Recently, we have been experiencing a huge overhaul in HD remakes. Last year, Sony gave us the God of War Collection and the Sly Collection, and is set to deliver an Ico/Shadow of the Colossus and God of War Origins collections in the near future. At this year’s E3, Microsoft also debuted their Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary remake. While I’m not one to be a Nazi about game companies rehashing last generation titles for an easy cash in (especially when they are at a discounted price, come with achievements, and are for systems that aren’t backwards compatible), but even I can sort of see kind of a moot point to re-releasing games that in retrospect aren’t really that old, were already popular, and did well in their original release. What I would like to see are more HD remakes of last-gen games that I missed out on. Games that were lost and would benefit from having an updated version. Beyond Good & Evil HD, available now on Xbox Live and PSN for a measly $10, could not be a more perfect example of what I was looking for.
Beyond Good & Evil comes to us from Rayman creator Michel Ancel. Developed by Ubisoft back in 2003, it was released for the PS2, Xbox, Gamecube, and PC. Despite being available on so many platforms, the game never received so much as a second glance on the shelves as it proceeded to become one of the biggest disasters (sale wise) of the industry. No one bought it, save for maybe X-Play host Morgan Webb. I myself will confess to barely even knowing about the game eight years ago (okay so I was 15, but still). I finished my first run of the HD remake just this last weekend, and now, I just feel this swelling sense of grief that something so humble yet so intelligent and filled with potential was shot down. It’s like Earthbound all over again.
Anyway, unplesantries aside, lets talk about just what makes this game so promising. Beyond Good & Evil takes place in the future on the lush planet of Hillys, where humans and anthropomorphic creatures coexist together, and not a single soul questions it. Our story focuses on a young woman named Jade. She’s no one special, just another citizen who happens to be a photographer and runs a shelter for a small group of orphans. At the beginning of the game, said shelter becomes one of several victims of a raid by a parasitic alien race known as the DomZ. As any respecting mother figure would, Jade’s protective nature spurs her to seek out answers to why the Alpha Sections, the military force of Hillys, is not doing anything about these attacks. With her Uncle Pay’j by her side—a diminutive, pudgy-but-brilliant mechanic who also happens to be a pig (I SAID no one questions it!)—Jade gets the attention of the IRIS Network, a covert underground agency who wishes to hire Jade for some field missions as they could use her skills in photojournalism. While a little hesitant at first, Jade’s meeting with IRIS Agent Double H eventually convinces her to join IRIS to help them gather evidence of a secret government conspiracy by the Alpha Sections.
Aside from being the only woman I’ve seen to successfully pull off green lipstick, Jade is easily one of the best realized leading female protagonists in any video game. A few months back, she was listed, and quite deservedly, in Game Informer’s Top 30 Characters Who Defined A Decade. Furthermore, of those 30, only six in total were female, if that puts it in perspective. There is something about Jade that feels very real. Her motives are selfless and empathetic. She has friends in town. She catalogs animals as a side job. When she goes on missions, whether it’s with Pay’j or Double H, she works best co-dependently. She saves others just as much as she gets saved herself. Sure, she can fight in tough spots, but she has realistic limits. It’s not like she can lay waste to whole battalions. Any more than two guards at a time can become too much for her. The emotional turns for Jade as the story progresses are very believable and even touching at points. Though I will say, we are left with a lot of questions concerning Jade’s character toward the ending, but that’s just a huge hint that this game was always intended to be the first of a trilogy that never got off the ground. And yet, not having the big picture almost makes her more intriguing. I can see why die-hard fans have been praying for a sequel for so long now.
As for the game itself, it at first feels like a classic action adventure romp, conveniently of the same generation as some of my favorite action adventure series, like Jak and Ratchet and Clank. The visual style is very similar to those titles as well, however the gameplay has more in common with the Zelda genre than a platformer. There is a much stronger sense of exploration. The game is not as linear or strait forward as most adventure titles nowadays, and progressing through the game will take some actual thought. It does not hold your hand in how to unlock the next path. Your co-op partners have abilities and knowledge as well as your own gadgets, and all of these elements come into play in transgressing the world. As I said before, while there is a bit of fighting, the majority of Jade’s field missions involve gathering evidence. As such, there is quite a bit of stealth involved and taking snap shots. Even the side missions are engaging. I myself got easily distracted just looking for secret passages that lead to hidden pearls, or simply roaming the world taking pictures of all the different animals.
While the game is not without its faults, the most potent of them are staples that all 3rd Person games from the early portions of last gen were plagued with: an occasionally awkward camera, some repetitive sound bites, the usual. There has been some notions that the final boss fight can be infamously hard. While I did die several times on that part, I wouldn’t say it was the most difficult thing in my life. Just make sure you found all the Health Packs and you store up on energy restores, and you should be fine. Another complaint is that the story lacks the moral ambiguity that the title “Beyond Good & Evil,” alludes to. My only argument for this is that the game, at its core, is less about the waring factions and more about Jade following her own sense of right and wrong. That, or the title was intended to make more sense with the continuation of the story (as I said, it was planed as a trilogy).
Speaking of which…
Beyond Good & Evil 2 has been labeled “in development” since it was first teased back in 2008. This year, developer Mike Ancel requested that gamers be a little more patient as the project is in fact on their to do list, but was put on hold during the development of Rayman Origins, a game that whole-heartedly has my approval, and is in the final stages of production set to release this November. Furthermore, there is talk about them experimenting with new technology, and rumors of Ubisoft possibly looking toward the next generation of consoles to release the sequel, so… perhaps a Wii U title? Or for Sony or Microsoft’s inevitable new consoles? Difficult to say.
Anyway, there’s really no point worrying about a sequel yet when the good lot of you haven’t even played the first one anyway, so… get the heck on that! Currently in development or not, I can assure you that the success or lack-thereof will be a big deciding factor whether its sequel finally gets off the ground. Please don’t let disaster strike twice. This is a game that everyone who loves games should have played eight years ago, but I will settle for playing it now. If you have either an Xbox Live or PSN account, do not hesitate any longer. It’s only $10. ANYONE can spare $10 on a cult classic. If you’re a Wii owner, then your best option would be to find a GameCube copy of the original somewhere online or at an antique game store not called GameStop.
Just some ideas.