Best and worst Shin Megami Tensei covers

It is no secret that I like the Megaten series.  I’ve reviewed several titles in the series in these pages, and I have played more still.  One aspect of the series I haven’t said much about, though, is the visual design.  Kazuma Kaneko is responsible for most of the look of the mainline SMT games and many of its spinoffs.  Most of the demon designs he came up with 25 years ago are still used in the series to this day, and they all look great.  A lot of the covers look great too.  But some of them aren’t so great!  Some of them are kind of shitty.  Usually the western covers.  Yeah yeah, I’m a weeb, I know.  Fuck off.

Shin Megami Tensei III is one of my favorite games.  The Japanese cover is nice too: silent player character Demi-fiend’s face superimposed in blue.  Very cool and stylish.

The North American cover moves the title to the top, blows up the Nocturne subtitle, and removes the III (we didn’t get SMT I or II, so this choice makes sense.)  It also changes the primary color from blue to red and stamps a pentgram on the front.  Because this game is hardcore and about demons, and it has to be red and have devil symbols.

The European cover beats all the others though.  Totally different, with a picture of Demi-fiend about to fire a Freikugel out of his forehead.  But forget him – check out Dante in the background!!!  Yes, Dante from the Devil May Cry series is here, with his cool dual wielded pistols and cool dialogue.  Dante is in the game for about 0.06 percent of the story and really has nothing to do with the story even, having been shoehorned into the Maniacs edition of the game that was released as Nocturne/Lucifer’s Call in the West.  In case you were wondering, this European SMT III cover is the source of that “featuring Dante from the Devil May Cry series” meme.

Let’s not mention the fact that the subtitle Lucifer’s Call is a massive honking spoiler in itself.

If you live in the US, chances are good your first SMT was a Persona game.  However, it was probably not Persona, released on the PSX in Japan and later NA (and EU?)  SMT was almost unknown in the West at the time.  So the nice subtle JP cover above, featuring the faces of the silent protagonist and his shadow self, would not work for Western audiences, right?

In a wonderful example of the angry Kirby effect, the NA cover of Persona features a huge scary evil-looking demon.  With a cross on the front for seemingly no reason.  We have to make this weird anime high school demon-summoning game appeal to the kids after all.  And the kids like Marilyn Manson and that kind of shit.  Too bad it didn’t quite work, because Megaten didn’t really start to break out in the West until Persona 3 in 2006.

The NA cover of Persona is a good hint to how the localizers treated the game as a whole: they mangled the fuck out of it.  They did their best to westernize the game down to badly recoloring the characters and changing their names.  They even removed an entire sidequest out of fear that it would be too hard for American babby gamers.  Thankfully, the unmangled original was later ported to the West on the PSP.

My favorite Megaten covers are the PSX ports of the old Super Famicom games that we never got in America.  Shin Megami Tensei I throws several demons (incubuses?  Incubi?) on its cover surrounding the old SMT logo, a magic circle with Loki in the middle (a reference to the original 1980s Megami Tensei novels the series is based on.)  The demons look like the kinds of statues of angels and saints you might see if you visit an old cathedral.  Only it would have to be a satanic cathedral in this case.  Do those exist outside of SMT games?

Of course, I’m a much bigger fan of the Shin Megami Tensei II cover.  Kaneko’s Angel design scandalized some folks when the Persona series broke out in the West with 3 and 4 and even more with 5.  Yes, the angel in SMT is meant to look like that.  That is bondage gear and she is blindfolded and handcuffed through a padlock attached to her tiny leather shorts.  Why?  The games’ compendium descriptions for Angel try to explain that they were punished by Heaven for some reason and that they are bound because of it or something.  I don’t buy this explanation.  I think Kaneko just wanted to draw a sexy bondage angel.  I suppose I can’t blame him.  Anyway, Angel is nothing compared to the controversy ginned up by Mermaid’s design in SMT IV Apocalypse.

This is my favorite SMT cover. And I don’t even know what it means. Shin Megami Tensei if… was a spinoff made for the Super Famicom and remade for the Playstation. It never saw a release outside of Japan, and unlike SMT I and II, it doesn’t even have an English fan translation.  I do know that it’s the first SMT game to take place in a high school setting, and thus it’s the direct inspiration for the Persona series.  Its title is also a reference to the weird 60s British film if…. starring Malcolm McDowell as a rebellious boarding school student (for you Clockwork Orange fans, it’s worth checking out.)  In any case, the cover is cool – a massive demon (looks like Principality, with his spiky crown) looking down on a prostrated student, as though sitting in judgment of him.  The spotlight shining on the student adds to the effect.  Really interesting cover.

