Friday, June 15, 2012

Of Import: Die Hard (PC Engine, 1990)

Japanese developers asked to turn American movie licenses into video games sometimes take a few liberties with the source material.  This is certainly the case with Die Hard, published by Pack-In Video in 1990 for the Japanese PC Engine, apparently under a sublicense from Activision.  The game was never released in the US, for reasons that become obvious with a closer look.

In truth, I suspect this was a generic Ikari Warriors-style shooter that had the 20th Century Fox Die Hard license thrust upon it late in the design process.  It's a HuCard-format game, but that didn't stop the designer, Hiroaki Kawamoto, from wasting precious cartridge space on lavish movie-style intro credits, starting with... himself:

Brief flashes of competence can be seen here and there -- the sprites and scrolling are solid and flicker-free, looking as good as many mid-1980s arcade games, and enemies drop a variety of weapons for the hero to pick up and use.  But the music is mediocre and generic, without so much as a nod to the film's soundtrack, and there are some strange design choices.  Our hero can take quite a few bullet hits before he collapses, but he falls to his instant death if a hole opens up beneath his feet or he accidentally steps into one during his travels.  He can pick up a bullet-proof vest to protect himself for a while, or heal himself by picking up medpacks; he can also recover part of his health by picking up... little brown bottles of something... beer, maybe?  That would make as much sense as anything else in this game.

Considerable HuCard space is dedicated to digitized images, though poor Bruce Willis looks like a badly-abused bootleg toy version of himself in this victory screenshot:

All of this Hollywood hoopla leaves precious little space for the actual game.  As a result, each stage is fairly short (under five minutes if we know where we're going) and highly repetitive.  Background and sprite graphics are recycled over and over, and the maps aren't very large either.  And the tie-in to the movie's plot is... a bit loose.  There are ten stages crammed in, according to the manual, but only the third one appears to bear any resemblance to the film, and it's laid out as a maze to challenge the player  stretch out its meager real estate in a vain attempt to fake play value.  We know something's wrong as soon as the world map is displayed, prior to the start of the first level:

Remember the famous scene at the beginning of the movie where New York City Detective John McClane, home for Christmas, takes time out to fight his way through the jungle, taking out enemy soldiers?

And then the awesome sequence where he wades through hip-deep waters, bleeding profusely from bullet wounds?

And then the thrilling scene where he's trapped in an office building that's actually a huge maze, and if he doesn't pick the right exit, he gets directed back to part of the building he's already been through?

And this thrilling scene, where the deceased Mr. McClane is replaced by a new character, apparently played by... Edward G. Robinson?  Ben Vereen?  Ah, I've got it -- Harpo Marx!

Yippie-ki-yay, Marx Brothers!

I can't recommend this one, but it's certainly an unusual foreign licensed tie-in for Die Hard fans.  Interested collectors might be able to find a copy for sale here.

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