Daytona USA (PlayStation Network) Review

by

Date Released: October 25, 2011
Date Reviewed: November 2, 2011
Genre: Racing
Players: 1 locally, up to 8 players online
Length: 5-35 minutes depending on mode, course and difficulty
Replayability: Incredible

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Introduction

Daytona USA is the classic 1993 3D arcade racing game by SEGA AM2 that launched the groundbreaking Model 2 arcade hardware. Designed by a young Toshihiro Nagoshi as the spiritual successor to Virtua Racing, Daytona USA has gone onto become the most successful arcade racer of all time and revolutionized the entire racing genre in ways that are still evident today. Although later releases included new features and additions at the loss of gameplay and graphical quality, the latest re-release of the title on Xbox 360’s Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation 3’s PlayStation Network is designed to be the ultimate version of the arcade original.

Concept

Daytona USA like many other arcade games is designed to be easy to play, but hard to master. Although many elements of the cars react realistically, crashing will cause the car to spin around or flip through the air and always land on it’s wheels. This is in place to keep the speed of the game up and the lighthearted mentality of the game apparent. If the vehicle becomes damaged, it will start to control much worse and can be repaired at a pit stop, ideally the player never needs to resort to this however.

With just three courses and two selectable cars (both of which are part of the same fictional ‘Hornet Team’), Daytona USA is noticeably smaller than most racers available on the high definition consoles. The charm of the soundtrack, art direction and driving mechanics all help set it apart from many games in the same genre. Clever players can also find ways to extend playtime through the ‘Special’ button that interacts with the scenery of the courses and hidden leaderboards from pulling off unique and challenging tasks, such as driving through a race backwards. Players with a more casual mindset can continue playing to be rewarded with ‘Rewind tokens’ that change a very bad outcome into a positive one, allowing anyone to feel like a professional – Offline, at least.

Although named after Daytona Beach in North America, outside of stock cars the game has largely nothing to do with the the state of Florida which is quickly apparent from the mountains when the location has none.

Sound originalreviews

Easily the most iconic part of Daytona USA is it’s soundtrack composed and sung by the legendary Takenobu Mitsuyoshi. Designed with an upbeat and catchy melody, the soundtrack relaxes the player’s nerves while also encouraging the player to go keep trying even if the outlook looks poor at any one moment. It is all very similar to many of SEGA’s releases from the 1980s and 1990s, such as Sonic the Hedgehog or OutRun, giving it a very distinct ‘SEGA-feel’. A special mode just for singing karaoke is even included, although no release of the game has microphone support.

The arcade original had a soundboard that was limited and could only use a small amount of vocals. This is why each song has a limited amount of lyrics used throughout each track. While this might be repetitive to some, each song is quite long and has many different sections to keep the track feeling fresh, even through extended play sessions.

[The pit crew all have their own special animations]

Arranged songs are available as an option, but many other remixes of each song exist and should have been included in some form. A further minor annoyance is that no sound test menu exists. Regardless, both the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network releases feature custom soundtrack options, so players can create their own play list if they please.

The general sound effects have aged particularly well. Engine noises are lifelike, tires screech at multiple angles and speeds, different walls and floors hitting rubber, metal or rock react correctly and tunnels muffle the action when they are passed under. Initially the sound effects are too loud and somewhat drown out the voice over and music, but this can be altered in the options menu.

Controls

Drifting is a key element to Daytona USA. Although not required through casual play, the game strongly encourages that the player attempt hard turns at the fastest speed possible. Depending on if the player uses manual or automatic transmission, there are different rules that apply to properly drifting. Learning the correct way to drift through any kind of situation can be devilishly challenging, even on the easier courses. Players who have trouble can rely on the new mission mode, which teaches how to use every gameplay mechanic included.

It is recommended and intended that Daytona USA be played with a steering wheel, but the Xbox 360 triggers do a solid job. The same cannot be said for the PlayStation 3’s R2 and L2 buttons, which are awkwardly shaped and move strangely. Cheap trigger add-ons that snap on for the PlayStation 3 exist and help a lot, but the only racing wheel that is supported on the platform is the fairly expensive Logitech GT Driving Force, while the Xbox 360 release supports all available controllers.

[Each car has fully detailed windows that reflect clouds at correct angles and spinning 3D wheels that turn realistically]

Gameplay

Like other arcade racers of the era, time extensions are a large focus on the gameplay. After every checkpoint the time will be extended. Regardless of what place the player is in, if they run out of time the game ends immediately. Although this may be frustrating for those new to Daytona USA, there is an option to select more time to race, experts can also choose to decrease the amount if they choose.

The artificial intelligence is fairly brutal, even on easier settings. Unlike most racers of it’s time, the opponents do not follow a strict line and can not only screw up causing a large amount of the racers to crash, but also try and keep you from passing them or use slipstreams to their advantage. Because of all of this, each race feels different from the last.

