Where the hell is Jak IV?

The whispers and rumors have completely gone away…people don’t even bring up Jak any more because it’s so unlikely.

God of War: Ragnarok releases tonight at midnight, thus making today a HUGE day for gamers everywhere.

This was a weird way to start a blog that’s going to be about the Jak and Daxter series, but it ties in, I promise.

Since I just played 2018’s God of War for the very first time last year, I didn’t feel like playing it again this year in preparation for Ragnarok. The story’s fresh on my mind and my body is ready for whatever happens next!

Former Nintendo executive and video game legend, Reggie Fils-Aime

So, with time to kill before this HUGE release, I was looking for something to play to keep my mind occupied during these trying times. I didn’t want to truly start anything new, so I sought comfort in the past.

Available on PlayStation Plus is the entirety of the Jak and Daxter series including: Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (2001), Jak II (2003), Jak III (2004), and Jak X: Combat Racing (2005).

Jak X is TRASH so I will not be focusing on that at all in this blog.

Alongside Kingdom Hearts, Ratchet and Clank, and Sly Cooper, Jak is one of the heroes from my childhood that will always bring about nostalgia. Sly Cooper recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and with no new titles on the horizon, all fans can do is hope for his return.

With the Kingdom Hearts series alive and well in its 20th Anniversary and the Ratchet and Clank series still getting additions in 2021, one can’t help but get excited about who else is getting a revival soon.

Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart (2021)

Jak and Daxter‘s 20th Anniversary came and went with the same fanfare that Sly got: absolutely nothing.

While it’s fun that I can play the whole original Jak Trilogy on PS5, I can’t help but be sad about the fact that we’ve never gotten a legit Jak IV from Naughty Dog.

The entire gaming community is in concurrence that this weird offshoot game developed by High Impact Games in 2009 titled Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier is NOT a canon addition to the story of our characters.

Check out SuperButterBuns’ breakdown of this awful game

Without the original development team and studio creating a game to expand upon the original trilogy, we can’t consider anything to be a true sequel to Jak III. While Jak X is a sequel to Jak III, it’s a racing game that doesn’t provide the fun platforming and combat that the original trilogy provided.

That’s what people want out of a Jak IV: New Story, Old Jak and Daxter. Meaning, Square is to punch, Circle is to Spin Kick, X is to Jump, and L1 is to roll…A LOT.

Also, I can’t get through this and not mention 2006’s Daxter. Daxter is a prequel game that tells the story of Daxter trying to find Jak in the two years between Jak and Daxter and Jak II.

I didn’t have a PSP and this game was a PSP exclusive. Only really rich kids had a PSP, but from what I gather, people enjoyed this game a lot more than Jak X and The Lost Frontier.

Daxter (2006) a PlayStation Portable Exclusive

However, since Daxter is a prequel, it doesn’t matter what console it came out on. It didn’t expand upon the stories of our characters following Jak III and Jak X.

With Naughty Dog focusing on more realistic characters and gritty stories over the last decade with the beloved Uncharted and The Last of Us series’, it seems Jak and Daxter have been completely left behind.

Uncharted 4 (left) and The Last of Us: Part I (right)

I absolutely LOVE Uncharted and TLOU, but not more than Jak. I mentioned this point in my TLOU blog, but I’ll say it again: it’s kinda wild that The Last of Us: Part I has been remastered for two different consoles before Jak IV was even rumored to be in development.

Tom Holland, our favorite MCU Spider-Man and live-action Nathan Drake actor, has even said in interviews that he wants Jak and Daxter to return. WHY WON’T NAUGHTY DOG LISTEN TO SPIDER-MAN/NATHAN DRAKE?!?!

There used to be whispers of its development online. So much so that a former Naughty Dog employee even leaked a few concept art pieces of a Jak IV online.

A much more “realistic” looking Jak
Jak IV concept of Jak and Daxter investigating an old Precursor ruin site

These concept images are all people have had to go on for a few years as it pertains to Jak IV. The whispers and rumors have completely gone away. Every single time a PlayStation: State of Play (digital showcase of upcoming games) is announced, people don’t even bring up Jak any more because it’s so unlikely.

You can even tell how much it makes sense Naughty Dog wanted to move forward with the “realistic” vibes with Nathan Drake from Uncharted and Joel and Ellie from TLOU because Jak’s “realistic” look is kinda scary-looking and unnatural. However, I would absolutely get used to it if it was a real thing!

