Yeah, I'm "borrowing" Magnalon's formula here. Hope you don't mind.
I feel like I'm starting to become jaded to videogames. Burnt out, exhausted. After putting in Red Faction: Armageddon and noticing just how bloody by-the-numbers it was, that was the moment I could too clearly see the struts behind the paint, so to speak. It was like listening to the extremely popular, and extremely simple, ballad, Glycerine. After hearing how four-chordy it was, everything just unravelled from there.
So yeah, the modern generation might be pissing me off. So perhaps it's time to take a step back for a while. I recently bought the Jak HD Trilogy on PS3 and thought to play through all the games in that franchise this year, obviously inspired by Magnalon's quests to conquer Zelda and Resident Evil. however, I later thought, due to Jak being kind of limited in the number of games, and the Ratchet & Clank HD Collection being pretty close to release, and feeling a need for a goal over the university break, I dcided to tackle all three mainstay PS2 platforming franchises.
Most games in these franchises have lots of secrets to collect, but for the most part, I'm just going to stick to clearing the main story. I won't shy off collecting things, but I doubt I'll have the inclination, let alone the time, to do them all.
Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy - PS2 (owned), PS3 (owned) - (Completed in May 2012)
The original game is a pretty big part of my childhood gaming memories. It was a game I got on my birthday after renting it a few times, and it's something that I've beaten so many times now. After grabbibg the collection, however, I endeavoured to grab that platinum trophy to settle the score once and for all. And so I did. And I still had a lot of fun along the way.
In my opinion, this deserves to sit up alongside Super Mario 64 and the like as a classic 3D platformer. It's a well-crafted, varied and, most importantly, fun as hell collect-'em-up. It's still pretty stunning how you can gaze upon the landscape and see worlds you know you'll get to visit. It creates a rare sense of wonderment and is arguably as much an eye-opening moment as the first steps out of the sewers in Oblivion.
Negatives? These days, there are visible design constraints, notably some silly invisible walls and slopes which will randomly slide you off. The humour is a bit corny and saccharine, although I feel Daxter managed to remain just about endearing even throughout the series. Your mileage may vary. Other than that, not really. Easily one of my favourite PS2 games of all time.
Jak 2: Renegade - PS2 (owned), PS3 (owned) - (Completed in June 2012)
Ah yes, the controversial one. At the time, and even now, I thought it was ballsy and sincere enough to be worth the change. Besides, I'm not terribly sure how far they could have gone with the original world, especially since no one ever bothered to elaborate on the mythology, which had the potential to be interesting. So yes, I support the drastic change in tone of Jak 2.
As for the rest of it...maybe it was really good once upon a time, but even when playing it way, waaay back when, I had a lot more issues with this game than I could have ever had with the first. Chief among them is the difficulty. Even today, this game is hard, and not in a completely fair way. You see, this game has guns, but it does not have a reliable shooting mechanic, due to how twitchy aiming is and the fact that there is no strafing. Progress can sometimes seem Sisyphian in nature, and it was a slog to play through once, let alone this second time.
I generally like the dark, industrial atmosphere even when interspersed with other random environments for other levels, and there's still a good degree of variety on offer, but Jak 2 is simply drawn out. It's one of the few games I would call too long. When it was finished, I didn't really feel proud, just glad it was over. If the game had any style, my senses were made numb to it by the repetition of playing certain stages over and over.
- PS2 (Owned), PS3 (Owned) - (Completed in June 2012)
Besides renting it for a night as soon as it came out, I didn't touch or even buy this one for a long time. Hell, my PS2 version was a preowned copy at a flea market. So what was the big deal? Why did I dodge this game for a long time? Honestly, I don't really know. Maybe Jak 2 did more damage than I thought. Playing it this time was pretty good, however.
The game tones down the difficulty to a reasonable level this time, and cuts down on the shooting and hovercar driving by a measurable amount. It is also perhaps one of the single most varied games ever, at least in terms of what the main missions expect you to do. One mission you'll be shooting on the foot, the next it's a race, and then a hanggliding mission, and then a turret sequence and so on. Pretty much each one of these missions types are polished as well, which is why it's baffling as to why most are only ever used once.
