This year, we learned that a long-standing version of the classic game series SimCity originally intended for NES, had found its way from Nintendo's archives to collectors' hands. This story has a steady Christmas update this week in the form of a comprehensive data dump, complete with stories, videos and perhaps most importantly – a ROM download of the working, incomplete game.
Frank Cifaldi, founder of the non-profit Video Game History Foundation, posted the whole story on Tuesday. There is a great deal to be done about how this version of the SimCity version is to come, and Cifaldi breaks down some important stories, including the origins of SimCity how Nintendo got involved and the collaboration between the gaming industry legends Shigeru Miyamoto and Will Wright.
The post also takes up the story Cifaldi told at a game show earlier this year how the prototype was discovered and how a VGHF member eventually bought one of two existing copies for this week's public data tank. The article makes it clear that SimCity its NES version is incomplete, and as a result, the videos and explanations are undoubtedly an easier way to explore the game than to try to load it yourself. Accounting and math errors lead to an interesting one-two kind of glitches: Your cities will develop much slower than the Super Nintendo version, but on the strong side, any accumulated city debt will turn into cash for some reason.
If you want to emulate it anyway, be warned: NC's SimCity was designed for the system's "MMC5" cartridge chipset and some emulators, including the one that comes standard with NES Classic
It's in code
Analysis of the game code and asset reveals some surprises, including a completely original audio track whose songs were never used in another Nintendo game (create a theme that made it SimCity s Super Nintendo version). Animations and tile hints on more complicated city-sim systems that had finally made it to the game, had it been completed, while unused animations of the game's mascot / assistant, Dr. Wright, hinted at several playful moments that could have been implemented.
The dismantling team went a long way to confirming the rumor that this was the final NES version of the game Nintendo had developed. An example was an analysis of all public screens of this game that had existed before they were found. By breaking these down, Cifaldi and his team feel that they have a version that is identical to that shown at the 1991 Consumer Electronics Show.
Cifaldi concludes his article by pointing out continuous efforts to get this NES version cleaned up enough for legitimate play via the SimCity Open Source Project. "The dismantling has all the improvements in it already," Cifaldi told Ars via email, and he encouraged us to review the repo notes to see what has already changed and addressed in the months since the ROM was originally shared by a smaller group of VGHF cohorts, along with a large number of bugs that still need fixing. As a press time, it seems that the work on the game's corrections is due to one contributor.
If you want to participate in this bet, you can find nearly 2 MB of the game's disassembled source as part of the download made by VGHF at archive.org. (We recommend that the savings of the servers to the profits be spread a little by grabbing the torrent file on that link.) Although Nintendo has regularly weakened its legal muscles on ROM deployment, this is a relatively unique example of completely abandoned, incomplete Nintendo software available for digital preservation. Whether traveling Nintendo's infamous legal legal eyebrows, remains to be seen. We have reached out to VGHF and Nintendo to seek their perspective on that issue and will update this report with some answer.
Image of Nintendo / Maxis