Platform: GameCube, PC, PS2 and Xbox (originally); now available on Playstation Network and Xbox Live
Metacritic score: 86 (cross platform avg)
VGChartz sales to date: 510,000
WHAT MADE IT GREAT
It was only a matter of time before this cult-classic grabbed a featured spot. For those who played Beyond Good & Evil, you're probably wondering why it took this long. As for everyone else, well you missed out on a unique, joyous adventure whose bright colors and characters hide a surprising depth and maturity. Designed and written by Michel Ancel, best known for the Rayman series, BG&E is another Ubisoft effort that shows what's possible when you inject your characters with heart and soul (they are a French studio, afterall). A far cry from Nietzche's 1886 treatise by the same name, though by the time the credits role you'll be left questioning whether moral choices can be so neatly categorized in black and white terms like good or evil in a world filled with so many different shades of color.
You play as Jade, a young photographer on the war-torn planet of Hillys that was brought up in a home for war orphans. The planet is under constant assault by the DomZ, a species focused on abducting people to convert them into energy or infect them with spores to turn them into mindless slaves. In this atmosphere of fear, the fascist Alpha Sections came to power on a platform of security and defense but the abductions have continued unabated. Jade is happy helping her anthropomorphic pig "uncle" Pey'j take care of the orphans, but when they need money to keep up the shield protecting their little haven it's up to her to take on a job photographing and cataloging the planet's wildlife. This job will eventually lead her to the secretive ISIS network, a resistance movement that hires Jade to investigate their suspicions about the Alpha Sections. Over the course of the game, Jade's camera will bring more then just the local fauna into focus and her revelations will change everything she thinks she knows about the government, her trusted guardian and even herself.
|Photos taken of sensitive areas are immediately uploaded to the IRIS network, but be warned that your enemies will go to great length to conceal the truth.|
|Stealth can often help you avoid dangerous situations, but there are times when being discovered means instant death.|
WHAT WENT WRONG
Our old foil marketing once again plays a large role in why BG&E never got the love it deserved, and a number of top executives at Ubisoft have been pretty public about how the game's release was mishandled. The studio was hellbent on releasing the game in time for the holiday season, only Ubisoft Montreal had another game ready to launch at the same time. That other game, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, was a highly successful reboot of the classic 1989 original and received widespread praise for its graphics, puzzles, time-rewind mechanic, combat, sound design...in short pretty much everything about the game. Both games are based on a mix of action, platforming and puzzle solving and where released at the exact same time. Further stacking the deck against BG&E, Ubisoft devoted almost all of its marketing effort toward Prince of Persia, a move that Ubisoft North America CEO Laurent Detoc would go on to describe as the worst business decision he's ever made.
|I know Jade, I don't get it either.|
|The original design for Jade was younger, more stylized then and less sexy than what we see in the finished game.|
As a result, the visual design was greatly tweaked to be less "artistically ambitious". Further changes were made that greatly reduced the original focus on open-world exploration after the 2003 release of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker was criticized for it's long sailing sections. Ancel reported that these changes were demoralizing to the development team after having spent so much effort making the game stand out, and that the finished game felt more like a sequel then a reworking. When reading the reviews, the effect of this changes becomes more evident. Impressions were predominantly positive, but critics frequently cited the game's brief playtime and its inability to fully commit to any of its many gameplay aspects. Perhaps GamePro summarizes it best when they say BG&E is "a jack-of-all-trades, master of none." With non-existent marketing and good but not great reviews, BG&E's fate was sealed before it even hit shelves.
WHAT IF IT RELEASED TODAY
Thanks to the magic of re-releases, BG&E got the full HD treatment and was added to PSN and XLA in 2011 and it looks even better then you remember. At around $10 the price is better too, taking much of the sting out of the short play time. Actually, given the prevalence of shorter indie and episodic games available for download BG&E HD feels like a natural fit in today's market. While sales data isn't available yet (downloadable sales are notoriously hard to track) it's safe to say they have likely outperformed original retail reception. In the years since its release gamers have been more receptive of its original story premise and the game's reputation has steadily grown, creating the odd effect that its rank in 'best of' lists actually improves as time goes by.
|The sun hasn't set yet on this stunningly gorgeous remake, it continues to draw new fans into the promising land of Hillys.|
|Pey'j is looking handsome as ever in his tastefully stained undershirt. And is that a meditative Jade i see in the background?|
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