It’s not like this needs to be said, but I’ll start this review by saying it — If you asked a big number of people what their favorite arcade-cabinet racing game is, a very common answer would be the game that picked up where Sega’s own Virtua Racer left off; The one that was less about open-wheel cars and more about infectious music that was almost impossible not to sing. Take American stock car racing, give it an emphasis on drifting (And thus make driving on ovals similar to driving on the Toge mountain passes), and you’ve got the one and only Daytona USA — A 1994 arcade racer that was released on the XBLA and PlayStation Store eight years ago, bringing with it a new coat of HD paint.
The race begins from a rolling start
Being a game designed for the arcades, Daytona USA is meant to be a pick-up-and-play racer that tries to be fun to play even if it looks light on content. You won’t find a lot of depth in the appropriately-titled Arcade Mode; you simply select one of the three tracks (an oval, a road course, and a street circuit), choose your transmission, set the length and difficulty of the race, and you’re clear to start your engine. Your task is to go from the back of the pack to the top 3, which requires you to be adept at slipstreaming, drifting, and (If you turn tire-wear on) pit-stop strategy. And of course, since this is an arcade racer, you must record some fast laps to keep the obligatory timer from expiring.
The racing controls are not only very tight and responsive like they were all the way back in 1994, and can be tailored to your liking with a very helpful options menu. Plus, you have the option to hook up a racing wheel and crank up the force feedback, which really captures the feeling of the arcade cabinets of old.
A whole pit crew of new features
Being a console port with a $10 price tag, it would be a sin (And potentially pandemonium) if Daytona USA didn’t come with some new features under the hood, and the engine revs up loudly in that area; Survival Mode is similar to an endless-runner game and challenges you to pass as many cars and log in as much distance as possible before the clock runs out, which can be a very useful tool if your racing skills need a new…Car setup, so to speak. There is also a set of 30 challenges to complete, ranging from things like passing a set number of cars to reaching a target speed. If you feel like exercising your vocal chords or just being an all-around goofball with your fellow stock-car fans, there’s even a karaoke mode where you do as many laps as you want while singing along to the game’s catchy music; In fact, you can choose between the arcade machine’s soundtrack or an arranged soundtrack composed for this HD port.
If you’re like me and you absolutely adore racing against seven other drivers on an eight-unit machine in the arcades (Particularly at the local Dave & Buster’s), you’ll probably be itching for some eight-player online racing; Luckily for us, Sega grants your wish. You can join public matchmaking lobbies or set up a lobby of your own; When you do the latter, you have full control over the track, race length, and game type. You can even decide if you want AI cars to be on the track with you and your fellow drivers, even if the race has only eight drivers on the leaderboard.
The checkered flag is out
Sega has long been well-versed in arcade racing, and the HD version of Daytona USA is a strong reminder of that. It may not have the depth of modern racing series like Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport, but the fast-paced racing action more than makes up for it. If you have 10 bucks to spare and need a classic arcade racer in your garage, you might want to give Daytona USA a test drive. No need to insert any quarters, just climb into that cockpit!