Shin Force | Sega Dreamcast Review

Shin Force > Systems > Sega Dreamcast > Reviews A-M

Shin Force ~ Dreamcast ~
Daytona USA 2001
Geoffrey Duke
Hasbro Interactive
Sega / Amusement Vision
1x GD
Import / Domestic
Dec. 20, 2000 (Japan)
Mar. 14, 2001 (USA)
1st / 3rd Person
Arcade / Racing
Backup 24
Jump Pack
Online Multiplayer
Racing Wheel
     > I'm not a huge fan of racing games and yet Daytona USA succeeded in not only catching my attention, but holding it for lengthy periods of time whenever I visited the arcades. The sensation of speed was second to none. That combined with the unique tracks, colorful texture mapped polygon graphics, and multiplayer racing mayhem in which high speed collisions were inevitable, produced a recipe for fun that couldn't be matched in quality, let alone surpassed at the time. The force feedback controls -- steering wheels that would jolt whenever your car hit something -- intensified the action to an almost unbelievable degree. Although I loved the original Saturn port of Daytona USA, many people found the incessant draw-in distracting. I have no doubt AM2 would have made sure it had been an arcade perfect conversion if given more time (i.e. a game with next to no draw-in, sharper visuals and a stable frame-rate as opposed to the grainy, jerky, background pop-up plagued game it became). Instead the game was rushed for the Saturn's launch with the aforementioned results. The poor graphics weren't a detraction from the superb gameplay, but they certainly weren't an enhancement to it either. I really wish AM2 was given the time it needed to ensure the best possible conversion. Thankfully, Amusement Vision headed by Toshihiro Nagoshi, the same man who designed the original arcade game while working for AM2, has redeemed Sega by delivering a conversion that is above and beyond the quality of the arcade game to fans who would have been, dare I say, content with a perfect arcade-to-home port.

     > The original port is, however, the closest conversion of the arcade game, including the dizzying speed and sensitive car handling which made the player's car prone to whizzing from one side of the screen to the other with a mere tap of the D-Pad. Visually, even the 3D textures in the Saturn port are closer to the arcade game than the 2001 edition. The graphics have gone through a major overhaul for its conversion to the Dreamcast resulting in a higher resolution with very sharp details. You won't find any graphical flaws in the game; draw-in is now non-existent. Skeptics will therefore have no choice but to measure this game's worth by its gameplay. Perish the thought! This latest conversion of Daytona retains the classic arcade gameplay in every respect, like its earlier Saturn counterpart, but with the added benefit of flawless graphics. The newest conversion of this old classic sees the return of the three original arcade tracks, the two tracks developed for Daytona Circuit Edition for the Saturn, and adds three brand new tracks to the mix that help contribute to an already long lifespan in terms of replay value. As with the arcade game, you must race to checkpoints within each track before the time expires, using the car best suited to you, to gain extra time so that you can reach the next ASAP. The Dreamcast game brings home a whole host of extra options, cars, and racing modes to tweak the fun to perfection. The only flaws found in this game are subjective even in the best of cases. The music for example, might not appeal to everyone's tastes.

     > I can't criticize the graphics in any way, shape or form; the cars benefit from uber-high polygon counts and the in-game textures are almost lifelike. The trackside scenery is colorful to the extent of being close to realistic, not to mention a paragon of solidity. You can peer all the way into the distance, as pop up/draw-in in the background has become nothing but a distant memory. The rear view car animations vibrate as they move to create the impression of turbulent motion (so much so that when damaged the cars seem like they are going to shake themselves to pieces at any moment!) and have beautiful reflective surfaces that shimmer in the daylight. Thanks to the super high resolution even the tiniest of details are sharp enough for the eyes to perceive with ease. The paintwork and logos adorning the cars are the best examples of how fine (as in sharp and clear) the high resolution renders the textures. Sudden turns leave skid marks on the tracks and grass is thrown into the air when driven over, which goes to show how  much attention to detail was actually poured into the game. It's easy to take the graphical splendor of today's games for granted if you've never experienced 32 bit gaming for yourself, and is why I can appreciate this game all the more I suppose. People who concern themselves with game visuals too much claim the graphics are far too bright to take seriously, but I disagree. There is scenery unique to each race track bound to draw your attention at least once. The scenery still sets Daytona apart from the more generic racers of today. As always, nothing beats the Sonic Mountain present in Three Seven Speedway but Rin Rin Rink has a lovely flowing waterfall that comes close. 

     > The frame rate *never* drops below 60 frames per second (FPS) no matter how much scenery appears on screen at any given time. The non fluctuating frame rate means the game not only moves at a very fluid pace but stays that way regardless of your situation and surroundings. PAL TV owners have the option of switching between 50 FPS, which is the standard frame rate for PAL TVs, and 60 FPS if their TVs can handle it. The faster frame rate is, of course, smoother, but not so much so that it makes a big difference.

     > Though sensitive, the analogue stick provides a degree of control over your car that is meant to be helpful, not be a hindrance. I'd define it as very responsive; responsive enough that it takes time to get used to it. Once you've done so, it becomes evident that the swiftness with which you can steer your car is an inseparable part of a game that often demands equally swift reactions, whether to dodge other cars or to simply prepare for an imminent turn. At first, you might spend a lot of time bouncing off the walls. The default control setup for the already comfortable Dreamcast control pad couldn't be better. The R button accelerates your car, whereas the L button breaks, which means the basic controls are convenient for analogue steering. Breaking for a moment or for a while before or after turning at high speeds will initiate a powerslide, sending your car drifting. Keeping the car under control while powersliding is the key to driving around corners without crashing or veering off track, but turning into a powerslide too far will cause your car to spin out of control. Timing powerslides requires practice, obviously, but performing them successfully feels like an accomplishment each and every time. It's easy to turn into a powerslide, so be prepared to get a grip. The car handling was always the high point of the classic Daytona gameplay; the game just wouldn't be the same without it (as many fans discovered with the Saturn Daytona Circuit Edition). 

