Daytona USA Remake
A few days ago, Microsoft announced that it would remove several games from the Xbox 360 marketplace, including Daytona USA and Jet Set Radio on February 7th, 2023. If you’re like me you’d be confused with the wording of that statement. Since early in the Xbox One’s lifespan, several games from the Xbox 360’s library were made available via backward compatibility. This practice lasted until late 2021, with Microsoft citing licensing, legal, and financing constraints as the reason to cease operations. However, not every game backward compatible with the Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S is available on the Xbox One marketplace. Daytona USA and Jet Set Radio are two examples.
Players who try to search for the games via the Microsoft Store on an Xbox One, Series X, and Series S console will see that it’s “not available for purchase.” However, going to the Xbox 360 marketplace via the console or the website will allow the player to not only buy the games but will also appear in their game library. Once in a player’s game library, the titles can be downloaded and played on the Xbox One and Series X/S. This begs the question which goes back to my original statement. If these games are backward compatible, why were they never released on the Xbox One marketplace?
With the announcement of the delisting, there may be more answers here than initially expected. Perhaps Microsoft had always intended to pull the plug, waiting for the licenses of said games to expire on the Xbox 360 marketplace. This would eliminate the bother of placing these listings on the current Microsoft marketplace, as they weren’t going to remain there for much longer. Many titles are delisted from online marketplaces aside from the Xbox Live Marketplace. However, it’s disappointing to see many games playable on modern consoles effectively “Thanos snapped” out of existence.
Mr. Driller Online was a title I covered that I was lucky to own back in the day. It is also an example of a game that has been lost in time due to its delisting years ago. Some delisted titles, like Mr. Driller Online, have been fortunate enough to be a part of a larger compilation disc such as the Namco Museum Virtual Arcade. While the compilation isn’t backward compatible, the standalone titles separate from the collection are. Unfortunately, as was common for Sega games at the time, there are no physical media versions of Daytona USA and Jet Set Radio.
While there are many titles that will remain on the Xbox One marketplace despite their removal from the Xbox 360, like Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey, there are few that are in the same predicament as the two Sega titles. I’ve already discussed what makes Jet Set Radio a timeless classic that deserves to be preserved. Daytona USA not only deserves to be preserved, but it has done a lot for the arcade culture. Here’s my argument as to why players should own a piece of gaming history before it becomes lost in the digital graveyard in a week.
Released in 1994 and in development since 1992, Daytona USA was one of the first fully rendered 3D arcade racing games to be released. It was in direct competition with Ridge Racer, a title released a year before, with both games offering many unique elements to the racing genre. Daytona USA opted for a traditional racetrack-based gameplay experience over other racing titles at the time. Its graphics, courtesy of the power of the Sega Model 2 board, was a technical marvel back in its release. Running at a smooth 60 frames per second with texture filtering, the title was far and above what was considered possible for video games.
It would take years for consoles to attain the same level of quality, as evident by the decent yet lacking Sega Saturn port released in 1996. A Windows port based on the Sega Saturn port would release soon after with a lukewarm response, citing very few changes from the console version. Unfortunately, this would be the last time that fans would experience the original Daytona USA until a little over a decade later with the release of Sega Racing Classic. Released in 2009, Sega Racing Classic was an arcade-exclusive HD remake of Daytona USA in everything but the namesake alone.
It’s often speculated that Sega didn’t have the Daytona license at the time of this game’s release, meaning all references to Daytona had to be omitted in branding and in its music. Looking at the two promotional images side by side, Sega did very little to hide the fact that it was a Daytona USA remake, which added to its charm. What’s also interesting to note is that Sega Racing Classic was developed using the Sega RingWide engine, which was leagues more powerful than the original Model 2. Sega wanted to make as faithful of a recreation to the original arcade classic, going so far as to make the models intentionally low-poly.
In 2012, Sega Racing Classic was ported to the Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 as Daytona USA, including everything that was omitted from the original release, supposedly gaining the Daytona license again. Contrary to popular belief, this version of Daytona USA wasn’t “built from the ground up exclusively for the console releases,” rather, it used the Sega Racing Classic version as its base.
This also means that the original 1994 version can only be fully experienced at an arcade. Fortunately, Daytona USA machines are a dime a dozen, especially in barcades, so it’s not at all difficult to find a location to experience the original game. Regardless, a faithful remake of the original arcade title was made available on console for the first time in over a decade and it’s by far the best way to experience the game outside of going to the arcade yourself.
Sega AM2 wanted to make Daytona USA feel like a spectacle, with its iconic song lyrics and fast-paced gameplay. I always felt its handling model was a bit of a challenge to overcome, as would be the case with other Sega AM2 racers. There are three courses to choose from, Beginner, Intermediate, and Expert, with two cars, one Automatic, and one Manual transmission. It’s always better to choose the manual transmission car as the top speed is faster, but this was a game that used an H-Shifter. This meant some skill in driving stick was required and the skill floor was quite high.
The cars feel heavy to drive—players need to force the vehicle into a turn by utilizing braking and shifting techniques. Driving at full speed and trying to turn will cause the tires to lock and will usually be met with a spectacular crash. The famed “Mt. Sonic” corner serves as a player's test of awareness, with the more difficult track having its own unique nuances. With enough practice, players will be able to complete races before time runs out, much less win them as well.
Exclusive to this version is a time trial and a tournament mode meant to simulate a racing season. What I found most charming was the “Karaoke” mode, in which the player drives around the track with lyrics on display to sing along. I can imagine this would be a hit at game night parties, especially for those who grew up with Daytona USA.
That’s the reason why preservation is important. Many of the titles we played as children that are re-released as digital-only exclusives run the risk of getting removed from the store. Players never own the rights to these titles, just the right to play them. With so many live service games shutting down their doors, like Rumbleversus, time and money are things you can’t get back once they're gone.
While delisted games can still be downloaded this isn’t always the case. In 2011, OutRun Online Arcade was delisted following Ferrari’s contract ending with Sega. To this day I feel as if it was removed from my library altogether despite owning it digitally. Unfortunately, that’s not as uncommon as players think.
The HD Remake of Daytona USA retains much of what made the 1994 arcade racer a bonafide classic in the hearts of many gamers. With the removal of this title, history is once again lost in the void and as platforms shift from physical to digital media, it becomes even more important to find alternatives to game preservation. As of this writing, Daytona USA is purchasable on the Xbox Marketplace until February 7th, 2023, where it too joins the endless void of the digital graveyard.