Early plans for Beyond Good & Evil were for it to feature multiple worlds - a vision its vapourware sequel was finally supposed to realise. But Beyond Good & Evil is all the more brilliant, I think, because of a sole focus on saving its singular planet: the beautiful, fragile Hillys.
It's hard not to fall in love with this chunky, colourful place when you're first introduced to it via Beyond Good & Evil's heroine Jade. There's a beautiful, memorable shot of her balanced on a cliff edge, practicing some kind of yoga with one of her orphan charges. Is it an orphan goat? I think it's a goat.
Anyway, Hillys is a peaceful world torn apart by war, and Jade's lighthouse sanctuary is where you are introduced to both her and the current, embattled state of everything.
The story of Jade's attempt to save her home planet and understand her role as its protector is a brilliant one I won't spoil here. Suffice to say, though, as the enemy DomZ creatures attack, sending alien meteors raining down, you find yourself wanting to look out for Hillys faster than Rosa Diaz and her pet puppy.
Cute alien animal kids are a handy shortcut to pathos, of course, but every character on Hillys has a tale to tell. Huddled together between its sweeping hills and isolated islands are communities under siege, and a resistance network hoping to make a difference. Jade's story is one of stepping up from being protector of the orphanage she runs alongside her uncle Pey'j - and goodness me, Pey'j! An incredible character I fear for every time I replay - to being a protector of Hillys in general.
Better yet, Jade never tarnishes her status by using anything other than a camera to reveal the truth of what is happening around her (oh okay, yes, she does also whack a lot of enemies with a big stick). Contrast that to the tactics of those who have corrupted Hillys, and also how her peaceful refuge compares to the DomZ's dark and ominous factories and production lines, where conveyor belts full of mysterious crates are being shipped off to unknown destinations.
There's an anti-industrialist narrative here, perhaps unsurprising from a creator who quit the games industry under a cloud to found a wildlife park, as well as themes of Hillys' local population rising up in resistance to protect their planet. I love how, when visiting its main city throughout the game, residents begin to protest in ever larger groups as Jade stirs up local feeling.
Will we ever see Hillys in a Beyond Good & Evil 2? At this point, despite Ubisoft not clearing it completely off its slate, it feels at best many years away yet. But even then, I don't know how it might compare to the crafted, miniature world in Ubisoft Montpellier's classic, and the feeling of defending it all as Jade back then.