Monday, December 20, 2010

Top 10 Nitpicks With Daytona USA 2001 (Dreamcast)

NOTE: I wrote this rather hastily (it's late again) so I may go back and edit some stuff so I'll let you know if I change anything.

And here we go with an article I've been thinking up for weeks.  I've always clamored for a good Daytona USA game for home consoles, but in case you weren't aware, there already exists a modest game for consoles.  And no, I'm not talking about the Saturn/PC ports.  This one is for the Dreamcast and it has been appropriately dubbed "Daytona USA 2001" outside the US as to avoid confusion with the original '94 arcade release.

First of all, before I begin, this is a good game.  If you want one of the best racing games for the Dreamcast, I suggest picking this one up.  Good graphics, smooth framerate, no pop-up.  It's a fine Sega product.  However, I'm going to delve into the game and talk about some of the things I don't really like about it.

But first, gameplay video courtesy of rjay (although he didn't film it...some Japanese dude did):

What, you're surprised I'm not 100% content with a Sega racer?  Ah, you see, I love these games, but if something stinks, I'll point it out for you.  And yes, even games like Daytona 1/2, Scud Race, and OutRun 2 have their flaws, albeit very few since no game is "perfect" yet they're as close to it as perfection as you get.

If you're not deep into this stuff like I am, you probably won't be bothered by any of the things I mention here.  That's why I'm calling them "nitpicks."  Here we go in vague order of how much they irked me:


10. The joystick sensitivity is whack.  You hear this a lot from mainstream players.  Just a single nudge of the stick will send the car into a drift that you must ease your way out of or else you crash and die.  I got used to the sensitivity so it wasn't that big a problem for me.  Of course, there's a simple remedy--lower the joystick sensitivity in the options menu.  Still, not sure why there has to be so many complaints in the first place.

It's worth mentioning that the sensitivity is fine-tuned for steering myself a nice Dreamcast wheel and pedals.  It was the closest things to the arcade as I could get.  No gear shifter though, have to push the buttons. :(

9. The AI cars are as dumb as bricks.  Now I can't recall the AI in Daytona 1, but in Daytona 2, they were at least competent and could bump you around.  In this one, they don't do anything.  They're just traffic bumps good for drafting and that's it.  You can literally ram the other cars into the wall and they don't push back at all.  Pathetic.

8. Online play sucked.  Well, this is a gimme since the Dreamcast servers went down in '03-'04 and I never had a chance to play it.  But assuming it still worked, you'd have one glaring flaw--only four players max.  A Daytona game with just four players when the arcade games had eight??  You kiddin' me?  Did you know that Virtua Racing was capable of eight players?  Not to mention I heard dumb stuff about cars warping around the track due to latency problems, but I have little proof other than vague accounts from back in the day.

Eight player Sega magic back in '92.

Also, in the US version, you need to play online to unlock the Red Cat (pace car).  But good luck trying to play online now!  You either need to use a Gameshark/ActionReplay or play a foreign copy of the game instead (unlock conditions for the Red Cat are different).

7. The handling is somewhat different from Daytona USA arcade.  Now this probably isn't a flaw, but it's worth pointing out.  In the arcade version, the Hornet car was able to push much faster times than most any car in the Dreamcast version (barring the Javelin and I THINK the Rule of the 9th and the Unicorn).

For instance, on Dinosaur Canyon (Advanced course), it is possible to push below 2:53 in arcades, but only 2:56 with the Dreamcast Hornet.  On Seaside Street Galaxy (Expert course), 3:03 in arcades and 3:10-3:15 with Dreamcast Hornet.  It's very hard to tell cause all that exists are a bunch of YouTube videos and outdated leaderboards, but there is a noticeable difference.

This is probably the case because you lose less speed while drifting in the arcade version.  Haven't put the two side-by-side but that seems obvious.  Considering rumors of how Sega lost the source code for the original Daytona USA, they did a good job of recreating the physics from scratch.

6. Pit stops are absolutely useless.  What do I mean?  In Daytona for arcades, the longer you drove, the worse the car handling got due to tire wear.  This was enhanced in Daytona 2 where wrecks decrease handling and fuel runs out over time.  However, almost nobody got to experience this since the brief arcade races (3 to 4 mins) never warranted a situation where you needed to pit.

