As 2016 comes to a close, we wrap up our celebrations of SEGA anniversaries with a look back on a fan favorite 3D arcade beat ’em up. Catch up on past SEGA Retrospective articles, and stay tuned to 2017!
Are you a fan of action movies and always wanted to be the action hero in a video game? Die Hard Arcade, also known as Dynamite Deka in Japan, is where it’s at! To celebrate the 20th anniversary of this popular arcade and home console beat ’em up, let’s dive into the game’s history and development in a special SEGA Retrospective. While there isn’t a concrete date for Die Hard Arcade’s release, we thought the Christmas season was fitting. “Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho.”
Die Hard Arcade was conceived by AM1 head Makoto Uchida, who has worked on numerous well known SEGA titles, including Altered Beast and Golden Axe, with assistance from the SEGA Technical Institute (the team behind Sonic 2, Comix Zone, and The Ooze) in 1996.
According to a French gaming interview, Uchida-san was in charge of designing a game that would appeal to American gamers for the S-TV arcade board, which was used as a basics for the SEGA Saturn hardware. He used the first Die Hard movie as an example and created it with everything from it and called it Dynamite Deka. Artwork for the game was illustrated by the late Tony De Zuniga, who was known as a comic book artist for DC Comics Jonah Hex, with a clear influence from Die Hard. You can easily compare the main character Bruno Delinger to Bruce Willis’ likeness in the Japanese version. One of Uchida’s fellow employees said it was too similar to the Die Hard movie, so they obtained the license from 20th Century Fox to release it as Die Hard Arcade overseas very late in the development with a few changes in-game. It was also the last game developed by SEGA Technical Institute before the team dissolved.
The game begins with a helicopter piloted by the SFPD heading towards a city skyscraper invaded by terrorist group lead by Wolf Hongo who has kidnapped the President’s daughter. The players control two SFPD detectives, Bruno “Mr. Dynamite” Dilenger and Cindy Holiday (John McClane and Kris Thompsen in Die Hard Arcade) as they fight every enemy with brooms, clock towers and pepper grinders to save the President’s daughter.
Die Hard Arcade is a simple beat-em up 3D arcade game in a action hero setting with a three button layout for punch, kick, and jump for combination techniques similar to Virtua Fighter and Streets of Rage. Players can pick up various weapons like guns and even household items to defeat enemies as they progress through the tower with characters clothes ripped from the action. In some segments in the game, there are quick time events where you have to press one of the three buttons or the joystick to pass it. If successful, the player would be rewarded with additional health. If not, the player would have to fight more enemies in that particular level. The QTE gameplay element would later appear in Yu Suzuki’s Shenmue series. As you progress through each level, you are treated with memorable cutscenes of Wolf Hongo shouting “Where is the President’s daughter!?”. Hongo’s face used to give me nightmares as a kid. An interesting twist that the developers included in two player mode is that both players would have to fight each other for a true final battle.
The game was composed by Howard Drossin, also known for composing music for Sonic & Knuckles and Comix Zone. Drossin’s music gives you the feeling of an action movie in different situations. It is dynamic at one point and alarming the next as if you were in a movie scene. He even adds a few melodies to make it sound similar to spy movies.
The SEGA Saturn port was released shortly after the arcade version a year later with the inclusion of an 1979 arcade classic, Deep Scan. The purpose of playing Deep Scan allows the players to control a commanding battleship and drop mines on other ships to earn more credits in game. Another addition included in the Sega Saturn version are ending portraits depending on how many credits are used.
Over the years, Die Hard Arcade (Dynamite Deka) spawned sequels (Dynamite Cop and Asian Dynamite) in the arcades, manga and a light novel (BURNING 2020). Worth noting, while Dynamite Deka came west as Die Hard Arcade, the sequel Dynamite Deka 2 became Dynamite Cop when released west while in Japan thus confusing some fans who wondered if Dynamite Cop had any relation to Die Hard Arcade. But savvy fans knew better! Bruno, the main hero of the series, has also made several appearances in other SEGA AM1 developed games like The House of the Dead 2 as an unlockable costume and a solo support for Bandai Namco’s Project X Zone series. Since we are more focused on the first title, let’s cover the SEGA AGES 2500 port for the PlayStation 2.
In 2006, Dynamite Deka was rereleased for the PlayStation 2 as part of the SEGA AGES 2500 series with improved graphics and additional content. The additional content featured 6 new modes which features new costumes and references to classic SEGA games. The modes are called Saturn, Easy, One Hit Kill, Arrest, Deadline, and Altered Beast Mode. Saturn Mode allows the player to play through the game in it’s original format with textures from the arcade/Saturn version. Easy Mode makes the game a lot more simpler for novice players and adds nods to the Golden Axe series with players changing into Ax Battler and Tyris Flare including a boss reskinned as Death Adder. One Hit Kill makes the game challenging as the objective is to avoid being hit. Arrest Mode has the player arrest enemies in order to beat them. Deadline Mode allows the player to play as Segata Sanshiro and beat the entire game under a certain time limit. Last is Altered Beast Mode, which allows players to play as a Wolfman and Bird Woman with only one credit while their health is depleting and health is regained by defeating enemies. In this version of the game, Deep Scan – a 1979 SEGA arcade game which was included as a bonus in the original home console version – was replaced by another arcade SEGA classic, Periscope, which was released way back in 1968. Periscope was recreated in 3D with the objective of shooting missles at battleships to earn credits in Dynamite Deka.
Die Hard Arcade is really fun, challenging and addictive. I love the action gameplay and never forget the times playing this game at the arcades and its sequel Dynamite Cop on the SEGA Dreamcast with my cousins. I would recommend this game to fans of beat ’em up games and if the Saturn copies are expensive to purchase used online, remember that the game is still available on the Japanese PSN store under PS2 Classics for PS3 for a good price!