The variety actually hurts the game, mostly in the game's story, but also in the fact that power-ups and upgrades can seem like unnecessary gimmicks. The game gives you twelve different guns, whilst I only ever really used two.The first half also tries to input this light/dark eco dichotomy, but again, I only used Light Jak's healing power and, sometimes, Dark Jak's kill everything in the room move. Whilst the game itself isn't short (although it's notably shorter than Jak 2, thank God), the game feels a bit schizophrenic. It's still a very good game, though, and good enough for me to essentially keep playing through in one sitting.
Jak X: Combat Racing
- PS2 (Owned)
The opening theme to the game is QOTSA's ...Millionaire. That should be all you need to know to get an idea how far off the rails this game's tone is. The gameplay felt that way too, with the cars crashing way too much. It was like they tried to cram Burnout into Crash Team Racing, with the outright speed of one and the physics of the other. This is one I'll have to have an open mind on when revisiting, because that paragraph made it sound horrible, and it can't be that bad...can it?
- PSP (Owned), PS2
Well, technically, it's my sister that owns it, and I might just bite the bullet and buy this and The Lost Frontier on the PSN Store for the Vita; the thing needs more use. Aside from that tidbit, I know virtually nothing about this game. Different dev studio, and that's about it. I won't be expecting a lot, truth be told.
Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier - PSP (Owned), PS2
Again, might be using my sister's copy, or might just buy and play on the Vita. They said there was a very aeronautical theme to the game, and given one of Jak 3's last trials, that bears ill tidings. Other than that, pretty clean slate. I think my sister beat this one, but didn't tell me what she thought. Heh.
Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus - PS2, PS3 (Owned) - (Completed 2012)
One rental was all the experience I had with this game before the playthrough this year. It kind of felt sandwiched in between both of the other franchises, even if the dates may not have supported that, and I was worried that the whole thing would be a little...second-rate, so to speak. As it turns out, I was correct.
There isn't really anything wrong or bad about the game, but it just feels like a looser Crash Bandicoot game with some stealth elements thrown in. It wasn't exactly Splinter Cell, or even Metal Gear Solid, when it came out, and no amount of charm in the world can get me to really love this game. And there is charm to be found. I really liked the suave, smarmy character of Sly Cooper, and out of all three franchise's main characters, he'd probably be at the top. The game itself, however, feels too rote and by-the-numbers to be truly memorable. Good, but not great.
Sly 2: Band of Thieves - PS2, PS3 (Owned) - (Completed in June 2012)
I have played a fair bit of this and 3, but have yet to complete either, mostly due to progress being sporadically spread out across siblings' profiles. I'll just play through it on my own, of course. So far, the more open-world, freeform elements are appreciated, but neither really has the variety to be engaging for very long. I gather this one will be a slog to get through, even if the game turns out to be good.
Extended thoughts: Well, the game wasn't very good anyway, but it was certainly a slog. Barring a few moments of brilliance when the formula is turned on its head, each mission feels exactly the same. The game is incredibly drawn out, forcing you to do things multiple times to complete one task. It gets very aggravating. Never touching this one again.
Sly 3: Hono(u)r Among Thieves - PS2, PS3 (Owned)
This game's biggest drawcard is that it has more characters, which means more variety, which is what the Sly series desperately needs, but the gameplay still feels so similar to 2 that it's insane. I want to play through each of these games once more, not twice through!
Sly 4: Thieves In Time - PS3
Obviously, this one isn't out yet, but I will endeavour to grab it soon after it lands. Soon after, that is. I might be too burnt out to grab it straight away.
Ratchet and Clank - PS2, PS3 - (Completed in July 2012)
I remember renting this again and again and again but never really getting through it. I didn't lack for a memory card or anything like that, so I don't know why I was always starting again. Maybe enough time passed between each go round that I forgot what I was supposed to do. Either way, this is one of the biggest haunting nightmares in my personal pile of shame, and when the HD Collection comes out, it's payback time.
From what I remember of it's quality, it was damn good. It had a similar sort of feel to Jak and Daxter, with its slight Metroidvania touches and a colourful graphics set. The game was pretty tough, being perhaps a little too limiting on health for the amount of enemies you have to fight, but that might not be the case now that I can actually comprehend patience in games. Look forward to this one.
