It’s come to my attention that some people on the internet aren’t aware of the greatest character ever to grace a fighting game. So today, we’re going to discuss the Hornet from Daytona USA and what it’s doing punching and kicking people with its tires in the amusing tweet below.
Some background: This GIF is taken from a Sega Saturn title called Fighters Megamix. Three years before Nintendo had the sense to stuff all of its characters in a madcap pseudo-brawler, Fighters Megamix was sort of like Sega’s Super Smash Bros. — or, more accurately, SNK’s King Of Fighters. Megamix was a conventional 1v1 fighting game in the vein of Sega’s Virtua Fighter or Fighting Vipers, and most of its roster was composed of characters from those series.
I say “most” because, as you can tell, Fighters Megamix had some curious outliers. There was Bean the Dynamite and Bark the Polar Bear, pulled from Sonic The Fighters; Janet from Virtua Cop; child versions of Akira and Sarah from Virtua Fighter Kids; a bear wearing a cowboy hat without any points of articulation named Kumachan; and a palm tree derived from developer AM2's logo.
And then there’s the Hornet — in a way, not really the most surprising or unlikely character in Fighters Megamix, considering those aforementioned alternatives.
The Hornet’s normal stance was upright, rolling on its rear tires that magically extended two feet from the body of the car. It kicks with those tires, and punches with its front ones. Like the Fighting Vipers characters in Megamix, the Hornet had destructible armor, which took the form of bodywork. Take enough damage, and most of the car’s body panels would fly off, causing it to take additional damage at an accelerated rate. It was a level of destruction far more pronounced than the crumpled metal you’d see in Daytona USA.
The Hornet’s move set included a trick where it’d get down on all four wheels — you know, like a car — and ram its opponent. That pales in comparison to what I find to be the vehicle’s most brutal move, though, in which the Hornet holds its adversary by the neck and spins its other front wheel against their face. I suppose the designers weren’t too concerned with the fact stock cars don’t typically drive their front wheels, let alone use torque vectoring. Turns out the Hornet was remarkably advanced for the ’90s.
The Hornet had its own stage too, which you can see it fighting in the video embedded above, against another Hornet. I love that the car’s alternate color scheme is the one used for the manual transmission version in Daytona USA. The stage itself is set in the infield of Daytona’s Pocono Raceway-aping Three Seven Speedway beginner course, with a weirdly downbeat version of “The King Of Speed” tune playing in the background.
That’s pretty much the Hornet as it appears in Fighters Megamix. But why is it there in the first place? This car happened to be something of a mascot for Sega throughout the ’90s; Daytona USA was its most successful arcade title at the time, and one of the Saturn’s first-party pillars. But the Hornet was also firmly embedded into Sega’s extended universe.
Jacky Bryant — one of Virtua Fighter’s core characters — was named an “Indy car racer” in his appearance in the first game in that series. Canonically though, he also happens to be the Hornet’s driver, based on this ending video from Virtua Fighter Kids:
And in this CGI clip from a promotional Virtua Fighter LaserDisc, we see Jacky piloting a red supercar through the streets of Rome, destroying the Colosseum as he rips through the structure. Sega racing fans will recognize this video from the attract sequence for Scud Race Plus, an arcade racer also developed by AM2 featuring cars from the 1996 BPR Global GT Series season.
Sega clearly had a sense of humor about Fighters Megamix, and so if Jacky was to be included in the festivities, why not his car? I shouldn’t have to tell you who — or, rather, what — I desperately wish Nintendo adds in the next Smash Bros. update.
Correction 2:04 p.m. ET: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Fighters Megamix included Pepsiman, Japan’s Pepsi mascot, as a playable character. Pepsiman actually appeared in the Japanese version of Fighting Vipers, not Fighters Megamix.