Written by  :  Luis Silva (13622)
Written on  :  Jun 18, 2006
Platform  :  SEGA Saturn
Rating  :  3.86 Stars3.86 Stars3.86 Stars3.86 Stars3.86 Stars

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Takes some time to get into

The Good

Ask a Sega fan their favourite games, and it's very likely Streets of Rage 2 and Virtua Fighter 2 make the list. Ask if he'd like to have a mix of both games, and unless the answer is an enthusiastic "YES!", ask another, because he's not a true fan. OK, maybe that's a lie, but either way, both are among the most solid gaming experiences provided by the Japanese company during the 16 and 32 bit times.

Based on a ST-V game, (which is similar to the Saturn, so the experience should be the same with a good arcade stick), Die Hard Arcade promises that blend of classic side-scrolling brawlers with modern 3D arcade fighters, and delivers just as that, but only after the player tries, frustratingly, to play it as a vs. fighter and then an old-school brawler, and not before he learns all the combos and ways to save time or punish baddies in the meanest way possible. After that, it becomes a solid arcade experience, and even the "chore" of earning credits becomes fun. Details like arresting the terrorists using the handgun without starting a fight or finding a lighter and then use mace canisters as a mini-flamethrower work really well, and bring some depth to a genre where punch-punch-kick is the norm. There are a lot of moves, usually thrown in the same fashion as a 3D fighter, but the most hasty, button mashing players will miss the most exotic throws or moves.

The Bad

Due to technical limitations, the game barely plays like an old-school brawler - instead of sidescrolling though an alley, a street, a corridor or an elevator, the player visits a room (elevator entrance, toilet, lobby, office, etc), beats up a few baddies (usually not more than 4) and then proceeds to another room with a reflex sequence that requires the player to press a button to knock out a foe on the run (failing to do so means an avoidable fight). There's nothing wrong with this approach, but the reflex sequences could be a lot longer and more complex, instead of being a simple affair of pressing the right button. And the worst part of making them so small? After arresting and saving bigger weapons for the sub-bosses is mastered, the game can take less than 20 minutes to be cleared out. For an arcade, that's a lot of time. A lot. But for "home entertainment" it's not nearly enough to justify the (then) high price of the game. Other problem was a slight oversight when porting the game from ST-V's cartridges to Saturn's CDs. There are a lot of (very unspectacular) cutscenes, most of them no more than three seconds long, and all of them require some time to load data from the CD. Spending one second accessing data to see a dull cinematic doesn't cut it, and after a while, it's quite likely everyone will turn the things off altogether, as they add very little to the game, and even the Outro is a dull affair. Why don't they even explain why the characters lose their clothes between levels?

In a recent review, I've complained on how Virtua Fighter 2 saved too many things in bookeeping, requiring a lot of memory blocks. On the other hand, DHA saves nothing. Of course, options can be quickly changed, but saving them, keep track of the number of available credits, longest/shortest game and so on would take what, 10 blocks? Because of this, there aren't any unlockables - no fancy CG renders, an additional character, alternate routes, nothing.

The Bottom Line

Die Hard Arcade is a fun experience, but too short for it's own good. A regular play session shouldn't take more than 30 minutes, with no added replay value after each session other than to improve. While it plays and looks (except some of the brighter colours) well, there aren't any factors that make the game worthy of long sessions of play, which cuts down it's value on the long run. Still, it is worthy of a place in the "must see" list of the platform.