Now here’s something. After years of listening to fans call this one of the great, under-appreciated classics of video gaming, people will actually get the chance to play a polished, updated version of Beyond Good & Evil.
First released all the way back in 2003, Beyond Good & Evil is what happens when you let a Frenchman make a Zelda game. Dropping much of the tedium associated with Nintendo’s action/adventure flagship and setting the game in a quirky sci-fi universe, its remembered as much for its unique visuals and colour palette as it is for how it actually played.
Why You Should Care This really is one of the best games ever made. It’s got its share of problems, sure, but its look and feel – which is refreshingly European – made people fall in love with the game in 2003 regardless. This new version is that same game, only with updated graphics so it’s not afraid to run on a 1080p screen.
What We Liked A Wise Choice: Unlike some other recent remakes and upgrades, Beyond Good & Evil HD isn’t a total conversion. So you will in places, like background textures and NPCs, be reminded this game is eight years old. Where Ubisoft decided to make changes were where it counted, on the game’s main characters (like star Jade), prominent textures and immediate effects (like the water of Hillys), which are the things you’ll be looking at the most. This means that you quickly forget the parts that haven’t been touched and only focus on the parts that have, giving the illusion that this select upgrade is a lot more far-reaching than it actually is. Oh, and PC owners, yes, the upgrades go beyond the visual quality found in your version of the original.
It Still Holds Up: Eight years on and, unlike some other supposed “classics” of the PS2 era, Beyond Good & Evil still shines as an excellent – if “bare” by modern standards – action/adventure. The combat still feels fluid and responsive, the hovercraft controls are still a blast and even running around taking photos of animals is still more fun than it should be.
One Of A Kind: There are few games that manage to escape the trappings of influence as much as BG&EHD. While it plays like a Zelda game, that’s where the touch of other titles ends, as everything else about the world – from its creatures to its bad guys down to the green lipstick-wearing heroine Jade – stands as something truly unique, a rare treat in video games.
Pitch Perfect: Along with a graphical nip & tuck, BGE&EHD has also had its score and sound effects remastered. You may not notice the sound, since even cleaned up many of the effects still come off a little “weak”, but the excellent soundtrack now sounds, well, even more excellent, from the title music to the cheesy takes on rock and reggae.
Keyless Entry: You know, people say the thing they like most about this game was how it starred a normal girl and a pig. Or how it was a Zelda game with all the fat trimmed off. Me, I just love its keypad entry system, and cannot to this day understand why more games don’t make use of it. It may sound like a trivial thing, but you need to enter a ton of passwords in this game, and smoothly tapping them in on a giant circular spiral is a lot faster than having to use a “regular” keypad.
What We Didn’t Like War Has Changed: While it’s unfair to expect advances to have been made beyond the game’s graphics and sound, eight years on some aspects of the game that were forgiveable in 2003 are less so now. New players should note that the game is not only short for the “Zelda” genre, lasting around ten hours, but that you’re constantly reminded the game was originally intended to be much longer, as story elements can feel either rushed or, using a major revelation at the end of the game as an example, dropped on the player out of nowhere. Oh, and there are too many stealth sections in the game’s dungeons. Way too many.
The Bottom Line I can’t recommend this re-release enough. If you’re a fan of the original, this is that same great game, only now it looks and sounds like it belongs in 2011. And if you’ve never played the original? And have been missing out on being video gaming’s second-greatest photojournalist all these years? Time to make amends.
Beyond Good & Evil HD was developed and published by Ubisoft for Xbox Live Arcade, released on March 2. PlayStation Network version coming soon. Retails for 800 MSP (USD$10). A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Completed game in just over ten hours. Still can’t find every one of those damn animals.