Daytona USA was a launch title for the SEGA Saturn and conversion of the 1993 arcade hit of the same name, with the new Saturn hardware came promises of arcade perfection and exciting gameplay, sadly that wasn't the case. SEGA in their infinite wisdom decided that it would be a good idea to claim that this was an arcade perfect conversion and I quote:
“Brought to you by the top game coders AM2, this pixel-perfect conversion of the smash-hit coin-op contains all the bumper-to-bumper action found in the stunning arcade original.”
The game does resemble the coin-op very well but in no way is it an arcade perfect conversion, no chance. From that shot alone we can tell that the graphics have been down-graded due to the fact that the Saturn was not made for 3D.
The SEGA Saturn was a 2D power house it wasn't made to be used for full 3D graphics like the Playstation and N64 were. I could understand if SEGA had done this with say Afterburner II on the Mega drive because at first glance the conversion would seem quite accurate but with the Saturn it is just too obvious that the conversion is not arcade perfect.
To add to the Saturn's 3D woes the game suffers from a lowered frame rate, the game is still fast but a lowered frame rate isn't going to do the game any favours especially when there is a lot going on. What is worse though is the games awful, awful pop-up, playing this I can understand why most developers felt the need to use fog for distancing, it is so bad that you can look in front of you and see nothing, while pop-up isn't normally a problem it can lead to you driving into corners with the expert course is the most noticeable offender.
To the games credit it does really try to keep the feel of the original game and does so with some success, the gameplay has held up fairly well in the conversion the vehicles have a similar handling to the ones in the arcade game and they still get horribly smashed when you crash.
The gameplay aspect was where the most effort was put in with this port and it shows. Sometimes though the Saturn controllers just don't cut it, you really need something with tighter steering, this is why getting a steering wheel is important if you want to get full enjoyment out of this game, the wheel gives you much, much better control over your car and makes it easier to drift and turn without crashing.
At its core Daytona USA is an arcade racer that continues to the tradition of Outrun and Virtua Racing that sees you racing to check points within a strict time limit, if the timer runs out it is game over. The Saturn adds the new Saturn mode to the game to try and add more variety but all it does is give you the choice on an extra car, tweaked gameplay and no time limit so unless you are doing a practise run on the circuits you'll probably just stick to the arcade mode.
I think the biggest crime made by the developers was the decision to completely drop any multiplayer which is a very baffling decision considering that the multiplayer was one of the big pulls for the arcade version. You see back in 1993 Ridge Racer and Daytona USA were the two big racers in the arcade and each changed the racing genre in their own ways, Daytona went for full arcade style gameplay with fast cars and mutliplayer for up to 8 people, Ridge Racer on the other hand went for slightly more realistic gameplay, vehicle selection and a bigger emphasis on solo play offering no multiplayer at all. The result was that Ridge racer ended up feeling very alive with it's big city while Daytona felt somewhat soulless with it's faceless racing circuits.
With that in mind multiplayer was the big thing that Daytona had going for it, take that away and the experience ends up feeling a bit empty.
The original soundtrack has been re-recorded for the conversion, people have debated over which version has the better tunes, I prefer the arcade soundtrack but the two are pretty much identical.
In all despite a big list of set backs Daytona is still a very enjoyable and faithful conversion of the arcade game as long as you don't mind playing it alone, it doesn't hold a candle to the arcade version but considering what the Saturn was capable of it was a good effort, especially for a launch title.