Daytona USA Review

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to start your engines once again. Your favourite digital cars from 1993 have been dusted off and brought back out onto the track, with the Xbox LIVE Arcade and PlayStation Network re-release of Daytona USA. Touted as being one of the highest-grossing arcade titles ever released, it aims to rekindle gamers’ love with a ten dollar price tag. There’s no need to sink quarters into your console of choice, so that means infinite replay value at no extra cost. Though, the question is how the game stacks up after all of these years. Let’s go out to pit row and discuss the details.

Those who remember Daytona USA from an incredible amount of time spent turning the wheel and hitting the simulated gas pedal at their local arcade gallery, will not need a detailed description. This is the type of game which develops a cult following of die-hard fans who lived for its high-speed thrills in the past. Though, with eighteen years having passed since the racer debuted on SEGA‘s arcade cabinets, it’s safe to bet that some of the seasoned gamers amongst us have maybe never even heard it. Now is the chance for those folks to find out what made this title so popular years ago, though the style of the experience won’t be for everyone. If you like high-speed, arcade-style stock car racing, then you will probably enjoy this high-speed track racer.

For the uninitiated, Daytona USA is a difficult and incredibly fast stock car racing game. Although it doesn’t necessarily have a NASCAR affiliation, that is the type of racing you can expect. Though things are much more amped than normal. Bouncing off walls is not always a terrible thing, bumping and crashing won’t ruin your car too much and visceral flips won’t keep you out of action for long. The aim is to become the best you can at drifting around corners and flying through the pack, while going between two and three hundred kilometres per hour. This is the type of experience which is accessible for all, but tough to master with some veteran maneuvers available for use. Luckily, different difficulty options are available in this port, to prevent the frustration that much have come upon some quarter spending gamers in years past. We all know how difficult arcade games were designed to be, and this one’s arcade difficulty is no different.

The mode which most are familiar with is referred to simply as Arcade. Three different track types are found within, described based on their difficulties. Your beginner track is an oval track, while the advanced one is a corner-filled road track with steep turns. The expert track is the hardest of all, which is no surprise, containing some very tough corners to make your way around. It’s the player’s choice as to which track he or she attempts to conquer, with quite a few other racers also attempting to do so. Their computer-controlled vehicles can be quite challenging on most difficulties, with exceptional cornering abilities that almost seem unfair. You must try to get to the front of the pack while going through checkpoints quickly, to prevent your time from dropping to zero.

Those who wish to become a victorious speed demon must choose their vehicle of choice, from two set options. There’s the automatic transmission and the manual one. Anyone willing to deal with having to shift manually, will be greeted with a couple of extra horsepower stats, but ability is required to take advantage of that perk. Most will choose the automatic car, which is just about as good and does the job pretty well. There aren’t detailed stats to cycle through or a bunch of liveries to adore. Having only two cars to choose from makes things easy.

Going in, it’s important to note that the core experience found within is one which has been ported from a standing cabinet. The aim was for quick and difficult gameplay, which would make fans spend their allowance for retries. Due to this fact, the main Arcade option is just a set of three, one off races. In fact, this entire experience is over rather quickly. The inherent value is found in its pick-up and play gameplay and created replay value. If you’re not the type of gamer who tends to replay these type of experiences quite often, the purchase may be wasted on you. However, those who have a great sense of nostalgia attached to this game, will certainly get their money’s worth.

This port has received some additions in order to flesh out its overall run time, including a time trial mode with full leaderboard support, eight player online multiplayer and a few interesting gameplay scenarios. The first one mentioned doesn’t need a lot of describing as it’s your straight-forward and average lap time test. Multiplayer is also very simple, containing up to eight cars on one chosen track. It’s decent and adds some replay value for friends who would like to compete against one another, but there are some technical issues which reduce the immersion a bit. Opponents’ cars pop-in and out when ahead, sometimes blending into a wall that they’ve hit. It becomes a tad distracting.