     > The game offers four views: rear view (behind the car ), birds-eye view (behind and above the car), driver's view (behind the bonnet), and front view (first person). Each viewpoint has its own advantages and disadvantages. The driver's view allows the player to look further ahead from a level vantage point, but the birds-eye view affords the player a wider field of vision whilst having full visual control over their car etc. You can shift from one racing view to the next, and thus, zoom in or out of each, by using the D-Pad, which is both quick and easy.

     > There is a radar in the top right hand of the screen useful for keeping an eye on the proximity of enemy cars, or blocking the path of cars behind yours.

     > The music of average racing games tends to be too forgettable for its own good. However, the music in Daytona 2001 is far more memorable than that of most racers because it tries to distance itself from what people believe *should* accompany a standard racing game. At least the music won't go out of date the next day, but rather, stand out as a soundtrack people will remember for years to come. The old arcade tunes were remixed, but didn't lose their lighthearted, wild lyrics. Now depending on whether or not you like English lyrics sung in prolonged syllables by insane Japanese voices over the top of rock anthems, this can be a good or bad thing. What can I say? I absolutely love this music for the simple fact it mirrors the fast and furious spirit of the game in audible fashion. The rest of the in-game music doesn't contradict the mood established by the arcade soundtrack, in that it never fails to lift your spirits.

     > The arcade announcer/in-game commentator has been replaced with a fresh new voice. No problems here, as his voice and others (such as the voice that spells out "Game Over" one word at a time, which was also re-recorded) couldn't be clearer. The commentator will give advice and warnings during a race to really put you into the heart of the action. I miss the old "Time Extension" voices whenever you passed through a checkpoint, however. All the arcade noises sound the same, from the roaring car engines, to the screeching tires, to metallic crash sounds, everything is included.

     > The old tracks haven't changed much, except in the graphics department, that is. A few of the corners throughout the Desert City track are nowhere near as sharp as they were in Daytona Circuit Edition. The arcade/Saturn tracks are no less challenging than before with layouts fraught with curvy roads, tight corners, steep hills, and long stretches (enabling you to gain speeds of up to 300+ kps) leading to nasty hairpin turns (or disaster, whichever). The challenge lies in negotiating each turn without losing too much speed in order reach the checkpoints in time and/or finish the race in reasonable time/position. The new tracks have their own challenging twists and banked turns to sap you of your concentration. The game also introduces another oval track called Circuit Pixie where you can maintain top speed all the way round, and so the only real obstacles in dire need of avoidance are enemy cars. 

     > You can select different cars with customizable color schemes, and different tires for those cars ranging in toughness. The harder the tire, the more drift you can expect to get out of it. Selecting the right car for the right track is essential if you hope to win. The lightening car has unrivaled top speed and good acceleration but has poor grip, whereas the all too familiar Hornet car is a great all rounder. More cars, each with handling attributes likewise exclusive-to-them, are unlockable, greatly adding to the game's longevity. As usual, you have the choice of automatic or manual transmissions.

     > There are plenty of game modes to keep you far away from the realm of boredom (is such a thing even conceivable?). The single player mode is a self-explanatory Arcade mode. You're free to choose a preferred amount of laps, and the number of competing cars you'd like to race against on any chosen track from a minimum of 10 to a maximum of 40 including yourself (racing against 39 other cars *and* the clock is sure to spell disaster). An all new championship mode changes the rules of the game by removing the timer from the playable circuits; instead, you must focus on qualifying in a top position to score points in a leaderboard. In Time Attack mode you can race against your own best times in the form of an insubstantial ghost car recorded from previous races. I've always loved this feature since the days of Sega Rally. If the eight tracks in both the Arcade and Time Attack modes aren't enough to keep you occupied for a long time, you can race through them in reverse (in the opposite direction), or mirrored (where every right turn becomes a left turn and vice versa), or mirrored in reverse. Amusement Vision also included an excellent head-to-head two player split screen mode retaining all the smoothness and graphical beauty of the single player game. 

     > So, what could be more fun than drifting around those turns, you ask? The spark flaring madness of speeding past swerving opponents intent on driving in your way, is my answer. If you can't quite stay ahead of a frontrunner the simple solution is to ram them into a wall! I can't resist using them as buffers if I can't turn in time to avoid hitting a wall. Even enemy cars can't help ramming into each other, causing pile ups on the roads which you can easily become a part of if you're not careful. Never has a racing game forced so much laughter out of me. What more incentive to play this game could you possibly need? Of course, the crashes are a sight to behold because seeing your car spinning into the air is nothing short of hilarious. Crashes will leave their mark on your car, and smoke will rise from the hood and trail over the roof, just to give you a subtle hint of lost performance. Ok, I could imagine how it might be frustrating at times but fun is the name of this game.

Bottom Line
     > Forget the critics; Daytona USA 2001 is the ultimate conversion of one of the best racing games of all time. The innumerable features only serve to ensure a lasting experience. Indeed, how can a game with so many features not last? Be warned: this is an arcade game, *not* a simulation (fun doesn't come in the form of realistic physics). Fans of the arcade game will appreciate the updated Dreamcast version to no end. It isn't an exact carbon copy of the arcade, but instead takes the arcade graphics and improves them to the point of resembling a Model 3 racing game whilst keeping all the speed and car handling that made the game so great in the first place.
Overall: 9.8 | Graphics: 9.8 | Control: 10 | Sound: 9.5 | Fun: 10
~ Geoffrey Duke ~

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