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....
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.