Ahead of The Dark Pictures Anthology, and its first title Man of Medan, we examine the cult PlayStation title, Dark Tales: From the Lost Soul, and the larger question of why anthology horror has been absent from gaming.
The highly addictive, freeing format of anthology horror has really found a new life in recent years in both film and television, yet curiously this trend hasn’t transitioned over to the world of video games. While it seems like a natural fit for the easily digestible genre of gaming, anthology titles have been extremely few and far between. The Gamecube’s Eternal Darkness has arguably become the quintessential example of doing this right as it finds its inspiration coming from Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft through different stories that the protagonist experiences second hand. Resident Evil’s Umbrella Chronicles spinoff games kind of pull off the anthology feeling because every level features a scenario from a different moment in the series’ chronology, but it also pulls from and depends upon the past titles from a long-existing franchise. On top of that, it’s a rail-shooter, and trades more in action than horror.
There’s the Dreamcast game, Illbleed, where every level is essentially a different horror film, but there’s still a highly connected narrative. Silent Hill 4: The Room’s approach to its narrative gets very close to an anthology structure. Its protagonist is contained to his apartment for several days, while holes open up in his walls that take him to different worlds, like a subway, water prison, hospital. These distinct worlds reflect the variety of an anthology, but they all feature the protagonist, Henry Townshend, and are all an extension of the same singular narrative. It does reflect a nice compromise in the anthology approach, but it also reiterates that for the most part, games are afraid to commit to a straight anthology approach. Due to how this is a real rarity in gaming, it makes the existence of Dark Tales: From the Lost Soul even more exciting. It’s a survival horror title for the original PlayStation that uses the anthology structure and finds great success with it.
Dark Tales: From the Lost Soul is a horror game from Sammy Studios that came out in 1999 and has largely flown under the radar because of the fact that it only came out in Japan. This is probably due to the fact that the titles live-action sequences use a Japanese cast, but it’s a shame that other regions didn’t get to experience this creative title. The game basically creates its own Twilight Zone and then has you play through a few episodes of it, which may sound simplistic, but it’s an approach that really works for it.
Dark Tales kicks off with a rather atmospheric live-action introduction that would probably be the opening credit sequence if Dark Tales were a television show. It gives glimpses of the many different stories and visitors that enter this hub for the macabre, while it also infuses a fairly Lynchian vibe to the creepy nightclub aesthetic. There’s an MC character who operates as the game’s de facto Rod Serling surrogate and narrator through these three stories. He’s a nice touch and the actor gives a very unnerving, heightened performance, even if you can’t understand him. It’s also a little surprising to see how many genuinely unnerving visuals come out of these live-action segments, like a baseball covered in blood being repeatedly pitched into a catcher’s mitt, or a creepy assortment of clown dolls and bird cages.
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Author : Daniel Kurland
Publish date : 2019-07-10 22:20:36