Comparing “Jak and Daxter” and “Ratchet and Clank”: Two Series Everyone Must Play

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about two of my favorite series, both of which are often compared to each other, the PlayStation exclusive series “Jak and Daxter” and “Ratchet and Clank”.  From what I can tell, these series always seem to be related to each other, likely because their developers, Naughty Dog and Insomniac respectively, have worked with each other throughout the years.  (Ever heard of the games combining “Crash Bandicoot” and “Spyro the Dragon”?)  I absolutely adore both of these series, as they are a lot of fun, while also combining great characters and interesting stories, along with absolutely fantastic voice acting, and I thought I’d discuss how these two series compare to each other in several different categories.  But first, a quick summary of each series.

The “Jak and Daxter” series started off as a fantasy platformer in “The Precursor Legacy”.  Here we meet our heroes, Jak and Daxter.  The game shows how Daxter, originally a bucktoothed human, fell into Dark Eco and got turned into an ottsel (half otter, half weasel).  Then, it follows their adventures to try to get Dax turned back to normal.  It was a great game, consisting of exploring interesting locations, meeting funny characters, and collecting a bunch of Precursor Orbs and Power Cells to progress through the huge, open world of the game.  The game emphasized the use of Eco, a substance Jak can channel, that could do different things depending on the color.  Then, the series drastically changed in “Jak II”, with our heroes going a couple hundred years into the future.  Ever since, the series has become more serious and dark, while still retaining a great sense of humor.  There is more emphasis on guns and less on Eco, though Light and Dark Eco now play greater roles in the story.

The “Ratchet and Clank” series hasn’t been quite the same as of late, but this series hasn’t changed quite so much over the years.  This game stars the Lombax (a bipedal feline creature) mechanic Ratchet and the smart, little robot Clank.  Each game involves Ratchet using a wide variety of guns and gadgets to defeat enemies, while meeting a bunch of goofy characters along the way.  This series is more sci-fi than the “Jak” series and involves our heroes exploring many different planets (rather than just one like in the “Jak” series).  Now, let’s do some hardcore comparing.

Gameplay: Both series are a lot of fun to play.  Both involve some kind of platforming, and other than the first “Jak and Daxter”, both also involve fighting with guns.  There is a small variety of guns in the “Jak” series, but the “R&C” series has a much more interesting, much more ridiculous array of weapons (from guns that shoot tornadoes to guns that open up portals to other dimensions).  While Ratchet has a much better variety of guns, Jak is much better at regular combat.  Ratchet can simply whack people with a wrench, so if you run out of ammo in that series, you’re pretty much out of luck.  If this happens in the “Jak” series, Jak can hold his own just fine.  Both series also sometimes involve Daxter or Clank occasionally going out and exploring on their own, though Clank’s gameplay is more fun because he often has to work with these little robots to get through levels, while Daxter really just does regular platforming.

The “Jak” series has more variety in terms of different things Jak himself can do, such as riding around on zoomers or his JET-board.  Or using different kinds of Eco in “Jak 1”, or using Dark Eco to turn into the powerful Dark Jak to pummel enemies in several games, or using Light Eco to become Light Jak to fly and slow time in “Jak 3”.  On the other hand, Ratchet has a variety of gadgets that do different things.  Some are for getting to places Ratchet couldn’t otherwise reach, like the swingshot, while others require Ratchet to solve a puzzle to open a door.  He also has items that can make enemies dance or turn into animals to make them easier to defeat.  Both series are a lot of fun, and they are tied in this category.  (Behold my inability to take sides here!)

Characters: One big reason why I love these games so much is because they have some of the best characters ever.  The “Jak and Daxter” series has a good number of characters that play important roles in the story.  These characters are humorous, but starting in “Jak II”, they are also more complex to fit with the games’ more serious storylines.  When it comes to the main characters, Jak is the usual quiet hero.  Nothing particularly interesting.  Daxter, on the other hand, is loud-mouthed and annoying.  But, I mean that in a good way.  While Daxter manages to tick off quite a lot of people, he is a very humorous character (to the players, at least), as we listen to him chatter away and get into things and cause trouble and tell tall tales about his adventures that never happened.

