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Born for Wii: Beyond Good & Evil

Adam Holisky

When Friedrich Nietzsche wrote his famous philosophical work Beyond Good and Evil in the late 19th century, odds are he didn't think that it would be a source of inspiration for video games over a century later. Namco proved him wrong with their trilogy of Xenosaga RPGs, each of which had a subtitle referencing a Nietzsche work (such as "Jenseits von Gut und Böse"). But it's another wannabe trilogy that owes its moniker to Nietzsche that's up for recognition.

Beyond Good & Evil was published at the height of the Christmas rush in December 2003, and despite its war-on-all-fronts release on the GameCube, PS2, Xbox, and PC, it simply failed to sell. The game received widespread critical acclaim, but competition from other games caused it to be given a jarring price drop mere weeks after its release. Even so, those in the know played Beyond Good & Evil and saw it for what it was -- a fantastic adventure with a unique world and an appealing cast of heroes. And though it took four years, Ubisoft finally gave a sequel the green light -- so it's time to show the original game some much-deserved love.


The adventure begins with a bang, as the world of Hillys comes under yet another attack from a rather nasty alien race known as the DomZ. A group of soldiers known as the Alpha Sections have occupied Hillys in the name of protection, but they can't be everywhere at once, so when our protagonist Jade's lighthouse-orphanage comes under attack, it's up to her to defeat the DomZ single-handedly. One of the things that "makes" Beyond Good & Evil is Jade herself -- though she can hold her own in a fight, Jade is by no means a warrior. In fact, she's a photojournalist, and when she discovers that the Alpha Sections are up to no good, she takes camera in hand and sets out to uncover their shady dealings with the DomZ.

The plot of Beyond Good & Evil manages to take a cliché story arc and make it fun and engaging by tackling it from a new angle and striking a balance between lightheartedness and the occasional dose of drama. Instead of taking on wave-after-wave of baddies and defeating them like a one-man-army to save her planet, Jade must sneak around Alpha Section facilities and use her trusty camera to expose their betrayal in an attempt to enlist the citizenry in an uprising. The cast of characters play a large part in Beyond Good & Evil's success -- the population of Hillys is made up of an odd mixture of humans and anthromorphic animals, ranging from Jade's uncle Pey'j, a boar, to the owners of the Mammago garage, a family of Jamaican Rhinos. The game is largely voice-acted, and the cast is incredibly colorful. The aforementioned rhinos are lovable, as is Peyj's heavy drawl; it's Jade's latin AI-assistant, Secundo, who steals the show whenever he speaks. Beyond Good & Evil's animation is top-notch, and the combination of a solid vocal cast and creative characters really helps bring the cutscenes to life.

The multicultural variety exemplified by the population of Hillys extends to Beyond Good & Evil's gameplay, as well. It's easy to draw parallels to the Zelda franchise -- Beyond Good & Evil's camera automatically locks onto approaching enemies in a manner that emulates Zelda's targeting system, and Jade moves and fights much like Link. Jade is also surprisingly nimble and has a wide range of abilities -- aside from her combo-based attacks, she can dodge, sneak, auto-jump (again, like Link) and shimmy across ledges and through tight spots. Jade gets around Hillys with a zippy hovercraft that is a blast to drive, and features in several of Beyond Good & Evil's minigames -- there are several races and cavernous obstacle courses that extend the game's main quest and replayability. The camera also features prominently in the gameplay, as Jade can earn money by cataloguing the species of Hillys, and the ultimate goal of each mission is to uncover whatever particular treachery the Alpha Sections are committing.

Overall, Beyond Good & Evil wouldn't need a radical makeover for a Wii port. Graphically, it's still competent, and it supported 480p way back in 2003. In fact, the main reason it deserves to be reborn for the Wii isn't for a unique new control scheme or a new take on a classic game -- it's simply a great adventure that deserves to be played by a wider audience. However, given how slick Twilight Princess is on the Wii, there are a few easy modifications that would make a port Beyond Good & Evil a blast.

Much like Twilight Princess, the nunchuk's analog stick would control player movement and shaking the Wiimote would be used for combat. The nunchuk's trigger would control Jade's dodge move, and shaking it would activate her special attack, which was performed on the original controllers by holding down the attack button. The C button would bring up Jade's Camera, which could be zoomed with the analog stick and aimed with the Wiimote. The Wii remote's D-pad could take over the camera control once operated by the right analog stick; A would function as the main action button, and B would function as the Item button. Cycling through items is occasionally important in Beyond Good & Evil (gotta eat those K-Bups when you get hurt!) and could be handled by the Minus button, while the Plus button issues commands to Jade's companion (Pey'j or her fellow insurgent Double H). Finally, the 1 and 2 buttons are there for the classic Map and Start Menu functions.

With Beyond Good & Evil 2 in development, Ubisoft needs to give Michel Ancel's original another chance to make a buck. Beyond Good & Evil has very few faults -- the story is wonderfully told, the characters are fantastic, the score is top-notch, and the gameplay is tons of fun. The stealth segments and puzzles never get frustrating, the hovercraft is a blast, and the combat is good enough to be engaging. The game's only real fault is its length; it can easily be finished in about 10 hours. Still, with a sequel on the way and no 100% reliable confirmation on what platforms it'll hit, we can hope that it'll see the light of day on the Wii. But in the meantime, Ubisoft -- give the first game another chance!

Every week, Born for Wii digs into gaming's sordid past to unearth a new treasure fit for revival on the Nintendo Wii. Be sure to check out last week's entry in the series, Castlevania, and for more great titles that deserve your attention, take a look at Virtually Overlooked.

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