The Game: Prepare to qualify! Fly to the finish line in a fierce field of Formula One competitors in a qualifying lap. Leaving the track is trouble – and hitting one of the billboards dotted around the edges of the Mt. Fuji track is a sure way to miss out on the subsequent race. (Atari, 1983)
Memories: When Atari announced its home versions of Pole Position, its first-person racer licensed from Namco, there was rejoicing (for the 5200 version) and scoffing (for the 2600 version). As it turns out, both expectations may have been off the mark: the 2600 version was unexpectedly good for what it was, and by comparison the 5200 version seems at times as though it’s not all it could have been. Maybe the biggest surprise is that these two interpretations of the game weren’t wildly different.
There’s some finer visual styling in the 5200 Pole Position…but not that much. Even the look of the cars isn’t that different. For once, the accursed 5200 joysticks don’t completely hinder the proceedings; they almost function like a car without power steering – if you push the joystick hard left and leave it there, your car is going to do the Newtonian boogie and keep moving in that direction until something interrupts its travel (most likely a billboard). It all looks and sounds and plays pretty good, but the thing is, one would almost expect the 5200 version of this game to lok and sound and play better than how it turned out.
It certainly doesn’t do anything to dilute the fundamental fun of the game, and it’s a worthwhile addition to the 5200 library. I just think everyone was expecting something that, given the 5200’s much-touted superiority over the 2600, looked a little better.