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New project for a new year

Dear readers:

I’ve started a new project located here.  The purpose of this new project is to split my writing into two distinct areas.  I’ll still be writing posts (infrequently, what’s new) here about games and entertainment and what I think of them, and I’ll also be writing posts at the new site, and reposting old articles that stemmed from old failed bullshit experiments that I still have laying around that someone might be interested in.  Basically this site is still my ultra-popular legitimate flagship site and the other site is for shitposting.  Extreme shitposting, mostly about subjects that nobody will care about.

You can learn to swim there too (maybe) (not really)

Wait, this site is for shitposting too.  I guess that’s all I do here.  Anyway, if you like my shitposting, be sure to check out my other project.  Calling it a project makes it sound more impressive than it is, right?  Yeah, I thought so too.

Top games of 2017

Every podunk Youtube channel and blog is making its own best games of the year list, so I figured I should as well. So as not to fall behind.

1) NieR: Automata

Come for the hot android girl, stay for the existential crisis-inducing feels

I didn’t review this game because there was no point. Everyone has already declared NieR: Automata the best game of the year, and rightly so. I can’t disagree with that judgment. NieR has everything: android booty, robot-killing action, and a thought-provoking story. It’s also great having an irreverent, doesn’t-give-a-shit guy like Yoko Taro around in the increasingly self-important land of game developers. Or maybe that attitude is only prevalent here in America.

NieR: Automata also wins my “best soundtrack of the year” award. Yoko Taro and co. can throw that award on the pile with the others.

2) Persona 5

hnnngh so cute

I did review Persona 5, though once again I have to say that my review was completely unnecessary. People who don’t even like JRPGs loved this tale of high school students with magical powers who fight demons in a shadow world. I loved it too, but only 99% as much as NieR, so it gets second place. It also wins my “second best soundtrack of the year” prize. It’s really too bad Persona 5 didn’t come out in 2016. (Actually, it did come out in 2016 – but the NA release came six months later, so as far as I’m concerned it’s a 2017 game and it still loses to NieR.)

3) VA-11 HALL-A

Make way for best girl

I have sort of a love-hate relationship with “indie games”. Some of them take a brilliant idea and fuck it over with bad gameplay mechanics, while others have a decent sense of how to construct a game but can’t help pretentiousnessing all over the place until you’re fucking sick. VA-11 HALL-A is a game with a good concept executed well, one that’s fun and has great, memorable characters. You might not like it because it’s more or less a visual novel with a bartending minigame attached (if you’re the “games must have ACTUAL ACTION” type) or because it features a very young-looking sexbot character (if you’re the overly sensitive SJW type – never mind that this character is really one of the most interesting in the game and explores some of the possible morality issues surrounding her very existence.  I did know a few people who dropped the game for this reason.) But if you don’t like this game, you’re wrong. Yeah, I know, opinions and all. But you’re still wrong. VA-11 HALL-A is a great game, and you’re wrong if you don’t like it.

Wait, this game – this actually was released in 2016, wasn’t it?

Well, shit. Never mind. It still deserves to be on this list.

4) Gravity Rush 2

The gravity-bending heroine of the first Gravity Rush returns to the PS4 for more adventures.  Gravity Rush 2 is a good game.  Once again, if anyone tells you differently, they’re wrong.  Also, Kat is a really cute character.

There’s an important plot reason why Kat’s wearing that maid outfit, okay? Leave me alone.

5) ???

Okay, it’s time to admit that I haven’t played many of this year’s newest and hottest games.  I’ve been playing a lot of Stella Glow lately, but it came out in 2015.  I’ve heard a lot of good things about Horizon Zero Dawn but for some reason I don’t feel a great desire to play it.  It would probably be on this list if I’d bothered with it.

Anyway, have a happy new year.  Or not.  Whatever.  Does it even matter anymore?

