We don’t talk much about arcade games here on PRC, but given there really is no underlying theme to the website aside from “virtual cars”, anything and everything is up for discussion if you so choose to notify us about it. Today’s Reader Submission comes from longtime contributor FMecha, who has arrived to notify us that the newest iteration of Daytona USA – yes, they’re still making these – has not resonated well with critics and fans alike, offering a very rushed, lackluster experience that eschews series traditions and caters to a very different crowd, all while repackaging old content as “new.”
It’s a disappointing fall for Daytona USA, as the series was once a critically acclaimed staple of arcades around the world for several years in the 1990’s, offering many a glimpse of what hardcore sim racing would be like from the comfort of their own custom battle stations many years later. But is this decline really all that upsetting? Or is it just a fairly natural result of a consumer base growing largely uninterested in public arcade cabinets?
This time, I’m writing about Daytona Championship USA.Developed by the London-based Sega Amusements team rather than the original AM2 team, the game generated hype among the arcade racer fandom everywhere, to the point it was originally touted as the third numbered title in the series. Ultimately, however, the “3” was dropped from the game’s title – for the right reasons.
The first evident aspect the fans noticed, one which will disappoint every single one of them, is the game’s gear shift choice. Instead of the traditional 4-gear H-pattern configuration previous Daytona USA games once used, as well as the SCUD and Sega Rally machines, the game opts for a more simplistic low/high configuration. That means no more drift tricks using the manual transmission that advanced Daytona USA veterans are used to. Second, the fans figured out that the “new” tracks are just simply re-skinned and mirrored versions of the original layouts. Furthermore, the new tracks also use recycled soundtracks – evident in the Lakeside (mirrored Advanced) course, where it uses the song from Daytona USA 2001’s Rin Rin Rink course. Talk about effort, or lack thereof.
Reportedly, a podcast from Arcade Heroes stated the game was mainly created because the spare parts for the original, Model 2 hardware-based Daytona, released in 1994 – still in service by many arcades – are running out, sounding like a cash-grab for both operators and players alike. I mean, Sega Racing Classic, and exact remaster of the original game sans title, released in 2009, already exists, and it has the original AM2 team involved… so…
Meanwhile, Sega Japan have something else which, while does show more effort on their end, also makes you ask where Polyphony Digital’s Super GT License went; apparently the license has changed hands, and is the basis for Sega’s upcoming World Driver Championship.
I think the bigger issue at hand here is the role arcade cabinets are currently playing in the overall video game industry. Developers are understandably going to half-ass new variants these machines (and the accompanying software), as we no longer have massive, ultra-popular arcade centers in every single strip mall across North America. Obviously I understand these games are pretty huge in Japan considering vidya is more of a social outing over there than it is over here – where we sit in isolation injecting dangerously unhealthy levels of Mountain Dew directly into our bloodstream – but with that drastic reduction in popularity across an entire continent, comes a significant lack of need to go above and beyond in regards to the play-ability of these games. So the option of half-assing it certainly exists.
For that reason alone, I can understand why Daytona Championship USA captures none of the magic that turned the original titles into a worldwide phenomenon, and as you mentioned, is more of a formality to (quite successfully) bait those currently maintaining old machines, into upgrading to the newer model in what’s essentially a cost-cutting measure. It’s honestly not a bad business decision considering good fucking luck if your original Daytona USA machine gets trashed due to somebody’s drunken rampage or obsessive usage from a local, but of course the trade-off is that it shits on what was a pretty outstanding legacy via underwhelming software.
Arcade racers are not a particular forte of mine; the biggest arcade spot in the city – West Edmonton Mall’s Playdium – was turned into a concert/lounge just as I got to the age where going out and spending money on vidya was a viable pastime, so sadly I cannot connect with the appeal of coin-op machines. I think though, with the reduction in popularity of these machines, at least in North America, a reduction in expectations should also come with it. Arcade machines were popular in the late 80’s and early 1990’s because they offered an experience that home consoles and computers simply couldn’t match, which was part of the allure of going to the arcade in the first place. With that disparity now inverted, it’s a bit foolish to believe arcade cabinets will still somehow offer an experience worth paying for – at least to those who don’t already visit arcades for social outings.
So for that reason, I think that while it’s shitty a once-historic franchise has fallen pretty far off the map, this seems to be a pretty natural chain of events.