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Daytona USA Review (XBLA, PSN)

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Posted by: Robert Workman

Review Rating 9.0 Amazing

Say what you will about Sega continuously revisiting its classic game library, but no one really does it better when it comes to reconditioning them for today’s gaming market.  This month’s earlier release of Guardian Heroes turned out to be a fantastic remake of the Saturn original; House of the Dead Overkill has a greater audience with the release of this week’s PlayStation 3 re-release (complete with two new levels and Move support); and Daytona USA, a game that had previously had success in the arcade and on the Saturn and Sega Dreamcast, finally gets its intended release as a digital download on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network.  At last – we get our “rolling staaaaaaart”.

Daytona USA

If you’ve never experienced Sega’s Daytona USA before, or have been staying at home so often you’ve forgotten what an arcade game looks like, here’s the skinny.  It’s an arcade racing game where you challenge three different tracks – Beginner, Advanced and Expert – trying to score a first place victory by lapping cars and maintaining a good speed.  That’s not the easiest thing to do, especially considering the dangerous corners that can make your Hornet flip out like crazy (and yet magically land on all four tires).  Realism is not this game’s strongest suit, but fun definitely is.

The game has gone through quite a bit of reconditioning since its last home release, which was ten years ago on the Dreamcast.  The high definition polish works both for and against Daytona, showing its age in certain parts and yet looking absolutely fabulous running at 60 frames per second.  Each of the tracks have been lovingly recreated, especially Three Seven Speedway, with its spinning slot machine (which you can interact with – and earn an Achievement/Trophy for) and tight corners.

Daytona’s soundtrack hasn’t changed much, but that’s fine by us.  Consisting of strange singing compositions, it’s still fun to listen to, whether you go with the original or “remix” versions, which are basically jazzed up but still contain the same lyrics – as you’ll see in the game’s Karaoke Mode.  (More on that in a second.)

Gameplay may not be Daytona’s most complex suit – this is like a walk in the park compared to Forza 4’s complexity – but it’s enjoyable.  You’ll step on the gas and motor your way past competition, the way a good arcade racer should.  You can choose between automatic and manual transmission, should you feel like coasting or want a real challenge.  The game supports steering wheels as well, if you want a little authenticity with your controls.

Daytona USA screenshot

Sega did add some new stuff to the game, and probably the most crucial feature is online play.  Up to eight players can take part in a race, and it resembles its arcade experience almost perfectly.  There’s VERY slight lag, but nothing that will keep you from repeatedly hitting the racetrack to prove your mettle.  You can also race in Time Trial and compete with others through online leaderboards, if you prefer the non-direct approach to kicking their ass.

Other modes include a survival mode, where you try to keep a dwindling clock going by lapping cars and avoiding walls while maintaining the strength in your tires; a challenge mode where you need to meet certain conditions on the road; and a karaoke mode, where the lyrics to each song appear on the screen as you race, so you can sing along.  Granted, you probably don’t need to memorize “Ahhhhh ah ah ah” as much as you think you do, but this happily exploits the silliness of the soundtrack.

One thing, though – why are there pit stops?  Was Sega going for authenticity for actual Daytona racing?  They don’t really serve much purpose outside of the bigger multi-lap races, and even then, they take so long that you lose a great deal of your placing in an event.  Well, at least you get an Achievement/Trophy for your trouble.

Credit must be given to Sega for making AM2’s racer just as great as it ever was, even though it’s old enough to buy alcohol in some states.  Daytona USA shines on through a wonderful HD conversion, great online play, and a number of modes perfectly suited to its style of racing.  Grab your controller, and let’s go away!

[Reviewed on PlayStation 3]

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