For a long time in gaming, platformers were a dominant genre. The 2D Mario games, most of the early Sonic games, and all sorts of franchises including Mega Man, Castlevania, and more, were names that illustrated how platformers were a force to be reckoned with, notably during the 90s and the early 2000s. This is especially so up until the sixth console generation, which was marked by Sony again warring with Nintendo after the successful introduction of the first Playstation, the arrival of the Xbox onto the console war scene, and Sega’s last console wars hurrah with the Dreamcast. During that generation, the Jak and Daxter series, a Sony franchise the first release of which was on December of 2001, was especially popular.
The Jak and Daxter series was a name that kept the idea of “mascot platformers” alive, despite the marked turn in tone that the games took after the first game. But fast forward to 2019, and we have not seen a new game from the franchise since Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier on the PSP. There was the Jak and Daxter Collection released for both PS3 and PSVita later. And then on the PS4, the first three games and JakX received a physical re-printing, alongside the games being made available digitally, but those aren’t new games. So since it’s been about a decade, we have to ask, especially with the wildly successful revival of the Crash Bandicoot series – what the hell happened to Jak and Daxter?
“Don’t step into the light, Jak and Daxter! DON’T STEP INTO THE LIGHT!”
The Jak and Daxter series is primarily a 3D platformer series. After Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon, though both not first party franchises, saw great success debuting on first Playstation, the Playstation 2 saw the introduction of both the Jak and Daxter series, and the Ratchet and Clank series as vibrant, fun, and unique platformers that would diversify the first party output for the Playstation 2. Naughty Dog, which worked on the first three Crash Bandicoot games (and would later go on to work on the The Last of Us and the Uncharted series, if you’re familiar with those,) developed the first three games and Jak X.
The first Jak and Daxter game would release a year after the launch of the Playstation 2. It was a colorful fantasy adventure, wherein a silent protagonist (barring some noises here and there, but no words) and his wise-cracking otter-weasel sidekick, try to prevent their world from being transformed by dark Eco, an evil version of Eco, a type of energy found throughout their world which governs life on their planet. The greater part of the game’s progress involves collecting Precursor Orbs and Power Cells, scattered about throughout the various levels that Jak and Daxter travel through.
The design of the game is such that players progress through world hubs which contain a varying number of levels each. The tone is mostly cartoony and uncomplicated. Given what Crash Bandicoot had “established” on the Playstation the generation prior, it’s fair to say that the first Jak and Daxter game was a worthy successor while creating its own identity as a franchise.
It’s important to establish and talk about the types of worlds traversed in and the tone of the first game, because as anyone who has played the second game will tell you, Jak II was a marked departure from the first title. After the villains of the first game are successfully defeated and their home world is saved, Jak and Daxter are invited by the Sage of Green Eco and his daughter to test a device that opens a portal. What starts out as a hopeful and ambitious experiment ends up separating the two heroes from the Sage and his daughter, and lands them in a strange world – Haven City, one that is far more industrialized than the lush Sandover Village that they are used to. Jak and Daxter are promptly locked up, and Jak is experimented on with Dark Eco, which radically transforms his personality into something much edgier than we previously knew, and also gives him a voice, which he didn’t have in the first game.
The second game introduces a gun with four different types of firearm modules and collectible ammo for each, and a Dark Jak transformation with its own set of combat skills. Haven City, the game’s main hub world, bustles with people and vehicles. However, the world of Haven City is patrolled by guards, who will take notice if the protagonists in any way slight them or attacks a citizen. Despite the departure in gameplay and tone, Jak II was a game that laid a foundation for further expanding the lore and story of the series in a way that although greatly complicated the plot, was still consistent, especially with revelations from later titles.
Jak 3 would not see any radical tone or gameplay changes as with the transition between the first and second title – rather, it was an evolution of the second game. The events of the ending of Jak II see Jak and Daxter cast out of Haven City, and left for dead in The Wasteland, a desert island. While the game starts out initially featuring missions and story progression taking place in The Wasteland and desert city of Spargus in The Wasteland, eventually Jak and Daxter find themselves returning to Haven City to correct the corruption that has overtaken it since the heroes’ exile, though Jak is none too pleased with the idea at first.
