It has been 10 long years since we first met the mute Jak and his fuzzy, big mouthed buddy, Daxter. Launching right in the middle of what I like to think of as the 2nd coming of platforming (Mario and Sonic dominated as the platforming craze began in the 8 and 16 bit eras), the duo kicked off what would soon become the platforming trifecta of the PS2 generation. Not even a year after Jak and Daxter made their debut, they were joined by the likes of Ratchet and Clank, as well as Sly Cooper and his band of merry thieves. While the PSOne had plenty to offer to offer in the genre with such icons as Spyro, Rayman, Tomba, Klonoa, Abe (Oddworld) and Andy (Heart of Darkness), none really stepped out to define a generation as much as the aforementioned PS2 trifecta. Between the three franchises, they truly set the standard for platforming excellence, with their achievements still resonating throughout the genre today.
Now Jak returns, though not in the new HD adventure that fans have been dreaming of since this console cycle began. Instead, we see the return of the core three entries in the franchise: Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, Jak II, and Jak 3. In this compilation, the three games that made the duo superstars of their genre are presented to PlayStation 3 players with an HD coat of paint, stereoscopic 3D, and yes, Trophy support.
"Even though they don’t do their fans any favors in terms of extras, the games themselves are just as wonderfully solid today as they were during their heyday."
Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy kicked everything off in December of 2001. Here we meet Jak, who’s mute for this adventure, along with his best buddy Daxter, who gains his furry form from Dark Eco exposure in the opening cinematic. Walking a similar gameplay path as the Nintendo 64’s Banjo-Kazooie, Jak tasked players with the typical jumping and bashing gameplay as they set out to meet up with Gol Acheron, the only person who has enough knowledge of the mysterious Dark Eco to possibly turn Daxter back to his human form. To get there, the team will need to collect various Precursor artifacts and power cells (the Precursors are a long-lost civilization, and thought to be the creators of all life on the planet). While the game itself didn’t offer anything truly eye-popping, it did introduce us to an endearing cast of characters and a universe that had plenty of potential.
Just a short two years later, Jak and Daxter resurface. Where the first game pulled us in with the cast and setting, Jak II made improvements to the gameplay by leaps and bounds. The Eco mechanics take a backseat here, in lieu of the newly introduced gunplay (taking a page from friendly rival Ratchet and Clank’s book). The story has Jak and crew teleporting to Haven City, which is essentially the same place as the first game, only set several hundred years later. Scattered upon arrival, Jak is taken prisoner by Baron Praxis, the ruler of the dystopian township, and experimented on for two years before Daxter is able to break him free. Those experiments lead to a much darker, and vocal Jak. Yep, for the first time, Jak speaks. He also has an Incredible Hulk-ish side, as when he’s exposed to Dark Eco, he goes feral, leaving destruction in his wake. They end up in the middle of a revolution, joining the resistance in an attempt to dethrone Praxis. It may not sound like much at first, but the twists the story brings to the table are enough to keep things interesting from beginning to end.
Jak 3 hit store shelves in 2004, and pretty much expanded upon everything that Jak II brought to the table. Gunplay, racing, and even the Dark Jak form, all were evolved even further than that found in its predecessor. Taking place shortly after the events in Jak II, the story sees the heroes exiled from Haven City. The journey takes them even further into the Precursor mythos, eventually leading to the return of the mysterious creatures, as well as tying up all the story threads that had been exposed throughout the trilogy.
The first game may have been the weakest of the three, but the trilogy as a whole was fantastic, with the last two games making many ‘Best of’ lists for the PlayStation 2 generation. These were some of the “must play” games to come out of that era, so having them back for the PlayStation 3 is good news indeed. The visual polish compliments the already great looking series very nicely, and does well to keep the games from looking dated on today’s TVs.
If I had any complaint at all, it’s that this package is as bare as it gets. Consisting of only the three titles with their new coat of paint, it came as a bit of a shock not to find other goodies, such as trailers, artwork, or even some of the PSP spin-offs as unlockable extras. The fan service here is virtually non-existent, which is a great disappointment given how well loved these games are.
At about $13 each, it isn’t terribly hard to recommend Jak and Daxter Collection. Even though they don’t do their fans any favors in terms of extras, the games themselves are just as wonderfully solid today as they were during their heyday. If you haven’t played any of them, or if you are looking to revisit an old friend, give it a go. Sadly, if the nostalgia factor doesn’t do it for you, there’s little else here to justify your investment, especially if you still have the PS2 versions in your library.
Release date : 2012-02-07
Publisher : SCEA
Developer : Naughty Dog
Gameplay : Platformer
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