Review – Daytona USA

The arcade classic gets a spruce up for the Playstation Network and XBox Live Arcade, but is it still a force to be reckoned with or is it more Shuddering Halt than Rolling Start?  We asked Wrecks newcomer Tracker TD to grab a helmet, strap himself into a racing harness, and fire up the engine on this HD port.

Whenever I head out to a resort of some place, or a area populated with arcades such as Blackpool, there’s usually one game I’m always on the lookout for while weaving in between all the Guitar Hero Arcade and House of the Dead cabinets-that game is the bundle of arcade joy Daytona USA. As one of the very first arcade games I ever played, it was so fascinating to me. And even if I always ran out of time because I failed to master the drift, just sitting in a chair watching an onscreen, virtual car drive at ridiculous speeds just left me in awe.

Nowadays, I’m even more into it-if I see Daytona anywhere, whereas I may have left it alone at certain times in the past, now I MUST play it, no questions asked. There was perhaps only one thing that bugged me however-when I won, and had no more money, that was it. I had to go, and once I got home, I just wished I could go back to the arcade and play again.

Looks like SEGA felt the same, because now the arcade gem is available anytime, and you don’t need a mountain of £1 coins at the ready to play through it. And since downloading it, I’ve been in arcade heaven.

For those not in the know, Daytona USA is a video game based on the famous NASCAR racing sport of the same name. Originally an arcade game, it was later ported to SEGA Saturn twice and then to SEGA Dreamcast. However, all of these had various issues, such as extreme amounts of pop up on the original Saturn version, wonky controls on the Dreamcast version and the second Saturn version the controls were again criticized in some cases. So we’ve waited just under a decade (the original arcade version’s release was 1993) for a good, solid port of Daytona USA. So, have SEGA managed it?

With flying colours.

The basic layout of the game is the same as the arcade version. Pick one of three tracks, The Three Seven Speedway, Dinosaur Canyon, and the Seaside Street Galaxy. That, people, is how you name race tracks. As the tracks go on, unsurprisingly they get harder and harder, until you find taking a wrong turn on the last course can spell an epic crash straight into a dead end. And there are a LOT of turns in that last course. However, the tracks are overall well designed, although some aspects can be rather tedious-building up too much speed can mean you overshoot a turn entirely, but going to slow obviously means you’ll get overtaken, so I’ve found speed management can be difficult. The game can be unforgiving with it’s track design as well-sometimes it’ll seem like you’re on a straight going up a hill of some sort, and once you see the top, there’s a turn straight in your path, and by the time you see the turn it’ll be too late to drift, causing a spectacular crash that can only be avoided through memorization of the tracks to some extent. In my opinion, this is only really a problem in Dinosaur Canyon, the Advanced course, where there are a lot of these ‘uphill…suddenly drifting!’ moments.

Speaking of drifting-if you’re a bit of a newbie to Daytona, you’ll have to master the control scheme. Heck, I’ve been playing Daytona a while, and I still can’t get the drifting down. Which leads to another small problem-on it’s normal difficulty, Daytona USA can be unforgiving. If you can’t drift, you’ll crash. A lot. And this slows you down a damn sight, and by the time you’ve reached top speed again you could be quite a bit behind. Thankfully, to ease in newcomers, SEGA have added multiple difficulty modes, ranging from Very Easy to Arcade, Arcade being an exact replica of the original arcade difficulty for obvious reasons. However, also included is a time change option-useful for folks like me, who always ran out of time on the original arcade game. Once again, these time settings range from Very Easy to Arcade. As such, this makes it easier for people to adjust, whether it be to drifting or gear change. The controls are very solid and responsive, although as mentioned drifting takes getting use to, and gear change can be confusing at first, although I’m use to it-basically, every gear has a top speed, and once that top speed is hit you should head up a gear to go faster, or drop a gear to drift. Something quite important to note however is that I am writing this from the perspective of the Manual Transmission-Automatic has a more basic drifting style and no gear change, and while slower, is recommended for beginners over Manual. Speaking of which, one way SEGA have worked around the curve is a built in virtual manual, which helps quite a lot, though seems a bit hard to understand unless you know general gear shifting lingo etc.

The graphics of the game are colourful and vibrant, and of course high-definition. However, despite the HD feature, it still remains a classic arcade graphic style-something I really admire as a fan of classic, blocky arcade games. It still manages to look stunning, with full HD textures, and runs at a smooth 60 FPS. While I have noticed slight pop-up in the game, it is no worse than the arcade version, which had barely no pop up as far as I could see. As far as I can tell though, it only affects larger pieces of scenery, such as some of the skyscrapers towards the beginning of the Seaside Street Galaxy, and the cars popping out of nowhere in one part of the intro. However, other arcade ports should take note of Daytona’s graphics-it stays nostalgic and still looks beautiful at the same time, something some people I know would find very hard to believe.