The “R&C” characters are also quite lovable, and there are several that make appearances throughout the series.  Namely our heroes, of course, plus the idiotic, surprisingly un-heroic superhero Captain Qwark, and the maniacal, organic life form-hating robot Dr. Nefarious.  And strangely, the plumber.  Characters in this series can be much sillier than in “Jak and Daxter”, and it is interesting to note that this series has a lot more random characters that play only a small role in one game, then, don’t appear again.  (Aside from “Jak 1”, characters in the “Jak” series usually play a role throughout the entire game, and there are quite a few that play important roles in several games.)  When it comes to the main characters of this series, I don’t find them quite as entertaining as the heroes of “Jak and Daxter”.  Or even as entertaining as other characters of the “R&C” series.  To be honest, I am not a fan of Ratchet in particular due to him not being that interesting to me and because of his occasional periods of jerkiness to Clank in various games.  I do, however, like Clank, who is more serious and bad at making jokes.  And not a jerk.  Like Ratchet.  Who is a jerk.

Anyway, in terms of main characters, Jak and Ratchet don’t catch my attention very much, but while I like both Daxter and Clank, Daxter is clearly more entertaining.  In terms of all the characters, I like the characters of “Jak and Daxter” a bit better.  They are more complex and play larger roles in the games, and I like the main characters themselves more.  But, as I said, both series really have great characters, and this is really a matter of opinion.  A tentative point for “Jak and Daxter”…

Stories: Both series have great, often epic, stories.  The first “Jak and Daxter” game had a simpler story, but after that, the series started to have much more complex stories that are almost RPG-like.  Whatever the game, though, these stories often involve Jak stopping some sort of evil on his planet, such as stopping two crazy siblings from flooding the world with Dark Eco or putting an end to Baron Praxis’s iron rule over Haven City, whilst also dealing with the Metal Head threat.  The “R&C” stories can be quite interesting, too, but they involve stories on a galactic scale.  Ratchet and Clank are not saving the world.  They are saving the galaxy.  Or perhaps, the entire universe, from such (lovable) scumbags as Dr. Nefarious, who once tried to kill all organic life, to Emperor Tachyon, who wanted to bring back the Cragmite race so they could regain their rule over the galaxy.  Due to the more serious nature of the “Jak” series, I like those stories better, but once again, both series have great stories, and it’s really a matter of opinion.  I’m going to look weak and incapable of making decisions, but I suppose it’s a tie again.  You know what, a point for “Jak”.  That’s right, I did it.  You can’t say I’m indecisive now.

Humor: Both series are hilarious.  Seriously.  I would say the two main characters of “Jak and Daxter” are more fun than those of “R&C”, with all the credit going to Daxter and his antics, but the “Ratchet and Clank” series is even more humorous overall.  Other than Daxter, the “Jak” series can’t do too much to compare to such characters as Captain Qwark or Dr. Nefarious.  You can’t stop from laughing at those two and laughing hard.  Don’t get me wrong, the “Jak” series has some pretty funny stuff, but “R&C” is just more ridiculous and random, and the humor is not confined to cut scenes.  The “R&C” series even has humorous statements during the gameplay, such as this one at the Zeldrin Starport, “Due to increased security, thermonuclear warheads and nail clippers are no longer permitted as carry-on baggage”.  You can even use an item called the Groovitron to make characters and enemies dance.  There is a much smaller frequency of boogying in the “Jak and Daxter” series.  A shame.  A completely confident point for “R&C”, both for being funnier and showcasing more dancing.

Frequency: While the two series started only a year apart (with “Jak and Daxter” starting December 4, 2001 and “Ratchet and Clank” starting November 4, 2002), they are drastically different in terms of how often new games come out.  The “Jak” series has a total of six games so far, with no new games since the spinoff made by High Impact Games, “The Lost Frontier”, which came out several years ago on November 3, 2009.  The “R&C” series has nearly doubled that, with 11 games, with the most recent, “Full Frontal Assault”, coming out November 27, 2012.  “R&C” clearly wins here.