Soundtrack review: Cowboy Bebop (all four main OSTs)

Yeah, so I took another one of my month-long breaks from writing.  In this case, I hope I can excuse myself by saying that I started a new job and the pace of it has been nearly killing me.  When I get home the last thing I feel like doing is writing.  Still, I felt like writing something at least, if only to assure my millions of readers that I’m not quite dead yet.  As a way to relax after an especially stressful day at work last week, I started rewatching the amazing Cowboy Bebop, the second anime series I watched in my life after Neon Genesis Evangelion.  While Eva doesn’t quite hold up over time (it’s still good, but way more impressive when you’re an edgy 12 year-old boy like I was when I watched it) Cowboy Bebop totally does hold up, every bit as well as it did when I first saw it on Adult Swim ages ago.

So I thought about writing about Cowboy Bebop as a part of my long-dead “Anime for people who hate anime” series.  I gave up on that idea, though, because there’s no point.  Everyone already knows Bebop as that one anime that you can recommend to your normie friends without them thinking you’re a big nerd or a pervert.  I can’t say anything about the series that hasn’t already been said.

I can write about the music, though.  I’ve listened to my entire four-album Cowboy Bebop soundtrack playlist on my commutes about seven times over now, and it isn’t even getting old.  Out of all four albums, almost all the tracks are great.  As the show’s name implies, Cowboy Bebop features both a lot of American country-western-sounding music (Spokey Dokey, Don’t Bother None, Forever Broke) and a lot of jazz (OP theme Tank!, Rush, Odd Ones.)  But there’s a lot more that composer Yoko Kanno and her band The Seatbelts have to offer – straight up rock (Want It All Back), Queen-style operatics (Rain), weirdness (Cats on Mars), and a crooner ballad (Words That We Couldn’t Say) that I don’t like very much but that at least has enough care put into the music and lyrics that they’re not brimming with cheese.  And a god damn great recording of Ave Maria performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic just for the show.  If I have any favorites among the four albums I’ve got, though, they’re probably Piano Black and See You Space Cowboy.  And Wo Qui Non Coin, which might make you cry if you know the whole context of the song with regard to the show.  Not that I’ve ever cried while listening to music or watching a show.  No.  Not me.  I’m a tough guy, got it?

The soundtrack to this show is so damn good that it is absolutely worth buying all four albums, even if you have to import them.*  As far as I can tell, none of the albums are any better than the others; they each have a lot of great tracks from the series that are essential to have.  Though I guess I should mention that Vitaminless is about half the length of the others, but if you skip it you’re missing out on the ED theme The Real Folk Blues and the weirdly hilarious Black Coffee, featuring dialogue between a guy continuously asking a girl out for coffee (“aw, come on, just this time”) and the girl continuously refusing (“nnnno!”) over a jazz accompaniment.  I know how that feels, guy.  I’m sorry.

I’m lazy, so that’s all I’m going to write.  Just listen to the music.  Or better yet, hear the music when you watch the show.  The music on its own is great, but it’s a lot better if you’ve seen Cowboy Bebop.  The series uses music in a way that few other series do, anime or not.

=

*Of course there’s an alternative to buying these soundtracks, but I’ll leave that to your imagination.

Five Flaming Hotties (2D edition)

I don’t normally do these kinds of things, but after being tagged by fellow writer and friend of the site The Otaku Judge to take part in this “Five Flaming Hotties” blog post chain I felt motivated to do so. The rules of the game are as follows (quoted verbatim from its creators):

1. You must add the name of the blog who tagged you AND those of the 2 Reel Quirky Cats, Thoughts All Sorts and Realweegiemidget Reviews with links to these sites as given here.. and use the natty picture promoting this post (found later in this post).

2 Reel Quirky Cats

Realweegiemidget Reviews

and Thoughts All Sorts

2. List 5 of your all time greatest hotties from TV or Film. ie crushes / objects of your affection.

3. Say how you were introduced to them, and why you like them (keep it clean)

4. Link to 7 other bloggers.

5. Add lovely pictures of those you selected.

6. Oh…and post the rules..

However, I have to add a couple of tweaks to the game. First, I won’t be tagging anyone, because as any reader of this site knows, it is a dead end as far as blogs go. The only guy I would have thought to tag has tagged me already, and the few other blogs I follow wouldn’t take an interest in this game.

And second, just like TOJ did, I’ll be picking characters from games and anime. Fantasy is better than reality, and anyway, I always honestly thought celebrity crushes were far weirder than fictional character crushes. Make fun of the whole waifu thing all you want, but none of the suicidally depressed forever-alones pining after their non-existent girlfriends will ever be arrested for stalking a flesh and blood human being because of it. Unless one of them goes after a voice actor or a female mangaka or someone like that. Stalking is serious business, people. Don’t do it.

