Before Nathan Drake and Victor Sullivan there was another duo in town; Jak and Daxter. Naughty Dog’s last series of games took place on the PlayStation 2.
And I was smitten. I played all three games as well as the spinoff Jax X: Combat Racing. Which wasn’t such a bad game guys. Really.
Instead of treating this as a new release (it clearly isn’t) I will briefly go over each of the games and discuss some pointers about the HD release.
Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy
Jak and Daxter was my first PS2 game. Now there’s a bit of a backstory to this. For Christmas one year our family received a PS2. As it was a big ticket item it was meant for us all to share. But really it was my brother and I who became the guardians of the black box.
We went away to Christchurch for the holidays. As we got home my Mum and stepdad forewarned us that we were robbed while we were away. Some filthy lowlife had nicked our PS2 along with a bunch of other high-tech items. We were devastated.
A month or so into the next year my siblings and I visited Australia for the first time with our Dad. I walked into an electronics shop and picked up Jak and Daxter off the shelf. I was new to the Australian dollar and it seemed a bargain even though I used up all my spending money in one hit. We no longer had a PS2 but for some reason I just knew I would get the chance to play it. I would make it happen.
And wouldn’t you know it, later in the year our PS2 was returned by the police, found along with most of the other stolen gear. The controllers had fingerprinting dust stuck inside the analog sticks but they still worked. We had our PS2 back and I could finally play Jak and Daxter. Goodbye study time.
Having played the Crash Bandicoot series back on the PlayStation I knew what kind of platforming goodness I was in for. If you hadn’t guessed Naughty Dog was my favourite developer in this time of my life. Later Valve took the mantle. Sorry guys.
Naughty Dog stayed close to its roots with Jak and Daxter. The biggest change in their design would have to be going open world and giving the player full camera control. No more bandicoot backside.
Jak had a spin attack just like Crash, was a mute just like Crash – in the first game Jak was merely another skin for Crash Bandicoot. Luckily we have Daxter, the adorable, hilarious – and very orange – little ottsel. Although he didn’t end up helping, with anything really, at least he provided us with companionship.
Like all platforming games it’s a bit of a collect-athon. Power cells are like the stars in Super Mario 64. And the precursor orbs are scattered everywhere like the yellow coins. You have your boss fights and your vastly varying environments.
Jak II: Renegade
This one doesn’t have much of a story but I did buy it from Dick Smith soon after it came out with its $110 price tag. I don’t remember ever spending that much money on a single game before that. Crossing the $100 threshold let me in on the Dick Smith VIP club. The card that I still hold in my wallet today.
If you ever wanted to see a game reboot itself – drastically – this one’s a pretty decent example. Jak probably undergoes the most transformation of any videogame character in just the first five minutes of the game. I guess to be fair there is a “two years later” title card.
No longer an innocent, silent elf, Jak is seen with a new hairdo and a gruff demeanour. He’s even sporting a goatee. As we all know goatees can make anyone into a badass. Being pumped with “Dark Eco” is the reason behind this drastic transformation. While I never found the first game wanting, I guess Naughty Dog needed a kick in the pants to stray further from its safe zone.
Gone is the lovely themed ice, lava, and grass worlds. Here is the dirty metropolis of the future; Haven City. Featuring flying cars and Orwellian cameras and city security. Jak now wields guns and the powers of Dark Eco. Stealing the GTA city and mission structure Jak II is a radical departure from the first game. And it was worth the risk. I loved it. Did I mention hoverboards?
Jak 3: No Subtitle Necessary
My stories are getting less and less romantic. I waited for this one to come down in price. Probably after spending so much on Jak II I thought I’d play the game stock market and wait for the eventual decline.
While not quite the departure from the first to the second game Jak 3 took a big focus on vehicles and racing across a Wasteland that surrounds Haven City. You will return to Haven City but it’s not the same bustling city you left behind.
You want more? You got it. The yang to his yin, literally, Jak earns the powers of Light Eco enabling powers of flight and time. Did I mention hanggliders?
All and all it’s a satisfying conclusion to the series.
The Trilogy Re-Release
So you want to know about the differences in this re-release do you? They say it’s in 720p and I may as well believe them, it looks pretty good. All besides the HUD which does look a little blurry on a modern display. Unlike Beyond Good and Evil HD the HUD has not been remade which is a little unfortunate. On the upside the character models aren’t as jaggy as you’d think. Lovely curves and lines. Lots of solid colour. It doesn’t look like a PS3 game at any stretch but it won’t burn out your eyeballs either.
There’s even 3D support. As I’m but a lowly temp and can’t afford a 3D setup, you flash guys will have to test that one out yourselves.
I was confused at first but there is Trophy support for each game. You’ll have to start each game from the disc menu for the trophy collection to load for each game. It truly is three games in one.
Verdict? If you played these games as much as I have you might find it a bit difficult completing each game for the umpteenth time. But for those still into their platforming, especially the young’ns out there, I’d recommend this epic trilogy wholeheartedly. Jak and Daxter is my Sony duo of choice. Sorry Ratchet and Clank.