Revenge and redemption: two concepts not to be handled lightly. But Jak 3 was up to the challenge of showing us how far Jak had fallen and how far he’d climb back up, and Naughty Dog did this so effectively with the use of some great cutscenes. Despite growing up on a healthy diet–or maybe that’s unhealthy–of games brimming with over-stylized FMV for cutscenes, I much prefer when a game keeps the cutscenes in line with in-game graphics, and that seemed to happen more often than not with PlayStation 2 era games. It’s less jarring and really stops the immersion from breaking.
Jak 3 opens up with basically a 10-minute cutscene that sets up the final game in the trilogy. Jak has been banished from Haven City, the very same city he saved in Jak II, to the Wasteland by Veger. As he, Daxter, and a talking bird whose name escapes me wander the desert, we are shown flashbacks leading up to our main man’s banishing. After too long in the sun, all three pass out and are eventually found by some scavengers thanks to a homing beacon in Jak’s hand. Turns out one of those scavengers is actually Damas, King of Spargus, an isolated city hidden in the Wasteland, and he’s taken Jak in, but only to see if he can prove himself in their battle arena.
The animation, voice-work, and framing is fantastic, on par with anything considered professionally cinematic. There’s not just a series of talking head shots; we get actual camera angles here. Even though it’s 10 minutes long, the game’s intro is well-paced, jumping from the present to the past, and giving every character their worth. Yup, even Daxter, who, at this point, is not too annoying. Amazingly, this is solely the beginning, and future cutscenes only get better, really showing characters emoting and plotting and moving with heart. Jak 3‘s ending scene is shocking, funny, concluding, and memorable–just like a Pixar film, which can be argued is like an hour and a half of pretty cutscenes. “Oh yeah,” Daxter says at the very end, “life is good.” So are your cutscenes, yo.
In fact, the cutscenes from the entire Jak and Daxter scenes were so fantastic that Naughty Dog put out a DVD of them and sent them to…uh, people. Fans all around. I got a copy in the mail, but I can’t recall why. Maybe I signed up for it? Or maybe it was part of being a subscriber to PSM magazine? Either way, I have a mass produced DVD disc that has all of the game’s cutscenes, and that’s not something that can be said about many games, now and from the past.