"Eat lead Yankee!"
When I was younger I had a Sega Saturn and a Sony Playstation so I had the best of both worlds.
I did however, only have Die Hard Trilogy for the Playstation and not the Sega Saturn. I remember sitting for hours dropping terrorists in Nakatomi Plaza, blazing through Dulles Airport and rampaging around Manhattan and Central Park in a cab.
Being older now I can appreciate how much effort Fox Interactive put into their first forays into the world of licensed gaming and gaming in general. Alien Trilogy is one of the best FPS titles on either system and of course, there is Die Hard Trilogy.
When I became a rabid collector I became aware of the Saturn port of the game and hunted it down like a man possessed for my favourite system.
What I found was an interesting, but all to familiar experience in terms of multi-platform ports between the Playstation and Saturn.
Die Hard Trilogy is similar to Alien Trilogy in so far as the game seeks to condense the entirety of three films into a single video game experience. Whereas Alien Trilogy had Ripley going from location to location from the Alien films in an entirely FPS style Die Hard Trilogy eschews one particular style for three very distinctive ones.
The game boots to a nice little menu on a spinning CD that lets you decide which game you want to play; Die Hard, Die Hard 2 or Die Hard with a Vengeance. The first is an almost top down shooter where McClane is tasked with freeing hostages and blowing away terrorists while climbing ever so gradually to the top of Nakatomi Tower. The second game is a light gun shooter using the same engine that is similar to Virtua Cop. The third game is more about arcade driving wherein you must race around New York city trying to dispose of bombs.
The three distinctive play styles of each game was, and still is pretty ingenious. While being a cohesive package each of the three "games" included on the Die Hard Trilogy disk could have easily been released on separate discs. They each stand out so well from one another and are so polished that this seems like a sort of greatest hits 3 pack of different games.
Die Hard appeals to the more visceral, action orientated player. You get McClane, an allotted amount of terrorists that must be killed to move on and a bomb that must be reached before it explodes and you die. The abject simplicity of this format is what appeals to me so much. It isn't convoluted, there is no unnecessary clutter, you simply shoot bad guys and save the day.
While the simplicity could have been a disadvantage it keeps a furious pace up and despite the straight forward nature of the gameplay environment are packed with incidental detail like explosions and shattering panes of glass.
The graphics in this section of the game are well rendered and feature interesting character models built from individual 2D images. It's a little strange at first but carves the game a humble aesthetic niche.
McClane's "sound-a-like" dialogue in this portion of the game is fairly well acted and the background music is a collection of electronic compositions that don't come off as too abrasive.
Die Hard 2 (or Die Harder depending on what you like to call it) is, as mentioned before, purely a light gun game. If you don't have a light gun or are playing on a projection or LCD Television the digital controller does a good enough job of making the gameplay as pain free as possible.
You, as McClane must fight your way through the Airport, tunnels, the church and even the famous snow mobile fight while racking up points and avoiding civilians. There are alternate routes to take, weapon power-ups like an explosive shotgun and rockets and grenades to through at your enemies.
This portion of the game is far shorter than Die Hard, but is a lot longer than your typical light gun shooter, it also offers more variety in the way it is played.
Finally, Die Hard with a Vengeance. Personally, this is my least favourite part of the whole experience, but is the most technically accomplished of all 3 games. You are tasked with hunting down bombs in New York city.
The relatively free form nature of the driving is pretty impressive considering when this game was developed and the level of detail in the buildings and hilarious blood splatters of rammed pedestrians give Vengeance its own particular charm.
The music is a little cheesy in retrospect featuring some really cringe worthy hip hop stereotypes of the mid-90's ("Yeeeeah Booooi") but that and the random exclamations uttered by McClane add to that charm I mentioned earlier.
You don't just rampage around New York City either, you also get to drive recklessly around Central Park, underground and in a dockyard. The variety of the levels and the clever design therein lends to Vengeance being a pretty addictive portion of the game.
The graphical competency of this portion of the game cannot be denied and it goes to show how a little effort on the Saturn can turn out graphics that can match and in some cases exceed that of the Playstation.
When all is said and done and you want to pack away your Saturn for the day you can save your game at any point (in any of the games) to your console memory. This is, of course, after inputting your name using the hilariously presented high score table full of cameos of burning bodies, skeletons and other poor souls blown up, driven over and just plain maimed during your exploits.
There is a lot about Die Hard Trilogy I didn't remember upon booting the game up. The original copy I had for my Playstation was long since gone when I got my Saturn copy not long ago so I had no basis for comparison. All I had where my memories, and we all know how accurate childhood memories are.
The biggest issue I seemed to have pushed into the furthest recesses of my mind was that of the frame rate. The frame rate in Die Hard and Die Hard 2 is atrocious. It doesn't render the game unplayable however the frame rate will often dip to around 20-12fps depending on the level of activity on screen.
I didn't remember this problem on the Playstation so I did a bit of research and surely enough I found some comparisons that showed the discrepancy in frame rates between the two versions of the game.
It looked like Fox had done a quick and nasty port of the game to the Saturn, something the console seems to have somewhat of a reputation for. It shows in the lack of transparency effects, bogged down frame rate and lack of extra graphical treats that Playstation owners were given.
In Die Hard and Die Hard 2 the frame rate and awkward controls mean you'll often miss shots, get caught in cross fires or accidentally shoot hostages. The bonus stages in Die Hard are almost impossible due to your inability to get to hostages before they are killed and the necessity for a speedy cursor in a light gun shooter is rendered moot by the lethargic response of your reticule.
Again, the games are NOT unplayable, they just don't have the same frenetic feel they had in the Playstation original.
The FMV sequences in this port of the game are decidedly pixelated and only fill a small portion of your screen.
The Bottom Line
If you haven't played Die Hard Trilogy before you're missing out on a game that gives hope to movie licenses. It exudes a level of creativity, charm and gameplay depth that so many others lack.
The agreeable inclusion of 3 distinct styles of play, detailed graphics and rock solid gameplay lend to Die Hard Trilogy transcending perception of movie licenses as nothing more than cheap, badly coded cash-ins.
The issue is, the Saturn port just can't match the Playstation in many areas. This was obviously a cheap and nasty port and it doesn't use the Saturn hardware to produce a comparable experience.
While it looks good the frame rate is atrocious and while it doesn't become unplayable the frenetic, exciting gameplay is compromised by the feeling of seeing everything through the eyes of a dope user.
The imprecise shooting mechanics caused by trying to compromise for the sluggish frame rate puts you at a frustrating disadvantage.
Either way, if you've never played Die Hard Trilogy before you could do worse than grabbing a copy for the Sega Saturn. It's a port of the game that works and that's all I could have asked for.