I wanna fly-i-i sky high! Let's bo-o-o-o-o so fur rye! - Review By Vash T. Stampede
Sega's Daytona USA racing game will probably go down in history as one of the most remade videogames of all time. Originally released in arcades in 1994, Daytona remains a popular mainstay in the present day, mostly due to the fact that the arcade cabinets can be linked, allowing up to eight players to race against each other. The racer first came home on the Sega Saturn a year later, as one of the launch titles for that system. However, Daytona USA on the Saturn suffered from a lack of multiplayer options, poor framerate, and almost-criminal levels of terrain pop-up. Additionally, the game was a straight port of its arcade parent, with nothing new for home gamers to enjoy.
The in the car viewpoint gives the greatest sense of speed as well as of being in the car.
Sega quickly promised that a new version of Daytona would be released, and in 1996 they released Daytona USA: Championship Circuit Edition. Daytona CCE addressed many of Daytona USA's problems on the Saturn, bumping up the framerate, adding a split-screen two-player mode, and creating two additional tracks. In 1997, Sega also released a direct-sale-only version that added support for Sega's Netlink modem peripheral, allowing two gamers to compete head-to-head over a direct modem-to-modem connection.
So, flash forward to 2001. A sequel to Daytona USA was released into arcades a couple of years ago, and the Dreamcast seems a much more capable piece of hardware than its not-so-illustrious predecessor. Fans called out for Daytona 2 on Dreamcast, and Sega heard them. Sort of. Daytona USA is not Daytona 2. It includes no Daytona 2 tracks. Instead, it is yet-another remake of the original arcade game. It includes the original three arcade tracks, fully intact, plus both extra tracks from Daytona CCE, although these have been slightly modified. Lastly, it contains three original tracks tailored around this new version's biggest addition: Internet play.
Despite the ambivalence of the opening remarks, there is a lot of "good" here. People looking for the arcade game at home can finally relax. The Dreamcast version looks as good as (and, in fact, somewhat better than) the arcade version. There is no visible draw-in of track details, the framerate is smooth, and a plethora of little accents have been added. The windows of the cars are now transparent, and drivers and interior details of the cars are occasionally visible. The shadows cast by the terrain are more realistic, and they move over the cars in a natural way. While Daytona 2001 may not be the best-looking racer on the Dreamcast, (and it certainly isn't as pretty as Daytona 2), it holds up very nicely. It looks good on a TV and even sharper on a VGA monitor.
The sound is not directly from the arcade, but is generally good. The announcer doesn't have as much bass in his voice as the arcade announcer, and certain memorable phrases have been altered a bit ("Try to go easy on the car" has been shortened to "try to go easy" for some unknown reason.) However, lots of elements that were cut when Sega released Daytona CCE several years ago are back, including the original arcade music -- complete with weird lyrics and bizarre singer. Some of the tracks have been re-recorded (the "game over" music, for instance) or remixed to de-emphasize the vocals a little bit, but the music remains as goofy as ever and, somehow, seems to fit the action better than the hard rock guitars from CCE ever did.
Want to lose a race? Take a useless pit stop!
There are several different cars to choose from, including the arcade's Hornet, the Grasshopper, the Falcon, and the Lightning. Each of these cars is reminiscent of an actual car model and has different handling characteristics. The player can select what type of tires, ranging from soft, gripping (but slower) tires to hard, drifty (but faster) ones, to equip on his car, although this is the extent of the modification possible. Gamers looking for sim-style racing and tons of customization are looking in the wrong place. In addition to the initially selectable cars, a number of hidden ones can be unlocked and used in both online and offline races. Unlocking cars involves coming in first in races, and players can unlock cars both online and off.
Track selection is pretty decent, too. The original three arcade tracks remain real winners, and the two CCE tracks are still good, too. The CCE tracks have been modified slightly, with more road signs, and slightly redone track geography. The course layouts themselves remain the same, however. Strangely, one of the most interesting visual elements of the National Park Speedway track in CCE -- a roller coaster that could be seen alongside one portion of the course -- has been cut from the Dreamcast version. It's too bad, too, because the track is a little bland visually. The three new courses (Circuit Pixie, Rin Rin Rink, and Mermaid Lake) seem a little boring at first. Circuit Pixie, for example, is nothing more than a basic oval track. However, playing them online reveals the intent of the design: Because these three courses emphasize speed over technical skill, they are probably the most fun tracks to play online. Even Circuit Pixie, which initially seems doomed to remain neglected and unplayed, proves to be great fun in a multiplayer race. Since all the racers can keep the pedal to the metal, the race stays tight all the way to the end, and very small variations in driver skill and car selection end up making the difference. Each of the eight tracks can be raced normally, mirrored (left turns become right and vice versa), reverse (around the track in the opposite direction from usual), or reverse and mirrored, which adds a nice element of replay value to the game.
Next: A Bit More Good, The Bad, and The Final Word