NES Reviews J

Jackal
Grade: A-
Publisher: Konami (1988)
Reviewed: 2007/7/27

screenshotAh yes - here is another superb military shooter for the NES. In most one-man-army games you can only control vehicles at certain times, but in Jackal, you play the entire game in a jeep! It's quite maneuverable, giving you the added advantage of being able to run over enemy soldiers (which I highly recommend). It's satisfying to hear them "squish" under your tires!

The B button is used to fire your machine gun, and these always fire towards the top of the screen, giving you a nifty strafe capability not found in many NES titles. The A button launches rockets and grenades, which always fire in the direction you're facing. As you forge through desert forts, Greek ruins, and rocky canyons, you'll contend with cannons, roving tanks, boats, and fire-breathing statues.

The stages are sizable and scroll sideways in addition to up and down. There are enough enemies to create crossfire traps, but nothing insurmountable. The one cheap aspect of the game is the way enemy vehicles sometimes appear suddenly as you're pushing against the side of the screen, making them hard to avoid.

Jackal also has a rescue element reminiscent of Choplifter. Upon blowing up enemy buildings, captured soldiers emerge from the wreckage. You can pick them up and transport them to a helicopter pad, but you only score points by delivering them safely. This adds depth to the gameplay, as you tend to be less reckless when transporting cargo.

Jackal not only provides excellent solo play, but a friend can join in for some two-player simultaneous action. The pacing is a bit slower and more deliberate than similar games, but also more satisfying. Even the military-style background music is appealing. I can absolutely recommend Jackal to all NES shooter fans. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 23,700
1 or 2 players 

Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu
Grade: C
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1990)
Reviewed: 2020/9/22

screenshotboxI always enjoyed Jackie Chan movies and Action Kung Fu embodies the man's energetic fighting style and self-deprecating humor. His grinning face on the title screen looks hilarious. Action Kung Fu's frantic pacing will leave you breathless as you leap between crumbling ledges, duck under flying nunchucks, and battle pouncing tigers.

Your basic moves are limited to punch and jump-kick, but icons let you perform special moves like spinning kicks or rolling attacks. The graphics are cartoonish but remarkably sharp and clean. Tight controls let you effortlessly leap between waterfalls and dissipating clouds. There are some colorful locales but man do these stages feel cookie-cutter. It feels like you're doing the same thing over and over.

Birds, snakes, and other nuisance creatures try to knock you off your jumps, sending you into the spikes, water, or lava below. Fortunately it only costs you one life point as the game jettisons Jackie back up to the top of the screen. Enemies drop green orbs which I was really into collecting until I realized they really weren't worth it.

The upbeat music is fairly good and I was surprised at the wide variety of imaginative bonus stages. There's no score and no passwords in this game - just a bunch of continues. Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu would be a perfect game for a speed run, except too much of the time you feel like you're on a treadmill. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Jaws
Grade: D
Publisher: LJN (1987)
Reviewed: 2004/9/24

screenshotAs a huge fan of the original movie, I was hoping this video game might capture some of the tension and suspense that made the film so great. No such luck! Jaws plays like a second-rate shooter, and an annoying one at that. You begin by guiding your boat around an overhead map. Unlike the film where the characters were stranded in the open ocean, the sea is chock full of islands and rocky areas, making it look more like a maze.

The controls that guide your boat are awkward, making it easy to take a wrong turn. Periodically you're alerted that "you've hit something", causing a "diver screen" to appear as your character is tossed into the water underneath the boat. Manta rays, jellyfish, and occasionally sharks move back and forth across the screen, and shooting these creatures yields sea shells and bonus points.

Should you gather enough shells, you can trade them in for "power-ups" at the ports. In time, you'll gain enough power to face down Jaws, but it's a very lengthy and repetitive process. You'll have numerous run-ins with Jaws in the meantime, but he's not very intimidating and surprisingly easy to avoid.

The most annoying aspect of this game is how it constantly kicks you back to that damn diver screen, especially as you're just about to reach a port. A bonus stage lets you drop bombs on jellyfish from a plane flying over the water, offering a nice change of pace. Jaws might hook you for a little while, but extended play will have you wondering if this game is really worth your time. . © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 50,100
1 player 

Joe & Mac
Grade: B-
Publisher: Data East (1991)
Reviewed: 2020/8/22

screenshotThe title here is a bit misleading. Unlike the co-op arcade game this Joe & Mac is two-player alternating. I should have been tipped off by the box cover which only shows Joe! Otherwise this is a pretty solid prehistoric platformer. You're a little axe-tossing caveman dealing with dinosaurs, man-eating plants, and leaping electric fish. The whimsical stages call to mind Bonk's Adventure (Turbografx-16, 1990), especially when scampering over the bodies of snoozing dinosaurs.