Replaying through the Jak series these last few weeks has just reminded me of the hurt of not having another entry on the horizon. (And also the hurt of the Mission Failed screen from Jak II and Jak III because I’ve seen them A LOT)

My hope hasn’t been completely snuffed out like others’ has. But this playthrough of the original trilogy has also reminded me just how amazing these games are. They’ve aged like wine and I still find them brilliant, just as I did as a kid.

Hell, I’d contribute my borderline OCD to collecting every Power Cell and Precursor Orb in Jak and Daxter.

I’m one to never say never. So, I can’t say and don’t want to say that Jak IV won’t happen. But I hope we can still generate the hype enough to let Naughty Dog know we want it.

And Sly too. I know this blog was about Jak, but shit, I just did to Sly what everyone did to Sly! We want Jak so bad that we’re not loud enough about Sly!

Please bring back Sly and Jak! Even the developers for Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart want these characters back!

While I was revisiting the Jak series, I also found this great video from an amazing content creator that I already linked to above.

SuperButterBuns on YouTube has this amazing retrospective on the Jak series and gets a little bit more in-depth on what I went over in this blog on a game-to-game basis. Here’s that video:

Please show Buns some love and keep the love of Jak (and Sly) alive!

As we all nestle in to play God of War tonight, let’s not forget that we could very well have the power to bring Jak back.

Don’t give up hope, ever.

~DS

Why I think Halloween Town is the best Disney World in Kingdom Hearts

The immersion of this world is still impressive 20 years later

Happy Halloween!

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday and I love going all in on my costumes. Part of the reason why I love the Halloween Town world in the Kingdom Hearts games is because Square Enix and Disney went all in on this world.

I explained it above in this clip from my Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary video, but it’s honestly crazy how cool they made a Nightmare Before Christmas world in Kingdom Hearts.

Not only does Sora, the main character, take on a Halloween Town appearance, but two of the most iconic characters in the history of visual media also take on these scary forms. Donald and Goofy having mummy and Frankenstein’s monster variants are just so cool.

On top of that, scoring the world is an instrumental version of the famed “This is Halloween” from the movie. The soundtrack continues to loop as you play through the world and it simply doesn’t get old.

While this is the general world theme, the battle theme goes even harder. Yoko Shimomura, the composer for the Kingdom Hearts series, is known for the series’ beautiful melodies and world themes. But the Halloween Town battle music “Spooks of Halloween Town” is absolutely top-tier stuff.

When you’re playing video games, sometimes consistently beating up the small-fry enemies on your way to a level’s boss battle can be annoying. Not when this theme keeps interrupting “This is Halloween.” This is an absolute BANGER. Certified fresh.

I’m an advocate for saving Christmas music until Black Friday every year. I know this is my Halloween blog, but part of the theme of the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas is the Christmas part.

In Kingdom Hearts, they didn’t do the Christmas part of the world. But in Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix, the immersion went even further.

*Play the music*

Christmas Town in Kingdom Hearts II got its own theme, its own battle music, and its own versions of Sora, Donald, and Goofy as well. Square Enix and Disney went that hard AGAIN!

Santa Sora, Reindeer Goofy, and Snowman Donald just provides that extra immersion that makes the magical gaming adventures through Disney films in attempts to defeat the darkness that much better.

The best part about the Christmas Town battle theme from Kingdom Hearts II is that you could score it over your upcoming Christmas shopping and it will provide all the stress. Listen below:

While the main characters of the Kingdom Hearts series taking on forms of the Disney films they visit is now a main staple:

Toy Story world in Kingdom Hearts III
Monsters, Inc. world in Kingdom Hearts III
Pirates of the Caribbean world in Kingdom Hearts III

The OG world to begin this trend was Halloween Town in the original game over two decades ago. While Toy Story may be my favorite Disney movie and a five year old me back in 2002 would’ve preferred a Toy Story world over a Nightmare Before Christmas world in the first Kingdom Hearts, there wouldn’t have been a Toy Story world in Kingdom Hearts III if it weren’t for the amazing visuals, soundtracks, and character costumes from Halloween Town.

Enjoy the holiday!

~DS

I recreated Michael Jordan’s “Shrug Game” in NBA 2K23

The court, the camera filter, the scorers table, and even the roar of the old stadium look and sound so much like the real thing.

From my previous YouTube upload about recreating Michael Jordan’s “The Shot” against Cleveland during the 1989 NBA Playoffs in NBA 2K23, it’s become quite apparent that the presentation of this video game is at an all-time high.

