There's a reason why fans (like myself) continue to froth at the mouth for the merest hint of confirmation that Beyond Good and Evil 2 is still in development: it's because Beyond Good and Evil is still as fresh, vibrant, and stylish as it was nearly 13 years ago.
Beyond Good and Evil was a commercial failure when it hit consoles back in the fall of 2003, overshadowed as it was by games like Mario Kart: Double Dash, Max Payne 2, and Ubisoft's own Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. It didn't help that the game's title, while referencing the work of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, is generic and meaningless without proper context. So is the box art, which highlights the protagonist Jade and her photography skills in the most boring way possible. Luckily, it was a critical darling, garnering praise and a cult following among those who actually played it. A few years ago, Ubisoft released an HD version of the title on Xbox Live Arcade, and if you've never taken a spin around the mining of planet of Hyllis in a hovercraft, then you're in for a treat.
You play as Jade, a young photojournalist living on Hyllis in the year 2435, who also helps manage an orphanage with her pig uncle Peyj. I don't mean pig with quotation marks, like a person who eats a lot or is kind of a lecher - I mean a very literal pig person that walks around on two hooves and talks. In fact, much of Hyllis' population is made up of a combination of humans and anthropomorphised animals. Jade’s PDA is voiced by a man named Secundo, who speaks in a language that can only be described as Spanglish. The local mechanic is a rastafarian rhinoceros. And the planet is under the constant threat of space bugs called DomZ. It's a strange tale that Rayman creator Michel Ancel spins here, but it's full of surprises and loaded with charm.
That charm extends to the gameplay, which takes the building blocks formed by games like The Legend of Zelda and builds on them in some unique ways. You'll explore dungeon-type areas, gain new skills and items, and solve puzzles, but there's always a twist. Most of the time, you'll have a friend follow you around who can help you reach previously inaccessible areas. And as a photojournalist, you'll often have to use your camera to complete objectives, feeding pictures back to the small rebel force back in town who can use those images to expose government corruption.
It may not have the gravitas of Halo Reach or the wide-open spaces of Red Dead Redemption, but Beyond Good and Evil HD is a weird little game with a ton of heart, and it's well worth revisiting (or checking out for the first time) on your Xbox One. And hey, maybe if enough people start playing it again, Ubisoft'll finally tell everyone what the hell's going on with the sequel. One can hope.
Each week, we'll be highlighting the best last-gen classics and retro titles you can play right now on your Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Wii U. For a full list of backwards compatible titles, be sure to check out our coverage for Xbox One and PS4.