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Opinion Analysis Was Jak II the biggest example of "Corporate edge"?

Jubenhimer

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As Sony Computer Entertainment's publishing deal with Universal Interactive Studios for the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon series were about to expire, Crash Developer Naughty Dog needed to come up with a replacement IP for the PlayStation's successor, the PlayStation 2. This led to Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, which was Sony's big Holiday title of 2001, and like Crash was a smash hit. The game started out as your typical E-rated Platformer, filled with bright colors, unique enemies, and a sense of child-like adventurous whimsy. Many fans were excited to see what the next installment would be like... And it would be none of those things.

Jak II is probably the biggest tonal shift ever for a video game series, and I'm willing to bet the reactions to it were bewildering. "Wait, Jak is talking now?", "WOAH Swearing!?", "GUNS!?", "Car Jacking!?", "What the Hell is this!!?". According to Naughty Dog, the reason for the bizarre shift in tone was because gamers were getting older and wanted more mature and violent games. That meant their little open-world E-Rated platformer, had to become a T-rated, GTA-lite. Look, it's not that Jak II or III are bad games, far from it, but Jak II doesn't feel like it was made the way it was because somebody at Naughty Dog had a radical idea for the Jak & Daxter universe, it felt like it was made because the marketing team at Sony told them that Open World, Vehicle jacking was really hot right now and wanted to capitalize on that. A lot of people like Jak II and I can see why, it's still a very polished and well designed platformer even with the "Edge". But the darker tone and GTA elements always felt like a cynical, corporate cash-grab, rather than a genuine creative direction to me. Gamers were older than before sure, but they they still like bright, colorful platformers as much as kids do.

TBH, I felt Insomniac handled the tone shifting with their next series, Ratchet & Clank better than ND did with Jak. Ratchet's edgier and more violent than Spyro, but it still has a sense of colorful whimsy and self-awareness to it. It didn't have to try and rub its edge in your face like Jak II did.

Naughty Dog has made some fantastic games since then, but the the darkening of Jak & Daxter always felt like an unnecessary decision IMO.
 
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diffusionx

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I thought I read an interview where they explained the tonal shift was just natural to them as fans of the first game had “grown up” since then? Was a long time ago. I’ll try to google it

edit: well maybe not, I might have imagined that. Only two years between release?
Jason Rubin said on the Devs Play with Tim Shafer, they did focus testing and all of the sudden post-GTA3, their game was considered kiddy and immature compared to what their audience wanted to play. It’s pretty interesting.
 

protonion

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I loved the change of tone.

Also the writing got substantially better too.

No complaints for me.

I didn't care for the gta like part of the game though.
The platforming levels were way better than the first imo and I liked that they didn't hold back the challenge. Some truly tough set pieces.
 

kiphalfton

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Of course not. I'm just saying that the darker tone always felt focus-tested and forced IMO.
It is definitely a different game than the first one (I thought the gunplay was okay compared to Ratchet and Clank, but I guess it at least tried something different.

Back to what you said, Jak was essentially tortured for two years before Daxter saved him. The world is also completely different, and has gone to crap. I think it would have been more offputting had he gone through all that experimentation and was still silent and didn't have anything to say.

That isn't to say that I disagree with you, that it was a product of the times. Some gameplay elements were huge, like vehicle jacking like you said (even in games like Halo), dual wielding guns, QTE's, etc.
 
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JohnnyFootball

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Jak 3 was a masterpiece. Jak 2 was good, but it was badly hurt by being extremely tedious in many ways.
 

wipeout364

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Naughty Dog has always followed trends, not sure why they would need corporate Sony to direct them. They saw the GTA 3 unprecedented success and wanted a piece of that.

I thought the shift was a bit harsh but enjoyed the game at the time.
 
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Jak II, Jak3, and Jak X: Combat Racing made the characters far more compelling. I'm legitimately more angry that we never got a followup to Jak X as I was highly anticipating the new villain introduced at the dnd of that title.
 

