Is Naughty Dog Too Cool For Us Now?

Naughty Dog has risen up over the years to become the gem of the gaming industry, starting from the humble beginnings of child friendly Crash Bandaicoot and rising all the way up to the more serious themes of The Last of Us. For the longest time it felt like they could do no wrong, as each and every game they have released was a major hit for PlayStation and basically most if not all of their characters became the PlayStation mascot at one point or another. But has the studio’s success driven away their charm and sense of humor?

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is by far one of most anticipated games of 2016 and with it being the last Uncharted game, staring Nathan Drake at least, there has been a lot of pressure put on the studio to send off the character the right way. Does that mean that in order to put a beloved character to rest the studio must sacrifice its goofy side? To the disappointment of many, Creative Director, Neil Druckmann, has announced that the recurring character skin of Doughnut Drake, which is a particularly husky version of our titular hero, will not be featured in the game.

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“I didn’t want to have a laugh at someone’s expense, I thought we’d matured beyond that,” said Druckmann speaking with GamesRadar. “We actually had the whole thing modeled and in there, the team decided to make the call not to do it. We had a big debate about it and kind of approached it from all kinds of angles and decided we weren’t comfortable having it in our game.” For those of you who might not be familiar with this franchise long character, Doughnut Drake was an unlockable skin that the player could use in both multiplayer modes and story replay. Druckmann’s announcement of not including the character comes as a head-scratching surprise, as the character had been featured in the original trilogy of the first three games and there wasn’t any complaints or outcries about him from the community, so why the sudden change?

It seems as though Naughty Dog has developed quite the “no fun allowed” attitude over the past couple of years, as back in a 2015 interview with Game Informer when asked about whether or not the studio would be returning to their classic Crash Bandicoot series, Naughty Dog’s Josh Sherr, had stated, “I mean, animating the stylized stuff is a lot of fun, but the stories that we’re trying to tell right now are a little bit more grounded and a little bit more grown up than they were back in the Jak and Daxter days.” My question is, why can’t you do both? Why can’t the studio make both “realistic” and “grounded” games as well as, fun and stylized drawn ones? Why is it all of a sudden a taboo for the studio to even acknowledge cartoon stylized drawn games as fun anymore? What happened to the charm?

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Naughty Dog claims that the reason is due to them wanting to tell more serious stories and that’s perfectly fine, tell whatever stories your hearts desire, but I dare you to say that any cartoon-styled medium is incapable of telling a serious and grown up story. Disney Pixar stories are prime examples, what grown adult hasn’t cried through one of their films? The Legend of Zelda is a cartoon stylized game with many serious tones within. Another, more specific example, The Legend of Korra was a grown up series that dealt with many serious themes for a kid’s television show and even though it had stupid jokes tossed around within some of its episodes, that didn’t water down or spoil the story they wanted to tell. No spoilers here, but that extremely epic finale of the series just proves that there is not only a child and adult market for these kinds of stories, but they can be just as emotional as the serious and grounded The Last of Us.