It’s that time of the month again where we take a break from my Final Fantasy IX playthrough to cover the retro game I’d been playing over the past month as part of a Retro Games Club I join in with. For August we voted to play the classic SEGA racer Daytona USA. Ladies and Gentleman, Start you engines!
I’ve owned this on Saturn for years, in fact alongside SEGA Rally (also on Saturn) and F-Zero (on SNES) its one of the games I’d sneak into my brothers bed room to play whilst he was working. Anyway, I own the Championship Circuit Edition on Saturn but the disc has seen better days and could do with having a bit of a skim so my Saturn can read it properly. I also own the game on Dreamcast, which we’ll come to later, and PSN, which is the version I spent the most time with this month.
Actually, I didn’t get as much time with it as I’d have liked, even so, the blue skies SEGA racer feeling was the perfect solution for a game to play during this rather odd summer we’ve had. So the time I did spend on it I only really sunk into the famous Novice course: Three Seven Speedway. Apparently, and I didn’t try this, its possible to take a shortcut through the pits, but it only works on certain laps. One thing I did know about though is that as you approach Sonic Turn there’s a slot machine built into the rock that goes over the circuit. As you approach, if you press the select button on the PS3 pad (it works on Saturn too, but I can’t recall what button it is) three times, you can stop the wheels from turning, the aim being to get 3 three’s or 3 seven’s which then add that amount of time to the counter as a time bonus, you can only do it once per race and I couldn’t get it right on my attempts this month but I definetly recall doing it on the Saturn.
Another thing you can do is the famous powerslide, its only really worth doing at Sonic Turn and is initiated by dropping to second gear, turning heavily into the apex of the corner then working your way back up to fourth gear as you exit the corner. Again, I got good at doing this back on the Saturn and was getting some real good lap times back then, usually in high 15 seconds/ low 16 seconds, but this time out my fastest time was a 17.56 but usually I was hitting low 18 seconds.
On to the Dreamcast version and I remember not liking it back in the day, I certainly remember thinking they’d really messed it up. Returning to it though and it just doesn’t feel like Daytona USA at all. Oh don’t get me wrong, everything that should be there is there, but it doesn’t feel as over the top as the arcade/Saturn versions (the PSN version is a port of the arcade version with a few bits added) and the handling model is atrocious. There’s the saying that the mark of a bad race car is that it both understeers and oversteers in the same corner and thats exactly what happens with the cars in Daytona USA 2001, trying to navigate traffic is a horrible twitchy mess then when you get to a corner the car initially dives to which ever side you’re steering but then doesn’t continue that turn and goes in pretty much a straight line.
As part of the discussion around the game, a few of us discussed this, and the consensus was that it performs better using the Dreamcast steering wheel, which I’ve never owned, though one voice said it still handles like arse with the wheel.
In short then, if you want to play Daytona, don’t pick up the Dreamcast version, it may look lovely and sharp, but its just not fun to play, a replication of the arcade version is available on both Sony and Microsofts stores for PS3 and XBox 360 respectively (its wont work on PS4 but it is on the Backwards Compatability list for XBox One), so go with that one. It’s a game I’d love SEGA to return to though, I think gaming could do with more old-skool SEGA blue skies racing games.