After downloadable releases of Konami's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the X-Men beat-em-ups, there was one missing to complete the 90s trinity, which is the Simpsons. Now the wait is over as the Simpsons Arcade Game is finally out on Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network for ten dollars (800 Microsoft Points). Just like TMNT and X-Men, The Simpsons followed a similar formula to those games as you play as the family through multiple stages and spending quarters like crazy to beat them at the arcades. The same folks that made these ports, Backbone, are back on from this one. If you played those ports before, they were generally good both locally and online, and The Simpsons is no exception. Out of the three however, I do have to say that it is the weakest of them due to the other two being better back then and even today.
The story in this Simpsons game is pretty simple as it is up to Homer, Marge, Bart, and Lisa to rescue Maggie from Mr. Burns and Smithers as they kidnap Maggie because she is sucking some rare gem. You transverse through various locales from Springfield such as Krustyland, Moe's Tavern, and more. Each of the Simpsons have their quirks as Homer relies on brute fists and kicks, Marge uses her vaccum, Lisa has a jumprope, and Bart uses his skateboard to attack enemies. As with these beat-em-ups, they don't play completely different from each other as it is basically a fan favorite pick at times when choosing characters. The full arcade mode is intact and can be played in various ways. A standard of these ports is having the free play option if you want to just blaze through the game which is less than a hour long. The quarters option is there if you want to have more of a challenge having a limited number of lives and there is a team variant where everyone shares the same lives. Survival mode is self-explanatory as you try to beat the game with only one life. Like the X-Men port, the Japanese ROM is playable in the Simpsons even though you have to unlock it by beating the game once unlike being available out of the gate on X-Men. Besides a different scoring system, the Japanese ROM is a little easier than the default US one because of better health pickups and your health goes back to full at the start of a new stage.
There are different gameplay mechanics in The Simpsons that were not used in Ninja Turtles or X-Men even though you can stick to the fundamentals of just mashing the X or square button on enemies. What is different are objects and team attacks. You can throw objects that are scattered throughout the levels against the opposition such as bowling balls, drinks, signs, etc. Weapons like brooms and slingshots are also there being useful in certain situations. The team attacks can be used when two characters are close together as one example is Homer throwing Bart around. Bonus mini-games after certain levels are also present as it is pretty much a contest of who mashes better.
The big feature of this Simpsons Arcade port is obviously the ability to play this online with three other players. Players can drop in and drop out at any time during games, but if you want to get specific achievements/trophies, you have to play the game from start to finish. The netcode is a mixed bag even though the game seems to be running smoothly with no slowdown, but when I'm joining other games, I have input lag throughout the game when attacking. When I'm hosting games though, the game controls fine with no input lag at all, so the online experience may vary pending on connections with other players. The game might freeze up at times when players join up or leave, which is typical if you played the Turtles and X-Men ports. Despite that, the online is not completely unplayable and there is still some fun to have especially beating the game on the hardest difficulty with limited lives. If online is not your thing, there is always local play which is good to blast through every now and then because doing consecutive playthroughs of this can get tiring.
Graphically, this is the same Simpsons arcade game as you remembered with its unique graphical style at the time being accurate to the source material. The game is played in 4:3 and can be stretched to widescreen if you preferred that even though it is not really meant to be played in that fashion (X-Men's widescreen in comparison was meant to be played that way), but its fine in its default form. The borders are unoriginal as some Simpsons art would of been nice to surround the screen like Ninja Turtles, but the arcade cabinet setting seems accurate. Filtering options are also present if you want the game to look more arcade-y than crisped up for HD televisions. The sound and music is also intact in this port with the characters sounding like as they should from the show. Sound tests are unlockable as well if you're into that stuff.
If you loved The Simpsons Arcade game back in the day, it is worth the ten dollars to get this XBLA/PSN port just for nostalgic purposes. Sure, these types of games don't really hold up to today's standards, but they are still great trips down memory lane and it is better playing these on consoles than wasting quarters at arcades that might still have it. Out of the trinity of Konami's beat-em-ups, this is the weakest of the bunch especially that I played the X-Men port through again recently, so if you had to pick just one to buy, go with X-Men since it is a better handled Backbone port too. The online is okay despite issues with input lag when in other people's games. As with those beat-em-up ports, they are good to have when you have local friends around to play it every now and then. It is also still worth it for Simpsons fans as well especially seeing how it was the 90s compared to the show today.
Score = 6.5/10
- Its the 90s Simpsons game as you remembered it
- Still a good trip down memory lane locally and online with three online players
- Online can be a mixed bag with input lag issues when in other people's games, but fine when hosting
- Compared to Konami's beat-em-ups released on XBLA & PSN, this is the weakest of the bunch