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NES Sim City
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[i am a wootest]
NES Sim City!

You all know the SNES version of Sim City, right? RIGHT?? Yep, thought so. Well, I don't know if you know this or not, but that Sim City was originally going to be on the NES. That's right, an NES version of Sim City! Probably a large amount of you are saying "big freaking deal, weirdo", to which I have to say "I'm telling on you!!! ;_;"

Ok, so I've known about this NES version of Sim City for a while. I didn't know much about it, but it was interesting for a while. Then I found this picture somewhere on Chris Covell's website, which I edited to show only the part about Sim City:

That made my interest skyrocket! A screenshot of NES Sim City!! I know, I know, "big freaking deal", right? Well let's take a look here... The menu's showing... there probably isn't a way to hide it. I'm wondering how this thing would scroll the city around. To be honest, I think this game would have to use the MMC5 mapper. If you think about Sim City, graphically, each 8x8 tile would need to have its own palette attribute. The NES alone cannot support this, since the palette attribute spans an area of 16x16, instead of 8x8. MMC5 can support this, so there we go. Another thing are the toolbars. It's easy to display a toolbar on the top of the screen, no problem, but check out that side toolbar! Seeing as how the city is much bigger than what's displayed, the city region of the screen would need to be able to scroll, so either the game would have to manually update that region of the screen each time you scroll (ugly), or you could just split the screen vertically, so one nametable would have the city, and the other nametable would have the toolbars. Unfortunately, to split the screen vertically means you need really amazingly perfect timing, as you'd need to split the screen mid-way through a scanline, and back again. Luckily, MMC5 can handle this, leaving the CPU more processing time to get on with the game. Neat!

Technical aspects aside, let's look at the graphics. I placed the same image again here, so you don't have to keep scrolling up and down to look. I can see a nuclear powerplant, what looks like an airport, a stadium, a few... zoned areas of which I don't know what they're zoned to, a seaport, and half of a police and fire department. The interesting this is that the police departments and the fire departments seem to only have a P or an F, instead of a PD and an FD, unless that's some kind of graphical glitch, which I kinda doubt, seeing as how the seaport is also displayed correctly on that column. Do I see two hands on there? It seems that when you bring up a menu, the hand would stay there, a window would pop up, and another hand would appear in the window to select. Why does it appear in the lower right corner, away from the toolbars though?

Like I said, each individual tile would need to be able to have a palette attribute, and since the NES only allows 4 different palettes to be selected for the nametable, there's not much choice here. I think it's time I reveal another picture, which I found in an article at NESWorld:

Little worse quality, but eh, deal with it. In this picture, it looks like there's a flood or something taking place. You can also see what some zoned areas look like when there's no development on them. It looks like residential is red, and commercial is blue, just like in the SNES version, but industrial looks like it's green, instead of yellow. Thus, I think the palettes on the NES would have to be something like this:

tan, red, white, black
tan, blue, white or light blue, black
tan, green, white, black
tan, grey, white, black

The commercial palette is shared with the water palette, since it's blue, duh. Interestingly enough, when there's a flood, it looks like the white in the blue palette is changed to light blue, so that you get shallow water or something. Either that, or it's always light blue, and the pictures just differ in quality enough to make it look like it changes.

I can't tell what the graphics are based on. The power plant's silos are leaning to the right, instead of to the left (SNES version). The stadium has the same general look to it, whereas in the PC versions of Sim City, the stadium has a parking lot and the NES/SNES versions don't. The SNES version's zones are tan, with an outline and a letter that corresponds to the color of the zone type. In this nes version, it's the opposite, it's a colored square of the color of the zone, with a tan outline and letter, except for those commercial zones, which it looks like it's light blue. Maybe it's white instead of tan. No idea, I need better quality scans before I'll know. Here is another picture I found in the same article at NESWorld:

It looks like the main menu! After pressing start at the title screen, I guess this is what you see. An option to start a new city, to resume a saved city, or to select a scenario. This game would need to be battery-backed, because of the apparent save option. Hey, MMC5 can handle that! Ok, let's see here. We have 8 scenarios...

Dullesville, San Francisco, Hamburg, Bern
Tokyo, Detroit, Boston, Rio de Janeiro

It looks like the objective of each scenario is the same as the PC counterparts. It looks like the icons of each scenario isn't a picture of the disaster or whatever, but actually a thumbnail picture of the city's overall map, itself.

I wish that the NES version was actually released. One thing that would be good about it is the fact that it'd be a bit easier to emulate on NES emulators, instead of SNES emulators, when you're emulating it on a handheld system, that is. Another thing is the fact that this looks so different... why not? It's interesting, nonetheless. Apparently Nintendo Power found what probably is the only development cart of this game in existance, and they reported on it in the July 2005 issue of Nintendo Power. I don't have this issue, so I can't scan any images or talk about it or anything, unless I find it online somewhere.

I'll update this article if I find more info on NES Sim City, but until then, that's all.

Update 1:
Thanks to bbitmaster for pointing out that there are similarities between the old DOS version of Sim City, and the NES version. Makes sense, but seeing as how many different versions of Sim City there were, I couldn't really pinpoint one. For one thing, the scenario screen on the dos version shows a map of the city, much like how the NES version does. The toolbar is on the left side of the screen, and there are the menu options and info bars on the top, but granted they're ordered a bit differently.

I ran DOS Sim City in low resolution EGA mode, since it looks closer to the console versions that way. Some differences and similarities here and there. Let's see... the NES version copies the PC's sidebar pretty closely, merging seaport and airport to allow for the gift button. The pulldown menu is turned into a toolbar menu, the titlebar of the window in the PC version is at the top of the NES version. PC Sim City doesn't give you a population count, there's a seperate program (census.exe) if you want that, but there's no ingame running count. NES version has that because it's useful. Money is moved to the right, and that statusbar is moved underneath your money. The marquee that complains about stuff was probably at the bottom of the screen, and popped up with the full message, like in the SNES version. It also might show up in the space between the toolbar and the city name, but that wouldn't look very nice. SNES version flips railroad and powerline buttons for some reason, split up the power plant button, and split up the airport and seaport button that was merged. Somewhere among all of this, they must've redrawn the graphics at least twice. An ambitious nes dev project could be to recreate this, but I'm not sure if there'd be enough asm programmers with enough will and ambition to actually do that.

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