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Die Hard Arcade (Saturn) artwork

Die Hard Arcade (Saturn) review

"Dynamite Deka bears no relation to the classic action film Die Hard aside from basic plot similarities but, in a rare show of marketing genius, Sega noticed these similarities and brokered a fiendishly clever deal with 20th Century Fox. This corporate coupling gave birth to the 32bit polygonal brawler Die Hard Arcade, a refreshing and invigorating action adventure in its own right. After achieving modest success in smelly bowling alleys and grimy gum-floored arcades, Sega ..."

Dynamite Deka bears no relation to the classic action film Die Hard aside from basic plot similarities but, in a rare show of marketing genius, Sega noticed these similarities and brokered a fiendishly clever deal with 20th Century Fox. This corporate coupling gave birth to the 32bit polygonal brawler Die Hard Arcade, a refreshing and invigorating action adventure in its own right. After achieving modest success in smelly bowling alleys and grimy gum-floored arcades, Sega brought the 3D action home to their floundering 2D Saturn console. Plagued only by frequent loading times, Die Hard Arcade embodied yet another rose in Sega’s thorny crown.

Like most of Sega’s flowers, Die Hard Arcade wilted in the looming shadow of Sony’s far more popular, far more powerful PlayStation. Rudimentary but entertaining 3D brawlers don’t shine so brightly when compared to the genre-busting brilliance of Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy 7 or Soul Blade. Most gamers, enchanted by Sony’s astonishing shows of graphical force, failed to even notice the sinister villain White Fang’s awkwardly polygonal existence. That was their first mistake.

With two strokes of his peppered beard and a diabolically husky laugh, White Fang set out to blackmail the Nakatomi Corporation’s president and enrich his own Prada wallet. He started out well enough by conquering the aptly-named Nakatomi Building and slaughtering unknown numbers of valiant office workers, but all was not rosy in White Fang’s garden of evil. Several obstacles blocked his hostile takeover, including a locked safe and the president’s wily daughter, a prissy little girl who evades capture and kidnap by hiding inside the lower-left drawer of White Fang’s desk.

It’s a very large drawer.

The third and most dangerous opponent in White Fang’s war against capitalism is Kris Thompsen. Shortly after Mister Fang’s dastardly arrival, an FBI helicopter raced to the scene carrying a payload of S.W.A.T. (Sega WhiteFang Attack Team) members dressed in kevlar vests and ceramic-plated helmets, but even these elite troops were no match for random assorted punks and tawdry hookers armed with machine guns purchased off the streets. The S.W.A.T. team was mercilessly gunned down, their lead-pocked forms tumbling over the fiftieth-floor railing to a splattery red death. Enraged by this scene of improbable carnage, blonde heroine Kris Thompsen leaped from the retreating chopper with raw rookie anger, landing knee-first on a terrorist’s guilt-torn face. CRUNCH! Armed with big square polygonal fists, Kris aimed to succeed where an entire military attack squad had failed.

For those of you who care, John McClane is also in the game.

Before you do anything fun and cool like rattle skulls or piledrive prostitutes, you have to earn points (and additional lives) by dropping slow depth charges on slow submarines in the antiquated 1979 arcade clunker Deep Scan. It’s an arcade perfect port! It’s also boring, but you’ll need the extra credits to overcome the real game’s comedically cheap penultimate encounter against White Fang and his pump-action desk. (It wouldn’t make sense even if I tried to explain.)

Making sense is not this game’s strong point. Die Hard Arcade’s strong points are its creative encounters and deeply interactive gameplay. Midway through the epic adventure (in other words, after playing for twelve minutes), Thompsen faces a colossal football player in the thirtieth floor lobby for a brutal scrimmage. Prefaced by a dramatic musical prelude, this professional neckbreaker marches across the plush and soon-to-be-bloodied carpet. Don’t shirk from the mindless lunk; boogie down and kick him where it counts! After sending him bouncing back to the wall in doubled-over groin-clutching pain, the next step is to knock some tables and ovens aside. Why? So you can reach the chairs! Grab an armchair and hurl it at the braindead athlete’s empty head. When the chair shatters against his rockhard skull, throw another! And another! With the chairs all broken into useless shards and the music racing forward in a frantic orchestral barrage, it’s time to pull out that standard-issue pistol and empty three entire clips into the burly ruffian’s padded chest. When you’re out of ammo, fling the cast-iron pistol and bean him in his stony head!

While two idiots hurl furniture at each other in the million-dollar lobby, an enormous blue fish casually watches from the safety of its posh polygonal aquarium. If fish could speak, I’m sure it would say, “The depth of battle techniques and environmental destruction demonstrated here surpass both Final Fight and Streets of Rage. Does the entire game follow in this manner?” I’m happy to report that the answer is yes!

Along with beating up some evil firemen (the sorts who would never rescue children from a burning building), the battle in the parking garage pits you against a firetruck’s sudsy gushing love. Hack the yellow villains to death with their own hatchets, but watch out for the 80 miles per hour waterspray streaking across the screen! When confronted by corrupt policemen, kick them to the ground and slap on some handcuffs to instantly take them off White Fang’s dirty payroll! I prefer shooting them in the head, but Die Hard Arcade is all about offering alternatives. Every scene is different because every scene incorporates its surroundings; throw token black men into once-forbidden water fountains or tear off a mechanical spider’s leg and beat it to death.

The lamest parts of Die Hard Arcade are the Quick-Time Events, which everyone agreed were pretty bad until Shenmue convinced unskilled gamers that they’re cool. When an Elvis impersonator steps into the hallway, PRESS KICK! flashes across the screen. Press kick to knock him out and avoid the battle (making the game even shorter); press anything else to fall on your face (which means you have to actually fight). These Quick-Time Events interfere with the action; new ideas are nice, but this one didn't work.

Despite that one small slip, Die Hard Arcade thrives on being different. In the past, brawlers adhered to two common principles: decorate each level with more useless background elements than earlier games and offer flashier-than-before but just-as-limited techniques. Sega violated these sacred principles by daring to integrate the backgrounds into the action and offer players more abilities than they would ever need so that people could jump off a ledge and bulldog a crooked cop, could swing some street scum by their hate-filled feet into the wall or could headbutt fallen angels while they’re down. The game may be short, but each vivacious scene is packed with personality.

If that doesn’t sound like your can of beans, you can play Deep Scan. It’s an arcade perfect port!


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Community review by lilica (February 12, 2005)

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