like Flashback and Out of this World (aka Another World), I felt prepared enough. For the uninitiated, there is a learning curve in getting used to the controls and how to successfully navigate the world. The crouching, shooting, and climbing aren’t always intuitive by modern standards, but there is a choice of control schemes in the options, so you are able to select the setup that best suits you.

In addition to a range of punches and kicks, Adam or Eve can also pick up additional weapons along the way, including an axe and a variety of firearms. I honestly didn’t find much use in the guns due to their limited ammunition, and mostly stuck with melee weapons instead, though that may have just suited my own personal style.

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You must penetrate! Penetrate!… Earth’s atmosphere.

You’ll need more than fast reflexes to successfully navigate each stage, as there are also several puzzles to solve along the way. Some are rudimentary hunts for switches to open doors, finding hidden icons to solve combination locks, and the game even starts with a nice “swing yourself free” moment that felt like an homage to Another World (though I wonder if the 1987 original version of The Eternal Castle actually did this first?). There’s also several upgrades hidden throughout the game that give you extra abilities or boost your stats (attack power, stealth, etc.).

There are a total of five stages: an introductory/tutorial stage, a final stage, and three main stages in between that can be played in any order. Not only does each environment have its own look, but the nature of the challenges are slightly different with one. For example, the “Forgotten City” stage is heavy on gunfights, while the “Unholy Church” stage temporarily transforms the hero into a mutated, imp-like creature. As a result, The Eternal Castle never feels too stale.

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I gotta admit, it looks cool

Sexy pixels

The graphics are very stylish, very 80s, mostly sci-fi, but also have a healthy splash of techno-horror mixed in. It’s difficult to describe the visuals without showing them in motion, which is why there are so many animated images in this review. Each stage is crafted using only black, white, and two more neon colors, giving nearly all of the graphics a high-contrast, pixelated look. The animations are generally smooth, expressive, and have a rotoscoped style to them. The Eternal Castle just looks cool.

In the sound department, there’s not much music to speak of, as the mood is mainly set by atmospheric sounds and tones. This helps to evoke a sense of isolation and dread, but if you’re looking for some heavy synth tunes that get stuck in your head, you’re out of luck. The boss fights are punctuated with some decent tunes, though.

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And the thunder rolls… and the lightning strikes….

Is it hard?

The Eternal Castle [REMASTERED] isn’t just a love letter to the 80s in its aesthetics, but the game certainly has moments of retro gaming difficulty. However, the typical frustrations of old-school games are mitigated quite a bit with the abundance of meditation stones that refill your energy and act as checkpoints. You also have an unlimited number of lives, so you don’t have to worry too much if you make a dumb mistake, which you probably will do.

That said, there are moments where you will feel that a death isn’t exactly fair. There are several blind jumps throughout The Eternal Castle, and some of them will end in death if you don’t correctly guess where the safe landing area is. The simplified color palette is sometimes a detriment, too, as a few of the insta-death traps are difficult to see if you’re not being careful. While these moments are annoying, with so many checkpoints, they don’t sting too badly. Overall, The Eternal Castle isn’t nearly as difficult as some of the tougher games from the 80s, but some areas will still test your patience.

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Ready to go in?

Want some tips?

  • Watch your stamina meter. Sometimes you’ll rush into a fight not realizing how drained your last climb might have been.
  • Do a barrel roll! If you’re in a tough spot or overwhelmed, you can often spam your ground roll to evade multiple enemies.
  • The organist boss. It’s a tough fight, but you only have to kill the giant coat hanger-looking guy to win the battle, so focus your attacks there.
  • Final boss. Press the “duck” button to stop the turning wheels during the puzzle portion of the fight. This took me way to long to figure out.

Ready to go again?

The main adventure in The Eternal Castle lasts somewhere between two and three hours, depending on how well you do. Once you have completed the game, you unlock Lost Tales, a new mode which allows you to play as one of the game’s enemies in a Roguelike-inspired maze. It’s more difficult than the story, but it’s a nice addition if you’re looking to play around in The Eternal Castle‘s world a bit more. Otherwise, you can go back and try to find 100% of the hidden items, or play as the second character, but that’s about it for replayability. Of course, you could always just play through the game again for fun, just like retro games of old.

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Rat-a-tat-tat, bitches!

Wake up!

I have to admit, I never quite understood the “dream” aspect of The Eternal Castle‘s  plot, but that doesn’t really bother me. Despite a handful of aggravating gameplay moments, I really enjoyed my time with The Eternal Castle. If you are a fan of 1980s aesthetic, or retro games in general (particularly games like Flashback or Out of This World), then The Eternal Castle is definitely worth a look. If none of that is to your taste, then The Eternal Castle is unlikely to convert you.

It’s a nice-sized package for the price, it looks great, and it never overstays its welcome. Perhaps the biggest complement that I can give it is that I do intend to go back and play it again sometime, because it was quite fun.

The Eternal Castle [REMASTERED] is currently available for Nintendo Switch ($14.99) and Steam PC ($9.99).

*Disclosure: A copy of The Eternal Castle Remastered for Nintendo Switch was provided to The Splintering for the purposes of this review.

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