The Eternal Castle Remastered – Review
Follow Genre: Platformer
Developer: TFL Studios
Publisher: TFL Studios
Platform: PC, Switch
Tested on: Switch

The Eternal Castle Remastered – Review

Site Score
6.0
Good: Decent retro soundtrack
Bad: Visual style makes it difficult to see what's happening
User Score
8.5
(2 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 8.5/10 (2 votes cast)

If you have fond memories of 1987’s The Eternal Castle, you’ll be happy to learn that you can now revisit the classic game on Switch. After the remaster of this DOS title found its way onto Steam last year, the game is now playable as a handheld title for the first time. What’s that? You’ve never heard of this DOS staple? That makes more sense than you’d think, as The Eternal Castle is a game that never existed in the first place. So what’s up with this remaster?

Story

In order to fully understand The Eternal Castle Remastered, it’s more important to look at the story behind the game than to actually look at what’s happening in the game itself. The “Remastered” in the title and the copyright date on the title screen are misleading, to say the least: the game isn’t a remaster of an old game at all, as an Eternal Castle game was never made back in 1987. We’re not gonna delve too deep into the history of this fictional game, as that’s a very deep rabbit hole. The important thing to realize is that the game is actually an homage to an old and very likely corrupted game that the developer found on an old floppy disk in his childhood. The original floppy disk ended up broken and discarded, and The Eternal Castle Remastered is something that was created based on memories of what that old game was. As such, the game feels very much dream-like and alien, and very little of what you see happening on the screen appears to make sense. This is further amplified by the fact that any on-screen story text is made to appear corrupt and unreadable. 

Graphics

With neon colors on a black background and very crude pixel art, The Eternal Castle certainly looks very striking but also not very pleasant to look at. The bold choice of colors does make sense when you look at the game’s backstory though: the colors are meant to either mimic the game being corrupted because of the original floppy disk being broken, or the graphics were compressed, a common effect of piracy in the late ’80s. Games would often have their VGA/EGA color palettes removed in order to fit into a 720kb folder. 

The crude graphics partially hide that the animation itself is actually very smooth. The game makes use of the rotoscope technique. It does raise some questions to have such smooth rotoscoping in a game that’s supposedly from 1987 as the technique didn’t really get established in video games until 1989 when Prince of Persia was released. Either way, the combination of relatively advanced animation with supposedly corrupted sprites gives the game a unique look, although it does make the on-screen action difficult to follow. In fact, playing the game in handheld mode on the Switch’s relatively small screen can be really tiring. Things are a little better when playing the game on a larger screen. We understand why this aesthetic was chosen, but the graphical presentation really hurts the gameplay experience. 

Sound

Interestingly enough, the music used in The Eternal Castle seems a bit too advanced for the kind of game it attempts to emulate. Everything sounds like it would in an ancient video game, but the result floats somewhere between a cinematic score and synthwave music. It’s a bold choice, as the graphics would make one expect to hear only basic beeps and boops but it pays off wonderfully.

Gameplay

With a story that is almost illegible and graphics that make it hard to make out exactly what is going on screen, it’s a good thing that the gameplay of The Eternal Castle is actually quite simple. The game is a standard adventure platformer, where you make your way through obstacle-filled levels with a boss fight waiting for you at the end of each of the game’s five worlds, with another two bosses waiting for you at the final stage. It’s a relatively short experience too, and experienced gamers should be able to clear the game in under two hours total. Clearing the game rewards players with unlocks as well: a secret PVP mode as well as an additional “lost” episode.

These unlocks do little to hide that The Eternal Castle is a game that offers relatively little content for the price. It’s a matter of style over substance and had the game been released with the same gameplay but without the aesthetics -which are a direct result of the game’s elaborate backstory- it would’ve been considered unremarkable. TFL Studios seems to bank on the appeal of this being a “lost” game in order to entice retro game enthusiasts to add it to their collection, and it tries to keep up that illusion by hiding the creation story in all its marketing materials. Those that manage to look beyond that facade and reconstruct the true history of The Eternal Castle will find quite a few anachronisms. We don’t know if the attempt to keep up the idea that this is a real lost game is something to be lauded or a scummy tactic to draw in more sales. Either way, the game’s raison d’etre seems to just be a curiosity for the sake of it rather than delivering deep and engaging gameplay. 

Conclusion

The Eternal Castle is an interesting experiment and it captures an obscure part of video game history. However, we have to name the elephant in the room, and that is how limited this game’s scope is. This is a niche title for a niche audience, and while it is an impressive creation, some of the design choices made really hurt the audience appeal. If you have fond childhood memories of pirated games on floppy disks, you’ll probably find some enjoyment here, but for most video game fans, the creation history of The Eternal Castle is more interesting than the game itself. 

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Rating: 8.5/10 (2 votes cast)
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The Eternal Castle Remastered - Review, 8.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
Sebastiaan Raats
Sebastiaan Raats


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