SimCity Super NES Guide: Section 2

Section 2: Finding SimCity SNES

Considering SimCity was released over 20 years ago, you can rule out finding a new-in-box copy of the SuperNES cartridge.  But, it’s still pretty easy to get your hands on this game one way or another.  You can scour stores and web sites for a used cartridge, of you can simply download to play on a Nintendo Wii console.

Have a Wii or Wii U?

Updated June 2014: SimCity was once, but is no longer available for download through the Wii’s “Virtual Console” feature.  After noticing a recent uptick in site traffic, I just decided to see if SimCity is still available in the Wii Shop Channel; it is not.

Worth nothing: Other previous Wii Virtual Console purchases of mine still show up in the Wii Shop Channel.  In place of a price, they either display “downloaded” if they are still present on the system, or “redownloadable” if I had deleted them.  Nintendo has always allowed players to redownload previously-purchased-and-deleted titles for free, knowing that players may sometimes need to delete games to free-up memory.  It appears that SimCity is an exception; if deleted, you may not be given the chance to redownload it.

So, if you didn’t get SimCity before it was removed from the Wii Shop Channel — or if you had it, but deleted it — looks like the Wii/Wii U option is now off the table.

But, if you downloaded SimCity while it was available and kept it, good news: If you get a Wii U, you can still play! Nintendo offers a free “transfer utility.” Simply download to both systems and let it rip.  It’ll move darn near everything — Miis, game save files, downloaded games, your Wii Menu layout — over to your Wii U.   (Note: this doesn’t mean you can use one Wii to copy SimCity to multiple Wii U machines — after all the data is moved to the Wii U, the transfer utility wipes the memory on the original Wii, so it’s like it had never been used before.)

Whether you’ve got SimCity on the Wii or WiiU, you’ll need a special controller, because the Wii remote doesn’t have as many buttons as the original SuperNES controller.  Although the WiiU gamepad does have all the right buttons, try it and you’ll get an error message informing you that “Wii software cannot be controlled with the Wii U GamePad.”)  You may have noticed that certain Wii Shop Channel games have been re-released through the Wii U’s eShop Channel, adding GamePad compatibility — but SimCity isn’t available there, either.  So, here are your options:

Wii Classic Controller

  • PROS:
    • Button layout is similar to that of the original SuperNES controller.
    • Connects to the standard Wii Remote, so you maintain wireless connectivity to the Wii console.
  • CONS:
    • Each Classic Controller will set you back about $20.  For SimCity, you only need one… unless you plan on accessing the Debug Menu. The secret code to enter the Debug Menu requires you to press buttons on the second controller.  (The original SuperNES came with two controllers, so when SimCity was created, this wasn’t expected to be a problem.)
    • Since the Classic Controller connects to your Wii Remote, it’s powered by the batteries in your Wii Remote.  (I use rechargeable batteries, so this isn’t a huge issue for me.)

Added June 2014: I don’t have a Wii U Pro Controller (too expensive and I don’t yet have any games where the Pro Controller would be worth the cost over my existing controllers)… so I don’t know if the Wii U Pro Controller can be used with SimCity… but I would imagine if the GamePad can’t be used, the Pro Controller won’t work, either.  If anyone can definitively confirm or deny, please email me.

GameCube ControllerNOTE added Feb 2012: Only “original” Wii consoles have ports for GameCube controllers.  Late in 2011, Nintendo started selling a modified version of the Wii console, with no GameCube support whatsoever.  The newer models look almost identical to the original, but they lack GameCube controller ports and memory card slots.

  • PROS:
    • GC controllers plug directly into the Wii, so you won’t drain your Wii Remote batteries.
    • If you already have a GameCube, you already have the controller(s), so you don’t need to spend money buying new controllers.
    • Even if you don’t have GameCube controllers, it shouldn’t be too hard to track down one or two.  It might be tough to find new ones made by Nintendo, but some third-party companies sell new ones.  You can also find plenty of used controllers online or in “retro” game stores.
  • CONS:
    • The button arrangement is much different than the SuperNES controller.
    • The SuperNES controller has a “Select” button but the GameCube controller doesn’t… instead, you have to remember to press “Z” on the GC controller to get the same results.
    • The first “pro” listed above is also a con: since you’ll be hardwired to the Wii console, you’ll have to be pretty close to the console while playing.  (Not sure if the wireless Wavebird controller works with a Wii, though I have no reason to believe it wouldn’t.)

