March 12, 2001
Rolling Start. Those words never meant anything to me until Daytona USA hit the arcades almost a decade ago now. What those words meant was the beginning of some of the most exciting racing ever seen in an arcade. With up to 8 people racing together simultaneously in the arcades there are few games that can match the adrenaline rush provided by this game. It was little surprise that the game would hit the Sega Saturn but the game was a total disappointment, and the PC version wasn't much better. They had a poor frame rate, poor graphics and were a poor representation of the arcade game. A remix version was released on Saturn, which was a much better port, but nothing to shout about. Several years later the Dreamcast is on the shelves, and already a dead system however the games keep coming, and Daytona USA look set to be one of the biggest yet, albeit with one major disappointment.
Sega have been very generous with the new additions to this game. While the 3 tracks from the arcade game have been accurately reproduced they have added 5 new tracks (well, 2 are from the Saturn game) including Desert City, National Park Speedway, Circuit Pixie, Rin Rin Rink and Mermaid Lake. Each of these 8 tracks can also be raced in reverse or mirrored making 24 different tracks to race on in total. The game begins with 4 standard cars to use but it's possible to unlock six hidden cars. It's even possible to unlock the horse that was a feature in the arcade game, and a lot of fun.
One of the biggest drawcards to this game in America is the online gameplay for up to 4 people simultaneously. Unfortunately for reasons unknown, but most likely the cutback to the European network programming team at Sega, this option has been dropped for the PAL version. Dreams of playing Daytona with your mates through the Internet have now been quashed. I guess that one consolation for those of us in Australia is that the game probably would have struggled quite severely with the lag with the servers hosted in Europe. Still its more proof that Sega have already given up on the little white box, despite an increase in sales following the price drop in early March.
Graphically, Sega have tried to accurately reproduce the arcade tracks rather then expand them and create all new backgrounds. It's a wise move. With up to 40 cars on track simultaneously Sega need all the horsepower they can get out of the Dreamcast to maintain a high frame rate (60fps), which apparently they have done. The cars also suffer visible damage, which affects their handling during the races. The races also take place at different times of day, with sunsets looking particularly impressive.
Daytona USA looks like a perfect port of the arcade game, with several major additions for the home version. The graphics look pretty hot and while the tracks from the arcade games haven't changed it's definitely for the better. After all we've been waiting for a perfect arcade port for almost a decade. The removal of the network gameplay in the PAL game is very sad to hear, but Daytona USA will still rock in 2 player split screen mode. Let's hope Ozisoft can actually get the game here without too many more delays. Expect a release in early April.