Review by kingofkoins
"Passion, Beauty, and Grace."
It has been a very long time since I really got into a platformer. Countless hours of annoying collecting, terrible graphics and control, as well as an over-all lack of pure fun, have reduced fans to waiting on the next Mario with nothing else in between. Thankfully, all of that has finally changed. Jak II is one of the rare games that transcends all the others in its genre, giving us a new and rewarding experience. I don't wish to apply numbers to the various aspects of this game, so I shall try to explain everything important in the three categories I've attributed to this game: Passion, Beauty, and Grace.
The first of these categories is not exactly the most important, although it may be seen as the one that stands it apart from all of the lackluster games that came before it. It stems from the storyline, the voice acting, the characters, and the overall attention to detail that Naughty Dog has applied to their game. As the story begins, we're treated to an excellent speech by Samos, the the Green Eco sage from the first game, in a voice so crisp, so genuine, I could not help but be entranced. It only gets better from here. The plot is constantly twisting and turning, and it actually feels like there is indeed a reason for what you are doing. Never before has a platformer given people a NEED to continue, if only to see what happens next. As for the voice acting, it is all amazingly done, comparable to the best in the gaming world, such as the Mark of Kri, or even more shocking, Metal Gear Solid. One other thing that has been done is the wonderful use of new characters, that actually have a motivation for their actions. No longer do they do things just for the hell of it, they all have personality quirks and convictions, and nearly all of them work. I have a gripe with only one of the characters, mainly because she is exactly the same as she was in the first game. Keira, as a character, has the least amount of depth, simply doesn't fit very well in the environment of Haven City, and quite frankly, has a voice that grates at my ears. Aside from that, all of the characters work wonderfully in the new environment (even Daxter).
Oh, where to begin. This game is one of the most beautiful games I have ever seen, in a category that encompasses graphics, style, and overall effect. To start, the graphics in this game are simply breath-taking. They grab hold and don't let go, with the consistent framerate, long draw distance, and overall quality of graphical design. Which of course, leads me into style. The style that has been placed upon the polygons in this game is quite the lasting achievement. From the twisting Parisian-style streets of the Slums, to the misty mechanics of the docks, everything is as it should be. Some might complain that areas such as the Slums, the Water Slums, and the Docks are ugly compared to the beauty and architecture of areas surrounding the Barons palace, and they would be correct. However, these people don't understand the beauty that areas like this can hold. The Slums and the docks, with their dingy, almost lonely nature, are beautiful in the same way that paintings by Edward Hopper are beautiful. That is what makes all the difference. Finally, the overall lasting effect. For this section, I only wish to talk about one thing. As far as I can recall, the first game to have a day/night cycle was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It was a masterstroke, giving the area of hyrule field an astonishing amount of character, and most importantly, it actually made me FEEL something to see that sun rise above the field every day. The day/night cycle in that game was so beautiful, it almost felt like a real sunset. Since then, many other games have tried to implement a cycle such as this (including Jak and Daxter), but the all failed to have the same impact, for whatever reason. At last, and game has come around with a sun and moon that effect me, just as they did in Ocarina of Time all those years ago. Seeing the sun go down from below the buildings in the slums, or standing in the strip mine to see it rise...simply amazing.
Finally, we have arrived at perhaps the most important category, the one that involves the gameplay and the controls. The gameplay, as it should be, is captivating. It draws you in with fluidity and spot-on design, and makes you unable to stop until you've made the last jump, beat the last enemy, or got the last artifact. The four guns are integrated perfectly into Jak's move set, allowing him to call upon them at a moments notice. The guns, quite notably, are also balanced well, as you are encouraged to learn which one is proper for whichever situation that you're in. Next on the list of gameplay additions would be that tortured alter ego, Dark Jak. Dark Jak is a joy to play, with an intriguing appearance, and over the top, deadly moves at his disposal. He does his job well, saving your ass if you happen to be caught in a mob of deadly enemies. The vehicles are essentially evolutions of the A-grav Zoomer from the first game, and although they can take some getting used to, once you've gotten the hang of it, they provide some intense racing opportunities. Some people have also complained of some difficulty with the hoverboard, but I never noticed any real problem (this could be attributed to the fact that I played the Strip Mine level of the demo level close to fifty times). The last thing I have to say about gameplay, is that although it is challenging, it is nowhere near as frustrating as some people have claimed. You will die, you will improve, and you will continue. Simple as that. Now for controls, I have almost nothing to say. Jak controls perfectly, with a tight button layout, with a fluidity that allows you to almost instinctively attack if you're caught in a desperate place. It all works.
Jak II is one of the finest games to bless the PS2 with it's existence in quite a while. It is something that you should buy in the immediate future.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 10/23/03
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