When I arrived at Jordan Challenge #10, I was absolutely blown away by how awesome it looked. You had the voice of basketball Marv Albert giving an awesome preamble, then you cut to an opening preview video that mimics the NBA on NBC Finals broadcasts from the ’90s, and then you get the full Chicago Bulls starting lineup narrated by Ray Clay with Sirius by The Alan Parsons Project blaring in a darkened virtual Chicago Stadium.

And of course, to see them decked out in the ’90s Bulls warm-ups is a nice touch too!

The court, the camera filter, the scorers table, and even the roar of the old stadium look and sound so much like the real thing.

This moment from Michael Jordan’s career is one of my favorites. Funnily enough, this moment is one of my first uploads to my YouTube channel over a decade ago.

There are now better looking videos with the original broadcast, but if you squint your eyes at the NBA 2K23 footage, it’s really tough to tell the difference.

I love this game and I can’t wait to play through the rest of MJ’s career virtually!

~DS

blink-182’s new song EDGING is a perfect way to start the weekend

I would literally call it Anthem Pt. 3 if EDGING weren’t perfect already.

This song is an absolute anthem from a band that the world needed to return. I would literally call it Anthem Pt. 3 if EDGING weren’t perfect already. I truly still can’t fathom that blink-182 is back together again!

After Mark Hoppus beat cancer, whispers quickly turned into full-fledged rumors, and rumors turned into conspiracy theories.

Tom DeLonge, who hasn’t been in the band since 2011, is finally back and the blink we all know and love is OFFICIALLY BACK! New music, a new album, and a World Tour are all coming!

I got tickets to one of their shows on this World Tour and it was not cheap. But, I don’t care!

I said this to a friend the other day: “I think the only bands I would pay that much for would be The Beatles, Zeppelin, and blink with Tom DeLonge, so considering the other two can’t ever happen, I had to pull the trigger.”

Happy New Music Friday and Happy Friday in general! I’ll be listening to EDGING all weekend, all month, all year, and forever.

~DS

The Last of Us TV Show Trailer has revamped my love for the series

One of the greatest video games of all-time is about to be a TV show and I’m hyped

If you know me or you’ve read this blog or kept up with my YouTube channel, you’d know my favorite video game series of all-time is Kingdom Hearts.

I love that series like no other and I’ll forever remain emotionally invested in its story and characters.

However, I think the overall best story of any video game I’ve ever played comes from Naughty Dog’s 2013 masterpiece: The Last of Us.

Set in a fictionalized United States, The Last of Us tells the story of a man named Joel, surviving on his own after the death of his daughter in a world where a horrific disease has caused its victims to turn into fungal-infested zombies.

After he meets a young girl named Ellie, who is immune to the disease, the pair fight their way across the United States to find a group of doctors who can help turn Ellie’s immunity into a possible cure for the disease.

Full of heart, morally ambiguous characters, factions, and true psychological studies of characters that are pushed to their limits, The Last of Us made an impact on me as a writer, gamer, and human being in general.

After HBO announced it would be turning the game into a show, I was sort of hesitant on whether or not to be excited. Given how cinematic the actual game is, I wasn’t sure the story needed revisiting as a television show.

But that changed this past week when HBO released the trailer for the show.

Scored by the eerily calm strums of Hank Williams’ Alone and Forsaken, Pedro Pascal’s Joel and Bella Ramsey’s Ellie seem to perfectly capture the atmospheric brilliance of the video game.

The Last of Us is so revered as a video game because it presents the world it takes place in as a real one. You go from Boston, to Pittsburgh, to Salt Lake City and you truly feel the emptiness of these once great American cities that have now fallen to the Cordyceps brain infection.

The characters speak to each other in a way that actual people talk to each other. It isn’t like other video games where lines of dialogue are sewn together. Characters cut each other off, they respond non-verbally, they talk over each other and react emotionally to what’s being said or what’s happening to them.

The trailer for the show appears to capture ALL of this and it has gotten my hype levels for the show, the games, and even the music all the way back up.

I’ve always sort of kept my opinion about 2020’s The Last of Us: Part II to myself because the game is quite divisive in the public sphere. I think it’s just as beautiful and outstanding as the first game and while I still dislike the choice they made with Joel in that game, I understand why they did it and why it made the story of the second game that much better in the end.

But still, the second game was more of a grim, revenge-filled game that rarely had a spark of charm and humaneness that made the first game a forever classic. I’m so excited to see how Pedro Pascal’s Joel and Bella Ramsey’s Ellie grow into the father-daughter roadtrip relationship that made the first game so damn special.