Okay, I’m getting off track. Here’s my list:

5) Aika

Chances are decent you don’t know who the hell this is, because she’s a character from a Dreamcast JRPG released in 2000 that never saw a sequel. Today a copy of either the Dreamcast original or the Gamecube remaster of Skies of Arcadia is almost worth its weight in gold, they’re so hard to find.

If you do come across it, Skies of Arcadia is a great game about three friends who scour the skies in airships as pirates, but as the good kind of pirates who only attack and plunder bad guys. Aika is main character Vyse’s childhood friend, a fierce, tomboyish sky sailor. The game hints at a possible future love triangle where Vyse has to choose between Aika and the demure magical moon princess healer girl Fina, but the choice is obvious to me, even if the game suggests Fina has the upper hand. Well screw you game. Why are you so damn rare and expensive now anyway?

4) Tifa Lockhart

Are all the characters on this list going to be from old JPRGs? No, not all of them. But Tifa has to be included here. The third in the love triangle (this time a way more real and immediate one) with hero Cloud and fated-to-die Aeris was my pick. Hell, Tifa owns a bar. Did Aeris own a bar? No. She sold flowers on a street corner. Tifa is better. Case closed. That’s not even mentioning Tifa’s other assets, which are considerable.*

Now I’m imagining a path in Final Fantasy VII where Cloud gives back control of AVALANCHE to Barrett, marries Tifa, and hangs out in 7th Heaven all day every day. If the upcoming PS4 remake of FF7 doesn’t include this as an alternate ending I’ll be disappointed. (Of course it won’t – just another reason why I’m probably right that it will be lousy.)

3) Holo

Holo (or Horo, depending on how you read her name – “Holo” is official but either one seems legit enough) is a sort of minor harvest goddess who can take the form of a cute girl with wolf ears and tail or of a huge, menacing she-wolf who can tear people apart. As you might imagine, Holo is pretty popular and is probably one of the big reasons the medieval economics/romance adventure series Spice and Wolf has found success. A self-proclaimed genius with a vain streak, Holo can be annoying sometimes, but her charms definitely outweigh her irritating qualities, and she gets serious when the situation demands it. And she’s cute as hell. I don’t mind admitting that I’m kind of shallow.

2) Rin Tohsaka

TOJ included Rin on his list, and I have no reason to disagree with him. It’s probably my masochist streak, but Rin is my favorite out of all the Type-Moon characters. The only child and heiress of a great family of mages, Rin is required to take part in a battle for the Holy Grail against other mages, including the regular-guy-with-hidden-magical-powers player character Shirou. Rin is one of the first characters people think of when they think of the “tsundere” character type, which more or less means she pretends to hate you but secretly likes you. Or something. It’s a popular trope, and Rin is popular too. And why not? She’s a good character with an interesting backstory (see the excellent anime series Fate/Zero for some of that, and see the film Unlimited Blade Works for the rest of Rin’s story, or read the original Fate/Stay Night visual novel if you have 50 hours to spare.)

1) Aigis

Strictly speaking, Aigis from Persona 3 isn’t a woman, or even a human. She’s an android. But she would probably be my first choice for a partner. Before you definitely decide that I’m insane, consider the following:

– Aigis doesn’t have to eat or drink, meaning lower household expenses.

– Aigis passes for a human girl when she’s wearing clothes, so you can trick the judge into issuing your marriage license.

– Aigis is a super-weapon created by a secret military commission, and she comes equipped with fingers that retract into guns and and sets of various gun attachments for her arms. No need to plan for home defense when your wife is an entire army in herself.

– Best girl in Persona 3.

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Hell, if you don’t want to marry a mega-weapon android girl after reading the above, I have to wonder what’s wrong with you. Sure, you’d never be able to have a kid with her, but you could adopt. There are plenty of abandoned children and orphans out there who need good families, even ones where Mom is a robot.

* If you thought this was a reference to boobs, that really says more about you than it does about me.