The frustration compounds in Daytona 2001 for two reasons.  One, you can tweak the lap settings for an endurance race.  Okay, no pit stops whatsoever?  Two, it seems like they went out of their way to enhance the pit crew animations so why did they make them go to waste?  Sure, pit stops clean your car of damage, but it's entirely visual.  It's stupid.

Thanks, guys.

One reason why they probably omitted the mandatory pitstops is because the tire compound gimmick. Harder tires make the car more slippery which is a double edged sword--easier to produce skillful drifts, but also increases the likelihood of an overdrift and makes the car skittish when trying to straighten out which can reduce acceleration.  Now I don't have a problem with the tires--it's a neat idea.  Obviously from an endurance perspective, softer tires would wear out much faster and since you can do just as well, if not, better (though you need to the skills to take advantage) by just sticking to hard tires which gives you the longest mileage, thereby defeating the purpose.

5. The voices in this game are mediocre.  I'm talking about the announcer and the pit chief.

Now for the announcer.  Oh geez...I don't know how to say this...he sounds homosexual, more apropos for a Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant than a stock car race.  And no, this is not from a homophobic point of view, he's just not appropriate for this job.  This dandy, happy voice ain't cutting it--sorry.  Take the announcers from Daytona 1 and 2.  Dude yelling, "Gentlemen...START YOUR ENGINES!!"  Sheer brilliance.  The DC announcer just doesn't do it justice.

And what's with "Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Engines"?  Are we that politically correct nowadays?  Sorry women, I really like you all, but the traditional phrase IS "Gentlemen, start your engines," what else do you expect?


And about the pit chief.  Well, he doesn't sound like the "cowboy" from Daytona 1.  He just doesn't fit as well either.  He chimes in with the same canned phrases that really don't add much to the experience at all.  They had a chance to up the number of phrases from the pit chief (one of Daytona's weaknesses...just admit it), but they didn't do such a thing.

On the contrary...the engine and tire sounds in this game are quite good.  Almost up to par with the arcade games.

4. Awkward car design choices.  In this game, they look all shiny and polished which just seems awkward.  Too clean!  Now I don't have a problem with some of the more "abstract" stock cars like the Falcon or the Lightning, but what I think kills them is that they just lack detail.  Most of them are painted the same color with bland numbering and few decals.  I'd up the looks on these if I could.  Although I do think the Unicorn is probably the best-looking car in the game.


Also, where's the original Hornet?  Come on--nothing wrong with the new Hornet, but you couldn't throw in the old one too?  They threw in the original Hornet in Daytona: Championship Edition (albeit it didn't fit in too well), but this was years later...they could've pulled it off...

You can't deny me the HORNET!

And then there's the bonus cars--the Pywackett Barchetta (what the--), the Rule of the 9th, and the Javelin (ROCKET MAN!!).  Now this isn't the first time Daytona got a joke car (see Uma the Horse).  I believe they got these characters from Burning Rangers (I may be wrong), but what I really don't get is why they inferiorize the regular cars...Rule of the 9th is a better Lightning and Pywackett Barchetta is a better Grasshopper.  What's that all about?  The Javelin car is quite interesting though--definitely the fastest as well as hardest to control in Daytona history.

What the hell's goin' on there mang, whatchoo tryin' to...

3. The track design is questionable.  The three tracks from Daytona arcade are here--Three-Seven Speedway, Dinosaur Canyon, and Seaside Street Galaxy.  Now normally that would be enough right there, but Sega was kind enough to throw in five more.  There's two courses from Daytona: Championship Edition--Desert City and National Park Speedway--and three DC-exclusives--Circuit Pixie, Rin Rin Rink, and Mermaid Lake (great names, huh?).  That's eight courses total which looks good on paper.

Every track in the game.

However, besides the original three tracks, the others are a bit on the boring side.  What do I mean?  There's just not enough eye candy present.  They don't have that "legendary" feeling.  National Park Speedway is literally the most boring track I've ever seen.  Desert City is okay with the hot air balloons.  The three exclusives aren't bad, but they're not technically complex in the slightest.  They were made for high-paced online racing which is good, but since online is DEAD...what's the point?  Mermaid Lake stands out as the most interesting non-original course IMO because it takes place at sunset and has that huge banking turn which leads into the tunnel.  Sweetness.

