Tracker’s SEGA Retrospectives: Daytona USA

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Hello there! Allow me to welcome you to Wrecks’ newest feature, Tracker’s SEGA Retrospectives-essentially the musings of a 14 year old SEGA fan who missed the SEGA consoles of old, and’s got back to see what he missed. In other words, me. I hope to provide a unique and different take on the done to death SEGA Retrospective genre, as in a world of advancements such as standard online play, DLC, and HD graphics, I head back to a simpler time, where all you needed was imagination and a SEGA system, and you was set to have fun.

A quick warning though, mild language is ahead. 

Flippin’ heck, am I bad at introductions. Without further ado, allow me to present the first retrospective in my new series:

About Daytona…

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Developed by SEGA’s AM2 division, Daytona USA was an arcade racing game based upon the NASCAR series. Rather than going down the simulator route of doing things, SEGA used their previous title Virtua Racing as a basis, and made a game that focused on being fun rather than being a stone cold simulator.

As mentioned, Daytona USA was built off Virtua Racing‘s mechanics, but had a lower polygon count, despite being released on SEGA AM2’s revolutionary Model 2 board. That being said though, it looked far better overall due to it’s texture mapped environment and consistent 60fps refresh rate, even with multiple opponents on screen at one time, beating even it’s closest competitor Ridge Racer. These features all made it arguably the best looking video game of the time.

So here’s Daytona USA-a retrospective. AKA some British teenager rambles on about an old SEGA arcade game.

So, let’s take a look at the games themselves.

Daytona USA

The original arcade smash-hit!

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Hmm… its almost like something is missing.

As detailed above, developed by SEGA AM2, and lead by Toshihiro Nagoshi, the game was effectively developed as a spiritual successor to the arcade hit Virtua Racing. It was originally planned for SEGA 32X, but this idea barely made it past the concept phase, and was shelved. Production quickly moved to arcade hardware. To give the game an advantage in consumer’s eyes, a new arcade board, the revolutionary SEGA Model 2 Arcade Board, was developed, and Daytona USA was to be the first game to utilise it’s capabilities. SEGA released the game to certain areas in 1993, where it was a moderate success. Happy with what was essentially the game’s trial run, the game went on to achieve a wider release in 1994, with adjustments made to AI. The game became a roaring success, and went on to become one of the most popular arcade games in history.

Perhaps one of the most praised features was it’s music, composed and performed by Takenobu Mitsuyoshi, and gave beloved tracks such as “Let’s Go Away”, “The King of Speed” (commonly referred to as “ROLLING STAAAAAAAAAART”) and “Sky High”

Unsurprisingly, demand for a home console port was immense, so with SEGA’s new system, the SEGA Saturn on the way, boasting eye-popping arcade visuals, it was only a matter of time until the home console port everyone asked for got made.

The one problem?

The home port we got was…

Daytona USA

AKA the “SEGA Saturn Butchered Edition”

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Because the SEGA Saturn was released months ahead of the promised date in an attempt to gain an advantage over Sony’s new Playstation system, many in development games were rushed to meet the new launch date. Unfortunately, Daytona was a victim of this rush to release games, and so what we got was far from what we expected.

Now, let me level with you here.

One of the main selling points of the arcade version of Daytona USA was it was smooth and fast, creating an impressive, and fun experience for all who played it.

The Saturn version took the 60 FPS experience, and gave it a right kicking-it only ran at 20 FPS.

That’s over half of the original frame-rate! That’s ridiculous! In addition, it suffered from pop in as bad as Sonic R’s-and that’s saying something. This meant you had to memorise courses, as if you, for example, didn’t know a turn was up next, then it’d pop out of nowhere, and you were fucked.

