Nintendo Consoles

Nintendo Consoles

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Beyond Good & Evil and Character Development Through Gameplay

Beyond Good & Evil is a game I obtained with the help of a small retro gaming community based in Long Island. It was one of many Gamecube games I became interested in playing, appearing on almost every list of Gamecube hidden gems I read online. Obviously I had to get it, and now that I've played it, I must say that I am not disappointed. Unfortunately I had a large backlog of games to play at the time I finished Beyond Good & Evil's main story so I never had much of a chance to savor its sweet goodness, but the box art alone caught the attention of my friend as he browsed my collection the other day, stopping to say "oh you have this game??" to which I replied "Yes Dylan, I have this game." This one goes out to all the Dylans in the world.

Beyond Good & Evil - Nintendo Gamecube 
      So like I said, good ol' hidden gems on the Nintendo Gamecube. Strange as this may be for a hidden gem, it was actually developed by Ubisoft and released for multiple systems including the Gamecube. Beyond Good & Evil is critically acclaimed, but has never really escaped its status of "cult classic". Despite this, Beyond Good & Evil is seriously one of the best Gamecube games I've ever played and may even be one of the best video games of the Gamecube/PS2/XBOX generation. The game is filled with inspired characters, a gorgeous fantasy world brimming with life and depth complete with sky-whales, and a story that weaves its narrative and gameplay together harmoniously

       The gameplay is most reminiscent of that found in a Legend of Zelda game, perhaps if Ocarina of Time was only 12 hours long. Your character, Jade, traverses the small open hub world of planet Hillys in a linear sequence of events and checkpoints which all eventually lead to you navigating masterfully crafted dungeons consisting of rooms that require you to solve refreshingly unique puzzles, defeat enemies using an extremely tight combat system, or sneak around all stealth-like without being detected. In addition to the expertly built dungeons, there exists hours of optional side-quests and games to play on the side should one decide to explore Hillys a little further. Planet Hillys is made up of a small sea with several islands jutting up from it's surface. Jade uses her motorboat to quickly zip all around planet Hillys in order to get from objective to objective. But whether you're going for a quick stroll through the bustling town, or sailing from dungeon to dungeon, there is always incentive for you to stop and explore. Mini-games can be found by talking to different residents of the central city, optional boat races are not only a blast to participate in but reward you with money which you NEED, and let's not forget the pictures you can take. OH the PICTURES you can take....

What must be understood about Jade is that despite her ability to kick ass with a staff or sweet-talk her way into getting what she needs, she is first and foremost a photographer. During the game, Jade finds herself collaborating with an underground organization of vigilantes called ISIS which promises to give her money in exchange for photographs of wildlife. Whether it's to upgrade your boat, weapon, or to increase your max health, you NEED money in this game, and sending pictures to ISIS is the easiest and most fun way to get it. Like I said, ISIS is particularly interested in photographs of the wildlife on planet Hillys. As a result, if at any point during your sailing from place to place, you stumble upon an unfamiliar breed of fish, it's up to you to whip out the kodak and snap a picture. Same thing with strange plants found growing on dungeon walls, imprisoned and weaponized dogs found in enemy bases, even the animal-like pedestrians found strolling about town; as long as it is living, a picture of it can be exchanged for money. 

     The thing that makes the ability to take pictures so ingenious is that it keeps Jade humbled and believable as a character; she is a photographer - that's part of her lore - and in order to play as a photographer, YOU, the player, must become a photographer. You need to wait for the right moment to capture the best angle of a bird, you become excited when you see a strange creature lurking around in the distance. Despite her taking on the responsibilities of an adventurer she never wanted to become, Jade stays true to herself, because no matter how many enemies she defeats and lives she saves, she is still a photographer at heart, and because the utilization of this feature is something that is required in order to make money, which is required in order to make progress in the game, this detail from Jade's lore is kept at the forefront of her character development. In this way, it is GAMEPLAY that directly influences the player's perception of her. We don't learn about Jade through any cutscene or dialogue, we learn about Jade by becoming Jade
     What Beyond Good & Evil has to offer is a gaming experience that tells an excellent story through excellent gameplay. Too often nowadays do we find games either whose story exists solely for the sake of the gameplay or whose gameplay exists solely for the sake of the story, but Beyond Good & Evil splits it right down the middle, offering gameplay and story that exist in order to emphasize the best points of each other. I give this game a very serious recommendation to all video game fans who crave side-quests, strong characters, tight combat, and solid dungeon-crawling. In other words, if you've ever thought that you wouldn't mind seeing Legend of Zelda re-imagined where everything is run by alien technology instead of magic, then Beyond Good & Evil is exactly for you. 

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