The big conference for the PlayStation Experience has come and gone this past weekend, and there was plenty of cool stuff for people to be excited about. Two such things came from critically acclaimed developer Naughty Dog, not content with having just released Uncharted 4 back in May. They opened the event with the reveal of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, which will be a standalone chapter that unites Chloe Frazier and Nadine Ross, and closed things out with the announcement that they were in early development on The Last of Us Part II. Once again, players will join Joel and Ellie on another adventure, this time in the shoes of the latter. That’s all well and good, but since they’re apparently not going to start a new franchise per console generation like they used to, you know what would be really cool after those? A new Jak & Daxter.
Back in the early 2000’s on the PS2, Naughty Dog abandoned the Crash Bandicoot franchise to focus on a series of games about a boy with huge ears and a furry orange creature on his shoulder. While the first game was a simple platformer in every sense of the word, it was with Jak II and III that the series shifted to a more mature bend, signifying the studio’s turn from family friendly kids games to the action adventure titles that we best know them for today. The series has been in stasis since Jak X back in 2005 — we don’t talk about that Lost Frontier game — but they did say that they had ideas for a reboot of the series before scrapping it because it felt to them that they “weren’t doing service” to what fans liked about the series and didn’t want to tarnish the name.
That was back in 2013, around the time the original Last of Us was being released, and since then, not much has been said about those concepts. The most recent thing is from earlier this year, with some apparent concept art from freelance artist Andrew Kim showing the two in a new world full of mechanical enemies and a Naughty Dog art book showing what the new versions of both Jak & Daxter could’ve ended up looking like. Jak looks more or less the same aside from the size of his ears (they’re still pointed, but much smaller than before), and Daxter looks like a real rodent, perhaps inspired by Rocket Raccoon from the Guardians of the Galaxy movie. One sporting goggles of his own and also a dinky little blaster, but a rodent nonetheless.
What would make the prospect of a reboot for the old PS2 series worth doing is doing what Naught Dog’s always been best at, and that’s exploring the dynamic between characters. Uncharted and The Last of Us show that they can give instant chemistry to any two or three characters in a room together, but it’s Jak and his furry friend that started all of that. Even though Jak doesn’t speak until the second game (and even then, not all that much compared to Daxter), it’s made clear that these two care about each other. In the first game, they were friends when the game opened, but if the reboot happened to send that Jak into a new world where he first met Daxter and built a relationship with him, that’d be right in line with what the studio has done with their previous titles. Considering how Final Fantasy XV is being praised for the relationship between its four male leads and how much Sony’s working to make sure you bond with the giant cat-bird in The Last Guardian, it stands to reason that ND is paying attention to how fans and critics are responding to those two titles for their own projects.
From 2006 onward, Naughty Dog games at their core have been about characters exploring strange new worlds; the Uncharted games did it through the eyes of a young Indiana Jones hungry for knowledge and adventure, and The Last of Us through the eyes of a young girl who grew up only knowing death and destruction. The Jak & Daxter reboot could again explore this theme by having either of the leads (or both) being in awe at all the mechanical constructs and remains in their wake. The series tenants of fantasy, action, and humor could still be prevalent in this new universe, and it’s something that they’ve gotten good at doing in the last decade.
Deep down, Jak & Daxter is about two dudes–one big and sometimes silent, one small and yappy–discovering new worlds and exploring them, and what was shown from that concept art seemed right in line with what the series has done before. Even if the idea of a reboot sounds like it’s wiping away the original series, they could always just do what God of War’s doing and put the two title characters in a brand new universe while keeping the original canon intact. It’d be met with skeptics and haters, sure, but given how much Sony is banking on nostalgia with things like the Crash remaster, why shouldn’t the Elf and Ottsel duo get another shot at life?