Winning Run, released by Namco in 1988, was the first arcade racing game to use fully 3D polygon graphics. It served as the debut title for the Namco System 21 "Polygonizer" arcade hardware, the first gaming system dedicated to 3D polygon graphics. The music was composed by Hiroyuki Kawada. An updated version, Winning Run: Suzuka Grand Prix, was released in 1989.
The game's use of 3D polygons was a breakthrough that paved the way for 3D arcade racers such as Hard Drivin' a year later and the 3D popularizer Virtua Racing several years later. Ridge Racer, released in 1993 for the succeeding Namco System 22 arcade hardware, is in some ways a spiritual successor to Winning Run.
Namco System 21 "Polygonizer" arcade hardware
The game's Namco System 21 "Polygonizer" arcade board was one of the first gaming systems dedicated to polygonal 3D graphics, and was the most powerful gaming hardware of the 1980's. Its 3D graphical capabilities would not be surpassed until the release of Sega's Model 1 arcade system in 1992.
The Namco System 21 consisted of four PCB's (printed circuit boards) in a metal casing and arguably features more graphics chips than any other gaming system to date. Of the four boards, the main one was the CPU board, which featured a multi-core 16/32-bit CPU design. The four main CPU processors provided a combined performance of nearly 10 MIPS (Million Instructions Per Second).
The most important board, however, was the 3D graphics board, which contained multiple graphics chips dedicated to 3D graphics; this was the first dedicated 3D graphics board and a precursor to the 3D graphics accelerator cards that later appeared for the PC-98 and PC platforms. The core GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) processors of the 3D graphics board were five dedicated DSP (Digital Signal Processing) graphics processors, providing a combined performance of 63 MIPS dedicated to processing the complex 3D graphics for that time. In total, the four CPU and five DSP processors provided a combined performance of 73 MIPS, which was far beyond what other gaming systems were capable of in the 1980s.
Main CPU (Central Processing Unit) board
- Main CPU processors: 2x Hitachi/Toshiba 68HC000 (16/32-bit Motorola 68000) @ 12.3 MHz
- Performance: 4.4 MIPS (Million Instructions Per Second) (2.2 MIPS each)
- Additional CPU: Motorola 68020 (32-bit) @ 12.3 MHz / Motorola 68000 (16/32-bit) @ 12.3 MHz
- Instruction performance: 4 MIPS (68020) / 2.2 MIPS (68000)
- Floating-point (68020) performance: 100,000 FLOPS (Floating-point Operations Per Sec)
- Sound CPU: Motorola MC68B09EP (based on 8/16-bit Motorola 6809) @ 3.1 MHz
- Performance: 1.3 MIPS
- Physical memory: 64 KB
- MCU (Micro-Computer Unit) processor: Hitachi HD63705 (8-bit) @ 2.1 MHz
- EPROM (Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory) memory: 4 KB
- FM synth (Frequency Modulation synthesis) sound chip: Yamaha YM2151 (OPM) @ 3.6 MHz
- DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter) sound chip for FM synth: Yamaha YM3012 (stereo)
- PCM (Pulse-Code Modulation) sound chip: Namco C140 (24-channel, 21.4 KHz sampling rate)
- DAC sound chip for PCM audio: Namco LC7880
- XTAL: 3.6 MHz
- OSC: 49.2 MHz
- ROM (Read-Only Memory) voice memory: 16 MB (4x 4 MB modules)
- RAM (Random Access Memory) chips: 2x MB8464, 2x MCM2018, 4x HM65256, 2x HM62256
- Custom chips: 2x Namco 148, Namco C68, Namco 139, Namco 137, Namco 149
- Other chips: Sharp PC900 & PC910 opto-oscillators, Hitachi HN58C65P (EEPROM), Fujitsu MB3771, 2x Fujitsu MB87077-SK, Sanyo LB1760, SYS87B-2B, CY7C132
- GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) processors:
- DSP (Digital Signal Processing) processors: 5x TI TMS320C20 (16/32-bit) @ 25 MHz
- Performance: 62.5 MIPS (12.5 MIPS each)
- Custom processors: 4x Namco 327, 4x Namco 342, 2x Namco 197, Namco 317 & 195
- OSC: 40 MHz
- Video RAM (VRAM) chips: 2x Hitachi HM62832, 4x Mitsubishi M5M5189, 16x ISSI IS61C68
- ROM (Read-Only Memory) chip: Texas Instruments TMS27C04
- Graphics display program ROM: GPR0L, GPR0U, GPR1L, GPR1U, GP0L, GP0U, GP1L, GP1U
- Graphics display data ROM: GDT0L, GDT0U, GDT1L, GDT1U, GD0L, GD0U, GD1L, GD1U
- 2D graphics: Namco NB1 sprite system
- OSC for other two boards: 20 MHz and 38.8 MHz
- RAM chips for other two boards: 10x HM62256, 4x 84256, 5x CY7C128, 4x M5M5178
- Other custom Namco chips: C355, 187, 138, 165
Other chips: 16x 157, 2x L7A0564, MB8422-90LP, L7A0565 316, 150, 167
A precursor to Ridge Racer's full-scale deluxe cabinet, Winning Run featured a special deluxe cabinet, a full-scale ride-in simulator. It was a hydraulic motion-controlled cabinet, where the entire cabinet moved to match the car's on-screen actions.
The game's revolutionary 3D graphics as well as the gameplay were very well received at the time, with British magazine CVG (Computer & Video Games) in particular writing the following:
"The graphics are simply stunning, with a Polymiser system used to give the most impressive 3D graphics yet seen. There are tunnels, hills, ancoves—and just about everything you'd expect to find on a real race track. The game ‘feels’ incredible too, with superb handling and feedback as you skid, countersteer and bump on the kerbs. Winning Run is easily the best racing game yet seen—it’s thoroughly realistic and totally exhilarating."