GAME NAME: The Simpsons Arcade Game
DEVELOPER(S): Konami, Backbone Entertainment
PLATFORM(S): Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network
GENRE(S): Beat ‘em up
RELEASE DATE(S): Xbox Live Arcade: February 3, 2012 | PlayStation Network: February 7, 2012
Back in 1991, everyone’s favorite animated family starred in its very own video game. The Simpsons was insanely popular, so it only made sense for Konami to release an arcade beat ‘em up featuring Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. Not surprisingly, The Simpsons Arcade Game was well-received. Twenty years have passed since the game first hit the scene, and some people might argue that it doesn’t hold up very well, while others will hold on to dear nostalgia and say that it’s still one of the greatest beat ‘em ups ever. Still others will likely say that it’s fun yet overly simplistic. The fact is that there’s truth to each of those statements.
If you’ve played The Simpsons Arcade Game before, then you know the story by now. Smithers has just robbed a huge diamond from a jeweler, but upon fleeing the scene of the crime, he bumps into the Simpson family. The diamond flies into the air and lands ever so conveniently in Maggie’s mouth. Rather than just taking the diamond, Smithers kidnaps Maggie and runs off with his lackeys. The story doesn’t make the most sense, especially since Smithers is such a mild-mannered guy, but it gives this brawler some semblance of a plot.
Going hand-in-hand with the simple storyline is a simple gameplay style. The Simpsons Arcade Game is not a deep beat ‘em up in any capacity. You’ll find yourself mashing on the attack and jump buttons. It’s your job to help Homer, Marge, Bart, and Lisa rescue the youngest member of the Simpson family, and you’ll have to fight waves of enemies to do so. There are different types of baddies throughout Springfield, each of them with their own strengths. That said, even though there’s a varied amount of enemies, you pretty much employ the same strategy with all of them: mash on buttons until they’re defeated.
As simple as this sounds, it’s actually a lot of fun. It’s really satisfying watching as seemingly countless waves of bad guys try to stop you, only for them to meet a terrible demise at the hands of Homer’s bare fists, Marge’s vacuum cleaner, Bart’s skateboard, and Lisa’s jump rope. The family also has some neat double-team attacks, which don’t necessarily add much to the game’s combat but are fun to execute regardless. The real enjoyment in The Simpsons Arcade Game is in its co-op, though. The game is entertaining when you play it alone, but teaming up with other players either locally or online is a total blast. Up to four people can take on the sinister denizens of Springfield, and this is easily the best way to play the game.
One gripe I had with this version of the game was that it never really challenged me. While playing at the arcade, I always had to play carefully because I only had a certain amount of quarters on me. The console version of The Simpsons Arcade is very forgiving, offering a ton of credits that ensure you’ll never get a gamer over screen. Back in the 1990s, I got this awesome rush when I would reach the end of the game with my last quarter. Sadly, that effect is lost here.
Konami made sure to add some extra content to the digital release of The Simpsons Arcade Game, and a lot of it is pretty cool. Different difficulty settings allow you to set the game’s challenge to your liking. You can unlock promotional artwork from 1991. As expected, there are Trophies thrown in for completionists. But the coolest addition is the inclusion of the Japanese version of the game. While identical at first glance, this iteration of The Simpsons Arcade Game features a few notable gameplay tweaks. You can increase your health bar, find explosive weapons throughout levels, and earn points for meeting different objectives, such as having leftover health at the end of the stage. It goes without saying that the Japanese ROM is a great bonus.
Unfortunately, even with the added content, The Simpsons Arcade Game is a bit pricey, especially when you take into account just how short it is. You can get through the game’s eight levels in about 40 minutes, and that’s if you’re taking your time or tackling the higher difficulty settings. That’s not exactly a whole lot of game when you factor in the $10 price tag. It’s obvious Konami and developer Backbone Entertainment are marketing nostalgia heavily here, and while that’s perfectly fine, there’s no denying that this could have (and probably should have) been a $5 download.
Visually, The Simpsons Arcade Game still looks pretty cool. It retains all of the colorful charm it did back in 1991, and if those outlines are looking a bit too jagged for you, you can smooth out the graphics in the settings menu. Sadly, that’s about all you can do. It’s really a shame that Konami didn’t include an option for changing the game’s graphics considerably or throw in some more enemy variety.
That’s not to say The Simpsons Arcade Game doesn’t look good as it is, though, because it most certainly does. It also sounds really good. As I played through the game, the hectic music, loud sound effects, and constant remarks from the Simpson family brought memories of my days at the arcade rushing back. The soundtrack is awesome, and it has a distinct 1990s sound to it that should please anyone who spent countless quarters playing this title at the arcade.
The Simpsons Arcade Game may not be the deepest beat ‘em up around, and it’s certainly not heavy on content, but it’s a great game that’s just fun to play. The asking price of $10 is a bit much considering the short length of the game, but if you’re hoping to relive some great memories with this classic beat ‘em up, it’s worth the price of admission. Nice extras, while not too abundant, add to the overall package, and the inclusion of online multiplayer ensures that you play this game the way it was meant to be played. The Simpsons Arcade Game has finally made its way to consoles, and despite its aging design, it’s still a total riot, especially if you loved it at the arcade.
[This is a review of the PlayStation 3 version of The Simpsons Arcade Game.]