Konami’s series of licensed beat-’em-ups in the late ’80s and early ’90s were a huge success at the time, and those who played them then have desired to experience them again on modern consoles. Konami and Ubisoft were happy to oblige, bringing TMNT and X-Men games to downloadable services. Now we have The Simpsons Arcade, and if there’s anything we’ve learned at this point, it’s that only some of these hold up as well as we thought they would.
For those who haven’t played it (and really, you’re not the audience), The Simpsons Arcade puts you in control of Bart, Homer, Marge or Lisa and sets you out to rescue Maggie. Along the way, you’ll face mostly-random people that make no sense in a Simpsons game, along with the occasional in-world character. The combat is basic: you can jump, you can attack or you can jump and then attack. What sets Simpsons Arcade apart is the implementation of combo moves: if you and another player stand still next to each other, it triggers a team move of some sort you can use to take out baddiesTeam . Even with these special tactics, the combat seems ham-fisted compared to TMNT and less varied than X-Men.
Backbone handled the port, and it’s clear that they’re getting the hang of it after years of experience at the practice. While the game doesn’t run in widescreen (sadly), the other amenities are here: USA and Japan ROMs (with varied experiences), online multiplayer (with multiple credit options from 1-life survival to free play) and unlockable music and art. The online play seems especially vulnerable to lag issues, but even still, it’s possible to find a more stable match.
By the end of the first playthrough, the seams start to unfurl on the base gameplay. The sound clips, fun at an arcade, play a bit too often to want to sit through the whole thing too many times, and the bosses are especially prone to just-keep-hitting syndrome and offer little strategic variety. The port is solid, but without that little extra love (like doing something for widescreen players besides a plain “arcade”-style letterbox, or a new coat of paint on the game itself), it’s a tough sell.
Pros: Fun co-op action online and off, Japan ROM included
Cons: Ham-fisted combat, not that much here to do