Most of my time spent with racing games has been in the form of dedicated arcade cabinets shaped like the virtual cars I am driving. The feel of a steering wheel in my hands and a pair of pedals at my feet engages me in a totally different way than simply playing with a controller on my couch. However, there is a drawback to this sort of experience: obnoxious arcade noise.
Depending on the build of the cabinet and the strength of the speakers, a racing game soundtrack is easily drowned out by the ambient sounds of chattering children playing on other machines. On the rare occasion that the music is cranked up to 11, the featured tunes are often licensed tracks from current pop music. This is a shame, because so many of these arcade racing titles feature original and immersive music that gets the adrenaline pumping.
Recently, I became the proud owner of a Sega Saturn along with a handful of games. Among the stack of titles included with this console was a port of my favorite arcade racer, Daytona USA. A common cabinet across the United States, this game seemed to show up in every arcade, pizza parlor, and bowling alley around my home town. In spite of dropping piles of quarters into this machine, I never heard the game soundtrack while playing until I hooked up the Sega Saturn. As I started Daytona USA, I was delighted to hear this fantastic song:
This majestic ballad was used as the attract mode for the arcade cabinet, but I had never been called by its siren song before. Composer Takenobu Mitsuyoshi provided the vocals for the entire arcade soundtrack via synthesizer, and he went the extra mile for the Saturn port by re-recording each song with real instruments and re-singing all of the lyrics. Mitsuyoshi was also a member of the Sega Sound Team Band, which gave him the opportunity to perform game music in front of live audiences, including the beloved Daytona USA soundtrack.
Every song in Daytona USA is so earnest and filled with upbeat sounds that match the colorful racing so well. From the first bellow of, “ROLLING STARRRRT,” I was ready to put the pedal to the metal in this virtual world. The game was eventually ported to the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, where the popularity of its soundtrack led to the inclusion of a Karaoke Mode. In this mode, players can sing along with Mitsuyoshi’s vocals as lyrics bounce along beneath the racing action.
As the arcade halls of my youth are fading away in American culture, I am a bit sad to see dedicated racing cabinets go the way of the dinosaur and floppy disks. I will miss crawling into a bucket seat, taking hold of a steering wheel, and driving through a virtual raceway. But I suppose being able to sing along with The King of Speed in the comfort of my own home is a suitable trade-off.