Long time readers of the site and listeners of the Podcast may know something about me, I’m a Playstation guy; the second game system I received was a classic Playstation and with it I got a very well-known and classic game: Crash Bandicoot 2: Wrath of Cortex. Ever since that faithful day Naughty Dog has been the company I look most forward too, every single game they make is perfect in one way or another. So imagine my excitement for the Last of Us, coming out June of this year, and my shock to learn of its drastic over haul of the fun-loving naughty dog games I grew up with. I decided to make this article as sort of my version of the history of Naughty dog, though I’m not a historian of the subject, from Crash era to the end of the Uncharted era. Now if you want an informative piece of unbiased journalism then you better close this article; this article may be informative but it will be full of fan boy love and admiration.
The first era in the growth and evolution of Naughty Dog is the Crash Bandicoot era. Crash Bandicoot dropped in 1996 and was a revolutionary platforming adventure that was revolutionised the way playstation graphics and gameplay, it made enough money to make two sequels plus a racing game, but what made this era special? The Crash series followed the adventure of a bandicoot and his constant battle against the evil Dr. Cortex and his other various minions; Dr. Cortex goes from being your average villainous kidnapper to a man collecting mystical crystals and finally a time traveling buffoon who accidentally unleashes a god like threat. As the games progressed Crash became less and less generic as a Platformer, that being said even the most generic one was not that generic, and added more and more elements to the story and gameplay such as: mounts, various playable characters, vehicles and more. Crash was a E rated game that was fun for people of all ages, by adding child like slapstick humor and riveting gameplay it enticed and entranced people, and Crash quickly became one of the faces of Playstation joining memorable characters like the power Lara Croft, the sly Spyro the Dragon and the forgettable Prappa the Rappa. The last Crash game to be produced by Naughty Dog was Crash team Racing, a racing game as the name suggests, and was once again met with critical and fan acclaim; Crash team racing was made to capitalise on the success of games like Mario Kart and Diddy Kong racing where it succeeded in ways they failed (my not so humble opinion). After Crash team racing the Naughty Dog developers went in a different direction and Crash has since been in various other games but various other studios.
The next era is the Jak and Daxter era in the evolution and growth of Naughty Dog. The first Jak and Daxter game was in development for four years before finally dropping in 2001 and was so revolutionary because its seamless world and amazing gameplay actually making into the genius book of world records. The game follows our hero Jak who accidentally transforms his best friend Daxter into a small furry animal and their quest to turn him back; the hero Jak takes very little from Crash, only a couple of offensive moves, and the series goes in a whole new direction adding a whole new universe and some low brow but more mature humor. Jak and Daxter was successful enough to warrant a set of sequels and that is where things really started to change but it was for the better? In Jak 2 our heroes are transported to a dystopian future where Jak is experiment on for two years, resulting in new demonic powers, and resulting in a much darker outlook in our once cheerful protagonist. With the games new dark turn and more mature rating, jumping from E to a strong T, it was unclear how the public would react with scenes of torture and sexual overtones; the new game dealt more with tyranny and had our once childlike Jak turn into an action hero with an attitude and animal like ferocity. Thankfully the reception was beyond positive and our time traveling hero was given a third game titled Jak 3, picking up where the last game left off Jak 3 was Naughty Dogs attempt at filling in the missing holes added in the last games but it didn’t feel that way in fact it felt as fresh as the last. The universe is expanded by adding in another city and finally giving clue to who the gods of the Jak universe really are. Jak’s last game developed by Naughty was also a racing game titled Jak X and thought well received this reviewer felt it ran flat in comparison to the other games.
The most recent era of out look at evolution of Naughty Dog is the Uncharted era. The Uncharted games follow the adventures of a treasure hunter/thief Nathan Drake who uses his gunslinging and wall climbing to solve puzzles and kill pirates. This new look at what Naughty dog could do was dropped in 2007 and was a shocker to fans of the developer since it was the first series to use a real life setting, Naughty dog once more revolutionised games with its compelling dialog, characters and story. Still incorporating a form of platforming Nathan will use his skills he acquired as a master thief to scale statues, tombs and building while being tracked by over the top buildings in the vein of Indiana Jones in a more modern-day setting. As pre usual the games in this series were praised by everything and everyone alike, winning copious awards and becoming more innovative with each passing game. Each game shows Nathan learning of an ancient city or artifact and learning its secrets thanks to a diary of Sir Francis Drake, who Nathan is a supposed ancestor of, before finally choosing to destroy it or leave it for the safety of mankind, in true tradition Nathan has a loveable sidekick Victor Sullivan. Much like Crash and Jak, Naughty Dog had enough success with Nathan that he became one of the faces of his system; joining the likes of the sadistic Kratos and the free running, electric Cole McGrath and becoming a worldwide hit for the playstation 3.
The last era hasn’t even started yet but will be known as the Last of us era or the M for Magnificent era. I’m sorry that this was less like my other articles which were more thought-provoking and I swear I will do better next time but I had to make this article to show my appreciation for my favorite company Sony has to offer. The truth is that this article showed how much I love them not just out of nostalgia but out of love for what they did and what they helped accomplish in the video game world, it’s amazing what one very small company can accomplish and how it can grow. What’s even more amazing is the simple fact that unlike some companies every single series Naughty Dog has created has been revolutionary and brand new, a company that is full of this many good and fresh ideas is just rare any time. Sorry for the fan boy article but in the end I think if any company deserves the occasional indulgent article that no one wants to read but the writer himself its Naughty Dog. We love to forget about Naughty dog for short periods in the in-between times between their games because unlike Ubisoft they don’t rush yearly games out, but every time a new Naughty Dog game is announced the pressure is on for them and expectations are seemingly unmatchable but time after time they show us that a series doesn’t need eight sequels or a yearly release every year to put a little bit of joy in our hearts.