Beyond Good & Evil – 20th Anniversary Edition review — The beauty of Hillys

Looking back, Beyond Good & Evil feels like the precursor to every Ubisoft game to come. It’s got a bit of everything; action combat, light platforming, stealth, a little bit of shooting (pun intended), vehicles, and of course a map chock full of collectables. However, I find that Beyond Good & Evil makes just about all of those things more interesting and cohesive than many of the company’s more contemporary titles. Don’t get me wrong, devouring a new Assassin’s Creed every few years is one of my favorite pastimes, yet there’s still something so special about this 2003 classic. With its second remaster in the form of Beyond Good & Evil – 20th Anniversary Edition, let’s dig into exactly why that is.

You play as Jade: photographer, reporter, martial artist, and caretaker of children orphaned by the war against the extraterrestrial Domz. Money is tight, and with Domz attacks increasing in frequency on planet Hillys, she needs a job that pays well. When a mysterious opportunity arrives from a Mr. de Castellac, it’s hard to say no. Alongside her uncle Pay’j, Jade will prove to Hillys that their only defense against the Domz, the Alpha Sections, are really in cahoots with the aliens.

Beyond Good & Evil - 20th Anniversary Edition Gameplay - PS5 [GamingTrend]

I consider BG&E to be something of a Zelda-like. You explore an overworld (in this case using a hovercraft to reach different islands) to enter dungeons where the real meat of the game takes place. In these dungeons, you sneak past Alpha Sections guards, engaging in combat when needed, and solve puzzles on your way to each incriminating photo. Jade and her companion will gain new abilities along the way too, like a glove that allows you to throw discs to hit switches and enemies, though there aren’t many of these. Instead, the game is short and sweet with only a few, yet very unique dungeons. The first will have you rerouting electricity to turn on a central elevator, while the next requires you to explore outside in the hovercraft to reach different areas. It’s all very smartly designed, with no single idea overstaying its welcome outside of exactly one room that still frustrates me to this day. Even then, that’s a fun stealth puzzle to figure out, and the game really is just a delight from start to finish.

It’s so fun in fact, that I accidentally played the entire game over a single day. Collecting every pearl, extra heart, and photographing every animal along the way. This isn’t something I do often, and the last time I lost a day 100%ing a game was when Gravity Rush Remastered came out. If that doesn’t speak to BG&E’s enduring quality, here’s more words.

Part of why the game holds up so well is the variety of things to do. Photography being chief among them, with constant opportunities to bust out your camera. Your main way of making money is by taking pictures of animals as part of a planetary survey. The rarer the critter, the more money finds its way into Jade’s bank account. You’ll find creatures to take pictures of just about everywhere, from the overworld to town to dungeons and even space. Sometimes you simply need to take a picture of a different species of humanoid, while other times you might need to leave a heart restoring item in a place for some ants to grab. There’s a fairly big list of photos to take, but not so big as to be overwhelming. Just like the game itself, photography is short and sweet.

If you’re like me and have already played the original game or HD remaster, you’re probably wondering what this 20th anniversary edition adds. Aside from making the cliffhanger ending hurt even more, Beyond Good & Evil – 20th Anniversary Edition completely overhauls a lot of the visuals. Textures are super clean and crisp, the controls have been modernized, and the lighting engine has been entirely redone to be dynamic now. Apparently some pieces of the soundtrack have been rerecorded as well, though with a soundtrack that was already this good I couldn’t really tell the difference. Music is sparse, but when it comes in you’re always in for something special. The game looks and sounds great for the most part, though there are certain circumstances under which the modernized look is a bit uncanny, especially when paired with the very dated animation work. It’s a bit like adding ray tracing to N64 games or a hyper realistic texture pack to Minecraft. Sure, it looks excellent, but the original aesthetic makes for a better artistic experience. I think Ubisoft did a decent job keeping that original style intact, there are just places where it can clash.

This edition also comes with a speedrun mode, a behind the scenes gallery giving you insight into the game from concept to release, and a new side quest chain teasing Beyond Good and Evil 2. Yes, I’m just as shocked as you that that game still exists after being announced back in 2008, but bear with me. The speedrun mode is an interesting idea, though not my cup of tea personally. However, it’s very cool that acquired cosmetics, new to this version, persist in this mode if you’ve already acquired them in the normal game. Now I can play through the game with Jade’s Pirate or early concept outfits, though there are certain cutscenes early on that will return her to her original outfit.

I’m always a sucker for development information as a game designer myself, and there’s a ton of info in the gallery to peruse. You can see concept art, early storyboards, and even models and music that made it into the vertical slice for the pitch. Some materials have been lost to time as preservation for these kinds of things in the early 2000s wasn’t a priority, but it’s still absolutely fascinating to watch the Ubisoft team iterate and cut back on their ambitions. Originally, the game was supposed to be a planet hopping open-world adventure. On the PS2. While I do love how tight this game became, and hope the sequel keeps the Zelda-like roots, I’m also excited to see them finally fulfill that original ambition.

Beyond Good & Evil - 20th Anniversary Edition BG&E2 Cutscenes - PS5 [GamingTrend]

As weird as this feels to write, yes, Beyond Good and Evil 2 is real. After acquiring the Beluga spaceship, you can start a treasure hunt side quest that leads to mementos from Jade’s early childhood and messages left behind by her mother, captain of the Gada and leader of a band of Space Pirates. These messages are fully voiced, and culminate in a hologram showing what Jade’s mom looked like in full PS2 era glory. Unfortunately they didn’t get Jade’s voice actress, Jodi Forrest, back to have her character react to these scenes, but it’s still incredibly cool to see anything about this game. I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, but I’m thinking we’ll see a release date trailer sooner rather than later.

David is the kind of person to wear his heart on his sleeve. He can find positives in anything, like this is a person who loved Star Fox Zero to death. You’ll see him playing all kinds of games: AAAs, Indies, game jam games, games of all genres, and writing about them! Here. On this website. When not writing or playing games, you can find David making music, games, or enjoying a good book.
David’s favorite games include NieR: Automata, Mother 3, and Gravity Rush.



Beyond Good & Evil: 20th Anniversary Edition

Review Guidelines

Beyond Good & Evil is an absolute classic, and the 20th Anniversary Edition makes it easier than ever to appreciate why. The characters are endearing, the visuals are mostly amazing, the music is incredible, and the gameplay is a ton of fun on top of all that. If this is your first time stepping into Jade’s sneakers or your 20th, now has never been a better time to explore the beauty of Hillys.

David Flynn

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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