The Jak and Daxter series is a video game franchise created by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. Although originally and primarily developed for the PlayStation 2, other games have been developed for the PlayStation Portable by other developers, namely Daxter by Ready at Dawn and The Lost Frontier by High Impact Games. Additionally, the original trilogy was remastered for the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita by Mass Media. In 2017, emulation and trophy support was announced for the original trilogy and Jak X: Combat Racing on PlayStation 4, for release later that year.
The series is regarded as one of the most defining and innovative franchises for the PlayStation 2 era, and is among Sony Interactive Entertainment's most successful intellectual properties.
The games in the franchise span a variety of genres, primarily centered upon open world action adventure, with elements of platforming, brawling, racing, and shooting within a science fantasy setting. One notable element throughout the series is a lack of loading screens, using seamless transitions within its open world environments, one of Naughty Dog's paramount goals in early development. The plot arc focuses on a human character named Jak and his ottsel sidekick Daxter, who are intertwined in an adventure involving the mystical Precursors.
Gameplay throughout the main series focuses on platforming with a basic move set, including jumping, rolling, and various melee attacks. Aside from melee attacks, such as spin kicking and punching with a lunge, from Jak II onwards, a weapon on which various mods can be attached provide a wide array of weapons. In Jak II and Jak 3, this was the Morph Gun, though in The Lost Frontier, Jak used the Gunstaff instead, while in Daxter, Daxter used the spray gun. The playable character can take only a few hits before death, after which they return to the latest checkpoint with no other consequences, other than occasional, short death dialogue.
In addition to platforming and melee combat, driving and racing segments are a prominent feature, as the characters drive various vehicles and creatures. The types of vehicles used change between installments and are utilized to traverse larger environments or tackle a specific task. The most common vehicle used is the zoomer, a reasonably fast hovercar-like vehicle. The series also makes use of animal mounts, such as flut fluts and leapers, as well as all-terrain buggies and airships. In Jak II and Jak 3, Jak used the JET-Board, a hoverboard-like device. Race cars were used in Jak X: Combat Racing, a game which deviated from the typical franchise gameplay and focused solely on racing.
Eco of various colors are a common element in the gameplay as well as the plot and serve specific purposes. These provide different abilities to Jak or serve as the ammunition base for his weapons. Dark and light eco also allow Jak to take on different forms which he can use at will, namely Dark Jak and Light Jak, respectively. Green eco is provided throughout the game to heal the player.
The games sometimes involves button-based minigames. These come in various forms, and some are based on real-world games, such as the Pac-Man-style eco grid game, or the Whac-A-Mole-based Metal Head Mash.
The series is set on an unnamed planet which was created by the mythological Precursors. The main population consist of humans, which have noticeable elf-like ears. Many other sapient, articulate species are known to inhabit the planet, notably ottsels, moncaws and lurkers. Many animals are hybrids of different real-world animals, while others are still inspired by real-world animals but unique to the setting, and many animals are members of larger species such as lurkers and metal heads.
The world, created by the Precursors, often features many gold-like Precursor artifacts, with the most notable being Precursor orbs and power cells. The world features many science fiction elements, such as the cyberpunk and steampunk-influenced setting of Haven City and many Precursor artifacts. The technology of the universe is not completely consistent, with many areas more developed than others, although hovering zoomers and eco-powered equipment are a common feature.
With the exception of The Precursor Legacy, which in the timeline is set in the past relative to other installments, the series has a notably dystopian setting, with a theme being that there are no more "heroes", with Jak being the last left. Human civilization struggles to survive in a world following the exhaustive Metal Head Wars, which resulted in the destruction of Precursor civilization. Additionally, they inhabit the aftermath of a struggle between the Precursors and the Dark Makers, the former of which were former Precursors corrupted by dark eco. The remaining human civilizations only know survival and have been protected by heroic figures, such as Mar, the founder of Haven City. Many of the locations, such as the slums, feature poor living conditions, or notable corruption. Several human characters are villainous, such as the manipulative Baron Praxis or the crime-boss Krew, with even the good characters being morally ambiguous and ruthless (often beginning hostile to Jak), such as Ashelin Praxis, Torn, Damas and Sig. This is still felt even in the aftermath of the Metal Head Wars, as the characters and locations Jak encounters are similarly filled with corruption and tyranny.
The plot of the games begins with The Precursor Legacy, a much lighter-hearted game and story. The plot focuses on Jak, Samos Hagai and Keira Hagai as they gather power cells to travel the world in search of a cure for Daxter, who has been transformed from a human to an ottsel by dark eco. Following The Precursor Legacy, the games took on a much darker, grittier tone.
In Jak II, Jak travels on the rift rider through the rift gate acquired at the end of The Precursor Legacy, in which he arrives in Haven City, and then is kidnapped by the Krimzon Guard and forced to participate in the Dark Warrior Program, in which he is experimented on. Jak is the only test subject who survives, but escapes with the help of Daxter, and fights for revenge against Baron Praxis, but soon learns more about the world he is now trapped in and fights against the Metal Head armies who have ravaged it. In Jak 3, Jak, Daxter and Pecker are cast out from Haven City, only to be discovered by Damas with the help of Ashelin, and forced to prove their worth to Spargus in order to survive, but must then fight the war for Haven City between the Freedom League, Metal Heads and KG Death Bots.
