Doin’ The Bartman

The Simpsons Arcade Game was the first video game to feature our favorite family fivesome of yellow beings, all the way back in 1991, and would pave the way for classic console games like Bart vs. The World and Bart’s Nightmare, not to mention the franchise’s more recent console iterations. It also would help Konami pull off a string of arcade hits based on licensed products with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time and The X-Men Arcade Game following soon after. But for many of us, this cabinet was what introduced us to the Simpson clan, the side-scrolling beat ‘em up, and the concept of literally pouring quarters down the gullet of a machine whose A.I. at the time wasn’t considered “unforgiving” as much as it was the “norm”. And so looking to cash in on that nostalgia factor for those of us who grew up in the arcade, Konami has re-released The Simpsons Arcade Game for XBLA and PSN.

The game opens up with the Simpsons walking through Springfield one day when Waylon Smithers, for some unknown reason, is stealing a massive diamond for his already wealthy billionaire boss, Charles Montgomery Burns. Smithers, in his haste, bumps into the Simpsons and Maggie, the youngest of the Simpsons, catches the diamond that Smithers drops, and so Smithers snatches Maggie as well. Here you get to choose to be one of the remaining Simpsons as you chase down Smithers over the course of eight levels that take you all over Springfield in the hopes of saving your sister/daughter.

The action is your standard arcade fair of the early 90s with one button serving as your jump, another as your attack, and by pressing them in succession you can pull off a jump kick. Aside from this, there really isn’t much else to the game play. Lisa wields a jump rope as her weapon of choice and is surprisingly probably the best offensive character. Bart is the fastest wielding his skateboard. Marge has the most range with her vacuum cleaner. And Homer is the most well rounded as he uses his fists, feet, and general bulk to get the job done.

After playing through the game on XBLA a half-dozen times, the first times I’ve played the game in almost a decade and a half, I have to question my younger self’s memory, or at least his taste. The most glaring flaw with the game, which is evident throughout and the main flaw that holds its back, is the hit boxes the game provides. Often never being able to line up your characters perfectly for an attack, you have to either be above or below your foes when attacking to do any damage, often completely obscuring your characters when taking on the massive level bosses. Of course, Konami fixed this in later arcade games, but this made coordinating an attack more difficult than necessary as I had to get up close and personal to my enemies, often taking just as much damage as I dished out and making me realize that it wasn’t the A.I. that was difficult as much as some technical shortcomings that Konami still hasn’t fixed in this particular title even after all these years.

The Simpsons Arcade Game, like many licensed games back then, is also so loosely based on the franchise that hardcore fans of the TV show will likely just start laughing as they continue to progress through the game as Moe’s Tavern is located under a graveyard, which is also next to Krustyland. And then of course having all The Simpsons fly on screen like superheroes after every life, which only really makes sense for Bart, or Mr. Burns for some reason being a 7-ft. tall behemoth when you face him finally in the nuclear power plant, and clearly Konami was not set on sticking to the brand when it came to making their game.

I think really the most disappointing thing about the game is the lack of extra features you get with it though. You’d think that after 20 years, we could at least get a graphics upgrade like TMNT: Turtles in Time: Re-Shelled that would have fixed the hit boxes. But aside from access to the Japanese ROM of the game, or the 4-player mayhem you might be able to have if you have a few nostalgic feeling friends, this is one arcade game that just hasn’t stood the test of time. Only the most nostalgic of arcade dwellers should drop the full $10 (800 MSP, 40 quarters) on this, otherwise, I’d try to wait to see if The Simpsons Arcade Game goes on sale at some point in the future before making my purchase.

SUMMARY: The nostalgia factor will drive many to want to purchase this, but numerous flaws, possibly covered up the first time around by childhood innocence, and a lack of extra features should have you waiting for this to go on sale first.

  • THE GOOD: Nostalgia factor is through the roof for veterans of the quarter gobbling arcade cabinet
  • THE BAD: Poor hit boxes makes us question what we loved about the game in the first place
  • THE UGLY: Dancing thriller-zombies in the graveyard level

SCORE: 6.0

The Simpsons Arcade Game is available on Xbox 360 (XBLA) and PS3 (PSN). Primary version reviewed was on Xbox 360.