The PlayStation 2 was sort of the home for 3D action platformers, with the likes of Ratchet & Clank, Crash Bandicoot and Spyro The Dragon all finding multiple releases on Sony’s little box of wonders. I love you PS2, you were the best of us. While all three of those games have managed to transfer over to modern consoles, one franchise seems to have fallen by the wayside: Jak & Daxter.
The elf-looking human Jak and the whatever the hell Daxter became (an ottsel apparently), were an iconic staple of the PS2-era of gaming, but moving towards the PS3 and onwards, the duo have been conspicuous by their absence. We’re asking the question: will we ever see Jak & Daxter again?
The History of Jak & Daxter
Launched in 2001, Jak & Daxter: The Precursor’s Legacy was developed by Naughty Dog, who had already been responsible for the smash hit Crash Bandicoot series, which was still going strong by this point. Development for J&D began in 1999 under the codename “Project Y”, with Naughty Dog initially only assigning two programmers to the project. This was due to the company focusing development on Crash Team Racing at the time, with the full development team reaching 35 members by the time the game launched.
Jak & Daxter would grow to become a smash hit for Sony and Naughty Dog, scoring an average of 90 on Metacritic and managed to sell over two million copies by 2007 in just America alone. Naughty Dog were prepared to create a sequel to the game if the sales and reception of the first game warranted one, but after the near universal acclaim The Precursor’s Legacy received, Jak 2 entered production not long after the launch of the first game.
If Jak & Daxter was a cheerful platforming jaunt through some lovely environments, then Jak 2 was “Pixar does emo”. As was becoming commonplace at the time, with games like Prince of Persia, Sonic The Hedgehog and Tomb Raider, the early to mid 2000s introduced a lot of characters and games that skewed just a little bit darker and edgier. The processing power leap from PS1 to PS2 offered untold opportunities for vibrant worlds, and it was mostly used to render greys, blacks and the occasional purple. Fun.
Either way, Jak 2, which launched in October 2003, was a massive departure from the original game, opting for a darker storyline and world that saw the titular duo square up to an oppressive regime. Oh, and Jak could talk in this entry, and he could transform into an evil version of himself that was darker, more purple and grunted/said edgy stuff a lot. It all sounds silly in retrospect, though I distinctly remember teenage me thinking it was the coolest thing ever. Then again, I also said that about Shadow the Hedgehog. The character at least, not the game. Curse that game.
Still, the change of pace and scenery wouldn’t seriously hamper Jak 2 critically or commercially, as the game would go on to achieve an 87 on Metacritic, and would sell 1.57 million copies by 2007. Some critics did find issue with the game’s difficulty though, something that even one of the game’s developers, Josh Scherr, concurred with: “I think one thing everybody can agree on, though, is that that game is just way too fucking hard.”
The trilogy concluded, rather appropriately, with Jak 3 in 2004, which saw Jak and Daxter exiled to the deserts with plenty of dune buggies and Mad Max vibes. Jak 3 would be another winning entry in the franchise, achieving an 84 on Metacritic and reaching 1.23 million sales by 2007. Unfortunately, that would prove to be the last truly great traditional entry in the series, but there was life in the old girl yet.
After the launch of Jak 3, Naughty Dog followed the same path as they did with the Crash Bandicoot series by throwing out a racing game in the form of Jak X: Combat Racing in October 2005. Tacking on a story about the gang being poisoned, Jak X was designed to be the first game in the series to offer multiplayer, while expanding the driving elements that were introduced in the previous two games. Jak X wasn’t necessarily a bad game, but with a Metacritic of 76, it was a noticeable step down for the series.
While Naughty Dog focused on the racing game, Ready At Dawn were drafted in to create a spin-off focused on Daxter, simply named Daxter, which launched for the PSP in March 2006. The spin-off followed the loveable ottsel in the two years where Jak was imprisoned at the start of Jak 2. It’s been reported that Daxter sold over 2.3 million copies by June 2008, and it reached 85 on Metacritic, making it one of the best received games in the entire series.
What Happened To Jak & Daxter?
For the longest time, I’d assumed that the Jak & Daxter series kind of ended with Daxter on the PSP, but apparently that’s just not true. In November 2009, High Impact Games, a team of former Insomniac and Naughty Dog developers, launched Jak & Daxter: The Lost Frontier on PS2 and PSP, which honestly just sounds like the subtitle to an Indiana Jones movie.
Originally, Naughty Dog had planned on making a PSP exclusive Jak & Daxter game, but the developers were also making Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune at the same time, a series that would come to define Naughty Dog going forward. Uncharted launched in 2007 to nigh-on universal critical acclaim, with a sequel entering development pretty much immediately afterwards, so the development of a Jak & Daxter PSP game was passed over to High Impact Games.
Jak & Daxter: The Lost Frontier would go on to become the worst reviewed entry in the series, scoring a 71 on Metacritic. There were plenty of positive reviews and a lot to love for the game, but it was hardly as groundbreaking as the main trilogy of games, meaning it just sort of became forgotten about. The Lost Frontier was truly the game that disappeared along the way. It also doesn’t help that The Lost Frontier launched on PS2 and PSP in 2009, a few years after the PS3 had found its way into many gaming households.
