In 2003, BG&E hit shelves with a lot of critical acclaim, but few sales to show for it. In theory, a game with a mature conspiracy theory storyline with pretty deep characters that come to life with stellar design and fantastic voice acting, and beautiful cinematography, and a blend of 3D Zelda/stealth should have sold like hotcakes. However, a lack of marketing didn’t do it any favors and even though most who played it loved it, word of mouth wasn‘t enough to carry this game to the top of the sales charts. Now, Ubisoft has given the cult classic a second life on consoles thanks to the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, which will hopefully allow the game to become a big fish in a smaller pond compared to the brick and mortar storefront.
BG&E’s storyline has held up very well over the past seven years. It revolves around the town of Hillys and its denizens being kidnapped in the midst of a war between the Alpha Sections and DomZ, which hits home for the young heroine Jade and her literal adoptive boar of uncle Pey’j, the owners of an orphanage that they suddenly have to protect with their lives during an attack caused by their inability to pay the power bill. The game begins by making the characters sympathetic figures while also humanizing a boar/man hybrid. You can’t help but root for them, and that feeling never waivers.
The core gameplay resembles the 3D Legend of Zelda games, so expect to do some dungeon-crawling and engage in plenty of behind-the-back combat. However, unlike the LoZ games, there’s a team-based aspect to it at pretty much all times. You’ll need to figure out how to best use your partner in order to progress through the dungeons, and unlike a lot of partner-reliant games, the game isn’t slowed down by it - the dungeons are briskly-paced. There are a lot of other activities in BG&E as well. You’ll earn money for health and power-ups by snapping photos of as many animal species as possible, while also using your photographic gifts to provide proof of kidnappings.
Pearls act as the game’s highest reward, ala Super Mario 64’s stars, and also act as currency on the black market. You can earn pearls by finding them in the wild, winning hoverboat races, a modified version of air hockey, and of course by completing missions. Combat controls are responsive, as are the controls for the mini-game sections. Unfortunately, some problems that plagued the original release are still here. The right stick-controlled camera works pretty well, but still gets stuck a bit too much for my liking. It would be nice to remap the confirmation button to A instead of X and use the D-pad to navigate the non-radial menus, but those are minor issues overall.
Like other previous-to-present gen games, BG&E has been revamped with greatly improved textures. This results in it looking better than it ever has, but ultimately still looks like an upgraded last-gen game and may disappoint those expecting it to be on-par with the BG&E 2 trailer from a couple of years ago. However, that sounds worse than it actually is - it’s still the best it’ll probably ever look without a complete revamp from the ground up, and the original game’s beauty came from the architecture and the overall art design that just having things gussied up works fine here.
Those who’ve played BG&E before will be glad to know that the soundtrack is intact without any alterations, while newcomers will be in for a treat as their ears take in the sounds of soothing piano music, intense violin music for action, and whatever the catchy Akuda bar theme is classified as. The voice acting is still some of the best around, with the cast breathing life into the characters and giving them dimension that is rarely seen in gaming.
Beyond Good and Evil HD is the absolute best version of the game available and anyone who enjoys the Legend of Zelda series, or likes seeing a good story unfold should pick it up. It’s only $10 and offers up one of gaming’s best soundtracks, some of its best voice acting, and is one of the most memorable games of the last decade because of how well it brings everything together. It’s not a perfect game - there are some flaws to its core mechanics, but the overall experience is so much greater than those few faults that you owe it to yourself to at least give it a shot - especially at $10.