All I can say is “finally”. It’s taken me months to finish Beyond Good & Evil, and not because it’s a long game. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of free time, so even a game that takes less than 20 or 15 hours to finish in game-time takes ages for me in real-time. You will notice on my Now Playing list, that I have a large number of unfinished games. It doesn’t even include the games that I have decided not to finish for one reason or another, or the games I’ve bought but haven’t started.
I don’t know how many endings there are in Beyond Good & Evil. I just did the barest minimum to finish. There were some unanswered questions at the end, and the game was left open enough to beget a sequel.
The final boss fight wasn’t that difficult, although it did take me a little while to figure out the patterns and the rhythm. Most of the melee combat in the game was a piece of cake and quite satisfying. It was satisfying because actual physical combat is infrequent in a game which is primarily based around not engaging the enemy directly, and I do enjoy combat. Jade’s main ‘weapon’ is her camera. Missions involve infiltrating enemy-held areas and taking incriminating pictures.
Trickier were the vehicle-based tasks and all the sneaking around. Looter’s Cavern 4 (a side area in which you have to speed through a cave on your hovercraft and chase a bad guy for money) was harder to beat than the final boss, which tells you how much I suck at racing games. I defeated the final boss on my first try (although I did have a massive stockpile of health power-ups), but it took me 11 or 12 tries (and over 25 Boost Capsules) to get through Looter’s Cavern 4.
What always impresses me about video games is how many people are involved to pull everything together. It seemed like the creative talents behind Beyond Good & Evil truly put forth their best efforts — a real labour of love. What I haven’t seen before (probably because I don’t play video games in huge quantities, and I finish even fewer than I start) is credits for staff in other locales. It’s cool that Ubisoft included credits for France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and so forth, in the North American version of the game.
My favourite parts of the game were less the goal-oriented dungeon-crawling (although I did enjoy that as well), and more the ability to roam freely in the world of Hillys, and just take in the sights. The designers were clever in encouraging the player to do just this, because Jade, the main character, must take pictures of animals in order to earn money. The player necessarily must look around the gameworld, which is nicely crafted and detailed enough to suspend disbelief. For example, you can look at star constellations with your camera, and the little computer tells you their names. That’s a nice little touch, and the game has a lot of them.
The world of Hillys is amazing. A “complete” world is one way I would describe it. The player is limited in terms of where she can go, but the places she can visit are alive and vibrant with a variety of creatures and people. The artwork is of a high standard. The water on Hillys is just amazing to stare at when you’re zooming around in your hovercraft. And, of course, you must take in Hillys during different times of the day to see the lovely lighting effects. I am not sure how the PlayStation 2 or Xbox versions look (or play), but the GameCube version is great.
As for the characters, I’m not overly fond of the Western, cartoony, talking animals milieu, so I guess I found them less engaging than others might. The character designs, are well done, though.
I didn’t notice any problems with the controls. I got used to them fairly quickly. However, with the way I play games I had to sometimes re-learn the controls, because I often find myself not playing a game for a very long time, then coming back to it.
The music was pleasant and usually unobtrusive, though the sneaking music got a bit old after a while. I do love the theme that plays when you’re on the waters of Hillys. It’s similar to the end credits theme. I believe someone on either VGMix.com or OverClocked ReMix did a rather nice remix of this theme.
The story was fairly straightforward, contrary to what the title implies. There was a little twist at the end that I didn’t expect. In retrospect, it does make sense, although not in terms of the in-game plot. It more makes sense when you think about how game makers want the player to feel special, and want the character to be special in some way.
Jade is constantly cited as a “non-stereotypical, good female character” as compared to other video game ladies. There’s a lot to be admired in her character, as she’s courageous, compassionate, determined, and strong, while not being made to appeal to any particular segment of the population (e.g. gratuitously, so that young men will drool over her).
She also wears sensible clothing! That is a plus in making a character more real and a story more immersive. Because, to me, if you can’t picture yourself running around killing baddies and doing sneaking missions in high heels and next to no clothing, chances are that you won’t be able to suspend your disbelief well enough to get involved in a character who is similarly inappropriately dressed.
All in all, Beyond Good & Evil is a good game, and I don’t think enough people have played it. It’s fairly underrated.