This year see's the 20th anniversary of probably one of the finest arcade racing games ever made. The game is Daytona USA and it’s still going strong today which is testament to its quality which in gaming terms is as old as the dinosaurs.
If you haven’t been to an arcade in the past 20 years then don’t worry, I’ll explain a bit more about it now. Developed by Sega’s mighty arcade development arm AM2 (the people behind OutRun, Afterburner, Virtua Fighter and more) the game has three tracks, Beginner, Advanced and Expert which are either oval or street based courses and the player can either play against the computer with up to 40 cars in a race in signle player.
You can also go head-to-head with other people in the arcade as the machines could be linked up with up to eight players jostling for first place.
This social multi-player element is something that many feel made the game such a hit. Yes it has very vibrant and colourful graphics thanks to the powerful (for 1994) Model 2 arcade hardware it runs on but as we know today anyone can make a game look pretty, its what’s underneath that counts!
Although the look of the game was ground breaking and this on its own help extract coins from pockets to coin-op slots all on its own it along with the ‘Daaaaaaaytona!’ attract mode music that is so catchy it stays in your head for the rest of the day like the last song you heard on the radio.
It was also the promise of people racing against each other that drew the crowds in and I can tell you from experience that there is nothing more satisfying than side-swiping an opponent in to the wall and hearing the exasperated cries of frustration along with the promise of revenge, that is, if they can catch up you before the timer runs out.
With everyone against the clock as well as each other the first place player is required to hit the checkpoints to keep the game going for everyone, giving equal time to everyone no matter the skill set.
So apart from the sociable multi-player element, the graphics, the growling engine sounds and commentary from your pit master, the force feedback steering and the satisfying ability to drift round the track when you select manual transmission,thanks to some great physics. You're even able to choose how you view the car with different viewpoints which was first seen in Virtua Racing, another AM2 developed arcade racer.
So what is it that has kept the game in arcades when most are just full of gambling machines? Well, to be honest its all of the above!
If you haven’t had the chance to play it then the next time you see one go spend a bit of change on it as being 20 years old means it won’t be around forever as the hardware gets older and the spare parts inevitably run out,
There are home versions with the Xbox Live Arcade and PS3 network both have the arcade game in full available on the Xbox 360 and PS3 respectively. Its also available on the Sega Saturn and the Sega Dreamcast and while they can’t offer the same experience as battling it out on dedicated arcade hardware they are still fun and worth a try if you get the chance as this is Sega at its best and is a impressive reminder of the heyday of arcade gaming.
Here's the game in action.
image: © Sega