Shin Force | Sega Saturn Review

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

Shin Force ~ Saturn ~
Daytona USA Championship Circuit Edition
Geoffrey Duke
Sega Sports
1x CD
Import / Domestic
Jan. 24, 1997 (Japan)
1996 (USA)
1st / 3rd Person
Arcade / Racing
3D Pad
Backup 71
     > In the early days of the Saturn, the smash hit 3D Model 2 arcade racing game, Daytona USA, was ported to the 32 bit Sega console with mixed results. The fast gameplay, sensitive car handling and powerslides crossed over intact, but the graphics engine failed to imitate its graphically stunning arcade brother. The home conversion suffered from atrocious draw-in, grainy textures and a choppy frame-rate (the PAL version was also subject to a letterbox display). However, "graphics do not maketh a game" according to Saturn fans who saw through the ugly exterior to find the Daytona gameplay they all knew and loved. Saturn skeptics were quick to seize upon the poor conversion and took great pleasure in blaming the Saturn itself. In actual fact the Saturn's 3D capabilities weren't to blame; coders simply hadn't realized the Saturn's full potential at that time. After their successful and accurate arcade-to-Saturn port of Sega Rally, the CS Team felt they were up to the challenge of recreating Daytona USA for the home gaming market. 

     > Daytona USA Championship Circuit Edition (the name given outside of Japan) ran at a consistent 30 frames per second, had far less draw-in than the first game for a good sense of distance, and enjoyed greatly improved graphics with cleaner, rainbow-like textures and solidly detailed environments. Even the net-curtain effect used in the game to render fences seemed refined. The game included the three original arcade tracks, Three Seven Speedway, Dinosaur Canyon, and Sea Side Street Galaxy, as well as two new neat-looking corner-packed courses designed for the Saturn hardware. There was still some draw-in, but not enough to draw much attention. All the original music tracks were remixed, and the generally despised Japanese lyrics were removed (though some of us liked the original music). You could ram into the enemy cars unlike the first game in which you'd defy physics by driving through them. The original car handling was altered, however, turning the newest conversion into an almost entirely new racing game. The car handling wasn't as sensitive and the powerslides were more difficult to maintain. The handling felt more "rooted in reality", as someone once put it. "This is meant to be an arcade game, not a simulation!" I hear someone shouting. Again, a Daytona game received mixed reactions but American gamers got a NetLink addition. 

     > The Japanese version, called Daytona Circuit Edition, was released after the American and European versions, and so the extra time was spent to make even further improvements. Everything is in English; importing it won't pose a problem. Plus, the controls are as simple as any standard racing game. A two player link up mode is included, but I've never tried it.

     > Like the American/PAL Daytona CCE, the stock car animations seem less grainy than their original Daytona USA counterparts. Quite solid, and embossed in detailed colors in fact. There are four views: a third person behind the car view, birds-eye, behind the bonnet and first person. All have their own advantages as you can imagine. The third person view car animations appear crushed after a violent crash, or in other words, flattened. When driving up and down a dipping 3D course, the car animations actually tilt up and down to seem on the landscape. This means you'll see the roof of a car more when going up and the rear when going down a gradient. I don't know if this is better than the camera always remaining behind the car, like the first game with the first in-game behind-car view. 

     > One interesting addition to the Japanese version is the camera panning around the car before a race begins. A polished demonstration of the in-game 3D graphics. Also present in the Japanese version are even smoother textures in and throughout the courses. These smoothened textures are prominent on the Dinosaur Canyon track; the mountainous trackside detail has gotten a coat of polish. The grass in Sea Side Street Galaxy is colored in a deeper green and the building textures in the first underpass are no longer blocky (not that you'd notice them unless you were looking). There is far less draw-in now which was noticeable before on the first track. The scenery grows into place in almost natural style resulting in a greater distance-depth. The clipping/draw-in is about on par with the Model 2 arcade game (that's right: even the mighty arcade game suffered from scenery suddenly sprouting up, not that it mattered).

     > What made the arcade race tracks so special were the distinctive landmarks. Three Seven Speedway has a huge wall at a sharp turn depicting a sculptured image of Sonic the Hedgehog, Dinosaur Canyon has its stone archway, and Sea Side Street Galaxy has a space shuttle as well as cool overhead bridges scattered along its winding roads. And more. The new courses maintain that tradition with the inclusion of equally conspicuous eye-candy. National Park Speedway, as the name might imply, has a rollercoaster in the background. And amazingly enough, the Desert City track has a moving train that passes above you on an intersecting bridge, and appears alongside the main stretch as you race! 

     > A cool extra in the Japanese game is the ability to race all the courses at night or sunrise. Simply hold down the X and Y, or X and Z buttons before the race loads in at the "Gentlemen Start Your Engines" screen and behold new time-of-day lighting. The lights inside the Dinosaur Canyon tunnel turn on too.

