Despite lending their name to one of the best gaming trilogies, Jak & Daxter don’t enjoy the same all-star adoration as other PlayStation mascots. With the world still caught in an unfamiliar stasis, I found myself looking back, not forward, to those nostalgia-soaked days when 3D platformers were king. Back to when a pointy-eared lad and his Ottsel were PlayStation royalty.
I recently dusted off my childhood PS2 which, surprisingly, still runs like a dream considering it’s a two-decade-old piece of hardware. Having ploughed through the three games back-to-back, I’m happy to report that the Jak & Daxter trilogy still holds up remarkably well.
Jak & Daxter: the rise and fall
From its charming and colourful beginnings in The Precursor Legacy, to its decidedly more gritty and muted two sequels, the series boasts tight platforming and engaging exploration, well implemented vehicle segments, and simple but effective combat and gunplay with a variety of inventive weapons. It’s a great shame, therefore, that the two follow-ups to this universally beloved trilogy failed to carry on their legacy, with a decent, but uninspired racer, Jak X, and a lacklustre PSP title, Jak & Daxter: The Lost Frontier.
Related reading: Every Ratchet & Clank game ranked from worst to best
While these entries were competent, and I even had a good time with Jak X back in the day (think of a more edgy Crash Team Racing) – my teenage self was all over it. However, competent or not, I found myself wishing that Jak’s final adventure was a grander affair. Naughty Dog admitted themselves that they were disappointed with how the series had ended, having had to pass creative control over to High Impact games, who had the pedigree of having previously developed two Ratchet & Clank’s games for the PSP.
Sam Thompson, producer for Naughty Dog and Sony, said this of the final entry in the series:
At the time, it looked like [High Impact Games was] going to be able to do a pretty good job with it… I don’t want to say anything disparaging [of them], I like the guys at High Impact. But, if we had had to do it all over again, we would have done some things differently in the execution of The Lost Frontier. I’m not happy with that being Jak’s swan song. I think we could have done a lot better.
I would be inclined to agree. Though sadly, given Naughty Dog’s pivot to a less cartoonish oeuvre, with their Uncharted and The Last of Us franchises (which I love, don’t get me wrong), it does make the possibility of a Naughty Dog developed Jak & Daxter sequel seem extremely slim.
A legacy, forgotten
The last we saw of Jak & Daxter was the brilliant 2012 remaster for PlayStation 3 which was then later ported to the PlayStation Vita. The pair would feature as playable characters in Sony’s doomed Smash Bros. clone, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, too. More recently, Sony took a half-step in bringing the series to newer hardware by releasing those first three games, as well as Jak X, on PS4. However, to the frustration of fans, these were the original versions running through the system’s PS2 emulator.
With the recent success of Activision’s Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and Spyro Reignited Trilogy – combined with the fandom that surrounds just about every PlayStation exclusive franchise – there is hope that a remake of the Jak & Daxter trilogy isn’t completely out of the question. That said, development would need to be on a larger scale than Other Ocean Interactive’s 2019 MediEvil remake for PlayStation 4. I’m thinking of something similar to the 2016 Ratchet & Clank reboot. Then, similar to Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, we could see a Jak & Daxter sequel finally emerge follow the series’ resurrection.
Jak & Daxter for a new generation
But what would a Jak 4 look like, I hear you ask? Where would you go? What would be your mission? Spoilers ahead for Jak 3, though if you’re worried about being spoiled for a sixteen year old video game, you’re lucky to not have more important things to worry about.
With the end of Jak 3, we were treated to the revelation that our hero, Jak, was the long lost son of Damas, king of the wasteland city of Spargus. In his dying moments, Damas revealed that Jak’s birth name was in fact Mar, named for the legendary hero who protected the planet in aeons past, and founded Haven City, the sprawling metropolis of Jak 2 and Jak 3. In the final cutscene of the game, a throwaway line from Jak’s comrade Ashelin implied that Jak, given the time travel elements in the series so far, was in fact the original Mar himself!
Though it was never fully confirmed, and Jak refused the call to fulfil his destiny, I would love to see this explored in a sequel. The sound of a time travelling adventure, zipping back through different eras of the world of the Precursors, overseeing the building of Haven City, joining the Precursors in their many battles with the Dark Makers, sounds like a hell of a fun time to this long-time fan of the franchise.
It would be an opportunity to expand the setting and explore it, past and future, so much more deeply than in previous games, and would give us a chance for much more varied gameplay as we explore wildly different eras and levels of technological advancement. I’m sure as well that there would be plenty of opportunities to bring back previous friends and enemies, perhaps amplify a previous threat by granting them the power of time travel too.
Or perhaps it would be the time for a reboot or a complete reimagining. Concept art emerged of a more realistic, less cartoonish take on the characters and world, which would be an interesting take, and with Naughty Dog’s experience on that front, I’m sure they would knock it out of the park. I for one would love to see more of Jak & Daxter’s world, its unexplored history and lore. In general, a resurgence of the collect-athon platformer, in this day and age, would go down extremely well if Sony were able to hand this lofty project to one of their prestige studios.
But what do you think? Would you like to see a Jak & Daxter sequel or reboot? If so, what form would you like to see it take?