But to try and sweeten the deal a bit, the Saturn port had fully remastered music-rather than synthesizing everything, including Mitsuyoshi’s voice, through a Yamaha chip, real instruments and recording software was used for much higher quality music. The vocals were also re-arranged and re-sung by Mitsuyoshi-unfortunately, they murdered Pounding Pavement by doing this, something I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to forgive them for. In addition to the re-done music, it also added “Saturn Mode”, which featured unlockable cars and no time limit, meaning you could focus on driving rather than racing per se. Difficulty settings were also added, and perhaps the deal maker for some, you could race as a HORSE. If that’s not pure awesome, I don’t know what is.

Overall, the port was decent, but framerate and god-awful pop-in stopped it from reaching anywhere near the heights of the arcade original. SEGA knew it had made an error in releasing such a bad game to it’s fans, and so set out to correct it. Enter…

Daytona USA – Championship Circuit Edition

AKA “We Fixed Our Crappy Game” Edition

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And the drive of the braaaaveeee…

Daytona USA Championship Circuit Edition was released in 1996 by SEGA, again for the Saturn, as a sort of apology for the first port. It vastly improved on the previous port, fixing the pop-in issues, and giving a framerate boost, and even boated “Slick new full screen graphics”-referring to the omission of the black borders that persisted in most PAL releases of video games back then. However, it also vastly differentiated itself from the previous releases in numerous ways-firstly, the “Hudson Hornet High Class” car was completely revamped, sporting a new red paintjob, the words “Hornet” emblazoned upon the back rather than “Gallop Racing,” and the removal of the cars famous 41 logo.

This wasn’t a very popular move with fans, so the original Hornet was included as an unlockable, albeit under the generic car name of “Daytona,” and with max stats in every aspect, meaning it handled nothing like that of the original car.

Speaking of which, that could be said for the entire game-it felt nothing like the previous games. Why? Because some daft git at SEGA thought it was a good idea to dump the original developers, AM2, off the project, and just hand it to AM3 instead. AM3 were responsible for the nearly arcade perfect port of SEGA Rally Championship, but the sad truth of the matter is they had no idea how to go about programming a Daytona game. Instead of doing the sensible thing and developing a more arcade accurate engine for the port, they simply re-used the aforementioned SEGA Rally Championship engine, resulting in a Daytona game that controlled like a SEGA Rally game. This, again, was not a popular decision amongst fans, as now a whole new control scheme and new physics had to be adhered to, some of which didn’t really work well with Daytona’s track design. That said, new tracks were added, and the existing tracks finally received names-The Three Seven (777) Speedway, Dinosaur Canyon, and the Seaside Street Galaxy. The two new tracks were Desert City, and National Park Speedway. It also added new cars to select, each with their own stats.

Also of a mixed reception was the music, which for the most part omitted Mitsuyoshi’s vocal talents entirely-for example, “Let’s Go Away”, the attract mode theme recognizable instantly to anyone familiar with the game, was replaced with Eric Martin’s “Sons of Angels”, and vastly different remixes and arrangements of the original tracks such as “Sky High” were implemented. I say mixed reception, because all in all the tracks weren’t really that bad-“Sons of Angels” is a really good song, and Richard Jacques’ arrangements were pretty cool too. Even better is the guitar work-from our main man Jun Senoue of Crush 40, no less.

That said, if anything the port was even further from the arcade hit than the original Saturn port, but despite this was ported to PC in Japan, with a new course, Silver Ocean Causeway, which included what is widely considered the most difficult corner in the game.

Also as a fun fact-an alternate version of this game, nearly indistinguishable from the normal version, but with a tiny logo on the disk, the SEGA Netlink Edition, exists, which supported the Saturn’s phone line/online-esque play.  However, it was released in VERY limited quantity, and despite many thinking the title is claimed by Panzer Dragoon Saga, the rarest Saturn game is actually Daytona USA Netlink Edition-so rare, in March 2010, it went for $1100 on eBay!

