I’d love to walk away from this superb remastering of a series only cursing my naivety for planting a flag firmly in the Ratchet & Clank base from the start: instead I’m left shaking a fist angrily as I hit another pothole in an otherwise smooth and delectable journey. I feel like I’ve got more work to do to finish this trilogy off when it shouldn’t feel like work at all; had Mass Media worked with Naughty Dog to improve the core game along with the presentation, I’d call myself a complete convert and pull that flag out of the ground with gusto.
I can’t though because the key difference is that I found the issues with Ratchet & Clank far easier to pass off than the ones found in The Jak & Daxter Trilogy. This platform/adventure triad suffers from several gameplay design issues that have plagued an otherwise highly enjoyable experience.
My progress was halted by a point where I had to complete a section, one I couldn’t see myself completing any time soon. It’s certainly not down to inability I should add, instead inexperience with a particular weapon that the use of is fundamental to completion of this mission. I cannot skip this or return to it at a later point: all I could do is try my very best to struggle through the mission, which took more time and patience than I’d have cared to offer. The knowledge that half a game awaited for me upon completion further compounded my frustration yet I’d had prior with this series and that frustration turned apathy.
Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (the first – and best – of the three games in this trilogy) doesn’t have any of these infuriating progress-halting moments. The alarming shift in tone between this excellent game and its slightly less excellent sequels brought with it a similarly alarming gameplay reinvention. When the shift occurs after the beginning of Jak II: Renegade, the monumental layers-deep change in structure brings out these game design issues. The strong narrative – which on reflection is nothing less than we should now expect from Naughty Dog – framed the game design in the first game, but the world and story you became so enamoured with is suddenly left behind and everything feels dishearteningly different. There’s a distinct adjustment period and in learning to love the sequels you’ll take much more notice of the shortcomings.
Where The Precursor Legacy is a smooth, gratifying experience with little to falter your progress, Jak II and Jak 3’s huge change in sceneries and gameplay structure produced flaws that required more than just a buff and shine. The ambition to expand the Jak universe and introduce more complexities for its aging core audience is noticeable when you play the games back to back, but Naughty Dog dangerously shook up the formula while inducing a hefty dose of maturity. Guns and vehicles are introduced; Jak has dark Hyde-like powers bestowed upon him while Daxter becomes substantially more hot to trot; the colour palette for the sequels is best described as murky, a dire sense of brooding and moodiness introduced to a series that before was nothing less than full of colour and cheer.
The Precursor Legacy makes such good use of the upscale that has been offered, the vibrancy and charm the game has in spades given a superb touch-up to make the colours and smoothness of the animations all the more enveloping. Jak II and 3 do similarly benefit greatly from the remastering process but there’s only so much that can be done to give an overcast look a gloss. Regardless, the graphical difference between the original and the remastered versions is substantial for each of the three games on the disc and for many that will be all that matters.
There’s a huge amount of content here, each game guaranteeing at least eight hours worth of campaign with collectibles littering all environments. With these games considered to be some of the better platforming adventures the previous generation had to offer too, this tightly-packed package will ultimately be nothing short of a nostalgic bundle of joy for a whole host of people. If these games passed you by or you just weren’t a fan, the problems – be they the unavoidable progress-stalling missions that may produce game-rage moments, tiresome travelling sections found between mission finding and a camera control issue affecting a chunk of the combat sections – are there and can’t be ignored without wearing rose-tinted glasses.
Naughty Dog clearly took a huge risk with the series shake-up and they perhaps should be commended for their boldness but as a consequence of their decision we’re given an admirable but flawed trilogy. There’s no question that my extensive time with this collection hasn’t been rewarding – as a platforming fan I’ve had an absolute blast with the series when the games have been without fault – but the remastering process was purely aesthetic and that has just left us with nicer-looking nuisances.
Still, the crackerjack scripting and some truly inspiring puzzles remain rightfully untouched and this collection exhibits fine examples of addictive platforming, impressive game design and stellar storytelling. Jak and Daxter are a lovable duo – even when Jak is no more the silent protagonist and some of what Daxter says reminds me too much of Joe Pesci – and you can’t fault the faultless flowing dialogue that drives the story forth beautifully. The Jak & Daxter Trilogy is more fan service than a call for new players, but it’s an entertaining great-looking collection that makes damn good use of the generational leap.