This blog is about how I’m all the way back in on the series and not how I feel about Part II, so that’s that.

So to put it all together, I’ve been listening to nothing but The Last of Us soundtrack while I type and work since this trailer came out.

Arguably the best thing about the series is its music.

Empty. Sad. Hopeless. But also, relaxing and comforting. This music is part of why the series is so impactful on me. This music puts you right into the environment of the game and as a musical backdrop, it’s arguably the best in any medium ever. Films, television, video games, etc.

So, while I wait for the show, TLOU: Part III, or whatever may come next for this series, I know I’ll be listening to the music and remembering the first time I ever played the game.

Hell, I may even sling $70 to purchase The Last of Us: Part I remastered for the PS5. While the game has already been remastered, this was the developer’s chance to give the original game the same life that the sequel had.

And apparently, it succeeded at that.

If you need calm music to listen to, need a great game to play, or want to immerse yourself into a world that, despite falling into a zombie apocalypse, is a lot more human than ours, give The Last of Us a shot.

~DS

“The Shot” Jordan Challenge #5 – NBA 2K23 (PS5)

On May 7, 1989, Michael Jordan sent the Cleveland Cavaliers home with one of the most iconic buzzer beating shots in the history of basketball.

On May 7, 1989, Michael Jordan sent the Cleveland Cavaliers home with one of the most iconic buzzer beating shots in the history of basketball.

One of the coolest things that has happened in sports gaming is the reintroduction of the Jordan Challenges in NBA 2K23.

Originally introduced in NBA 2K11, the Jordan Challenges provide gamers and basketball fans with an incomparable homage to the career of Michael Jordan, the Greatest Basketball Player of All-Time.

Back in 2K11, there were only 10 challenges, now there are 15. One of the new challenges is the one from my video above: The Shot.

Most of the challenges in 2K23 and all of the challenges from 2k11, were full games from MJ’s career. Having this quick mini-game to recreate this iconic moment is one of the great reasons that separates 2K23 from 2K11.

Not to mention the era-specific broadcast visuals and the accuracy to announcers.

2K23 is making strides to be the greatest basketball video game of all-time because of changes like this.

I haven’t even gotten to dig into MyNBA Eras mode, where it’s possible to jump in a time machine and alter NBA History from 1983 on.

I want to record and upload more of my Jordan Challenge experience, and maybe some of my MyNBA Eras seasons. But once again, I’m just happy to be adding to this blog again.

Let me figure out how to trade Magic Johnson and Larry Bird to the Bulls, still draft Michael Jordan and have a Chicago Bulls dynasty that lasts for 40 years and then I’ll be back!

~DS

Back to the Blog: Video Game Leaks

Returning to ramble about whatever, most specifically, recent video game leaks

It’s truly been a long time since I’ve blogged here.

My YouTube channel has remained steadily active with gaming updates and Lightsaber unboxings over the last few years and those have always been my personal escapes to content.

But when I realized that something sort of felt off about my life in the moment, I evaluated and realized that I hadn’t written anything creatively from my own voice in a while! Seriously, in between my last written blog and now might be the longest stretch of not writing something creative since before high school like 12 years ago.

So, I’m going to begin writing here again whenever I feel like it! I just feel like I need somewhere to put my brain out on paper and my Twitter timeline can’t be my complete, 100% honest self.

But to keep in theme with things that I care about: my blogs will be about food, video games, sports, etc. Always like they have been, but when my thoughts need more fleshing out, I’ll head here!

So, something big happened in the gaming world over the weekend and it’s sprouted into possibly the largest leak in the history of gaming.

Grand Theft Auto VI is Rockstar’s highly anticipated sequel to 2013’s GTA V, which for nearly 10 years now, has received online lobby support/updates and has been released on three different console generations.

In the early morning of 9/18, #GTA6Leaks started trending on Twitter and it was discovered that over an hour of pre-alpha footage of GTA VI had been stolen and published online.

It wasn’t just this one page that was posting the leaks, but this account has 8000+ followers and was one of the premier pages for the leaks yesterday. Thankfully, a lot of the images and videos from this page now look like this:

Rockstar released the below message earlier on 9/19, not only confirming the leaks but also saying that despite this, development is ongoing.

