Beyond Good & Evil - Ubisoft, 2003
France was at the forefront of European gaming in the '80s and '90s, and they were one of the first countries to approach the medium as "art," with games like Éric Chahi's pensive platformer Another World (Out of This World in North America) and Infogrames' Alone in the Dark, the first-ever 3D horror game. In a modern context, Paris studio Quantic Dream has pushed the boundaries of "what is a game" with Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy in North America) and Heavy Rain. But no French developer or publisher is as important as Ubisoft, both historically and today.
Ubisoft has become a global gaming giant, with franchises like Prince of Persia, Assassin's Creed, and all the Tom Clancy games. But it all began with Michel Ancel, creator of Rayman. His 2003 cult classic Beyond Good & Evil represents to me everything that French game design stands for, and remains relevant to this day.
I've already written about this game before. It's not perfect. But it represents the best of the 3D action/adventure/platformer genre--there's almost nothing like it in the current generation of games, besides maybe Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda. Ancel took influence from Hayao Miyazaki's environmentally-themed animated films, and created an organic game world filled with deep characters. It doesn't take itself too seriously, but the game has its touching moments. Beyond Good & Evil also features one of the most well-developed female protagonists in gaming history, something that cannot be undervalued.
While Michel Ancel has seen revived success with Rayman Origins, Beyond Good & Evil 2 has been in production limbo for the past four years. I hold out hope he'll create a successor to Beyond Good & Evil one day.
The Global Gaming Spotlight so far:
View Global Gaming Spotlight in a larger map