In 1996, American-based Sega Technical Institute (of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 fame) and the Japanese AM1 teamed up to develop Die Hard Arcade/Dynamite Deka (Die Hard was licensed for use in the western release) for the Saturn-offshoot ST-V arcade system. Naturally, the game made its way home, giving Saturn players a taste of the game's beat-em-up action. Now, PS2 owners get the chance, as Dynamite Deka clocks in at volume 26 in the Sega Ages series.
The Saturn version was pretty much a straight port of its arcade counterpart, with the addition of Deep Scan - a 2D bomb-toss from Sega's yesteryear used to rack up extra credits. DD's goal is simple: take control with three buttons and the D-pad and try to rescue the president's (very ugly, might I add) daughter as a John McClane look-a-like. At the time, it was another solid arcade conversion for the Saturn, but how does it hold up years later?
As with other Ages titles, DD comes with a graphical update. But unlike most of the games in the series, this is a major overhaul. It almost looks like a different game as almost everything has been remodeled and re-textured. New effects have been added making the visuals much crisper and sharper overall. Case in point: the football player boss that appeared to have manboobs in the original actually just looks like he's wearing pads now.
Sounds, however, are a different story - they're the exact same as the Saturn version, and they weren't too good to begin with. It is a bit weird to have the new updated graphics paired up with the same old sounds. Death screams and voices are particularly bad, sounding like they were recorded through a telephone. Music, on the other hand, is still crystal clear. But with only a few moments of playtime on each song, the tunes don't stand out too much.The game controls and responds exactly as it did on the Saturn and in the arcade. Showing its roots as a quarter-muncher, controls can be a bit frustrating at times and enemies will dish out plenty of cheap shots. Since there are only three buttons (punch, kick, and jump) to control a wide variety of attacks, it's easy to pull off a wrong move accidentally. Sometimes it leads to a "Wow, that's cool" moment, but for the most part, it just makes things a little tricky.
Even though DD is a 3D beat-em-up, the action only takes place on a horizontal 2D plane. This means that if an opponent is below on the screen, players have to move directly in front or behind them instead of being able to attack downwards. The fighting is broken up with QTEs between scenes - having players press the appropriate button with the commands on the screen. Unfortunately, this is one of the few things in the game that is written in Japanese, making it hard to nail these. With that being said, DD is still a fun game, while it lasts. Again pointing back to its arcade roots, the game is really short, clocking in at around a half hour. To drag it out, the game starts with an impossibly low five credits.
To earn more credits, another game from Sega's past is used. Instead of Deep Scan, this time it's an electronic version the 1966 Periscope. Point the periscope at a moving ship. Hit fire. Wait. After a few seconds, it's pretty easy to time and leaves little challenge. While it's an interesting bit of history, other than racking up credits, there's not much play value here. After gaining a sufficient number of credits, it's only a matter of time and determination to get through the game. So, for replay value, several additional modes become available after completion via code, each putting a unique spin on the game. This is where the Sega Ages release begins to shine.Available in the bonus modes are extra costumes, which, depending on how you look at them, are either goofy or great. Characters can be dressed as Elvis, Ax and Tyris from Golden Axe, Altered Beast, or even... Segata Sanshiro himself.
One shot kill mode is exactly what it sounds like - one shot, one kill. That goes for the player and the opponents, so while it only takes one shot to finish them off, take one and it's game over. Arrest mode adds challenge by making the only way to finish an enemy arresting them, a tricky feat in itself. Fortunately, it's good practice because arresting baddies is the fastest way to take them out for deadline mode, where there's only a given amount of time to finish the level. Time limits are short, so a single mistake can cost the game. Finally, there's Altered Beast mode where you've got to keep gobbling up green blobs in order to survive. These extra modes are challenging and should give even seasoned players a run for their money.The levels themselves are slightly altered in the new modes, adding in hints of some of Sega's older games, including different music, different items, and some interesting background sequences. Completing these will release a password to unlock extra content on the Japanese Ages website, where unfortunately, a lot is lost in translation. Lastly, the extras in the release are rounded out with an image gallery, a sound test, and a Japanese commercial for the game.
Dynamite Deka/Die Hard Arcade is a little bit dated, mechanics-wise - it definitely feels like it's a few years old, even with the new graphics. But despite that, it's still a fun game to play, especially multiplayer. Racking up the credits, grabbing a friend, and beating up an old man with a knife stuck through your chest is a good way to fill an afternoon. The extras really do add a lot to the game and are done with style and as an homage to Sega's past. This is what the Sega Ages line-up set out to do, and Vol. 26 is a high point in the series.