Friday, 28 September 2012


Something interesting I found in my internet travels - Empire, political simulator for the Sega SC-3000, the home computer that nobody likes to talk about.

Empire is a text-based simulation originally released on cassette in about 1984, and as is the case with most SC-3000 software, I'm perhaps one of three people in the world to care for it's existence. The SC-3000 is the computerised version of the SG-1000, Sega's first home console, but comes with fun extra features such as keyboards and floppy disk drives. It was slightly relevant in Australia and New Zealand for a while, but was universally trounced by the Commodore 64 and friends by the middle of the decade.

In Empire, you play as an MP in New Zealand's parliament, making a series of decisions to both survive and up your ratings, eventually culminating in the role of prime minister. I think I can say with some certainty that no other video game in the world that lets you peacefully govern an Oceanic nation, and certianly this option wasn't available elswhere in the mid-80s, so we're off to a flying start.

...only to crash, because Empire is merely a glorified random number generator. It is, however, probably the most entertaining piece of SC-3000 software I've come across to date. Sure there aren't many decent alternatives, but this one kept me hooked for more than thirty seconds, which has to be a plus.

The basic aim of the game is to keep people happy - superiors retire and you can rise up the ranks, but you've got to spend time with your constituency for a chance of being re-elected. Also your family sucks, so you have to keep them under control to stop them ruining your life later on.

Unfortunately there's no option to alter your name or the political party you belong to, nor does gameplay get much deeper than the screens you see on this page. But there are a few interesting things that can happen along the way, such as your daughter being arrested in a drug scandal, or famine breaking out in the far east. Think the Oregon Trail but far less complex, and fewer deaths from dysentery.

What's also interesting is that although there are loose connections to New Zealand, the events in Empire are valid for most democratised nations, even thirty years after this game was released. Sadly there's not much to look at and events frequently repeat, but it makes a change from the hoards of poorly conceived educational software you usually have to sift through with this system.

It seems neigh-on impossible to last more than half a dozen years in Empire, and it's difficult to get excited when you're juggling Sega SC-3000 Disk BASIC commands just to get this game to run, but I like quirky pieces of software and you won't get much quirkier than this. SC-3000 documentation is appalling so don't expect to track it down easily, but should you ever be in the unlikely position where it's feasible to do so, give this one a go.

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