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The Video Game History Foundation has done the world a great service this Christmas by making a playable ROM of the NES prototype SimCity available to the public. Originally thought to be lost to the world, the unfinished game was last seen by playtesters at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show in 1991 before it was quietly cancelled. Twenty-six years later in 2017, two playable cartridges surfaced at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, one of them labeled with a build date of December 20, 1990. One of the cartridges was sold to a collector, with the other remaining with the original owner. The Video Game History Foundation also struck a deal with the owner to create a digital copy of the game, in order to archive it.

The Video Game History Foundation has spent the last several months painstakingly combing through SimCity for NES, noting any changes, omissions, or other oddities in the game compared to its SNES and PC counterparts. There are small bits here and there that are different, or even exclusive to the NES version, including a design for Dr. Wright that was previously only seen in US marketing for SimCity on SNES, with darker tones and a traditional necktie, rather than a bow tie. Bowser is also missing from the monster attack scenarios, instead the game displays a generic monster during attacks.

There are also several things missing from the NES version, it is incomplete, after all. There are sprites and tiles associated with certain scenarios from the SNES version, such as UFOs, but they aren’t attached to anything in this prototype. Some of these extra tiles are also absent from any other builds of SimCity on any platform, implying that certain other additions were planned for Nintendo’s version of SimCity before they were scrapped. The NES version also has some screwy math when it comes to certain property values, and actually discourage from building and of the present tiles, like amusement parks and train stations. There’s also a glitch that allows for some easy infinite money at the end of an in-game year, but may have been a feature left in for the purpose of demoing the game.

There is also a project in the works by a friend of the Video Game History Foundation, CaH4e3 (pronounced Sanchez) to dig through the game files and start restoring cut features and fix bugs in the build. As mentioned up top, the Foundation has also made a playable ROM available to the public for any and all who are interested in trying out the NES prototype of the game that launched the city builder genre. You can read more about how SimCity was archived by visiting The Video Game History Foundation’s web-page here.

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Written by Jaxson Tapp

As a lover of gaming and the written word, Jaxson currently fills his time not only with playing games, but also writing about them. Ready for anything, Jaxson’s passion for puzzle games, JRPGs, tough platformers, and whimsical indies helps him bring a well-rounded opinion to Nintendo Wire’s reporting.