Jubenhimer

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Naughty Dog has always followed trends, not sure why they would need corporate Sony to direct them. They saw the GTA 3 unprecedented success and wanted a piece of that.
Even in that case, radically changing the tone of your colorful platformer because a small group of focus tests thought it was too childish feels like a very cynical move IMO.
 
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What next installment are you talking about ? They never released a true sequel to Jak 1. Ah, I understand now the confusion, they did a generic shooter adult game and called it Jak 2 ?
 
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NeoIkaruGAF

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One of the biggest, for sure.

But marketing-wise, it was a sound choice. Jak 1 was nowhere near as good as Rare’s best efforts on the N64, and collectathon platformers were quickly going out of fashion. Also it was one of the edgiest times in gaming, and GTA3 really changed gamers’ tastes and expectations. ND did the right thing - though I hear they didn’t make a very good game.

(Jak 1 was a mere shadow of Rare’s games to me, so I wasn’t interested in Jak 2 already and the change in tone only cemented my lack of interest)
 
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Jubenhimer

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I don’t miss this era. Everyone scrambling to out-edge everyone, everything that wasn’t considered ‘gay’.

It was so pathetic. Granted, it’s a lot better than some current trends, but shares some of the same stupidity.
I always got that feeling more with the Seventh Generation. You know, the gen where every game decided it wanted to be a brown & grey, realistic shooter with overused bloom and gore? Gen 6 had hints of this for sure, but I think the rise of the HD era was really when the focus-tested edginess was in full swing.
 
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Naibel

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I don’t miss this era. Everyone scrambling to out-edge everyone, everything that wasn’t considered ‘gay’.

It was so pathetic. Granted, it’s a lot better than some current trends, but shares some of the same stupidity.
Yeah, I remember they were parts of Western gaming's culture, marketing, press and trends that I found quite shameful and immature at the time. Too much T&A, mindless violence and gore, cringe-stastic edginess, realism at all costs...

That dudebro gamer culture (allegedly) ushered by Xbox's marketing team is not a thing I'm nostalgic about. The thing is, like always, they overcorrected like crazy, and now I find myself liking this era more than the one we are now. Sigh...

On topic, Jak I was also a trend-chaser, but they chased Nintendo so I loved it. Jak II then chased GTA, but in a forced PG-13 way, so it was too edgy for me (I was 9 at the time), but not enough for others. A weird in-between. But no, I didn't like it. Hated the setting, the city was too crowded, the game was too difficult... Such a letdown.

Haven't played Jak 3 yet, but I saw some things about it and it seems they have improved in some aspects. Might check that one out.
 
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-Arcadia-

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I always got that feeling more with the Seventh Generation. You know, the gen where every game decided it wanted to be a brown & grey, realistic shooter with overused bloom and gore? Gen 6 had hints of this for sure, but I think the rise of the HD era was really when the focus-tested edginess was in full swing.
Agreed for sure. I was more thinking of the entire culture at that time.

Yeah, I remember they were parts of Western gaming's culture, marketing, press and trends that I found quite shameful and immature at the time. Too much T&A, mindless violence and gore, cringe-stastic edginess, realism at all costs...

That dudebro gamer culture (allegedly) ushered by Xbox's marketing team is not a thing I'm nostalgic about. The thing is, like always, they overcorrected like crazy, and now I find myself liking this era more than the one we are now. Sigh...

On topic, Jak I was also a trend-chaser, but they chased Nintendo so I loved it. Jak II then chased GTA, but in a forced PG-13 way, so it was too edgy for me (I was 9 at the time), but not enough for others. A weird in-between. But no, I didn't like it. Hated the setting, the city was too crowded, the game was too difficult... Such a letdown.

Haven't played Jak 3 yet, but I saw some things about it and it seems they have improved in some aspects. Might check that one out.
Exactly. I don’t mind any of those things, but as a cultural directive, and being tossed in your face 24/7, it was just annoying.

I‘d say it was an everyone thing, versus an Xbox thing, though.
 

