This month in Link’s Burden, two twin Peahats discuss the merits of Beyond Good & Evil…an excellent action adventure game wherein Jade, an undercover photographic journalist, must save planet Hillys from the corrupt Hillys government and its blatantly misleading propaganda.
SPINNING PEAHAT: Wheeeeeeee……..there’s a boy in gay tights! Let’s get him!
SPINNING PEAHAT 2: Wheeeee…spppinnnn…what the hell is that sharp pointy thing? That little kid in green is killing my grandmother with it! Let’s get him!
SPINNING PEAHAT: Don’t you think we should review the game Beyond Good & Evil first? The voice in italics who is narrating this is awfully insistent.
SPINNING PEAHAT 2: I never played it. I don’t own a PS2, OK? I thought I told you that yesterday when I owned your ass in Seedlings of Gore?
SPINNING PEAHAT: YOU DIDN’T PLAY IT?! Well how on Earth can you review it if you didn’t play it?
SPINNING PEAHAT 2: In case you didn’t notice, I’M A SPINNING PEAHAT. I’m rupee fodder for the boy in gay tights! That is my lot in life. If you wanna listen to the damn stupid narrator and pretend you’re better than the rest of us Peahats, then go on.
SPINNING PEAHAT: You’re a poor excuse for a menacing Peahat! Now, I’m going back into the ground and retrieving my notes on Beyond Good & Evil. The game WE were supposed to review. Darn it, I think they are stuck in one of those brown pots.
** Spinning Peahat spins into brown pot and busts open a scroll ( cue cheesy “You solved the puzzle!” sound), and it says…**
Beyond Good & Evil is probably one of the most overlooked titles available on the PS2. It shares that rare place in adventure/action games of standing on its own two feet and needing absolutely no help from any gimmick or niche.
This isn’t to say it doesn’t show its rough edges in being an adventure game that borrows gameplay mechanics from several successful formulas—most noticeably the stealth action formula, ala Metal Gear Solid, for missions into caves or a factory that our cute and rather badass heroine Jade undertakes. Most of her action involves not being noticed while retrieving information for her undercover photography for the infamous Iris Network.
Jade makes green lipstick and a green bandana an actual fashion statement that doesn’t say “cheap Halloween punk rock.” But putting aside Jade’s aesthetic appeal, she isn’t the run of the mill hero. She isn’t overwhelmingly cute, nor too tom boyish, and she isn’t seductive to the point that a woman gamer would cringe when the heroine saunters on by.
The game opens up with a news flash from HTV, which a media venture of pure disinformation and clearly a mouthpiece for a corrupt government with a rather despotic leader who is making a gruff though supposedly reassuring statement about an imminent attack on Hillys, which a regular Planet Naboo minus the annoying Gungans. In a rather idyllic pose of Asian self-awareness, Jade is sitting Indian style with a small youngling that is clearly not fully human. Well, it’s a goat boy. (Yes, I could have said it was a kid and left it at that, but, well, puns are cheap.)
** Spinning Peahat drops the scroll as he’s stunned by a large and ugly boomerang. In fact, it is so ugly it makes him go blind right before he feels paralyzed. The boy in gay green tights brandishing his wee sword makes his first EVER appearance in this infamous coverage of…**
(no association with anything owned by anyone, especially not Nintendo)
Episode 1: Link ownz a Peahat!
The great and heroic Link, bound to the Triforce, a source of absolute power in Hyrule—mainly because it’s an easy shape to create in an 8-bit environment—figured out that the boomerang the old witch gave him really does the trick when it comes to paralyzing those bastard spinning whatits, thus stopping them from knocking his style and his Valentine hearts for Zelda out of his knapsack.
(Yes, we are aware that “knapsack” is a very corny word here at GameCola, but I assure you that Paul Franzen, our chief editor, had nothing to do with the use of the word “knapsack” in any form. We chose it for its particular idiom where appropriate in section A456-Here forward on Link is considered a fruit with tights-wherein lies the rules of Making Fun of a Multi-million Dollar Franchise. See A456a for Rules of Political Correctness and Sensitivity when there are needless complaints.)
Having only his very small sword…
**Link overhears the narrator of his epic as he stands heroic, triumphant upon the button that opens the next dungeon. He makes a face.**
LINK: Hey, my sword isn’t THAT small, OK?
Sorry Link. Just trying to be dramatic.
