Sony brings the Jak and Daxter Collection into the HD era.

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by TRACY-MARK GORGAS / Special contributor to NWCN.com

NWCN.com

Posted on March 16, 2012 at 3:17 PM

Updated Sunday, Oct 13 at 4:53 PM

Let's take a trip to December 2001.  Mary J. Blige had the number 1 song, "Family Affair," and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" ruled the box office.  The PlayStation 2 was barely a year old in America and developer Naughty Dog was releasing what they hoped would be their next big series, Jax and Daxter: the Precursor Legacy.
 
Jak and Daxter would indeed become a hit series for Naughty Dog, who would go on to develop four Jax and Daxter titles, the last being 2005's Jak X: Combat Racing.  They would move on to develop the even more successful Uncharted series for the PlayStation 3.  Which brings us to 2012 and the release of the Jak and Daxter Collection, the three core titles remastered in HD for the PlayStation 3.

Story

The three core titles (Jax and Daxter: the Precursor Legacy, Jak II and Jak 3) are connected through their characters and settings; each story stands as an individual to the overall arc.

In Jax and Daxter: the Precursor Legacy Daxter is accidently turned into an ottsel (a hybrid of a weasel and an otter) by a pool of dark eco.  In order to turn him back to normal Jak and Daxter journey to find Gol Acheron a powerful sage.  Along the way they find out that Gol has been turned evil by dark eco and captured the other great sages in a plan to cover the world in dark eco.  In the end they defeat Gol and Daxter gives up his chance to be returned to normal to save the world.

Jak II finds Jak and Daxter helping out in a study of the Precursor Ring that was found at the end of Jax and Daxter: the Precursor Legacy.  When activated they are flung 500 years into the future landing in Haven City.  There they find out the city is under control of Baron Praxis who is at war with creatures called Metal Heads.  Jax is captured and put in prison where he is subjected to experiments with dark eco.  Two years later Daxter is finally able to break Jak out of prison.  They join  an underground movement to fight against Baron Praxis who is killed by Kor, the man who posed as the leader of the underground movement and leader of the Metal Heads .  Eventually they end up fighting against Kor and defeating him.

Jak 3 find Jax and Daxter exiled to the wastelands by Count Veger for supposed "crimes" against Haven City.  In a flashback the Metal Heads, who were thought to have been defeated at the end of Jak II,  along with rouge Krimson Guard Robots attack Haven City, dividing it into three sections.  In the wastelands Jak and Daxter find themselves in the city of Spargus.  There, the king of Spargus, Damas, has them do various missions to repay the debt of saving them.  During one of the missions Jak is asked to come back and save Haven City from the Metal Heads.  Eventually they start to encounter creatures called Dark Makers, they are from a spaceship that is in route to the planet.  To stop the spaceship Jak and Daxter must journey to the planet's core and activate a planetary defense system.  Eventually they defeat Errol, leader of the Metal Heads, the Krimson Guard Robots and the Dark Makers to save the planet.

Controls and Gameplay

Largely the Jak and Daxter series was primarily an action platformer style game series with all the trappings of defeating monsters, puzzles, and collecting items, specifically Precursor Orbs.  Starting in Jak II the introduction of the "Morph Gun" replaced the different colors of eco with their various powers for Jak.  The Morph Gun would be expanded upon even further in Jak 3 with even more uses.  For the HD remakes none of the controls or gameplay were changed.  Those parts of the games were ported straight across, preserving their characteristics.  Including a slightly frustrating "opposite control" between the normal camera view and the first person view in Jax and Daxter: the Precursor Legacy (I'm an inverted control person).

Graphics and Sound

Here is where a everything gets changed.  The graphics retain their bright cartoon look, but are brought up to full 720p HD quality.  So while they might contain a slightly "dated" look they are crisp and clean on your HDTV with nary a "bad jaggy" in sight.  As a bonus, if your HDTV is 3D capable, you can play all three in 3D HD.

The audio remains largely unchanged, though it is also upgraded to Dolby Pro Logic II.

Overall

While Naughty Dog did make a name for themselves on the original PlayStation with the Crash Bandicoot series, the Jak and Daxter series would cement their reputation as a AAA company.  The Jak and Daxter series did so well on the PlayStation 2 that all three titles would be eventually added to the Greatest Hits series signifying at least 400,000 copies sold (to date Jax and Daxter: the Precursor Legacy alone has sold over 2.01million copies).
 
After the complete removal of PlayStation 2 backwards compatibility  Sony started looking at doing HD remaster upgrades of many of their more successful PlayStation 2 games.  The Jak and Daxter series was an easy choice.

When it first came out in 2001 I found myself frustrated by some of the game mechanics.  In 2012 I find playing through Jak and Daxter pretty easily.  I guess my game skill has evolved a bit.  This is not to say the games are easy, they do have their challenges.  Gamers familiar with the titles should find themselves right at home with them.  Additionally for fans, both old and new,  you can now earn PlayStation Trophies for all three titles on the PlayStation Network.

I had only one problem playing these HD remasters, during Jax and Daxter: the Precursor Legacy the game froze on me once.  Other than that they played just fine.

For a classic series that already has proven itself I find it hard to actually give it a score out of 5.  It's sold millions, it's beloved by many and really it's just a look back at legacy of Naughty Dog who at this point have put out three different AAA quality series.  In fact you could say that the Jax and Daxter series is their transition point from platformer cartoon games to the more adult adventure of the Uncharted series.  If I really have to give it a score then it would be a 4.5 out of 5, but really I recommend the Jak and Daxter Collection to anyone that enjoys a solidly built game series.

The Jak and Daxter Collection is rated E for Everyone - T for Teen for Comic Mischief, Mild Language, Mild Violence, Suggestive Themes by the Entertainment Software Review Board (ESRB).  The Jak and Daxter Collection is available now exclusively for the PlayStation 3.  For more information see the Jak and Daxter Collection web site.

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