In terms of extra content, quite a lot is new in this port. New features include Challenge Mode-where as the name suggests is a mode where a certain objective must be achieved within a time limit, such as reaching a checkpoint at a certain speed. It is quite fun, however there are only about 10, if that, challenges for each course-although, that does come in at a hefty 30 challenges, and some can take a while to do due to difficulty. However, the thing is most of these challenges are just harder versions of earlier ones-I think I’ve seen about 4 “Reach the Checkpoint at such a speed in the time limit” challenges so far. Also included is Karaoke Mode-because being brutally honest, who doesn’t want to sing “Sky High” at the top of their lungs while driving really darn fast? Also in is the original Time Lap mode, basically Time Trial mode, and the choice to play Mirror Mode when selecting a track. Also included is the “Rewind” function-pausing the game and pressing the Square button (For Playstation 3 owners) will, well, rewind previous actions up to a certain point-useful for the times I mentioned earlier when you fail a drift or have a death-defying crash of some sort.

One of the biggest features in the game is the brand new online multiplayer, allowing for mountains of car racing fun. Upon heading into a quick race, I was greeted with the dreaded Advanced course. One embarrassing match later, and it was clear I was terrible at this game to some extent, coming last and all, but another thing became clear too-the online’s quality was superb. Throughout the entire match, despite my horrible internet connection, that always seems to go off into it’s own world at the most inconvenient of times, the match was completely lag-free. No random cars teleporting or freezing solid then popping off miles ahead-it was a clean, solid race that, despite me being thrashed, made it clear this was some brilliant server work on SEGA’s part.

The soundtrack… is purely a matter of opinion. For me it falls into the “So-Bad-It’s-Bloody-Amazing” category, with tracks such as Sky High, while being made up of Engrish in it’s purest form (“I want to Fryyyyyy, Sky Hiiiigh!), standing out a personal favourites. And yes, who can possibly forget “DAYTONAAAAAAAA!” as the classic intro theme. It’s nice to have the original music back, that was removed in the 2010 edition of Daytona USA, SEGA Racing Classic. Sometimes I find it hard not to tap my feet at the game’s soundtrack-which is why I usually end up doing so anyway and sing along for good measure.

The achievements/trophies… are for the most part a bit of a let down for me. The first three consist of coming 1st on all three tracks-this may sound somewhat difficult, given how unforgiving the game can be, but the game allows you to complete them on any difficulty. Meaning if you want you can simply head into Very Easy mode and blitz through the courses with relative ease. Some of the other achievements/trophies are quite clever though, encouraging you to be a bit more experimental with the tracks-such as finding the hidden sign in the Advanced course, or stopping the slot machine overpass in Three Seven Speedway. However, considering I only got the game yesterday, I think it’s somewhat questionable I’m already 90% complete with trophies-to cut SEGA some slack though, this IS a downloadable title, so perhaps expecting mountains of trophies is a bit of a silly assumption to make. And for those after achievements, it gives a nice blend of easy and somewhat more difficult challenges.

Being an EU PS3 owner, I had to wait a month later than other system owners, and the US PS3 owners, just to buy this game. But I think the question stands, was it worth the wait? And even moreso, was it worth a 18 year wait for a solid port of the arcade smash hit?

With all of the new features introduced, the stunning graphics and the original soundtrack still intact, SEGA have really brought this classic game alive, and modernized it for a new generation without any drastic changes made in the process. It only falls short because even with all the extra content, for those who are more skilled challenges can be blitzed through, and eventually the only thing to keep you coming back is the Online Multiplayer and Scoreboards for Time Trial lovers, meaning in terms of length, the game falls short. However, the game has achieved some pretty damn flawless online play, being lag free and all. Also, the game runs extremely smoothly, at 60 FPS, making this port something that takes the original arcade version and somehow makes it even greater.
If you’re out for some easy trophies, Daytona is a good place to start, as most, if not all the achievements can easily be gained in under a day or so. However, unless you use a YouTube guide, or simply know where all of the secret areas are or how to perform the secrets a couple may take a little time to acquire. So if you want more achievements, look no further than Daytona, because you have an awesome game to boot.



Tracker TD

Author: Tracker TD

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