Review: Daytona USA

Daytona USA is a classic arcade racer with a bit of a difficult history. Though it ruled the arcades with an iron fist, its ports have never quite cut the mustard. Nearly twenty years later following a tumultuous release history, Sega has finally brought AM2’s original arcade smash Daytona USA to the Xbox Live Arcade (and PSN) after successfully reviving several other beloved Dreamcast releases. At an affordable price and featuring upscaled HD graphics, it’s finally the update fans deserve and have been more than patient for. Rolling Start!

Of course, it’s important to remember that while as much polish as possible has been added to ensure Daytona USA isn’t terribly painful on the eyes (the game hails from 1993, after all), it’s still not going to be a magnificent thing of beauty. With that said, it’s gorgeous, smooth, and a testament to how great the artists at Sega made it look upon its initial release. A glossy new visual finish ensures this is the game you remember throwing all of those quarters away on for so long, but better. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Across Arcade, Survival, Time Trial, and Challenge modes you’ll tackle three tracks that, while lacking the modern spit polish seen in newer racing games, retain the same charm and personality exuded in the arcade version. Three tracks may seem like a paltry few choices, and admittedly it is, but the game was always meant to eat up your time and money while you try harder and harder to improve your time. And while you might get tired of looking at the same few environments over and over, modifications like running the races backwards or mirror mode turn them into entirely different beasts. You’re probably not going to keep coming back for the tracks, though. What you’ll want to stay for is the fully intact game engine from 1993 with decadent power sliding, silky braking, and beautifully touchy steering. They just don’t make games like this anymore. It certainly doesn’t feel as though it’s nearly 20 years old, and that’s a sign that a game has simply aged beautifully.

The deliciously corny music (complete with a karaoke mode – you read that correctly), flashing light selectors, and delightfully ’90s vibe of Daytona USA vibes so well with its glossy new coat of paint it’s hard to deny yourself this retro treat. Just don’t go in looking for local multiplayer. If you’re unable to find players via online multiplayer, which was already fairly sparse upon my time with the game, then you’re doomed to play on your own unless you feel like handing the controller off here and there. It’s a glaring omission from what is otherwise a fantastic re-visioning of the classic racer, and it’s a shame it wasn’t included. But at least the core gameplay is unchanged, and after several botched attempts over the years that should be enough to satisfy fans. Toss your quarters out the window and plunk down your digital dollars for this palatable port instead. You won’t be disappointed.

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