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Pole Position is a racing video game released in 1982 by Namco. It was published by Namco in Japan and by Atari, Inc. in the United States. The game popularized the use of sprite-based, pseudo-3D graphics with its "rear-view racer format"—where the player’s view is behind and above the vehicle, looking forward along the road with the horizon in sight—which would remain in use even after true 3D computer graphics became standard for racing games.
In this game, the player controls a Formula One race car. The player completes a time trial lap within a certain amount of time to qualify for an F1 race at the Fuji Racetrack. After qualifying, the player races against other cars in a championship race.
Pole Position was the leading game in arcades worldwide due to its relatively realistic graphics for the time. While it wasn't the first game to use the "rear-view racer format" (the first was Turbo (1981) by Sega), it pioneered the format which is used in many games today. It also led to contemporary imitators of the format, most notably Sega's Out Run in 1986. The game starts as soon as a player adds a credit, and all extra credits put in automatically start another game after the first one is done.
For release in the United States, Namco approached Bally Midway with a choice of two games in 1982. Bally Midway chose Mappy while Atari was left to publish Pole Position, which turned out to be the most popular game of 1983.
The game was an early example of product placement within a video game, with billboards around the track advertising actual companies. However, some billboards were specific to the two versions such as Pepsi, and Canon in the Japanese version or 7-Eleven, Dentyne, or Centipede in the Atari version which replaced such billboards as that of Marlboro and Martini & Rossi, who although were prominent motorsport sponsors at the time, would be found inappropriate in the American market for a game aimed towards children. Other billboards did appear in both versions.
Pole Position was ported to a number of home computers and consoles by Atarisoft in the early 1980s. In the mid-1990s Pole Position made a comeback on Windows PCs when it was included as part of Microsoft Return of Arcade. It later appeared on the Sony PlayStation and Sega Dreamcast systems in a game collection named Namco Museum. Since then, Pole Position has been included in most Namco Museum releases, such as on the PlayStation 2, GameCube, Game Boy Advance, and Xbox. Fuji Speedway was renamed Namco Speedway in the Museum releases and a Plug and Play version except Namco Museum Virtual Arcade which renamed Blue Speedway.
A Pole Position (Puffer Version) was created—but not published— that used the Puffer exercise bike controller.
A version of Pole Position was released for iPod on January 21, 2008. On September 14, 2008, a version of Pole Position was released for iOS devices called Pole Position: Remix. The game features upgraded graphics and several different control methods, but remains similar in content to the original. The version of Pole Position also has tracks from Pole Position II and new track called Misaki Point.
Pole Position II was released in 1983, and adding three additional courses along with the original Fuji track. It features slightly improved graphics, as well as a different starting tune.
While many considered the three-screened racer TX-1, released in 1984 by Atari and designed by Tatsumi to be a sequel to Pole Position II, the true sequel arrived in 1987 with the release of Final Lap, which may be considered an unofficial Pole Position III.[ ]
Pole Position was referenced in the motion picture "The Goonies." In the attic when "Chunk" and Mikey discovered the antique map, Chunk exclaimed "1632...Is that a year or something?" to which "Mouth" sarcastically answered "No, it's your top score in Pole Position."