Retrospective: Encarta 97

Apparently I really have run out of old games to talk about, because this is the second in a row of my world-renowned, award-winning retrospective series dealing with a program that isn’t a game.  Much like After Dark, Encarta is a relic of the 1990s, a period when I was a young strapping lad mystified by all the new features that computers were offering and by the novelty of the internet.  Upon buying our second family computer in the mid-90s after moving across an ocean and leaving the old one behind (might have been sold or put in storage; I never was sure what its fate was) we received a bundled disc labeled Encarta 97, an electronic encyclopedia published by Microsoft.

I’m running this copy on Windows XP, but try to imagine Windows 95 instead.  Also, there are unused icons on my desktop.

If you’re under 20 years of age, you likely have no idea what an Encarta is.  The best description I can come up with today, twenty years into the age of the internet, is that it is an extremely gimped version of Wikipedia with some amusing tools and features added.  Microsoft began producing the Encarta series in 1993, a few years before the average family had a dial-up subscription and several years before the internet was more than a mess of bad corporate websites and pornography hosted on Angelfire pages.  The idea behind Encarta, at least as I understand it, was that it would provide said average family with all the information contained in a massive, heavy, extremely expensive set of Encyclopedia Britannica or World Book volumes without being expensive or weighty.  I’m not sure whether Microsoft ever succeeded in that goal, but in 1996 when Encarta 97 was released it sure seemed to have a hell of a lot of articles.

Yes, at the time 31,000 articles seemed crazy. By way of contrast, Wikipedia as of this writing has 50,000 articles written in Luxembourgish, a language spoken primarily in a tiny west European state wedged between Belgium and Germany.

If the Encarta experience had merely been reading unadorned blocks of text about the letter A and El Aaiun, it might not have been so memorable.  However, the single Encarta 97 CD-ROM contained a lot more than text.  Many of its articles also contained relevant images, and a few even featured really terrible-quality video.  This was one of the things that set it apart from physical encyclopedia sets, which contained no videos and only very small illustrations, sometimes just in black and white.

I learned more than I ever wanted to about Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The encyclopedia itself was the centerpiece of Encarta, but the program also offered several other features that could be used to waste some time that your parents thought you were spending at your studies.  Most of these were contained in the “Interactivities” section.

One of my favorites was the Personal Nutrition feature, which calculated your daily intake of calories, proteins, cholesterol, and other nutrition-related stuff based on your diet.

Apparently a diet of fried wontons, chocolate cake, and White Russians isn’t good for you. Thanks for the information, Encarta.

Another feature I enjoyed was Orbit.  At this stage in my life I still had some notion of becoming an astronaut, and I took an interest in anything related to space or space travel.  Orbit gave the student a basic education in the essentials of orbital paths and gravity and acceleration, and all that physics stuff that is extremely complicated if you get down to the math.  In Orbit, you didn’t have to deal with any of that: just set a path for a moon to circle its planet and watch as it attains a stable orbit, flies into space, or collides into the planet.

hypnotic

One of the more standard features in Encarta 97 was the Atlas, an interactive globe that you could click on to zoom in and find information on the world’s countries and major cities and towns.

Atlas is interesting to me because it’s a sort of Google Earth before Google Earth – infinitely less detailed, showing only the vague outlines of the Earth and its various states.  Still, this was several years before the first Google Earth release, and several more years before Google Earth really got good and you could explore New York and Berlin and Tokyo in 3D, down to their multitudes of alleyways and hole-in-the-wall bars.

If there’s one single thing that most people around my age remember about Encarta, though, it is Mind Maze.

Yes, my name in Mind Maze is Max Action, because it perfectly describes me.

I say that Encarta was not a game, but like the screensaver program After Dark, it was a non-game program that contained a game within it.  Mind Maze was a trivia game set in a cursed castle in which the inhabitants were trapped.  You, the player, had to travel from room to room answering “riddles” in the form of questions about various subjects contained in the electronic pages of Encarta.  The player could choose from four difficulty levels and a variety of topics or a mix of all topics to test his knowledge.  The game was won when the player accumulated 20,000 points, which could take a while depending upon the difficulty of the questions, more difficult questions being worth more points.

The creators of Mind Maze didn’t just throw the game into Encarta as a trifle to go along with the rest of its features – there was some care put into its art, and each room contained a character who usually had something amusing to say to the player.  It was usually a complaint about their shitty king and the curse that they were suffering through.

I don’t think time-and-a-half was a thing in medieval days.

All in all, Mind Maze was a really nice addition to Encarta.  It’s not anything amazing, really, but it was a real novelty at the time and was, to me, the most memorable part of Encarta.