Jak 3 builds upon Jak II by introducing more gun modules and the Light Jak transformation. Jak 3 is notable as it answers many questions about the Precusors and Jak himself, and explains the contintuity of the franchise as a whole. It should be noted, however, that Jak 3 was not released in Japan, and that Jak II was the last Jakand Daxter game released until The Lost Frontier.
The end of Jak 3 is the conclusion of the “main trilogy” of the Jak and Daxter games. After Jak 3, Naughty Dog developed Jak X: Combat Racing. As if the similarities between the progression of the Crash Bandicoot and the Jak and Daxter series couldn’t be any more uncanny! With that said, Jak X featured a variety of race event types outside of the standard “Circuit race”, wherein competitors race to place first at the end of a set lap goal for a track.
The game also featured multiplayer racing both offline and online, and unlockable vehicles and characters which are found both in an in-game shop and a main adventure mode, following Jak and Daxter as they progress through the Kras City Grand Championship. It was a fun spinoff title that also celebrated the franchise’s history up to that point.
Shortly following Jak X is the spinoff title Daxter on the PSP. Daxter was meant to build off of the power of the Jak and Daxter brand to help launch the fledgling PSP a year after its release. The PSP Sony’s foray into portable gaming was a serious expression of a vision of games platforms as more general entertainment devices rather than being singularly designed for game-playing; a vision we certainly see as true today in modern gaming consoles. Daxter takes place in a period of time leading up to Jak II, as he has been struggling to rescue Jak after being separated from him.
The game was developed by Ready at Dawn, and was one of two Jak and Daxter games released for the PSP along with Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier, which was also released on the PS2. The Lost Frontier was developed by High Impact Games, and is chronologically the last game in the Jak and Daxter series and deals primarily with solving a worldwide Eco shortage along with the rise of a new Eco sage. Released three years after Daxter, it remains the last original Jak and Daxter release.
The ending of the Lost Frontier does leave an opening for a new Jak and Daxter game. That aside, 2012 would see remasters of the first three games released as the Jak and Daxter Collection for the PS3 and Vita. And, the first three games and Jak X would later be released digitally for the PS4, along with a limited physical printing of those games. But what of the future of the series? Naughty Dog, the primary developer associated with the Jak and Daxter series, has commented more than once on working Jak and Daxter. They expressed a degree of reservation with not working on The Lost Frontier themselves, and in an interview published in 2015, it was revealed that attempts at making another Jak and Daxter game didn’t align with their creative visions in the past several years, as their tastes then (and probably now) for realism and high-end hardware would result in the Uncharted series and The Last of Us games.
The aforementioned interview does suggest that Naughty Dog is willing to return to the franchise, but there’s not much commentary further than that. But throughout the past decade, Naughty Dog has been busy working on two very popular and very resource-intensive franchises in The Last of Us and Uncharted, and The Last of Us II is on its way. Naughty Dog had at one point planned for a new Jak And Daxter game – a reboot of the series, more visually grounded in realism, but they were disappointed with the result of their drafting and the idea was scrapped. There is only one possible hint of a Jak and Daxter sequel being in the works, and it’s a stretch – it dates back to a March 8th, 2018, tweet made by Jak’s The Lost Frontier voice actor, Josh Keaton, shown in motion-capture getup. It appears to some that the studio in which the tweet takes place is a Naughty Dog studio. But this speculation is still conjecture and there’s nothing to say it wasn’t for his work in another title, such as the recently released Marvel’s Spider-Man.
What can be said about the Jak and Daxter series at the moment is that there’s nothing positive indicating a sequel from any relevant personnel, and certainly no commitment to the idea – not even a “the doors are open and we are looking into it” type of statement. Naughty Dog frequently acknowledges that the fan desire for a new Jak and Daxter is great, but it never seems to align with their creative desires. This isn’t to say that another development team couldn’t work on a new game, but hints to that effect aren’t anywhere to be seen.
It’s clear that Sony certainly hasn’t forgotten about Jak and Daxter, what with the re-releases on PS3, the Vita, and for PS4, but it’s not at all clear that this will amount to a new game altogether. While Jak and Daxter is well-known as a fan favorite series, it’s not clear that there is a direction for a new game in the franchise, either. Thus, fans are left with little but to wait and see. What would you hope for in a new Jak and Daxter game – a sequel within the existing continuity, or a reboot? Do you think that the Jak and Daxter series needs to be revived? What are your experiences with the franchise? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section.