Konami just doesn’t slow down. Just last month they gave Nintendo owners the magnificent Life Force, and now we are getting another gem in the form of Jackal. This appeared in the arcades as Top Gunner, but has received a huge overhaul for the NES. The developers have proven they know how to make fun 2-player simultaneous games (Contra) and now we can add Jackal to that list. Unlike their past several games, you won’t be battling space aliens or supernatural forces, instead relying on your heavily armed jeeps to take out soldiers and tanks. So grab a friend and get ready to blow stuff up!
Jackal is an overhead shooter, but you have total control over the scrolling of the screen. You mostly move upward, but the screen does allow some movement to the left and right as well. You play as Green Berets tasked with driving your jeep through deadly enemy territory to rescue the POWs and deliver them to safety. Your vehicle is equipped with a machine gun and explosives. You begin with grenades, but by rescuing hostages you can upgrade those to missiles fired via a bazooka and even again to a more powerful missile arsenal with more destructive range. To my surprise, all ammunition is unlimited, so there’s no need to worry about conserving your grenades or replenishing ammo. To rescue the captives, you must bomb every building you come across. Then simply stop and pick up the freed men and safely bring them to the landing point and a helicopter will land and pick them up.
The game is packed with enemies. You have foot soldiers, tanks, turrets, boats, and planes all out to destroy you. You can shoot, or simply run over foot soldiers. Other vehicles must be shot down and you’ll need a quick trigger finger (or turbo) to unleash as much destruction as quickly as you can. Obviously grenades and missiles are more powerful so make good use of them. You begin with three lives and all it takes is a single hit to blow up your jeep, which results in losing any upgraded attacks you’ve earned and many of your rescued POWs that are still in the back seat. The game has a continue system that mirrors other Konami games. The levels are more complex than other shooters and you’ll want to explore every inch to ensure you don’t miss any buildings. As you might expect, at the end of each stage there will be a boss fight that will block your progress until you prevail. A total of six levels are included, and each is more difficult than the last.
The graphics and sound in this game are impressive, but they certainly take a back seat to Contra. There are just three musical tracks that play across the six stages – as well as boss music. All of it is quite pleasing and you can tell this is a Konami game just from hearing the music. However, unlike Life Force and Contra, I didn’t rush to record all the music onto a cassette tape. The setting of this game is Vietnam and the stages take place both in the jungle and urban bases. Every level is fun to play and the difficulty ramps up slightly each time, but visually this isn’t going to blow you away and Jackal lacks the variety that Contra has. This game does control smoothly and doesn’t feature any of the slowdown or flickering issues.
Jackal is a huge improvement over other wartime shooting games like Iron Tank, Ikari Warriors, or Commando, but of course what else would we expect from Konami. Even though I had a great time playing this, it didn’t envelope me like Contra or Life Force did. The alien settings, boss battles, and power-up systems were just a lot more exciting in those games compared to the ones found here. The game is not overly easy, but not nearly as challenging as the other two. With only six stages it shouldn’t take too long to play though this game, but its fantastic to have another 2-player simultaneous game for the Nintendo. If you’re looking for another action-packed game to add to your collection, this one is it!
Final Thoughts: GREAT
If you are looking for a great action game, and particularly one where you can play co-op together, Jackal is surely one to consider. If you loved and played a lot of Contra, Legendary Wings, and Life Force – Jackal is right up your arsenal. It just lacks some of the magic that accompanied previous titles.
Aaron got his NES in 1991 and has loved and collected video games ever since. In addition to gaming, he enjoys Stephen King novels, Twins Baseball, and his cats.