Alex Phillimore: (alex.phillimore-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2013-11-06 16:22:59
Blast from the Past #2 - Beyond Good and Evil
I remember the Beyond Good and Evil 2 trailer back in 2008. It was awesome - it showed off some cool, Mirror's Edge style gameplay and featured the same great characters from the original game, released in 2003. But years later and the trail has gone cold - while the game will likely surface at some point, I do wonder in what form it will be. While it hasn't been in Development Hell, per se, it's safe to say that development on the game hasn't been continuous, with Michel Ancel and his team at Ubisoft taking breaks from it to work on Rayman.
The sequel is one of the few games that I'm genuinely excited about on the next generation of consoles. The original game is so unique, compelling and charming that it remains one of the best games of the Playstation 2-Gamecube-Original Xbox era. It was one of those great action-adventure games in the vein of Jak and Daxter and a lot of PS1 3D platformers that had the player doing all sorts of different activities. There has been a scarcity of those sorts of games in the latest console generation, which is a shame.
In BGaE the diverse engine allowed you to race, to pimp out your ship, to solve puzzles, to explore towns, to navigate dungeons, to sneak past enemies, to take photos, and to generally get lost in the game's beautiful sci-fi world. There's something appealing about a game like BGaE - a game that took a lot of risks in making something wholly unique, with a strong female protagonist, inhabiting a colourful world of animal people. The conspiracies and underlying corruption underpinning the narrative made for a dark and original tale of interplanetary conflict. That Jade, the protagonist, was a photo-journalist/reporter of sorts was also awesome, as the camera she carried made for an invaluable ally in exposing the evils taking place on planet Hyllis and varied the gameplay up considerably.
For me, it's the music that really made the package. I've written about great video game soundtracks before, and BGaE was no exception. Some games just have those great, original soundtracks that linger in your head. The music in BGaE is so amusing, so beautiful and so lush that it's worth a listen outside of the context of the game. Few games have music that stands on its own, but Ubisoft struck gold when they hired their composer for the game, Christophe Héral.
Ubisoft has, quite sensibly, put a lot of its time and effort into big cash cows like Assassin's Creed, which are almost guaranteed to sell well. Sadly, a game like Beyond Good and Evil didn't sell particularly well, meaning that a sequel is unlikely to be a big earner for them. As a result, it's not surprising that it hasn't been annualized in the way that Assassin's Creed has. For that, however, I am glad - while AC games are always tight, I find that they're never especially original or surprising. I'd rather Ubisoft spend years putting together something truly special with Beyond Good and Evil 2 than have it become a game that becomes so crazily popular that it spawns myriad sequels and ends up becoming stale. Even today - especially with the HD re-release - BGaE is a fantastically unique tale of aliens, friendship and discovery and a testament to the creativity of Michel Ancel and his talented team.