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Retrospective: Beyond Good and Evil

Michel Ancel's last gen masterpiece recalled...

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Quick quiz question for you: what GameCube game involves a beautiful island kingdom populated a cast of quirky talking animals, explored by a Metroidvania unlock system? If you answered The Wind Waker, you'd be technically correct, but those who said Beyond Good and Evil are a way cooler, less mainstream kind of correct.

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It's the closest thing you'll ever see to a Zelda game without those trademark Nintendo fingerprints. There's a hero(ine) clad in green with aslightly annoying sidekick (Pey'j). There's Z-targetting combat and support equipment mapped to face buttons. Squint, and the world of Hillys could be mistaken for a hi-tech Hyrule, but it's navigated not by sailboat, but by hovercraft.

But this is more than just a simple Zelda clone. Michel Ancel takes Zelda's charming fantasy stylings and adds a sordid dollop of politics. Unlike Link's idyllic sea kingdom, Hillys is being slowly crushed under the booted heel of an oppressive government. Below the verdant greens lurks the threat of rebellion; even the daffy shopkeeper houses a secret resistance base in his basement. It's here that Jade finds her calling. She must save the world not by force of arms, but by taking pictures.

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At first the photography seems like a fun minigame. Money can be earned by snapping wildlife, and it's possible to spend hours without ever approaching the main quest. But when you do, you realise these missions are about photography too. As a member of the resistance, your main weapon is to catch your government's crimes on film. Combat is almost incidental to this aim. It's a surprisingly modern view of the world, in which villains fall not to a Hero with a Sword, but to a Camera and the Truth.

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So few games have captured Zelda's sense of childlike wonder and fantasy exploration, yet Beyond Good and Evil nails it completely. The result is a game worthy of being mentioned alongside Ninty's greatest hits, and the perfect game for Zelda fans looking for something a little different.

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