[The new Survival Mode extends player’s time when they achieve special driving feats or interact with the course in creative ways]

Online functions are fairly standard with what would be expected in similar games, with 8-player online races and several different leaderboards the player can use to compare against everyone who has played the game on their platform. Multiplayer in Daytona USA was a big appeal back in 1993, where numerous arcade cabinets would be linked for races. Ahead of it’s time once again, Daytona USA featured online play on both a special version on the Saturn and the remake on the Dreamcast, while this digital release is notably the first time online functions have been available in Europe.

All previous home market versions have had modes for friends to compete with at the same time, this is the first that removes it. Although the local multiplayer removal is an annoying exclusion, the online races use the same netcode found in AM2’s recent multiplayer titles, such as Virtual-On: Oratorio Tangram and Virtua Fighter 5, so they are of very high quality and can compare to popular retail games that focus on their online play.

New gameplay modes are available in this digital release. These come in the forms of the standard time attack with no competitor’s on the track to a survival mode where the player must devise new strategies in their race, such as continuously crashing into objects on the roar or drifting without breaking. For player’s having trouble learning the more technical feats there is a mission mode which specifically advises one how to do special actions.

Visuals

As previously mentioned, Daytona USA has little to do with the actual location and the visual design takes full advantage of this. Every corner of each course is designed realistically, but with an almost dream-like feel to everything. Horses run in the meadows, birds soar by the ocean, giant slot machines and other gambling games tower above and beside the races, a rocket prepares for liftoff, a pirate ship assaults the coast, there is even a fossil of a giant tyrannosaurus rex protruding from the side of one level. It all has the aesthetics of a theme park that anyone would want to go to, and the references to other SEGA games, like the giant statue of Jeffrey from Virtua Fighter and carving of Sonic the Hedgehog on a side of a mountain among other things will please all types of video game fans.

Although the game is nearly 20 years old, the great art direction and animation help make the game appear more modern than it is. Running at a solid 60 frames per second in a 16:9 aspect ratio, Daytona USA still has minor pop-up issues where objects in the distance will appear as out of nowhere, particularly in the third course. This should have been addressed.

Artistically the game is meticulously preserved from it’s original arcade release in 1993 during gameplay, but the menus are all new. Clear and coherent, the layout is above and beyond almost all ported games to download platforms to date. Although it all loads perfectly, some of the face buttons are used for other functions instead of just the basic accept and decline. While not a true issue as their functions are located at the bottom of the screen, this is quite bizarre for most games and the title does not inform the player of their presence beforehand. It might come off as confusing to players looking to restart a race or use the new “Rewind” mode from the options screen in the pause screen.

[Crashing or brushing up against the scenery or other racers will damage the car, changing the appearance, performance and animations]

Special Notes

Daytona USA was re-released in 2010 to arcades as SEGA Racing Classic. Launching the affordable RingWide hardware it has the same 16:9 aspect ratio, high definition graphics and general content as this recent downloadable port. Due to not using the same license, the only major difference was that the song “Let’s Go Away” removed the word Daytona in the lyrics.

Conclusion

Considered one of the best and most iconic games SEGA has ever made, Daytona USA raised the standards for graphical output, sound design and vehicle mechanics in video games. It was arguably not succeeded until the release of SEGA’s Model 3 arcade hardware was released in 1997. Almost 20 years after it’s initial release, Daytona USA holds up great against competing digital download racers and it should be considered the new standard for porting arcade games. A solid game to play for a few minutes, or one that can keep you at your wits end for hours in just one play session, Daytona USA is a title appealing to all age ranges, gameplay skills and has enough charm to warm anyone’s heart.

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Formats: Arcade, SEGA Saturn, Windows PC SEGA Dreamcast, Xbox Live Arcade via Xbox 360 and PlayStation Network via PlayStation 3

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Cheat Codes:

When selecting the Beginner track (Three Seven Speedway), hold the fourth camera button, which happens to be right on the d-pad of this digital release to use the “Pounding Pavement” song during gameplay.

After a race, if you are in the leaderboards at all, enter the initials of one of the SEGA AM2 games below to hear a short riff from that particular game’s soundtrack.

AfterBurner “A.B”
Enduro Racer “E.R”
F1 Exhaust Note “EXN”
Fantasy Zone “F.Z”
G-Loc: Air Battle “GLC”
Galaxy Force “G.F”
GP Rider “GPR”
Hang-On “H.O”
OutRun “O.R”
OutRunners “ORS”
Power Drift “P.D”
Quartet “QTT”
Rad Mobile “R.M”
SDI: Strategic Defense Initiative “SDI”
Space Harrier “S.H”
Stadium Cross “S.C”
Strike Fighter “S.F”
Super Hang-On “SHO”
Super Monaco GP “SMG”
Sword of Vermillion “VMO”
Thunder Blade “T.B”
Turbo OutRun “TOR”
Virtua Fighter “V.F”
Virtua Racing “V.R”

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2 Responses to “Daytona USA (PlayStation Network) Review”

  1. i387 Says:

    Great review! 😉
    Accelerate hardcoded as “R2” button (PS3 port) sucks though!

  2. Donnie Says:

    ROLLING STAAAAAAAAAART!~

    This sounds fantastic, I loved playing it back in the day! Glad to hear its a arcade perfect, going to download this baby later tonight

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