Inside Pulse 12

Xbox LIVE Arcade Review: The Simpsons [Arcade]

The Simpsons [Arcade]
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami/Backbone
Genre: Arcade brawler
Release Date: 02/03/2012

Outside of incredibly rare PC ports, the arcade release of The Simpsons has never touched down on home systems, leaving the quarter muncher squarely in the arcades for more than 20 years. Always a fan-favorite, this bizarre and technically-loose brawler slid into the February digital download schedule with little fanfare or notice.

Honestly, The Simpsons was one of my least favorite Konami brawlers. I felt Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had a little more substance (plus the story made a hell of a lot more sense) and, with The Simpsons releasing in 1991, it was followed soon after by the much more robust Turtles in Time. It also didn’t help that I never really cared for The Simpsons as a franchise at all. I’d always found Crime Fighters, Vendetta, X-Men, Violent Storm and more to be far more enjoyable games, but, for some reason, I still kept going back to The Simpsons.

For some time Konami had a deathgrip on the top pop culture licenses when lining up arcade releases. While Capcom always had technically superior releases, Konami continued to wow audiences with key licenses and colorful visuals. The company always paid proper homage to the license and while The Simpsons, in my personal opinion, stands among the sloppiest of Konami’s releases gameplay-wise, it is certainly one of the most accessible.

This review is divided into two parts, so if you grew up on the game and just want to know what the new version has to offer, you can feel free to skip down to the appropriate header below.

For those who have never played The Simpsons
The Simpsons runs on a premise so mind-boggingly stupid, it almost makes sense in the satirical world of Springfield.

Mr. Burns apparently has ties to the local mob, and with Smithers at the helm of a gem heist, the bad guys are about to get away scott free. It just so happens, though, that the entire Simpsons family is walking down the middle of a street apparently closed off to traffic, and in Smithers’ rush to escape, he bumps into Homer, sending the gem flying into the air. Maggie takes favor to the diamond and replaces her pacifier with it, causing Smithers to grab the entire baby and run off with her.

The mob tie-in does force in an army of general enemies to battle, but the more you think of the premise, the more the corner of your brain hurts. It isn’t meant to be taken seriously, but this is primarily the only bits of story served to players throughout the entire game.

Since this is a direct port of a nearly 21-year-old game, there isn’t much to delve into when it comes to what players are to expect. The graphics were phenomenal for the time, all of the music rings true to the show’s jingles and the main characters’ voice work is a treat to fans of the show. These are the meaty bits of bait used to lure in fans of the show, which weren’t always going to be gamers, meaning Konami did have to take this into consideration.

In traditional fashion, players are given an attack button and a jump button, but the main action expected of players is mashing on the attack. The game uses the genre staples of moving right and kicking ass, with many cheap tactics sprinkled in to keep first-time players pumping in more quarters. The Simpsons can easily be beaten in half an hour (if that), so it’s not the longest walk around the block, and it does fall into the realm of repetitiveness. Even so, the game has a certain charm that just refuses to let go, pulling me back every so often.

In the game itself, though, it does seem the hit detection is off at times and I’m always annoyed by the “misfires.” What I mean is, each player has an animation triggered at random that results in the player being stunned very briefly – Homer accidentally punches himself in the back of the head or Lisa gets tied up in her jump rope, for example. Even when wailing on some of the general enemies, sometimes the player will be sucker punched out of nowhere, a tactic usually reserved for boss characters.

For those who have played The Simpsons
However, if you’re looking into The Simpsons Arcade, there is 99 percent chance you’ve played it in the arcades and anything gameplay-centric is just preaching to the converted. The good news is, Konami has taken the retro arcade revival process a little further, with improvements made to the experience over its previous effort, X-Men.

While many arcade ports would be satisfied in slapping online multiplayer into the package and calling it a day, The Simpsons houses a few surprising elements. My major complaint about how X-Men was set up was the fact every game mode allowed for infinite continues. This just resulted in players spamming their mutant power over and over again because they did not have to worry about permanently dying.

The Simpsons is a bit more robust in this regard, dispersing 40 credits per game play, which can be toggled as a pool for all players or divvied up to give each player 10 credits. A free play is still available, but the credits actually encourage serious gameplay online, especially in the “quarters” mode that spreads the credits out. For players really wanting to test their mettle, a survival mode is included, giving each player only a single life to tackle the game.

On top of this, much like X-Men, players can uncover a Japanese ROM of The Simpsons. While nothing changes in the core gameplay or aesthetics, the ROM makes getting some of the game’s achievements easier due to the increased frequency of food and weapons, along with the introduction of a nuclear bomb item that wipes enemies off the screen. With increased food, players can also boost their health beyond the initial amount, creating an “overshield” effect. Also, the ROM changes the scoring mechanics into a more robust formula as opposed to the generic “kill=1 point” method.

Finally, the downloadable version also touts options to change graphical appearances and ratios, and by playing through the game, players can unlock a number of extras that display development timelines, promotional materials, character references and sound tests. It’s nothing huge, but still, it comes as a welcome addition in a genre filled with quick cash-ins.

The ultimate judge here is whether or not players have fond memories of The Simpsons, as the game is admittedly not one of the arcade’s most stellar mainstays. The title banks heavily on its nostalgia factor and appeal, but if you have a couple of buddies willing to play the title, the game’s first playthrough can be quite a riot. Taking the gameplay online is a mixed bag, as I did dive into some matches where my character executed my commands a solid second after I made the input, so beware your connections. However, much like standing elbow-to-elbow with that stranger in the arcade, this ’90s affair is meant for couch co-op.

The Scores
Story/Modes: DECENT
Control and Gameplay: ENJOYABLE*
Replayability: BELOW AVERAGE
Originality: MEDIOCRE
Addictiveness: MEDIOCRE
Appeal Factor: CLASSIC
Miscellaneous: ENJOYABLE
*I am basing these factors compared to the expected quality of 1991.

Short Attention Span Summary:
The Simpsons an arcade port first and foremost, so if paying $10 for a short, repetitive experience isn’t your thing, you can skip out on this one. If you breathed during the ’90s and always wondered why this game was never released on consoles – that’s Konami’s target audience here. There’s nothing largely wrong with the game, but, to say it once again, nostalgia is the most powerful force at work here.