Retro Review: Daytona USA: Championship Circuit Edition
Back in 1993 SEGA released the original Daytona USA, the first title to utilise their new SEGA Model 2 hardware. Whilst the mid 90s are now generally remembered for SEGA’s clumsy add-ons, overpriced peripherals, and the commercial failings of the Saturn, it’s easy to forget that at the same time the company was dominating the arcade market. The Model 2 was incredibly advanced, and at the time Daytona USA was perhaps the most impressive looking game ever made. Two years later and SEGA was porting their arcade hits to the Saturn, a system not exactly famous for its 3D processing power. The home console version of Daytona is a far from perfect port, but it’s still a unique conversion of this classic game.
The Daytona series is a confusing sequence of releases, and one that only truly makes sense when looked at as a series of attempts to accurately replicate the arcade game on console. The Dreamcast release, Daytona USA 2001, was really SEGA’s first chance to effectively recreate the game, although it’s let down by poor handling and physics. If you’re looking for a true port then it’s the 20011 Xbox Live Arcade/PSN release that delivers this, and also ups the internal resolution and reformats the game for 16:9 widescreen. Naturally the SEGA Saturn version doesn’t stand much of a chance visually, but in truth the three games all offer slightly different, and it can be difficult to decide on a definitive version.
The initial release of Daytona USA for Saturn includes the three arcade tracks, but the expanded Championship Circuit Edition that was released a year later (1996) adds another two. This might not sound like much, but the extra content makes the game feel a lot more substantial, especially as one of the original tracks is the classic Daytona oval. It’s a really great oval, but an oval none the less.
The two new courses, National Park Speedway and Desert City, are both about as complex as the arcade’s ‘Medium’ circuit and are great fun to race. However it’s still the Dreamcast version of the game that delivers the most amount of content, adding another three courses to the roster. This game also has further options to race the tracks backwards, mirrored and mirrored backwards. I’d definitely recommend Daytona 2001 as well as Championship Circuit Edition, although you might want to alter the handling sensitivity in the options if you don’t want to feel like you’re racing on ice.
Meanwhile Daytona USA on Saturn has the series’ unique handling model that’s admittedly erratic, but just the right amount of erratic. The game also works with the SEGA Saturn’s 3D control pad, allowing for analogue steering, breaking and acceleration. This is great for extra precision when you want to avoid ‘burnin’ up the tyres’.
Whilst Daytona USA: Championship Circuit Edition doesn’t exactly look like the Sega Model 2 version, it doesn’t necessary look bad. Maybe it’s an acquired taste, but if you like retro looking games then it’s actually pretty nice to look at. The colours are vibrant and the overall look is striking. The same can be said for many other arcade ports on the Saturn, for instance SEGA Rally and Manx TT Superbikes. Whilst I’d recommend every version of Daytona USA you can get your hands on, in a weird way the Saturn port is my favourite.