With Developer Commentary - Die Hard Trilogy (Saturn, '96)

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Description

 

Developer: Probe Entertainment
Publisher: Fox Interactive
Platform: PlayStation
Released in JP: December 13, 1996
Released in US: August 20, 1996
Released in EU: November 1996

One of my favorite Playstation games as a kid. There is a whole lot of game here, when you consider that each film represents its own game, each of which is of a different genre. I recently picked up this game on the Sega Saturn for $5, and was surprised to see at how poorly it handled when compared to the Playstation 1 version.

According to Mean Machines Sega the game was also announced for both the Genesis and 32X; although neither of those platforms would see a release. SegaRetro claims that Die Hard Trilogy was originally developed with the PlayStation in mind, with the Saturn (and PC) versions being green lit towards the end of the game's initial development. The Saturn version is inferior in every way: Lower resolution, polygon count, framerate, and the transparencies are matrixed, as you have seen in several other Saturn titles, such as Mega Man X4.

Generic Episode Image
via segaretro.org
 

Probe Entertainment developed this, and Probe Co-Founder, Fergus Mcgovern, died in February at age 50.Generic Episode Image

McGovern co-founded Probe Software in 1984, and it quickly became known for porting well known, and lucrative, arcade games for early PC gaming platforms. Probe grew into a significant player as console gaming took hold in the 1990s, developing franchises such as OutRun, FIFA and Mortal Kombat on a wide variety of platforms.

In Mortal Kombat 2's home versions, Probe became notorious for the "Fergality" Easter egg, in which Raiden would turn into a big-head mode Fergus McGovern sprite.

Probe Entertainment, as it was renamed, was sold to Acclaim for $40 million in 1995; it became known as Acclaim Studios Cheltenham until the entire company declared bankruptcy in 2004. In a 2008 profile by The Guardian, McGovern was said to have been made a millionaire in the deal, and he later founded the studio HotGen. That was known for a line of plug-and-play joystick games based on classic arcade titles.

- Polygon

Die Hard 2

Generic Episode Image
via segaretro.org

Level Editor

Probe added an in-engine editor tool to the second game due to a lack of enough dev kits to go around. To access it, pause the game, highlight Quit, hold R2, and press Right, Up, Down and Square. The game will automatically unpause. Press Start to find the Pause menu replaced by the Editor menu!

Controls

The coloured lines represent the terrorist movement paths. Press Select to move around in first person, and L1 and R2 to look up and down. Press Start to restart the level and test your changes.

Die Hard With A Vengeance

Debug Mode

There is also a debug mode in the third game on the disc. To access it, use the same code as with the Die Harder editor: pause the game, highlight Quit, hold R2, and press Right, Up, Down and Square. The game will automatically unpause and a variety of numbers will appear on screen representing debug information.

Controls

On Controller 2...

  • Start: Show a debug screen.
  • Triangle: Toggle the clock.
  • Left and Right: Select a new level. Press X to start that level.
  • Square: Restart the level.
  • Circle: Teleport over to the next bomb.

Undocumented NeGCon Support

Interestingly enough, Die Hard Trilogy supports the NeGCon controller by Namco. If you plug it in while the game is running, it will automatically start Die Hard With A Vengeance, using the controller's twist-controls to steer the car.

From<https://tcrf.net/Die_Hard_Trilogy_(PlayStation)>

Development

The game was developed by a UK-based development studio, Probe Entertainment, who had a track record of successful licensed game properties. The Die Hard with a Vengeance segment was developed first and was intended to be a standalone release, but publisher Fox Interactive insisted that the game should be more closely linked to the films, leading Probe to develop the other two segments.[1] Initially the Die Hard 2 segment of the game was developed with polygonal enemies,[2] but they were later replaced with digitized sprites.

From <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Die_Hard_Trilogy>

Reception

The game was positively reviewed, receiving 9.4 from GameSpot and 7.5 from IGNPlayStation Magazinegave it a score of 8/10, calling it "three good game for the price of one. Glitchy, but good value."[3] As of October 2012, it holds an 86% ranking at GameRankings.[4] In Germany the game was banned because of its extreme violence, especially being able to drive through harmless people with blood spilling all over the windshield.[citation needed]

From <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Die_Hard_Trilogy>

Critic Reviews

The Video Game CriticPlayStationJul 15, 1999A100
Electric PlaygroundPlayStationOct 21, 19969.5 out of 1095
Game RevolutionPlayStationJun 04, 2004A-91
GamePro (US)PlayStationJun, 19964.5 out of 590
Hobby ConsolasSEGA SaturnFeb, 199785 out of 10085
GamezillaPlayStation199685 out of 10085
Gameplay (Benelux)WindowsApr 30, 199777 out of 10077
Privat Computer PCWindows199773 out of 10073
Entertainment WeeklyWindowsSep 13, 1996C+58

 

From <https://www.mobygames.com/game/die-hard-trilogy>

Saturn vs Playstation

The performance of the PS1 version is far superior to that of the Saturn, largely due to the fact that the Saturn struggled with 3D throughout its life, as well as the mediocre transparency effects. For more technical information on how the Saturn handled transparency with the VDP1 and 2 on the Saturn, check out this article from Matt Greer.

I grew up with the PS1 version, and was surprised to see at just how poorly the Saturn version performed. In many instances, particularly on Die Hard 2, it is nearly unplayable.

Press release from Fox Interactive

I managed to dig up a press release from Fox Interactive when the game was released in 1995.

This unique programming dissolves obstacles such as walls, posts and corners in real time to ensure continuous action and an unobstructed view of your character, John McClane. In another Saturn breakthrough, two of its exclusive peripherals, the Stunner and Arcade Racer, can be played on a single title -- for the maximum "Die Hard" experience.

Rated M for gamers ages 17+, Fox Interactive's DIE HARD TRILOGY is set to invade Sega Saturn and Windows 95 CD-ROM on Jan. 21, 1997 at an estimated shelf price of $54.98.

Programming on the Saturn

There is a great blog post from Mick West, who worked at Neversoft in the 90s and programmed a lot on the Saturn, and in the post he goes into great detail around how difficult the machine could be to work with at times.  You can even get a shot of the Saturn dev kit in the corner here:

Generic Episode Image
via CowboyProgramming.com

He has some really detailed information, such as this:

The RAM on the Saturn that you can put code in is split into two one megabyte chunks. One at address $06000000 and the other at $00200000. The chunk at $00200000 is used exclusively to hold the graphics for the main character. The program code actually goes at $06010000 (the first $10000 bytes are used for system space, the stack and suchlike.)

The AssemblerGames forums has a lot of useful information as well, although I cannot confirm that any of this is in fact, true:

A lot of Probe's conversions were single-processor efforts, or at least two are for definite. Alien Trilogy is often mentioned as an example of a game using just one of the Saturn's VDPs, plus I seem to recall a former programmer with the same team confirming that Die Hard Trilogy was similarly a one-chip game.

I've often suspected that Mortal Kombat II was ported directly from the 32X code, but I'm not sure if it's another guilty title. One thing I do know about this one is that it only uses roughly 20MB, which is terrible when you consider all that leftover space could have been allocated to CD quality music tracks.

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