It’s difficult to separate the memories and nostalgia of The Simpsons Arcade Game from the chlorine fumes and fizzy drinks of the swimming pool/leisure centre where I spent many an hour button bashing post-swim, but to this day the original Simpsons arcade game remains one of my fondest arcade memories, alongside Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Wrestlemania and various racing games with elaborate cabinets.
So just how rose tinted is my nostalgia? Is The Simpsons Arcade Game still as good as I remember today?
The beauty of The Simpsons Arcade Game is that it follows a classic, tried and tested formula, wrapped in brilliant artwork and animation that truly capture the feel of the cartoon, and back in 1991 frankly looked amazing, not unlike a playable cartoon. Coincidentally, one of my other arcade favourites – the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game – was practically the prequel to The Simpsons Arcade Game, also a cartoon-style co-operative side-scrolling beat ’em up from Konami. Even today, despite the pixellation, the visuals put on a good show and evoke the feeling of the slightly janky early Simpsons episodes.
Getting to grips with the gameplay here isn’t difficult, with just two buttons to master – hit and jump, or both together if you’re feeling particularly extravagant. It does result in the combat becoming mildly repetitive after awhile, but this is a game you can play through to completion in an hour if you don’t mind the frequent deaths. The simple gameplay meant anyone could jump in and play it back in the day, which was ideal as it’s best experienced with 2-4 players frantically button bashing and shouting at the screen. Replicating that same atmosphere is a little tricky nowadays without the original arcade cabinet to hand, but if you want to introduce a couple of non-gaming friends to a joypad, this is a perfect games night starter.
Viewed almost thirty years after its original release, The Simpsons Arcade Game has a quirky quality about it, like the early episodes themselves. Konami have tried to cram as many characters as they can in the background, so fans get to enjoy cameos from now almost forgotten characters like Bleeding Gums Murphy. If you’re of a certain age and think ’90s Simpsons was Best Simpsons, it will definitely bring a smile to your face. Although why Smithers is the main villain remains somewhat bemusing.
The biggest issue with The Simpsons Arcade Game today, is actually getting hold of a copy to play. It never really got a faithful console release, the closest thing being a somewhat decent PC conversion. Whilst an arcade port was released on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network back in 2012, it’s no longer available to download on those platforms. Assuming you don’t have an original arcade to hand, you might have to get your hands dirty with an arcade emulator such as MAME to enjoy this now. Needs must, and all that…
So, back to the important question – is The Simpsons Arcade Game as good as you remember? That does somewhat assume you have fond memories of it to begin with, but let’s gloss over that… Yes!
Yes, pleasantly this a classic that doesn’t disappoint and has stood the test of time pretty well. Unlike other games of its era, the impressive cartoon artwork has given it something of a timeless feel – whilst still clearly being a retro game of the ’90s, it has a certain ageless Keanu Reeves-like quality. Back on that leisure centre arcade it felt like a vast, sprawling adventure – today it’s something you can smash through in an hour or two, but as an antidote to the modern games requiring days of attention, that’s kind of refreshing. So if you were thinking about reliving some fond memories – go ahead and enjoy yourself. If it’s all new to you but you’re a person of excellent taste and refinement – go ahead too, have fun, and wonder why they just don’t make them like this anymore…
If you’d like a bit more detail and background on The Simpsons Arcade Game, Matt wrote The Simpsons Arcade Game – how Konami got it right first time a few years ago, which is well worth a read.