Saturday, January 9, 2010

Retro Game of the Day! Jackal

Retro Game of the Day! Jackal

Jackal by Konami, 1988 release for the arcades and NES.

Back in the day, Konami was still a relatively young company, with many of their famous franchises still quite wet-behind-the-ears. One of their somewhat-known arcade games, Contra, was being ported to the 8-Bit NES console. Not so well-known that it could command its own full magazine ad, and so they grouped it with a similarly-military themed action game, Jackal.

Also like Contra, Jackal was a game you could enjoy with your buddy (usually some of the best were!). Unlike Contra, this was strictly an overhead operation. Not run-and-gun so much as drive-and-gun (in a Jeep). The original arcade Jackal made use of special rotary joysticks, much like the arcade for Midnight Resistance or Ikari Warriors - you'd point the stick in the direction you wanted to move your vehicle, and you could snap-twist it to fire in multiple different directions. It was a nice change that felt different from many of its peers, and gave the player a strong sense of free-control to blast everywhere.

Unfortunately (and not surprisingly), the control scheme didn't transfer over to the home console - instead we got "shoot to the north at all times" with the ability of missile/grenade firing in the direction your vehicle is facing. The upside of this, you can powerup your projectile and get more bang for your buck (literally!) The game follows the standard "scroll around and escalate, find and destroy level boss, tackle subsequent level" formula. The twist here is that you'll encounter prison camps with soldiers to liberate (a la Choplifter). Break open the barracks, load the fellas into your jeep, then haul off to waiting helipads where you can deposit your precious payload. Drop everyone off in the middle of the battlefield, which is tense 'cause you're still gonna be getting shot at!

A bit of a drab game by modern standards, Jackal was fairly impressive looking when it came out with its large multi-scrolling playfields and varied terrain with odd surprises (falling columns, and.. Medusa heads!? Sure, why not!) Another game which could have benefit from a 16-Bit upgrade, but had been forgotten in the midst of the overcrowded world of software at that point. Still a good solid old-school action title, and a few rounds of the NES port have made me interested to look back at the arcade as well!

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