The Best Deal On XBLA
This gaming generation there have been a lot of questions about the direction the gaming industry is heading. One such question revolves around dowloadable games. How much content should be in a $15 game compared to a $10 game? How much should that extra $5 account for? I don't have an answer for those questions but I do know a good deal when I see one. Beyond Good and Evil HD (BG&E) is one of those good deals. BG&E HD is based on the original BG&E released last generation. Though it was a critical success the original game sold horribly. Those who did buy the game continue to sing its praises even now and beg for the second game in the planned BG&E trilogy to be released. The sales of BG&E HD may be directly related to the release of the series' second game. Though, selfishly, I would ask you to buy this game so that that second game could be released, the honest to God truth is that BG&E is the absolute best deal on the XBLA service. The game has a good amount of content, a really well realized story and characters, fantastic gameplay, and, the best quality of them all, is only $10. If you have Xbox Live, BG&E is a must buy whether you've played it before or not.
BG&E's story revolves around Jade, a female photo-journalist, who, with her uncle Pey'j, tries to care for the foster children of their home planet Hillys. Hillys is in the middle of a war between the Alpha Sections, the military group that is in control of Hillys, and the Domz, an alien invasion force. Soon, Jade finds herself working for a rebel group who claims to know the truth behind the war that has killed so many Hillians. This set-up would make you believe the story would have a darker tone but that is not the case. BG&E has a serious but lighter tone similar to games like Uncharted. The story doesn't droll along in the melancholy of war but rather focuses on the relationships of the main characters and the uniqueness of the world.
BG&E has been called a Zelda clone but such comparisons sell the game a bit short. Like Zelda, the game has a big overworld with 'dungeon'-styled areas at different corners of this overworld. Like Zelda, each 'dungeon' has a map with multiple levels. Like Zelda, the game focuses primarily on melee combat. But beyond these comparisons, BG&E takes the familiar dungeon exploring gameplay found in games like Zelda and adds new gameplay objectives. In each dungeon, Jade is asked to take photos of specific areas and send them back to the rebel group she works for in order for the pictures to be published in a magazine. This mechanic allows for the dungeons to feel a bit more open in design then the average dungeon in a Zelda game. The fighting in the game is fast, flashy, and simple. The player can simply button mash their way through the game. But it looks good and is fun despite the lack of difficulty.
BG&E, much like a platformer, utilizes multiple gameplay styles. At any given time the player may find themselves racing, platforming, fighting, exploring, gambling, taking photos, etc. It's really impressive just how much variation there is in this game. What's even more impressive is that nearly every gameplay style is fun to play and is well designed. The only gameplay style that didn't work as well for me as the others was the 'sneaking' mechanic. During certain moments in the game, Jade has to sneak by tougher enemies. Most of these enemies can be still be fought and defeated but, on rare occasions, the player is forced into sneaking by the enemies undetected. I found this gameplay to be slow and tedious. Essentially, the player is asked to memorize the enemies walking routines similar to the older Splinter Cell games. It wasn't much fun when the game was first released and it is even less fun now. But, those moments don't detract to heavily from the game's experience overall. All of these different gameplay style lead to a number of different goals when they are represented outside of the context of a dungeon. The most common goal in the game is the acquisition of a 'pearl'. These pearls are used to upgrade the different vehicles Jade owns. There are a total of 88 pearls and players that find all of the pearls will be able to play an unlockable game, though only 70 are needed to finish the game. The photo-journalism gameplay is not only limited to the dungeons. To earn currency and pearls the player can take pictures of the various animals throughout the game. This is easier said then done as many of these animals are surprisingly hard to find. It's an addicting mechanic that is surprisingly fun.
The presentation of this HD remake is phenomenal. The game's art style is fairly cartoony. This style lends itself very well to higher resolutions. The textures are clearly not as detailed as modern games but the great animations, the deep vibrant colors, and the idiosyncrasies of the world are all great to look at. The music is incredibly eclectic. One minute you'll hear beautiful piano overtures and the next you'll hear a mix between Latin and rock music. The music was designed to fit the atmosphere of the environment the player found him/herself in rather then the overarching atmosphere of the game. It was a smart decision that lead to what I feel is one of the best soundtracks in a video game. The sound effects are also top-notch. The voice acting ranges from ok to good. While characters like Jade and Pey'j are acted well other, smaller, characters are more hit and miss.
Most players will take 10-12 hours to beat the main story and maybe 12-15 to find all of the animals and pearls. The game is addicting, fun, and engaging throughout its stay and is still one of the best games I've ever played. The gameplay isn't necessarily what makes the game great, though the gameplay is certainly no slouch either. What makes the game great is its world, characters, and atmosphere. It is just a lot of fun exploring and being a part of that world. That alone would make the game good but to add in the well-designed and varied gameplay what you get is one hell of a game. At $10, there is no reason not to experience this game.