‘The Eternal Castle’ invokes imaginary nostalgia

A screenshot from the game “What Remains of Edith Finch” is shown above. The video game was released on Jan. 5, 2019.

Photo Courtesy of Steam

A screenshot from the game “What Remains of Edith Finch” is shown above. The video game was released on Jan. 5, 2019.

By Aidan Finn, Staff Writer

I was never a PC kind of person, the opposite of my Nvidia-nut of a little brother. Yet despite having no history with the medium, the retro-PC aesthetic speaks to my soul.

Whether it be the iconic “Bliss” Windows XP background, the nostalgia-inducing chime of the Windows 7 boot-up to the old yet charming visuals of classic PC titles the likes of “Doom” (1993) or “Duke Nukem 3D” (1996), these were all cutting edge for their time and miraculously appealing to this very day.

Browsing the Nintendo eShop had me stumbling upon an immediately eye-catching title that seemed retro yet unique. Later, I would find out that it was a remaster of a video game that never existed.

“The Eternal Castle [REMASTERED]” is a 2019 action-platformer with a strange yet gripping art style that is reminiscent of early PC titles with its stark use of pinks and blues. With no immediate dialogue to be found, you move through environmental storytelling while you’re on a classic quest to get to the castle in the pixelated distance. Environments are the vehicle of the story and the game’s strongest attribute. A mix of “Mad Max” and “Blade Runner,” it portrays a minimalistic vision of a bleak dystopia of conflict and poverty with few, yet bright, colors and hyper-detailed, but blurry visuals. It’s a game you have to see to truly understand.

We spoke with Leonard Menchiari, who is the game’s lead designer, to discuss the title and its uniquely retro history.

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buzz: How would you describe “The Eternal Castle” to someone unfamiliar with it? 

Leonard Menchiari: “The Eternal Castle” is a video game based on the so-called “cinematic platformer” genre that was very popular in the late ’80s and early ’90s, inspired by popular old titles such as “Prince of Persia” and “Another World.” This genre emphasized on character movement, atmosphere and cinematic feel rather than fast-paced, highly responsive gameplay.

buzz: How long was the development cycle of “The Eternal Castle” from the first idea for the game to the release of the final product?

LM: The first idea came to me in 2015. I expanded the idea with a friend, but I didn’t start until one-two years later. The production time took about two years, plus an extra year to market it after it was released.

buzz: This game’s art style is truly something else. The vivid blues and pinks gave it such a unique atmosphere. How did you go about designing such? Inspirations for the environment? (Hyper-violent Commander Keen?) 

LM: Thank you! The graphics are inspired by one of the most eye-hurting graphic cards from the ’80s called CGA. It was a step up from black and white and everyone hated it. The one thing that happened, though, is that everyone that experienced it remembers it, and that was one of the keys to keep the same emotional attachment from that era of DOS gaming.

buzz: Given the straightforward yet very vague storytelling on display, what do you hope players leave the experience feeling? 

LM: The experience is very subjective. The story is loose enough so that anyone can get as in-depth as they wanted while still experiencing a good adventure. My initial idea was to have all dialogues in an unreadable font just to expand on the concept that you don’t need words to go through a good narrative.

buzz: What advice would you give college students aspiring to be game developers? 

LM: Plan ahead of time, and start very small. The project will inevitably grow as you keep making it. The biggest challenge was always to stay in scope and not expand, no matter how great the ideas were. Any idea takes time to make, so keep the ideas aside and value carefully if you want to add them or not after several days (or weeks). Most indies don’t finish because they end up doing something that ends up being much more than they are able to handle. For how simple of advice it might seem, this is the most important one by far.

“The Eternal Castle [REMASTERED]” is available on PC and Nintendo Switch.

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