Welcome back everyone to my next “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn”. Part 14 will focus on another great series of games from Naughty Dog known as the Jak and Daxter series. These games combine platforming, shooting, and driving gameplay in a truly fun and satisfying way, along with a cast of imaginative and colorful characters. Back in the day this was considered the “rival series” to Ratchet and Clank, unfortunately (for me in particular) the Jak and Daxter series started with the PS2 and died along with it, while Ratchet and Clank continues to live on even to today’s generation of systems.
Much like what happened with the Crash Bandicoot series after Naughty Dog moved on to Jak and Daxter, the Jak and Daxter series died out not long after Naughty Dog left it behind to begin working on the Uncharted series. It’s quite clear that when other developers try to takeover a series that Naughty Dog started, their efforts are simply destined to fall short, which is what will likely happen to the Metal Gear Solid series now that Konami no longer have Hideo Kojima to do the heavy lifting….but I digress. I feel I must mention that I never got to play the PSP game simply called Daxter, which is unfortunate since I heard it was pretty good, but it’s not the end of the world. Let’s begin with my discussion of Naughty Dog’s second well-loved series.
Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (PS2)
The first Jak and Daxter game is somewhat special to me. It’s not the most challenging game around, in fact it’s the easiest game in the series by far, but it has plenty of charm and character, much like the Crash Bandicoot games. Back in the day I had bought a video game magazine which included a demo disc of this game, and after enjoying the demo’s gameplay, I decided to take a chance on this game and buy it. Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy is the definition of simplicity, but in a good way that doesn’t get boring. The story revolves around Jak being sort of indirectly responsible for turning his buddy Daxter into a furry little orange “Ottsel”, so the two of them, along with Samos the Sage and his daughter Keira, go on an adventure-filled journey to find another sage who can hopefully turn Daxter back to normal. The story does open up further later on when the duo are forced into a situation where they have to save the world from sinister forces, but the story remains a simple, lighthearted affair involving magic and mystery.
Aside from the usual running and jumping through traps and obstacles that one expects from a platformer, Jak (with Daxter riding on his shoulder) will go on many varied missions where they battle evil creatures known as Lurkers that come in many shapes and sizes, as well as obtain ancient artifacts from many interesting locations. There is also a magical substance known as Eco that will grant Jak temporary abilities like running faster and activating artifacts and platforms (Blue Eco), increasing his attack power (Red Eco), shooting fireballs from his hands (Yellow Eco), and replenishing lost health (Green Eco). Eco is needed to complete many of the missions and find certain collectibles, while the more harmful Dark Eco must basically be avoided. The world of Jak and Daxter is not exactly free-roaming, but is instead made up of four different main hubs that are unlocked as you progress through the story. Each main hub has a number of different areas to explore, and all these areas can be revisited whenever you wish. Jak and Daxter’s home town of Sandover Village is the first main hub and has a jungle, a beach, and a couple of nearby islands that can all be visited with their own sets of collectibles to find and missions to accomplish. Between the main hubs and in other specified areas, Jak and Daxter will ride a zoomer in order to catch fast enemies, avoid pools of lava, and go through timed challenges. So while the game may not be punishingly difficult, it does have some challenge to it and plenty of variety in its gameplay.
Aside from the lighthearted, adventurous feel to this game, another reason why it’s so special to me is because my younger sister really enjoyed this game as well. As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, my sister is not a big gamer, and the few times she did play games she would stick to anything that involved driving like Ridge Racer Revolution, Driver, and Crash Team Racing. But when she saw me playing this game, she became intrigued since she thought it looked, and I quote, “cute”. Including a couple of Rugrats games that she had for the PS1, Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy is one of the only non-driving video games that my sister has spent any real time playing and it’s the only game I own that she has ever beaten. Initially, she would always recruit me to beat a big, “scary” boss at the game’s halfway point for her, but eventually she beat the boss and then the rest of the game all by herself.
Not only that, but she also accomplished something that not even I had accomplished until my seventh or so time beating the game, and that is reaching 100% completion. Even though I had always gathered up all the main collectibles known as Power Cells and seen the second true ending, the game would always say I had only completed 99% of the campaign. When my sister beat the game, she made sure to collect all of the secondary collectibles known as Precursor Orbs, something I never bothered doing at the time, yet that was what granted my sister the coveted 100% completion status…before me. How embarrassing that a “noob” like my younger sister figured this out before me, an average to slightly above average gamer. So yeah, this game is good simple fun for both kids and adults, or even those who barely play video games, something the rest of the games in this series can’t exactly attest to. Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy gets a score of 83%.
Jak II (PS2)
What can I say about Jak II, other than I still don’t know why they removed Daxter’s name from the title? Not only was this the first game that introduced me to the concept of an open-world sandbox, but it was the game that took me out of my video gaming boyhood and made me a video gaming man. This game was incredibly challenging, frustrating, and in a couple of very specific missions, downright brutal. Yet, there was something about it that made me keep coming back for more when any other sane person would have just given up. It has a strangely addicting quality to it. I don’t know if it was the revamped gameplay, the large and varied gaming world, or the colorful cast of characters, but Jak II was definitely one of Naughty Dog’s earliest standout titles. The game opens with Jak, Daxter, Samos, and Keira activating a portal that sends them to another world very different from their own, and they get dropped into a more futuristic metropolis known as Haven City. From there, Jak and Daxter become embroiled in another adventure to save the world again from dark forces, which Jak is seemingly destined to do.
