Daytona USA was developed and published by Sega. It was released October 26, 2011 and retails for 800 MSP. A copy of the game was provided for review purposes.

Daytona USA is perhaps the most famous arcade racing game ever. Much of its fame is due to the massive eight and even sixteen player arcade setups featuring chairs, force feedback steering wheels, shifters, and foot pedals. The experience of playing with a group of your friends was an undeniably fun event. Sega is a modern master of not only creating fun games but also completely immersive experiences that seamlessly integrate physical and electronic media into one. Released back in 1993 we are almost 20 years removed from its beginnings. Though the graphics are laughable by today’s standards the game hasn’t lost any of its fun and atmosphere. The only question is whether or not Daytona USA can be a worthwhile experience outside of an arcade setting.

Here’s what we liked:

Nostalgia – For those who were in arcades back in 1993, the memory of these huge Daytona USA machines is sure to bring a smile to your face. This game has a massive amount of appeal for those who have fond memories of it. Interestingly enough, Daytona USA is one of the few aging cabinets that you are still likely to find in arcades. So it’s entirely possible that the younger generation is familiar with this game as well. Regardless, the first time you re-hear the “classic” if not misguided soundtrack you will be hooked all over again.

Simple yet fun – Daytona USA is by no means a simulation. It plays fast and drifts hard. You can choose to play it sensibly and find the best lines to race, but that’s no fun. It seems like everyone online has the same idea as us: bumper cars. There is a fair amount of technique and timing to putting your opponent into the wall. It is hilarious. But even more hilarious is the insane catch-up physics. Up to the last lap any race is potentially winnable by anyone on the field. It doesn’t always boil down to skill, but when you are racing with seven other live players (especially if they are your friends) it is always fun. For the record there is a fair amount of customization. You can turn things like catch-up off. But for fast fun leave the settings on default.

Modes – To help bolster the content a few new single player modes have been added. The standard arcade mode is still in place and as fun as ever. There is also time trial for those looking to lay down the hottest laps and a challenge mode that gives specific challenges to the three different tracks. Survival mode tasks you to go as far as you can on constantly degrading tires before time runs out. Karaoke mode is bizarre to be sure. But it does give you all the words to the aforementioned “classic” soundtrack. All these modes combine to add some needed depth to the package.

Pure Sega – The graphics here have been thankfully touched up just a little. But in truth they are clearly showing their age. Most first generation polygon based games could never get released today essentially as is because it would look so bad. It is a testament to Sega’s bright graphical style that the look of Daytona USA still holds up despite its limitations.

Online – Having played Daytona USA online fairly extensively we can say that it isn’t perfect, but is still a great deal of fun. Occasionally cars will be teleporting around or appear to clip inside of walls and other such anomalies. But rest assured that this is the exception and not the rule. It generally plays very smoothly and the races are always workable assuming everyone has a decent connection. In the arcade the multiplayer experience was everything. Without the force feedback steering wheel the game certainly loses a certain level of engagement. But we can tell you without reservation that the online experience more than makes up for the other losses.

Here’s what we didn’t like:

Over quick – From a strictly numbers standpoint there is not a whole lot of content here. There are three tracks. If you count the mirror tracks than you can make an argument for six. At this point the game is what it is, but that makes it hard for this game to compete with other racers from a content standpoint.

Missed opportunity – Why include a karaoke mode and not have it involve a microphone? The technology is in place. Disappointing. Though Sega brought additional modes to the table we would’ve like to have seen other features, too, such as being able to change the car’s paint scheme.

Price – For a twenty year old game that is somewhat short on content and has been barely touched up graphically this title seems a bit over priced at 800 MSP. That is not to say that some won’t be able to get their money’s worth out of it, but 400 MSP seems more in line for this title.

Daytona USA is pure racing joy when played with a group of friends or even a group of strangers. The action is accessible right out of the gate but does reward skillful play. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s what makes it work. If you go in with the right attitude it will be one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences of the year. Despite being arguably overpriced this is still an easy recommendation to almost any Sega fan, race fan, child of the 90’s, or gamer in general.

Score: Buy It

Second opinion by Steve Melton:

Daytona USA hasn’t aged all that well visually, and Sega made no attempt to at least clean up a few (read: admittedly not many) visual issues. There’s some bad pop-in of scenery on the Expert course, as well as some moments of missing background entirely. Still, the game somehow hasn’t lost a bit of its charm. That 90’s flat-shaded look does well on XBLA. As far as a purchase is concerned there’s only two real complaints here: it’s short, and it”s disappointing that with all the new modes we couldn’t have the ability to change the car’s paint scheme. That being said it’s still loads of fun and is an ultra easy 200/200 for any achievement junkies. If 800 MSP seems a bit high, hold your points until a half off sale.

Score: Try It