In the mid-90's the most played arcade game was without a doubt Daytona. It was released at the same time as Namco's Ridge Racer and for this reviewer Daytona stole the crown. No other racing game before or since has captured the excitement of powersliding into first place on Dinosaur Canyon (the second track in the original game).
The speed was intense and the game physics while arcade-orientated where some of the best around at the time. Racing against a mate on the 2-player set-up was some of the best arcade gaming I have experienced in many years of gaming. When the Playstation and Saturn were released, this battle spread into the home. Sadly for Daytona fans the Saturn version of Daytona did not do the arcade justice whereas Namco did an excellent job of porting Ridge Racer. Saturn tried to remedy this fact by releasing Daytona Championship Edition but while they sorted some of the pop-up problems associated with the original it still didn't match up to the arcade original in either graphics or gameplay. Also multiplayer was seriously let-down in the home versions and much of the excitement was lost.
All this has now changed though - finally 7 years after the arcade original was released a home version of Daytona has been released which does it justice. Graphically it is on a par with the arcade (in some cases it even surpasses it) and gameplay-wise it matches it as well. And on the multi-player front this version exceeds the original version because it is playable ONLINE against 3 other racers (I know that an 8-player arcade version was released but it wasn't in every arcade and this reviewer hasn't had the pleasure of playing it)
The dc version has its quirks - a control system that takes some time to get to grips with if you are using a pad for example - but overall this is a racing game which no racing fan should do without playing.
Now for the graphics - there is infinite draw distance on every track, no pop-up takes place anywhere. Anybody who has played the Saturn version and has experienced the pop-up on that will know what a bad thing it was. Not having a corner appear at the end of a long straight until you're a couple of car lengths away from it was very disconcerting to say the least. This time has now passed. Go into the long straight after the pits on the Seven Seven Speedway and you can already see the Sonic turn at the end. The sense of speed is astounding, with the game continuously pumping out 60fps with no slowdown at all. Also the lighting effects on the cars are excellent - going into the darkness of a tunnel and out into the bright sunshine literally takes the breath away.
The intro is an exact replica of the arcades attract mode which drew so many quid coins from punters in the arcades. The selection scenes also catch the eye and are very colourful. Each of the 9 car models look excellent. Throw in the four camera angles - which when used on the fly whilst racing is truly astounding (change from behind the car to bonnet view is especially good as it shows a quick snatch of the dash on the zoom in). Then we have all the backdrop extras such as airships and windmills. This is enough eye candy to rock even the most astute Daytona critic.
Onto the sound - the music to each track is a remix which closely follows the original versions. Some of the cheesiest songs know to racing gamers anywhere but they strike the right chord when you're playing (bad pun I know). The sound effects are absolutely perfect though with the engine noises and crashes coming across exactly as the arcade version. They have also included the radio traffic coming from your pit crew with them radioing you 'You can take him' when you're overtaking someone and 'Are you alright' after one of the spectacular crashes. All-in-all a spot-on aural conversion.
The gameplay - I am a big Daytona fan and to me the gameplay in this version is great, although turning using the analogue stick on the DC pad is very quirky at first. The game takes full advantage of the analogue stick meaning you can easily pull into turns and pull off those amazing powerslide techniques which everyone likes to see (go on tell me it isn't a buzz). The pad controls do take a bit of getting used to since they are ultra sensitive, especially when first learning the turns but after a few hours gaming it all just clicks into place. On the US version there's the option to adjust the analogue sensitivity (this option isn't available on the JAP version) but in the long run it's probably better to just persevere with the default settings and just practise,practise,practise.
Of course this isn't a problem if you are planning to use a steering wheel since the default options and a wheel offer arcade perfect handling. Genki have even included the ability to ram rival cars into the track walls. If a car is alongside you its possible to grind it into the wall until it eventually flips over, leaving you powering away into first place. Fierce - most definitely, but what a great gaming experience. No other arcade racer offers such an adrenaline rush as Daytona. The pad controls allow you to change view into any of the four perspectives, change gear and control your speed via the back shoulder buttons.
Multiplayer is not brilliant but it is passable. The ability to race split-screen is there, as is the online option, however there is no linkup mode which was available in Ferrari F355 Challenge. A big disappointment in my book but still it's made up for by the excellent online gameplay. On the split-screen mode the action is a bit cramped visually but it still retains the speed and playability of the one player game. Regarding the one player game, there are 8 tracks to conquer in 4 different modes of play - normal, reverse, mirror and reverse-mirror. That's a combination of 32 tracks for your racing pleasure with each track giving you a different challenge.
The online mode has given me most pleasure on my import Daytona. Racing three other people from around the world is one of the best gaming experiences I have had on the DC. The game runs pretty smoothly for the most part which is astonishing since we need to use the Seganet servers based in America. Every so often you get disconnected from a race and reset back to the lobby but this is mostly the exception and not the norm now (in the first few weeks it was a regular occurrence). The game runs without any noticeable lag (unless you're racing someone through the pits when it is indeed noticeable). Occasionally an opponent's car might 'teleport' from in front of you to behind you but once again this is not a regular occurrence. This game rivals any online game I have played on any format (console or pc) in terms of excitement and playability.
Overall the game is not perfect (guess we will have to wait for Daytona 3 for that). It's got some small but noticeable flaws online and also in the quirky analogue handling. Also the fact that a link-up option detracts from the total perfection. But this is still the ultimate home version of Daytona available today, and for me this means it is the ultimate arcade racer available for any system. Any console racing enthusiast should try this game and any dc owner should feel ashamed if they miss out on this gaming experience.
A must buy for any racing fan.
A review by John Beaulieu