Ever since I got a chance to play this game on Halloween when Nintendo dropped by to see me, I’ve been pretty stoked about it. For the 10 minutes I played the game I was quite enamored by everything: the graphics, the gameplay, the originality, etc. Finally, the GameCube version showed up at my door to review and I ripped open the box in order to play.
I had read reviews before I received the game to review and they were all positive with one negative…the game was too short. I personally don’t mind short games if they are exceptional (look at ICO. It takes a mere 4 hours to beat if you’re good, but those are some of the most fun 4 hours you can have). Just with my playtime in October I think this game could be that type of game, but let’s look to find out for sure.
The graphics in Beyond Good and Evil are very good, but in some places it seems to fall flat. Where this game is exceptional is with the main characters and enemies, as well as the water effects and environment effects. When you get into other characters such as the human characters outside of Jade (the main character) and the other major human characters, the graphics are not so good. This jumps out at you right away with the children in the first part of the game. Some of them look good, some of them look like an afterthought. This is the only real minus I can give the game. It’s something that you just notice but may not think about again.
What this game has in spades is style. As you run around taking pictures of the beautiful animals of the world you notice that they are well animated and that the environments they live in are just drop dead beautiful. In the first cave I felt like I was right in the movie The Abyss. The animals in the section just reminded me a lot of that movie. The other thing that will make your jaw drop are the water effects. Let’s just say the planet Jade lives on has some damn clean water because it perfectly reflects the scenery like a mirror image and the waves you create using the hoverboard makes the image get wavy as well. It is obvious special care was taken in making the world beautiful.
I would also like to point out the camera, something you will be using a lot in this game. When you go in for a shot it looks like an actual camera with fuzzy resolution on the outer ends of the peeper. Zoom works beautifully as well.The orchestral music in this game just adds to the whole great feeling. This game reminds me so much of ICO in this respect: quiet at times, but beautifully orchestrated at times as well. The voiceovers are excellent as well, although I wish every line was spoken because the voice actors are that darn good. This game is truly great in this section.
Control could be tighter than it is, that’s the major minus in this section. Movement works well, Jade automatically pulls out her stick when she’s ready to attack, camera (taking pictures) controls are pretty easy, but the camera (in-game camera) controls are a little hard. A is the “action” button, the one you use to talk, fight, take, etc. B is Jade’s dive forward or backward button (depending on which way you point). The Z button is used for taking pictures with the camera, although don’t hold in Z like I did at first…you only have to press it once and let go to stay in camera mode. The C-stick zooms you in and out and the analog stick moves the camera around. R button is used for running and the C-stick outside of taking pictures is used to control the camera. The D-pad is used to cycle through your available inventory (hit X to use it). The Y button is used for Pey’j so he can help you finish puzzles that require both characters and he also has a super move that can make enemies airborne so Jade can slam them into other enemies.
I think the biggest control problem with the game is in the fighting part of the game. It’s not as intuitive as, say, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, you basically just walk up to the enemy and hit it, hoping that you are truly facing it and it doesn’t hit you. You can hold down the A button to fire up Jade’s special attack, but you probably want to use this when you know you have the time or Jade’s going to get smacked around pretty hard. Pey’j's special move is of great use in conjunction with Jade’s power-up move. The other problem is that the levels within themselves are very constrictive and almost claustrophobic, so Jade doesn’t have as much room to manuver. This was probably their answer to the usual 3D camera problems in games, but I think your control over the camera is pretty good, so why make things so constrictive?
This is a game that lies in the same type of section as ICO, a true “sleeper” hit. This game is just amazing in its execution, story, sound, looks, etc. You are Jade, a girl with green hair and green lipstick (gee, could that be where the name Jade comes from?), who is a freelance reporter living on the planet Hillys. It seems the Hillys people are at war with another group called the Domz, but there is another group called the Alpha Sections that have constantly saved the Hillys people. There is also a rebel group called IRIS that seems to think that the Alpha Sections are doing more than they appear they are. Maybe there’s a grand conspiracy behind the whole war…and it’s up to Jade and her mentor/friend Pey’j (pronounced “page”) to figure out the truth.
Yes, this game is kind of like X-Files in plot, but the gameplay is just something that the show never did. Jade is armed with two things: her camera and her stick. With her camera she takes pictures of animals on the planet in order to receive money and pearls (the only currency the local merchant takes for hi-tech objects). The more pictures she takes of things the Science place doesn’t have the more pearls she collects. She also takes pictures of things that will show the truth to the people of Hillys. Along the way Jade and Pey’j will see a lot of puzzles and a lot of major Domz enemies that they have to take it. In many situations you have to use both characters in order to take down the bad guys.
Since she is a reporter, Jade needs to be a bit stealthy in how she approaches things. She needs to get the good shot without being noticed. There are also times where Jade has to summon her courage and take down some truly huge and menacing enemies. This game is very much a cross between Wind Waker and Splinter Cell/Metal Gear Solid. The stealth parts are awesome, although not nearly as intense as those found in the last two games. The action parts are very much like Wind Waker except that UbiSoft didn’t convert the same controls over to this game.
It is interesting to note that the same man behind the Rayman games did this game as well. Rayman 3 was not quite as good as many had hoped, but I think he has redeemed himself with this game. This game is original and simply a joy to play.
Much like ICO this game has little replay value unless you are so enamored by it that you want to play it again. In the case of ICO I got well over my $50 worth since I’ve played through it multiple times even though you get nothing new from it. It’s just one of those special games that you love going back to and playing, you know? Same goes for Beyond Good and Evil, which is a longer game than ICO. You can blow through this game in 10 hours, but it will be an extremely exciting 10 hours that you may just want to play through again. This game may best be for renting, although I personally would love to see people pick it up so that a sequel can be made.
UbiSoft is truly on a roll. First Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (another relatively short game) and now Beyond Good and Evil. They are easily two different games, but they are both great in their own right. Beyond Good and Evil is a bit more original in my mind than PoP and reaches that special height in originality that ICO holds in my mind. This truly is a great game with a well thought out story, beautiful graphics and great voices. Do yourself a favor and pick up Beyond Good and Evil on any system so a sequel can be made.