Using a real SuperNES ControllerThere are a couple of people who make and sell devices which can connect an original SuperNES controller to the GameCube ports on the Wii.  (Again, because these options require GameCube ports, they are useless if you have the newer Wii model, which lacks GameCube controller ports.)I have not tried any of these products myself, but they seem pretty interesting.  I you insist on having the most “authentic” experience possible, without actually owning a SuperNES and tracking down a SimCity cartridge, this might be the way to go.

  • RetroZone sells cables which have a male GameCube end (for connecting to the Wii) and a female SuperNES end (for you to connect your own SuperNES controller).  They used to also sell SNES controllers which were wired for a direct connection to the Wii, but those appear to be gone now.
  • Raphael Assenat invented his own adapters so you can connect an original SuperNES controller to your Wii.  He sells the adapters pre-assembled, ready-to-go… or if you’ve got the skills and tools to do-it-yourself, he has posted the directions and wiring schematics are on his website, free.
In either case, not that you still need to supply your own SuperNES controller.  It can be an authentic Nintendo model or a third-party brand.

 Tracking Down Original SuperNES Cartridges

SimCity SNES Box

Finding the original SuperNES cartridge-based version of SimCity is no different than tracking down any other SuperNES game.  Here are some basic tips:

Check eBay – This might be the easiest way to find the game.  It’s almost always there, somewhere, but you might have to decide if it’s worth getting into a bidding war.  And watch out for buyers who add hefty shipping charges to the winning bid.

“Retro” game stores – Major national chains like GameStop usually limit their used game offerings to the newer platforms, so don’t expect to find any SuperNES games there.  But, if your area has any locally-owned retro game stores, check those out.  At least in my area, there are a few locally-owned shops and they DO carry games all the way back to the original NES (and earlier consoles like Coleco and Atari).  If they don’t have the game the first time you visit, you might need to check back periodically to see if someone else happened to sell a copy.  Some stores might be willing to take your name and call you if the game comes in.

Pawn Shops or “Comic Book” stores – Jeff Sichta from Omaha, NE, writes in to suggest pawn shops or comic book/gaming stores. But these stores sell more than just video games… so you may want to call ahead.  Even if you do, the staff likely aren’t video game experts, and the stores probably don’t keep a close inventory of their video games… so in the end, you might just have to go scour their stock in person anyway — and you still might come up empty-handed.

Thrift Stores – I never really went into thrift stores until a few Halloweens ago, when I was looking for the ugliest possible suit jacket I could find for a costume.  Surprisingly, every store I visited had old video games.  I didn’t catch any particularly eye-catching titles, but you never know until you stop in.  Again, it’s unlikely the store staff will be able to tell you if they have any copies of SimCity over the phone, so you’ll just have to go and look for it yourself.

Important! Remember, SuperNES games use an in-cartridge battery to save your progress.  Most of these batteries had a life expectancy of about 5 years.  SimCity was released in 1991.  Do the math.  If the battery isn’t already dead when you get the game, it may not last much longer.  Once the batteries die, no more save-file capability.  You’ll either need to leave the game in your SNES and leave it powered-on 24/7 or be prepared to start over from scratch every time you start the game.  Or, if you’re brave enough to perform some surgery on your game, here’s an article I found on how to replace the battery in an SNES cartridge.  I make no guarantee it actually works — just providing the link as a courtesy.

Emulate it.

The legality of using an emulator is questionable, so I’m not going to say much more about the topic.  The only reason I’m listing it is to avoid having people email me to “inform” me that I “forgot” to mention emulators.  Do not e-mail me about emulation — I will not respond to questions about emulators.

Questions?  E-mail me!