Quality: Now, both series are high-quality, but here I mean the quality of the games over the years.  Unfortunately, both series don’t seem to be doing so well as of late.  The “Jak” series has been in decline, as I think each game is not quite as good as the one that came before.  It started out absolutely amazing, heading to pretty good, and then it took a sharp nose dive and exploded when “The Lost Frontier” came out.  (I’m sorry.  I just don’t like that game.)  The “R&C” series has fluctuated more.  I thought the series gradually got better with its first trilogy, fluctuated in its second, and now it’s currently unsure if it wants to go the way of the “Jak” series, as the most recent installments, “All 4 One” and “Full Frontal Assault” are a major departure from what we’re used to.  So when it comes to quality, “R&C” takes a slight lead.

So there you have a comparison of the “Jak and Daxter” and “Ratchet and Clank” series.  They are both really great series.  They are a blast to play, with great characters and stories and a sense of humor that has made this duck chuckle (or duckle?) on many occasions.  You really can’t find many series that excel on so many levels (even the voice acting is top-notch).  The only thing that’s a shame is the current state of these games.  “R&C” has changed too much recently, and I hope they’ll go back to the way they used to be.  And I wish Naughty Dog would make another game.  I haven’t played a new “Jak” game in years.  I haven’t played a good one in longer still.  (I’m in the throes of “Jak and Daxter” withdrawal here!  Help!)  But, while the future of these series is uncertain, they have already given us many great games to play as we wait for what comes next (I just know more “R&C” games are on their way, but I am less optimistic about the “Jak” series.).  If you haven’t tried these series, I would highly recommend it.  Do it, or Daxter will come into your house and break something.  Then, blame it on Jak.  While Ratchet acts like a jerk.  And Clank just stays out of it.

Duck and Daxter or Ratchet and Duck

Screenshot by Flickr User: PlayStation.Blog

4 Comments Add yours

  1. It is surprising how common it is to have a bland good guy, whose sidekick ends up having all the character. Asterix was quite bland, but Obelix helped him out. Link is bland, but is helped by Zelda and Ganondor, or other supporting characters such Navi, King of Red Lions, Fi, Tingle… OK maybe not Tingle, but hopefully the point is made.

    Duck has put a most convincing argument forward for Dr. Nefarious being the stand-out character of the R&C series. I would support R&C only because hilarious supporting characters are awesome =)

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    1. duckofindeed says:

      That’s true, main characters are often not the most entertaining. Often times, they are boring, so my favorite characters are usually the villains or some minor character. It’s usually the sidekick and/or the villain that is the most fun. (With Dr. Nefarious being an obvious example of a funny villain. And in the “Zelda” series, “Skyward Sword” had the villain Ghirahim, who was very entertaining.) You’d think they’d want the hero, who is also the playable character, to be interesting, but I suppose not. And it’s so strange how the “R&C” series is so hilarious, but the main characters are largely not that funny. At least in “Jak and Daxter”, much of the humor comes from Daxter interacting with everyone else. Mainly annoying everyone else.

      And, yeah, Tingle is an example of a NOT good supporting character. Tingle is frightening. And deeply disturbing.

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  2. Hatm0nster says:

    I think part of the reason we see so many bland main/ player characters (Mass Effect’s Commander Shepard jumps to mind here), is simply because they are the player character. Giving the player-character a personality is a risk because there will always be a portion of the audience that won’t like it. This is fine for NPCs, because they’re just the characters you deal with in the game, the same cannot be said for the player-character however.
    This is because we usually spend ALL our time in the game with that character, and since nobody wants to spend time with someone they don’t like, the quick and easy solution is to make the character as inoffensive as possible by keeping them bland and generally uninteresting. You may not like a bland main character, but it’s also hard to say that you dislike them.

    Also, anyone else here think that Up Your Arsenal was the series high point for R&C?

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    1. duckofindeed says:

      You make a good point. I certainly don’t want to play as someone I dislike. (I still dislike Ratchet. Stupid, jerky Ratchet.) Plus, they probably want you to feel like you are the main character more, so they must give them less character traits, or else you can’t relate as much to them.

      And I agree with you about “Up Your Arsenal”. “A Crack in Time” was awesome, but it was too short and easy. “Up Your Arsenal” seemed to be longer, as far as I remember, and it was way more challenging, so it was way more satisfying. The final bosses of “A Crack in Time” were just sad.

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