What is the greatest Christmas movie of all time? If you ask my mom it’s A Christmas Story. If you ask some Americans, they’ll say The Grinch. They are all wrong. Sorry, I don’t make the rules, I only speak the truth. The greatest Christmas movie of all time is Die Hard and that is a well-known fact that intellectuals have discovered. I have blessed you with this knowledge. There is a question, however, that remains. What could be better than watching Die Hard? Playing Die Hard. What’s that? Do you want to know if that was a reality? Yes, my dear friend. Yes.
On the NES, Die Hard released and placed you in a top-down view and in the shoes of one of the greatest action movie heroes of all time: John McClane. The plot follows the movie as you’re in the Nakatomi Plaza building fighting off terrorist after visiting your wife on Christmas. As McClane, you’ll be tasked with defeating the terrorist like a one-man wrecking crew and you’ll feel like a total tough guy while doing it. You see, these dudes are armed with the latest in technology and military armament (for the ’80s) and all you have at the start is a pistol with like 10 rounds and your fists. That’s right, you’ll be like a grizzled old Deku from My Hero Academia pulling off a bunch of Detroit Smashes like they were being given away free of charge like a charity. You have the most advanced techniques in hand to hand combat, a level of CQC that would even make Snake envious. I’m not over-embellishing it at all.
So, as you are going through these rooms and punching people in the trachea like you’re The Man Becky Lynch, you might get shot and wounded by enemies. To heal, all you have to do is pop open a can of soda and be on your way. If you don’t live in America, this is exactly how it is. You get wounded, and afterwards, you drink your favorite soda and caffeine filled beverage. Over the course of the game, you will get access to more weapons and items. Like the machine gun which can fire at an arc and offer more avenues to attack and a flash grenade. If you lose your life, which is as un-American as you can get, you die and lose the game. Don’t be un-American. If you are a real American, like Hulk Hogan from the ’80s, you’ll continue to defeat all of the enemies until you can face off against the evil terrorist leader Hans Gruber.
If I remember correctly, you can get an alternate ending depending on your time with the locks, that’s right these bad dudes want money from the vault baby and are trying to crack open all six locks to get the goods, and any terrorist left alive when you face off against Hans will be called in to fight you. Like the Highlander, there can only be one. Well, two, because you are technically there to save Holly. I don’t like Holly. They don’t end up together despite his superhuman feats of saving her, it’s like being the son of a failed marriage. It hurts every time I see her. It’s real to me… damn it. Now there is an Advanced Mode, if I’m remembering correctly, it just added more floors to engage terrorists.
The movie is more enjoyable than the game. Let me take off my specialty Rose colored nostalgia glasses for a minute and admit something with great sadness. The game, kind of, sucks. Not terrible but not the greatest and it’s shame because of the title. Die Hard is the perfect Christmas movie and this should be the most spectacular Christmas game, but it’s not. I remember how frustrated I used to get because of the controls. I was actually able to look past the right directions you could shoot in, the running was actually good, but actually aiming a decent shot was a headache all in of itself. Immense frustrations of the highest proportions. It’s the equivalent of expecting to get Metal Gear Solid V for your birthday but, instead, you unwrap your gift to see Metal Gear Survive. Didn’t happen to me but I’ve heard stories, others have seen the horrors.
That’s the thing though, when you’re a kid, you enjoy a movie and you just love everything based off of it. Yes, the game is terrible looking back and I had a lot of moment of agonizing torment, but I had a good time. Thinking back on it, I remember the stealth elements being a nice addition to the game. As a child, learning how the unexplained mechanic worked, it made me think and was one of those moments in time where you actually think about the development process behind a game. The stealth in the game was nothing more than hiding from the enemies line of sight and using the dark shadows to your advantage. I questioned if that was on purpose and why they designed it that way instead of a more action approach like other similar games but, well, that’s a large part of the movie as well. John McClane didn’t run around recklessly to kill the terrorist, he took his time and planned his attack.
I think that’s what makes NES games so precious, and has passed on to indie games now, and that’s how they were able to craft these games with such limitations. Say what you want about the game but they were able to tell the story of the movie and add an alternate ending based on your actions. All within the confines of what the NES could allow and it’s still impressive to me now as it was when I was a kid. Indie games don’t have hardware restrictions but they do have monetarily and manpower ones. Instead of giving up or seeing a taste as too daunting, they’ve found a way to accomplish their goals or to retool them in a way that works. I have a lot of respect for being able to accomplish that.
I will pretend the other two Die Hard games don’t exist.
Anyway, if you ever want to know what it’s like to be John McClane with aiming disabilities, get this game. Ready for some controversy? …It’s better than Hotline Miami.