Lots of economic micromanagement to make you feel like a real politician.
I prefer the Saturn version over the PC version because it allows you to zoom in closer to the city and see the city more closely.
In game you'll play as a mayor and you'll need to balance the budget while providing people with services such as hospitals,decent roads,schools,satisfactory numbers of police officers and
fire fighters.Not only do you need to build things such as hospitals and schools,you'll need to fund them enough so they're at a satisfactory standard with a limited budget.
The objective of the game is to attract more people to your city because each year they will pay tax and it will provide you with more money to spend.You can also spend money on enjoyable incentives for people such as zoos,football stadiums,theme parks,but you only have a limit budget to work with and you'll need to make sure you have enough money for essential services such as hospitals,road maintainence,enough water pipes and water circulation to spread to every person's house etc.
Also,there may be times you'll have to reduce funding to certain services which will upset people.
You can choose to start a city from scratch or take over a city that's already built.You can choose scenarios too,such as helping a city recover from a natural disaster,or dealing with riots or even an even alien invasion.
If you create a city from scratch you'll get to name your city and choose the time period it begins in(which affects what technology that's available and the style of the buildings).You can have modern style homes or futuristic homes and giant structures that can house many people named arcologies which I will explain about later.
If you start from scratch,you'll begin with only a limited amount of money,given a region of land with no people,no roads,no buildings,no electricity or water.You will need to provide the basics for people to be able to travel and move to your city,such as roads,power(building power plants),water systems,and land for sale.
Tax rates also are an important issue,because you'll need to tax your people enough so you have enough money to build/provide services for your people,but if the tax rates are too high,the people in your city won't be happy and will leave but if the tax rates are too low,you won't have enough money to pay for the services and fund things such as schools and hospitals,so there's a very delicate balance.
Once the population in your city starts becoming big,the people will demand things such as amusement parks,football stadiums,zoos etc. and if you don't provide these things,it may stall growth for your city.
You sell land for people to build suburban homes,apartment buildings,small,middle,large factories and comericial(which will provide more jobs).When your city is large in size,the people will demand an airport and seaport too.
Like I've mentioned before,your city will need a power plant/s for electricity,and you'll have to choose between cheaper but more polluting means(such as coal)or cheap and clean but less powerful methods such as solar,wind,hydro power or nuclear power(which is expensive).Fusion power plants produce enormous amounts of power aren't available to be used until in the year 2050 and are expensive too.Power plants have a lifespan and need to be replaced(which means more budgeting).
You'll even need to provide public transport(such as trains and subways).
To make the city feel even more real,there is newspapers you can read which have all kinds of stories,from your popularity as major,to things that concern people in the city or things they are/aren't happy about.The stories are told in unique and interesting ways eg. An old lady with a proper full name will explain how someone snatched her bag off her in the street or someone else might explain they were threatened with a knife and forced to handover their wallet.And the stories might explain how crime out of control in your city or getting worse because the police services are under funded(there's not enough police officers/police stations).
Some news reports might be about how unemployment is low and random stories about everyday things/people that are interesting.The news stories though can have useful information on what you need to do to make your people happier.When nuclear and fusion power are first created,you can read about it in the newspaper too.
You also have your own team of advisers such as n expert for economics,transport,healthcare,education,recreation/tourism,emergency services who will all give you advice on what you need to do but their advice might be conflicting with another adviser's advice,so you'll need to make good judgements as sometimes you do not have enough money to fix all the problems at once.
The arcologies are available after the year 2050 and are mammoth structures that can house tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people to save space.Also,just like with traditional style residential structures,there is low/high income arcologies.The low income arcologies look more run down,and have higher rates of crime going on inside them.There higher income arcologies can have things such as their own forests inside them and some arcologies launch people into space and they will form new colonies but they will still count towards your city's population and you'll still collect their tax money.
When your people are happy with you,they will want to construct a mayor's house and statue in your name.You can even build a Sonic the Hedgehog statue as a reward and it's a nice addition put in there by Sega.
For more realism people will protest if you put things in bad places,for example if you put a nuclear power plant or prison next to a school.Or if you cut down too many trees.Also the military will ask permission to build a base to test their new technology and will pay you each year to use the small area of land for their base but the base is top secret and not much infortmation will be provided about the base.
There's a cursor that you can use to learn about buildings such as what year they were constructed,or the win-loss record of your sporting teams when you click on a stadium.Or the amounts of crime reports and arrests by police from a police station(If you don't fund your police station much or don't have enough police stations you'll see a report of 800 reported crimes and 2 arrests! You see see things such as how many beds are available in a hospital and how many people are waiting for a hospital bed,and the average grade of each school's students,and how many buildings the fire department has saved or been unable to save,what types of animals are at zoos.
You can modify the land to create things such as dams for hydro power and to pump water for your residents ,and you can create lakes or bays to make your city look more glamorous or so you can build a canoeing place for recreation or for a seaport so people can transport things to and from your city without having to use plane of vehicle.
The graphics were colorful and detailed for their time.
The homes are colorful,and buildings from 1900-1950 have an old fashioned look and after 1950 until the year 2000 they will have a modern look.Then from 2050 onwards,all newly constructed home and buildings have a futuristic design.
If a building lasts for a long time it eventually becomes a historical site and does not change.
Even things such police stations and schools start off looking very old fashioned,then change to a modern design than a futuristic look.
If you don't fund your roads well you will see roads deteriorate.
You see smog from coal plants,and beautiful blue water and flowing water for dams.You can build bridges across water(and choose designs that look like the Sydney Harbor or Golden Gate Bridge)and you can make your city look really beautiful with lots of forest,and your city can look very diverse,colorful,futuristic,polluted depending on how you do things.There's even classy style buildings,and you see details such as little planes in the sky after you build an airport,ships coming and leaving the seaport,and people canoeing in the lakes when you build canoeing places.
The sound effects match the theme of structures and you'll hear people cheering and happy style music everytime you build an amusement park,zoo or something for entertainment.People will boo to protest something.When you build a sporting stadium and everytime you click on it people will cheer.
The game could literally last forever if you wanted it to and keep your city functioning.I was in the year 8000 and everyone in my city was happy and my city's budget was stable and so was the population.
The game is challenging and addictive and is my favorite Sim City game.