It’s not unusual for some properties to be re-appropriated under different names when they cross over to other countries for reasons usually best explained as convenient marketing. One example is Sega’s Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine in 1993 which was a modded version of Puyo Puyo making it the first release of that game in the West albeit under a different guise.
The same happened with Dynamite Deka, an arcade game in Japan starring a no-nonsense cop in a somewhat familiar setting as he kicks, punches, and shoots his way through a high rise under threat. Sega of Japan, interested in bringing an arcade actioner to the struggling Saturn (and wanting to find a way to offload a glut of Titan arcade hardware), licensed the film rights to Die Hard bringing in the Sega Technical Institute to create a new cabinet and a port of the game. Fox Interactive, 20th Century Fox’s game division in charge of finding ways to use their vast array of properties to grab a piece of the increasingly lucrative gaming market during the mid 90s, would put their stamp on the “new” game, bringing John McClane elbow diving and kicking to the West.
Die Hard Arcade is a great, 3D beat ’em up on the Saturn best played in co-op with a partner. Because of its origins, it also has a few big differences from Die Hard. John’s not as much of a sneaky bastard in this game as he is the film — he’s jump kicking, punching, and otherwise brawling his way through floors of villains on his way to a final confrontation not with Alan Rickman’s Hans but with a guy named White Fang, leader of the terrorists out to steal $600 billion. Unlike Hans, White Fang is also a martial artist.
Like many beat ’em ups, enemies come at our hero from all sides and sometimes wielding a variety of weapons that they can drop if persuaded to by your fists and feet. Everything from missile launchers to pipes. Enemies also came in all shapes and sizes from the usual cannon fodder to giant thugs and spider-like robots.
Cut scenes included short snippets of dialogue from the main villain to transitions with dramatic sweeping camera angles into new areas and a green wireframe diagram of the building showing their progress. Areas included a variety of places from the rooftop to a server room and the lobby area. There were also QTE bits where our heroes would be running through a section and the game indicated what button to press, or dodging a fire truck before it became part of the background squirting water as a moving obstacle while fighting bad guys in fire fighting gear.
At the end of the game, it pulls a Double Dragon on you if you’re playing the game co-op and you’re both alive. After defeating White Fang on the roof, the President’s daughter says that only one of you can be her new bodyguard meaning that it’s time to settle things and break friendships.
The game’s tight controls, great 3D visuals at the time, and fast-paced action made it a hit with Saturn fans and arcade players making it one of Sega’s best selling “US produced arcade game up to that point” according to the extensive article on the Sega Technical Institute over at Sega 16. And it was easy to see why, especially in co-op. It wasn’t a very long game (like most beat ’em ups) once you figured out how to get through its challenges, but it was a lot of fun with a friend in trying to survive long enough to get to the end before rolling right back through it again.
A great classic, and a great pick for the holidays for when everyone can get together for a little gaming. Just try not to take that last fight too personally.