Note: Originally posted on Manic Expression on November 16, 2012.
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Beyond Good & Evil is an action-adventure game from 2003 which is the brainchild of Rayman creator Michel Ancel. He goal was to tell a compelling story while giving the players freedom toexplore the world. He wanted to â€œpack a whole universe on a CDâ€ and make the players feel like explorers. After the game had to be scaled back due to technical limitations at the time, the game was released in the holiday shopping season in 2003 by Ubisoft to critical acclaim yet little fanfare. The game was overshadowed by many other games, especially Ubisoftâ€™s own Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. However, the game would develop a very loyal cult following and as of now, Beyond Good & Evil 2 is in development for next-gen consoles. The first game was updated on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 for an HD version of the game, which is the version of the game I will be reviewing. Read on as I explain why Beyond Good & Evilâ€™s cult classic status is very well earned.
This brings us to the main heroine of the game, Jade, a 20-year old photographer who takes care of the orphans whose parents were kidnapped by the DomZ . She is helped by her â€œuncleâ€ and guardian figure, Peyâ€™j, an anthropomorphic pig who has taken care of her even since the deaths of her parents. When a rebel group known as the IRIS Network contacts her, saying that the Alpha Sections are in allegiance with the DomZ, Jade is recruited to photograph evidence to prove that the Alpha Sections are the enemies to the public. She is also helped out by an IRIS agent known as Double H, a tough operative who likes to quote â€œCarlson and Petersâ€.
One of the gameâ€™s greatest strengths is its storytelling. Note that I said storytelling and not story. Thatâ€™s because the plot itself is nothing special. The whole small rebel vs. big oppressive empire story has been done before by several Final Fantasy games as well as the Star Wars movies. This is made the more obvious by the fact that the story is very black and white, despite the name of the game, with definitive good and bad guys. This is more than made up by Ancelâ€™s storytelling capabilities. He does a great job of bring the world to life and making the player feel like they have an impact. The main characters are also very memorable with Jade in particular standing out as one of the best females characters in the video game medium. Peyâ€™j and Double H are also very memorable with many moments that really make them stand out as characters.
The gameplay of the game is actually quite similar to the Legend of Zelda series but with a few things of itâ€™s own. Like the famous series, the game does feature puzzle solving and an emphasis on exploration. Some of the puzzles take advantage of the two character mechanic. The two character mechanic allows Jade to command either Peyâ€™j or Double H to perform certain actions at certain times depending on the situation. There is also dungeon exploration like in the Zelda series where you will have puzzles to solve and chances to explore them. The gameâ€™s life meter is also similar to the heart containers, known as PA-1s which can be found in the dungeons or bought by shops in the main town in the game.
Despite the obvious similarities to Zelda, Beyond Good & Evil does bring something new things to the table. One is that a sizable portion of the game requires Jade to sneak through the dungeons without alerting enemies. While this could have been a disaster, this mechanic works surprisingly well thanks to the smooth controls. However, it is still possible to defeat enemies by using the Gyrodisks to damage the tanks on their backs and kick them to finish them off. Jade also uses the combat stick as her melee weapon.
One very unique element of the game is Jadeâ€™s camera. She can use it to take pictures of animal species in exchange for currency, take pictures of objects to reveal more information about the environment, and evidence to prove that the Alpha Sections are not what they appear to be. The camera interface is also used to shoot Gyrodisks at enemies.
Jade will also be able to use two different vehicles to explore Hillys. These are the hovercraft, which you start with, and the spaceship, Beluga, which can carry the hovercraft. Both vehicles require upgrades to progress the game and reach other areas that are initially inaccessible. They both have a boost ability and when taken damage, can be repaired using a Repair Pod.
There are two currencies in the game. One is credits which you will use to buy health items, PA-1 upgrades, pearls. The other is pearls which are used to buy upgrades to your vehicles. Pearls can be gained by taking pictures of animals, completing missions, exploring areas and by trading credits for them. Towards the end of the game, you will need to collect pearls in order to buy an upgrade to the Beluga. Thankfully, collecting pearls is not as tedious as it sounds. This is thanks to the pearl detector that you can buy in one of the shops.
The game does suffer from a minor flaw or two. One is that the camera can take some serious getting use to as it is not always cooperative with the player. This can cause some disorientation and some fidgeting with the camera in some sections of the game. Another is the length of the game. I beaten the game in 10 hours which I feel is just right. However, other players will be wanting more. Granted, it does show how good the game is that you wish it is longer.
Despite being almost a decade old, Beyond Good & Evil is very easy on the easy. While you can tell it was made on consoles from the last console generations, the art design is still a very pretty sight with very weird yet wonderful designs in the game. The draw distance is also surprisingly good considering the gameâ€™s age. Due to these factors, the game is better looking than a lot of the more â€œrealisticâ€ games to come out this generation.
Beyond Good & Evilâ€™s soundtrack is a stand out with Christopher Heral giving the game a very unique and memorable soundtrack with a mix of orchestral and a small dash of Jamaican sounds. The voice acting is top-notch which all of the characters being given great performances to give them a dose of personality, even characters that donâ€™t appear much in the game.
In conclusion, Beyond Good & Evil is a great action-adventure game with great storytelling, memorable characters, very intuitive and fun gameplay. The game has become a cult classic over the years and for good reason. While it does suffer from a sometimes wonky camera and short length, that is more than made up with what it does right. The game is available for the Xbox, Gamecube, and Playstation 2 in its original incarnation, as well as the PC version on Steam, and the HD update available on the Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network. If you havenâ€™t check the game out already, it is definitely worth doing so. This is a great, great game and this game deserves all of the fans it gets.