Experience Points .33: Beyond Good & Evil

Chili con carne!

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Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a part of the soundtrack, a gameplay mechanic, a line of dialogue, or anything else about the game that is particularly noteworthy and/or awesome.

This series will no doubt contain spoilers for the games being discussed, so keep that in mind if you plan on playing the game for the first time.

This entry is all about Beyond Good & Evil. Feel free to share some of your own favorite things about the game in the comments!

The hero of Hillys

It’s not often my favorite character in a video game also happens to be the protagonist. Usually, I become more invested in the side characters, and Beyond Good & Evil does have some great side characters, like Pey’j and Double H. But Ubisoft really hit it out of the park with Jade.

Part of this has to do with her character design. Jade’s look is simple, yet visually striking. You’d think someone who dresses in one color might be a little boring, but she really stands out with her green jacket, green bandanna, green eyes, and green lipstick. I mean, who else can pull off green lipstick? There’s just something about the color green that makes her look strong and heroic.

Of course, Jade wouldn’t be nearly as awesome if she didn’t have a personality to go along with her style. She’s kind, caring deeply about her friends and family, and goes to great lengths to protect them. She’s strong, willing to brave dangerous areas and fight her way out when the need arises. She’s spiritual and creative, spending time meditating outdoors and photographing wildlife. But most of all, she has an excellent sense of humor, cracking jokes with her uncle and lightening the mood whenever possible. With her leading the way, the adventure is never boring.

Jade is the kind of person I would love to hang out with. Whenever I come across a fictional character who I could see myself being actual friends with, I know the writers have done a great job.

A picture is worth a thousand units

Beyond Good & Evil‘s most unique element is without question the photography mechanics. While many other games relegate photographs to side missions and bonus content, Beyond Good & Evil has the camera front and center as one of the main gameplay components, joining the likes of Pokémon Snap and Fatal Frame as one of the few games to utilize photography in a meaningful way.

The crux of the story revolves around Jade using photography to expose corruption and military secrets in order to incite a revolution. This involves a lot of stealth investigation in order to secretly take pictures of activities she’s not meant to see, which will then be published through the IRIS Network so the images can be broadcast to the general public.

Not only that, Jade also takes on side jobs to earn units by snapping pictures of organisms so the Science Center can compile a catalog of all fauna living on the planet. Hillys happens to be full of all kinds of strange and beautiful creatures, some easy to locate and others requiring a bit of work to coax out of hiding. This includes everything from humanoid species, pets, vermin, insects, sea life, and even things like amoebas and sponges.

Completing the species report was my favorite aspect of the game. I made sure to to check every nook and cranny for new animals, and usually spent more time than was ever necessary trying to get the perfect shot for the report. The Science Center really didn’t care how the photographs looked as long as the creatures were in frame, but that didn’t stop me from trying to get close-up shots and the best angles. I definitely wouldn’t mind if more games borrowed this idea!

When pigs fly

Beyond Good & Evil stands as possibly the only piece of media to contain a fart joke that actually made me laugh. This is partly because it’s barely even played off as a joke. It feels less like a cheap attempt at getting laughs and more like a well-planned comedic moment, which is pretty surprising when the subject matter is flatulence.

In the very first dungeon, Jade and Pey’j reach a point where they can no longer progress, and Pey’j decides the moment is right to introduce her to his latest invention: the Jet Boots! He describes them as his life’s work, and goes into great detail about how they function. The boots run on “home-made bio-carburant” which is stored in a pressurized methane pocket in the seat of his pants, and they’re activated when he contracts his abdominal muscles. In other words, the boots enable him to fly through the air by farting. He proudly demonstrates his invention in front of Jade, shouting “Chili con carne!” as he flies up, misses his footing, and falls back onto his butt.

The greatest part about this joke is that it’s played seriously. Jade doesn’t giggle or even flinch when she hears what the boots are powered by, she simply congratulates her uncle on such an impressive design and the two of them get back to work. Pey’j remains confident that they will eventually become the transportation of the future, and continues to effectively use them to help Jade out on her adventure, both for combat and puzzle-solving. It may just be a fart joke at its core, but it’s handled so sincerely that I couldn’t help but chuckle at the underlying absurdity.

Messing with the Alpha Sections

Alpha Section soldiers are the most numerous enemy type in Beyond Good & Evil, but they’re not the brightest of the bunch. Most of the time, Jade can simply sneak right past them without alerting them to her presence. But sometimes, it’s easier to just take them out.

