We should be able to pin-point the exact moment we first played Daytona USA, but we can't. Our memory is hazy and imprecise, sending us mixed messages. It was probably in Blackpool, in the corner of a grotty arcade, with stained 70s carpet beneath our feet. Or was it at home, in the cold confines of our games room, with the glow of a 14" portable television illuminating our surroundings?
We're not sure, but it's probably not important. No, it's the long-standing impact that's most remarkable. "Daytona, let's go away." Or was that, "Daytona, let's have a race?" We never were quite sure. But what do the lyrics matter, when you're singing about Daytona of all things? No, like Baywatch, Daytona USA's theme tune wasn't about the words — it was about the tone, the voice, the nonsense. "Rolling start." Surely Daytona USA holds the record for the noisiest game in history?
SEGA's done an outstanding job of faithfully restoring Daytona USA for the PlayStation 3, resulting in an appropriately nostalgic package. Being a faithful port, Daytona USA on PS3 still rivals the decibel count of a NASA space shuttle launch. "Please select a race course." Hunnnnnngh. "Please choose manual or automatic transmission." Hunnnnnngh. But pop in your ear-plugs and you're ready to go, as the nostalgia hits you like an oncoming stock car.
Remastered for the PlayStation Network — with wide-screen and online support — Daytona USA is a faithful recreation of the arcade classic. It's a near-exact port; the cars still handle in the same unforgiving manner — with those two back wheels popping out of the rear like a carefully carved octagonal Polo — and the final track remains impossible unless you've studied a University degree in arcade racers.
Admittedly the high-definition overhaul has left Daytona USA looking a little weird. Make no mistake, it looks gorgeous running at an unwavering 60 frames-per-second, and the colours sear out of your high-definition display stronger than ever, but there's something decidedly odd about seeing the game so clearly. It should be hidden behind pizza stained monitors, rife with burnt out bulbs and covered with the finger-prints of a thousand dirty children — not blaring out crisply from a brand new Bravia set.
It's still a classic, though, and as fun as it's ever been. SEGA deserves credit for staying so faithful to the source material, and subsequently your mileage will vary depending on your adoration for the original. If you come away from Daytona USA pondering why people are so in love with such a relic, we're going to guess you grew up with Metropolis Street Racer and not SEGA Rally. That's fine, but we tend to disagree, arguably because we remember how gob-stopping the game was upon its original release.
It feels like SEGA understands that too, because all of Daytona USA's extras are perfectly tuned towards nostalgia. For example, there's now a karaoke mode. Are you ever going to play it? No. But there's karaoke. The mode's mere presence is so perfect, that it adds value to the product even if it's utterly daft and pretty much entirely useless.
Elsewhere there's time trial, a pretty cool challenge mode — that sees you completing various custom challenges within the game's set confines — and a nifty online multiplayer mode that works much better than it deserves to. It's basic, but a considered addition, and recaptures some of the appeal of the arcade without forcing you to deal with the stale smell of cigarettes and booze. (Though, that's probably part of the appeal.)
It's nostalgia that's Daytona USA's ultimate hook then; a well crafted remake designed to take you back to a time that you can't quite remember. And it works. We fell in love with Daytona USA for about 60 minutes. We collected all of the trophies, revisited all of the old tracks and spent a good chunk of time doing our best impression of all the sound effects. Unsurprisingly, the novelty quickly wore thin. But that's ok, because for the short time it lasted, everything felt perfect.
Daytona USA is a game makes you feel young again, and you really can't put a price on that.