LINK: Well, get on with it. If I lose another one of these damn valentine hearts I’ll never hear the end of it from that %#$@*&%^ princess. She nags and nags! “I made them myself. Don’t you appreciate it? It took so much time. That isn’t the same one I gave you Link; you just made a new one from some red paper out in the bushes!” I could kill her. I’m GOING TO KILL HER if I have to go through one more dungeon to find this sultry tart again. And she won’t even go to bed like…
UH-HUM! Do you mind if I continue?
** As an afterthought, Link sticks his sword into Spinning Peahat’s petals. It explodes into a green rupee.**
LINK: Sure, no problem. Why is it always so easy to get the cheap ones? Damn green rupee!
And so our hero, facing death itself to rescue the damsel in distress, who is actually on the other side of Hyrule locked away by some jerk named Ganon, but you just happen to need five or so secretly placed magical weapons and/or treasures to get inside, though God only knows what Ganon is doing to the beloved Princess Zelda in the meanwhile…
LINK: Zelda! Don’t ever say that name! Hey narrator! I thought this article was about me!
**Spinning Peahat 2 notices his friend is gone and the kid in green is just hanging around his gauntlet making himself all nice and comfortable on a button.**
SPINNING PEAHAT 2: WTF?! You little elf! You killed my friend didn’t you? You killed my gramma! You killed my only friend! And now you expect to get out of here alive? HAVE you NO HUMANITY? What kind of person are you? You want the damn compass? HERE. HERE is the damn compass!
**Without even looking, Link throws his boomerang at the grieving Peahat. He’s too busy reading something he found near the last Peahat he slaughtered. It’s a strange scroll.**
LINK: Yeah, yeah, we’re all crying for you. Whoaa…review for Beyond Good & Evil! Better say something good, or I’ll go all dragon style on their ass.
**Link tries reading the mysterious scroll. He can’t read Hylian very well so he gets the narrator to try to read it, but the narrator doesn’t really have hands to pick up the scroll, so Link summons his trusted companion Navi. Navi is drunk…very drunk. But Navi tells Link it’s easier to just read the Cliff Notes provided in the newest issue of GameCola’s “Too Lazy to Read Cliff Notes.” Basically, it’s the same information on the scroll, except far more simplified. SO Link reads the scroll…**
Action happens immediately, as Jade runs piggyback with goat boy to the lighthouse and tries safeguarding the other frightened children by directing them into a cave nearby. She tries activating the shield that temporarily comes up around the lighthouse to protect the defenseless orphans, but, in a jibe of superior Murphy’s Law, Jade doesn’t have enough credits for Optima’s strict billing practices, and the shield fails. The sky turns an outrageous color of ghastly green as a swirling vortex makes itself known, and we see the reality of Hillys in the middle of an interstellar war with the relentlessly vicious invaders the Domz—beetle like baddies with transparent hubs—who crash land as flaming meteorites into the Jade’s quiet island, overtaking the poor children. Now what do you do?
That’s right. This game doesn’t just involve fancy game play; it tries to appeal to your deeper human emotions. The sweeping and gorgeous musical score reveals this itself melodramatically as Jade single handedly takes on the Domz with her Dai-Jo, which is a metallic staff that can absorb energy and release it in small bursting attacks but at the same time lay down the pretty twirling smacks of doom upon all ye bad doers. If you tinker with the joystick, she can do back flips and do some well timed dodging of enemies, but you combo gods may be sadly disappointed in the complexity department. This game was made for the fighting game impaired, though this game is not about the fighting, which becomes immediately obvious to the player.
Your in-game display for items acquired and a handy mini-map for areas is an extension of an interesting in game character named Secundo, who is a Spanglish-speaking holographic companion in your back pocket, and who, by some luck of the superiority of the Internet in the future, lands you a job from the Science Center to photograph as many organic species on the planet at possible. This is the answer to your credits problem and has to be the nicest job a photographer could ever land. Now, I know some people find Fatal Frame horrific, and not for the ghosts in it.
Ironically, the concept of photographing things as an obligation of gameplay often has the unfortunate effect of distancing the gamer from the world. “You mean, you want me to pay attention to all the fancy animation you’ve created?!” an average gamer thinks. “How egotistical!” But by no means is this an overwhelming obligation while you play, and various incentives and rewards even beyond credits are offered for capturing more species in your well tuned lens.
**Link drops scroll in disappointment. **
LINK: This is like school! I can’t understand any of this!
