Review: Daytona USA (PS3)

Title: Daytona USA
Format: PlayStation Network Download (225 MB)
Release Date: October 25, 2011
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: SEGA
Original MSRP: $9.99
ESRB Rating: E
Daytona USA is also available on Xbox Live Arcade.
The PlayStation Network Download version was used for this review.

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 240 of the podcast.

Daytona USA was originally released in the arcades in 1993 so it’s pretty simplistic by design; an arcade racer with three original tracks, Beginner, Advanced and Expert. The goal, as in any good arcade racing game, is to finish first after a set number of laps. You’ll have a limited amount of time to complete each race and you get time bonuses at checkpoints along the track, standard arcade fare for sure.

If that’s all there was it would be pretty hard to recommend, even for those waxing nostalgic. Fortunately, there’s more to the game than just that. A number of modes and challenges have been added since the game was ported to the home consoles starting back in 1994 with the SEGA Saturn. You’ll get five different modes, which include the standard race just like in the arcades and the Challenge Mode which has you trying to pass a certain number of cars, trying to complete a lap without bumping anything and so on and they’re all timed as well. As you complete them, your best times are uploaded to the leaderboards so you can compare against friends and the PSN in general.

One of the other more interesting modes is Karaoke Mode. Pick a song from the game and a course to race and you’ll get to drive for the length of the song. While that’s going on, the lyrics of the song will appear at the bottom of the screen and fill with a different color as they’re being sung, just like a karaoke machine. I’m not saying it’ll replace SingStar or anything like that, but if you find yourself humming the tunes long after you’ve played the game, this could be the mode for you.

Time Trial and Survival use the leaderboards and they’re exactly what they sound like. Time Trial involves getting the fastest lap possible and Survival involves racing until the time bonuses run out as your tires and handling degrade over the course of the race.

With several difficulty modes for each race, the game will definitely keep you on your toes. Remember, this was an arcade game, so it was designed to make you lose and pump in more quarters. The higher difficulty levels can be maddeningly difficult, forcing you to run a near perfect race that still won’t guarantee a victory. The challenge is worth it though and the best thing is, it’s always in a Free Play mode with no need to add money to continue.

SEGA has also taken the time to add support for the Logitech GT Driving Force wheel. It definitely handles differently than the DualShock and takes a bit of getting used to, but it can give you that feeling of being back in the arcade all over again.

Daytona USA has made its way to a number of platforms over the years, each doing their best to approximate what was, at the time, the high end visuals of the arcade experience. When it first came out, the game had eye popping graphics that always drew a crowd. Seeing the original arcade game now, it looks a bit clunky but this was cutting edge stuff in 1993.

With this new version for the PlayStation 3, SEGA has gone and cleaned things up quite a bit while still retaining the original arcade feel. Gone (for the must part) is the pop in that plagued the backgrounds in the arcade version. You’ll still see a bit of it on the Expert Course, but only on one or two turns. The heavy aliasing is also nowhere to be found in this version of the game. The cars and backgrounds still retain their angular looks, but it’s all been toned down and smoothed out a bit. They really hit a perfect balance between the blockiness of the arcade and smoothness of a modern console. I’m actually quite happy with what they’ve done.

Daaaaayyyyyytonnnnaaaa! It was an arcade game, it’s going to get repetitive. Boy is it going to get repetitive, very repetitive. You know what I mean by repetitive? Repetitive. Yeah, like that. The funny thing is, it didn’t bother me at all. Maybe it’s because of all the time I spent in arcades as a kid, maybe it’s all the quarters I pumped into this game, but it’s to be expected. All the original music from the arcade game is here, limited as it is, and it’s perfect. The sounds of the engines, the tires squealing, bumping walls and crashes are all perfectly recreated here.

Custom soundtracks might have been a nice option, but for me, I wouldn’t use them even if they were available. The music just feels right for the experience.

One of the big draws of the arcade game was finding a row of cabinets, side by side, all linked together for some local multiplayer racing. Having everyone sitting together yelling at each other during the races was half the fun of this game. With that in mind, SEGA has added an online multiplayer component for up to eight players. When it works, it’s awesome, beautifully recreating that arcade experience (when people use their mics), and when it doesn’t, it’s actually still pretty fun. The servers allow for worldwide competition but that doesn’t seem to be an issue. I’ve raced people in Japan that were all kinds of laggy, and then other people in Japan that were perfectly fine.

After several hours of online matches though, I haven’t had a single game freeze or crash during a race. Other players may be skipping and stuttering all over the screen at times, but we all finish the race and come back to the lobby. For a game like this, even the stuttering of other cars wasn’t a really big deal since the voice on those users was always crystal clear and the driving on your end is always smooth as silk no matter what other players see.

With the standard options, the races aren’t terribly long, so you can be in and out pretty quick. Fortunately, SEGA has given the host a number of options when setting up a game. You can select the number of players, number of private slots (for friend invites) and whether to use AI cars or not. When choosing the course, you have the three courses and their mirror modes or you can set that to random. The number of laps can be set as Normal, Grand Prix or Endurance. If you really want to get crazy, the laps can be set for Endurance, which gives you 80 laps on the Beginner Course, 40 on Advanced and 20 on Expert. I didn’t get to try that out yet because I wasn’t sure if anyone would even stay in the lobby once they saw those options selected. It may be a mode that’s best for friends. You can also set the game type as Type A or Type B. Type A sets a rubber banding effect which will give cars at the back of the pack a better chance to catch up. I pretty much left that on the whole time because the fun of the game is usually in close races with a lot of lead changes. Type B, on the other hand is better for longer races as there’s no rubber banding in effect, but tires will wear down and lose grip forcing players to make pit stops during the race.

For such a seemingly simplistic arcade racer, you can pour hours into the online, whether you’re racing friends or not.

For a port of an eighteen year old arcade game, SEGA has done a fine job bringing it to the PlayStation 3. If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll feel the tug of nostalgia the moment you start up the game. If you’ve never played it before, Daytona USA is a fun little arcade racing game with plenty of challenge and a decent online mode to keep you busy for quite a while.


Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 26 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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