Review: The Simpsons Arcade (XBLA)

I was a child of the arcades. I would spend my time and money gladly and without hesitation at any one of a number of arcades on any one of a number of cabinets. X-Men, Gauntlet, Time Crisis, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and more have all played their part in draining me of the limited funds I had in my childhood. One of the games most responsible for my lack of cold hard coinage in my youth was The Simpsons. The first video game ever made for The Simpsons was made as an arcade cabinet by Konami in the first years of the 1990s, a decade very near and dear to my heart. I grew up with The Simpsons, both on TV and in the arcades. Now, it’s made its way to XBLA, and will be coming to PSN this coming Tuesday. Has Konami done the unthinkable and tampered with one of the greatest arcade games ever?

Only slightly, and all of it in good ways.

If you’ve never played The Simpsons in an arcade…I pity you. For those of you left in the cold, far from the warm glow of this particular arcade cabinet’s monitor, The Simpsons was a classic arcade beat ’em up centered on the animated television family. A diamond falls and replaces Maggie’s pacifier, Smithers steals Maggie, and up to four of the remaining members of the Simpsons family give chase through eight stages to recover their fifth. Along the way they battle various enemies in various locations, including Moe’s Tavern, Krustyland, the Channel 6 studio, and Burns’ office at the Springfield power plant, as well as a few other Springfield locations. Two bonus stages break the pattern, both of them button mashers.

For those of you familiar with The Simpsons in its classic arcade form, you will find almost nothing changed. The Simpsons Arcade includes the original US ROM as well as the Japan ROM as an unlockable mode. As with X-Men Arcade, there are a few differences between the US and Japan ROMs, but for the most part it’s the same game. The gameplay is standard in the US ROM, direct from your memory. The Japan ROM allows your health bar to increase over 100%, resulting in an overlaid health bar, includes an atomic bomb as a pick-up weapon in the levels, and gives you a score bonus at the end of each stage depending on how much health you have left. Additionally, the local multiplayer of the arcade cabinet has been expanded to include both local and online drop-in/drop-out co-op.

Multiplayer has four difficulties (easy, normal, hard, expert) and, more importantly, four different game modes. The first mode, Team Quarters, provides a shared pool of 40 continues to be shared by all players during the game. The second mode, Quarters, provides each player an individual collection of 10 continues. The third mode, Free Play, provides the players with unlimited continues. The fourth mode, Survival, provides each player with one credit and one life, no continues.

Along with the various multiplayer modes, The Simpsons Arcade has various pieces of unlockable content (including the aforementioned Japan ROM). The “Cool Stuff” area contains four sections: Flashback, Character Bios, Sound Test, and Music Test. Flashback provides a timeline of game development and release as well as some promotional materials from the original cabinets. Character Bios, Sound Test, and Music Test are all pretty much what they sound like: character bios, game sounds, and game music.

A full run is approximately 30-40 minutes in either ROM with one player, and potentially less with assistance from others. There is only one real complaint I have about this game and it is incredibly minor. When you have an online game that’s open to anyone, you aren’t shown the Gamer Tag of drop-in players until…well, until they drop-out.

At 800 MSP for XBLA and $9.99 for PSN, The Simpsons Arcade is going to be one of two things, depending on the person making the purchase. If you have played the original cabinet, and you enjoyed it (who am I kidding, of course you enjoyed it), this game will be a wonderfully satisfying trip down memory lane. If you have never played the game, this will be a wonderful example of the beat ’em up genre of arcade classics. Either way, this is an absolute win for Konami and for fans of quarter pumping arcade cabinets everywhere.

Review

ProsCons
Direct port of the classic game
Inclusion of Japanese ROM
Inclusion of drop-in/out online and local MP
Can't see the GT of online players until they leave
Rating
99 out of 100

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