Before the days of massive explosions, high octane action, incredible set-pieces, zombies, remarkable narrative style, and emotion filled characters; Naughty Dog was known for their talking animals, weird elf-ish creatures, and creative, colourful, and cartoony platforming games.
Yes a lot has changed for the company, and most of you probably only know them for their “Uncharted” series, and of course their transformative and dare I say, “masterpiece” of a game known as “The Last of Us.” But if you’re a little older then you will definitely remember the days of hearing that weird yipping noise that ‘Crash’ made each time you jumped. And if you’re like me, you will remember spending countless hours finding those damn Precursor Orbs in ‘Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy.’
The Jak & Daxter series is easily one of my favourites of all time, with my favourite entry being ‘Daxter’ for the PSP. I loved each game to it’s core and remember being in awe when booting up ‘Jak 2’ for the first time on my PS2. Seeing how it was my first game for the console, I was blown away by the graphics, the narrative, and overall gameplay. It was the first time where I felt truly immersed into a video game world. So I went back and played the first one, and then finished off my journey with the third. After a few years later my grandpa bought me a PSP for my birthday, and I instantly went the next day to Gamestop and picked up ‘Daxter,’ which to this day still holds up on my top 5 games of all time. As the years passed and games became more versatile and immersive with their incredible worlds and 3D landscape, it seemed that the style of games like the ‘Jak’ series were no longer being made. Naughty Dog had moved on to bigger projects like ‘Uncharted.’ Sure Nintendo were still at it with their classic IP’s like ‘Mario’, but something always resonated with me with the ‘Jak’ games, whether it was the characters, the level design, the gameplay, or all of the above, it simply did something right that constantly reminded me of why I loved playing video games.
And although I completely agree that games have evolved incredibly over the years and would also argue that we are currently at the “pinnacle of gaming,” I still miss ‘Jak & Daxter.’ I wondered if it was simply nostalgia, and so I went and picked up the HD collection for my Vita. And although the collection had a lot of bugs, a fair amount of lag from time to time, odd button mapping, and overall lack of polish compared to the original titles; I still thoroughly enjoyed the games, and not simply because of nostalgia. So, let’s stop rambling and ask the question that every ‘Jak’ fan like myself have been asking for years, “Is Naughty Dog going to make a new ‘Jak & Daxter’?”
It has been known that the developers were working on a possible reboot for the franchise a few years back. They had writers thinking about a plot for the game, artists drawing concept character models alongside level design. I mean looking at the concept art was enough to get me all giddy:
Images from: http://jakanddaxter.wikia.com/wiki/Jak_4
However, during this early process, the developers came to what seemed to be a creative halt with the game. Because they wanted to come up with a “more realistic, more contemporary approach,” it ended up being so that they realized the characters, previous storylines, and everything that made up the previous games were far too different than what they were thinking of doing. So the dilemma became so that:”If we stuck to the constraints of the already established world, would we be happy with the type of game we were about to make?” and “If we diverged too greatly from those constraints to tell the type of story we wanted to tell, were we actually making Jak and Daxter anymore?” (http://jakanddaxter.wikia.com/wiki/Jak_4)
So this obviously led them to shift gears and make a completely new IP, which we now know as ‘The Last of Us.’ Now, am I angered that they made that instead of ‘Jak 4’? Of course not. ‘The Last of Us’ easily holds up as being one of my favourite titles of all time, and has been a transformative and even life changing experience. It’s an absolute work of art. Am I, however, saddened that my childhood crush never got a new look for the new generation of console gaming? Definitely. I’m pining for this game.
Now don’t lose hope. Eric Monacelli, a community strategist at Naughty Dog has recently stated that:
“We tend to work on one game at a time. Uncharted 4 is what everybody’s working on. After that, we’re going to be working on Uncharted 4 DLC. Beyond that, there’s been tons of ideas bandied around – everybody knows the rumour about The Last of Us 2. There could potentially be – who knows? We could go back to Jak and Daxter 4 if it seems right, or there could be something else in the future on our horizon. We tend to work with an idea always on the board and then once we have time to devote the right amount of attention to it, then we’ll tackle it.”
That doesn’t really give a solid hope for a future installment of our goatee rocking elf and his witty, back-talking ‘Ottsel.’ But as he said, “who knows?”
So all we can do now is hope, pray, and blast everyone at Naughty Dog on Twitter about having our odd pair of pals come to fruition.
This topic does, however, lead to a another question that’s been asked quite around the games industry both by gamers and journalists alike. The question is, “Do we need games like this to happen?” We all know that nostalgia plays a massive role when coming to entertainment. It’s that word alone that keeps a company like Nintendo afloat. And with the constant ‘remasters’ and ‘remakes’ and ‘reboots’ and ‘re-whaterverthehell’ we’ve seen this generation of gaming, it begs the question of, “Do we really need another reboot?” Of course my answer is always going to be, “Hell yes!” when it comes to anything ‘Jak & Daxter’ related, but I do understand that many people simply want old ‘classics’ to stay in the past and for developers to only focus on new IP’s instead of wasting resources on reviving old ones. Which is something I completely understand. Some journalists are even quite vocal about this topic, one in particular was speaking about the existence of ‘Jak 4’ itself. Colin Moriarty (Former Senior Editor at Ign.com) said on his new show, “P.S: I Love you” that, and this is not a direct quote but rather the gist: “It would be crazy if Naughty Dog made ‘Jak 4.’ That would be one of the craziest and stupidest things to happen in gaming. We don’t need a new ‘Jak & Daxter.'”
Ouch. Clearly he doesn’t share the same passion as I alongside many others do; but at the same time I understand where he’s coming from. We’re already getting Jak’s smaller cousin, ‘Ratchet & Clank’ – heck those guys are even getting a movie alongside a remaster of their original game (which, by the way, looks incredible). So is it just all too much? Should Naughty Dog really invest their time and efforts into rebooting a franchise that already has 5+ games to it’s name? I feel like even the company is thinking about this when revisiting the franchise. I’m sure each time they sit down, it’s hard for them to come up with anything seeing all the stuff that has already been introduced. On top of that don’t forget the amount of pressure they’ll have on their shoulders knowing how much hype this would accumulate if they were ever to make this announcement. So, is it worth it?
For me, I think so. I don’t feel that the ‘Jak’ series has shown all it can do. We never even saw a new title come for the PS3, whereas ‘Ratchet & Clank’ saw multiple. I’m not a game developer, and can only imagine how much work this would take, but if Naughty Dog really did go through with making this, I think they could make an incredible game having learned from all their astounding work from ‘Uncharted’ and ‘The Last of Us.’ They could really implement some of the things they’ve learned and add them to a complete reimagination of ‘Jak & Daxter.’ Make it darker, make it massive, make it completely different while still holding the same characters and that same wonder we got from playing the original titles.
What do you think? Should they make a new ‘Jak & Daxter’? What would you want from it? Let us know in the comments below!