Daytona USA arcade flyer with the deluxe cabinet pictured
|Platform(s)||Arcade, Sega Saturn, Windows, PlayStation Network, Xbox 360 (XBLA)|
Xbox Live Arcade
|Arcade system||Sega Model 2|
|Sound||Yamaha YMW258-F (Sega MultiPCM)|
Daytona USA[a] is a racing video game developed by Sega AM2 and released by Sega, with a limited release in 1993 followed by a full release in 1994. It was the first Sega game to debut on the Sega Model 2 arcade system board. Daytona USA is a stock car racing game where players race opponents and a clock on one of three tracks. Sega claims it is one of the highest-grossing arcade games of all time.
Inspired by the popularity of NASCAR in the U.S., Daytona USA was developed by Sega AM2 after a meeting of the heads of Sega's regional offices. The game was suggested by Tom Petit, president of Sega Enterprises USA. Sega mandated that the game had to be of a better quality than its competition, Namco's Ridge Racer. Satellite imagery and photography were used to map the Daytona International Speedway, coupled with visual effects of texture filtering, a 60-frames-per second frame rate, and four different camera perspectives.
Daytona USA was a critical and commercial success, being praised for its graphics, soundtrack and sense of realism, and is one of the most successful arcade games of all time. It was rereleased on multiple platforms and followed by four sequels. It is cited as an influential game of the genre.
In Daytona USA, the player drives a stock car known as the Hornet. The player's objectives are to outrun the competing cars and complete the race before time runs out, passing checkpoints to collect more time. Races begin with a rolling start, and players compete against a field of up to 39 computer-controlled cars.
Daytona USA offers multiplayer and up to eight players can compete depending on the number of cabinets linked together. Linked deluxe cabinets may also include a camera pointing towards the drivers seat, linked to a closed-circuit television to show the player on a separate screen. In multiplayer, only the lead driver needs to reach a checkpoint before time runs out to keep all players in the race.
The standard game was released in a twin-seat cabinet, with a deluxe cabinet also available. A later release also included a single-player only version. The deluxe cabinet was fitted with detailed seats on top of subwoofers; Sega originally planned to use actual car seats, but changed the seats before releasing the game. The game's camera system presented four different view perspectives from which the game can be played. Visually, the game runs at 60 frames per second and presented texture filtering. This gives the visuals a smooth appearance. Additionally the game's physics include realistic driving mechanics, including drifting and power sliding. Three tracks are available for play: Three Seven Speedway, Dinosaur Canyon, and Seaside Street Galaxy.
In September 1992, Sega announced that it had partnered with GE to create its new arcade system board, the Model 2. Sega's previous board, the Model 1, had debuted with Virtua Racing, and racing games had been successful for Sega before. President of Sega Enterprises USA, Tom Petit, suggested that NASCAR would be an attractive brand to use for a Model 2 game in the U.S. Despite some negative feedback from Sega Europe's Vic Leslie due to the stronger popularity of Formula One in the region, Sega of Japan executives approved the concept. Toshihiro Nagoshi, the game's director and co-producer, also provided input into the concept. In the US for a meeting on the Model 2, Nagoshi was given tickets to a NASCAR race, and recalled how it was a new experience for him because it was not a known style of racing in Japan.
Petit and Sega Enterprises USA chief of finance Masahiro Nakagawa began negotiations with representatives of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway for a license. To keep costs lower, Sega decided not to negotiate with NASCAR for a license, and therefore the game did not contain actual sponsors, drivers, nor cars. Development was handed to Sega AM2, a development division headed by Yu Suzuki, who had led development on several popular racing games, including Hang-On, Out Run, and Virtua Racing. Suzuki served as producer on the project alongside Nagoshi. Sega mandated that Daytona USA had to be better than Ridge Racer, a game made by Namco.
The developers used satellite imagery and sent staff to photograph Daytona International Speedway; Nagoshi walked a full lap to get a feel for the banking in the corners. While the speedway itself, as well as Bristol Motor Speedway, were considered for the game's beginner level track, neither course was ultimately used. According to Nagoshi, because Daytona USA was not intended to be a simulation game, and because it would be sold in Japan and Europe in addition to North America, the oval and tri-oval designs were ultimately rejected as being too repetitive to play. The final design for Three Seven Speedway used the tri-oval layout with a sharper final turn that requires strong braking. AM2 employed a form of adaptive difficulty whereby the first lap of each race would measure the skill of the player and adjust the difficulty of opponents accordingly; for less skilled players, opposing cars open lanes for the player, while higher skilled players have to deal with opponents that block their path.
The soundtrack was composed by Takenobu Mitsuyoshi, who also performed the vocals. For the arcade version, the songs were sampled onto a Yamaha sound chip, including the drums and Mitsuyoshi's voice. Mitsuyoshi said this was the only way to include vocals, due to technical limitations of the Model 2. For the Sega Saturn version, the vocals and instruments were rerecorded with real instruments.
Daytona USA was released in Japan in August 1993, and worldwide in March 1994. It debuted at the Amusement Machine Show in Tokyo. According to Petit, Sega delayed the worldwide launch to measure reception before investing in other territories. Daytona USA debuted at number two on RePlay's "Player's Choice" chart and stayed on the list for five years, with 16 months in the number one position. Two years after the launch, Sega released a single-player version.
