SimCity

SimCityThe Game: Players start with a blank slate of a land mass, a budget, and their hopes and dreams. The building of a city begins (usually with a power plant of some kind), a delicate attempt to balance residential, commercial, and industrial space, transportation systems, demands from the public, and tax rates. The city will flourish, stagnate, or empty out and completely fail depending upon the player’s mayoral choices. (Nintendo/Maxis, 1991)

Memories: SimCity started out as a computer game, with all that implies – mouse control, keystroke commands, and complexity that shouldn’t be that easy to boil down into console form. This console port for the SNES, published just a few years after the original DOS PC game’s popularity explosion, is more faithful to its source material than anyone had any reasonable chance to expect. Continue reading

Dune II: Battle On Arrakis

Dune IIThe Game: Three Houses – Atreides, Harkonnen and Ordos – converge on the planet Dune, intending to consolidate their power and eliminate one another from the business of mining the spice melange from the planet’s sandy surface. Players pick a House and then take command of both the mining and military efforts, directing and managing each, and facing stiff opposition from the other Houses. As long as spice is being extracted from Dune, the player can summon or build whatever resources are needed to continue the mission and crush the opposing forces. The only path to victory is the destruction of the other Houses and complete control of the planet. (1993, Westwood Studios / Virgin Interactive)

Memories: The first console adaptation of Westwood’s genre-defining point-and-click real time strategy game released in 1992, Dune II has a strong game as its inspiration and, on the Genesis, a decent platform to bring it to life. The only way Westwood could screw it up would be in the execution – mainly the user interface. Continue reading

Command & Conquer: Red Alert

Command & Conquer: Red AlertOrder this gameThe Game: It’s the Cold War all over again – but worse. Tampering with the timeline has wreaked immeasurable damage with the development of technology, and the result is a new wave of deadly weapons, including Tesla tanks and turrets (which discharge immense electrical energy at their opponents) and Chrono-tanks (which can shift their position on the map instantly for a brief time). You must build and protect your base, produce units necessary to defend and attack, and orchestrate an invasion of enemy territory – all while accumulating as few casualties as possible. (Electronic Arts [developed by Westwood Studios], 1996)

Memories: Westwood’s real-time strategy classic is a major evolutionary leap from the original Command & Conquer, with vast improvements in the artificial intelligence used by both your soldiers and by computer controlled enemies. And it’s a tough game! It’s pretty common practice for me, despite a couple of years of playing Dune 2000 (a later Westwood game which is built on the same engine as Red Alert), to build up quite a nice base and then get my ass kicked big time. Continue reading

Dune 2000

Dune 2000Dune 2000Order this gameThe Game: The Padishah Emperor has declared open season on the planet Arrakis – better known as Dune. With no rules and no limits, the Houses of Atreides, Harkonnen and Ordos are cordially invited to mine the precious Spice from Dune’s subsurface strata – and smash each other into smithereens with any and all weapons and technologies available. (Electronic Arts [developed by Westwood Studios], 1998)

Memories: Dune 2000 is an updated version of the Dune 2 computer game that has been around for a few years. I’ll warn you right now, and I’m only doing this See the videobecause I feel it’s a valid warning…Dune 2000 is extremely addictive. It’s right up there with SimCity and the Ultima games – proving that complex computer games can eat up just as much time as any ultra-simple arcade-style action game. Continue reading

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy – Strategic Command

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy - Strategic CommandOrder this gameThe Game: You’ve just embarked on the most challenging field of study at Starfleet Academy: Command College. Your instructor, the recently-promoted Captain Sulu (still two years away from his command of the U.S.S. Excelsior), arrives just a little bit late for his first lecture. Your initial missions include such tasks as destroying minefields, but your assignments soon grow in both complexity and risk. Not only must you battle alien threats in Starfleet’s most advanced simulator, but you must also get your crew to cooperate and learn how to lead them. (Interplay, 1998)

Memories: Though it’s mired in the mid-1990s trend of endless cutscenes and movies, inside Starfleet Academy is actually a fun little game, really more or less a 90s update of the old Star Trek arcade game with much flashier graphics (not the least of which is the full-motion video foreground of your crewmembers at the helm and at other stations) and a slightly different storyline. Continue reading

Star Trek: Starship Creator

Star Trek: Starship CreatorThe Game: Starfleet is looking for a few good Admirals. Despite the fact that these ubiquitous high-ranking officers are peppered liberally throughout the various Trek series, you’ve been recruited as one too – and your job is to be less Order this gameineffectual than most of the TV Admirals! You get to design, outfit and crew Federation starships to your specifications – within, of course, reasonable budgetary limits. Then dispatch your ships – one at a time, or an entire fleet – to do everything from study stellar anomalies to hold the line at the Cardassian border. The equipment you choose, as well as the interactions of the various crew members’ personalities, will play a part in the outcome of your fleet’s assignments. (Simon & Schuster Interactive, 1998)

Star Trek: Starship CreatorMemories: This sim-style game is almost exactly the same basic concept as the classic Apple II game Project Space Station, but in a science fiction setting. That game, too, put you in charge of designing, budgeting, populating and constructing a spacecraft. The only difference is that Starship Creator only allows you to monitor your ship’s activities from afar, not even able to advise. Project Space Station at least featured arcade-style segments in which you pilot space shuttles and construction pods. But if you give it any thought, Starship Creator is true to the Star Trek universe – you, the Admiral, are helpless to do anything but shake your head as those pesky, willful Captains in your fleet do their own creative rewriting of Starfleet regulations. Continue reading

One Piece Mansion

One Piece MansionOrder this gameThe Game: You control Polpo, the fleet-footed landlord of a bustling apartment building. Tenants come and tenants go, and as new ones move in you have to make sure they’re not getting on the nerves of their neighbors and potentially chasing away other paying tenants. You must also be wary of mischief-makers employed by a rival apartment complex, intruding on your property to drive your renters away. Successful management will lead to expansion of your apartment building, but losing track of what’s going on can leave you with an empty building, no matter how big it is. (Capcom, 2001)

Memories: In this era, where it seems like most new games fall into one of just a handful of popular genres (fighting, driving, first-person shooter, combat sim, etc.), it’s so refreshing to get a completely off-the-wall gem like this Japanese creation, which caught me completely off guard by (A) being translated to the U.S. market in the first place, and (B) being hilariously fun. The One Piece characters have a major cult following all their own in Japan, so this is just one of a series of games in that country. Over here, it’s a one-off oddity, but its simple, strategic, addictive style warrants repeat play. Continue reading

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