Beyond Good and Evil: 20th Anniversary Edition – A Timeless Adventure

Beyond Good and Evil: 20th Anniversary Edition - A Timeless Adventure

A Pig, Human and Walrus walk into a bar…

No, that isn’t the setup for a terrible joke, it happens in Beyond Good and Evil, and if that seems strange, that is because it is. But it is also the perfect encapsulation of the game’s unique identity, the game’s own personal flavour. It is also part of the reason the game is considered a stone-cold classic, a game that all should play at least once. It seems that the game’s creator, Ubisoft, feels that too because to celebrate this cult hit’s 20th anniversary, they have re-released the game with some new bells and whistles. But after 20 years, it is hard not to wonder if the game still holds up, if nostalgia is the only thing it has going for it.

Well, I am glad to report, that in the case of Beyond Good and Evil, it is “once a classic, always a classic” and I couldn’t be happier. 


Now I have to be upfront and honest here. Beyond Good and Evil is easily in my personal top 20 games of all time, depending on the day it may even make the top 10. With that love came a couple of worries when Ubisoft announced this Anniversary edition. Would the game hold up after all these years and would it be another case of a quick remaster that actually turns out worse than the original? Thankfully in both cases, the answer is a resounding no.

Ubisoft, in their wisdom, has actually done very little to the game itself. This is the game I loved back in the day and for a 20-year-old title, it holds up amazingly well. Where Ubisoft have put in the work is mainly in the presentation aspects. The game now runs at 4K resolutions and a smooth 60fps, something that really enhances the unique and timeless art style of the game. The soundtrack has been completely re-recorded and sounds amazing and the lighting has been improved immensely. There has also been some tidying up of the controls, the addition of cross-save for those who may have the game on multiple systems and a range of quality-of-life updates that smooth out any rough edges on the 20-year-old experience. It is all topped off by a fantastic archive of behind-the-scenes footage, photos, design docs and art that went into the creation of the game. A treasure trove of history for the game’s many fans. 


If it seems like a fairly minimal upgrade, that is because it is. But frankly, I feel like that was the best course of action. This is a game that holds up so well that making any significant changes could really detract from the experience. The style and gameplay are just as good now as they were 20 years ago, so why mess with that? There are a couple of things that are a little dated now, for example, targeting in combat or the lack of ultrawide support, but taken as a whole, there is no need to do anything to this game to make it better. 

For those that are new to Beyond Good and Evil, it tells the story of Jade, a photojournalist who, along with her Uncle Pey’j (who happens to be a walking, talking Pig) gets drawn into a huge conspiracy involving the government, aliens and a rebel group called Iris. The characters, especially the leads Jade, Pey’j and later Double H, are immediately loveable and incredibly well-written and the story, while not groundbreaking, is told in an engaging manner that still had me hooked all these years later.


The gameplay shares a lot of DNA with Zelda titles from the Gamecube/Wii era. The game features a hub world where some light exploration and side missions take place along with a string of linear “main” missions that feature a mix of puzzle solving, stealth, action and platforming. It is a classic set of features and part of the reason it holds up so well. One key feature of the game that really sets it apart from Zelda and its other adventure contemporaries is the photography element. Jade uses her camera in a variety of ways in gameplay, from cataloguing wildlife to examining enemy weaknesses to solving puzzle combinations. This is no mere gimmick but a core part of the experience and narrative and a treat to interact with. 

Jade is accompanied by a companion for the majority of the game and players will be able to issue simple instructions to that companion. Simple contextual commands can be used to get the companion to attack, press a button or remove an obstacle. This becomes a key part of puzzle-solving and quite often requires a little out-of-the-box thinking, something I greatly appreciate. Finally to top off the gameplay feature set is the hovercraft, something that Jade uses to navigate the hub world. It is also used in combat situations, some clever puzzles and even some racing side missions. It controls well and feels appropriately floaty, while still being maneuverable enough to navigate the tight turns needed in some instances. 


Beyond Good and Evil takes about 12ish hours to finish, so it is a tight adventure, but when the game is being sold on Steam for $30AUD it is hard to see that as a negative. In fact, I would say it is the opposite. There is no fat on this game, no padding and considering this is an Ubisoft game, that is saying something. In fact, this is a game that represents Ubisoft at its best, a company willing to break boundaries and try something new, the company that brought us Rayman, Valiant Hearts and Sands of Time. As time went on, Ubi has moved away from this individuality into checklist open worlds that, while still enjoyable, feel overly familiar and as a result ultimately forgettable.  Hopefully, this remake helps Ubisoft recapture some of that magic.


What it all boils down to is Beyond Good and Evil is just as good now as it was 20 years ago. There are a host of reasons as to why it is such a well-regarded title and chief among those is just how well it holds up to modern standards. The engaging story, wonderfully unique style and pitch-perfect adventuring make this a game that everyone should play at one point in their lives and this 20th Anniversary edition is the best way to do it. If it is your first time, you are in for a treat and if you are returning to old friends…well you know what you are getting. I’ve already said it, but Beyond Good and Evil is a stone-cold classic, don’t sleep on it any longer. 

Beyond Good and Evil: Anniversary Edition was reviewed on PC with code kindly supplied by Ubisoft Australia.

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