If you grew up in the 1980’s during the rise of 8-bit video game systems, you were sure to have seen and/or played a few top-down shooters. Many of those shooters – such as Contra, and Gauntlet – are still considered legendary til this day. One you should definitely be giving a try is Jackal.
Where Jackals Prey
Jackal’s origins came from the minds of Konami, who were already famous for the aforementioned Contra, as well as Castlevania and Metal Gear by the time Jackal was released. It was originally called Top Gunner at first when it was just an arcade game in 1986, however the name was changed to Jackal when it was later ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1988.
It’s a Jeep Thing, You Wouldn’t Understand
In Jackal, your goal is to infiltrate the enemy’s base and rescue the prisoners of war (POW). Your tool of destruction is a jeep, but not just any jeep. A wheeling and dealing, machine-gun toting, explosive launching death machine. As far as jeeps are concerned, Halo’s Warthog might even have problems with Jackal’s Jeep. The best part is that you can have a friend join you, giving you double the firepower. My advice is to definitely grab a friend as the game is not easier, it’s more fun.
The view is top-down with ample distance on all sides of the jeep as you traverse the stage. The controls are simple. You can move in eight-different directions with the d-pad while using the two buttons to fire your machine gun and explosives. I found them to be very responsive, but the inability to aim the machine gun turret can be maddening. In the arcade version (Top Gunner), you actually have the ability to aim the machine gun freely. However, I shouldn’t be so critical. We are working with just a NES controller after all.
Just Tell Me Where To Shoot
As you move upwards in the stage, you’ll be blowing up airplanes, infantry, tanks, and turrets of all sizes. As you progress, you’ll come across prisoners of war (POW). If you pick up these POW and take them to a nearby helipad to be rescued, you’ll have the chance to upgrade your explosives. The grenade launcher upgrades to a fast-firing missile, which can then be upgrade further to have splash damage. Careful though, getting shot once or touching an enemy will cost you a life and will downgrade you to a grenade launcher once again. Friendly fire is off at least, otherwise it would be a nightmare with a friend playing.
The game is a total of six stages, each ending with a boss fight. The boss fights can be tough, especially near the end. I was surprised to find out that the last boss had multiple stages to it, further increasing the difficulty if you are low on lives. While these bosses are certainly tough, the real threats are the tiny little bullets that move slowly. Combined with obstacles such as lasers or mines, you’ll have your hands full when playing.
Overall, I could not recommend Jackal more. If you’re in the mood for a fast and fun co-op experience, this is a great choice. Although it released later than similar games such as Ikari Warriors or Contra, and may not have received as much love at first, I can tell you it’s right up there with those legendary shooters from the 1980’s.
- Responsive controls
- Fast, fun co-op experience
- Various enemies to run over, shoot, and blow up
- Each stage brings unique traps and bosses to defeat
- Very challenging, but not impossible to beat if you have a friend
- The machine gun only shoots northward, meaning you’ll have to put yourself in danger to shoot enemies often
- The color of the jeeps look very similar, which can be confusing if you’re close to one another
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
- P-200, 32 MB RAM