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Game Profile
PlayStation 2
Naughty Dog
GENRE: Platformer
October 14, 2003
Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier

Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier


Jak X: Combat Racing

Jak 3

More in this Series
 Written by Chris Reiter  on March 31, 2003

First Impressions: Who needs sidekicks when you've got mutagenic powers?

You knew it was coming. They knew it was coming. He and she knew it was coming. I knew it was coming. Everyone who is anyone knew it was coming. What's coming? The sequel to possibly the best platforming game available on the PlayStation 2 is what -- that game, Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy. It was obvious when the game's curtain came to a close, a glimpse of a cliffhanger ending unfolded before anyone who reached the game's finale eyes. Unless you were not fortunate enough to have completed the original Jak and Daxter adventure, you're missing out. For what I'm about to tell you in this preview has to do with the events that happen afterward from a game that's as pretty to look at as it fun to play.

As you know (or may not know), Jak's character from the original is a muscle bound elfin boy who, with his friend Daxter, stumbled upon a secret meeting one fateful night. To make a long story short, during a commotion with Jak fending off a guard, Daxter ended up falling in a vat of dark eco: a strange goo that transformed him into the orange haired little creature/sidekick throughout the adventure these two endeavored upon. The story came to a final draw when the hero Jak and his furry friend Daxter stepped through the door of a glowing portal, bringing them into a future very opposite from their own world. In this corrupted futuristic city setting, it's here that a dark ruler by the name of Baron is using the power of dark eco for sinister intents. Take Jak as a prime example: Baron's guards imprison the friendly Jak, mix him up in an experiment involving dark eco, and out emerges a much meaner, nastier, rougher and tougher Jak than ever before. What's an elfin boy turned unlawful Jak to do? Get revenge on the very being pulling the strings, naturally!

Before you only knew of a kind-hearted hero who was only trying to make things right with the friend of whom he accidentally knocked into a large batch of icky goo. Now you can forget about all of that kiddy crap as Naughty Dog (Jak II's developer) is putting on their gritty game faces to dig deeper into the unexplored realm of a platform deep. Much the same as equipping Mario with a revolver, blotting out his greasy Italian hair and mustache, and placing an eye patch around his face and calling the game Grand Theft Mario: Lice City, Jak II is the side of platform gaming anyone has yet to be a witness of. Sure there's been a few platform titles that wrap their main character in a pool of fresh attitude adjustment, but Jak II is more in line of an attitude without the sunshine world to rescue.

Just an example of how far Naughty Dog wants to reverse what was already a working franchise, they're deranging it to a point where you may end not even realizing Jak II is even a platform release anymore, but instead more like an action or adventure game. In Jak and Daxter there were moments where Jak received the ability to attack enemies through a method of shooting them with energy blasts. By lacing Jak's shady features with the power to take control of a bevy of four different kinds of handheld weapons (shotgun, minigun, handgun, and rifle), Naughty Dog is dragging Jak II over a genre boundary line of sorts. Crisscrossing action with hop, jump, and skip rituals, Jak's introductory to a gunner's heaven adventure will allow for the hero to take on more enemies at once (and a chance to locate and gain weapon upgrades along the way).

For those worried Jak's second adventure in won't be much of a jump crazy world, don't fret. Jak's original ability repertoire is in stock for a second ride, only tripled this time around. Spin attacking enemies, traversing platforms, and gathering collectible objects will all take flight across the game's winds of change. The only problem is that item hunting won't be as much a priority in the second Jak as the presence of Jak's running and gunning and dark eco powers take presidency over any item tracing intentions. Being the case with battling baddies in charge now, the combat system won't be the same as in the previous Jak and Daxter, as the second will feature a more combo friendly system. Jak can act on the fly seamlessly giving any enemy a spin kick, proceeding to hit it with the butt of his weapon...or even leap high into the air, following with a blast to dispose of any threat standing in his way.

Akin to its the former release, Jak II will host a number of friendly and not so friendly NPCs (Non Playable Characters) to discuss matters with. These characters will be your guides to keying in on missions they'll present you with. Providing help for these NPCs will in turn win you keys to unlock previously inaccessible areas of before, or helpful items (including the set of aforementioned weapons). Since the original Jak and Daxter was less of a story oriented experience, that's exactly where Jak II is headed: into a mission based storyline-structured universe. And get this -- Daxter this time around will actually participate in missions of his own, rather than only giving you lip the whole way through.

Boasting an entire game world without load times in between (and especially showcasing some amazing graphics) was the feat of what the first game did indeed accomplish. Believe it or not: Naughty Dog's improving on an already proven spectacle. Taking those luscious, bright and cheery locales from before and mopping them in sewage water, Naughty Dog is polishing the game with a newer, enigmatic effect, with Jak II being set to go with a seamier yet superior visual state in mind. Speaking of new looks, Jak himself in his mutated turnout now has longer ears, sunken hair, fiercer eyes, a new body suit and a bandana wrapped around the bottom of his face, which makes for a good guy gone bad so unlike any you've met before.

Final Thoughts
Initially the transformation of Jak II might seem a little awkward at first. But, if anything, what lies ahead in the game's developmental stages sounds more of a blessing, as it is often said that repetition can be just plain out annoying. Change can be either good or bad. Hopefully in due time, Jak II's makeover will do more than stun gamers -- hopefully it will revolutionize on a genre that's needed a little something quite not so similar for some due time now.

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