Daytona USA has been ported and re-released several times. In early 1995, Sega AM2's Sega Saturn division was split into three departments, each charged with porting a different arcade game to the Saturn: Virtua Fighter 2, Virtua Cop, and Daytona USA. Due to unexpectedly slow progress on the Daytona USA port, several members of the Virtua Fighter 2 team were reassigned to Daytona USA. AM2 completed the port in April 1995; it was a Western launch game for Saturn, and also released for Windows. Daytona USA was re-released in 1996 in arcades as Daytona USA: Special Edition, designed as a smaller, more affordable cabinet. An enhanced version was released in the arcades in 2010 as Sega Racing Classic. Another enhanced port was released on PlayStation Network on October 25, 2011 and Xbox Live Arcade on the following day. The Xbox 360 version was made backwards compatible with Xbox One on March 21, 2017.
Daytona USA: Championship Circuit Edition, a reworked and extended version of Daytona USA, was released in 1996 for the Saturn. Developed by Sega's consumer software division, it used a modified version of the game engine used for Sega Rally Championship. Daytona USA 2: Battle on the Edge, an arcade-exclusive sequel using the Sega Model 3 hardware, was released in 1998. Daytona USA 2001, a remake of Daytona USA and Championship Circuit Edition, was released in 2001 for the Dreamcast, with graphical upgrades, online multiplayer, and new courses. Daytona Championship USA, also referred to as Daytona USA 3, debuted in late 2016 as an arcade exclusive; it was the first Daytona arcade game in 18 years. Of the various sequels and re-releases, only Daytona USA 2 did not use tracks or music from the original game.
Reception and legacy
Daytona USA was highly popular in arcades, and the twin cabinet was one of three 1995 recipients of the American Amusement Machine Association's Diamond Awards, which are based strictly on sales achievements. In a 2002 report, Sega reported it to be one of the most successful arcade games of all time. Retro Gamer's Nick Thorpe stated that Daytona USA is "often considered anecdotally to be one of the best-earning arcade games ever" because of the game's multiplayer and longevity, though that exact figures were difficult to find. In 2015, IGN's Luke Reilly stated that the game is "perhaps the most recognisable arcade racing game of all time and the highest-grossing sit-down cabinet ever" and noted the continued presence of Daytona USA cabinets in arcades and bowling alleys.
The original arcade version was critically acclaimed. It received a score of 96% from Computer and Video Games magazine in 1994. Bob Strauss of Entertainment Weekly gave the game an A and wrote that "Picture yourself watching a sci-fi movie, set in a futuristic arcade, that involves a dizzying car race. 'Wow!' you can imagine saying to yourself, 'How did they do those special effects?' You'll have the same reaction while enjoying Daytona USA." Reilly placed the game as the sixth most influential racing game ever as of 2015, and stated that it "remains a shining example of arcade racing done oh so right."
On release of the console port, Famicom Tsūshin scored the Sega Saturn version of the game a 30 out of 40, before giving it first an 8 out of 10 and later a 9 out of 10 in their Reader Cross Review. The two sports reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the Saturn version scores of 8 and 7.5 out of 10, noting some problems with the frame rate and animation but declaring it an overall good conversion. One of the reviewers particularly applauded Sega of America for taking the time to polish up the North American version so that it plays better than the rushed Japanese version. GamePro praised the addition of Saturn mode and mirror mode and the strong gameplay of the core game. They concluded that "Daytona pales in comparison with Ridge Racer for the Japanese PlayStation, which takes an early lead with better features, gameplay, and graphics. ... Regardless, Daytona's intense gameplay and breathtaking graphics will exhilarate any racing fan." Maximum commented on the Saturn version's low-resolution texture mapping, clipping, large borders (in the PAL release), and lack of multiplayer, but clarified the unimportance of those factors and applauded the challenging track design and realistic game mechanics, particularly mentioning the impact of wind resistance, and gave the game 5 out of 5 stars. Sega Saturn Magazine also gave the Saturn version 5 out of 5 stars, saying that the game is graphically impressive aside from the pop up and has strong arcade-style gameplay. Next Generation reviewed the Saturn version of the game, rating it four stars out of five, and stated that "While Daytona USA suffers from an accumulation of weaknesses, if it's a fast, thrilling racing game you're after, the Saturn conversion has a great deal to recommend."
Justin Towell of GamesRadar+ gave the HD re-release a score of 9/10, writing that "Daytona USA is a joyous, jubilant celebration of everything that made arcade games so exciting" and calling the survival mode "a brilliant test of memory, logic and dexterity." Eurogamer's Martin Robinson also gave the game a 9/10, explaining that "age doesn't seem to have ravaged Daytona USA's core" and noting that it serves as "a fitting epitaph to the genre."
Edge ranked the game number 70 on its list of "The 100 Best Games To Play Today" in 2009, stating that, "A pure expression of arcade racing, Daytona USA hasn't lost its capacity to entertain on every level." It has also been listed as one of the best games of all time by Next Generation in 1996, Computer and Video Games in 2000, Killer List of Videogames, Yahoo! in 2005, Guinness World Records in 2008, Empire in 2009, NowGamer in 2010, and Electronic Gaming Monthly in 1997, 2001 and 2006. In 2015, the game appeared on IGN's list of The Top 10 Most Influential Racing Games Ever, ranked at number six.
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