Rock And Roll

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I'd say PoP: WW was definitely a far more corporate attempt at making an edgy game. That being said, I think I remember liking WW, while I didn't enjoy Jak 2. It wasn't just a tonal shift, they changed the game up way too much with Jak 2.
 
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Naibel

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Exactly. I don’t mind any of those things, but as a cultural directive, and being tossed in your face 24/7, it was just annoying.

I‘d say it was an everyone thing, versus an Xbox thing, though.
You're totally right, it's just something that I've overheard some time ago about how Microsoft wanted to market the OG Xbox. I'm no console warrior btw, I got every machine of theirs and love them.

But yeah, Sony, EA, Activision (and even to a very small extent Nintendo, remember the pretty edgy launch DS ads ?), they were jumping on that bandwagon as well.
 
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Jubenhimer

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But yeah, Sony, EA, Activision (and even to a very small extent Nintendo, remember the pretty edgy launch DS ads ?), they were jumping on that bandwagon as well.
Speaking of Nintendo, I think fell victim to that in the GameCube days as well. Remember when they tried to make a purple lunchbox look edgy and hardcore?


Or the time they put Voice acting and cutscenes in Mario Sunshine in a blatant attempt to copy the PlayStation style?


Or Edgy M rated games like Geist?



The GameCube had a lot of great games. But Nintendo during that period always gave off an air of "How do you do, Fellow Kids?"
 

-Arcadia-

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Remember when Mario got that sick ink? Guess he toughened up in prison in isle delfino

I think I can do you one better.

The E3 2005, I think it was, presentation for Nintendo?

I remember some truly awful, but cringe hilarious scripted dialogue during a Nintendogs segment, that had Miyamoto hitting on the presenter, and then offering to take her backstage to ‘show her a few tricks’, lol.
 
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Zephir

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In the end, every franchise had their "it's not a phase, mom" edgy period

-Jak 2
-Shadow the Hedgehog
-Prince of Persia Warrior Within
-Ratchet Deadlocked
-Kingdom Hearts 2 (when the game was announced, I remember a local magazine claiming the game was gonna be more adult because sora had a black dress)
-FF: DIrge of Cerberus
-...and more

The important thing is...will they stay true to their newfound edgyness with subsequent sequels (Jak 3), they'll scrap it all together claiming it never existed (sonic unleashed) or they'll try to find a middle road, merging edgyness with their original style (PoP: Two Thrones)?

Personally, I like the third road...a bit of ow the edge is good, as long as you don't overblow it
 

Jubenhimer

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Personally, I like the third road...a bit of ow the edge is good, as long as you don't overblow it
Agreed. I appreciate when previously light hearted series take a darker turn. But I was never really a fan of how Jak II handled it.
 
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Zekra Dezivad

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Uhm... Naughty Dog was always a company that followed a plan rather than an artistic vision.
Jak II is a example, but also Uncharted became a cover based TPS following the success of Gears, changing the original idea of a more fantasy game.
Now we have TLoU2 that is designed by ND vice president to push his political views.
Also, Uncharted 4 apparently was a mess behind the scenes and it's not a product of one artistic expression.

It's totally a studio with high quality production, but far from an artistic, authorial expression.
 

Jubenhimer

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Uhm... Naughty Dog was always a company that followed a plan rather than an artistic vision.
Jak II is a example, but also Uncharted became a cover based TPS following the success of Gears, changing the original idea of a more fantasy game.
Now we have TLoU2 that is designed by ND vice president to push his political views.
Also, Uncharted 4 apparently was a mess behind the scenes and it's not a product of one artistic expression.

It's totally a studio with high quality production, but far from an artistic, authorial expression.
Honestly, it's kind of the reason I prefer Insomniac over them. ND is a very talented developer, but they always seemed to lack confidence in their own creative talents, hence the direction their games have taken over the years. Say what you will about Insomniac, they at least usually have the confidence to stick to their own ideas.
 