Since Alpha Sections are technically human, it would feel out-of-character for Jade to just go around killing them. Luckily, their armor can be used to Jade’s advantage. If she fires a gyrodisk at a soldier when its back is turned, the disk will damage the breathing tank, leaving the soldier permanently disabled unless a comrade is nearby to repair it.

Once they’re disabled, they become completely harmless, stumbling around the room as if they’ve suddenly gone blind. Jade can either leave them be to wallow in confusion or run up and give them a good kick, causing the breathing tank to burst and send them flying off into the air, never to be seen again. It’s pretty funny to just leave them be though, especially when there’s a roomful of them. I usually sat back and laughed as they blindly stumbled about and bumped into one another, which is maybe a little bit sadistic of me. Poor guys.

Celestial cetaceans

Since Jade’s main adversary is an alien species known as the DomZ, it only makes sense that her adventure would culminate in an epic journey to the moon. After obtaining the Beluga that Pey’j had been working on and fixing it up for interstellar flight capabilities, she takes the ship up into the air, breaks Hillys’ gravitational pull, and finds herself floating through space.

At first, it may seem like there’s not much to do out here other than gaze at the stars and approach the moon, but the cold void of space actually happens to be home to the last creature that Jade needs to photograph for the Science Center catalog.

Alongside the ship, there appears a huge chunk of ice drifting around and sending smaller projectile ice shards Jade’s way. Attack the ice chunk enough times, and it will shatter, revealing a huge, majestic space whale, or Megaptera anaerobia. The beautiful mammal then becomes peaceful, swimming lazily through the stars and offering the perfect opportunity for Jade to snap the final shot for her report. How awesome would it be to encounter a giant, peaceful creature just floating around in space?

Strangely, the Science Center lady doesn’t seem particularly impressed by this discovery and just gives one of her default responses upon acquiring the photograph. Apparently this incredible animal that defies all logic isn’t unusual at all to the people of Hillys. “Oh, you found a space whale? Great. Wake me up when you find something cool, like a snail or something.”

Sole searching

Towards the end of Beyond Good & Evil, Jade’s lighthouse falls under attack. This is nothing new, as it seems to be targeted quite frequently for some reason. But this time, Jade can’t make it back in time to save the building. She arrives to find her home destroyed and all the orphan children, essentially her only family, have been kidnapped. With her uncle and the children all gone, she has no one left. Devastated, she sits down in the rubble of the lighthouse, appearing to have given up hope.

Her dog and her new friend, Double H, try to comfort her, with Double H reassuring her that Pey’j and the kids are still alive. It may have been those words that give her a sudden surge of determination, but whatever it was, she gets up and hurries over to a nearby computer terminal (which is surprisingly still intact) with a fire in her eyes.

At this point, Jade needs to find the codes to unlock a secret room housing the Beluga ship that Pey’j had been working on. The problem is, the game doesn’t immediately tell the player where to find the codes. There are plenty of clues lying around for clever players to figure it out, some of which are surprisingly obvious, but somehow I never got the hint. I spent so long searching the lighthouse up and down for anything that would point me in the right direction, trying obvious passwords like “Jade” and “Pey’j,” and all the different combinations of numbers and letters found on the posters next to the computer consoles.

I didn’t even think to ask Double H for help (why would he know the password?), and the only possible clue I could think of was the picture of Pey’j’s Jet Boots on the posters. But how could his boots help me? Out of desperation, I opened up the menu to look at all of my items, and to my surprise I found his boots, which I had completely forgotten Jade was still holding onto. I pulled them out, flipped them over, and there were the passwords, written right on the bottoms of their soles!

I couldn’t believe it took me so long. There were pictures of the boots right there in front of me, after all! Double H even mentions the shoes specifically if the player speaks to him. But the fact that it took me so long to figure out actually made the moment more meaningful. The one memento from Jade’s missing uncle held the answer, and it was with her the whole time. She simply had to take the time to reminisce about her family, and it would bring her one step closer to reuniting with them. It was all very poetic, even though I probably made it much more difficult than it needed to be!

Past Experience Points

Level 1: .01 – .20

.21: Katamari Damacy
.22: Tomb Raider
.23: Mother 3
.24: Deadly Premonition
.25: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
.26: Dark Souls
.27: GoldenEye 007 
.28: Pokémon Red/Blue 
.29: Skies of Arcadia
.30: Dragon’s Dogma
.31: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
.32: Super Metroid

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