Genre: Action Adventure
Developed by: Ubisoft
Published by: Ubisoft
Platforms: PS2, PC, Gamecube, XBOX, XBOX360, PS3
Feeling Like: It deserved better
Some games are fantastic. They get rave reviews from the media, and generate enough sales to easily warrant a series, or even a franchise. Others aren’t all that great, but maybe they sell well due to accessibility or simplicity, or good marketing. It’s rarer to find a great game that just can’t seem to generate enough public interest to break even.
Beyond Good & Evil is such a game. It’s a fantastic little gem, a Zelda clone to be sure, but one with ideas and a personality all its own. It felt fresh at the time, had an extremely likeable cast and a superb soundtrack.
It sold poorly and will always be labelled as the Ubisoft game that didn’t take off. Prince of Persia and Splinter Cell, two games I enjoyed but nowhere near as much as Beyond Good & Evil, performed so well that they each justified multiple sequels. I don’t know whether it was the timing or the subject matter, but with minimal research I learned that promoting the game was really difficult for Ubisoft. The concept of propaganda was extremely topical in 2003, but gaming audiences may not have been ready for that. The developers said it was hard to convey to players what the game was about, and I can sort of see where they’re coming from. There are vehicle sections, combat sections, stealth sections, times where your goal is to take pictures, times where you just sit and chill in your home base, listening to one of the most blissful songs I can remember. It’s not necessarily a game you can describe in a single sentence, or at least not with my long-winded blog entries.
So, fair play. There’s a lot going on here and the developers certainly took a risk going beyond the usual video game premise, doubly so 20 years ago. But it wasn’t like it was hard to get into; Jade is awesome, I rarely saw a video game protagonist look like her. The funny side characters like Uncle Pey’j, the anthropomorphic pig, also had some heart and depth to them. Double H has some Zapp Brannigan to him and is always good for a laugh, but the game never cheapens out on anything or cheats on things like motivation or danger. The stakes are real and the enemy is misinformation (alongside aliens).
It’s hard to believe that Ubisoft is STILL working on a sequel. Beyond Good and Evil 2 has an official page and Ubisoft swears they’re still working on it. Maybe it’s because I’m desperate for a sequel, but the game looks absolutely goddamn amazing. The trailer, now six years old, is ridiculous in parts but I was hooked immediately. So…where the hell is it? Ubisoft isn’t exactly in the best spot right now, did they just bite off more than they could chew? The original premise of Beyond Good & Evil had you going to multiple planets and exploring the universe. Here, they seem to want to finally deliver on that promise, but I’m not holding my breath. The game’s development cycle and release date are as shrouded in as much mystery as the conspiracy you’ll find in the original game. How appropriate.
Maybe it’s the title? It’s a weird one and doesn’t immediately portray what the game is about, who it stars, or what kind of game it is. Even the box art, as stunning as it is, can be interpreted in many different ways. When you’re selling a product, you don’t want different opinions about what it’s possibly about. You want it to stand out, be simple and clear to the consumer what you’re selling. Sometimes it’s gross to put a business spin on a work of art but here, you can certainly see why it didn’t sell well and connect with a bigger audience.
A shame. It’s my favorite game on the 500 so far. I guess I can say that in every single subsequent entry, but I really do mean it here. As already mentioned, the soundtrack is killer. Hyllian Suite is wonderful. The Domz attack always got me pumped. But the real star of the soundtrack, one song that I still listen to frequently, is Propaganda. It’s weird. It’s catchy. It sounds like something you’d hear on a radio in an Egyptian market. It’s like no other video game song I’ve heard. I can’t get enough. PROPAGANDA!
It’s also one of the few games where I didn’t hate the stealth sections. I’m not sure why, maybe because the hook of taking pictures and being able to attack the Domz in some capacity lessened the stress of not being found out. The graphics are very of that era, but super clean and colorful in parts. I loved the vehicle sections and while the game may have been smallish in scale, it still felt big because of the technical skill involved and the variety of challenges. I couldn’t help but get suckered into the story, I found myself really caring for everybody involved, especially Uncle Pey’j! What a voice, what a character.
The end boss was absolutely thrilling too, I died more than a few times but never felt frustrated cartwheeling around and timing my attacks when it would finally appear.
It’s nice to hear that the 2011 remaster sold well and likely is what sparked Ubisoft to begin work on a sequel. I’ve been curiously following its development, but alongside every bombastic screenshot or trailer there are rumblings of cancellations and no concrete information from Ubisoft about a release date. I don’t have much confidence it will ever be released, but even if that’s the case, we still got a charming, fun adventure game that will never shed its underdog status.
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