The Jak and Daxter Trilogy – Review
Title: The Jak and Daxter Collection
Encompasses: Jak & Daxter, Jak II: Renegade and Jak 3
Developed By: Naughty Dog
Port By: Mass Media Inc
Published By: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: Playstation 3
Classification: This game has been classified PG for Low Level Animated Violence and Low level Coarse Language
Review Conditions: Australian Playstation 3 version, should be no difference between regions.
Special Thanks: Sony Computer Entertainment Australia for providing me with a copy of this game to review.
Those who only entered gaming this generation might have had much experience with Naughty Dog’s major Playstation 3 series, however both the Playstation 1 and Playstation 2 each had their own special Naughty Dog series that held dominance on that console. The Playstation 1 had the Crash Bandicoot series, for which the company was behind the first three (and in my opinion the most) brilliant games in the now long-running series before they were handed over to numerous developers since – including Traveller’s Tales and Radical Entertainment. However that is of little relevance to this review as Naughty Dog have held on to their rights for Jak and Daxter, their Playstation 2 series and after more than a decade since the first game was released, have released a special Classics HD Collection encompassing the first three games. The question is… how does this game series fare after all these years? The answer is pretty good…. but as for why, you will have to read my review to find out!
The three games do encompass a sort of trilogy plotline, there is a vast difference between the more casual plotline of Jak and Daxter, and the more serious and darker plot of Jak II and 3. The first game is set on a fictional island that consists of many different areas, with Jak and his friend Daxter deciding to travel to the mysterious Misty Island where they uncover a plot that will put theirs and the rest of the islands life in danger – but of course not all goes to plan and Daxter falls into a pit of Dark Eco (A sort of magical entity of sorts that has many different forms). This results in him transforming into an ottsel and the initial premise of the game is to go out and find a means of turning him back (Not much of a spoiler but as you can evidently tell things change and they end up hunting for three sages who are being held by robotic enemies known as Lurkers. This is a simple yet enjoyable storyline that complements the platformer gameplay well.. similar to other platforming games of the time such as the Banjo-Kazooie series.
The second and third games take place several years after the events of the first, with the characters from the first game travelling through a portal and ending up in Haven City, where Jak is subsequently captured and imprisoned in order to have experiments relating to Dark Eco performed on him. After being rescued, he along with Daxter join an underground revel movement who seek to dethrone the cities current leader Baron Praxis who was initially behind Jak’s capture. The third game takes place X years after the events of the second where Jak has been exiled to the much feared Wasteland but comes across a new Civilization and new issues at hand which threaten the world.
Overall you could stop playing at any particular game and feel like you have been provided with a sufficient and all-around completed conclusion, but if you want to go through all three you are provided with characters, plotlines and locales unique to each. The thing that really works for the game is that while the plot does have its serious moments – especially in the second and third installments, it maintains a consistent stream of sarcasm and satire, especially on the part of Daxter (Who remains comic relief throughout the series) making it a more welcome play for both those inclined towards a storylien and those more inclined towards a more gameplay-oriented style. If there were one area to improve on, it is that while the game was more open-world than other platforming games… most of the minor quest characters were one dimensional and never really feel like they are there for any other purpose than delivering a quest.
Similar to the other HD Collections currently on the market for the Playstation 3, this game does not feature a complete overhaul of the original design system but is instead a remastered version in order to make the graphics look more appropriate for current-generation televisions – so support for 720p resolution, 3D Compatibility and generally more colourful, crisper and cleaner design than the original release. They all benefit from the visual improvements, especially the second and third installments which even on the Playstation 2 were significantly better designed than the first which given its age hasn’t aged as well.
For music quality, each of the games have their own individual soundtracks with some overlapping songs between them. None of the tracks really stood out to me but instead help set the mood and atmosphere of the area or scene you are in. The winning component of this game is the voice acting which is often delivered in short bursts with voice talent who help set the tone for the dialogue, or in the case of Daxter who at times never seems to shut up… does a great job of delivering the comedic tones. Max Casella who voices Daxter is hands down the best voice talent in the game, while the voice behind Jak (Who is voiced from the second game onwards) doesn’t seem to suit my original perception of the character and I think was a bit too deeply toned for a game of this nature – but that is just my opinion. Other characters were varied in quality but was overall good enough for the game given its initial release.
While I found all three games enjoyable, I personally found the first game “The Precursor Legacy” to be the more enjoyable of the three, with a much more laid back game with basic core concepts making it easier to pick up and just get into. Similar to that of Banjo-Kazooie, your objective is to travel around the world collecting a number of items for different purposes – Power Cells in order to progress through the game with each step in the game requiring a set number, Precursor Orbs which can be used to trade in for Power Cells and different types of eco which can be used to heal, or power up Jak in a number of ways. The missions to recieve Power Cells are simple sounding at first – ranging from following seagulls, giving X number of Orbs to Y or herding sheep into their paddock – later adding boss fights and more plot related quests to the mix. While I would have preferred the game world to be more populated rather than give the impression of having a population of a few dozen people – but this is a minor factor in comparison.
Jak II: Renegade takes the core platforming concepts from The Precursor Legacy and bins the rest, moving from the isolated island setting to the more built up and populated metropolis of Haven City. The game was more action oriented than just defeating a few robots here and there so they have ditched the eco system from the first game and moved to a multipurpose firearm known as the Scatter Gun – a change I was able to get to but one that I didn’t appreciate as much as other changes. A more enjoyable addition was the inclusion of Dark Jak, derived from the original style of gameplay it allows him to perform strong melee attacks. The games progression depends more on missions than the collection of items such as Power Cells and Precursor Orbs (The latter now used only for unlocking cheats). The open world setting is definately more open world even in the confines (mostly) of a city – which can be transported by using one of many vehicles hovering around.
The least memorable experience… and perhaps the game that has the least improvements upon the last is Jak 3, which once again brings the open-world style of gameplay and takes it a little bit further towards the action genre, delivers a brand new world in the Wasteland/Desert region and a few new ideas for missions. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel these were enough to justify playing the game straight from the second due to the number of similarities between the two and was a little bit too easy and short for my liking. Still, it is an above average installment in the series and I don’t think that in terms of gameplay – any three of them were less enjoyable than they were when they were initially released in the PS2-era.
Unfortunately they never saw fit to include the side-game Jak X in this PS2 classics set, which is a disappointment as I was only able to get part-way through the racing game and in the end it was just improving upon one of the games more memorable non-core gameplay systems – the vehicle transportation. Moving on from that fact, you have here perhaps one of their most necessary HD Collection releases and they have done a good job at it overall. This is a title I could happily recommend to fans of the genre, fans of the developer Naughty Dog or those who just want a good set of classic PS2 games to play!
Storyline/Character Development: B
Music/Voice Acting: B
Personal Opinion: A
Overall Score: A