With SEGA still struggling to nail a arcade port that pleased all around, they gave it on final try with their SEGA Dreamcast system. Presenting…

Daytona USA: 2001


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Released in, well, May 2001 here in Europe, and March 2001 in the US, this was the final port of Daytona USA released on a SEGA console, and for a long time (until 2011) the final console port of Daytona USA ever made. It was one last attempt to fix up the problems of the previous games, make some nifty additions, and make an arcade perfect port with upgrades.

It… was decent.

I say sort of, because in concept, it was pretty cool-sounding. Heavily upgraded graphics, all the tracks from Daytona USA, Championship Circuit Edition, and three new tracks as well, plus a remixed version of the original soundtracks, plus new music, a metric ton of unlockable content, and online play! It was perfect!

On paper, anyway.

In execution, it suffered from extremely sensitive controls. Even if you tapped the analog stick, say, left, as lightly as possible, you’d likely go hurtling left straight into a wall at ridiculous speeds. That said, there was a fix of sorts for this-having a Dreamcast Racing wheel seemed to calm the controls down-but that meant going out and spending more money on a big plastic wheel, that, unless you were a racing game enthusiast, you’d probably only use once-for this game. Also, in PAL regions, the game’s online features were actually omitted-therefore giving us in Europe half of what SEGA promised. Overall, bad controls, no online in Europe, the need to spend more money on a piece of plastic just for one game… it doesn’t sound too good, does it? That said, the content did add replay value-if you wanted to replay it with it’s awful controls, that is-and the arranged soundtrack was pretty good too. But overall, it never captured the magic of the arcade original.

However, before 2001, there was actually another game-and it wasn’t a port. That’s right folks, I’m talking about…

Daytona USA 2: Battle On the Edge

AKA “Hornet, where are you? I’m scared…”

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Five seconds later it ran over a shoe and went out the race.

…that being said though, there was nothing to be scared of – because this game kicked ass!

Released in 1998, 3 years before the Dreamcast port of the original, the upgrade was made from Model 2 to Model 3. After seeing the mess up that AM3 made, SEGA went back on their mistake, and reinstated AM2 as the developers. The game featured 3 all new tracks, plus completely new music, composed again by Mitsuyoshi, but sung by Dennis St. James. Which was awesome, because he also did the English version of Angels with Burning Hearts, Burning Ranger’s main theme! And that song was awesome! However, for fans of Mitsuyoshi’s singing from the original game, the time trial versions of each track include a version of each song with Mitsuyoshi’s glorious Engrish-although be warned, it’s nowhere near as good as his performance in the original game. That said, the normal versions of each song get the adrenaline going, especially “Slingshot,” the theme of the first course.

Speaking of which, the Slingshot is also a technique in this game-the name slingshot referring to NASCAR drafting techniques. Other than that though, it mainly follows the same mechanics as the original-however, instead of Manual and Automatic transmission, there are now three cars to choose from, the Beginner car, the Advanced Car and the Expert Car. As with the original, however, there are three tracks, Beginner, Advanced, and Expert, each with 8, 4, and 2 laps respectively, just as in the original.

However, a few months after Battle on the Edge’s release, an updated version of the game, “Power Edition”, which was effectively:

Daytona USA 2: Power Edition

AKA “Oh, there you are Hornet!”

This release included a slightly redesigned Hudson Hornet High Class, though not as badly drastically redesigned as the Championship Circuit Edition Hornet. Also, it added the challenge course, which basically compiled all three tracks into one big 10 minute Daytona marathon. This track was in fact so popular with players, it actually appeared in Outrun 2, complete with awesome cycling soundtrack.


Towards the latter half of last year, SEGA popped up a clue on their blog that a new port was soon to be revealed, and left a video depicting a cute rabbit, and “The King Of Speed” playing in the background. This lead up to the inevitable announcement that Daytona USA was back. Enter…

Daytona USA HD

AKA “It’s about time we got this right, huh” Edition

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What the heck is a Pagota?

