Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary Edition Review – A Pleasing Revival Of A Cult Classic

Pey'jing all fans of this Ubisoft banger.

Beyond Good & Evil was one of those games that I just happened to pick up in my youth, looking for fresh new experiences to rent from the Video Ezy around the corner and with my only guidance being the recommendations I’d memorised from flicking through Hyper magazines at my local newsagent. Chucking down a couple of bucks for a weekly hire of this Ubisoft cult classic was a great decision though, and it’s remained one of my favourite gaming experiences from that generation.

I’m not going to spend too much time here talking to what made Beyond Good & Evil a great game 20 years ago – there’s 20 years worth of reading out there that does just that. The important thing is it’s a game and a world that I’ve been dying to revisit, and given that the (still real, apparently) long-gestating sequel is still MIA, the new 20th Anniversary Edition released for modern platforms this week had a lot riding on it for me. This isn’t even the first time that the game has had a re-release, with a “HD” version coming out on the Xbox 360 and PS3 that was pretty much a match for the original version with increased fidelity and fluidity.

This time around though, Ubisoft has actually made considerable effort to rejuvenate this two-decades-old classic with a fresh coat of paint that features a heap of completely redone assets from improved character models to new environmental textures, dynamic lighting and added effects, and it’s quite transformative when you stack the new and old versions side-by-side. Crucially, the art direction remains largely untouched, so going in and retooling everything hasn’t resulted in a game that feels “wrong” or markedly different in aesthetic from the 2004 game.

There is some awkwardness that comes simply from these lovely new assets being layered right on top of the old bones of the game, including the simple geometry and stiff animations. Seeing detailed textures and atmospheric lighting against PS2-era models doesn’t always compute, but the effort is absolutely appreciated and it’s still a handsome-looking game. A decent chunk of the game’s score has been “re-orchestrated” as well, and sounds great.

In terms of gameplay, not much has changed at a fundamental level. You’re still getting the same Zelda-esque progression through a series of linear-ish “dungeons” connected by a small hub world with a bit of wiggle room in how you push the story forward. I was surprised by how well the overall structure of the game holds up, even if the original game’s menus can be unhelpful and its direction vague – as long as you remember that collecting pearls to upgrade your vehicle is central to opening up new areas you’ll mostly be fine.

Like with its visuals, the game tends to show its age quite readily, especially as far as the constant loading screens and room transitions, the awkward camera and the braindead stealth sequences that make up so much of the core missions. The updates are hugely welcome though. Things like an autosave, the ability to skip cutscenes and reworked controls (including the ability to independently invert the X and Y camera axes – a literal game-changer for folks like me) make a big difference to playability and helps smooth over some of those rougher edges.

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The 20th Anniversary Edition doesn’t just stop at cosmetic and mechanical differences though, adding in a noticeable amount of new content for fans to look for, both in-game and out. Right from the get-go you’ve got access to the Anniversary Gallery which contains a surprisingly comprehensive collection of screens, concept art and even videos chronicling the game’s inception, development and release. I really appreciate that a lot of the images and videos, including some neat footage of cut content, are also accompanied by text that offers up deeper explanations of what you’re looking at.

There’s a small helping of brand-new content within the actual game too, including new rewards and cosmetics to find. The most exciting bit for fans will be the added “treasure hunt” that unlocks after Jade gets access to the Beluga space ship and explores a bit more of her past while also linking it all into Beyond Good & Evil 2 (or at least what that game is currently, who knows how things might change in the coming years). This part is actually more substantial than what I was expecting based on the pre-release info, and is definitely worth seeking out.

Lastly, you’ve got access to a “Speedrun Mode” for the game, which basically just takes away the ability to save your game and challenges you to complete it all as quickly as possible. This I haven’t tackled yet, but given that one of the new set of trophies/achievements is tied to completing a run, it’s definitely going to be in my future.

Even if you’ve never played Beyond Good & Evil before, and won’t get as much of a kick out of seeing the new threads and experiencing its modernisations, there’s still a very decent 10-ish-hour romp to be had along with a bit of a peek into Ubisoft history for a fairly reasonable price of entry of $30. Jade’s adventure along with Pey’j, Double H and friends is still as memorable as ever.

Conclusion
Beyond Good & Evil's 20th Anniversary Edition does a commendable job of freshening up an experience that had long aged out of its must-play status. Enhanced visuals that don't dull the original charm, welcome quality-of-life and control improvements and a nice smattering of extra content go a long way to making this a worthwhile revisit to Hillys.
Positives
Still an underappreciated gem in Ubisoft's catalogue
A decent suite of visual enhancements
Nice gameplay and QoL tweaks
New mission and gallery content is pretty good
Good value at $30
Negatives
A lot of old awkwardness still remains
Stealth segments are still a relic best left in the early 2000s
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