Except for maybe adamantium, few things can compete with hardness of a nostalgia boner. The Jak & Daxter games have always injected heavy doses of nostalgia into me, but the first entry was special because it was the introductory game that graced my PS2. Things have changed though. Over ten years have passed and I no longer own a PS2 and the gaming scene is quite different as a whole. I guess everything hasn’t changed because Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy HD is as fun as it always was.
Jak is an elf-man within a fantastical, colorful world inhabited by others just as whimsical as he. Well, not everyone shares this grace, mainly his pal Daxter. Jak and Daxter’s inability to listen to Samos the Sage’s advice combined with Daxter’s clumsiness leads to an untimely encounter with Dark Eco, a dark and life-altering substance that sounds a bit like black tar heroin. Anyway, since Daxter has been transformed into an orange furry being known as an Ottsel after falling into a pool of the harmful liquid, they must seek help from Gol and Maia, the only people with extensive knowledge on the purple sludge. Contact with Gol and Maia has been lost which not only sets them off on their journey, but adds a layer of intrigue on top of it.
These were the years before Naughty Dog nearly perfected their storytelling craft with the Uncharted series, but Jak & Daxter shows early signs of the strengths Nathan Drake and the crew exhibit. Even though the story is pretty standard (except for the ending, which is pretty great), the writing is sharp and witty for the whole cast, even if the world feels a little lonely. Daxter has some pretty funny one-liners and Samos knows exactly how to be a word of advice without sounding too nice. Jak hasn’t found his voice yet, but his animations and facial expression do all the necessary work for developing a personality. Jak is still the prime role model for silent protagonists.
Animations for Jak are noteworthy, but every other thing that moves is astonishingly smooth as well. Before motion capture was a process in almost every game, beautiful hand animation took center stage. No other game makes that more apparent than Jak & Daxter. Characters are so overly expressive with their emotions as if to brag about Naughty Dog’s talent for fluid animation. Conversations are never wooden and boring due to this coupled with the great performances given by the cast.
As for the actual game, Jak’s numerous worlds have a hub zone accompanied by branching levels that yield more Power Cells, the necessary token for progression. Obtaining these Power Cells comes from completing tasks or trading Precursor Orbs, Jak’s answer to coins. That’s the story justification anyway. They are really there as a reward for exploring the game’s many environments.
Three-dimensional platforming isn’t represented well in this era, but Jak takes it back to its simplistic fun. Hopping from platform to platform while using the basic offensive moves to fend off attackers makes up the vast majority of the gameplay and is enjoyable at its core. Variety comes in the form of a few vehicles, mainly the Flut Flut bird and the hovercraft, and the Eco powers. Unlike rail shooting segments and other pace changers in similar games, vehicles sections here are something to actually look forward to. The different Eco powers are neat takes on the whole power concept, and are cool ways to tie new moves into the fiction of the world.
Brown and gray don’t age as well as the lighter hues in the color palette. This is immediately apparent when setting eyes on this new HD rendition. All of the lighter and brighter colors are in almost every object in the world and are gorgeous right off the bat. Jak’s world is very green and blue and upping the resolution showcases just how gorgeous the initial art was for the game. It is technically impressive in the visual sense, but the lack of any load times is the true accomplishment. No matter where you travel to, there will never be a loading screen between you and your destination. Such a feat is impressive even in today’s terms. Naughty Dog must have hired a black magic sorcerer back in 2001 to implement this kind of technology.
I hope I don’t come off as a complete pansy here, but this HD-ification of Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy made me well up a few times along with the occasional fit of goosebumps. Fond memories can crash down if they aren’t preserved properly, but Mass Media Inc. didn’t let that happen during the porting process. I can see why these games worked so well when I was at a younger age, but my older self appreciates them just as much. I’ve even thrown away my rose-tinted glasses and the game remains impressive. That is a sign of a true classic.
+Vibrant, colorful world
+Zero load screens
+A healthy amount of variety within the platforming and worlds
-No vertical camera control
Final Score: 9/10