Daytona USA is one of the highest grossing arcade games of all time. The reason I know that is because I kept my uni bar afloat with the thousands of dollars I poured into the two beat-up, thrashed Daytona arcade machines that sat next to the pool tables. And now there’s a new Daytona coming out, and I will literally kill a man to be able to play it in Australia.
In just a couple of weeks, we’ll have our first glimpse of a new Daytona when SEGA Amusements unveils it at the International Association Of Amusement Parks And Attractions Expo. (Yes, apparently that’s a thing.) We don’t know what the arcade machine is going to look like, we don’t know what engine the new Daytona is going to be based on, and how real-world its physics will be. But I don’t care. It’s Daytona, and that means it’s going to be awesome.
Daytona USA was raw. It was racing stripped bare, before gaming consoles and arcade machines could model things like tyre wear and shock and spring travel and castor and camber and weight transfer through corners. You were in a car, it had four wheels and it went forwards really fast. Like your second-favourite Nintendo 64 controller, any Daytona machine you climbed into the sticky, sweaty driver’s seat of was invariably damaged in some way. And that was why it was good.
One of the two machines at uni didn’t steer right properly and had a broken H-pattern shifter that wouldn’t shift to second, while the other couldn’t brake properly and had a literally on-off accelerator pedal. An expert driver could work with these flaws, and succeed despite them, crushing the pitiful AI competition and destroying even the most determined rival.
For a few months, I was king of Daytona. Until my favourite machine broke a little further, and my finely honed timing and steering skills were no longer up to scratch. The meta changed, and I was king no more.
This is the way of Daytona.
I like racing games because I like racing in real life. Racing is simple: drive fast, take corners smoothly, overtake your competitors, win. Here’s the important difference, though: in real life, you’re not really meant to run into anyone else. In Daytona, it’s a legitimate tactic. In Daytona, you can play out all your Cole Trickle and Ricky Bobby fantasies and smash your competition to bits and cross the finish line in a literal blaze of glory. If you could coax your car, and the broken arcade machine that controlled it, to get there.
Sure, the new Daytona arcade machines will be shiny. And they’ll be well built. They’ll stand up to punishment. But we can take care of that, with enough gold coins and a couple of months. I can’t wait. [SEGA]