Star Jacker (1983)

by Christopher
5 minutes read


Star Jacker (1983): A Pioneering Vertical Scrolling Shooter with a Twist


Star Jacker is a groundbreaking vertical scrolling shooter released in arcades in 1983 by Konami. It stands out from its contemporaries with its unique gameplay mechanics, which involve controlling three ships simultaneously and utilizing both air-to-air and air-to-ground combat. Star Jacker laid the foundation for future scrolling shooters and left a lasting impact on the genre.


The player takes control of three fighter jets flying in formation at the bottom of the screen. All three ships move and shoot independently, allowing for a wide range of strategies and tactics. The lead ship is the primary attacker, while the two trailing ships provide support and additional firepower.

The game progresses through a series of vertically scrolling levels, each with its own unique set of enemies and obstacles. Players must navigate their ships through waves of enemy fighters, dodging their attacks and returning fire. In addition to air combat, Star Jacker also incorporates ground targets, which the player can destroy by dropping bombs.

Innovative Features:

One of the most distinctive features of Star Jacker is its three-ship formation. This mechanic allows for a greater degree of control and flexibility compared to other shooters of the time, which typically featured a single ship. Players can spread out their ships to cover a wider area, focus their fire on a single target, or use one ship as a decoy while the others attack.

Another innovative aspect of Star Jacker is its inclusion of air-to-ground combat. While many shooters at the time focused solely on air-to-air battles, Star Jacker introduced the ability to attack ground targets. This added an extra layer of strategy and depth to the gameplay, as players had to decide when to engage with ground targets and when to prioritize air combat.

Difficulty and Challenge:

Star Jacker is known for its challenging difficulty, which was common in arcade games of the era. The game features relentless waves of enemies, and the player’s ships are fragile and easily destroyed. Losing any of the three ships results in a momentary pause and a reset of the formation, but the game continues without any continues or extra lives.

This high level of difficulty adds to the game’s replayability, as players are constantly striving to improve their skills and progress further through the levels. It also encourages strategic gameplay, as players must carefully manage their ships and resources to survive.

Legacy and Impact:

Star Jacker had a significant influence on the development of vertical scrolling shooters. Its innovative gameplay mechanics, particularly the three-ship formation and air-to-ground combat, became influential in later games in the genre.

Star Jacker’s legacy can be seen in numerous subsequent shooters, such as the Gradius series, R-Type, and Darius. These games expanded upon the ideas introduced in Star Jacker, adding new features, power-ups, and enemy types while retaining the core gameplay elements of vertical scrolling and multiple ships.


Star Jacker (1983) is a pioneering vertical scrolling shooter that introduced innovative gameplay mechanics and set the stage for future games in the genre. Its unique three-ship formation and air-to-ground combat added depth and strategy to the gameplay, while its challenging difficulty and high replayability kept players engaged. Star Jacker remains an influential and enjoyable game that showcases the creativity and innovation of early arcade shooters.

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