February 3, 2012

Nostalgia Trip – The Simpsons Arcade

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 9:07 pm

The Simpsons Arcade
The Simpsons’ trip to the arcades in 1991 represents a perfect intersection, the point where Konami’s apparent ability to create beat ’em-up quarter-munching arcade cabinets with any license, crossed paths with The Simpsons’ surging ability to sell any product their images were plastered upon.

Today the game hit Xbox LIVE Arcade for 800 Microsoft Points, and will appear on the PlayStation Network next week for $9.99 – or free to PlayStation Plus subscribers on that platform. Like last year’s release of X-Men Arcade, The Simpsons Arcade game was what I often longed for on home consoles, rather than the infuriating adventure games we got instead.

The Simpsons allows up to four players to join the game locally or online, as well as offering both the North American and Japanese versions of the ROM. This port of the arcade classic also lightly stirs the play-mode options, offering a setting that challenges players to complete the game with a single life – and I salute anyone who can accomplish such a feat.

The Simpsons is as mercilessly brutal at devouring your lunch money as any of Konami’s old arcade creations, perhaps the most hungry of them all. However, since the game provides a free-play mode that ensures anyone can see the ending, we don’t really need to get hung up on the difficulty here.

What deserves a few more words is how visually interesting the game is, proving equally important historically, along with providing a delightful nostalgia trip that has me thinking back to the first time I saw the four-player cabinet back in an era when arcades still existed in abundance.

Much like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, unique attacks, subtle character animations, and background action brings a richer sense of life to the title. But the level of detail within The Simpsons represents a real peak in creating a game as animated as the source material.

Supporting characters continually appear with health regenerating food and temporary weapons, and the game exploits any chance to squeeze out references to the show while traveling from the streets of Springfield to the Nuclear Plant, including an appearance by Matt Groening’s signature rabbit. But the game also takes interesting liberties, creating a dream sequence where players fight curious donut enemies or a graveyard full of zombies, neither of which feel out of place within the eight stage trip.

There’s also an immense spirit of curiosity, providing players with a myriad of objects that can be picked-up and hurled at enemies – from soda cans to the family dog. The end of two different stages even feature a mini-game where players compete for points by mashing the buttons repeatedly to either fill a balloon with air or slap their own character’s face to wake them up.

It’s an expectedly short trip that asks you to bash on bosses like all Konami beat ‘em-ups of course, but as much as I prefer the X-Men and TMNT licenses, this just might be the more interesting dose of nostalgia from that era for all the extra trouble the game goes to in creating curious bits of interaction in both the background and foreground – whether you’re shaking a tree for apples or getting hit by a swinging door from a storefront.

If you have no memories of the arcades and/or have never found other means to sample the title, it would be easy to imagine that the game simply pasted The Simpsons franchise over an existing framework, and that isn’t entirely a false assumption. But that framework provides the foundation for a game that devours the source material and emerges with an experience still worth revisiting, even after all these years. And despite what the screenshots suggest, you can play the game without tacky borders.


  1. Damn, it’s $10? Very happy about my PS+ sub! I must have spent $60+ on the arcade back in the day. Time to break out the nostalgia goggles!

    Comment by EdEN — February 4, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

  2. I’d forgotten all about the two-player combo attacks you can do, sweet sweet nostalgia.

    Comment by Jamie Love — February 5, 2012 @ 3:27 am

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