By Jason Cipriano
The Simpsons, television's longest running sitcom, have had a hit-or-miss history when it comes to video games. This February will mark a huge milestone for the show when it airs its 500th episode, and, as if to remind fans of their humble beginnings, Fox and Konami have re-released one of the first games to bear The Simpsons moniker on Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network. Following in the footsteps of two of two other re-released arcade beat-'em-ups, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and X-Men, The Simpsons Arcade Game is a blast from the past that will strike some serious chords of nostalgia for longtime fans.
Released 21 years ago, The Simpsons Arcade Game put players in the shoes of the Simpson family (Homer, Marge, Bart and Lisa) as they tracked down Mr. Smithers who has kidnapped Maggie during a botched jewelry store robbery. Back in the day, The Simpsons was one of the most recognizable four-player cabinets, offering gamers the chance to fight through the streets of Springfield with three of their friends, as the whole Simpsons clan. Fortunately, not much changed in the re-releases.
With an arcade-perfect port of both the U.S. and Japanese ROMs as the basis for the gameplay, everything fans remember from the 1991 arcade release is here in all of its pixilated glory. With guest appearances by everyone from Patty and Selma to Moe to the now deceased Bleeding Gums Murphy and Marvin Monroe, The Simpsons is packed to the gills with references from the first two years the show was on the air.
The cameos and sight gags may be the highlight for most players, as the gameplay itself can get to be a bit repetitive. A casualty of the genre, The Simpsons plays out like countless other beat-'em-ups where you spam on two buttons the whole game and just try to avoid being hit. One thing that does separate this release from some of the other classics, is that The Simpsons can join up for team attacks, allowing two characters to become one. This mechanic offers at least a little variety, and also encourages a little more skill from the co-op gameplay.
In addition to the classic gameplay, it seems like Konami has put a little extra effort into The Simpsons than they did with the TMNT and X-Men re-releases. Including the Japanese ROM (X-Men also included this feature) is just one unlockable alongside original promotion art, a character reference guide, and sound and music tests. While just the game itself may have been enough for most fans who haven't been able to get their hands on it legally in over two decades, these bonuses are a great addition to the download.
Simpsons' fans that are old enough to remember feeding quarter after quarter into this classic cabinet should download this in a heartbeat. Sure, it may capitalize on the nostalgia value of a long-running TV series, but, for what it is, it holds up quite well. While the game inherently has some problems that some gamers may not be able to over look; like the repetitive nature of the beat-'em-up genre or that it isn't as lengthy as other games (about 40 minutes to beat), The Simpsons Arcade Game still stands out as one of the best co-op arcade games of the 90s. Since The Simpsons have been such a touchstone in American pop culture for the last 23 years they've had their fair share of games released with their name on it, some were better than others, but you owe it to yourself to try one of their first, especially now that it's available in such a nice downloadable package.