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sainraja

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Oh come on guys! I know naughtydog is getting some hate right now but that's no excuse to take away good work they have done in the past. There are many games that share traits and not just games made by naugthydog. It's a silly thing to judge them by and if you are going to then look at the entire industry. Uncharted does not play like Gears of War just because it has shooting elements.
 
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Zekra Dezivad

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Oh come on guys! I know naughtydog is getting some hate right now but that's no excuse to take away good work they have done in the past. There are many games that share traits and not just games made by naugthydog. It's a silly thing to judge them by and if you are going to then look at the entire industry. Uncharted does not play like Gears of War just because it has shooting elements.
Uncharted isn't Gears, but when gears released ND changed the whole gameplay in the last 6 months of development (I remember an interview by Lucas Pope about that)
 
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Jak 2/3's tonal shift coming from The Precursor Legacy was big, but was very good. All of the good elements of the first were practically expanded on. The only thing I really missed from the original was the blue eco/jump pads.

On a side note, I hate GTA actually, its too generic IMO. To the comparisons between Jak 2/3 and GTA, the difference is that Jak 2/3 had personality.

On another side note, where is Jak 4 at man.. its been TOO LONG Naughty Dog. We dont need hyper realistic J&D, stick with the cartoony graphics and just buff it up to the Jak 3 commercials CGI fidelity.
 

Jubenhimer

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On another side note, where is Jak 4 at man.. its been TOO LONG Naughty Dog. We dont need hyper realistic J&D, stick with the cartoony graphics and just buff it up to the Jak 3 commercials CGI fidelity.
Didn't ya hear, Naughty Dog doesn't do platformers anymore, too kiddy. They're grown up now!

 
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GreyHorace

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I don’t miss this era. Everyone scrambling to out-edge everyone, everything that wasn’t considered ‘gay’.

It was so pathetic. Granted, it’s a lot better than some current trends, but shares some of the same stupidity.
Videogames were just following the same trends that comics did during the 'grim and gritty' era during the late 80's and early 90's. I didn't think much about it back then, but looking back at it... My God. What shit taste I had to not recognize what trash many of these titles were.

 
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TexMex

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It was an unnecessary shift in tone, but the game was still great and incredibly challenging so it’s fine.

Felt like 3 dialed it back and was the perfect blend of 1 and 2.
 
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Honey Bunny

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We could do with some edge back honestly. I'm sick of corporate cutesy.

That said, Jak II was an abomination.
 
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synchronicity

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I enjoyed Jak II, but it was a bit too responsive to trends for me. I really appreciate games/music/art that are doing their own thing, more or less oblivious to what the world is looking for.

I know games are products and sales matter, but I always lose a bit of respect for works that so blatantly succumb to trends.
 
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We could do with some edge back honestly. I'm sick of corporate cutesy.

That said, Jak II was an abomination.
It may have taken design cues from GTA, but it's sort of an interesting concept even despite that. Think of it as.. an edgy cartoon version of GTA with an added platforming twist, a good story, and better characters.

Yes we could do with some edge back. I'm still waiting on Blizzard to capitalize on that incredibly unique sci-fi/horror/military atmosphere they captured in the broodwar cinematics from the 90s. Just look at this, even in low fidelity 90s video it's oozing with vibe:


Games where space is a thing literally dodge around this dope sort of retro style where everythings stripped down and seemingly scrapped together (like it probably would be IRL, given the inhospitality of space). You look at, like, StarCraft II, and you see bulky plasticy looking shit like wtf is this. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH THIS SERIES YOU MONSTERS.
 
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Holammer

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Factor 5 worked on a sequel for Kid Icarus at one point. Just like other games mentioned in this thread they wanted to take it in a new darker direction, despite Nintendo trying to nudge them in the right direction they kept at it until they finally got canceled.


 
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peronmls

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Jax from the first game didnt really have any charm other than he was silent. Eco was nothing new to the series and he was experimented on with it in 2. I just though he was pissed and irritated in the second game. Nothing felt edgy to me really. Was it because they said damn and hell? For me 2>3>1