Thirty challenges are also present, with each track containing ten individual tasks to be completed for supreme bragging rights. One will have the player attempting to pass a few cars in a short amount of time, while another may be speed-related or ask for no collisions. The debut set of these short-burst options is decorated with one star, meaning easy. As the player progresses within this mode, new challenges will become available, containing even more difficult goals. There are quite a few different stars to be filled from number one to number thirty, so you can expect a lot of challenge to come your way.

Two strange, additional modes, round out the experience. The first is the weirdest of them all, and is referred to as Karaoke. It lets armchair racers drive around a track with the in-game music blaring. Lyrics pop up on the screen, expecting you to sing along with the title’s quirky tunes. It’s weird, but some may dig this mode. Though, the included survival mode is targeted more towards the game’s core audience, with points awarded based on how long you can stay on the track. Time is depleting quickly and so are your tires. This additional challenge is a tad over-simplified and won’t create addiction, but it’s okay to play through once or twice. The chance to get a top leaderboard score will be extra initiative for some.

I must admit that I was never one to play Daytona USA religiously at arcade galleries. Growing up during the nineties did give me the chance to play it on occasion, though the extreme difficulty always beat my modest skills. Having the opportunity to play through the experience with difficulty options and extended game modes was certainly appreciated. This port is very true to the original game, providing a pretty fun and challenging, short-burst experience. I’m not as big of a fan of the title as certain folks, but I appreciate its impact on the gaming community and still find it pretty entertaining. The fact remains that it’s a game which isn’t for everyone, attracting a specific audience within the racing community. A quality title, but not an outstanding one.

On the visual front, SEGA AM2‘s classic stock car racer hasn’t been altered much. It still retains the pixellated look fans are familiar with, instead of a fully restored, high-def makeover. You’ll notice the odd visual glitch, such as cars going through walls. The important thing is that it runs well, with a solid frame rate and high-intensity action. You’ll notice a bit of stretching to accommodate widescreen displays. The controls are also a bit slick at times, but you get used to the way things work. It ties into the whole arcade look and feel of the entire game, however.

Its three tacks provide varied entertainment, due to their different (and difficult) designs. Each one has its own location visuals, ranging from a standard motor sport race track with stands included, to a street track and a trip over a California bridge. Each one features its own unique interactive element, such as a slot machine, a flippable statue and a hidden dead end. Pressing the special button allows for these neat easter eggs to be uncovered, adding in some retro charm.

Cheesy is the best term I can find to describe Daytona USA from an audio viewpoint. Its music is very reminiscent of the stuff you’d find at a low-budget karaoke bar, which adds to the title’s overall charm. Throughout your time spent playing this game, you’ll be presented with this interesting original soundtrack and its accompanying sound effects. Crashes, flips and engine sounds are very prevalent, sounding half-decent though dated. A narrator is also present, letting you know when your time is about to wind down or when it has become extended.

Daytona USA has received a quality port, designed for our current generation (high-definition) consoles. It runs well and presents a nostalgic experience for those who spent many allowances on its inaugural arcade release and its future revamps (such as an ill-fated SEGA Saturn version). Die-hard fans will want to pick this one up for a romp through their past. Though, newcomers may not identify with the game as much. I recommended that you check out the trial first, in order to decide if this decent racing experience is for you. It’s not perfect, tends to be cheesy and lacks lengthy play time, but provides solid short-burst action, with lap tweaking options. I enjoyed it overall, but did not have my retro gaming nostalgia return in full force.

This review is based on an Xbox 360 copy of the game which we received for review purposes.

Daytona USA Review

Daytona USA is, for the most part, an enjoyable nostalgic trip back to the early nineties, where arcades reigned supreme, sucking thousands of quarters in each day.

About the author


Chad Goodmurphy

A passionate gamer and general entertainment enthusiast, Chad funnels his vigor into in-depth coverage of the industry he loves.