Memories, light the corners of my mind…
The Simpsons have made their way over to the current generations console via the download route, is their return a welcome one or should they have remained in the arcades? Read on to find out.
Game: The Simpsons Arcade
Developer: Backbone Entertainment
Price: 800 Microsoft Points/£7.99/$9.99
The initial announcement of The Simpsons Arcade got most gamers into a bit of a frenzy. It’s safe to say that anyone who’d experienced the game first hand had nothing but fond memories, and couldn’t wait to relive those hours spent on Lyme Regis seafront blindly smashing buttons (or maybe that was just me). Konami has put a lot of love into this remake, going as far as creating an authentic marquee in the main menu that ACTUALLY FLICKERS! Everything is exactly as you remember it, which is ultimately not as great as you’d first think.
As you’d expect, the game looks beautiful in HD, mostly thanks to the diverse Simpsons colour palette. Rather than smoothing out the rougher edges Backbone have emphasised them by keeping everything slightly pixelated (although this can be swapped out for a smoother version in the options menu). This gives the game a really unique style, one which is maintained through the end of level “cutscenes”.
One nice touch is the way unlockables are handled. After finishing your first run through, you’ll unlock the Japanese ROM, which is slightly different from the US ROM in a few ways. Firstly, you need to manually pick up food to boost your health rather than just walking over it, which is a dream when playing with more than one player as it stops players accidentally collecting pickups. Secondly, it allows you to overfill your health bar which is handy in survival mode and before boss fights. On top of that, each character holds a different reward for completing the game with them, from sound tests to some artwork. Sadly, what was a good opportunity to flesh the game out a bit, isn’t entirely seized upon.
There’s been a little bit of variety added to the game types. You’ve got Free Play, which gives all players unlimited continues, Team Quarters, where all players share a pool of 40 credits, Quarters, which gives each player gets 10 credits and the unbelievably brutal Survival – one Credit, one life, no continues. Cranking up the difficulty doesn’t actually make things any harder, it just increases the number of enemies you’ll be fighting, which also scales depending on the number of players in a game. For example, if you tackle the highest difficulty solo, you’ll face roughly the same number of enemies as you would on an easy 4 player playthrough. Combat doesn’t change with difficulty either. It’s still two button controls, jump and attack, plus you’ve still got the 2 player dual attacks to make use of when the screen starts to fill up.
The issue here is going to be longevity. With each playthrough coming in at half an hour or under, finishing the game with all four characters still only brings you to the two hour mark. Whilst that was fine for a pound in the early 90’s, You’d be hard pushed to say it was enough for ten pounds in 2012. There is multiplayer to take into account, but it’s still just 4 player co-op of the exact same game.
Everything is present and correct in the online suite, you’ve got the option to jump straight into a game, search for certain settings or host your own game. Friend invites are supported and within the custom setting you can choose between either ROM and which stage to start at. However, the in-game action isn’t that great. Lag makes the game almost unplayable even if you select a game with an extremely low ping. If one player’s connection is clearly decreasing the quality, it requires everyone else to tune their ninja foresight skills to the max. Quality is a little better when you’re hosting, but you’ll still notice that other players are suffering.
Depending on your opinion of the original version, The Simpson Arcade Game is probably worth the 800 Microsoft Points purely for the nostalgia trip alone, but you won’t be getting an awful lot of content for your money. That said, it’s hard to imagine the outrage had Konami messed with what is for many a nailed on arcade classic. It’s best to just enjoy it for what it is, that game you loved dearly, but playable without getting sticky fingers courtesy of the last kid who poured his pocket money into the cabinet.