Many moons ago, my Father returned from hunting the wild boar that roamed the region with a fresh kill slung over his shoulders and a Super Nintendo in his hands. Okay, maybe there was no boar, or any hunting for that matter, but it was still several lunar cycles ago.
I still remember the games that he bought at the system’s launch: Super Mario World, Pilotwings, F-Zero, and SimCity. For the first few weeks, we all huddled around the TV and watched Mario run, jump, and even fly in 16 glorious bits. The other three titles were greatly enjoyed as well, save for SimCity. We dabbled with the city simulator, and found it to be a quirky game, but ultimately boring in comparison to sky diving onto an oil rig and driving rocket cars in the future. And so it sat in our little television cabinet for some time, until one year, my sister and I pulled the old title out, and discovered the joy that came with building your own society.
Now, some of you may have played SimCity before it came to the Super Nintendo. The game was originally released in 1989 for the PC and several older consoles (including the Atari ST and the Commodore 64). For our Family, this odd title didn’t exist until it hit the Super Nintendo in 1991. The game was mostly unchanged in concept: you are the mayor in charge of founding and building a new city. You are given start-up funds, and encouraged to build a village where people can come to live. Over time, you will gain more money through generous civil donations (read: taxes) and these funds can be used to enhance and promote your village into a town, your town into a city, and eventually, your city into a bustling metropolis!
To their version, Nintendo made a few cosmetic changes. First, there were some graphical touch-ups and a new soundtrack was produced for the game. There were additional scenarios, as well as a few new buildings (including a giant Mario statue given as a gift to a thriving city). But the biggest change to SimCity came in the form of Dr. Wright, a green-haired city planner who gives you advice through the course of your mayoral term (which is forever). I feel a bit silly for only recently putting together that the character’s name comes from the creator of SimCity, Will Wright, but let’s quickly move on.
The other major change for SimCity’s jump to the Super Nintendo can be seen in the Scenario Mode of gameplay. In this mode, the player takes control of an established city, and prepares for a natural disaster to strike. The goal of each scenario varies in specifics, but the general task is to save the city from impending doom. Some scenarios are reflections of the past (the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906), while some scenarios present possible futures (coastal flooding of Rio De Janeiro in 2047). The Nintendo specific scenario comes in the form of a giant radioactive reptile attacking the city of Tokyo in 1961. For the computer, the scenario has Godzilla mindlessly rampaging through the Japanese capital, for the SNES, it was none other than Bowser, the King of Koopas. It is said that the true test of a great leader is how they react in times of crisis. To this monstrous lizard, my sister and I did what any good leader would do: panic and try to set buildings on top of Bowser to crush him to death. When that brilliant and foolproof plan failed, we decided if we couldn’t have the city, neither could he! So we just bulldozed the city to the ground, quit the scenario and started our own town.
Some of my fuzziest memories come from playing video games with my sister. With games like Kirby Super Star, we would get so excited and caught up in playing as our digital counterparts frantically ate their way to victory. But whenever we would settle down to play SimCity, it was like we had all the time in the world to just relax and hang out. Establishing a city, constructing roads and telephone lines, watching little cars and people bustle back and forth; these were all just peripheral details. The true fun of SimCity for me was being able to just sit down and spend time with my awesome little sister.
But I guess watching a digital tornado tear a path through a city was cool too.