Monday, 26 June 2017

Arcade Review!- Daytona Championship USA

Hi all, Ted here once again! A little while back, I was on holiday in the seaside town of Whitby. Surprisingly, I have never been in the arcades there, and I changed that on this visit. It was nothing to write home about, there were some nice classics in Funland, like Sega Rally 1 & 2, After Burner Climax, and a deluxe Time Crisis 2.
But there was one game I knew was there, by a complete stroke of luck- Daytona Championship USA!
Announced by the Sega arcade division's Twitter a day before I went, I was ecstatic when first saw it. The first new Daytona in the UK and it's where I was about to go on holiday, what were the chances! Of course, I got as many plays as I could on this game, and since it's still relatively new, I've made a review!

Daytona Championship USA (Sega, 2017) Review

Dayytonaaaaa! What is there to say? Sega's Daytona USA is one of the most prolific arcade games of all time- that still has many fans thanks to it's gameplay and graphics that have stood the test of time incredibly well. So when a new game was announced in late 2017, the hype was understandably very big. 

While it obviously wouldn't be the same as today's modern arcade racers like the Initial D and Maximum Tune series, with their card and internet capabilities, it was a breath of fresh air to be getting something that would have great gameplay and graphics released outside of Japan.

However, once the game started appearing at arcade expo's, cracks began to show. 2 of the 3 new tracks were just re-skinned mirrors of the original courses, and the majority of music was from the Dreamcast port of the game- not to mention the up-down gear shifter. Some hardcore fans gave it scathing reviews but there was still hope.

Right from the off, you get the feeling of the old Daytona from the attract mode- there's a beautiful new version of Let's Go Away blaring out of the speakers, there's that classic Daytona font, and the signature Sega blue skies are there.

The graphics are nothing special. They're nice, the blue skies have never looked better and the new cars are brilliantly detailed with all the sponsorship logos. The iconic mountainside Sonic in Three-Seven Speedway has even been remade to his modern design!
The game's graphics have came under fire by a lot of people, which sadly may be due to the fact that consoles have far surpassed arcade games in graphics, and the fact that the original Daytona was like nothing people had ever seen before when it was first released into arcades. 

The wow factor the original had is of course gone, but that shouldn't be a criticism of the game. Arcade games now don't have the same budget that they used to.
I'm content with how the game looks, to be honest. It's great for arcades, that's for sure.

There is a selection of 6 courses to choose from, 3 of which are remodeled tracks from the original. They are all faithfully remade with each trackside detail included, in fact the mountain side Sonic is of course now the modern design!
The 3 'new' tracks featured in the game are Daytona International Speedway, Lakeside Castle, and Metro City. I say 'new' because they really aren't! Sure, they may look nice and different on the outside, but the latter 2 are a redressed and mirrored Dinosaur Canyon and Seaside Street Galaxy, and there is very little difference between Daytona International Speedway and Three-Seven Speedway besides the setting.

And not only that, but most of the music is recycled from previous Daytona games! There is a new version of Let's Go Away for the attract mode and Daytona International Speedway, but everything else is from the arcade original or the Dreamcast port. Talk about lazy!

One new feature is the 'Tournament' mode, where of course you go from track to track- similar to Sega Rally.  Unfortunately, you have to place first and only first to advance to the next track which isn't ideal- people don't come first in a race on Daytona all the time!
Apparently, actual tournaments can be made on the machine, but I have no idea how these work. From what I can gather, they aren't actual arranged tournaments, but rather something where you can enter you name for track records over a certain period of time, and come back on the end date to see if your time has been beaten. Not quite sure how this works.

One gripe I have is the fact that the number of laps on courses are different to the original. Sega Amusements have seemingly made many, many options concerning the game's difficulty from this video- and some of the default settings are pretty odd.

While the beginner tracks had the standard number of laps, the advanced tracks had 3 laps instead of 4, and the expert tracks had just 1! Thankfully the A.I and time were like they should be, but I don't quite get the reasoning for the different number of laps.

Since being in Whitby, I have been to Skegness. The Mirage had Daytona Championship USA, and the situation here was reversed. The number of laps was correct, but the time limit was ridiculously forgiving (101 seconds on beginner!) and the A.I was barely putting up a fight. Overall this isn't ideal for people who want to play the game seriously, as they don't know what options different cabinets may be set to.

The attention to detail is nice and you do get a feel that the team working on the game had some appreciation for the original. The Virtua Fighter Jeffery statue in Seaside Street Galaxy has now been changed to Akira- yes, the rotating easter egg is still there!- and the secret music track, Pounding Pavement, can be selected from the 4th view change button. 

There are even some references to Sega's past on track sponsor boards like this 'To be this good takes AGES' slogan- the original catchphrase from our Mega Drive adverts It's stuff like this that makes the whole experience just a bit nicer, as a whole.
I must mention the good design of the actual cabinet. Looking at it in pictures, I have to say I didn't like it, but in person it's a lot better. I like the overall aesthetic of the cab, with sponsor logos and a leather headrest at the back of the seat giving the whole thing a true racing feel. It will definitely save arcades some space, as the machine isn't very wide and sticks out nowhere near as much as other racing games do.
I really didn't like the marquee screens at first, but now I think these are really quite nice! They have their own custom graphics made for them, and respond to how the player is doing in game, as well as providing the camera feed. Another cool feature is the plastic engine underneath the seat, and overall I'm impressed with how bright and colourful the thing is.

However... I have a massive problem with the controls. The game has a overall Daytona feel, but something really isn't quite right with the steering wheel. There is an absolutely unacceptable dead zone in the wheel which takes some getting used to, and the force feedback isn't very effective at all. It's not unplayable, but a lot of the tightness and great control the original Daytona had is now gone.

And then there's the gear shifter. The standard for Daytona has always been a 4 gear H shifter, but unfortunately Sega Amusements have opted for a up-down shifter like those found in OutRun 2 cabinets. This goes completely against how you drift in this game, unlike OutRun 2 where most of the time you would just have to switch down a gear, then back up. Both the steering and gear shifter take a lot of the playability of the game away, and are very hard to adapt to. And this could've been so easy to avoid too!
So, finally, Daytona Championship USA is... fairly average. It's great to see Daytona back in arcades, but It just doesn't feel like there's enough new content here to keep me returning to it often, and the controls don't help too much either. 

We all love the original Daytona, sure, but it's over 20 years old now- and it just doesn't compare to the newer arcade racing games out in Japan arcades at the moment. Something fresh and exciting would've been better, something like Daytona 2 was, but unfortunately this isn't.

I will say this- it isn't just another console port of a racing game by Sega Amusements like their previous racing titles were (Ford Racing, GRID), and the sad truth is that it does have better gameplay compared to other arcade racers in the west at the moment!

For example- Cruis'n Blast by Raw Thrills offers little variety in it's gameplay, with only a gas pedal and steering wheel to use, and Storm Racer G by Wahlap Tech feels like a mobile game put in a arcade cabinet. Daytona Championship USA is miles ahead of these games, and I will give it credit for that.

But, looking at the game from it's content and replay value, it's just not enough. Sega Amusements could've done so much better, but sadly this isn't the case. OutRun 3 is supposedly 'on the radar' for Sega Amusements, and I'm not sure whether to lower my expectations or hope they pull out all the stops for it. Who knows. 

Overall, I give Daytona Championship USA a 5/10. I hope you enjoyed reading.

EDIT: Since writing this review, the game has been accidentally leaked by Sega themselves as a result of the update, and runs on most PC's perfectly. From what I've heard, the control issues are not present in this version- so hopefully any cabinets with the update installed play better.

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