Review: Daytona USA

Daytona USA, home of the most catchy theme song ever to be seen in a video game, is back. After some storming success in the arcades in the mid-90s and some reasonable home versions since, SEGA have taken the bold decision to upscale Daytona into HD and unleash it onto the PS3 and XBox 360. But presumably, some 16 years on and with the likes of Forza and GT5 doing the rounds, some of the magic must’ve worn off, right?


Don’t get me wrong here, this is no modern racer – you won’t be playing this in 12 months still trying to buy your favourite stock of cars, or battling for the championship with 15 other online racers. Instead your small chunk of cash will get you a slice of nostalgia that not only sparks memories of sitting in a bucket seat with insanely loud speakers 2cm from each ear, but also gives you an insane grin on your face while you’re playing. Everything has been given an HD facelift, as is the way with so many newly released retro games nowadays, but you can tell this is an old game. Don’t expect anything visually amazing and you won’t be disappointed, especially as the reproduction of the original’s charms has been handled expertly and is every bit as recognisable as it was in the 90s, even down to the hidden sign on the 2nd course…

The sound is equally brilliant too, and give it some beef through headphones or a decent set of speakers and it’s easy to remember why so many people queued up to have a few minutes on the arcade machine. The announcer, music and explosive engine noises all sound brilliant (in a not-very-realistic but still awesome way) and all adds to a very authentic arcade experience.

You’d be forgiven for thinking the longevity of a title like this would be questionable, coming from a game designed to be played in 5 minute chunks, but SEGA have added a few little extra game modes to keep you wired in for that little bit extra. Challenge, Karaoke, Time Trial and Survival modes all join the standard Arcade mode. giving you a range of things to try out. The challenges are varying in difficulty and require you to do stuff like drift round a corner without losing control, or getting round in a certain time without crashing into anything. Time Trial speaks for itself, and the Karaoke mode is a bizarre idea where the song lyrics appear on-screen while you’re racing.

Yeah, exactly.

Survival is pretty good fun, and a good challenge to boot. You’re given a set number of laps to complete (in the case of the easiest track, this figure is set to a tricky 80) and have to continue to meet your checkpoints for the entire time. Hitting walls or other cars will severely dent your time, making accuracy and care the key element to success. Not easy in an arcade-style super twitchy stock car.

There’s also an online mode, which I was massively excited about until I tried a few times to join a game, only to find there weren’t any running. I guess those who bought this weren’t interested about racing with real people, or maybe my timing was just lousy. That’s a huge shame, as Daytona was always most fun against your friends and a solid online mode would have really made this something special, but unless you prebook a few friends who also have the game you’ll probably be left looking a bit lonely.

But that aside, SEGA have done a great job reviving Daytona USA for a new audience. This is arcade racing the way it used to be, and for a touch over £6 you’re not only getting a beautifully redone slice of racing arcade history, but also a challenging and fun game that you’ll be singing along to for weeks. Some younger gamers might look at it with some distaste and wonder what all the fuss is about, but anyone with any kind of soul will love this. It’s a bit light on content, but what’s there is magical.

Reviewed on PS3

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