Status: Complete, achievements 100%
Put this on your (virtual) box: The image is mightier than the stick!
Most Intriguing Idea: That years of word-of-mouth would produce a strong market for an up-rezzed version of a largely ignored game
Best Design Decision: Making the protest signs more legible
Worst Design Decision: The camera behavior, especially in the Slaughterhouse area
Beyond Good & Evil is often perceived as a reaction to the contemporaneous run-up to the Iraq War, but as a political fable it is a failure. Even a modestly observant player should have figured out who the bad guy is by the time Jade leaves her home island, and the plans of the IRIS conspiracy are laughable even on the game’s own terms. As an emotional experience, the game is more satisfying, using (mostly) subtle touches to put the player in main character Jade’s place, producing a strong attachment to the world and inhabitants of Hillys. The chase scenes remain a prime example of how to put an atypical, pulse-pounding sequence into a game without resorting to a cutscene, a lesson that nearly a decade later remains broadly unlearned. The stealth gameplay, relying on absurdly weak peripheral vision and unrealistic enemy placements, feels thoroughly outmoded by current standards, however, and the combat was never a strong suit in the first place.
As for the port quality, I would have to peg it at “uneven”. The game benefits in a few areas from the increase in resolution, although I felt the water actually looked less convincing this way. The camera is more unwieldy now, and in the moats around the Slaughterhouse it sticks to the back of the hovercraft for some reason, dramatically increasing the difficulty of this area. Little has been done to paper over the original’s rough spots (the Hillyan Guide is still apparently worthless, but that crate seems to have been removed). The controls are noticeably looser than they were when I played on the GameCube, something that’s especially obvious in the looter caverns. Also, playing it on the XBox made it clear to me that Beyond Good & Evil was ideally suited to the GameCube’s asymmetric button layout. Given these issues, and that the port team had made essentially no contribution to the way the game actually played, I was somewhat confused that they were given pride of place in the credits.
That said, the game is still Beyond Good & Evil. Though its political angle and characters feel somewhat less fresh in the wake of eight years of increasing sophistication along these lines, their essential quality still shines through. The GameCube version remains the best (and the PC version is a mess best avoided), but for those who only have HD consoles this is a solid substitute.