Sega spawned a lot of great arcade racing games. Outrun, Virtua Racing, Sega Rally are just a few to name. The most remarkable one is the Daytona USA from 1993. Released on the arcades it showed us graphics no other console or computer could do for a few next years and it was done in stable 60fps. This created a groundbreaking experience for many to follow. When a Sega Saturn port was released it was massively downgraded to match console’s capabilities but was still a lot of fun. With a release of Dreamcast things could change for good and fortunately the Daytona found its way there.
Daytona USA 2001 is the Sega Dreamcast version of the game and it is one of the best racing game you can get on the system. This version offers new tracks, cars, graphics better than on the arcade and also maintain stable 60fps. Daytona for the Dreamcast feels like a very basic racing game on the first look. We have single race, championship mode, time attack and vs mode for two player split screen. Championship mode allows us to race in a few series of races, where our goal is obviously to complete each event on the highest position. At this point you can realize, that taking the first place isn’t so easy. This mode doesn’t offer anything distinguishable and it is there only to unlock a new car. After you unlock it there is no reason to get back to the championship mode. Single race is where you will spend most of the time. You can choose all eight tracks and their reverse and mirror versions from the start. Here you can save all your lap times and race times if you choose a fixed number of laps for a track. Time attack lets you race alone or with a ghost, which requires some slots on your VMU. There are also premade ghosts which provide the biggest challenge in the game. I haven’t beaten any so far.
The gameplay is one of the most pleasant ever made in racing games . The driving is satisfying, simple yet complex. Managing steering with an analog stick is crucial. Some says that controls here are too twitchy. I think, with a correct sensitivity setting you have one of the best controls in racing games until Xbox360 comes out. Daytona USA perfectly uses analog stick and triggers, making turns a pure pleasure. While it requires a little getting used to, it really feels good once you do. I’d say, that every turn is satisfying. Tracks are designed in a way to fully utilize those controls and driving mechanics. Although, we have got only eight tracks, each of them is unique, memorable and have its own difficulty.
If we take a look at Three-Seven Speedway, we can see that unlike traditional oval tracks this one has a single sharp turn. Two easy turns, where you should steer your analog stick slightly and a sharp turn that forces you to brake. They go from the easiest to the hardest, so the new players can learn gradually and it keeps the track interesting for advanced ones. The same goes for Dinosaur Canyon, where the difficulty of the turns increases as the lap goes on and now you are forced to use drifting mechanic (if you play with Hornet and you better do), which requires you to operate acceleration trigger correctly. If you are an expert already, Desert city and Seaside Street Galaxy will provide you a nice challenge. On top of that, you can race with 19 to 39 other cars driven by AI which behave in different ways and the top ones aren’t easy to beat at all. They are tough but they also tend to make mistakes, crash and try to block you. The number of opponents, where the difficulty increases as you pass every next car creates an amazing feeling of “catching up”. This makes Daytona a racing game you can enjoy alone for a long time. Replayability is strong in here. Once you get the first place in every track, there is an option for a hard mode, where no mistakes are allowed if you want to be first on fixed number of labs.
The other thing that makes every single track memorable is the music. It is simply outstanding. The iconic “Rooooolling staaaaaaaart” is remixed into more rocky tune and “Let’s Go Away” got on a higher, crazier level. Besides old remixed tracks you will find completely new ones, which don’t have any vocals but it doesn’t mean they aren’t catchy. Every single tune will stuck in your head immediately. Heck, you can go listen to any of them right now without playing the game. I am sure you will like them! Luckily there is nothing from Championship circuit edition. Those can sometimes play in a main menu.
Lastly, I want to write about the VS mode. Split screen is an option nearly obligatory on the Sega Dreamcast. While playing with a second player, the game stays at a stable 60fps but a draw distance suffers just a little and I think it is noticeable only on Seaside Street Galaxy. Another limitation is the number of AI cars, where you can either put none or choose entry 10. It doesn’t mean they will go easy on you. First three cars show no mercy as they do in the single player mode. Very important feature is a handicap, which you can enable for one or both players. This makes the losing player go faster, so he or she can keep up with somebody more experienced. Handicap option makes the VS mode much more interesting and enjoyable for somebody new to the game and creates a challenge for the experienced ones, so both sides can be satisfied.
I simply cannot praise this game enough. Dreamcast version of Daytona USA is outstanding and I disagree with most people complaining about controls. Yes, they are twitchy and my friends noticed it too, but once you get used to them they work out perfectly. I highly recommend this game for any fan of arcade racers… for everybody! The PAL version may be a little expensive but other ones are easy to find at a stable price. I think, it is worth the price and even more.