Chances are that if you've ever visited a video game arcade in your youth, you've played Daytona USA. Released by Sega in 1993, these arcade cabinets were seemingly ubiquitous, with gamers competing against friends and strangers alike in linked arcade racing madness. Simple controls and stunning graphics helped create some memorable moments trading paint.
As you might expect, the success of the arcade version led to several console ports. The Sega Saturn and Dreamcast were natural segues, and now it's time for Daytona USA to make its mark on the Xbox and PlayStation. That's right, another old-school Sega title is making its way to the downloadable marketplace. But hold on! I could understand why you'd be leery. After Sonic Adventure, Sega Bass Fishing, and Crazy Taxi recently made their way to PSN and XBLA as little more than lacking ports, I could see why you'd steer clear of this game. But while it's certainly lacking in variety, Daytona has aged much better than its peers.
The racing experience is just as kiddie pool deep now as it was on the 18-year old arcade cabinet, which may be disappointing to some. Three tracks and two different cars to choose means that there's little variety to speak of, and while you can race against up to seven other players online, a local co-op feature is conspicuously absent. So yes, much like other recent ports, Sega has given this classic racer a rather bare-bones vibe.
All of that said, Daytona USA is still fun to play. Drifting on tight turns retains its rewarding feel. The Advanced map will test your skills and the Expert map will break your spirit, if you let it (forget all about the Beginner map -- it's too easy). The visual presentation, to its credit, still holds up. Sure, your car looks so blocky you'd think it was made out of Legos, but your vehicle will take realistic damage and the tracks look vibrant and detailed running at 60fps, just like the original arcade game did. Daytona even features some light extras.
A Time Trial and distance competition mode are leaderboard supported and fun to goof around with, and a Challenge mode offers several quick skill contests to give you a break from competitive racing. There's even a Karaoke mode where you can sing along to the songs in the game. You'll likely only try it once, but it's a humorous touch.
While it's light on content and features and isn't about to make anyone forget about the triple-A racing titles coming out this holiday, Daytona USA is an enjoyable ride that proves that great gameplay almost always ages well. For those who still long for the simplicity of old school titles and the challenges that typically come with it, this downloadable slice of gaming nostalgia is well worth a look.