I want to refrain from calling this game Daytona USA "2011". It's a picture perfect port of an arcade classic, reviving exactly what made the original game such a standard. Even though most of us don't have the cash for a massive home cabinet, now ten dollars and some nostalgia is all it takes to get back in the saddle with Daytona USA, and it's actually better the second time around.
Sega has been pulling a slew of games out of their attic, and Daytona USA is the next one out the gate. Joining Sega Rally Online Arcade and Outrun Online Arcade, the perfect trilogy of arcade racing has been finally constructed. There was a time when any arcade worth their salt had a whole wall of Daytona USA machines ready for teams of players to hit the tarmac. It was fast and fun, the perfect "One Credit" play you can sit down, enjoy losing at, then leave for the next time. The plastic chairs, the force feedback wheel and the ROCKIN' Sega AM2 soundtrack. That experience has been distilled for the most recent home port down to the game itself: Three tracks, choice of transmission, and go. That's all the customization you get, and that's all the customization you needed to have a great time.
Daytona USA has a number of updated features and modes to give more bang to your buck. There's traditional Arcade mode, a multi-player mode for online races over Xbox Live or PSN, a Challenge mode with a number of stages to beat for better times and medals, Endurance mode as well as a Karaoke mode: You race around the track as the lyrics for one of the game's four songs scroll along the bottom of the screen for you to sing along with, forever. No judging, no scoring, just driving and jamming. Combined, all of these modes make for a hefty amount of features in a ten dollar port.
The racing is quite fast and most certainly furious. When all the racers are using the same car it makes for quite the test of shifting and drifting. The Arcade mode has you blasting from checkpoint to checkpoint on three different courses of increasing length and complexity. A clever manual shifting solution lets you play with the Wireless Speed Wheel's full capability if you've got it, smoothly cutting through traffic and carrying drifts. I'd say this is one of the best new games for the device besides Forza 4. Online was a little jumpy at times, but with a solid connection the matches played were great pick-up-and-play sessions. It helps that there's no customization of the cars besides transmission choice: not having to customize means an even playing field for all involved, everyone has to rely on their skill as a driver to win the day. In modern racing games customization and choice can greatly skew a field in favor of one car, or one abusive tuning set up. Daytona USA is like a breath of fresh air in this modern racing world, and its only by taking control away from the player.
The graphics haven't been touched, aside from 16:9 support, but somehow they still look slick as hell rolling at a full 60fps. When it debuted, Daytona USA was one of the first games to use fully texture mapped objects over polygons, so while its not winning any beauty contests the game utilizes the smooth as cream frame rate to deliver some pulse pounding racing action. Rival cars throwing themselves into drifts, billowing smoke, your smashed up ride after a bad collision...its all there. The bar was being set and the gateway opened for games like San Francisco Rush and Burnout. So for a game that came out in 1993, it looks pretty darn good.
One of the more famous aspects of Daytona USA, Takenobu Mitsuyoshi's distinct soundtrack, has been carefully preserved. For a game with only five songs, each has one has just "got what it takes" in terms of game music. It fits the feel of what AM2 was going for with most of their games at the time, and still today: Let's have some fun. The Karaoke mode may feel like an afterthought, but there was something to the music of this game that resonated with its fans. Good game music goes a very, very long way.
Daytona USA cuts the fat in favor of the meat. It delivers a better, more concise and competetive racing experience than a lot of modern racers available, at a fraction of the price. Sega continues to dig up little gems of their past to share with the new generation, and Daytona USA proudly joins those ranks. Worth it for the price, the nostalgia, and the proof that it doesn't take a lot of fancy tricks to pull it off exactly right.
The reviewer recieved a review copy of the game the day of release, and has played all of the games modes. Daytona USA is available for download over the Playstation Network for $9.99 and over Xbox Live for 800 MSP.