There's nothing more sickening than seeing an original game march onto shelves amidst deserved critical fanfare, only for it to remain stationary and become intimately acquainted with dust, discount stickers and vacant stares from those looking for something a bit more familiar. Since familiarity often encapsulates large men tossing balls through the air, exploding cars leaping over cliffs or, thanks to next-gen power, large men tossing exploding balls whilst driving over cliffs, Beyond Good & Evil was the creepy stranger you never talked to. Gamers? Meet Michel Ancel's masterpiece.
Oh, and meet Owen Hughes, an active member of Ubisoft Australia's PR machine. In an article for Jump Button (a "blogazine"), he shares some of his personal thoughts regarding the game's qualities and some of the reasons it failed to grab the public's attention. "When you go out there with something entirely different and unique-a product that's proving difficult for even the publisher to summarise in a sound bite-you may as well beg retail to take it."
Hughes' unique viewpoint on the matter certainly makes for an interesting read, with many of his observations applying to an industry full of games reaching for a chance but failing because they don't have a strong pair of established shoulders to stand on. He likens the struggle to a retailer asking customers a set of questions in order to establish what sort of games they like. Did you like Devil May Cry? Oh, then you'll love God of War. Do you enjoy shooting aliens in what appears to be their faces? Great, you should definitely buy Prey. Oh, and how about "award-winning adventures featuring a female photojournalist and her talking-pig uncle as they travel around a planet in a hovercraft trying to root out a conspiracy within the highest levels of government?" Umm, would that fall under adventure or simulation?
The article goes on to say that Beyond Good & Evil's need for comparison was somewhat satiated by IGN's frothing summary, "Zelda for grown-ups." This is interesting for several reasons, the first being that Zelda already is a Zelda for grown-ups. Another is that the similarities between the two games (world exploration and combat, specifically) are not why many are so fond of Ancel's adventure. The fantastic characters, engaging storyline and enchanting atmosphere were far more captivating than the elements taken from Nintendo's gargantuan franchise. You have quite a confused industry when new material is demanded with the condition that it has be similar to something else in order to succeed.