The Jackal squad, a four-man team composed of Colonel Decker, Lieutenant Bob, Sergeant Quint and Corporal Grey, is sent to rescue soldiers kept as hostages by the enemy. One or two players control the teams in an armed jeep, which must venture through several enemy strongholds to rescue comrades imprisoned by the enemy. In each of the six levels, the goal is to rescue POWs from various buildings and then transfer them to helicopter dust-off locations. Once the soldiers are secure, the player(s) must then proceed to defeat the boss at the end of each level. In the last level, there are two bosses that must be defeated.
As with most run and gun games, there is a point system that can grant the player extra lives depending on the score attained. If a collision occurs with an enemy vehicle or the jeep is hit by an enemy bullet, a life will be lost. Some buildings contain one flashing prisoner; if this man is rescued, the jeep's primary weapon will be upgraded. In addition, if enough prisoners are rescued, a weapon upgrade will be yielded during the unloading process to the rescue helicopter. The Jeep's initial weapons consist of a machine gun and a grenade launcher. The grenade launcher can be upgraded into a rocket launcher, which can be further upgraded to shoot long-range missiles, and two kinds of spread missiles.
There were three versions of the original coin-operated game. The original Japanese version (Tokushu Butai Jackal), the world version (simply titled Jackal), and the North American version (Top Gunner). In the Japanese version, the machine gun shoots in whatever direction the player's jeep is facing, whereas in the worldwide and North American versions, it is fixed so that it always shoots north. In the North American versions, the generic orange and blue flags on the players' jeeps are replaced by an American flag on each one.
In Japan, a Family Computer Disk System version was produced titled Final Command: Akai Yōsai (ファイナルコマンド 赤い要塞, , Final Command: The Red Fortress), which was released on May 2, 1988. A cartridge conversion for the Nintendo Entertainment System was released under the Jackal title on September 1988 in North America. The NES version has a number of changes made when compared to the Disk System version released in Japan, such as wider levels, a new boss, and a map shown before each level indicating the player's progress. The NES version of Jackal was included as a bonus game in the PC compilation Konami Collectors' Series: Castlevania & Contra released in 2002 in North America. On July 29, 2009, Konami released a mobile phone version of the game in Japan based on the NES version. Another mobile version was released by Konami in China for normal Java cellphones on August 5, 2010.
Computer ports of Jackal were also released in 1989 in North America for IBM PC and the Commodore 64. An unrelated Commodore 64 version of Jackal was released in Europe, along with versions for the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC in 1988.