Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy Review
Naughty Dog without a doubt packs some of the most creative squad of developers on the videogaming front. They've come to rival legendary developers such as Rare, Konami of Japan, and NeverSoft to every single extent. Naughty Dog started out small; two 16 year olds by the names of Jason Rubin and Andy Gavin. First came a weird Apple Mac skiing game, and then afterwards came a Panasonic 3DO game called "Way of the Warrior". After the demise of the Panasonic 3DO, Naughty Dog was signed by Sony to develop games for their console under Sony's publication. Here is where the Crash Bandicoot franchise was brought to life, and as they say, "the rest is history". Today, Naughty Dog is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony, as they were bought out by the console maker, and remains to be one of the most lucrative development teams in the industry. When Naughty Dog announced that they would no longer be developing Crash Bandicoot games, they added to the statement that they are building an adventure title of all adventure titles. This game is set to redefine the platforming/adventure genre like no other game has before. Touted as Project Y, Naughty Dog would keep their game extremely under wraps and wouldn't let a soul outside of the offices know about it, including the press.
Oozing in anticipation of things to come, Naughty Dog would tease me of their newest project by sending me cards with the figures of the two characters' shadows. Looking at the copyright material, I found out the name of this game is "Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy". The game would shortly debut at E3 and stun the press with its unbelievably vivid visuals. Naughty Dog's first PS2 project was gorgeous; on top of that it was an all-new kind of adventure game with free roaming environments. This is single-handedly the most open and diverse adventure atmosphere since Super Mario 64. To be frank, Jak and Daxter's freedom puts Mario's freedom to shame. In other words, Jak and Daxter's world does not consist of level portals that you have to enter. You've got one set environment that is continuous and has no "stages" or "levels," just progressive exploration, by land, sea and air. Jak and Daxter has finally seen the light of day in the US, and I couldn't be any happier with what Naughty Dog has delivered.
Visually, Jak and Daxter is an effervescent title that leaves almost nothing left to be desired for. Naughty Dog's skilled developers have done wonders at creating an evolving world that features various time of days, such as sun-light, afternoon, and night time, all in real-time. The polygonal environments are never redundant and feature nothing but the highest quality of texture designing. They are high resolution and silky smooth textures that I've only seen in games like Final Fantasy X, Metal Gear Solid 2, ICO and Devil May Cry. The worlds are truly lush! Screenshots do not justify the visual spectra of Jak and Daxter. To sum up the graphics in a sentence, I would have to say that: Jak and Daxter's world is like the perfect tropical juice; it's filled with vibrant colors and tastes sweet. Of course you can't taste color, but your eye certainly can -metaphorically speaking of course-. This game shimmers from some of the best landscape and background detail, it truly is a breathtaking feat to behold and witness. The landmass of Jak and Daxter's world is huge, but the draw-in distance remains unbounded. Despite being a continuous and progressive world, there is absolutely no sign of draw-in or pop-up. Climb a high structure and look around, even the farthest island can be seen! It's an extraordinary sight, something you're not common to find in future adventure games.
Jak and Daxter's character detail is superb, the details are all there, and the polygon counts are surely in the thousands. The motion animations for Jak are stunning and smooth! Running at a crisp 60 frames, the motions are well executed and feature a slew of detail not seen in an adventure game before. Jak's feet had been perfectly optimized for the analog sensitivity. The actual impact of his foot to the ground is perfectly coordinated with not only the sensitivity, but the footstep sound effect as well. He actually looks as if he's walking, and not moon walking. Jak and Daxter is certainly one of the most gorgeous, bright and vivid videogames to date. The sheer amount of detail is mind numbing, and at the same time so pleasing to look at because of the vivaciousness. Not even words can really describe the beauty of Jak and Daxter. These are some visuals that'll surely take a lot of effort to out do, whether it's an Xbox or GameCube title.
To make sure that this is downright the best damn adventure game ever; I took time and thoroughly replayed incredible adventure and platform games like Super Mario 64, Zelda 64, Ape Escape, Crash Bandicoot: Warped, and Sonic Adventure, in order to come down to the final conclusion that Jak and Daxter is hands down, the single best title of its kind. The gameplay is an extraordinary hybrid of traditional platform/adventure gameplay, a'la Super Mario 64 and Zelda 64, with elements of puzzle solving, reflex testing, humor and best of all fun. No other adventure game offers so much variety in a simple package. Jak and Daxter is a superb adventure game with an assortment of fantastic inclusions to adore. The gameplay as a whole is pretty much flawless. J&D features some of the most innovative aspects of exploration, as of course you are set on one massive environment, that has multiple levels of accessibility, time progressive environments (sun rise, sun set), and some overall excellent execution. Jak and Daxter is the ideal adventure game. It's incredibly entertaining, amusing, and is filled with a pleasant dose of lighthearted comedy. Jak and Daxter are best of friends, Daxter is the annoying, cowardly, and yet laugh out loud funny character, while Daxter is the brave, silent cliché type character (think Mario and Crash Bandicoot) who doesn't have time for words. Despite resembling a Dragon Ball Z character, Daxter is a very cool character with a nice set of moves to use against his enemies. Naughty Dog has retained the classic spin move, but Jak doesn't do it as ferociously as Crash used to do it. Instead he spins about twice and uses one of his legs. Aside from that, Jak is also able to roll (extend it to a Lion-like leap roll), punch, uppercut, high jump, double jump, hang off of ledges, do a head butt dive and more. Daxter is not a playable character in the game, as he is only present for comedic merit. But it is actually his role that really starts their adventure in the first place.
