A new deep-dive article into the history of Maxis' ill-fated SimCopter 64 has been published by the fine folk over the Video Game History Foundation, and it delivers some fascinating new insight and information about the unreleased Nintendo 64 game.

This particular prototype build — unrelated to a later version that came to light earlier this year — is the E3 1997 demo and has been dumped and preserved after being supplied to the VGHF by an anonymous donor. Previously, off-screen showfloor footage was all that was available, but the game has now been archived for posterity, with the video above captured on real hardware.

As you can see, a big dollop of pop-in and a generous helping of that patented N64 fog is present and correct in this prototype build, which is described as a "fairy direct port of SimCopter for PC". This early version would be altered in the months that followed, being heavily 'console-ified' in a similar manner to the SNES version of SimCity.

The new article — which goes into impressive depth and is absolutely worth a read if you have any interst at all in the Sim series or Nintendo 64 development — details how Maxis itself helmed this project (as opposed to the Japan-only SimCity 64, which was developed by HAL Laboratory). It also explains how all 30 cities from the PC game were imported directly from that game (albeit with various bugs in this prototype), and how the game changed in subsequent showings, ditching gameplay that former Maxis K.K. president Aki Kodama calls "just flying over a virtual city, just like another flight simulator," and turning into something very different by Summer '98. By that time, it had become a more console-friendly "story-driven action game" that author Phil Salvador describes as "more like Pilotwings 64 or Blast Corps".

You can check out footage of a December '97 build of the game below for comparison.

Salvador also debunks the idea — based on comments from Shigeru Miyamoto, no less — that the game was in development for the 64DD. If that was ever the intention, on current evidence, it appears likely the idea never got off the drawing board before development was scrapped altogether.

If you're interested in the full story, it's a fascinating read. Head on over to gamehistory.org and support the sterling work they're doing over there.

[source gamehistory.org]