Blast from the Past: Jungle Strike (SEGA Mega Drive)
In the 80’s and 90’s we lived in a world made up of action heroes and terrible cheesy one-liners – the Strike series understood this era and delivered. Next up was Jungle Strike, likely the highlight of the entire series. How does it hold up today?
We got everything you want, honey, we know the names
Oh yeah! Once that helicopter appears from just under the ‘Jungle Strike’ logo and flies to the left of your screen, along with an upbeat rock Rambo-like melody, you know you’re in the mood to blow some sh!t up. Of course there’s a reason you’re going to want to do that. The son of the antagonist in Desert Strike, Ibn Kibaha (who looks like Saddam Hussein), is back — spoiler incoming — to revenge his fathers death at the end of Desert Strike. He’s also got a new drug lord side kick, Carlos Ortega. Together they’re planning a terrorist attack on Washington D.C., but first they activate a Nuclear Explosion off the coast of a South American island… because that’s how they did things in the 90’s. The president calls you in for an important meeting as you’re the man to put a stop to all this. And so it starts.
Before jumping into the action you’re asked to choose your co-pilot who will be taking care of the winch to load up items as well as the man in charge of your artillery. Each co-pilot comes with his own pros and cons. Once you’ve made your selection it’s on to the first of nine campaigns. As with many other games at the time the action takes place in an isometric point of view. It works effortlessly with D-pad control, and on the SEGA Mega Drive it just feels at home as soon as your helicopter moves from the home base. The first thing you’ll want to do is to get a grasp on your vital statistics by pressing the Start button.
We are the people that can find, whatever you may need
Here you get to see a display of the map that points out your location, displayed via a rotating blade-like icon. Press the B button and you’ll get a brief on your numerous objectives, and the C button providing you with the details of your mission status. Switching between the missions will see icons changing up on the map to give you an idea on the location for every mission. You don’t have to do the missions in order, so a good bit of time spent deciding on what to do first is always a good idea. Be prepared, Jungle Strike is much tougher than you might recall. You have a limit of 3 lives, in total, and once your helicopter has been destroyed three time that’s the end of your game. It’s brutal, but the challenge is as addictive as it’s ever been.
Jungle Strike launched well before the 6-button controller was made available and makes very good use of the limited buttons when not messing around in the pause menu. The A button is your strongest option and fires powerful Hellfire missiles, though you only have 9 in total. The Hydras are not quite as powerful, but you get a decent 60 units and your Guns come in at 1000 bullets loaded on your helicopter. Bullets are used to eliminate any human threat, whereby you leave your Hellfire missiles only for the really tough battles. Getting a grasp of the balance is important as there are only so many ammo crates available on the map. By destroying roaming ammo trucks you can improve that number. At the same time you have to keep an eye on your fuel and armor stats. Run out of either and it’s game over. Again, by pressing Start you can track down the location of the nearest fuel tanks, though there’s nothing to show you where the armor crates might be. Yup, in typical olschool fashion they leave it to your own memory bank to recall where you last saw it. What makes Jungle Strike so special in particular are the various vehicles you will get to drive.
If you got the money, honey, we got your disease
iDesert Strike, though loved, was criticised for always being stuck in a helicopter throughout the entire campaign. In Jungle Strike certain campaign missions include a motorbike, hovercraft and stealth bomber. Each vehicle changes up the pace, but it’s controlled exactly like the helicopter. Get used to each craft’s momentum and you’ll have a blast blowing everything up in seconds. Did I mention how tough this game is? The missions are all vary and when you complete a campaign you are provided with what can only be described as virtual gold – a password. Enter the password and you don’t have to restart each campaign. Die on the last mission in any particular campaign and you have to restart that campaign from scratch. Sometimes I think the real villains were these developers. They were sadists! But, the challenge is far too good to just give up and you’ll find yourself retrying it regardless.
Graphically the game actually holds up quite well. Even back then it was nothing special, but the explosions and other small details remain satisfying. Other than that cool intro music, and other short sequences, there’s absolutely no music in the game. All you hear are the bullets or missiles being fired along with explosions and the blades of the chopper purring… and I must say that it’s soothing for some bizarre reason.
Jungle Strike is a reminder why the series has always been regarded as one of the best in the games industry. Whether we’ll ever see it returning to modern gaming is doubtful, but I highly recommend you take this for a spin if you can. After all, it’s as close as you’ll ever get to a good Airwolf game anyway.
Oh, and here is the REAL trailer: