Unlike most shoot 'em ups, the player initially controls three space ships, losing one each time the player dies. This means on the first life you will have three times the amount of firepower than on your last.
Like Xevious there are two types of weapon - forward lasers for flying enemies and bombs for bases.
Similar to how Bally Midway licensed other Sega games for US release at the time, Star Jacker was licensed to Stern Electronics for distribution in the US. This is due to Sega temporarily leaving the American arcade business at the time.
Star Jacker was ported to the SG-1000 in the same year. Due to the limitations of the console there are fewer variations in backgrounds and the graphics are far simpler overall. The player in this version starts with four ships rather than three, however.