Extended thoughts: Aside from a slightly juvenile script and some clunky combat, it's great. Not Jak and Daxter 1 great, but great. The platforming is great and the flow is varied, so it accomplishes a lot in what you want in a 3D platformer. The combat leaves much to be desired, but it's still a very fun experience. Recommended.
Ratchet and Clank 2: Locked and Loaded/Going Commando - PS2, PS3 - (Completed in July 2012)
I have played this for all of an hour, and that was when my cousin came over. Whenever he brought the PS2, we usually played Dynasty Warriors, so I suppose it was a nice surprise to get this one instead. I really don't have any opinions on this game as of yet.
Man, I haven't played as many of these games as I thought...
Extended thoughts: No doubt this is a great game, but something stopped me from completely getting into it. Maybe it was the difficulty. It was pretty easy up until the game asked you to buy armor. There is a sort of lack of variety too, but the genius weapon levelling system encourages variation in weapon use without being too grindy like R&C3. I like it, but it's not as good as the first game.
[b]Ratchet and Clank 3: Up Your Arsenal
- PS2 (Owned), PS3
This, I have beaten. Many times over. It doesn't have the polish of the earliest titles from either Ratchet or Jak, but it made up for it with sheer gusto. The explosions in this game were so good. Like, better than the original Mercenaries good. I do really like this game, even if it drags on just a tad, but I'd need to play this just one more time to make sure.
Extended thoughts: It drags on for a bit and there is too much grinding for weapon and health upgrades. Aside from that, it's gold. The sheer scale of the firefights pretty much nullifies the relative lack of platforming in my eyes. Endlessly playable.
Ratchet: Gladiator/Deadlocked - PS2 (Owned)
I have also played this over at least three or times, but I couldn't tell you why. I certainly wasn't very impressed with the limited gameplay this time around. Unlike the other two sequels, you could tell this was cooked up in a mere year. It was fun on a basic carnal level, but it was short and uninspiring all round. Even the guns weren't that great from what I can recall. Again, I'll play it again just to make sure.
Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters - PSP (Owned), PS2
I played this at a friend's house for about ten minutes. My impressions? It's Ratchet and Clank on the PSP; no more, no less. I can't imagine that really changing when I sit down and play it for sure. Everything so far just seems to point to that conclusion.
Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction - PS3 (Owned)
This is essentially the game version of The Empre Strikes Back for me: I have played every part of this game individually, but never really sat down to play it all in one myself. So far, it does seem like Ratchet and Clank was successfully brought to the PS3. It's not a revolutionary game, but weapons and environments look great and there is just enough new material to keep things interesting. Not sure how much that will actually change on a full playthrough, but we'll yet see.
Ratchet and Clank Future: Quest For Booty - PS3 (Owned)
Yeah, get rid of all your guns after ten minutes and leave you with none for pretty mcuh the rest of it. Maybe it was time for a real shake-up, and being a "download only" chapter, it has more leeway to be gimmicky and experimental, but the gameplay just looked too dry. Watching my mother play through this game just left me bored at the sight of it.
Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack In Time - PS3 (Owned)
Watching my mother play through this one, A Crack In Time appeared to be the most ambitious title to date. An everpresent open-world element, lots of exploration and space shooting, and a higher focus on distracting Clank sections. It looks full to bursting of ideas, which is definitely a good thing. Unfortunately, it also appeared a bit monotonous and glitchy, but perhaps that was just because my mother's a completionist. I am not going to have the same strategy when playing these games myself.
Ratchet and Clank: All For One - PS3 (Owned)
Oh man, I was skeptical as hell when I heard about this game. 30 FPS with low grade textures? Four-player co-op? With Doctor Nefarious? I was worried. Playing it a little bit, however, it's pretty good. The change into a psuedo-top-down format works because it's relatively fresh and keeps enough of the R&C spirit and mechanics to be familiar enough. It does, however, seem like the kind of game that will get very boring over long play sessions, which will especially suck for me.
Excited to see my final impressions of these games? Couldn't care less? Sad I'm not doing Playstation Move Heroes? Have any strategies for the order I should do these games? Nothing at all? I'll be updating this each time I beat a game, with my final thoughts and maybe a little extra.