Retro Review: Jack Bros (Nintendo Virtual Boy)

Jack Bros is a light hearted, spooky adventure game featuring the mascots from the Megami Tensei franchise. Jack Frost and Jack Lantern are joined by one more Jack; Jack Skelton, for what could be the best game on the Nintendo Virtual Boy.

Jack Bros was released 1995 by publisher and developer Atlus, but never gained the reputation it deserved until rarity hunters arrived on the scene. At the time (and still to this day), the only game which comes close to offering this much fun on the Virtual Boy is Virtual Boy Wario Land. But in all fairness, it isn't much of a challenge to take this spot as there were only 14 games released for the Virtual Boy in North America.

Jack Brothers' Hee-Ho at the Labyrinth!

Halloween is the only day of the year where fairies can enter the human world. The fairies and human children look forward to this day every year, with the Jack Bros joining in on the fun too. Before they know it, the day has already passed and the clock hits 11.

In true Cinderella fashion, they must get home before midnight or the portal to the world of fairies will soon close. Taking on the role of one of the Jack Bros in the last hour of Halloween, you must venture home as quickly as possible. Something easier said than done...

Gameplay follows a very similar style to Gauntlet; move in 4 directions, shoot in four directions and if possible: grab the keys and get out of there. It must be noted that the four-way shooting mechanism works wonders on the Nintendo Virtual Boy. The Jack Bros will shoot in the direction pressed on the secondary pad allowing the player to aim in all directions leaving no excuses for being snuck up on. Master the dual D-Pad strafe & shoot and you'll be off in no time.

The method of shooting isn't the only element of gameplay to mix up the standards we are used to with retro games. Instead of offering the standard health meter we have grown fond of, the only life insurance given in Jack Bros is the timer in the top corner. Watch where you walk, as contact with an enemy or obstacle will shave precious seconds away, making the Cinderella escape even harder. If it runs out, it’s game over!

There are various types of enemies such as slow ghosts, fast cats, sneaky bomb dropping goblins and elves with bows. After the initial tutorial floors instructed by Pixie, you’ll soon find yourself having to adopt multiple patterns of dodging and shooting these enemies, almost similar to the level of concentration and control required in a Shmup. To continue the theme of a Shmup in disguise, you’re given a few signature bombs to let off in those times of panic which often get used at the end of every level while facing the boss. Ones you'll most likely need!

Although Jack Bros doesn’t show off the Nintendo Virtual Boy’s faux 3D capabilities, Atlus once again proved that gameplay is much more important than than pushing a system to its limits. There are some nice effects such as the animation when travelling between floors and the level of depth used to raise enemies off the ground. While these are all very subtle touches (and primitive by the standards of Red Alarm), they really add to the polish of the dungeon without making it look incredibly messy... Waterworld, we're looking at you).

Gameplay Video


Unfortunately for anyone wanting a quick blast of Virtual Boy’s Jack Bros, you’ll have to accept the Virtual Boy was released at the wrong time. A time when all gamers were interested in was real polygons and fancy effects. Jack Bros is often regarded as the rarest American Virtual Boy game out of the official 14 titles released. But don’t let that put you off this fine game, Jack Bros is well worth the price tag should you be able to locate a copy.

Link: View Jack Bros in the RetroCollect Rarity Guide / Release List Game Database

Last Updated ( 14 January 2011 )  


Better known as Adam offline, Cauterize is one of RetroCollect's final bosses with an unhealthy addiction to pixels. When he's not out searching the web for the latest retro gaming news or creating content for RetroCollect, he'll will most likely be found working on his Sensible Soccer skills.

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