Review by Eric43
"Sega delivers a polished home port at last. Is it arcade perfect?"
Ah yes, there's nothing like Daytona USA, a 1994 Sega-AM2 cult classic arcade racer with a loose stock car theme, crazy powersliding techniques (otherwise known as drifting), and a cheesy soundtrack. However, it is a real pity that no real home ports were released the years thereafter, each plagued with poor pop-up, flawed game mechanics, or a soaked-dry physics engine. Even though the 1996 and 1998 releases of Scud Race and Daytona USA 2 for arcade brought encouragement back into the hearts of Daytona fans, it wasn't until 2001 that Sega ditched their latter arcade achievements and went for a polished home port. At last, are we satisfied?
Daytona USA is an arcade racer that defies the likes of many American racers (Cruisn' series comes to mind) by encouraging a fast-paced experience that doesn't skip on technical driving. The game makes good use of the petals, four-gear shifter, and steering to accomplish a dynamic racing effect. To summarize, Daytona USA pits a racer in a pack of up to 39 other cars, and within the three minutes or so of racing (under standard lap conditions), players drive at fast speeds up to 220 mph and undergo powerslides to corner more quickly. This is done by downshifting or by using the brake petal conservatively in order to corner more quickly. Gameplay is fast and furious and cars burn rubber, trade paint, or may wreck and flip over, but the game does not end until players run out of laps or time runs out by failing to pass through checkpoints around the course.
The Dreamcast port, for the most part, stays true the formula. This time, the game offers ten cars of different abilities (only four available right away) and eight courses for your racing pleasure, which is certainly more than what most Sega arcade racers offer (usually 3 or 4 cars or tracks), so this game is a welcoming addition to any racing fan's library, but it still goes under scrutiny for some distinct changes in the Daytona style that made it so great.
The Dreamcast port looks and feels great. Unlike the home ports that preceded it, the game runs at 60 fps with no pop-up. The cars themselves are well-detailed, and the tracks have undergone a large amount of luscious detail. To say that this game is well-polished can be taken literally; the cars are all very shiny! Skid marks and smoke are a standard fare, and crashes look very basic and damage suspension, but they don't exactly peel apart the body of the cars like in Daytona USA 2. It's still similar to what Daytona USA resembled, but it seemed Sega tried too hard to make the game pretty (the car reflections are most reminiscent of this). Take the glossy effect down a notch and this game would look picture perfect.
Daytona USA features a new selection of cars, but they look significantly different than their predecessors. The hero car otherwise known as the Hornet barely resembles the original '94 Chevy Lumina other than the paint job and performance. Of the other cars, such as the Grasshopper or the Lightning, many of them look too un-orthodox to resemble actual stock cars; heck, even four of the unlockable cars hardly resemble automobiles at all! I shall not spoil anything, but it's a bit of a disappointment for Sega to not include any classic vehicles from Daytona 1 or 2, but these cars look good in their own right.
Of the courses, there are the three courses from Daytona 1: otherwise known as Beginner (three-point oval), Advanced (technical course) and Expert (large-scale urban expedition). Among other tracks include two semi-original courses from Daytona USA: Championship Edition, both rescued from the bondages of the old home ports. The last three are exclusive courses tailored for the Dreamcast port, complete with many straightaways. Even though eight tracks sounds nice, the original three are the most enjoyable. Don't get wrong, the Championship courses are good and have their own challenges, but even in their newly rendered versions, they tend to not look as dynamic as the originals. The three newest courses are high-speed courses, which are best saved for multiplayer play, which, unfortunately, was cut short when Sega dropped online play about a year or two after the game's release.
The Dreamcast controller is well-mapped for Daytona USA. The four buttons are configured for the four gears, and the left and right shoulder pads are for the gas and brake. One of the game's biggest complaints seems to be with the sensitivity of the joystick; it's too sensitive for most people. I digress, but most people find it an issue anyway, so there is an option to adjust the sensitivity, as well as the default control configuration. However, the sensitivity is more tailored for using a Dreamcast steering wheel, so if you can find one to go with this game, it will enhance the experience ten-fold, no doubt.
The sound and music in Daytona USA has been completely remixed and sounds good, but it's only slightly below par with the original. The engine sounds and tires are fine; no problems here. However, the crew chief is completely different; he doesn't sound like the cowboy from the original, but some sort of easy-going, no-pressure guy. Also, the announcer sounds a bit too high pitched for his own good. Aside from those annoyances, the music is nothing but remixes, but it isn't nearly as dynamic as the arcade version. Even worse, tracks from the non-original courses are mostly boring, and that doesn't help their cause at all.
Other miscellany includes the ability to change tires (affects grip, not endurance), change the amount of laps and AI opponents, and save replays. Other modes of racing include time trial mode, two-player split-screen racing, a now defunct online play, and a standard championship mode which only needs to be done once to unlock a car. Sega did add a lot of bells and whistles, but they forgot some more miscellanea that would have been icing on the cake. In the arcade version, doing endurance races required pit stops; in this game, they are meaningless. Also, the AI cars are nowhere near as threatening as they are Daytona 1 and 2, as they can be pushed around easy with no competition. Lastly, the physics engine is pretty much the same, but it's almost impossible to beat Daytona USA arcade records using the Hornet in the Dreamcast port. I don't know why, but some change has been made that I have yet to put a thumb on.
Still, this is one of the best Dreamcast racers available. If you even remotely like Daytona USA, pick it up someday. The racing is exciting and the presentation carries it through. It's a shame that some of the things Sega invested in turned out to be not so good; an example would be the silly-looking bonus cars, but it's only insignificant flaws. Hopefully, in the future, AM2 can assist in a greater expansion of the Daytona franchise, but until then, we'll settle for this.
Presentation: 9/10 Resembles the arcade version in many aspects, but some of the music is pretty goofy.
Gameplay: 9.5/10 Very good racing that is only second to playing the actual Daytona USA arcade game.
Graphics: 9/10 Perfect framerate and slick cars and tracks. Glossy textures are a bit annoying.
Sound: 7/10 Good remixes of the original Daytona USA, changed sound effects are hit-or-miss, racing sounds are pretty good.
Lasting Value: 8/10 No more internet play and only a few tracks and cars, but racing is a lot of fun and can keep you entertained for a while without requiring you to complete pointless missions.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 06/24/04, Updated 07/09/09
Game Release: Daytona USA (US, 03/12/01)
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