Daytona USA

a game by Wonder Amusement Studio
Platform: Dreamcast
Editor Rating: 7/10, based on 1 review
User Rating: 8.7/10 - 3 votes
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The Daytona USA line of racing games has been a staple of Sega for years. Starting with the arcade version in 1994, many people were instantly hooked. With a strong following, two more versions for the Saturn and one more arcade version, Daytona USA 2, were created. This latest attempt, bearing the original name, shouldn’t disappoint. Although not revolutionary, if you were a fan of the previous Daytona games, you won’t want to pass this one up. Daytona USA offers eight tracks to challenge the best of drivers. This includes three new tracks, three from the original arcade version, and two from the Saturn port, Daytona USA Championship Circuits. In addition, there are four different cars to drive and numerous secrets to discover.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

There are three basic modes to Daytona USA: quick race, championship, and multiplayer. The meat of this game however is in the championship mode. There you can race twenty other drivers vying for victory by whatever means necessary. Not only will they try to pass around you, they’ll attempt to take you out. Before starting each race, you’ll have the opportunity to select one of four cars. Each car has different stats in acceleration, grip, and max speed. Once you’ve chosen a car, the next option is to select how hard or soft your tires will be. This is almost as important as the car selection -- if your tires are too hard, the car will slide easier but handle better and if they’re too soft, they won’t handle as well but slide less. In addition, you can also set manual or automatic transmission and change the color of the car. After the selections are made, you’re ready to start. Each circuit consists of four races. To advance to the next circuit, enough points need to be accumulated to finish in at least fifth place after finishing the four races. Points are awarded for fastest lap time, the position you finish, leading a lap, and repeat leading.

Once the race starts, you’ll notice that the car drives well and you should get comfortable within an hour. The game also gives a great sense of speed with the track coming at you and the scenery flying by. You can usually tell your speed without looking at the speedometer, but if the grass or gravel is contacted at full throttle, it’ll send you sliding. What’s impressive is the car does respond accurately and regaining control is similar to fighting a real car. All these issues show attention was given to physics with only a couple of soft areas. For instance, when hitting a wall that’s angled, you would expect to slam into it sending the car spinning. This on the other hand, lets you slide down the angled wall, keeping the car parallel with the track. Situations like this seem to happen frequently, but it appears to be one of only a few places where physics are violated.

As with any racing game, the controls can really make or break it. Sega has done their homework here and used their experience to improve the game. To steer, the analog joystick is used. It’s a bit sensitive so it takes a light touch. If you’re a heavy-handed driver, you may have some difficulty, but it balances out its sensitivity by being exceptionally smooth. The right trigger controls the acceleration while the brake is set to the left trigger. Both are pressure sensitive, giving a greater sense of control. Instead of slamming your breaks on every time you want to slow down, you can ease into a curve and apply breaks or gas similar to actual driving. Also while driving, by pressing down on the d-pad four different views can be selected. These are standard views but do give some flexibility.

Helping the gameplay is the interface. It’s generally unobtrusive, giving relevant information. Things like what lap you’re on and your previous lap times are displayed. There is a speedometer and a diagram showing what gear the car’s in. A map is also shown, with the leader and your placement, or if you’re leading it shows you and the car closed to you. What I appreciated was the semitransparent traffic box showing the cars coming up behind and in front of my car. Positioning yourself directly in the path of the car trying to pass can give that extra boost to regain lost speed. The only annoying issue is after a lap has been completed, your time is flashed in the middle of the screen. It seems harmless, but if you’re in traffic, it can be hard to see the cars around you causing contact when none was intended. Having the weather affect the races seems to be missing however. Every race is sunny and summer-like. A light rain would keep the drivers honest and different weather patterns, cloudy or stormy, would have given the game a different dimension.


The multiplayer game could have been better supported. Besides the online support, the only option you have for two players is the versus battle. Although the split screen works adequately, it gets boring pretty quick. It’s similar to the quick race where a car and track are selected. The multiplayer mode would have been a lot more impressive had they given an option similar to the championship mode. Playing a circuit where you raced over four tracks and accumulated points after each race would make a massive difference. Instead of being done in twenty minutes, the game could be played significantly longer and more often.

Graphics & Audio

Daytona’s graphics were exceptional and out-class most other racing games. Sparks fly, the cars get dented, and close attention was paid to detail. The cars, for instance, not only get banged up, but also reflect light correctly. When the side of the track or another car is touched, sparks are given off and when you hit the grass or dirt, pieces of ground are shot out the rear. The scenery is also sharp and clear -- planes will fly overhead and ferris wheels spin. All this gives a more exciting game and keeps your interest. The sound quality is acceptable. Screeching tires and cars smashing into walls sound realistic and the engine roars in tune with the transmission. The music tracks playing in the background have an upbeat tempo and give extra excitement to the race. You’ll also hear directions given from your pit crew as they warn you about sharp turns and hits from behind.

Bottom Line

This is a solid racing game with many sought after qualities. Sega though, played it safe and took few risks. Most of the tracks were from past versions of Daytona USA and they attempted little that was revolutionary. What they did manage to do is improve the game enough to make it exciting and worth playing. From gameplay that keeps you ready for more to graphics that immerse you in the race, if you are a fan of racing games you’ll want to have this one.

Download Daytona USA

Dreamcast Download

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

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