In the meantime, Jak & Daxter have been used as somewhat of a Sony mascot across other exclusive games, though perhaps fans of the series would rather see a brand new game in the series. Both Jak & Daxter have appeared in the Ratchet & Clank series, along with fellow Naughty Dog games like Uncharted and The Last of Us. Jak & Daxter also appeared in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, and was a playable character/caddy combo in Everybody’s Golf 4, alongside Ratchet & Clank.
It’s also worth mentioning that Jak & Daxter even feature as a small cameo appearance in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, alongside other PlayStation and Insomniac mascots. When firing the Ryno-8 weapon, wormholes will randomly open up, pulling through different characters. It’s here where Jak & Daxter can appear.
Jak & Daxter would find their way to PS3 and PS4 via different remasters. The Jak & Daxter Collection, a remastered port of the first three games from Mass Media Games, launched in 2012 on PS3 and boasted 720p resolution at 60fps. Doesn’t sound too impressive, but this was the PS3 after all, back before no one got out of bed if it wasn’t 4K/60fps. Mass Media even ported the collection to the PS Vita a year later, marking the franchise’s only appearance on the handheld platform.
The Jak & Daxter Bundle would then emerge on the PS4 in late 2017 as emulations of original versions. The bundle, which included the original trilogy plus Jak X, would fall into the PS2 Classics section of the PlayStation Store, which should really be better supported as far as I’m concerned. That aside, Limited Run would also go on to release physical copies of both standard and collector’s edition versions of these games.
Will We Ever See Jak & Daxter Again?
Considering that Ratchet & Clank is still going strong almost two decades after it first launched, it’s possible we’ll see Jak & Daxter back again one day. There’s a diehard contingent of fans who would absolutely lap up a new game in the series, and the fact that the original trilogy is still playable on the PS4 and PS5 suggests there’s some value in the game’s formula. I mean, Ratchet is pretty much the same game as it was, and it’s still getting hugely positive reactions. I’m sure Jak & Daxter would garner similar reactions if it were to return.
Heck, Jak & Daxter even make a cameo in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, though that’s not necessarily a rousing endorsement that a new game is on the way. Fellow PlayStation mascot Sly Cooper also features in Ratchet & Clank, along with another Insomniac Games title, Sunset Overdrive, but it’d be shocking to see a new Sunset Overdrive game, let alone Jak & Daxter.
The question, as it often is in these little retrospectives, is whether or not there’s a will to revisit that well trodden ground. In the past, Naughty Dog have expressed interest in creating a new Jak & Daxter game before, but for various reasons, it hasn’t come to pass. In 2012, Naughty Dog co-founder Evan Wells confirmed in an interview that Naughty Dog were prototyping a new game.
“We’d all talked about it in interviews with fans asking, ‘Where’s the next Jak & Daxter?’ I don’t know if this is going to make them happy or sad, but we did explore the idea fairly extensively. Something that we talked about early on was, ‘Let’s go back and apply what we’ve learned with the Uncharted games to Jak & Daxter.’ It’s one of the franchises that’s near and dear to us and, in all honesty, we’d like to somehow honour.”
So why was the project cancelled? According to Evan, it just wasn’t up to standard: “Even if we felt like we were going to give the fans another Jak & Daxter, we felt we weren’t going to give them the game that they wanted. We would end up limiting the direction that the company had this passion for while simultaneously not creating the game that fans wanted. We just realised we were going to just do everybody a disservice. So at that point, the conversations started to move in a new direction.”
More recently in April 2021, Evan confirmed at a presentation as part of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Science’s Game Maker’s Notebook series, hosted by Insomniac’s Ted Price, that Naughty Dog would absolutely love to make a new Jak & Daxter game. In response to a question regarding fan campaigns for the beloved series, Evan Wells said:
“We do, in fact. We’ve had a couple of Twitter campaigns where people have been tweeting us every single day [saying] ‘I want a new Jak & Daxter, I want a new Jak & Daxter’, and they aren’t just simple 280-character tweets, they have Photoshopped memes and everything they’re including on a daily basis, and the effort has got to be significant. And I hate to break it to them, [but] we do not have Jak & Daxter here in development right now. But we still love the characters and I see what you guys [at Insomniac] are doing with Ratchet and that makes me wish that we did, and we would have one in development, because there’s still a lot of love for Jak & Daxter in the studio.”
Of course, Naughty Dog now is a completely different beast than it was back when they were developing the original series. Naughty Dog’s focus seems to be on huge, third person narrative action games like The Last of Us and Uncharted, which would mean a game like Jak & Daxter would be a massive departure for the developers. Considering the runaway success of those two franchises, diverting away from them to create a new Jak & Daxter kind of seems unlikely.
It remains to be seen whether or not the reaction to a game like Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart will warrant a re-exploration into Jak & Daxter as a franchise, but it’s clear there’s a huge demand to see the iconic duo team up once again. Even if it’s just a Crash/Spyro/Demon’s Souls-esque remake, I’d love to see it.
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