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'SimCity' is a classic computer game from Maxis (at the time, the psuedonym of Will Wright), released in 1989 for the PC, Macintosh, Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, and - impressively - the Sinclair Spectrum and Commodore C64, and also the SNES, as mentioned in the next writeup.

The game involved creating a city from generic city blocks - industrial, commercial and residental areas for your citizens, plus utilities and special items such as American football stadia - with the goal of allowing your citizens to be happy, productive, free of crime and pollution. No matter how well you laid the city, no matter which fashionable theories of social engineering you applied, the people - the god-damn beautiful people - always messed it up, with traffic jams and ungrateful cretins who complained about tax, in which case you could have great fun demolishing their power stations and setting a 'large reptilian creature' (definitely not Godzilla, who had to be removed from the box art after complaints from Toho) on them. The moral of SimCity is that of tank warfare; people are greasy stains on the radiant machine.

As with the similar Missile Command, SimCity is ultimately a demoralising experience; even if one could create a stable, utopian society, just for one day, it would require constant superhuman effort to keep it that way - and in the end the city is limited in size by the edges of the playfield. The only solution would be to deliberately limit the size of one's city, but this runs contrary to human nature, which has exhibited a rapacious desire to expand and consume since the beginning of time. Thus, the two fundamental political models are exposed; on the one hand, unfettered expansion, liberty, and a large, mostly miserable population, and on the other hand rigid order and discipline and... well, there's no downside to that, except that human nature being what it is, the weeds would poke through the concrete eventually. No matter the disinfectant used, the soil would break through. Only when all is light and heat will the evil perish; the sun is god.

As a further kick in the teeth, it does not take a leap of the imagination to picture one's own government - indeed, one's God - viewing its domain with the same uncaring gaze as the player of SimCity. Each of the specks that represents a traffic jam must represent a thousand people - they live their lives and die in an instant, mattering not a jot to the authorities, and are buried in graveyards which are in turn built over and erased by the shifting city. 'Beneath the pavement, a beach' - and beneath the beach, thousands of corpses, a hundred miles of granite and iron and a hellish inferno. Each of us is a city, with beaches and iron and granite, and our souls are on fire.

As with us all SimCity was eventually made obsolete, with the next generation 'SimCity 2000', which could do all that Sim City could do and more, with nicer graphics and a lady saying 'reticulating splines'.

SimCity was inspired heavily by the works of Jay W. Forrester at MIT; a commercial gamble, the game was a huge hit, heralding a new genre - the 'Software Toy' - that, despite the best efforts of Maxis, failed to materialise. 'Sim Ant', 'Sim Tower' and othet 'Sim' titles came and went, bankrolled by sequels to SimCity, before Maxis struck even more gold with 'The Sims'.

In Europe SimCity was sold as Sim City, with a space, the reasons for which are no doubt lost in the mists of time.

Nintendo and Maxis teamed up in 1991 to bring SimCity to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The game was one of the Super NES's launch titles and became one of the first success stories on the console.

The Nintendo version of the game remained true to the original, although it did improve the graphics and provide a memorable music score. As always, players could place different zones - a 3x3 block of Residential, Commercial, or Industrial spaces - and businesses and homes would move into the spaces if the conditions were right. The Airport, Seaport, and Stadium were also included, although they were of an irregular size and did not fit into the 3x3 blocks that made up most areas of a city. Of course there was also the Police Station, Fire Department, roads, and other items that made the game a classic in the first place.

There were some new additions to the SimCity formula in this release. In the Disasters category you'll find that the Godzillaesque monster has been replaced by the King of the Koopa Troop himself, Bowser. A green-haired man by the name of Dr. Wright (no relation to the creator of Mega Man) could be summoned to offer advice on current crises and situations. Every so often when the correct conditions had been met the good doctor would present a gift building to be placed wherever one pleased. Gifts include...

  • Mayor's House
  • Bank (borrow money if needed)
  • Casino (provides income, but raises crime nearby)
  • Amusement Park (boosts Residential and Commercial zones)
  • Police HQ/Fire HQ (provides greater Fire and Police protection)
  • Zoo (Kids in the Residential zones love a zoo!)
  • Windmill (a gift from a sister city)
  • Mario Statue (commemorates reaching 500,000 residents)
  • Landfill (place this blank 3x3 block over water to create new land)
  • Park (a 3x3 block of greenspace)
The game also includes the now-famous scenarios where players must beat back crime, pollution, floods, and UFO attacks. Completing all the scenarios unlocks Freeland, a landform totally devoid of water and featuring trees that have grown to shape Mario's face. The cartridge allowed two seperate cities to be saved at a time in a standard battery pak (including scenarios). Yerricde tells me that the Super NES version runs its simulation quite a bit slower than the Mac and PC versions because of the slower CPU (3.6 MHz 65c816)

The Super NES rendition of SimCity is a true classic and should not be missed by fans of the series, especially those out there who feel they've mastered all the original rendition of the game has to offer. The game can be found these days at online auctions and used game stores, although it is fully emulatable if you should find the ROM. Note that other Sim games, including SimCity 2000 and SimEarth, were ported to the Super NES without Nintendo's input, so they lack the overall fun and enjoyment of this title. Nintendo did coproduce a sequel in 1999 for the 64DD machine, SimCity 64, but it was only released in Japan to mixed reviews.

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