Daytona USA

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a game by Wonder Amusement Studio
Platforms: Dreamcast, PC
Editor Rating: 7/10, based on 2 reviews, 3 reviews are shown
User Rating: 8.8/10 - 10 votes
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See also: Racing Games, Car Games

Back in the mid to late 90s, Daytona USA was a game that was in pretty much every single arcade that was in my area. So, it goes without saying that when the Sega Saturn launched the fact that Sega managed to have a port of their monster arcade hit ready was a huge coup for them. Unfortunately, the port they put out on the Sega Saturn was clearly rushed out of the door. While it is kind of like Daytona, it is not the arcade perfect port that many of us had wished for.

Daytonaaaaaaa!!!!

Let’s start with the point of the game. You get to pick from a handful of stock cars and you need to try and win the races. You can race on their tracks, but there are mirror tracks as well. You can play against a friend or do a time trial as well. This was an arcade port so that is the reason why the content is rather shallow. Still, being able to play Daytona USA in our homes at the time was a huge deal.

Holy Pop In Batman!

I have to say that the Sega Saturn port of Daytona has the worst pop-in I have come across in any video game! I legit cannot do justice just how bad the pop-in this game has is. You are driving on a bridge and the bridge is being constructed as you are on it! If it was just the scenery that was popping in as you drove, I could maybe deal with that. However, it is not, the actual road in front of you will pop-in as well. Some may think that Daytona USA was a game that was too complicated to port to the Sega Saturn. That is not actually true. Sega wanted this as a launch game for the Saturn and as a result, it had to be rushed out of the door and that is the reason for all of the pop-in.

That Daytona Charm

While the game may look very downgraded from the arcade original. I must admit there is still a lot of charm to this game. The racing feels loose, arcadey and it is fun to pick up and play. Shaving off seconds here and there on your best times is very addictive. The gameplay does resemble the Daytona that we all know and love from the arcade. It is the kind of racing game that anyone can pick up and play. While some might say it is shallow. It does feature damage effects that can alter the way your car handles. Believe it or not, this was a pretty novel feature back when this game was released.

Even though the Sega Saturn port of Daytona USA could not be any further from being arcade perfect. This is a game that I still have a lot of good memories of. It is such a shame Sega had to rush it out the door to meet the launch. To be fair, Sega did fix the issues with the game as they released Daytona USA Champion Circuit Edition which is far closer to what we got in the arcade. They pretty much fixed all of the problems that this original port had and added in some extra stuff too. I often wonder if having the Champion Circuit Edition as the launch game would have made a difference to how the Saturn sold at launch.

7

Final Score

Pros:

  • It feels like Daytona
  • You have six tracks to race on if you include the mirror ones
  • It is the kind of racing game anyone can play
  • Racing against a friend is a lot of fun
  • The game has a good sense of humor

Cons:

  • It has the worst pop-in I have ever seen in a game!
  • This game is made irrelevant by the Champion Circuit Edition

Download Daytona USA

Dreamcast

System requirements:

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

PC

System requirements:

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

Game Reviews

If you're feeling lazy don't even bother reading this review, as the intro tells you just about everything you need to know - and the score should pretty much underline it. If you insist on persevering, however, I suppose I've got to as well (although, to be honest, I'm tempted to leave the entire page blank as a kind of testimony to the game's smellyness).

It was a coin-op...

As you'll know, Daytona was a pretty fab arcade game in its time, and it engendered debates in pubs among sad people: I reckon Ridge Racer's the best, always said one. No, would say another, it's got to be Daytona - the tracks are more imaginative. And so on. Yawn. But these days Daytona has been relegated in status to the point where there's actually a stand-up cabinet of the thing in a chip shop on Worthing pier. No matter, there's nothing wrong with that.

There are, however, an alarming number of things wrong with the home conversions. The Saturn version (as mentioned in the intro) was virtually unplayable. Jerk-o-vision was the first little devil to raise its head, followed very soon after by the handling characteristics of your car - which drove pretty much like an anvil. But then, as if that wasn't enough, the music hit home bigtime... and it couldn't be turned off: I'm going to fly-y-y so hi-igh, I'm going to fly right into the sky-y, was the lyric, but luckily for you I can't explain the Ctune', which was even worse. It started to appear in my dreams, on the bus, in the supermarket, and on and on. I've only recently managed to repress the bugger, but now, thanks to this pc version, it's back with a vengeance, floating around in my head again. Round and round and round. I can hear it as I'm writing this. It won't go away. Aaaaargh! Stop it! Stop it! Help me someone, pleeeease!

Things get worse...

Sega have very cleverly taken a shite Saturn game and made it worse for the pc. The cars handle almost exactly as uselessly, but as for the frame rate... well, let's just say forget about it. And that was on a P166, by the way. What you get is jerk, jerk, jerk, jerk, jerk, and then a long pause as scenery loads in (or something). Then it's back to jerk, jerk, jerk again. It gets to the point that when hacking down a long straight you actually encounter the Cwagon wheel effect' from cowboy movies: the dotted lines on the road appear to be going backwards, even though the scenery beyond is nearing. Bizarre. And, of course, very, very crap.

Can I sing the song to you again, please? I'm going to fly-y-y so hi-igh, I'm going to fly right into the sky-y. Bastards! Help! (etc).

Overview

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.

Multiplayer

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.

Snapshots and Media

PC Screenshots

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