Following Jak 3, the next three releases took on less of an overarching plot. In Jak X: Combat Racing, Rayn invites Jak, Daxter, Samos, Keira, Torn and Ashelin to the reading of Krew's last will. They soon learn that Krew has poisoned the drinks he gave them, and in order to receive the antidote, they must race for Krew's team against Mizo's in the Kras City Grand Championship. Daxter details the events prior to Jak II, in which Daxter in Haven City is approached by Osmo to join Kridder Ridder and fight against the Metal Bugs, while looking to find Jak and free him from the Krimzon Guard. The Lost Frontier sees Jak, Daxter, and Keira fly in an airship to Brink Island - the part of the world the Precursors did not finish - to find out how to solve its eco shortage, in which they become involved in the conflict between Aeropa and the Sky Pirates.
- Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (2001)
- Daxter (2006)
- Jak II (2003)
- Jak 3 (2004)
- Jak X: Combat Racing (2005)
- Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier (2009)
All games were published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. Of the games, only The Precursor Legacy, Jak II and Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier were released in Japan, though all were released in North America and Europe. Jak 3 was also released in Korea. Daxter and Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier were developed by Ready at Dawn and High Impact Games respectively, while the rest of the games were developed by Naughty Dog.
In 2017, it was announced that the original three PS2 titles plus Jak X: Combat Racing would receive emulation and trophy support as separate, individual digital downloads for the PS4 later that year.
- Jak and Daxter Collection (2012)
The only compilation released for the series has been the Jak and Daxter Collection, released for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. Mass Media ported it to both platforms in North America and Europe.
The Jak and Daxter series has not received any major releases in media outside of games, although there was a release of a movie DVD based on the cutscenes in the games. The Jak and Daxter: Trilogy release was a bonus disc given out by Sony Computer Entertainment in a special promotion. The 90 minute features cutscenes and footage from the games, with cinematic narration provided by Daxter. It also features a behind-the-scenes look at Jak X: Combat Racing, a fully playable demo, developer interviews, and footage of Daxter game on the PSP.
Naughty Dog had originally learned of the existence of the PlayStation 2 during development of Crash Bandicoot: Warped, though production initially began by two programmers during development of Crash Team Racing. The goal for the developers was to create a seamless open world environment without load-screens, with a greater size and scope for the environments, and were set on creating a third person open world action-adventure game. The new hardware, larger budget and larger team sizes made many of these things possible, and allowed the team to deviate from and go beyond their previous Crash Bandicoot series as far as technical capabilities were concerned. A new engine was specifically developed for the game, using a programming language known as GOAL, which was only used for the Jak and Daxter series.
When conceptualizing the game, it was planned for it to be fully interactive with a narrative throughout. The characters were designed to have an appeal to both Western and Eastern audiences, with Japanese anime-styled artwork, and Jak's South African name as notable examples. The animations and narrative largely took inspiration from Disney, in addition to Western cartoons and Japanese manga, which largely led to the animated approach to the series conceptually. Meanwhile, gameplay-wise, many influences for the original game included games such as Donkey Kong Country, Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie, in terms of free-roaming gameplay.
Concepts for the games changed drastically for Jak II when the developers began to play recent hit game, Grand Theft Auto III, and the teams had the idea of creating a game similar in scope, driving their ambition further. This was also the time when the developers pushed for a more cinematic narrative, with the music synchronizing with the cutscenes on screen, and writing the games much more like movies. This approach was continued with Jak 3, which had been inspired by Smuggler's Run. When moving onto Jak X: Combat Racing, the game was designed specifically to "give [Naughty Dog] some breathing room", as a stop-gap in between the end of the PlayStation 2's life and the beginning of the PlayStation 3. After this game, the team moved on to their new IP, the Uncharted series.
Subsequent games were developed by other companies. Daxter was developed as the first game by Ready at Dawn. Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier had originally been planned as a PlayStation Portable exclusive to be developed by Naughty Dog, with the team developing a narrative and several cutscenes. The game was canceled when the developers could no longer sustain development alongside Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, and their PSP development team was scrapped. Development was later picked up by High Impact Games, though Naughty Dog have since regretted it, saying they would have done things differently.
|The Precursor Legacy||90.22%||90|
|Jak X: Combat Racing||77.01%||76|
|The Lost Frontier||72.84%||71|
67.64% (PS Vita)
67 (PS Vita)
The Jak and Daxter series has consistently garnered critical praise, with only two games reaching a Metacritic score below 80 (Jak X: Combat Racing and Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier). Its most critically acclaimed game has been The Precursor Legacy, though other games have also been received well across the board. Many games have been featured very highly in lists of the best games released for the platform. IGN listed Jak 3 as the 17th best PlayStation 2 game released, while GamesRadar listed The Precursor Legacy as the 20th best and Complex listed The Precursor Legacy as 27th best.