Also, it doesn't help that (I have a feeling I'm gonna get shot for this) the music for the other tracks is boring.  Like really, you can get into the music from Daytona 1/2, OutRun 1/2, even freakin Turbo OutRun, but I really cannot recall any of the other tracks in the game.  They put me to sleep.  Sorry, you need a good soundtrack to go with the intense racing action.

I did like the car/track selection menu music--nice little piano ditty going on there...

2. No Daytona 2/Scud Race stuff whatsoever.  Just a disgrace.  Scud Race came out in '96, Daytona 2 in '98, and Daytona DC in '01.  These games were hot off the assembly line, but Sega missed their chance.  This game only contains stuff pertaining to Daytona 1 and Championship Edition ONLY.

I kind of see why Sega chose to do this.  There's two camps of Daytona fans--those who like all of them (from Virtua Racing to Daytona 2) and those who want nothing to do with Daytona 2 or all that crap and will play the original 3 D1 courses all day long.  I guess they thought one of two things...

A. Daytona 2/Scud Race content doesn't blend well with Daytona 1 content (particularly due to subtle differences in handling).

B. It's better to cater to Daytona 1 fans only than anyone else.

Not sure why they chose to do this, but this was probably the closest we ever got to a D2/SR port which is a real shame since all that stuff will be left to pick up dust in the annals of Sega history...

1. It's not made by AM2.  I happen to love AM2.  They're Sega's best studio as far as I'm concerned.  Yes, Toshihiro Nagoshi, the supposed brain behind Daytona, basically owns Amusement Vision (AV) but it was AM2's palm tree stamp of approval that was all over the arcade versions.  So basically, Daytona was originally AM2's baby, but AV (as well as this random dev called Genki...don't know what's up with that) just hijacked it.

Now don't get me wrong, AV isn't bad--they did a good job with F-Zero GX in '03, but clearly if I had to choose between AM2 or AV to make Daytona, I'd go with AM2.  I mean, AM2 has already made numerous racers before this so why not them?  Hey Nagoshi and AV, go make your Super Monkey Ball and Virtua Striker games.  Go get drunk and make more Yakuza and Binary Domain games.


That's about it, I really can't come up with anything else.  So why do I bring this up?  The primary reason why is for informative purposes.  If Sega were to somehow make another Daytona game again, then they better damn well pay attention and get their stuff straight.  The secondary reason is to clear up any misconceptions people think I have of this game.  Yes, it's a good game, but it's not the home run I expected from Sega.  Besides, the game's nine years old and if OutRun could get numerous sequels, so could Daytona get at least one final victory lap.

Like I said before, if you don't mind the things I mentioned above (and odds are you won't), then you should like the game anyway.  I think though that if Sega were to make another Daytona game, they should incorporate stuff from this game in it too as long as they tweak it a little...

Let me end on some of my super-old gameplay footage:


  1. I'm not going to slam you for your comments. Besides, my only experience with this title is at a kiosk at a game store years ago. Daytona USA 2001 seemed pretty okay for what it was. I greatly respect your opinions. I'm not saying all of this because we're friends online; but I'm saying this because I really do respect your opinions on this game. Keep up the great work with all of your material.

  2. That's okay man. Thanks for your kind comments; you keep it up too...

  3. nice writeup on daytona 2001 eric! You bring up tons of valid points.

    If you would allow me to reflect, I felt a very similar way. It was a great daytona 1 remix game for DC, but a great deal of us wanted Scudrace/Daytona2, and it was a shame Sega never brought us that experience on the DC, i waited for it and died waiting. Thankfully, Outrun2006 fills the void until we get the real thing. = )

    after playing daytona 2001, and the fun was over, (after the first month), I just put the disc away and was just....stunned that sega put that game out and not scudrace/daytona2.

  4. Yeah, I remember playing Daytona 2001 at the same time as Daytona 2, but when D2 went away, D2001 didn't cut it for me and I eventually burned out... I could play it again and have fun, but I like OutRun 2 and Crazy Taxi now.

    I really do like what they did with this game, if only they tweaked the source material...