Released in late October 2011, Daytona USA on Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade finally gave fans of the original what they had been asking for since 1994-a 1:1 re-creation of the arcade classic. Featuring HD Graphics, the original and an arranged soundtrack, true online multiplayer for all reigons, a plethora of modes, and arcade perfect controls, plus racing wheel support, the PSN and XBLA port of Daytona USA is easily the definitive port. It finally let fans enjoy the arcade smash hit whenever they wanted, without the need to trawl eBay with a mountain of cash and a metric ton of luck, and no longer was travelling to arcades with a pocketful of £1 coins required.

It may have taken 18 years, but it was worth the wait-Daytona USA HD was perhaps the finest of SEGA’s fantastic arcade ports such as House of the Dead 3 and 4. I even wrote the Sonic Wrecks review of this particular port!

That said, Daytona left a legacy, touched upon in a few games. For example:

Fighters Megamix

AKA the game where the Hornet KICKS YOUR ARSE.

SEGA AM2 also made fighting games-and they were damn popular for it. So when the Saturn was reaching it’s end, and the Dreamcast was already on the way in to desperately try and save SEGA, AM2 decided to give it one last hurrah with the Smash Brothers of SEGA-FIGHTERS MEGAMIX.

This game… was fucking CRAZY. It had characters from Virtua Fighter, Fighting Vipers, Sonic the Fighters, Virtua Cop, some obscure Japanese SEGA Mega Drive game called Rent-A-Hero, a giant bear with no animation… and the final unlockable character? The Hudson Hornet, straight out of Daytona USA!

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“You spilled my pint of Diesel – I’m going to go Minecraft on your blocky face.”


Now, in Street Fighter II, you beat the crap out of a car.

In Fighters Megamix however, a car beats the crap out of YOU.

It’s absurd to look at, but so damn funny. I have no idea what was running through SEGA AM2’s brains when they put the Hornet in a fighting game, but whatever it was, it was awesome. In addition, the Hornet even had a stage-the Three Seven Speedway! It takes place in a ring in the middle of the main track, and throughout the entire bout “The King of Speed” plays. If that’s not awesome, I don’t know what awesome is anymore.

Also while I’m here…

Ridge Racer DLC

AKA The Hornet appears in it’s former competitor?!

Wooo polygons and Takenobu Mitsuyoshi’s epic return! I have no idea why this crossover came to fruition, or how, given Daytona was Ridge Racer‘s main competitor back in the day, but it’s pretty awesome to see Daytona’s legacy is still recognised.

Overall, with it’s numerous iterations, but overall simple yet challenging gameplay, Daytona has become a much loved franchise for me, even if I’m a bit crap at drifting. The memories and curiosity it inspired in me when I first saw the cabinet is unforgettable, and it’s easily my favourite arcade game of all time, and amongst my favourite games of all time.

That said, what does the series mean to you? Am I merely alone in my Daytona loving ways? Why not let me know in the comments?

Tracker TD

Author: Tracker TD

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  1. Avatar

    Nice article. I feel I have to defend Daytona USA 2001 though. A local versus mode, eight different tracks, and to a lesser extent, a championship mode with no time limit… all features which would have been nice in the recent XBLA/PSN game.
    I’m glad you acknowledged that the handling issues are reduced somewhat with a driving wheel. I have one and use it all the time for my driving games (most of all the Crazy Taxi games), and I do feel it adds to the experience.
    But in the settings for 2001, there is definitely an option to change the sensitivity. Haven’t used it myself with the standard controller though so can’t comment on how effective it is.

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    Just to follow up re the Dreamcast version. Using the wheel makes the game far better. And you can adjust the sensitivity (for wheel OR standard pad – though the default with the wheel is just fine).I’ve heard that option might not be in the JPN version though. I love the DC version and even though I have the excellent XBL version I still play it quite a bit. Just a pity it doesn’t let you set the speed display to MPH in the PAL version – a minor niggle. Apart from that with the extra modes etc and the gorgeous looks (esp with the VGA box) it is still a great version.

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