The Simpsons Arcade

Talk about a long time coming. If there was one arcade game that Mega Drive and SNES owners wanted to see on their systems back in the ‘90s then surely this was it. Due to Acclaim having the console rights, Konami was only allowed to release it on computers back in the day, and so the PC and Commodore 64 were the only two formats to see a conversion. Fans have pleaded for a digital release for years and finally their nagging has been answered. Obviously profit comes into it too – the Turtles arcade game, which Konami co-published with Ubisoft, did very well for itself.

First impressions are that back in 1991 Konami really did take liberties with the license. To be fair though it was released between seasons one and two and as a consequence they didn’t have a great deal of inspiration to draw from. The plot sees Mr. Burns and a blue-haired Waylon Smithers robbing a jewellery store and Maggie accidentally getting kidnapped during their getaway.

What then ensues are eight levels set in Springfield as you fight through Burns’ hired goons to rescue the Simpsons’ youngest. Moe’s Tavern, for some bizarre reason, is located under Springfield cemetery while early on you can see Otto and Dr. Marvin Monroe working at Krusty Land. These discrepancies didn’t bother us back in the ‘90s, however, and nor do they bother us now. They just go to show that Konami was dedicated to cramming in as many familiar faces and nods to the cartoons as possible.

Backbone has impressed us with their arcade conversions before and they’ve pulled off their magic again here to deliver another decent conversion. There’s four-player online play, unlockable extras including artwork and sound tests, a survival mode and also the option to smooth the visuals over.

The Japanese ROM can be selected after beating the game for the first time too. The Japanese version is a little easier and has a few shoot ’em up-style elements, including a smart bomb and a different scoring system.

The chance to play with infinite continues does affect the replay value somewhat – it only takes thirty minutes to finish, and as the four unlockables are linked to completing it with each of the four characters, it’s possible to unlock everything in around two hours of play. After playing it with each member of the Simpsons clan tedium did start to settle, although the lure of unlocking the achievement for finishing it on expert difficulty did eventually see us coming back for more.

As you may be able to tell, this is a game that does hold a great degree of nostalgic value. Even with the rose-tinted glasses off though it’s still a decent brawler – each boss can be defeated easily if you use the correct attacks, new enemies are constantly introduced and the ability to team up with another character to pull off a ‘team attack’ is still quite a novelty.

Presentation has stood the test of time as well. The animation has dozens of nice touches, such as Lisa occasionally getting tangled up in her skipping rope, and there are a fair few speech samples. We dare you not to laugh when you hear Smithers’ voice for the first time – he sounds more like McBane.

The list of Simpsons games may be vast but this is one of the rare few worth playing. It’s not the longest lasting experience around – quite the opposite, in fact – but the hard work that Konami’s put into making it is evident even now.

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