One day, Jak and Daxter were exploring a ruin they came across at Misty Island. Both of them found a pool of Dark Eco, and as soon as that happened an enemy approaches both of them. Jak attacks the enemy, and after he defeats it the explosion caused by the enemy sends him hurling backward hitting Daxter to his fall into the Dark Eco. A few seconds later he crawls out, only to notice moments later that he had been turned into an Ocel (a half Otter half Weasel, as Jason Rubin describes it). Both Jak and Daxter head off to see the Green Sage for his advice. What needs to be done to bring Daxter to his regular form once again? And so the journey begins here. Jak must initially collect 20 power cells in order to give them to Kiera (an accomplice of yours) so that she can power up her A-GraV Zoomer device for you to explore other islands with. You can find power cells scattered across the land, trade a certain amount of precursor orbs with various civilians, help out those in need of help, defeat a boss and etc. There are many ways to get power cells, but the aforementioned tend to be the most common. There are many things to collect in Jak and Daxter, such as the already established power cells and precursor orbs, as well red eco power ups, blue eco power ups and yellow eco power ups. The red eco is fire based that increases Jak's power and attacks. The blue eco increases Jak's speed, length of jump, can open locked doors that need to be activated by the blue eco's power, magnetically attracts precursor orbs that are around you (including in boxes), and allows for various structures to be utilized such as the electrical charged super jump pad. The yellow eco lets Jak shoot fireballs at enemies and also allows him to target them via first person view.
Jak and Daxter allows the gamer to explore lands on either a hover like craft called the A-GraV Zoomer, or a cute Chocobo-esque looking feathered friend "Flut Flut". If you become akin with Flut Flut, she will allow you to saddle up and ride her across the terrains or jump to generally out of reach areas. Naughty Dog had boasted about how smart the AI in J&D is, and indeed this game has the most realistic baddies around. They react to your presence, so if you are loud while approaching them, they'll spot you, otherwise if you tend to sneak up there's a chance they won't. It's the little things that make the gameplay so involving and not just run and jump. Jak and Daxter is able to perfectly separate itself from the crowd of today's generic platform/adventure titles such as Super Mario 64, Donkey Kong Country 64, Luigi's Mansion, and etc. As an adventure and platform game Jak and Daxter is right up there with the cream of the crop such as Ape Escape, Klonoa 2 and Zelda 64. There's a whole lot more to be said about what is certainly the best adventure game on a console or PC to date. Naughty Dog has sculpted a piece of software no other developer has been able to produce, and my hat goes off to Jason, Andy and the gang!
With visuals as lively as they are, surely you'd all expect to hear some of the best sound effects. That's exactly what Naughty Dog delivers! Jak and Daxter features some superb ambient sound effects, complete with individual footstep sounds for when Jak is walking on water, grass, soil or rock. Little details like that can be quite noticeable if you pay attention to them. The background sound effects also include bird chirpings, the sound of trees swaying through the air, and the water gently riding on to shore and back. This game makes fantastic use of the PS2's sound capabilities, as well as featuring excellent voice acting. With the usage of the DVD format, Jak and Daxter's voice acting is precise and never hesitant. Everything streams off of the disk flawlessly. Daxter, providing the comedic relief, has a very amusing voice that is ideal for any cartoon character. He is somewhat reminiscent of "The Lion King's" Timone. In fact, I'd say that the Naughty Dog crew drew some of its inspiration from the character and used it to create Daxter. The game's soundtracks work side-by-side with the environments, as the music plays accordingly and fittingly to your surroundings. If you're in a jungle area, a more jungle like beat will play, if you're around a tropical area, with a beach and whatnot, something more tropical and lively will play to accompany you on your journey, and it works like this throughout the game. Jak and Daxter's audio is every bit as pleasant as the game itself. It creates a deeper atmosphere, and makes the tropical and exotic settings seem more organic.
Moving around and exploring a game as huge as Jak and Daxter needs controls that are above bearable, not sewn together like a patch on a pair of worn out jeans. Naughty Dog has always done fantastic jobs with their control layout for all of the Crash games, especially Crash Team Racing. So it's no surprise that Jak and Daxter is indeed a fantastic controlling game that makes great use of the Dual Shock 2's sensitivity. Jak features many speeds of walking, all in full correlation with the left analog stick's position. As I stated earlier, J&D features a broad list of moves to do with Jak. The lay out of the buttons is perfectly done and shouldn't bother anybody the least bit. The Dual Shock is well supported, as it will rumble when necessary, including during moments where Jak's heart is pumping because of tension or excitement. To top it off, the right analog stick acts as the camera rotator, which can come in handy at times. Overall, tight controls with nothing to complain about.
In the end, there's only one way to conclude this review, and that's by simply restating the traits that make Naughty Dog's Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy the best adventure/platform game to date. No other adventure title will impress you as much as J&D does. No other adventure title features an atmosphere as gorgeous, as vibrant and as exuberant as J&D does. No other adventure game comes close to achieving the same level of detail in every single technological field of Jak and Daxter. The sound is crystal clear, as it features some fascinating ambient effects, incredible music and perfect voice acting. This game is jammed with replay value, as it'll take nearly 20 hours to complete with everything at your hand. Even after you've done that, you'll feel an urge to play Jak and Daxter through all over again. It's an addictive nature that this game possesses, as it sucks you in, almost like Super Mario Bros. 3 did. Playing Jak and Daxter, you'd better make note of the clock, because at times the minutes seem to just melt away. I've stated it numerously already, but there's no doubt in my mind that Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy is the best adventure/platform title across any console or any other piece of hardware. Make sure this incredible title is in your hands or hope it's under your tree come this Christmas, or somewhere around your Menorah around Chanukah time.
12/2/2001 Arnold Katayev