Hello all! Last time, I talked about a spinoff of a popular shooter series that became my favorite entry, particularly due to its more measured approach.
Today brings us something from my childhood, and part of me thinks it might have been better to leave it there.
The Simpsons is, of course, based on the animated sitcom that’s been running for 150 years. It might not seem like it now, but Simpsons was a legitimate worldwide phenomenon back in the 90's. This particular arcade beat-em-up is only the second video game based on the show, first hitting arcades in 1991. In the game, Mr. Burns’ assistant kidnaps Maggie because she’s using a huge diamond as a pacifier, so it’s up to Homer, Bart, Lisa, and Marge to rescue her. For you, this means fighting your way through levels filled with increasingly bonkers enemies.
There’s not a whole lot going on gameplay-wise; Simpsons is a classic beat-em-up featuring just two buttons: punch and jump. Thus, all four Simpsons control the same, give or take some timing and range differences. If you’ve played Konami’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or X-Men arcade games, this is more or less the same.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a hardcore Simpsons fan; I grew up with the show, having cool parents who would let me watch it as a kid (and I mean like at five years old). I’ve also been into video games since, again, forever. So going to the arcade (mostly at the Jersey Shore, since my hometown’s sole arcade was neither local nor good) and finding a Simpsons arcade game was, needless to say, quite a thrill. My brother and I would make a beeline for it whenever we found one, him playing as Homer, me as Bart, generally. We never quite got to the end, but we had a blast playing. At least, I did. At one point about ten years ago, my younger brother and I spent an entire roll of quarters playing—and completing—the game.
And so The Simpsons arcade game took on a near-mythological status for me, growing up. I’d always feel any arcade I went to was incomplete without it, although I’d get over it quickly enough if said arcade had Time Crisis, Star Wars Trilogy Arcade, or Spy Hunter. Every time I spotted a Simpsons machine, though, there I was. The now-closed movie theater closest to my home had one for a while, and I’d go inside just to play it, not actually intending to see any movies (they’d eventually replace it with Dynamite Cop, and that game rocks, so yeah).
One day, five years ago, I read the announcement that The Simpsons arcade game was going to be released on Xbox 360 as a $10 download. I was ecstatic. For $10 I could own this game I’ve spent buckets of quarters playing over the years. I wouldn’t have to wonder if the next arcade I wandered into had it, as playing it had long been a ritual for me. I bought it on Xbox as soon as it was available and fired it up.
It wasn’t the same. At all.
Now, free from the cacophony of lights and sounds that make up an arcade, free from the distractions, I could play Simpsons in my own home. Suddenly, the high of the arcade was gone, and here I was, playing Simpsons and unwillingly, automatically judging it not as an arcade experience, but as a game. Part of you doesn’t want to look at it like that, but it happens anyway, now that you have unlimited access to it.
Simpsons’ hit detection is awful. All the characters play the same (some will argue that they’re different but come on). It animates fine in spots and weird in others. The game drags. Most of the bosses are cheap (this is, of course, a game designed to eat quarters, but still). The team up attacks are pretty cool but you’ll never really use them.
Not that I’m sitting there saying “This is bad,” but it was definitely a much more hollow experience than playing the game in the arcades. Perhaps it was those lights and sounds, or perhaps it was because my quarter was on the line. Or maybe it was because I was a kid, and almost every game is cool when you’re a kid. I remember the little Greek restaurant by my home when I was a kid had a Majestic 12 arcade cabinet (it’s a Space Invaders sequel) that I used to play every week. Playing that same game at home reveals a nigh-unplayable turd.
I still make a habit of playing any Simpsons arcade game I see if/when I’m ever in an arcade (rarely these days, sadly), but the arcade is where it likely should’ve stayed, for me. I like the game, but I can’t play it at home. It’s really not the same. (Side note: even at home, it’s infinitely better when you play with a good friend)
Thanks for reading my stuff! Yell at me on Twitter about why I’m wrong, and/or suggest other games I should cover! Hit the comments!
Next week, we get our asses to Mars in this PS2 era shooter that lets you tunnel through walls.