FROZEN SPINNING PEAHAT 2: YOU TWIT! Do you have any idea how long it took me to write that review for Beyond Good & Evil?! If you have any respect whatsoever in those green tights of yours…you’ll finish reading the damn article! I’m going to unfreeze from this boomerang attack soon, and when I do…!
LINK: You wrote this? Peahats can’t read or write!
FROZEN SPINNING PEAHAT 2: That’s just the sort of racism and inequality my friend was fighting against. He tried to make me listen. He tried to tell me there was more to being a Peahat, but really, I couldn’t believe him. I wouldn’t believe him. But now I’m frozen by you, and the sands below me do not tremble with my beloved brethren of other Peahats. They are locked far away, and I’m about to be turned into a rupee. De-humanized…villfied…defiled by the very system that should support a Peahat like me. But he’s gone now…so naïve, so full of life, and now I shall join him. Join him into doom.
LINK: Peahats can’t write! Where did you get this?
FROZEN SPINNING PEAHAT 2: From the arms of the working masses encumbered by the irrefutable barriers of Peahat-dom in Hyrule’s lands. I shall conquer the sands for my lessers. I shall unfreeze and then…!
**Link throws the boomerang again at the Frozen Peahat and it re-freezes again. He sits down and decides he’ll read the rest of the scroll, since he’s bored.**
Which brings me to what I think shines the most about this game: its visuals. The graphical art of Beyond Good & Evil is incredibly atmospheric, making the picture taking far more attractive—especially when you get into unknown areas and encounter new alien lifeforms, flora and fauna. Granted, the species are no where near as complex as something in Metroid Prime, but they are just as compelling. Even the alien star cycles of the planet are expressed with night turning into day within fifteen minutes instead of simulating our Earth day sped up. Lighting and the visual textures are well utilized in all the environments. Plus, the environments are so absorbing since they reveal so much about the characters.
For example, for Jade to get around Hillys’ watery archipelago, she has a little Hovercraft kept like a junk heap by her faithful companion Pey’J, a pig man who means a great deal to Jade. One of the early objectives in the game is to get the hovercraft to the repair shop, the local Mammago garage. This black market garage is populated with reggae happy Rastafarian Rhinoceros Men (try saying it really fast, pretty please!) who offer future upgrades for your hovercraft and always take away the pearls that you earn by killing Domz or acquire by breaking codes on secret doors in various areas.
When there isn’t memory for friendly character-building voiceover performances, you’ll be able to interact with dialogue boxes containing multiple choices of interaction with other NPCs. Messages are often sent prompting you to your next mission. You’ll even receive M-disks, little disks tah you throw into a disc player that will play informative mission impossible scenarios and bring you closer to finding out the truth about what is really going down on Hillys. I don’t want to ruin the whole thing by telling you where your mission trail leads you, but suffice to say, if you’re not interested in good story telling, this isn’t the game for you.
The overall weakness of the game may be that it multitasks and borrows a lot of successful familiar gameplay formulas to get its point across; but, at the same time, this game is about immersion in an incredible science fiction experience. Ubisoft, probably most known for their innovation in their platform mechanics for Prince of Persia, should be commended for successfully seeing through on a project like Beyond Good & Evil for its pure unadulterated originality. And on top of all of that, it’s even rated for teens, which is certainly a breath of fresh air for us gamers who are actually concerned with passing a decent dignified torch down to our younger gamer brethren.
LINK: I guess it sounds OK. Prince of Persia was kind of fruity, though. I didn’t think that Prince was very manly at all. I mean after I save Zelda…you know it gets pretty hot and heavy between us…she just can’t help but…
FROZEN PEAHAT 2: Soon I will ascend…I shall be of petals and light and I shall bend like a reed in the wind.
**Link unfurls his sword from its scabbard and slashes the Peahat in two. It turns into a large red rupee**
LINK: SCORE! I ownzed that Peahat up and down here!
**Link takes the scroll and puts into a spare bottle. It turns into a fairy**
LINK: Oooo…bonus! Freaky little fairy love…you and me later in the boss chamber, babe! Maybe it was worth reading that scroll after all.
And so Link ownzed a Peahat. He collected his rupee and went on to the next room where he found another key and another key after that, but he wasn’t so sure if he should use the key on that door because that door only opened to the room where the skeletons were bouncing around but the other key opened the door where there were more Peahats…but that is another story for another day in…
Beyond Good & Evil’s Rating: One fairy.