It has certainly been awhile since Sega brought us Daytona (overheard in a smokey arcade in the 1990s: whoaw the game has a Daytona licenese!?!). First in arcades linked with multiple machines for multiplayer insanity. Then to the Sega Saturn for those willing to, at first, pay $400(!!) for the newest technology. The arcade version was great for multiplayer if not a little difficult to control, while the home versions lacked a bit in polish but the gameplay was still there, sometimes diminished by impossibly bad pop-up and slightly less bad graphics.
They actually released 2 versions of Daytona on the Saturn, one with the original 3 tracks, and another one, Daytona Championship Circuit Edition with a few more tracks and slightly cleaner look. The Dreamcast came along with Daytona USA, which was probably the best Daytona we've seen outside of an arcade. Now Daytona comes to the XBLA and PSN, running you around $10. So, what does it look like? How is it improved over the previous edition, well, aside from the obvious finger-crossing for better graphics, response, gameplay- well, pretty much anything over the Sega Saturn versions?
Gentlemen Start Your Engines! But how does that work when one of the tracks has a Rolling STAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAART !!!?
First things first. The music is bad, the Karaoke singer doing the infamous "day-TOOOOOOH-NAAAAAAahhh!" is just as bad as it was back in the day. The engines sound sickly, as do the crashes. The announcer and the beeps and bloops are comparatively decent when put up against the music and engine sounds. Turning the volume down will make this less of a distraction while still having some ambient sounds coming from the game to let you know that your car is speeding up, slowing down, or you're running out of time. Ok, now that I'm done trashing the sound, what about the game?
On the Beginner track, you will have the Rolling Start, which pretty much means you're moving before you're playing. The Advanced and Expert tracks will have you starting last, and behind the Starting Line, while most of your opponents will be starting from past the Starting Line (huh?) leaving you with an immediate disadvantage. But this reminds me of a guest on the Imus in the Morning show, where they are discussing the famous chicken in China Town in New York City that plays Tic-Tac-Toe. Sure the chicken always goes first, but it's a fekkin' chicken! In Daytona, sure the computer cars start in front, but they are programmed to race one way, in a pre-determined line. You, the human player, are able to think about what you want to do and can play differently. Weird, yeah, but that's what racing games were back in the day, kids! The computer controlled cars also seem to run just a bit slower than your car on straightaways, but maintain much of that speed in curves, turns, etc. You deal with it.
The game is old, and it looks old. Just ask these geometrically challenged fellows changing your tires.
The game is not bad, actually, but it's definitely an acquired taste. If you want realism, forget it, this is straight-out arcade. If you want arcade with tight controls, well, this one is early in the game for a newer generation of racers. I say "newer" because, aside from almost unplayable racers like Hard Drivin and very playable titles like Virtua Racing and Ridge Racer, this was one of the newest racers in the mid-90s. Thankfully you will have the 360 controller or the DualShock, which make the original Sega Saturn controller feel like one of those awful digital calculator watches that used to be popular when I was in 4th grade. And that was a long fekkin time ago.
Bridge to Nowhere.. and beyond!
Your car will show physical damage and will become increasingly more difficult to control the more you crash. The car will wobble and wiggle as you are slowly but surely passed by everybody in the up to 40 car field, save for the remaining 10 or 15 cars. Just like in Virtua Racing, those last cars are even worse racers than you are. Sega didn't want you looking that fekkin' bad. You can head to the pits to repair car damage, but that just eliminates you from pretty much any chance of winning, placing, showing, or doing poor. Pitting equals big fail. You can hear the other drivers laughing as the drive by in their pre-determined computer-controlled raceline, and if you play online over XBox Live or the PlayStation Network, you will hear them call you "Fag". Naturally.
An odd thing that has been brought forward is the crash boosting, and it still sucks. When you rear end another player, you spin out or flip over and slow down. The car you hit, well, it speeds up! It doesn't seem right, but it does happen. Also, online gameplay will have you being smashed into a wall leading to your car flipping around as your opponent uses your car to bounce off of and slip ahead on some of those tight turns. This allows the player to avoid the slow-down of an accident and possible crashing into the wall themselves.
Above: Three tracks, raced different ways (forward, reverse, mirrored forward, mirrored reverse) equals 12 tracks? Not really.
At one time in gaming history, 3 tracks was an acceptable amount of options (not counting mirror-mode and reverse-track racing), and Sega gave extra life by adding the mirror modes and reverse modes. Sure it adds life, but it takes the Namco way out for creating new tracks. Hell, some of Namco's Ridge Racer titles have the same tracks from the first games being released to the current systems. What can you say? I know it takes a lot of work to make videogames, but this method of lengthening should be done with new tracks!
Overall, Daytona is an OK trip down memory lane. It shows its age and doesn't care, so this game may be either nostalgic hit or colossal failure. Needless to say, this game is an acquired taste, and was released for $10 on both XBLA and PSN. $7.50 would have been a much better choice.
A code for the PlayStation Network was provided gratis from Sega for Daytona USA.
Daytona USA was purchased for the XBox Live Arcade.