Daytona USA was one of the wonders of the XBLA era, so grab it while you can

Sometimes you really don’t know how lucky you are. A little over a decade ago, Sega released a line of Model 2 ports for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 that provided immaculately presented emulations of some of the games that established its reputation in arcades in the ’90s. Virtua Fighter 2, Cyber ​​Troopers Virtual-On, and Sonic the Fighters all received near-pristine re-releases, but best of all was the first to arrive: Daytona USA, AM2’s almighty hit that received a port in 2011 had no right to be as good as it was. It’s on the verge of being pulled from the Microsoft Marketplace, so I’d strongly recommend that you snag it while you can.

What makes it so special? First off, it’s worth acknowledging the impact of the 1994 original – or at least the impact it had on me and millions of other amazing young gamers. 3D gaming wasn’t particularly new or novel – I remember my first look at Virtua Fighter running on Sega’s Model 1 board in the dark corner of a bowling alley – but the texture mapping introduced by the Model 2 felt like a bigger step forward yet. I was somehow lucky enough to find myself at London’s Trocadero when it made its debut here in the UK, a large crowd gathering as we all patiently waited our turns behind the wheel. It felt like a glimpse into the future.

Don’t just believe me – John Linneman is also a big fan of the port.

There’s more to Daytona USA than technical prowess, however, and it stands out as an icon of Sega’s legendary ’90s production. It’s not quite as groundbreaking as Virtua Racing and I don’t think it plays quite as well as the Sega Rally Championship, but Daytona USA has its own charm. It’s the arcade racer as a rhythmic experience, something its designer Toshihiro Nagoshi would expand on in his Edge column nearly a decade after the game’s original release.

“When I’m making a game, not just driving games, rhythm is the factor that matters most to me,” Nagoshi wrote, in one of those rare occasions when he’s not celebrating the fine whiskeys he so adores (although the analogy is a part of which is a review of Men in Black 2, proving he’s always a man with esoteric tastes). “The corners and bumps set the pace of the game,” he continued, “while the handling sets the rhythm.”

That rhythm was evident in the prog fusion of Nagoshi’s brilliant F-Zero GX, but it’s Daytona USA that will always put it to shame – while not quite as refined, it’s a crowd-pleaser for stadium rock-out a racer, one we can all sing along to even if we can’t quite remember all the words.

I went to Daytona this just this past weekend for the 24 and am disappointed to report that there isn’t a cliff face etched on Sonic’s face. However, I sang the title track a few times too many. ‘Do, do, do, do, do, dooooooo’.

I played through its three courses last night and was once again blown away by its panache and character. The port is even better than I remember, with the all-important gate shift mapped to the face buttons, allowing you to instantly punch from 4th to 2nd to kick out the back end while enjoying incredible joys like the Karaoke mode takes away any time pressure and lays out the lyrics to each song on screen so you can belt out the classics. It goes beyond arcade perfect and when combined with a steering wheel, it’s the best way to experience this Sega classic for yourself outside of an arcade. In a way, it’s even better.

It’s a shame it’s being shut down, although I’m grateful for at least one last chance to grab it before it’s removed on February 7th so it can stay on my Xbox hard drive forever. If only Sega had ever got around to sorting out its Model 3 emulation so it could give us the brilliantly over-the-top sequel Daytona USA 2 – a miracle I don’t hold out too much hope for. Daytona USA was one of the wonders of the XBLA era, so grab it while you can

Fry Electronics Team

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