The Simpsons (Arcade) â?? Retrospective
I remember the days before video arcades began to totally suck in America. The one down here at Springfield Mall used to be packed with a wide selection of awesome brawlers, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, X-Men and the Simpsons. The Simpsons was delevoped by Konami and had a lot of similarities with their TMNT brawler, mostly since all of Konamiâ??s brawlers had a very similar formula to them. Still, it was a formula that really worked, so you couldnâ??t complain. The Simpsons was one of their best and became a game that sucked far too many allowances out of my pocket.
I recently replayed the game for the first time in over a decade. Sadly, I canâ??t say that it lived up to my nostalgia. It was still very technically sound, graphically impressive and fun, yet at the same time, there were several missed opportunities where it could have been better, and there is a lot about the game thatâ??s justâ?Šweird.
Well, firstly, the story goes like so: Mr. Burns sends his yes-man, Smithers, to rob a jewelry store and steal a giant diamond. As Smithers is completing the heist he bumps into the Simpsons. The diamond falls into Maggieâ??s mouth, who begins sucking on it like it was her usual pacifier. Smithers, in a hurry, grabs Maggie and makes a break for it. The Simpsons then set off to rescue their missing family member, battling Mr. Burnsâ?? horde of henchmen along the way.
You have the choice of four playable characters in this game. My favorite was always Homer, whose special move was to just punch the crap out of the bad guys, nothing cute. There was Bart, who road his skateboard non-stop and would smack bad guys upside the head with it. There was Marge, who would whack enemies with a vacuum cleaner. And, finally, there was Lisa, who would whip enemies with a jump-rope. Why they didnâ??t use a saxophone is beyond me. One of the neat things about the game, which put it ahead of other licensed Konami arcade games like TMNT and G.I. Joe, is that they used the actual voice actors from the TV series. Granted, the voice overs hardly extended past the characters saying their names, spouting catchphrases and grunting, but it was a nice gesture. A Hell of a lot more effort than Konamiâ??s G.I. Joe arcade game, where the mute Snake-Eyes would scream â??YO JOE!â? at the end of every level.
The characters proceed through various stages taken from episodes or locations in the television series. You start out on Main Street, then you work your way to Krusty Land, then the woods, then a dreamland, then the Springfield Discount Cemetary, then Moeâ??s Tavern, then the Channel 4 building and finally the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. You can kind of tell that the Japanese people at Konami werenâ??t too familiar with the television series. They manage to work an entire level out of Moeâ??s Tavern, which is located underground and has its own cabaret, yet the Nuclear Power Plant is just a boss battle and not a real stage.
One of the coolest things about this game was how the players could interact with the environments. Several supporting cast members would show up in the stages. Sometimes they were just background graphics, sometimes they would offer you food to fix your health and sometimes they were just there for you to punch in the face for the Hell of it. I always got a kick out of that. The graphics were great and, most of the time, did a really good job of recreating the appearance of the television series. Springfield is very colorful and lively and the extra gags and in-jokes tossed it (including Bongo, Matt Groeningâ??s one-eared bunny character from the Life is Hell comics) make it a memorable experience.
Now, on to the bad. Probably the worst thing about Simpsons Arcade is the selection of characters used for the bad guys. Thereâ??s a whopping variety of two main henchmen you battle ceaselessly through-out the course of the game; a skinny guy with curly hair and a fat guy with grey hair. And you fight them over and over and over and over. Occasionally, depending on the stage, youâ??ll be blessed with some fresh cannon fodder enemies, like zombies (cemetery), walking donuts (dreamland) or ninjas (Channel 4). However, for the most part, you just fight the same two guys.
Now, I have to say, probably the biggest missed opportunity and easily the most disappointing aspect of the game are the bosses. Save for the final two bosses (Smithers and Mr. Burns), theyâ??re all original characters. And they suck. You fight a pro wrestler, a giant Krusty the Clown ball, a bear, an evil bowling ball, a drunken skinhead, a robot and a kabuki shogun guy. What. The. F***!?!? Theyâ??re the most random, boring, disappointing boss battles ever. Hundreds of supporting characters they could have chosen to make bosses, like Nelson or Jimbo or Snake or Sideshow Bobâ?Šand they come up with these lame-o original characters?
The two best boss battles in the game, surprise-surprise, are the final two. Smithers is really annoying but in a fun and challenging sort of way. He runs around hurling bombs at you from inside his cape (yes, he wears a cape). Heâ??s throwing tons of them at you non-stop and heâ??s running *really* fast. If you keep your distance, youâ??ll get blown up, but if you get too close, heâ??ll smack you with his cape. Youâ??re supposed to pick up the blue bombs he leaves laying on the ground and hurl them back at him. However, heâ??s running so fast, getting a bead on him can be tough. At the end, when you do beat him, he laughs like a maniac then goes all kamikaze and blows himself up. The animation is hilarious.
The final battle against Mr. Burns is also pretty difficult, but mostly due to how lengthy it is. Mr. Burns comes at you in a giant robot exo-suit. Hit him enough and his legs explode, turning into tank treads. Keep hitting him and his tank treads will explode, turning into a hovercraft. Keep hitting him and his hovercraft with explode, turning into the skeletal inner-frame of the exo-suit. Finally, once youâ??ve beaten him, heâ??ll collapse and appears to (thanks to the Xs in his eyes) die. It takes a while, but Burnsâ?? attacks stay the same in each form (he has pincher arms and stomach nukes).
The Simpsons Arcade isnâ??t as perfect as I remember it, sadly. Still, it remains a very fun game, especially if youâ??re playing with a group of friends. Itâ??s also easily one of the best Simpsons video games ever made, thanks mostly to the shear volume of CRAP games that the franchise has been slapped with (Bart vs. the Space Mutants! Bart vs. the World! Escape from Camp Deadly! Bart vs. the Gladiators! Ugh.). The game has never been released on any console, so unless you can find a working arcade cabinet some place, youâ??re going to have to play the game using other resources. The Simpson fan in you will enjoy it, especially if youâ??ve been around since the early days of the television series and you actually remember when Bartman merchandise was all the rage.