     > There is some slowdown on the first course in arcade mode when racing side-by-side with cars as you pass the giant stadium. I think the slowdown is worse than in the American/PAL versions even though it is only minor. Shame. This course is best played without the usual 40 cars all driving around it at once.

     > The car handling is practically the same in all versions of this game (this particular game, not the original conversion), but I feel that the powersliding is *slightly* easier to initiate, maintain and pull out of in the Japanese version (which was released later). Feel free to disagree, as a review is just an opinion. No, the car handling is not as sensitive/maneuverable as it was in the original arcade game or the original conversion, but this is still a playable racing game whether it's true to the arcade game or not (which the handling isn't), so it all comes down to a matter of opinion. The car handling can be changed in the options screen from weighty to sensitive to somewhere in between. Enough to satisfy both realists and arcade fans alike IMO. Still, the new handling isn't as super-sensitive as it was in the original Daytona conversion. You'll have to decide for yourself. Of course, different cars have handling attributes balanced between top speed, grip and acceleration that influence the above (8 are initially playable, each has a distinct paint job). Better grip, for example, will allow a car to race over grass, and helps keep powerslides under control.

     > The controls couldn't be simpler: B accelerates (when held down), A and C break, and the top buttons on the Saturn control pad zoom the car view in or out. Fast stops, useful for sudden turns, can be made by letting go of the acceleration button and breaking. A radar is top right of the screen and shows where enemy cars are, as positioned around you at the center, but only cars near to you.

     > The CCE music is the same -- soft rock. The original race course music was remixed into dance techno tunes without their original lyrics. Those tunes are still here, but now the Karaoke tunes are back! Ok, they're not quite the same as the first game's music because they sound like remixed karaoke tunes. Still, the corny combination of Japanese sung English lyrics with fast beating tunes is an inseparable part of the Daytona experience. Like them or not. Daayytoona! A medley, which is a collage of various musical scores, is included too. You can change the music played in each track in the options screen. Another new CE tune that caught my attention is the updated Desert City tune; it's a rock song with cool guitar rhythms that really suits the course. I wish I could describe the music further.

     > The radio commentator sounds more realistic apparently due to his longer scrambled radio sounds before and after talking, but the in-game sounds all sound the same to me (i.e. the same as the first Saturn conversion). The metallic crash noises and sounds of cars passing by are quite encompassing. Clearly audible anyway. When using the in-car views, the car hums as an engine should if running.

     > The game modes offer up a nice challenge. In the arcade mode you must drive to respective checkpoints before time runs out. The number of laps required to complete each track varies in each, depending on length. Due to its popularity in Sega Rally, a ghost mode was added to the time attack mode so you can race against your best times. Ghost cars emulate the routes you took without physically getting in your way. What could be more challenging than racing against yourself?

     > There are the appropriate amount of cars racing against you on every track for an adequate non-collision free ride. Enemy cars have substance; ramming them gives off sparks. They even try to drive in your way and slow you down. However, this can be used to your advantage: positioning your car in-front of an enemy car after a crash can give you a much needed speed jolt (the radar comes in handy here). Also, you can use enemy cars as buffers when taking a turn to avoid crashing. The enemy car AI can be tweaked to become more or less difficult.

     > The two new CCE/CE courses present a grueling series of high and low speed turns, hair pin bends and chicanes. National Park Speedway has some long stretches allowing you to pick up speed before the eventual turns. Desert City is a beautifully detailed but tricky mountain race track. Combined with the existing three tracks, the game has plenty of mileage.

     > The obnoxious crashes are back as if to remind us that driving at insane speeds will almost certainly end in being flung into the air, and spun as we go. The crashes seem more frequent in the Japanese version but I'm not complaining. Another interesting point of conversation is your car spinning out of control while still on the ground. This can happen by either ramming into the back of an enemy car at over 300 kph, or failing to pull out of a powerslide when pushing into one too far. It's possible to spin *and* crash into the trackside! Careful now.

Bottom Line
     > All you really need to know is that the handling is different from the first conversion of this game (so much so that it almost plays like a completely different game), but that doesn't stop it from being playable. The Japanese version of this game comes with some refined graphics, *arguably* better handling than before (I stress the word arguably), and extra gameplay features, making it superior to the American and PAL versions. This is the version of Daytona CCE world-wide Saturn owners should've owned. It captures a semblance of the arcade original while seeming different at the same time.
Overall: 9.2 | Graphics: 9.3 | Control: 9.0 | Sound: 9.2 | Fun: 9.2
~ Geoffrey Duke ~

[ PIX >> ][ PREVIEW >> ][ :: REVIEW :: ][ SCANS >> ][ WALLPAPER >> ]
[ << BACK ][ TOP /\ ][ FORWARD >> ]