This year we learned that a long-lost version of the classic gaming series SimCity originally intended for the NES, had come from the Nintendo archives into the hands of collectors. This story received a decent Christmas update this week in the form of a massive data dump of stories, videos and, perhaps most importantly, a ROM download of the working, incomplete game.
Frank Cifaldi, founder of the non-organization -Profit Video Game History Foundation, has published the full story on Tuesday. There is a lot of catching up to do with how this SimCity version SimCity was created, and Cifaldi breaks down some important stories, including the origins of SimCity as Nintendo got involved and the working relationship of the legends of the gaming industry Shigeru Miyamoto and Will Wright.
The article also summarizes the story Cifaldi shared at a game show earlier this year about how the prototype was discovered and how a VGHF member eventually bought one of two existing copies for this week's public data dump. The article makes it very clear that the NES version of SimCity is incomplete. Therefore, videos and explanations are probably an easier way to explore the game than trying to load it yourself. Mistakes in accounting and mathematics lead to interesting duplicates: their cities are developing much more slowly than in the Super Nintendo version, but on the positive side, any accumulated city debt is somehow converted into cash.
If you still want to imitate it, be warned: SimCity for the NES was developed for the system's "MMC5" chipset and some emulators, including those standard with the NES Classic do not emulate ROMs intended for this parent chipset.
Analyzing the code and assets of the game reveals some surprises, including a completely original soundtrack, the songs of which were never used in any other Nintendo game (save a theme in [SuperCint] Version of SimCity has made). Animations and tiles indicate more complicated city sim systems that would eventually have come into play after the game's completion, while unused animations by the mascot / assistant of the game, dr. Wright, pointing to more playful moments that could be implemented
The disassembly team made great efforts to confirm the rumor that this was the last NES version of the game Nintendo had ever developed. An example was an analysis of all public screenshots of this game that existed before their discovery. Cifaldi and his team are convinced that they have a version identical to the one shown briefly at the 1991 Consumer Electronics Show.
Cifaldi concludes his article by pointing out that the NES version is being adequately cleaned up by the SimCity open source legitimate game project. "Dismantling is already having all the improvements," Cifaldi told Ars via email, encouraging us to flick through the notes in this repos to see what has already been changed and addressed over the months since the ROM was originally shared among a smaller one Group of VGHF cohorts along with a number of bugs that still need to be addressed. At the time of going to print, working on the corrections to the game seems to be attributable solely to one contributor.
If you would like to join in this effort, you'll find nearly 2 MB of the disassembled source of the game as part of the download the VGHF has provided on archive.org. (We recommend relieving the non-profit organizations' servers by using the torrent file at this link.) Although Nintendo regularly plays its legal muscle in ROM distribution, this is a relatively unique example of completely abandoned, incomplete software from Nintendo made available for digital preservation. Whether this raises Nintendo's notoriously legal legal eyebrows remains to be seen. We have contacted VGHF and Nintendo to seek their perspective on this issue and will update this report with each response.
. Picture of Nintendo / Maxis