Now, courtesy of an anonymous donor, please welcome our new video game, Sim-Sim.
Never played SimCity? What about SimAnt, SimPark, SimHealth, SimEarth, SimLife … you get where I’m going here. For every FIFA game ever made, there seems to of been a Sim game of some description. Unlike FIFA, each Sim title felt singularly unique upon release up until the turn of the century. SimCity is the acorn of a video game archetype that spawned a legacy. It was the brainchild of American, Will Wright, whose finely crafted city simulator, designed in the mid-1980s was ported to a variety of formats, amongst them fortunately, the Super Nintendo in 1991. It was to capture a large audience of video game fandom over the years and is still greatly admired to this day. The most obvious thing people notice is that SimCity is a game that rejects the controlled and often directed experiences of many genres of the mainstream and instead embraces construction and creation as a defined play mechanic. While it may not seem groundbreaking today, in the 80s and early 90s, this was pioneering.
So how does the Super Nintendo version shape up? Well quite nicely as it happens. I cannot emphasize enough just how well the balanced sense of challenge and simple button navigation allows the player to dive right in from the onset. The button layouts and controls are very quick to gather. Additionally, the general gameplay can be picked up in minutes and once you start, it can be easy to lose hours in the game if not paying attention.
As one of the first wave titles available on the SNES, it should be noted that visually it doesn’t look overly impressive or even interesting to begin with. The actual game is viewed from a bird’s eye view wherein the graphics are best described as rudimentary. Though this is somewhat expected, everything throughout the game appears bright and clear. It has to be said that the buildings are also nicely detailed throughout their development.
The sound department is slightly underwhelming. After a fairly pleasant title sequence, several samey tunes play throughout the menu screens and main game. For the first half hour they don’t seem that bad but after a while they get repetitive and could become annoying. Thankfully these minor negatives are overshadowed by the level of playability and addictiveness.
There are two types of game to choose from on the main menu: New City or Scenario. In Scenario mode you are tasked with saving a pre-built specific city from disaster; be it Tokyo from a Godzilla-type monster who looks ominously like Bowser, Detroit and its high pollution etc. These are surprisingly challenging and offer a change of pace if you get tired of the main game mode. There are a number of these scenarios but you will probably not find yourself drawn to these for very long. No, it’s the New City option that lets you become Mayor of a fledgling community and begin life as a planner. While all new games of SimCity start with effectively a blank canvas with which to mold your own vision using the tools provided, there are infinite variations shaped by the choices you decide to make throughout play. The game always starts in January in the year 1900 and carries onward from there. You can alter the pace of time, even to a stop, but at the end of the year you will get a brief summary of how things are going and you can set your funds for the various powers at your disposal. By creating a power source and using various commercial, residential and industrial zones from the start, you will open up lots of options to expand your utopia. Banks, zoos, amusement parks, airports and football stadiums are just a few of the extras you can discover. And therein lays a large part of the entertainment. You don’t have to limit yourself to just trying to ‘beat the game’. Can you get a handle on the high crime rate? Do you wish to have lots of parkland for cleaner air or try for huge skyscrapers for more citizen contributions? Want to give everyone a tax exemption to improve public opinion? You can experiment and apply numerous strategies, figure out what works and what doesn’t, leading eventually to master and control your community with a feeling of satisfaction. In every sense you create your own goals.
In closing I truly have to give the developers huge credit for squeezing the most out of a measly four megabits. As a light strategy/simulation game, it serves its purpose most admirably. Despite its portrayal being extremely simple compared to life as we live it; SimCity was far more flexible and open-ended than most games upon release. While it has undoubtedly been superseded by its sequels and various clones in terms of the depth and variety of gameplay, the SNES offering of SimCity is quite possibly the most user-friendly you will find. Such non-fussiness and ease of use make it an excellent choice of strategy game for everyone who owns a Super Nintendo. Even with the upward spike in SNES video game prices, it remains possible to obtain a complete copy of SimCity for as little as $10.00. There’s really no excuse to not get your Mayor’s ‘sash on and give it a try.
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