The history of arcade racers has been extensive within the video game industry. Just like arcade fighters, the arcade racer gave people a reason to go to the arcade and spend their hard earned money. Leading the charge for arcade racers was SEGA. Through the success of Virtua Racing and Daytona USA, SEGA made a good profit off those two arcade machines. Although Virtua Racing was a success, the arcade racing genre needed a mascot. There was a need for a character people could identify and recognize as synonymous with arcade racing as Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat were with arcade fighting games. In this segment of Building Character, we will examine the mascot of arcade racers, the 41 Hornet from Daytona USA.
When we think of characters, we often think of people, animals, anthropomorphic characters, and other living and breathing creatures. Inanimate objects can also have character and the 41 Hornet is a great example. For starters, the 41 Hornet is the only thing you remember from Daytona USA outside of the great soundtrack and the racetracks. Do you remember the other cars you raced against in Daytona USA? Do you remember the pit crew? The answer to those questions is most likely going to result in people saying no. Whenever people see the 41 Hornet, they immediately remember Daytona USA.
The 41 Hornet is remembered as well as other famous race cars. For example, if I mention the General Lee, the DeLorean, and Herbie, everyone would know which films and TV shows those cars were featured as stars. In auto racing, car numbers are made famous by the greatest drivers in the world. The 43 car was at its prime with Richard Petty as the driver. The 3 was made famous by the late Dale Earnhardt, and the 24 became a legend with Jeff Gordon. The 41 Hornet was made famous in this case by the arcade racing community. It was the players who drove the 41 Hornet and not a fantasy driver. It was we, the people, who made the Hornet the best car out in the racetrack. While the Hornet has displayed several color schemes over the years, the most iconic paint scheme is the famous red, white, and blue colors. Since stock car racing has American roots, it only made since for the Hornet to have the patriotic red, white, and blue colors on the trim. The Hornet was intimidating, cool, and sleek as its opponents were left in the dust. Since its glory days in Daytona USA, the Hornet has gone on to make special guest appearances in Ridge Racer on the PlayStation Vita and in Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing Transformed as the character AGES.
The 41 Hornet was not just a racing machine; the Hornet also had a brief career as a fighter. The 41 Hornet was a secret character in the SEGA Saturn exclusive, Fighters Megamix. Fighters Megamix is a crossover fighting game starring fighters from Virtua Fighter and Fighting Vipers, SEGA’s two biggest fighting franchises during the mid-1990s. There were also several secret characters to be unlocked and the 41 Hornet made the roster. Although the Hornet was a joke character for the developers to insert inside the big roster of characters, it’s fun to see the Hornet stand up on its back tires and attack opponents with all four wheels. Its fighting style is similar to Fighting Vipers and has breakable armor. The Hornet is able to punch and kick with it wheels and grab opponents as it puts it hood right on the face of its opponents. Unfortunately, the Hornet is the weakest character in the game, but I have to commend it for trying a new career path outside the norm.
As time marches on, we will always remember the 41 Hornet for its contributions to both the arcade racing genre and for the industry as a whole. Every genre needs a mascot and the Hornet was able to fill the role perfectly in the arcades and at home. SEGA’s proud and long-successful arcade history continued on back in the 1990s thanks to Daytona USA. The cameos and guest appearances ensure we never forget the Hornet’s video game roots. The 41 Hornet will always leave race cars in the dust.