Sony Celebrates Jak And Daxter Anniversary With A Look Back At The Impressive Platformer

The first Jak and Daxter set a new bar for animation and platforming on PlayStation 2 over 20 years ago.

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Crash Bandicoot might be the most recognizable platfoming mascot associated with PlayStation, but it's not the only one developer Naughty Dog is famous for. Today marks the 20th anniversary of Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, with Sony celebrating the event by looking back at the technologically impressive platformer.

Back in 2001, Jak and Daxter arrived on the PlayStation 2 to mark the console's release with its own platforming mascot, following the success of the three Crash Bandicoot games on the original PlayStation. Unlike Crash, Naughty Dog aimed to make Jak and Daxter fully open-world--a challenging feat given the limitations of the hardware, and one that excited Evan Wells (now Naughty Dog co-president).

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"The biggest thing I learned was the challenge of designing an open world game without using load times," explained Wells in a PlayStation Blog post. "We set out from the start to design a world and not levels like we were used to coming from Crash, and we made it a rule that if you could see it you could walk (or boat or fly!) to it and that when you reached a building or cave that you could go inside and that the inside would have to fit within the space that the exterior could support. It wasn’t easy!"

Richard Brazier, a senior technical artist at Sony-owned studio Firesprite, recalls how impressive the game's animations were, signifying an inflection point for what would then be the new bar going forward.

"What amazed me most about the first Jak and Daxter were the characters--they were so beautifully animated, tightly scripted, and funny. Being a character artist and rigger at the time, I was in awe of the amount of detail the animations had and the liveliness they exuded. When set in such an awesome and strangely believable world, the game just set a totally new benchmark for combining storytelling and gameplay."

The original Jak and Daxter is very different to the sequel it spawned, focusing entirely on platforming and limited combat. Jak 2, released in 2003, would transport the duo into the future, with a grungy, dirty city setting that also introduced vehicles and guns to the gameplay. Jak 3 progressed this formula in 2004, with a larger world and more intricate weapon upgrades, with the mainline series ending there as Naughty Dog moved onto Uncharted.

As it stands, Sony still owns the rights to Jak and Daxter, unlike Crash Bandicoot, which now resides with Activision. It's a franchise that could be revisited in the future, but right now there's no indication that it's going to happen.

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