Buff dudes plow through deserts, jungles, and various other locales in their jeep as they use a seemingly endless stream of bullets and bombs to take down bad guys and bring on the pain. Sounds like something from the 80's starring Schwarzenegger as a muscled man o' war out, doesn't it? Well it's not a movie and don't bother strapping into this jeep, because seat belts are for pansies--it's time for Jackal by Konami!
Good grief, can you believe the cover art on this game? What's the guy in the back of the jeep even shooting at? The chopper looks like it's behind him so he must just enjoy pumping rounds into the air and bellowing out his war cry. There's probably a wake of disposable baddies behind him sinking into the ground because they're filled with a ton of lead or squished cartoon style with a big ol' jeep tire tread running down the middle of their back. Does this game still have the exciting action feel that it had back in the day? Or has it become so cheesy that it belongs in the bargain bin of "forgotten 80's classics?"
Remember when Konami was good? When they had a stock set of familiar sound effects? I paused and unpaused this game a couple of times before making my way through the first level. Just something about that sound makes me smile. The rest of the sound effects aren't half bad either from the machine guns to the bomb effects. Sure, harder enemies make that annoying ping sound when you shoot them--all the more reason to beat them quickly and move on.
And as far as music goes? Well, just take a listen:
Listen to that beautiful 8-bit bass and quick rhythm. Doesn't it just make you want to keep moving along and keep blowing away bad guys? Doesn't it remind you of when Konami was good? Sorry, yes, I know that some of their modern stuff is decent too, but this had a good beat and more than it's share of character. I mean, who would want to do about 1,000 reps and 300 push ups in order to get those big ol' Arnie muscles? I know I'd do a rip of this soundtrack to my iPod so I could get ripped when I have the time.
The gun only shoots forward, but you can lob bombs and missiles in nearly any direction. The jeep movement is nice and fluid, and you never feel like you aren't in control or have to do awkward maneuvering in order to get the jeep in the right direction. The bad guys don't stand a chance from your gun or the grill.
You proceed through several stages in various 80's era soldier action movie settings while gunning down (or running over) enemies soldiers and rescuing hostages. At the end of each level there's a boss fight with enemies ranging from a group of tanks to an enemy battleship and other military hardware. I always found it funny that you could lob a missile or bomb at one of the places hostages are being held the place absolutely explodes yet the hostage walks out totally unscathed. If he's that invulnerable to an explosion, I imagine he wouldn't have much to worry about with a few pesky AK 47's pointed his way.
Though the game is a port of an arcade game, it has the same basic feel and hasn't really lost anything in the translation. Jackal has a classic Nintendo feel to the graphics and the setting, and that's just fine. I don't remember seeing this in the arcades really that often, and I imagine there was more detail in the jeep and the explosions and such, but for what it's worth the game is done well and doesn't suffer for having less detailed graphics.
As far as style goes, it's a run and gun in jeep. But of the run and guns out there on the Nintendo, this was definitely in my top ten. I was too young to see Schwarzennegar movies when I was a kid, but I remember seeing commercials for those now classic action films, not to mention this was sorta like playing as a character from G.I. Joe, only with you actually killing people and not missing no matter how many shots were fired.
When I rented Jackal back in the day, I remember the copy I grabbed kept freezing up on the second level. Only after several dozen Q-tips and half a bottle of rubbing alcohol was I able to get it playable and clean to the point that no more black was coming off the pins. In one of the weirdest bits of nostalgia I've ever had, it froze up on me again mid-way through the second level. And yes, once again I had to use tons of Qtips and cleaner. Aside from that oddness, it was everything I remembered it to be. A glorious top-down action shooter with a bass-filled soundtrack, classic Konami sounds, and enough replay value to keep me coming back again and again. If you don't already have it in your collection, go, now! Get to the choppa!--I mean nearest retro store or eBay and pick it up. Then, after playing through this game and getting in a pumped action mood; grab yourself a rocket-launcher, a cold drink and watch Commando with Arnie to help calm the nerves.