Creatures attack from all angles but that's okay because your life meter is about 15 ticks long! You'll be hounded relentlessly by pterodactyls but they're not a problem once you get used to the controls. Pressing up lets you jump substantially higher - we're talking Michael Jordan high - and pounding the button in the air lets you rain down axes. Better yet, while on the ground you can toss weapons straight up, knocking down anything flying overhead. But wouldn't those axes harm Joe when they came back down? Wow, you ask way too many questions!

My favorite weapons are the stone wheels (which look like Cheerios) because they roll along the contours of the landscape. Joe & Mac features impressively large bosses including a T-Rex, Pterodactyl, and a man-eating plant that chews you up and spits out your bones. While fighting these behemoths you'll need to stay "high and away", but mashing the directional pad is hell on your thumb. Once again my Nintendo Advantage joystick comes to the rescue. How did I ever live without this thing?

Defeat a boss and a lovely cave-girl comes dashing out, running right past poor Joe! Joe & Mac is a likeable NES platformer with charm and personality. Nobody ever said life was easy in prehistoric times but it sure was a lot of fun. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 189,390
1 or 2 players 

Jordan vs. Bird: One on One
Grade: C
Publisher: Milton Bradley (1989)
Reviewed: 2016/4/3


screenshotA product of its time, this mildly-amusing one-on-one basketball game always brings a smile to my face. The game pits the high-flying phenom Michael Jordan against living legend Larry Bird. Larry is a deadly outside shooter while Jordan is known for his dazzling moves around the rim. It's an odd mix as both players embody such different styles of play.

The characters are large and well-defined for the NES. On offense one button shoots while the other lets you spin and move laterally. On defense one button steals (which is rare) and the other blocks shots. The game is played on a half-court, making it necessary to "clear the ball" between possessions. It's easy to play as Larry Bird since he barely needs to move, sinking a three-pointer from anywhere on the court. To defend his shots you'll want to jump in his face to occasionally steal the ball at the height of his jump.

Jordan is capable of more exciting moves and if you can finagle him close to the basket he'll unleash a 360-degree slam dunk. It's hard to play defense and fouls like charging and blocking seem totally random. Periods end with no warning, even if the ball is still in the air. Additional modes include slam dunk and three-pointing shooting contests. Jordan vs. Bird is amusing to pull out on occasion, but it's more a novelty item than a basketball game. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Journey to Silius
Grade: C
Publisher: Sunsoft (1990)
Reviewed: 2003/3/26

screenshotJourney to Silius isn't particularly bad in any way, but there's nothing special about it either. It's your standard side-scrolling shooter set in a futuristic world of spaceships and robots. You control a kid out to avenge his father's death. The shooting action is pretty mediocre, only slightly improved by the fact you can collect and switch between weapons. The scenery is clean but sterile and uninteresting. The single highlight of the game lies in the first stage, where you can see cannons firing in the distance before their shots rain down in the foreground. If only the rest of the game was so innovative. The futuristic music is well done, but after repeated plays Silius feels more like an ordeal than a journey. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
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1 player 

Jurassic Park
Grade: C-
Publisher: Ocean (1993)
Reviewed: 2007/7/1

screenshotI really should have loved this game, but I couldn't quite sink my razor-sharp talons into Jurassic Park. The game is played from an isometric (tilted overhead) perspective as you guide a pudgy dude around a virtual Jurassic Park crawling with small dinosaurs. You'll escort people to safety, collect dinosaur eggs, shoot attacking carnivores, and operate computer terminals to open gates.

Jurassic Park's graphics are rendered in a cartoonish style, but some of the larger dinosaur bosses (like the T-Rex and Triceratops) look quite imposing. The outdoor environments do a fine job of recreating the high-tech fences and control centers depicted in the film. Take caution when walking near trees or bushes - you never know what's going to pop out (hint: it's a dinosaur!). The indoor areas are less interesting; usually just a maze of generic rooms.

The controls are responsive, but aiming is tricky and your ammo is limited. A catchy musical number complements the crisp graphics. I like the general concept of the game, but it's tainted by a few idiotic design decisions. First of all, many of the "mystery boxes" turn out to be traps that spell instant death, and you'll only know which ones are deadly through trial and error.

There's also too much computer terminal interaction which really slows things down. Finally, the difficulty level is so steep that even surviving the first stage is a major feat. I loved the Jurassic Park movie, but this game is a bit too frustrating for my tastes. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, NES Player, Moby Games, Universal Videogame List