[Jackal logo]

[Deep in enemy territory]


System: NES
Publisher & Designer: Konami
Release Date: September 1988
Genre: Action
Players: 1 or 2 (simultaneous)
Save Feature? No

Ah...good old Jackal. Along with Konami classics from the late 80s such as Contra, Life Force, and Stinger, Jackal holds a very special place in this gamer's heart. I fondly remember playing this game with close friends as a child and just enjoying every action-packed, explosive minute of it! With its crisp graphics, impressive music/sound effects, and intuitive gameplay, you simply can't go wrong with Jackal.

Overview: Konami sure knew how to spoil us Nintendo fans back in the day didn't they? You pretty much knew what you were getting when it came to the newest Konami releases. Crisp, detailed graphics? Check. Rockin' adrenaline-pumping music? Check. High-octane gameplay with a challenge that'll make your blood boil? Check. And as far as Jackal is concerned? CHECK, CHECK, CHECK!

Although the game itself is very fun and enjoyable and can hold its own just fine, it is the nostalgic factor that makes this game truly special at least to me personally. I still have the fondest memories playing Jackal with my good friends Wesley Messer and Denny Jr. back in the late 80s when it first came out. We had an absolute blast playing this game for two reasons: #1. Like in Contra, you could play this game simultaneously with two players. #2. It is so much fun simply blowing things up and might be the only NES game where you could actually run over evil little army soldiers! Hey...back in the NES era, this is as close as we could get to Grand Theft Auto status okay? ;)

From a gameplay standpoint, Jackal uses a standard 2D overhead perspective that is quite similar to contemporaries such as Iron Tank, Ikari Warriors, and Commando. You will generally be moving in a vertical direction although there will be times when you move horizontally. This gives the game a nice sense of balance and keeps it from feeling too much like the other games I mentioned. And while Jackal is straightforward and linear for the most part, there are still a few minor secrets strewn about here and there (Hint: Simply fire your grenades/missiles in all directions! You never know what you might uncover with a simple grenade throw.)

As far as length is concerned, Jackal consists of six action-packed stages. Each stage has its own fair share of enemies/hazards and, while the main goal is to get through unscathed and defeat the enemy boss(es) at the end of each stage, you also want to make sure that you rescue as many POWs as possible. You can accomplish this by tossing grenades/missiles at the various buildings/houses in each level and rescuing your comrades (by touching them with your jeep). However, in order to truly accomplish your goal, you must deliver your comrades to the "friend" helicopter which is eagerly awaiting your arrival in selected spots of each stage. Safely deliver your brothers-in-arms and you will receive a ton of points and even extra lives in some cases! This is definitely an incentive to rescue POWs even though it isn't necessary to beat the game (which is kind of ironic when you think about it). However, if you are defeated before you reach the helicopter, you will lose several comrades and might only be able to salvage three or four of them. This is truly a unique feature in Jackal and adds an element not found in most games of this nature.

[The Jackal vs...little guys?!]
[Medusa heads? That's quite the unexpected development!]
[Sending POWs to safety!]

Graphics: Once again, Konami came through with an impressive visual performance in Jackal. The graphics are very crisp overall and the attention to detail (e.g. the various animated objects) is quite impressive for an NES game. Each stage features a unique color palette which gives the game a nice amount of diversity as well (a real challenge in any army-based game).

It is probably worth mentioning that there is some flickering present (most notably when two players and a whole host of enemies are on the screen at the same time) but this is pretty much par for the course as far as NES games go. Also, while the bosses in general are somewhat generic and forgettable, the statues in Stage 2 along with the gi-normous tank at the end of the game look very impressive by NES standards (particularly that tank!)

Music: I can still remember the first time I played Jackal thanks in large part to the game's music. With the ominous foreboding in the title theme combined with the brief ditty that plays as you start the game, Jackal exemplifies what it means to set the tone from a sound standpoint. Once your jeep appears on the screen and the game begins, you just feel this sense of duty to rescue your comrades and escape from enemy territory with your skin intact!

Like always, that unique Konami percussion/drum sound is stamped all over Jackal's soundtrack and gives the music its catchy beat. The best example of this is probably the track that plays in Stage 2. Subdued and somewhat serious in nature, this particular theme creates the perfect atmosphere for a game like Jackal. The other tracks are pretty good too. I always enjoyed the Stage 3 track with its almost cheerful tone and the initial Stage 1 theme is certainly no chopped liver as it sets the mood for the rest of the game quite nicely.

Another aspect of Jackal's sound that I want to briefly touch on is the sound effects. For an NES game especially, Jackal features some amazing sound effects! The various explosions sound great and even contain a little variety (I like how blowing up houses sounds different than destroying tanks and the like.) and for some reason, I just love the sound of shooting tanks with bullets. You can tell that the programmers really tried to do a great job in this area and it shows.

