Writing about Daytona USA is a reverent affair. After all, it is an arcade driving classic in the truest sense - many a coin was slipped into the slot at the local arcade in the early to mid 1990’s (by most teenage boys around the globe - and more besides). It was a fantastically enjoyable example of pick up and play racing. It is arguably one of the first examples of today’s arcade racing genre; this was definitely not a simulation. Gentlemen, start your engines was the call - it still is - and there you were, driving a stock care from a rolling start and the aim of the game was to drive fast, beat the other cars and ensure you did so quickly enough to pass a checkpoint and refresh the timer. Fantastically it’s still the same game and as enjoyable to play as it always was.
Daytona USA is all primary colours, big sounds and simple handling. There are three courses in the main game - beginner, intermediate and advanced, moving from an oval shaped track to an altogether more exciting twisting, turning topographically varied beast of a track. It can be a challenging game for sure. It can be because there are a number of difficulty levels from which to choose when tackling each track, and of course the option to drive stick or auto is present and correct. It caters for everyone. Do you want to jump in and play a few games, win some prizes, get your score on the top of the leaderboard and vanish? Or do you want to work your way through the game learning how to properly corner each and every turn, ensuring you make the car dance to your tune on the way through the tracks and levels?
Daytona’s updated 720p graphics look surprisingly good on modern day super-sized televisions considering the game originates from 1993. In its day of course it ran on a brand new arcade architecture and was considered the most visually detailed and splendid 3D polygonal racer around. Its competition was fierce - Virtua Racing and Ridge Racer. It was rock solid at 60 frames per second, too. All of this can be seen in this modern day digital release. The resolution is high and the models look like they were made for it. The detail and textures are far fewer than would be expected from a modern day game of any kind but with the bright reds and greens it doesn’t cause offence at all, and in fact works really well.
Alongside the usual mode there are survival, challenge and karaoke modes in this update to the game. Challenge mode is effectively a chance to race for an extensive number of laps gaining points for all progress in terms of distance and overtaking of opponents. Karaoke mode is an option whereby you can drive - or chose autopilot and have the car driven for you - whilst singing along to your chosen track with its words moving across the screen. This is awesome. It has absolutely no place being in the game and yet it is. This is almost worth the purchase alone! Challenge mode asks the player to compete a variety of challenges on each of the three tracks such as overtaking three cars, or complete the race within a given time.
Multiplayer mode is quick and easy to join and the netcode was found to be pleasingly stable and with minimal lag. Races are enjoyable given competitors are very capable it seems and races are filled out to bursting with AI cars to ensure tracks are full up. You can join or create sessions and race on any of the tracks desired.
This being a new PSN and XBLA title achievements and trophies are built into the game. It’s an easy set. Everything can be collected within an hour’s play easily if you know where to look and are capable enough, or choose to play on a lower difficulty. There’s only 200 gamerscore points, and therefore no platinum on the PSN but for anyone looking to boost their own lists this is a suitably straightforward way of doing so. Some of the trophies are fun but none of them involve you unlocking the horse - it’s sadly unavailable in this iteration of the game.
So don’t come in expecting the greatest racing game available in the here and now. What Sega have provided here is a bite-sized piece of arcade gaming history presented in its most appealing form at a very low and very worthwhile price point. If you have any passing interest in arcade racing games then you owe it to yourself to download this. It won’t last for long, but it will entertain immeasurably in the short while its flame does burn. If you remember this from the arcades, the Sega Saturn or even the humble PC, then you’ll already know what to expect and likely know that you want it immediately. If you are yet to experience it in any form, a treat is waiting. Whatever your history, you will not be disappointed.
This review is based on the PS3 version