Putting out a HD version of an aging but well loved game is a risk. On the one hand, it’s a chance for a publisher to take advantage of nostalgia, while winning some new fans with the sparkling new coat of paint. On the other hand, you’d better hope the gameplay holds up, because as we know in this industry, it’s entirely possible for a well loved game to age badly. Upsetting nostalgic fans and boring newcomers could easily spell the doom for any chance of a series revival.
|Not sure about the green lips, though…
Luckily, the remake of 2003 cult classic Beyond Good & Evil HD holds up as well as the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D remake has. I choose that comparison deliberately because in many ways, Beyond Good & Evil is a giant homage to Zelda games. It features the same basic gameplay formula – delve into dungeons linked by an overworld hub, solving some light environmental puzzles and earning upgrades and new abilities to access more of the world; it just pulls it off with a panache that is wholly its own.
This game stars Jade and her various allies on a quest to defeat an alien menace. Only, rather than go in all guns blazing, Jade’s main tool of the trade is her camera, and her role is to snap pictures of animals and aliens as photographic evidence across various ‘missions’ (dungeons). The combat is still there, but the payoffs for beating someone down with a stick are relatively small – kill an enemy and you’ll get a few credits. Take a photo of an attacking beast and you’ll be rewarded in the thousands.
It’s an interesting twist to basic adventure game formula, and Jade is an interesting character. She’s not sexualised or otherwise stereotyped. She’s not overly heroic, either. Unlike Zelda’s Link, she has a voice, but at no stage is she an irritating protagonist. Jade is one of the most well rounded and original characters that we’ve seen in videogames.
While the aforementioned puzzles and dungeons are not brainbusters, there’s enough in this game to keep you challenged and playing. As with many games of the Gamecube era, where this game originated, there’s a whole load of stuff to track down and unlock if you’re looking for a 100 per cent completion. Some of the critters that you’ll be looking to photograph are decidedly difficult to unearth, and the game world, while not huge is filled with nooks and crannies to explore.
|Is… he about to hit Jade with a shovel?!?
In HD, it looks good, too. Beyond Good & Evil’s world is one of wonder and colour; a science fiction fantasy universe which will constantly surprise and delight. There are a few slight missteps that we can only assume come part in parcel with renovating such an old game; occasionally the animations are a bit wonky, and some of the environments are a bit flat and empty, but the bigger picture has Beyond Good & Evil as a rich canvas indeed.
The voice acting is also spot on, which is just as well, because this game relies a great deal on humour. Having such a wonderful vibrant world and amusing photography gameplay gimmick would not be worth its price in salt if the game didn’t also keep its tongue firmly in cheek. While it’s not outrageous, the various interplays between the characters demonstrate a mature, intelligent script, and for that, it’s going to have you breaking out a smile pretty easily.
Like with the Zelda games, the overall package is a very addictive formula, so why Beyond Good & Evil never became a franchise is a mystery likely to be lost to time. Hopefully the remake fares better than the original, so that, with any luck, we see a couple more down the track.