After six years in New Jersey, the eldest of my three younger brothers has moved back to Texas, and I couldn't be happier. As the young subjects of a very long and arduous custody battle, it was once in our best interests to be distracted from the adults' circus as much as possible. My childhood was a fleeting roller coaster - some of which is probably lost in remission - and so my sense of nostalgia isn't as strong as most people's.
Nevertheless, there are several nuggets of fondness that still float around in my memory. A good portion of those are in regards to the hours upon hours of playing Nintendo and trying to stay detached from everything but each other. The time finally came when playing Baseball and Blades of Steel against each other was uninteresting, and two-player co-op was a boon for two kids who depended on each other. Enter Jackal, Konami's top-down shooter that featured shared screen two-player co-op.
The object of the game is to navigate an army Jeep through the deserts and tundras into enemy territory, rescuing prisoners of war and destroying everything. That's right: Jackal features destructable buildings, walls, and even certain parts of the admittedly barren landscape.
Grabbing a flashing POW grants your Jeep a weapons upgrade, from mortar-like grenades to rockets to long-range smart missiles. Your trusty fifty-caliber machine gun turret serves as a secondary weapon, and unlike the grenade launcher it shoots only toward the top of the screen - much like an advanced iteration of Space Invaders.
Enemies included footsoldiers, machine gun turrets, enemy Jeeps, and even tanks. The soldiers could be run over (accompanied by a unique twinkle sound and an image of the vanquished soldier splayed out on the ground, dead), but touching any of the other enemies would render you defeated. As you can imagine, things get pretty tight on-screen, especially with two simultaneous players. To me, Jackal is a classic for being accessible to co-op players while retaining the harrowing adrenaline of the more popular versus games of the era.
My brother now resides in Austin - hopefully for a more extended stay than his previous locations - and plays shooter games on Xbox Live with me from time to time. He has a son, Kaleb, who is two months younger than Jayden, my daughter. To be able to still play video games together - and the prospect of being able to share them with our children soon - is surreal, and here's hoping for many fond, blissful memories for our kids to look back on, no matter what craziness befalls the world around them.
("Hey, go get that flashing dude. He gives you rockets!")