Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

SimCity Review

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SimCity_Classic_cover_artPlatform: PC (but was ported to almost everything)
Released: 1989
Developer: Maxis
Publisher: Maxis (later part of EA before closing this year)
Digital Release? Yes, far too many to count

 

 

simcity1With the regretful closing of Maxis this year and the recent discussions of the value of city simulation games, I thought it was appropriate to return to Will Wright’s massively successful city simulation game that started it all.  Although this game was not the first of Wright’s, that was a so-so top down shooter called Raid on Bungeling Bay for the Commodore 64 in 1984, this seemingly tame and rote concept came from that initial title when Wright was developing map builders for its levels.  From there a few engineering books and some other research led to the genesis of Micropolis, the game about miniature versions of cities and managing the development and monthly activities.  The title was supposed to release years earlier on the Commodore 64 by publisher Broderbund, who had handled Bungeling Bay, but they could not see the value in trying to market and sell a game like this – I wouldn’t have either – so it remained unreleased.  It wasn’t until the late 80s that Wright had a meeting with Maxis founder Jeff Braun and secured the license for a Macintosh port that eventually released in 1989.

simcity2At first glance the concept of SimCity seems quite simple: build and maintain a city as a city planner and make sure all the needs are met.  These requirements come in basic forms as the development of buildings, residential zones, industrial parks, business and recreational districts, roads, communication, and more.  While you are handling all the hustle and bustle of a growing city, many other considerations make their way including budget (and taxes), crime, the well being of the citizens known as “sims” (which will clearly gain popularity in another Maxis series), and my personal favorite the natural disaster.  What starts off as a basic grid-based creation system quickly becomes a game of juggling that would be appropriately scored by Flight of the Bumblebee all while you try not to have a heart attack over the problems you face with a city.  There are even specific map types like building on a peninsula or pre-made scenarios like dealing with Detroit in 1972 at the peak of crime while industries crumble and Japan in 1961 when, get this, a large monster not unlike Godzilla attacks.  Needless to say, it seems unassuming at first but like most phenomenon games it quickly becomes a form of addiction that I can openly admit I suffered in the mid 90s when I was first introduced to it.

simcity_snesAfter finding a home on the Mac and then being ported to just about every computer and microcomputer the world had to offer, including an IBM-Compatible version that supported all kinds of newer resolution and color types as well as the Windows version that introduced the first level editor.  It was only a matter of time before someone tried to bring it to console.  The first issue is that the cursor friendly interface was much better suited to a mouse as opposed to a controller, although it’s still a lot smoother than trying to port that interface these days, and there were even scrapped versions in the early 90s for the NES/Famicom and the MSX.  It wasn’t until 1991 (1992 in Europe) that the Super Nintendo Entertainment System premiered SimCity for the first time on home consoles and it was developed and published by Nintendo of all companies.  This allowed for a hefty dose of Nintendo-themed content like Mario statues erected in a city over 500,000 people, Bowser as the Godzilla-like monster, and a fresh soundtrack composed by Soyo Oka (Super Mario Kart and I personally loved his Ice Hockey music on the NES).  Understandably with the flood gates open, the later ports to other computers (like Windows 95 PCs) and consoles (Nintendo 64) all combined to make for one hell of a run for this seemingly obtuse city simulation game.  SimCity would also spawn a handful of sequels that also shared time with both computer and console gamers alike as well.

From the humble beginnings as Micropolis, which did have its source code eventually released as open source software, to the sequel and spin-off cranking SimCity franchise, Maxis and Wright were set for life with this unassuming and addicting game.  Even now I can’t help but think about the quirky off-shoot games like SimAnt or SimEarth (both on the SNES as well, although a bit rare) and eventually I will do the still impressive Sim City 2000 when I get the courage.  In the meantime, if you have never given yourself the pleasure of experiencing the original SimCity, now is definitely the time.  It still holds up today and can be found on everything from any cell phone to just about all other devices available to consumers that can run games – your refrigerator probably plays it if it’s new enough.  It’s one of those long lasting concepts that while it didn’t sustain the future, is a great representation of the past.

Final Score: 4 out of 5  (review policy)

Written by Fred Rojas

March 20, 2015 at 4:45 pm

Posted in PC/Mac, Reviews, SNES

Tagged with , , ,

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