What an absolute gut punch for Rockstar and the development team. Nobody ever wants their creation to leak early, but it almost always seems to happen. Even to the biggest movies in the world:

But now this has happened, a REALLY STUPID debate has broken out online. Now that people have seen the leaked footage of GTA VI, they’re being extremely harsh about the gameplay.

For anyone that doesn’t understand how stupid the above three tweets are, let me explain it plainly.

When game footage gets leaked in a pre-alpha stage, that means it’s not even close to being done with development. When the leaker got ahold of this gameplay, they released things that haven’t been polished or fully coded yet.

So when somebody says it looks “ass” or “like shit” or “unfinished,” it’s because it’s fucking supposed to! What it’s not supposed to be is commented on at this stage by any of us because the developer didn’t intend for this footage to be seen yet!

Rockstar has always kept their cards close to their chest when it comes to video game announcements/releases. When they were developing Red Dead Redemption II, they didn’t announce the game until Oct. 2016 and only released two trailers in between its Oct. 2018 release.

Want to know their reward from that? The sprawling Old West open-world adventure game is revered as one of the greatest visual gaming experiences of all-time and new things are still being discovered about the game.

What will happen to GTA VI when someone doesn’t like something about a gameplay element from these leaks that makes it to the final game? They’ll say “OH, IT LOOKED EXACTLY LIKE THAT IN THE LEAKS! BAD GAME!”

This hits home for me as someone who’s heavily invested in the video game/movie/tv show/pop culture world. I don’t want to experience things before the developer intends for me to experience their creation.

Gameplay elements, story elements, character arcs, etc. are all meant to be revealed to us in a relatively equal manner. There’s a reason why release dates and everything like them exist. It’s so everyone is given an equal opportunity to experience a developer’s project at the same time and allow a proper cycle of criticism or reverence.

Like so ^

Two highly anticipated games from Marvel, now being snared at by people to get leaked. One of the biggest problems with the GTA VI leak is now this: people will want it for whatever game they’re anticipating.

This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about this. But see below how I felt when Kingdom Hearts III got stolen and leaked about a month before its release date:

It’s crazy it’s been almost four years since that video, however, my feelings remain the same.

We can’t have this shit.

Let’s put it into terms that I love the most, as I just did above: Kingdom Hearts.

Look at the original Beta build of Sora from the first Kingdom Hearts:

Compared to the final:

I mean, a million times better, right? And that’s from the Beta stage to the final! The GTA VI leaks are from a pre-alpha build of the game. Which comes before alpha and well before Beta.

How about Kingdom Hearts III, which went from absolutely ZERO new trailers and information between its first three years of developments to this trailer at Jump Festa 2016.

Sora’s upgrade between the original trailer to the final game is staggering:

Isn’t it crazy what just a few years of development will do for a video game? Wait, you mean, it’s not crazy at all? BINGO!!!!!

You’re damn right it’s not crazy at all! GTA VI will be no different when it comes to this. When you give companies enough time to finish and polish their product, the better it will look in the end!

I can’t believe this even has to be said, but today’s world is becoming less surprising with how people react to things off the cuff.

So I’m pouring one out for the Rockstar and GTA VI development team because what happened really sucks. But, within the next couple of years, GTA VI will be out and regardless of these leaks, I’m sure a lot of people (myself included), will be bought in for another 10-year, 3-console generation saga with Grand Theft Auto.

Leaking things hurts everybody. It hurts the creator, it hurts the audience and it hurts the final experience of the product. Don’t do it and don’t buy into it. Waiting for something makes the experience of it ten times better. I hope we’re all looking forward to the official GTA VI or Spider-Man 2 or Kingdom Hearts IV trailers when they arrive.

I know I am, and you’ll find me talking about them right here!

~DS

Kingdom Hearts 2020 TRAILER REACTION!!

NOMURA IS AT IT AGAIN!

Kingdom Hearts Union X is ending, Kingdom Hearts Dark Road is almost here, the Kingdom Hearts 3 soundtrack is coming out in the Fall and Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory is REAL and it’s a sequel to Kingdom Hearts 3! Here’s my reaction!

Follow me On Twitter: https://twitter.com/theOG_DANIMAL

Kingdom Hearts DARK ROAD Characters REVEALED!

Last night, the Kingdom Hearts Dark Road Twitter account dropped the names of the 4 brand new keyblade wielders that will serve as characters in the story of Young Eraqus and Young Xehanort.

The new mobile game will tell the story of how Young Xehanort became evil. How are these 4 new characters tied into that story? What do their names mean? Check out my thoughts in this video!

Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/theOG_DANIMAL