Jak fortunately controls almost exactly the way he did in the first game, with his running, jumping, climbing, and combat abilities all intact, only now he has new tricks up his sleeve. He gains access to a Morph Gun with different firing modes: the Scatter Gun (shotgun), Blaster Rifle (semi-automatic rifle), Vulcan Fury (gatling gun), and Peace Maker (instant death to most non-boss enemies). Zoomers can be used to navigate the large, dense area of Haven City, and Jak also eventually acquires a jetboard to go through areas not accessible by zoomers or by foot, like over water or even pools of Dark Eco. Speaking of Dark Eco, Jak was pumped full of the stuff by one of the main villains in the intro, which grants him the ability to transform into a sort of demonic version of himself called Dark Jak. In this form, Jak can attack enemies with stronger and faster melee strikes, as well as explosive Dark Eco infused attacks that can obliterate multiple enemies at once. And unlike his role in the first game as a silent protagonist who revealed what he was thinking through his actions and facial expressions, Jak made his debut in the sequel as a fully voiced protagonist. What can’t this guy do? On top of all that, Daxter himself is playable in a couple of missions, whee!
Jak and Daxter visit many locales both inside Haven City and in the areas outside including forests, mines, pumping stations, etc. The many missions they undertake include shooting Krimzon Guard soldiers and monsters called Metal Heads, racing against or outrunning enemies on zoomers, escort missions, sabotage missions, you name it. But again, this game is incredibly challenging and has a very strong focus on trial and error. I normally don’t enjoy the trial and error approach with games, but for some reason I found it to be acceptable in this game…mostly. Despite the frustrating elements in this game, the core gameplay itself is just plain fun. And let’s not forget the boss battles. They too relied heavily on trial and error, but the bosses themselves were so fun and memorable that I can’t in good faith hold anything against them. In many ways, this game is the pinnacle of the Jak and Daxter series. While the third game has even more variety to it, there’s just something about this game that makes it my overall favorite in the series. Jak II gets a score of 95%.
Jak 3 (PS2)
For all intents and purposes, Jak 3 improves on almost everything that Jak II did, except in a couple of very specific areas that I will discuss later. This game begins with Jak and Daxter being blamed for something they didn’t do and thrown out of Haven City into the brutal Wastelands beyond. After being taken in by Damas, leader of Spargus City which is home to a large clan of warrior survivalists, Jak and Daxter are off on yet another adventure to save the world from the deadliest enemies they’ve ever faced. This game has more of an epic and large-scale backdrop to it than the previous games, and not just because of the higher stakes in the story, but also because the game world is larger and even the variety in missions is greater; and of course the gameplay is just about as challenging and frustrating as its predecessor’s. The Wastelands are easily twice the size of Haven City, possibly more, and are navigated with one of several dune buggies that Jak and Daxter gain access to as the story progresses. Some are small and quick vehicles and others are larger and more powerful, making each vehicle more useful in different situations, whether the heroic duo are racing to get back to Spargus City before a deadly sandstorm arrives, battling their way through a group of Marauders, or hunting giant Metal Heads. However, only one of the dune buggies is capable of jumping thirty feet in the air to let Jak and Daxter reach certain areas, which is pretty cool.
The duo eventually get to return to Haven City, which is torn apart by a war with allied forces fighting endless waves of Krimzon Guard robots and Metal Heads. Seeing the familiar locale of Haven City in a constant state of struggle with opposing forces battling each other in all parts of the city made me really feel like I was in a warzone…albeit a cartoony and unusually bright warzone. In both Haven City and the Wastelands, Jak and Daxter will do the usual shooting of enemies with the upgraded Morph Gun which includes new weapon mods that allow it to shoot beams of electricity, zero gravity waves, and miniature nukes (among other things). And alongside his Dark Jak form, Jak gains access to a Light Jak form that grants him abilities like slowing down time, regenerating health, and using wings to glide across wide chasms.The different missions are just as varied as before, with new inclusions like Jak and Daxter flying a glider over the Wastelands and driving a high-speed car on rails through an underground tunnel. There are also even more occasions where the player controls Daxter in platforming challenges that include some combat.
With all these improvements and additions, you’re probably wondering why I would find Jak II to be more appealing than Jak 3. It mostly comes down to two things: 1. Jak II was less linear and offered more opportunities for the player to choose which missions to undertake first, while Jak 3 pretty much offered only one or two missions to complete at a time. 2. Jak II had a more fun collection of missions overall that were less repetitive than some of those in Jak 3. That’s not to say this game is vastly inferior to its predecessor, in fact it’s a very close call. Simply put, this game is another prime example of Naughty Dog’s superior game developing talent. A shame this was their last time developing an adventure focused Jak and Daxter game, they could have done so much more afterwards, but I’m lucky to have this game. Jak 3 gets a score of 93%.
So ends Part 14 of “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn.” Come back next week for Part 15 of my feature where I discuss the last two Jak and Daxter games that were released before the series faded away into nothingness. But not to worry readers, there are plenty of other entertaining reads we have for you here on Gaming Respawn to keep you occupied until my next article:
One of the newer members of Gaming Respawn, Ian Cooper, has apparently taken to adding some Red Bull to his daily cup of tea and using the boost in energy to go on a “reviewing offensive”. He has prepared two reviews for us, one for Adventure Time: Jake and Finn Investigations, which can be found here, and another for Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India, which you can take a look at here.
Michael has written a very interesting and insightful article about his opinion on VR gaming that basically echoes my opinion on the new fad. Find out whether you agree or disagree with one of this site’s eldest (and possibly wisest?) members on the advent of VR by checking out his opinion piece right over here.
A few of us Gaming Respawners check our memory banks to retrieve some hazy memories of our very first video games, then share them in “Gaming Respawn’s First Video Game” over here.