Review: Jak & Daxter Collection (Vita)
This Jak & Daxter Collection is the first of many classic remakes to come to Vita following a quasi-recent release on PS3. Let’s hope future classic collections on Vita are better than this one. What is promising is that this is in fact three classic PS2 games with three individual sets of trophies with three platinums.
The Jak & Daxter Collection on Vita is essentially an identical release to the PS3 version as far as content is concerned. Mass Media even left the option to turn controller vibration on and off. Last time I checked, Vita didn’t have this feature. The main menu of the game has Jak standing patiently at the right side of the screen. He will change his wardrobe when you scroll through Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, Jak II and Jak 3. And that’s about as cool as the front end of the UI gets. Of course, if you’re going to play this classic trilogy, then you should start from the beginning.
Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy was originally released on the PlayStation 2 in 2001. Prior to to creating the Jak series, Naughty Dog had great success with the Crash Bandicoot series and all that box breaking 3D platforming madness. Jak & Daxter is a masterfully done forward progression of Naughty Dog’s platforming roots. While Crash was stuck in a forward runner or side-scroller, Jak can move in any direction in a much more open world. Where load screens were a common thing for PS one games like Crash, Jak introduced a giant open world that did not need load screens. The next time we saw such innovation was later on PS3 with the Uncharted series.
Keeping the focus on Jak, the original was the basis for the story, characters, and elements of their world called light and dark ico. This Vita version of Jak looks good, not great, but it is over 10 years old after all. One thing that has bugged me during certain sections of the game is button input lag. This made the fishing mini-game in the first village nearly impossible, which would have been an issue if I didn’t actually pass it.
Double jumping into a spin to get the extra jump distance needed for some sections is also sometimes hit or miss. The PS3 version does not have this problem. On PS3, when you press jump, jump – Jak double jumps. On Vita, when you press jump, jump – he sometimes double jumps. Other signature Jak moves also need to be premeditated to successfully execute. This is unacceptable and adds unnecessary difficulty to the game.
Booting up Jak II, I half expected the same framerate issues as in the first, but was pleasantly surprise when it actually ran rather smoothly. This is even more shocking given that Jak II is a giant GTA-style game instead of a traditional semi-linear platforming romp. This is one of the biggest reasons any fan of the first Jak & Daxter game would not really get into Jak II. But give it time and the freedom will grow on you.
The biggest problem I had with Jak II, and this was noticeable immediately once gameplay began after the intro cut scenes, is muddy graphics. There is just no detail in the game and maybe this is how they managed better framerate. I had to boot up the PS3 version to see if this was really something to mention. Oh boy, it’s worlds sharper on PS3. Just looking at the Jak II character model, all the details are blurred and blended together on Vita.
Since Vita lacks the lower shoulder buttons of the PS2 or PS3 controllers, these button functions have been remapped to the rear touch pad. Swipe up/down on the left half to make the HUD appear or hide. Swipe up/down on the right half to enter first person view when standing still or to drive cars high or low.
From the platforming, to circumnavigating the world in the vehicles, to playing the hoverboard challenges — everything is just harder to do on the Vita. The analog sensitivity feels very unforgiving. It could be simply because the Vita analog sticks are smaller or just the way Mass Media tailored the inputs.
Jak III is the best looking of the three Jak games on Vita. But we’re back to piss poor framerate, especially when compared to the PS3 version. Again, the main game is controlled with physical buttons but there are no L2/R2. These button functions include HUD pop up and hide for L2, and the fixed first person camera view to look around. Just swipe up on the left half or right half of the rear touch panel to trigger these L2/R2 button functions respectively.
Navigating the map accessible from the pause menu with the front touch screen is very laggy. Despite this, I actually enjoyed Jak III a tad more than Jak II because there is much less pointless navigation between missions. The gameplay is far more diverse with riding the bipedal creatures, missions, and the buggies. Yeah, just in case you forgot, Jak III has dune buggies a la Jak X. There is even a Cribs-style garage filled with different models to unlock. Some of the races can be quite challenging given the terrain and opponents bumping Jak to face the wrong direction.
The precursor orb pick-ups are now scattered more randomly (but not) across the world. Whereas in Jak 1 and 2 they were noticeably in-line with the linear gameplay sections. In Jak III, these collectibles are just everywhere including hidden inside destructible vases or baskets. But at least they kept the collectibles in the game unlike Sly 3. Although, a Jak game with no precursor orbs is not really a Jak game.
This collection has extremely inconsistent performance issues. The games themselves are a blast from the past and super enjoyable to play if you can overlook framerate, lag, and muddy graphics. The aspect ratio has been altered, especially noticeable in Jak III when jumping as Jak double jumps off the top of the screen. This is also not an issue on PS3. One thing that bugged me that is apparent in both is there is no way to go from one Jak game into another without completely quitting the game and booting it back up.
If you’re in the market for a classic Naughty Dog platformer, look no further than this Jak & Daxter Collection. But if you also own a PS3 and want the better version, then buy it on PS3. The Vita version is rough around the edges and not like the sharp PS3 version. What this game needs is a sizable patch. Looks can be deceiving, and good performance should not be a privilege, but a requirement when handling Naughty Dog’s wares.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation Vita version of the game.
What I Like:
- Three platinum trophies to obtain
- Lots of gameplay across the three uniquely different iterations
- Quicker loading
- Considerably faster save flow over PS3
What I Dislike:
- Button input lag is more than noticeable
- Framerate is choppy, most noticeably in Jak 1 and 3
- Jak II graphics are muddy, like a straight PS2 port
- Not a fan of remapping the L2/R2 functions to the rear touch pad