So what was the fate of Encarta?  The shrewd reader might have already guessed that the program has been long dead, killed by the internet and specifically by the user-edited monster that is Wikipedia.  By the early 2000s, there was simply no longer much of a need for an electronic encyclopedia that you paid for when Wikipedia was around.  Microsoft did take steps to introduce a few online features into this and future editions of Encarta, and in 2000 all of the program’s content became free to access online.  But by 2009, Microsoft apparently felt it was time to let Encarta go, and the program was completely discontinued.

Despite its obsolescence (perhaps because of it?) Encarta still has a little nostalgic appeal to me and to a lot of other people who were also bored kids in the 90s on their family computers.  It’s a bit like Blockbuster Video – massive in its day, but made useless by the modern internet.  Unfortunately, you can’t visit a Blockbuster anymore unless you happen to live near the several locations that are somehow left operating (mostly in Alaska – because of poor internet connectivity up there?) but you can check out Encarta thanks to the good people at the CD-ROM Software Library at archive.org.

SimCity 2000, Part XIV: Priscilla

In his new residence, the mayor of Hell lay in his double-king-sized bed dreaming.  Dreaming of a woman, a beautiful red-haired woman wearing only a red cloak, the red all the more vibrant against the black void that surrounded them both.  The mayor, seated and frozen in place, could only watch as the woman slowly approached him and leaned over to speak into his ear.

“I am Priscilla,” she whispered.  “I will give you everything you’ve dreamed of and more.  And then I will take everything from you.”

The mayor tried to speak, to ask her what she meant.  But before he could make a sound, she was gone, and the mayor had awoken.

Priscilla.  What was that about?  The mayor wondered.  Did that woman resemble one of his several ex-wives?  They had certainly taken quite a bit from him during divorce proceedings.  But it was still dark outside, and the mayor was still tired, and it was only a dream, after all.  A few minutes later, he fell asleep again.

His city, however, never truly slept.

Exactly 200 years after the founding of Hell, the city has officially achieved “sprawling mess” status.  It is overcrowded and nearly impossible to traverse without sitting in traffic for a few hours.  Pollution is still a problem, and educational and health care services are still severely lacking.  The nuclear plant is still running in the center of town, despite several near-meltdowns that would have devastated the entire city and the county and the several counties surrounding it.  Despite all this, the city is now home to almost 100,000 souls and is bringing in a steady stream of tax revenue every year.

The mayor, by contrast, has significantly upgraded his own situation.  Leaving behind his old mansion, he had the Braun Llama Dome built in the middle of a man-made lake with independent wind and solar power sources and made it into his new residence.  From his perch, the mayor could look over the city that he ruled.  Eventually, the mayor decided to officially change the original name of the Dome, which he hated, to THE TOWER OF POWER.  Written in all caps, no matter what.

The city government began publishing visitor statistics to the TOWER in 2090 when it was built, but they’re all lies.  Nobody is allowed to visit the TOWER except for the mayor and his friends/cronies/lackeys.

The mayor’s approval rating, however, is not a lie.  He has finally achieved a rating of ZERO percent, somehow.  One would think that at least his inner circle would approve of him, but they number far fewer than one percent of the city’s population, after all, so this poll is obviously rounding down.  The rest of the city doesn’t have much reason to love the mayor, conditions being what they are.  Ever since mayoral elections were outlawed, however, the citizens have had no real recourse.

Still, it’s not enough for the mayor.  He wants to see the population of the city increase even more to bring in more revenue.  But unless the city is allowed to spill into the upper-class southwestern district, this isn’t happening – the rest of the city’s grant is pretty much occupied.  The mayor is not willing to do this for obvious reasons.

So what can we do for the mayor?  Is it possible to help him?  The city of Hell seems to have hit a plateau. Perhaps it’s time to break out the cheats – to unlock the godlike Debug menu.

This mysterious drop-down menu only appears after you click and hold the city toolbar while typing P-R-I-S-C-I-L-L-A (but not in caps.)  I’m not sure about the origin of this cheat code.  Maybe Priscilla was the wife or daughter or sister of one of the developers at Maxis.  Or maybe the Maxis guys were big fans of the Australian drag queen road trip film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.  Whatever the case, this cheat code is by far the most powerful in the game and is really the one that you need to know about if you want to cheese the game and make it completely trivial.

