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The Simpsons Arcade Game (PlayStation Network)

Game Review

The Simpsons Arcade Game Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Patrick Elliot

Excellent

The arcade scene of the early 90's was a great time for spare change. A handful of coins was more than money. In between laps of the roller rink and mouthfuls of pizza, any coinage you had left became tokens into another world, giving you one more shot at toppling your nemeses of choice, whether that be Shredder, Magneto or Mr. Burns.

When it came to licensed arcade brawlers, Konami was king. Many of us will likely recall fond memories of pairing up for bouts of TMNT: Turtles in Time, X-Men Arcade and, if those cabinets were full, Bucky O'Hare. If you loved The Simpsons back then (who didn't?) chances are you drained copious amounts of coinage into their arcade game. But after nearly two decades, how does Konami's 2D brawler hold up?

Gameplay-wise, The Simpsons Arcade Game levies quite a challenge, making for an experience virtually impossible to complete without dying a ton of times. For some, this may sound off-putting, but the game comes with enough options to tailor the parameters of failure to your liking.

Looking for a classic play though? Go for Quarters mode, which gives you ten continues apiece to complete the game with, the equivalent of $2.50 back in the day. Sound too rough? Set it to Group Quarters, then; this doles out 40 continues — regardless of the amount of players — which anyone can use over the course of the game. Free Play lets you breeze through the game with endless continues, but if such hand-holding make you cringe, we dare you to tackle Survivor mode. Here, you get one life, no continues. Good luck with that.

The 2D action is a nice return to roots, but may seem a bit rudimentary to younger gamers. With only two action buttons – jump and attack – there aren't tons of ways to dole out your beat downs. Still, there is a level of nuance to the gameplay that rewards players who don't resort to button mashing.

For instance, pressing nothing for a few moments near an ally pairs the both of you up, enabling a powerful combo attack that lasts for a set period of time. Also, timing jump attacks results in either a fast diagonal attack or a floaty descend. Lastly, each player has a special manoeuvre triggered by pressing both the jump and attack button at precisely the same time. Pulling this off is harder than it sounds, and slight mistiming can result in unwanted punches to the face. There are also a bunch of weapons scattered throughout, like slingshots, brooms or straight-up rocks, with throw-able appearances from Santa's Little Helper, Blinky and more. Many items are hurled automatically, but those that are swung can also be launched by pressing both buttons together.

So while the combat relies on just one attack button, we'd hesitate to call it a button masher. Unless of course, we're referring to the irreverent bonus stages. Here, you have to hone your inner Takahashi Meijin, slamming down buttons in rapid succession to prove that you can pump up a balloon in your likeness or slap your own face faster than anybody else.

One of the finest aspects of the game is how perfectly these old 2D graphics capture the world of The Simpsons. Each character has unique gestures and facial expressions, enemies all rock the token Groening overbite and the highly detailed settings are pulled straight from the show. You'll battle drunks in Moe's Tavern, destroy TV sets at Channel 6 and face down Smithers in the nuclear power plant. Backgrounds are littered with cameos from the series, and while the game tosses in an archetypal elevator stage and makes you beat up a bear, even these outlandish segments retain some cartoonish Simpsons charm.

Konami also throws in numerous nods to Life in Hell, the comic strip Groening penned before creating the Simpsons. Binky, a rabbit character form the comic, appears between stages and doles out health from hidden spots. One particularly charming Binky reference comes from the character animation of Marge when she gets zapped by electricity, her beehive hairdo revealing the tall-eared skeleton of Binky himself.

You wouldn't expect Konami to merely port the ROM over with no extras, so aside from online four player co-op, the game also features an unlockable Japanese ROM and a bevy of Trophies. The Japanese ROM adds in more weapons – namely a nuclear bomb – and the ability to increase your health bar to two levels. Some Trophies are tough, like the Mr. Burns-inspired “excellent” gold Trophy, earned by beating the game on expert difficulty. Others are just brutal, like the comically named Mr. Sparkle, which tasks you with reaching the third level bosses on the Japanese ROM on one life alone.

Conclusion

Its not the 90's anymore, and translating an arcade experience to home consoles will inherently alter the experience. Not just because you're 20 years older, but because the gaming landscape has changed. Thankfully, the source material is the finest of its kind, and adapts enough modern bells and whistles to make the game well worth your while. You may be able to breeze through its simpler modes rather quickly, but the tough Trophies, comical presentation and appealing 2D aesthetic make this game a pleasure to revisit many times over, both for new and nostalgic gamers alike.

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User Comments (7)

SpaceKappa

#1

SpaceKappa said:

Such a fantastic game. I don't want to know how many quarters I pumped into this machine as a kid.

The Simpsons fan in me still thinks it's weird that Smithers is so out of character in this game, though.

odd69

#2

odd69 said:

I wanted to get this day one but didnt, and after reading this review, Im regretting it. Games like these you should buy close to launch, because if you buy them way later on, you may have a harder time finding an online game.( thats my experience from Xmen and Castlevania.)

JamieOStaff

#4

JamieO said:

It was masses of fun meeting up with @PatrickElliot on PSN to co-op our way through The Simpsons Arcade, I really like how his introduction reminisces about what it felt like to relish every credit spent in an early '90s arcade machine. Online co-op in this game manages to capture that nostalgic old-school feeling of fun and comradeship really well.

The top '90s Japanese developers each built an individual style for their side-scrolling beat-'em-ups. It was a genre that was massively popular twenty years ago, but as Patrick mentions, the modern gaming landscape has changed, so brawlers are sometimes misunderstood today.

Konami's flair was often influenced by cartoons, with bold colourful sprites, detailed backgrounds and expressive animations. They specialised in accessible gameplay to draw four gamers to their cabinet, but I am glad that Patrick highlights that there is still variety to the combat and skill involved in beating Expert difficulty, beyond just button mashing through.

On the one hand the fun of this game grows as more co-op players join in the chaos, but completing it also becomes easier. However, it does throw a wild number of sprites at you, which home consoles of the day would never have managed. Take the advice of this review and play this game with the more challenging trophies in mind, to increase its 'lastability'.

This is an excellent review of a game worth celebrating, especially as it is the first time that The Simpsons Arcade has ever been converted to a home console.

Kudos for mentioning Konami's 1992 Bucky O'Hare arcade machine, too.

cyphid

#5

cyphid said:

Im so glad to see the game out as a download! This one was begging to rerelease on modern game consoles! I can't wait to play four player with my friends!

d0ugparker

#7

d0ugparker said:

A store owner about an hour northwest of Orlando has two Simpson Bowling Arcade Game console units available. One is complete but doesn't work, the second is for parts. Anyone interested?

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