Play Control: Easy, fun, and even a bit intuitive describes this game's controls pretty well. You can move your jeep in a whopping eight directions (even diagonally!) with the D-pad which gives you a nice amount of flexibility. And since jumping is not used/needed in Jackal, Konami decided to use both the A and B buttons to shoot down your enemies which is a nice touch. With the A button, you can fire powerful grenades/missiles/exploding missiles in any direction. Or, if you prefer close combat, you can simply use your machine gun with the B button to take out nearby enemies. Just keep in mind that your machine gun will only fire directly upwards and in no other direction. It did take me a little while to get used to this particular feature. Overall, the controls in Jackal are pretty solid. There are times when you will wish that you were just a tad faster but that's a very minor complaint.

[Gotta take out the enemy's transportation!]
[The final showdown]

Challenge: Although I wouldn't quite put Jackal up with Contra or Life Force in terms of being yet another Konami game with a legendary challenge, Jackal is by no means a simple game. It took me a good year or two before I was finally able to beat this game and, like the in-game story promised, it certainly made my blood boil! The real challenge in Jackal is being able to rescue POWs and make it to the rescue helicopter without getting blown to bits first! Not only are there a lot of projectiles that you will have to avoid/shoot in Jackal, but there are subtle things like mines that can get you too. By the way, this is one of only a few NES games that can actually make me jump due to those freaking mines! Oh...and it is also worth noting that there are plenty of heat-seeking missiles that just love to hone in on little jeeps. You've been warned.

I can vividly recall another aspect of Jackal that stumped me for a while. I still remember being hopelessly puzzled by the boss(es) at the end of Stage 5. For those of you who haven't played Jackal, the Stage 5 boss consists of a plethora of mean-looking tanks charging out of a "garage" area. For a while, I thought that you actually had to destroy the tanks in order to defeat the "boss" when, in actuality, you have to destroy the garage area by tossing in missiles at just the right moment. It was a little frustrating at first but I remember being absolutely ecstatic once I figured this out!

The Stage 5 boss isn't the only boss in the game that requires a keen eye either. The final boss can be tricky to unmask unless you know where to toss your grenades/missiles. Listen carefully and let the sound effects be your guide. And have fun trying to defeat the REAL boss when he appears!

Personally, I kind of liked the subtle "puzzle" aspect during a few bosses/sections of Jackal. You had to use your noggin at times and defeating bosses in this game brought a certain kind of satisfaction not found in other, lesser action games. Jackal is a tough game to crack but not quite as tough as Life Force (which is fine by me).

Storyline: One thing I love about Konami games is that they exude "manliness." You could be a commando fighting a mysterious alien force or a teenage mutant ninja turtle tackling Shredder or even a proficient spaceship pilot putting a permanent lid on an alien's planetary appetite. You didn't have this wimpy "rescue some pitiful princess/girlfriend/damsel in distress" plot like in a large percentage of the games back then.

While there is plenty of rescuing to do in Jackal, your goal is to free and safely bring back heroic, tough-as-nails American POWs. How cool is that? There is definitely a feeling of satisfaction when you are able to successfully rescue POWs and safely send them off in a helicopter without getting blown up in the process. As a kid, it was just this really cool feeling that you had done something right...even though it was still just a video game.

Funfactor: Even though there are plenty of fellow NES fans (perhaps you!) that are smiling and nodding as they read this review, I still feel that Jackal is one of the more underrated NES games out there. Perhaps it is because Contra, Life Force, and Castlevania II: Simon's Quest were all released around this time. Maybe it is the fact that Jackal never really got the exposure it needed in Nintendo Power Magazine (the video game bible of the day). Whatever the reason, Jackal is one of those "somewhat obscure" games that sort of got some credit but didn't truly get enough.

In any case, Jackal really is a fun, enjoyable NES game and is yet another delightful entry in Konami's 8-bit collection. If you have a friend nearby and you would like to experience one of the more enjoyable two-player NES co-op games, then by all means pick up a copy! Even after 25 years (this month in fact!), I still find Jackal to be a fantastic video game...and a wonderful trip down memory lane.

Negatives: Although the game's length isn't a major issue, it would have been nice if Jackal could have included just a couple of additional stages. Most games back then consisted of eight stages whereas Jackal only has six.

And while the music throughout Jackal is very good and never really gets old and repetitive, it still would have been nice if Stages 4 through 6 had contained new, original tracks instead of recycled themes from the first three stages.

Lastly, while flickering isn't a real problem in the one-player mode, it can rear its ugly head at times when playing with two players. For the NES though, this is pretty much expected.

[YEAHHHH!]

Ratings: Graphics: 3.9 Music: 4.1 Play Control: 4.2 Challenge: 4.2 Storyline: 4.1 Funfactor: 4.3 Overall Score: 24.8 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Bronze Bravo

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Last Updated: September 9, 2013
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