DAAYTONA! LET’S GO AWAY!
The attract tune for Daytona USA is near universal in its recognition. People will instantly know and love it, evoking precious memories that run the gamut from the beast of an arcade cabinet, to the Sega Saturn and beyond. With Sega seemingly on a roll at the moment regarding download releases, they’ve now see fit to release their seminal racer on both the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade.
Comprising of three tracks, the sparse nature of Daytona USA by today’s standards will make many newcomers to the series scratch their heads and wonder exactly what the bally hell is going on. Beginner (777 Speedway) with its classic oval replete with long term (and long-suffering) Sega mascot Sonic etched into the wall on the final corner, Advanced (Dinosaur Canyon) with its tricky corners and a vicious exit from a tunnel that will catch the unwary out every time, and Expert (Seaside Street Galaxy) which is aptly named. Few will finish it on their first attempt, with no sense of shame attributed for falling well before they encounter the Space Shuttle idling on the launch pad. Each and every one is a stone-cold classic, designed to devour 50 pence pieces back in the day in the same manner that Eamonn Holmes probably approaches the buffet table in the Sky canteen.
Considering the handling always felt ever so slightly “off” in previous home conversions (the notoriously difficult to get to grips with Daytona USA 2001 on the Dreamcast says `Hi` at this point) because it was primarily designed for sitting in a bespoke arcade cabinet with racing wheel, here it actually feels tight and responsive. Instigating those drifts or going up and down the gears (what do you mean you use automatic transmission?!) is thankfully as smooth as silk.
The extra modes (Challenge, Karaoke, Time Trial, and Survival) certainly add a new take on the standard arcade racing, providing a mild diversion for a while, but most will instantly hone in on the Karaoke mode. Once the initial smirking dissipates at such a notion, it’s not uncommon to see groups of people singing along and the fact that the car can be put on auto pilot as it makes its way around the track makes for a surreal, but strangely entertaining, experience. To say that it’s unique would be an understatement but that it works is testament to just how irony free and good the music actually is.
The inescapable truth is that nostalgia plays an intrinsic part when it comes to Daytona USA, meaning it has to be taken in isolation. There are no updated graphics, no revamping of the handling model or concessions towards realism to be found here, just what has to be rightly considered the dawn of a golden age of Arcade/Console crossovers and a company at the zenith of their powers before hubris turned them into a software-only company.
For fans it feels like welcoming home a long-lost and well loved relative, warts n’ all. Those who’ve listened to people bang on about it for decades will shrug their shoulders before probably loading up Forza/Gran Turismo. But that is most definitely their loss.
Daytona USA is timeless, providing a template that is still adhered to in one way or another. Here’s hoping Sega release more titles in a similar vein, the original Sega Rally 2 and the Holy Grail, Scud Race next please.