Witnessing the beautiful Earth-like planet of Hillys from space was the beginning of an adventure that stuck with me all throughout the years. Beyond Good & Evil was developed by Ubisoft for the PS2, Xbox, Microsoft Windows and GameCube. It was released in 2003 (the same year as Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time) and it tells of a freelance reporter, Jade, and her quest to uncover the truth after becoming tangled with an interstellar conspiracy.
“Loyal Hillyans, the impending battle will be a difficult one! But thanks to the Alpha Sections…”
As we wait in anticipation for the upcoming sequel Beyond Good & Evil 2, let’s take a look at how the first game paved the way for it. We will also be able to appreciate the fact that the bar has been set high for this sequel if it’s going to match the level of ingenuity that the first game came out with.
What is in the Beyond?
As the title of the game suggests, our female protagonist becomes involved in something that is bigger than her. We also come to find out that the game is not yet showing us everything we need to know as players. Beyond Good & Evil has been considered to be an outstanding classic, especially when it was first released – IGN and Metacritic gave it a congratulating 4 stars out of 5. The graphics are true to form for the given consoles. The game contains a level map that is spacious but wouldn’t match the size of other games that were released within the same time, or even until today.
Through Beyond Good & Evil, we are given the lesson that bigger map size doesn’t always equate to better gaming experience. Furthermore, the entire game can be played to its 100% completion within 12-14 hours, so it’s not a prolonged escapade by any means.
NPCs are people too
As I played the game and strolled through the world of Hillys, I became so immersed because of the use of level design, audio and even the NPCs. Correction, especially the NPCs. Even though Jade (controlled by you) passed by them nonchalantly, you will notice that they have their own distinct personalities. With time, you will be able to pick them out by their voices and/or their textures. Yes, they have very minimal dialogue compared to the main characters, but it is nothing if not absolutely intriguing. The NPCs talk about events that are currently happening in Hillys, and it gradually changes as Jade completes ‘world-changing’ tasks.
It’s evident that there’s a certain level of apprehension between these conversations. Just like in the real world, different civilians voice contrasting opinions along with their own experiences, which informs the player about select events by allowing them to fill in the gaps.
Beloved (Underdog) Heroes
Since Jade is a reporter, the game encourages the player to photograph ‘crucial evidence’. The photos that you take are then revealed to the public in order to enlighten, inform and strengthen their spirits even in this time of oppression. I believe that this was a very nice touch. I remember the first time I played through the game and I saw one of my photographs on the big screens across the town. It felt like many of the story developments that occurred afterwards were something I truly achieved.
Along with her human-pig-hybrid adoptive uncle Pey’j (and halfway through the game we are met with Double H), Jade tries and gets by while taking care of orphans. However she becomes involved in the knowledge that the militaristic force called the Alpha Sections may have more intentions. These intentions might be deeper and more sinister than just protecting the civilians of Hillys.
The planet is being overwhelmed by an evil alien race known as the DomZ, all of whom have no sympathy towards innocent Hillyans. This is where Jade and her green lipstick (FYI I think this is the reason I am an avid make-up user to this day) does what she does best: take pictures. And take pictures is what we do, from taking snaps of shark hybrids playing the Disk Game to the DomZ Cyclops monster who wanted to eat Pey’j. There really isn’t much that we can’t document with our trusty camera.
If you have played Beyond Good & Evil before, then you know that it’s a unique game in itself. If you haven’t, I would seriously recommend you start playing it. You will be met with exploring, racing, and conversing with NPCs. The commendably ample story locations also mean that there will be enough to keep you absorbed for hours. You’re welcome, newbies.
In addition to this, the game doesn’t pack on pieces of information on top of each other. Therefore it won’t let you become lost in what’s happening and what you’re supposed to be doing. You will not forget the main storyline as you play it which is a gift. There have been far too many games 14 years ago and today that will make your head spin with plots. Just as you think that you’re getting bored, you become sucked into the abyss of adventure once again.
We can’t forget that Beyond Good & Evil was released on PS2 platform, and these titles are old compared to PS4 and Xbox One. Admittedly the game generally suffers from stiff controls and awkward camera angles at times. However it’s nothing too unpleasant and it adds to the originality of the game. There are also minor nuisances such as heavy movement and irritating perspectives during stealth segments. Having said that, this could be why the game was gradually forgotten. It could also have been because time desensitizes everything. Video games are most definitely not an exception to this.
Fingers crossed for the sequel!
In conclusion, Beyond Good & Evil feels as good to play now as it did 14 years ago. It teaches us of an underdog who got help from other underdogs. They freed the people they love within the planet that they called home. Old games such as this should never be forgotten. Furthermore, game developers would be making a wise decision if they looked over these sorts of games from time to time. Whether it be for inspiration or assurance that originality can never go out of style if used the right way, Beyond Good & Evil gave us an experience that was fresh and emotional.