Game Review: Daytona USA
Release: October 25th (PSN), October 26 (XBLA)
Developer: SEGA AM2
Available Platforms: Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network
MSRP: 800 MS Points, $9.99
ESRB Rating: E
Rolling start! Take a trip back to the arcades of 1993. While Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat duked it out in the fighting arena, and NBA Jam was starting a basketball franchise that was recently revived, SEGA had a great game to get gamers engines revving. While VR Racing brought 3D racing to the scene in a way the scene never really accomplished beforehand, Daytona USA brought it to new speeds. Licenses, texture mapping, and a great soundtrack took gamers to a fully realized world at the time that would suck their quarters and hours away. 18 years later, SEGA’s dusted off the old engine and fixed up a few parts, releasing the upgraded title as a digital download for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Can the game reach such speeds as it did in the past, or is it fated to be that first car you drive before you get the real car you want?
Daytona USA, for lack of a better word, is the definition of racing games. There’s no super attacks, nor are there turbo boosts or even characters. This game is purely driven by the cars and the road beneath them. The only instances where the game breaks reality is the two uses of the special button (to play slots or rotate a statue, both unlocking an Achievement), or the survival of some incredible flips. Cars do take damage and require pit time, but it’s usually better to limp along at high speeds than to fix yourself up by taking a trip off the track. Gas and brake are your only two controls, unless you switch gears in manual mode. Viewing angles can be changed, but you won’t consciously change the appearance of your car or other customizable elements. This is racing at its purest.
Three maps are available, each at a different suggested experience level and amount of laps allotted. Players can switch these maps to mirror mode to swerve left where they once swerved right. The arcade mode is the traditional way to play, with every checkpoint netting you precious seconds on the clock. Time Trial sees what record speeds you can attain. Survival works like Arcade, but nets you extra points for not touching the wall, not letting go of the gas, or even hitting as many road cones as you can. Multiplayer lets you play online with up to seven additional players, and all scores are uploaded to leader boards. A karaoke mode is there, allowing you to even sing along with its legendary (albeit very out of date) soundtrack.
Daytona USA, for the purist, is a great port. It upgrades the graphics to higher resolutions and textures, but doesn’t mess with the polygon designs or general feel of the game. In fact, the jump in looks appears as any other HD collection or reissue on the modern console scene. The game plays exactly (as hard) as it did back in the arcade years ago, and support for steering wheels (which we did not test) can only help to improve this feeling. The additional modes bring it up to modern expectations, namely leader boards, achievements, and online play, while not hampering the original title’s feel. Challenges allow players to tackle missions in controlled settings, which just wouldn’t have been possible in an arcade setting.
Disappointingly, the game is a port of the first arcade Daytona USA and that’s it. There’s great opportunities to be had with extending the content in various means. Daytona USA: Championship Circuit Edition added up to three circuits in the computer port, none of which are present. There’s no additional cars or modifications, leaving players to play as the same two cars (one’s an automatic, the other manual) outside of multiplayer races. While an Xbox Live mode is successful in letting players have races with friends or enemies, even a split-screen two-player mode would have been nice. It’s not as if that’s unheard of for video games, and was the only way players at home could race a friend in years past.
Daytona USA, as a port of the original game, is a great port; it takes the source material and only stands to update it. As a return to the franchise, it’s severely lacking. Content, or even expanded gameplay from later titles could have graced the title. Modern gamers having grown up on Gran Turismo or Mario Kart will be missing out all varied types of gameplay, and will find the game severely lacking. This is truly for the retro gamer.
+It plays exactly the same as it did almost two decades ago.
+Extra modes add variety, to an extent.
+Arcade gameplay doesn’t translate well to home gameplay.
6 out of 10