The first option that jumps out at us is “More Money”.  Selecting that seemingly does nothing until the next month rolls around…

… when half a million dollars suddenly appear in the city’s coffers out of nowhere.  This cheat makes new outlandish building and infrastructural projects possible without worrying about tax revenue or maintenance costs.

The next best option in the Debug menu is “Add All Gifts”.  This allows the player to build the gift structures like the Mayor’s Mansion and City Hall without reaching the required population milestones and to rebuild gift structures if he’s already built them once.

In order to increase the glory of the mayor, let’s select this option and build another statue in his likeness on the mountains above the old city.

Saddam Hussein would be proud.  You can build as many statues as you like with this cheat, though you have to re-select it each time you place one.

How to dramatically increase our city’s population, though?  There’s only one answer: build arcologies.  I briefly brought up arcologies way back in Part VIII – massive cities within cities that house tens of thousands of residents.  At that time, though, Hell was not even close to the population requirement to unlock the arcology option.  Our population still isn’t that close, in fact.  It’s currently hovering around 95,000, well below the population requirement of 120,000 to allow the building of arcologies.  But with the Debug menu, we don’t have to give a damn about population requirements.

Here are our four options.  Each arco type becomes available in a different year – the Launch Arco can only be built around 2150, under normal circumstances.  But we can build it now if we feel like it.

But we don’t.  The Launch Arco and Forest Arco both look nice, sort of like pleasant places to live, and as usual that’s really not what we’re going for.  How about the other two options?

We’re not overly concerned with pollution, so the Plymouth Arco sounds great!  Its sturdiness may come in handy as well if another earthquake occurs.  Hopefully that claim about surviving earthquakes in Neo-Mexico and Neo-Taiwan isn’t just hot air.

The Darco, by contrast, just sounds strange.  An invasion of mutant men from the air ducts into the city could be amusing, as long as they don’t break into the mayoral mansion.

After some downtown demolition, these two monstrosities rise above the city skyline.  The Plymouth Arco looks like a giant upturned garbage can, and the Darco looks like something that came from the mind of H. R. Giger.  Together, they hold a maximum capacity of 100,000 residents, so let’s hope people are willing to move in.

In the meantime, let’s cover the rest of the exciting options in the Debug menu.  “Show Version Info” shows you the game’s version info, as you would expect.  “Add All Inventions” lets you build structures and services before they are invented.  And the rest of the options lets the player cause special disasters that can’t be accessed from the normal Disasters menu.  This list contains the dreaded Melt Down and other natural and man-made disasters that would undoubtedly wreak havoc on our city if they were to occur.  In fact, one of them, Toxic Spill, has already occurred several times in Hell – but it’s the least serious of the bunch.

Despite vigorous marketing campaigns, the Plymouth Arco only contains 17 residents out of a possible 55,000 one year after its construction.  Perhaps this is because this arco is a big piece of shit that has received a grade of D from the official arcology grading board.  Maybe it has mold problems.

The Darco is faring a little better, but the outcome is still disappointing.  Even so, there’s no point tearing these arcos down – they cost a lot of money to build, and they add some nice character to the downtown district.  I’m not sure why their descriptions claim that they were built in 1900.  Maybe my cheating confused the game.

A few years later, Hell’s revenue falls dramatically.  Just what could have caused that?  Let’s talk to the ordinance advisor.

As usual, she’s no help – she just nags us about the drunken brawls and organized crime activity that has developed as a result of Hell’s booming gambling sector.  Lady, if our citizens can’t go to casinos to throw back cheap drinks and lose all their wages at slot machines and blackjack, how are they supposed to spend their down time?  With their families?  Nonsense.

Now comes the real shock – the city assemblymen have been passing new ordinances without the mayor’s consent.  Ordinances that cost money.  This is something that can happen in SimCity 2000.  Often, the computer will go ahead and apply beneficial ordinances without your knowledge.

Fortunately, the mayor has veto power.  And he vetoes every ordinance that takes money out of the budget, leaving only those that bring money in.

Much better.  The mayor needs that money for other purposes.

Following the unexpected influx of cash into the city’s coffers, the mayor decided to have a few new mansions and palaces built, independently powered and accessible by a series of man-made canals.  You know, nothing fancy.  The man is a dedicated public servant; he deserves at least this much in compensation.