Sunday, September 24, 2017

Pole Position

The arcade comes to the Atari STe

Pole Position is an all-time classic arcade racer from a time when the world was an exciting place without social media and pop music was something you could enjoy without it grating like fingernails on a blackboard. The Atari ST has a raft of great driving games but sadly, never received an official port of this olde racer. Until now...

Today that changes because Jonathan Thomas has released a brand new version that has been reverse-engineered from the arcade machine and even uses real-time sprite scaling, DMA sounds and more. The requirements are 1MB Ram, a joystick and an appreciation of this great racer. Booting it up is surreal and somehow feels like you've got an arcade machine in your home. But this time we don't need to spend all of our 10 pence coins!

Oooh, I'm feeling like a kid in the Blackpool arcades!!

Yes, put your money away!

It's impressive to see Pole Position running on my Atari STe. What an authentic conversion of the amazing arcade original and it even features the same (ripped) visuals and sonix I fondly remember. Now, if you're looking at the screenshots and wondering why the display is narrow, then blame Namco. It's all down to the arcade machine's vertical monitor which the Atari STe obviously doesn't have, so it attempts to replica that ratio.

Gameplay is tough, very tough. Initially, I was all over the road, slipping and sliding into other cars and skidding off into the roadside objects. In fact, it felt like I was purposely trying to hit everything I was that accurate! Stick with it and put aside half an hour to begin driving - even at an amateur level. Yes, those corners are a killer!

The actual framerate is twice as good as you can see here in my capture.

The gory details

The latest release candidate has major improvements and delivers near arcade-busting gameplay:
1) 60fps framerate to bring the speed and difficulty in line with the arcade.
2) You can thank the Blitter Chip for whizzing the graphics so fast & furiously!
3) Sprite scaling utilisied for ultra-smooth results.
4) Even good 'ol Mount Fuji is displayed in all its glory!
5) The sky gradient is back along with numerous glitches fixed.
6) Sound effects are taken from the arcade game using the DMA coprocessor.
7) Code compiled with GCC 7.1 for a significant performance increase.
8) Many new optimisations, mainly around text rendering for authenticity.

If only those tyres would look like they're rotating (one day eh Jon?) :-)

The CryptO'pinion?

It's impressive to think that this wasn't ever developed for the Atari ST yet, somehow has been reverse-engineered from the arcade machine. Everything looks, sounds and feels like we remember with only a couple of missing features: the animated tyres are nothing more than a bit of a colour wobble (I hope it gets fixed)

Possibly the toughest racer and most certainly one that keeps dragging you back for more, kicking and screaming. It's so addictive, a cracking arcade port that's making good use of the Atari STe hardware: I love its framerate, audio and authentic feel. Pole Position is nothing less than a spectacular arcade conversion!

What are you waiting for? Come on and play this outstanding arcade racer!! (Download from AtariMania).


  1. Have you been able to get this to work on a real STE? What i get is a strange looking horizontal banded version that looks like a poor BBC Micro tape release form 1980.
    I'm running on a PAL STE at both 50 and 60hrz (tries both) with 4 MB of memory. I'm using an Imagerunner from PP so maybe it's the problem.

    1. Sorry for the late reply here, been away :) Anyhow, it's a good idea to run any game from Low Res, regardless. I have my own STe to auto-boot up in low res. Except when I'm running in High ;o)

  2. Yes, It's working great on my real 1040 STE! Thanx!

  3. Update: Good old Peter has just released a hard drive installable version:

    1. Well, that went down quick.