The series has received criticism in many aspects. The dramatic change from The Precursor Legacy to Jak II has been seen by many critics to be unnecessary, as pushsquare.com noted that the "change in direction was divisive at the time, and it still proves a little jarring today", adding that "Naughty Dog tries hard to make the change in direction believable, but it all comes across as a bit cynical." Furthermore, The Lost Frontier received a poorer critical response than other releases, with IGN stating "the empty environments, camera issues, and repetitive nature of some of the battles ding the game to the point that I can't give it a glowing recommendation.", adding "There's fun to be had here, but it could've been polished a bit more to bring out the value."
However, the series has overall been reflectively viewed as a high point for the PlayStation 2. Eurogamer reflectively declared that the "Jak and Daxter series may not be as solid a platformer as Sly Cooper and its gunplay isn't as refined as Ratchet & Clank's - but in terms of ambition, invention and grandiosity, it remains leagues above its last-gen platforming brethren", implying it was the best of the three major platforming series on the system. They further commented that the series "remains a fascinating document of the evolution of the action adventure; its heroes are unstuck in time, without a genre to call home. No series has been so willing to switch gameplay styles with such reckless abandon, and [the series] represents a shining example of what happens when a capable developer takes a huge risk."
IGN declared that the original series, "represents the height of Naughty Dog's considerable production values on the PS2". Game Informer have said "the series was driven by a restless sense of innovation", and praised the developer's work in this franchise [for creating] great characters, finely tuned gameplay, and an unceasing inventiveness", feel the games "stand up as epic adventures". WatchMojo.com, similarly, listed The Precursor Legacy as the 6th best 3D platformer released, declaring the game's open world "is filled with enough collectibles to please anyone's inner completionist, and features an abundance of personality".
Daxter, similarly, has often been listed among the best PSP games. IGN listed it as the 25th best game released, calling it a "smart platforming with a healthy dose of humor". WatchMojo.com listed it as the 10th best, stating that even "the minigames are still a blast".
The series holds seven places in the Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition, including award First Seamless 3D World in a Console Game for The Precursor Legacy. Daxter also won the award for Original Game Character of the Year at the Game at the Developers' Choice Awards in March 2002. Jak II won IGN's Editor's Favorites award in 2003.
The series has sold well commercially, and has overall sold 12 million copies worldwide, making it among the best-selling video game franchises. The Precursor Legacy also won a Gold Prize for selling 500,000 units in Japan. Each game in the series has qualified for Greatest Hits status, showing it has sold more than 1 million copies in the US.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Rising to Greatness: The History of Naughty Dog, page 10 (4 October 2013). IGN. Colin Moriarty. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Interview with Naughty Dog staff (26 December 2001). PSXemtreme. Arnold K (SolidSnake). Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Behind the Classics: Jak and Daxter (August 24, 2012). PlayStation. Fred Dutton. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ Rising to Greatness: The History of Naughty Dog, page 12 (4 October 2013). IGN. Colin Moriarty. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ Rising to Greatness: The History of Naughty Dog, page 13 (4 October 2013). IGN. Colin Moriarty. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ The Precursor Legacy GameRankings GameRankings. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ The Precursor Legacy Metacritic Metacritic. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ Jak II GameRankings GameRankings. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ Jak II Metacritic Metacritic. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ Jak 3 GameRankings GameRankings. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ Jak 3 Metacritic Metacritic. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ Jak X: Combat Racing GameRankings GameRankings. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ Jak X: Combat Racing Metacritic Metacritic. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ Daxter GameRankings GameRankings. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ Daxter Metacritic Metacritic. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ The Lost Frontier GameRankings GameRankings. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ The Lost Frontier Metacritic Metacritic. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ Collection PS3 GameRankings GameRankings. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
- ↑ Collection PS Vita GameRankings GameRankings. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
- ↑ Collection PS3 Metacritic Metacritic. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
- ↑ Collection PS Vita Metacritic Metacritic. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
- ↑ 22.0 22.1 IGN Top 25 PlayStation 2 games (14 November 2008). IGN. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ GamesRadar Best PS2 Games GamesRadar. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑  Complex. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ Pushsquare Jak and Daxter collection Review (7 March 2012). pushsquare.com. Sammy Barker. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier Review (November 5, 2009). IGN. Greg Miller. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ EuroGamer Jak and Daxter Trilogy Review (16 February 2012). EuroGamer. Jeffrey Matulef. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ Game Informer Jak and Daxter Collection Review (7 February 2012). Game Informer. Matt Helgeson. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ WatchMojo.com Top 10 3D Platformers@4m30s (11 June 2015). YouTube. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
- ↑ IGN Top 25 PSP games (28 December 2011). IGN. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ WatchMojo.com Top 10 PSP Games@0m35s (7 October 2014). YouTube. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ 32.0 32.1 Naughty Dog Timeline Naughty Dog. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ IGN 2003 Editor's Favorites (15 December 2003). IGN. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
- ↑ PlayStation website Jak search results PlayStation. Retrieved October 3, 2015.