I have spent my life searching for the answers that my father and my father’s fathers failed to find. Who were the Precursors? Why did they create the vast monoliths that litter our planet? How did they harness Eco, the life energy of the world? What was their purpose? And why did they vanish? I have asked the plants, but they do not remember. The plants have asked the rocks, but the rocks do not recall. Even the rocks do not recall…
Samos Hagai, Sage of Green Echo
Released in December 3rd 2001, Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy is one of my favorite games ever. Even if it I played after Grand Theft Auto III (which was an absolute revolution), the seamless beautiful world, the day night transitions, the light humor and great gameplay of first Jak and Daxter will remain forever as one of my fondest gaming memories.
— sʞɔıd ƃuıɯɐƃ (@GamingPicks) 3 December 2016
It was Naughty Dog’s first PS2 game and expectation was high after its successful Crash Bandicoot series on PlayStation. As most people already knows, Crash Bandicoot IP was Universal Interactive’s (now Activision) property, so during those days Sony bought the studio and they started a new franchise. When development began, Naughty Dog team was composed by around 15 developers and ended the project with around a team of 35. You can enjoy here a short making of (Spanish narrator, but interviews are in English):
Naughty Dog founders Jason Rubin and Andy Gavin (who created GOAL, the engine behind all the saga) were behind the creation of the game, creating a new universe. The game follows the story of Jak, a silent main character, and his friend Daxter, his comical sidekick. At the beginning of the game, after an unforgettable Samos speech, Daxter falls into a Dark Eco pool and is transformed into something like a weasel. From that moment, both characters start and adventure trying to recover Daxter’s appearence, but also saving the world they live in, because they will find that their two antagonists Gol and Maia are trying to use that Dark Eco to take over it. Fortunately, they’ll also have the help of Samos and his daughter Keira (and the Zoomer vehicle she has build).
The game follows the path of some previous 3D platform game, but with its own twists. You progress through different zones (the village from the beginning, a beach, a jungle, a snowy mountain… classic game variety) solving little missions to get batteries that help you to progress. Those missions mostly combine platforms and some basic fighting (Jak only has two different attacks), but you can also find some vehicle based levels, both in linear paths or little arenas. All of these is mixed with beautiful cartoon like characters and graphics and with one key point: an amazing seamless world with day/night cycles. Honestly, by the time it was absolutely impressed. Even the game has clear levels and zones, everything is interconected, the world feels alive and having the chance to play it start to finish without apparent loading screens was a milestone.
The game was a success and another five titles launched: two proper sequels for PS2 (still have to finish the second one), a not very successful kart game (Jak X, even Naughty Dog makes jokes about this), a Daxter game developed by Ready at Dawn for PSP and finally a late sequel developed by Hight Impact Games for PS2 and PSP, that wasn’t very well received. For me, first one is the real jewel of the franchise and a game I will never forget. 15 years later, still remembering it.
FInally, when Naughty Dog split the team in two (around 2009), the team that finally developed The Last of Us was initially going to reboot the franchise and you can find some concept art published. But it was never developed and we got one of the best game ever, not bad.
Note: here it was supposed to be a video (I’ve a complete walkthrough captured), but wasn’t ready on time, probably in a week. Sorry.