A lot of you are probably aware of Nintendo’s remarkable rendition of SimCity for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The cartridge launched alongside the system here in the United States, and brought the popular PC game to a brand new console audience. But did you know that Nintendo’s version of SimCity actually started life on the original 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System?
This version of the game was announced at the same time as its 16-bit cousin, and was said to contain all of its same features. It made a brief appearance at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show in 1991, but was canceled soon after, and was never seen again.
This version of the game was thought to be completely lost or, at best, confined to some deep dark archive inside of Nintendo’s offices. Either way, the game was seen as something of a Holy Grail among collectors and archivists alike, and the odds of ever seeing it outside of a handful of published screenshots seemed slim, until a cartridge containing an unfinished version of the game materialized at 2017’s Portland Retro Gaming Expo.
At a glance, the game doesn’t look like much more than an inferior version of the SimCity we saw on the Super Nintendo. However, once put into context, this artifact becomes extraordinary, and gives us new insight into one of the most unlikely creative collaborations in video game history.
And on that note, there’s actually a lot of unused information in the ROM itself that is never accessed through normal gameplay. There may be more unused art in this ROM file than in any known commercial NES game. This is really exciting. Not only do we have a rough draft of the Wright-Miyamoto collaborative take on SimCity, we also have glimpses into even earlier ideas.
From the archiving of the game to the interpretation of its worth and everything in-between, the story of SimCity for the NES – a game that could easily have been lost forever – could only be told thanks to the combined work of archivists, historians, collectors, and financial benefactors working together.
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