[Every Thursday, Gamer Limit gives you a blast from the past with either its Retro Reunion or Bargain Bin series]
It’s a sad truth that some of the best games ever made never really manage to sell a lot of copies. These diamonds in the rough eventually find themselves sitting in the bottom of bargain bins all across the world, waiting for some lucky soul to pick them up and discover their true greatness. One of these games is the highly acclaimed Beyond Good and Evil.
Developed by Ubisoft Montpellier Studios and released back in November of 2003 for PS2, Xbox, Gamecube, and PC; BG&E was hailed by critics as one of the best games of the year. Unfortunately, it did not resonate well with the public and posted horrible sales figures, quickly dropping off the charts into oblivion. Since then, the title has garnered a cult following of beloved fans who adore both the game, and its incredible cast of characters.
Read on to find out more about this extraordinary bargain bin title, which deserves your attention.
Beyond Good and Evil tells the story of Jade, a young female photojournalist living on the planet Hyllis who spends most of her time looking after a group of orphaned children. Assisting her in these good samaritan ways is her pig Uncle Pey’j, who is a mechanic extraordinaire. Together, they have turned an old lighthouse into a sanctuary for these young children who have found themselves without any parents thanks to the evil alien armada, the DomZ.
At the start of the game, the DomZ have just recently begun attacking and invading the peaceful mining world of Hyllis, taking many of its citizens hostage in the process. Coming to the planet’s rescue is the elite group of super soldiers known as The Alpha Section. Led by the intimidating General Keck, the Alpha Section has come to the planet swearing to eliminate the DomZ invaders once and for all. It quickly becomes apparent however that they aren’t as good at combating the aliens as they, or the news, claim.
Not trusting their new so called “saviors”, a rogue underground news organization, known as IRIS, begins investigating The Alpha Section. What they soon discover is that it’s The Alpha section who’s actually behind the DomZ kidnappings. Not wanting to go public with this knowledge until they have more proof, IRIS hires on Jade to help them discover more clues to unravel this government conspiracy. Along the way, she is assisted by her Uncle Pey’j, who is more then he lets on, and by Double H, and ex-army IRIS operative who suffers from a bad case of amnesia. Together they set out to discover the truth and save their world once and for all.
One of the most interesting things about Beyond Good and Evil is its multitude of gameplay styles. The best way to describe the game is as an action-adventure with elements of stealth, puzzle solving, and photography thrown in. It also happens to rely very heavily on a cart racing game mechanic. Now, how often do you find a game with all those different types of gameplay? The problem is that while it tries hard to do so many things, it doesn’t exactly do any of them exceptionally well. The gameplay suffers because of this, but not so horribly that it detracts from the enjoyment of the title.
The gameplay really exists to tell an extremely unique story that, still to this day, is extremely unconventional. What makes Beyond Good and Evil’s story so interesting it’s eerily similar to real world current events of the time. Developed during 9/11 and the U.S invasion of Iraq, the game tells the story of a government who’s willing to use fear and lies to control and manipulate an entire population. Hopefully I don’t have to spell out the similarities between the Alpha Section and the U.S. government, which resonate throughout this entire title.
The game also tackles the role the media plays in war, showing how it can be used to spread government propaganda. Of course the main protagonist, Jade, uses her journalistic skills to try to bring down the government, another role that media outlets can play. All in all, the title tackles real world subjects that most other developers wouldn’t go near. Many people see this as the reason why the game did so poorly when it was released.
At the forefront of the story is the game’s strongest element; it’s lovable and memorable list of characters. I say this time and time again, but it is next to impossible these days to find video game characters that you can actually connect with on an emotional level. So many developers are content using the same cookie cutter personality types over and over to tell their story. You have the rough and tough super soldier, who couldn’t put two words together to create a coherent sentence if his life depended on it. Or, you have the extremely attractive female characters, who enjoy wearing the tightest leather outfits they can find while trying to get revenge for the death of someone they love. Seriously, is it that hard to come up with an original idea for a game character?
Beyond Good and Evil comes along and just destroys all preconceived notions about what types of main characters can carry a game’s story. Jade is not some unrealistically hot girl who’s great with a gun and loves showing off her hour glass curves. She’s just a plain old journalist with a huge heart, who dresses as inconspicuous as she can in order to get the story. Then there’s Pey’j, a fat pig who is as brilliant as he is witty and funny. I can’t tell you how many times I burst out laughing at some of the hilarious quips that came out of his mouth.
Rounding out the list of main characters is Double H, who actually is the super soldier of the game. The interesting thing is he’s not actually so super, since he’s lost his memory and doesn’t know what he’s doing. He quickly becomes the comic relief of the game once Pey’j is taken hostage. Together, these three crazy personalities form a team unlike any other. What’s even better is that the voice acting for these characters is spot on and some of the best ever done. That, combined with some incredible story telling, results in a group of main characters who are some of the most “human” digital personalities ever created. By the end of the game, you feel like you know each and everyone of these people like they’re your best friends.
Another great thing about Beyond Good and Evil is its presentation, specifically its visuals and soundtrack. The world of Hyllis is one of the most beautiful settings you’ll find in any game from the PS2/Xbox generation. Not only did Ubisoft create the world using a very wide color palette, they also filled it with plenty of life. The sprawling planet feels like it’s truly alive, with plenty of people going about their day, inhabiting the game world and making it feel like a breathing entity. Hover cars jet from place to place as people travel to and from work. Boats fill the harbor with all sorts of different cargo and passengers. Then there is the animal and plant life, which is abundant in all corners of the planet.
Besides the visuals is a soundtrack that is so memorable it is actually featured in the Video Games Live musical tour. I haven’t played the game in well over four months, but I can still hear the main theme playing in my head if I really think about it. Composed by Christophe Heral, the music is a mix of Eastern European styles along with Asian and Indian influences. It’s truly one of a kind, to say the least.
I honestly can’t stress enough how incredible Beyond Good and Evil really is. The game combines an incredible real world story with some of the most memorable characters ever created. Considering you can pick up a brand-new copy of it for around $12 on Amazon, the title is seriously worth your consideration. While it might be six years old at this point, the game holds up remarkably well, which is a testament to the amount of hard work and love the Ubisoft Montpellier team put into it. Go and buy it now, take this fantastic game out of the bargain bin and give it a home in your game library. Trust me, you won’t regret it.