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Beyond Good & Evil Review for GameCube
Posted on Sunday, August 15, 2004 @ 11:57:21 pm E.S.T

When in a gaming store, I tend to wander around aimlessly until my eyes catch something attractive. During one of these meanderings, my eyes spotted Beyond Good & Evil by Ubisoft on the shelf. All the information I had on the game was that it was underappreciated and sold very poorly, so I brought it over to the counter to see if the cashiers had any specific information on it.

“Buy it!”

Those two simple words were all that were needed. Seeming like a good sign (albeit a little too direct for my taste), I purchased the game on the spot, brought it home, popped it into my Gamecube, and turned the console on. Easily one of the better gaming decisions I made in my life occurred that day. What I found was a title with great voice acting, awesome multi-genre gameplay, and an engrossing and emotional plot, but small flaws such as low replay value and short length affect its overall presentation. But without a doubt, Beyond Good & Evil is a terrific game, worthy of more ownership than it has accumulated.

Throughout the game, you control Jade, a photographer-for-hire who lives on Hillys, a planet which recently has been subjected to attacks by an alien race known as the Domz. The story is mostly made up of Jade doing investigative reports on the Domz by taking photographs of their actions and then publishing them in Hillys’s main city. During the majority of the game, Jade is accompanied either by her Uncle Pey’j (a talking pig) or Double H, a former prisoner of the Domz. Both of these characters play crucial roles in the story and your adventures. Luckily, it is not a hassle to control them due to the fact that only one button is used to give them commands.

Speaking of the controls, commanding Jade in combat is easier than Vanna White’s job on Wheel of Fortune. Simply push your control stick in the direction of the foe you want to whack with your Daï-jo stick (Jade’s primary weapon) and press the combat button. Also, if you stand still and hold the combat button, a super attack will be charged up and then launch energetic shockwaves around you, destroying multiple enemies with one blast. Pey’j and Double H can also kick some tail in battle, but they do nothing compared to your fierce stick-swinging skills. Most of the enemies will fall victims to your blows but your companions are always there to back you up. Really, this is about the gist of the battles. Although it may seem excessively simple, it’s more fun than launching bottle rockets at parked cars. The gameplay is also complemented by an unobtrusive camera that is able to be rotated 360 degrees around Jade by a control stick at all times. Handy for checking on your allies’ situation, the camera poses no problems and also proves to be quite reliable when you need to stay hidden.

Just like a reporter, snooping around is a tool of the trade; when in the heart of your adventures, stealth is crucial. Whether it’s avoiding armor-clad recruits of the Domz or dodging surveillance drones, staying out of their sight is vital to your success and survival. On nearly all of the levels, you will come across rooms that require your stealthy skills and if you aren’t careful, you may have to start them over again. Nevertheless, the puzzles are easy if you put some thought into it. If you hastily barge into a room without considering its puzzle, you will earn yourself a red-hot laser beam shot to the face. One button is held to turn on "sneak mode" and it is always there when you need to use it. Overall, the stealth elements are satisfactory but do not grow into BG&E’s biggest draw.

During the course of the game, you will also need to drive around in a hovercraft in order to get from location to location in photographic endeavors. The hovercraft itself is easy to control with its simple “one button does one action” concept. Jumping, boosting, accelerating, repairing, and even firing the weapon of the hovercraft each have their own button assigned to them, making it easy to know what you are doing at all times. Many of your adventures will require you to utilize the hovercraft effectively, such as the hovercraft races, so this simplicity is welcomed with open arms. At intervals during the game, you will have to chase after looters who steal some of your funds or compete in actual organized races with other crafts. These feel like something out of a Wave Race game as racing on water tends to have a different type of feel. While trying to get ahead of the pack of racers, the hovercraft’s cannon will be quite handy for blasting away the competition. Racing your hovercraft is an excellent deviation from the rest of the game and also it is fun to race over and over again on the game’s four tracks.

Putting all those aspects aside, BG&E really knows how to spice up a gaming experience. This is greatly appreciated as the game itself is quite short (10 to 15 hours). Chase sequences appear out of nowhere causing you to mutter incoherently under your breath as you run for your life from hoards of villainous creatures and assailants. Some mini-games, such as a version of Three Card Monty with coconuts, and a twisted variation of air hockey that uses 8 triangles instead of pucks are nice additions to the title. On top of that, there are 88 pearls hidden throughout the game to find and collect. They will be needed to upgrade your hovercraft and, if you collect them all, a pearl based mini-game will be unlocked. Elements like these help extend and add a very nice personal spark to the experience and are just as engaging as the main quest.

Graphically, the game is a feast for the eyes. The main character, Jade, is astoundingly well animated and designed; her facial expressions show real depth and make her feel more like a genuine woman than a video game heroine. Pey’j, Double H, and Jade’s other allies are also rendered well, but not nearly as perfectly as Jade. Furthermore, lots of work was put into making the world of Hillys, and boy does it show! The factories, tunnels, hillsides, and even the constellations in the sky are pleasurable to look at. In addition to this, the water of the world is quite well done and this makes riding the waves with the hovercraft just that much more pleasant. Cutscenes are also bountiful and rarely falter. Whether it is an action sequence or simply dialogue between characters, the cutscenes will not make you wish there was a way to skip past them.

Additionally, BG&E’s music is great enough to warrant buying its soundtrack. No matter what you are doing, the music matches the mood and amplifies the impact of the story and gameplay tenfold. Reggae music plays at the Mammago Garage (where you buy your hovercraft’s upgrades) and the music shifts to a strong battle rhythm when in the middle of combat with your foes. Catchy dance tunes will spill out of your speakers during mini-games and classical music is played during touching cutscenes. BG&E also has some of the best voice acting on the gaming market and sometimes has the power to evoke strong emotions from the player, such as surprise or deep sadness. After playing this game, some of the catchier lyrics and melodies will stick in your head and you will enjoy it thoroughly. Any fan of great video game music will find a smorgasbord of musical delight in BG&E.

Where replay value is concerned, this title is lackluster. Short to begin with, BG&E also has a rather low difficulty level. With no true difficult challenges, few gamers will have to consult any kind of walkthrough or FAQ to beat the game. Playing BG&E is like seeing a good action movie in the summer months: Nice change of pace, pure entertainment (although only lasting a brief part of the day), and has little reason to be seen more than once. Only those who felt the game was a true masterpiece will want to restart and play this title over again.

As a whole, Beyond Good & Evil is an excellent title that has not reached as many gamers as it deserves. With its incredible voice acting, engaging gameplay, stellar graphics, and fantastic music, this title is worth every penny. If you don’t’ mind playing a short, easy game and find it for $20, buy it on the spot and most likely you will be as delighted with it as I was. Like the old saying goes, sometimes there is a diamond in the rough.

Review By: Flamecuber - 1113 Reads

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