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Jackal (NES) artwork

Jackal (NES) review

"Jackal is a fine slice of 8-bit war game heaven. It keeps the action rolling forward, but isn't completely mindless. Mashing buttons and watching things explode isn't what Jackal is all about. Dodging bullet after bullet and learning to deal with each situation as it arises is the meat of the game, and Jackal handles it without killing the pace."

Turn the ignition and hear the roar of a green beauty--an all terrain military jeep ideal for dodging missiles, running over foot soldiers, and defying age old videogame odds. Guide a vastly outnumbered crew of fearless men against an army of high tech freedom haters. Your mission is the same as always: kill or be killed, and rescue your imprisoned countrymen if you can.

Though they say war never changes, something is definitely different. Soldiers don't rush at you en masse or crowd the screen with a monsoon of bullets. One or two loom on the horizon at time, firing minuscule shots from their peashooters. They're enough to take the life of a careless cadet, but anyone with an iota of skill can drive around the nuisance and leave tread marks on the troopers' broken bodies. Those who wish not to drive too closely can gun them down with a peashooter of their own. And how handy! It only fires to the north.

This power-hungry dictator knew his stuff. He didn't waste billions on incompetent soldiers, but invested in fine machinery. Giant turrets litter the land, chasing you off with rapid fire capabilities. Tanks, planes, jeeps, boats, and even missile-spitting statues fire devastating explosives, each opponent keeping you on your toes. You'll weave around projectiles and enemies, sometimes in tight quarters, and thank your lucky stars that the jeep handles like a dream. Each bomb, every shot can be dodged with ease once you've gotten used to the physics.

And once you have it's time to return fire. Your peashooter isn't going finish the job, so the military gave you a life-saving invention: a box of infinite grenades! Just lob one and your problems disappear in a violent explosion and a puff of smoke. Oh, if it were that easy. Konami knows a lot about enemy placement, especially in regards to pissing you off. (Just ask anyone who's ever ran the gauntlet before Death in the first Castlevania). Some enemies can only be hit from certain angles and at just the right position on the screen. How great that a second enemy also guards said position, and enemy number one also happens to be guarding number two.

You can rush in and take a risk, but you'll always lose. Fools rush in, remember? Smart people don't do this. Instead, they blow holes in prison shacks to free flashing countrymen who know the secrets of the infinite grenade box. These flashers can upgrade your grenades to missiles! Upgrade further and your missiles pack an extra punch. Upon explosion, they'll split two ways, taking out any menaces that sit side by side.

Frustration isn't a factor, because Jackal is totally fair. If you fail, it's your shortcoming. It's seldom cheap, always possible, and definitely as balanced in terms of difficulty as any gamer would want.

Jackal is a fine slice of 8-bit war game heaven. It keeps the action rolling forward, but isn't completely mindless. Mashing buttons and watching things explode isn't what Jackal is all about. Dodging bullet after bullet and learning to deal with each situation as it arises is the meat of the game, and Jackal handles it without killing the pace. Each situation is desperate, even for the few milliseconds most of them take to resolve, and never does Jackal leave you without an option. It's a sadly overlooked piece of Konami gold that should have hit Virtual Console by now, but it seems Konami is dragging its feet.

No matter. Secure a hard copy if you love war games as much as I do. And if you want some hair on your chest, sandwich Jackal in between sessions of Bloody Wolf and Guerrilla War. Be sure to eat bacon and swear like a sailor while doing so, or the experience just isn't the same.

Rating: 8/10

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (November 22, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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qxz posted November 23, 2011:

For some strange reason, after the coupling of Jackal and Guerrilla War, the first phrase that came to mind was...

"War: It's fantastic!"
-- Commander Arvid Harbinger (played by Miguel Ferrer) Hot Shots! Part Deux

That said, I don't think Jackal is quite as good as Guerrilla War. They're both very well-made games, but the latter allows players to commandeer tanks!
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JoeTheDestroyer posted November 23, 2011:

Yeah, Guerrilla War is good stuff. I haven't played it in ages, though. That was the game we would recommend to kids on the playground who hadn't beaten a game before because of its essentially infinite lives.

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