Each Vintage Vault review looks at the games of our past and decides whether they stand the test of time. If they do they become Vaulted and gain eternal protection from The Great Eye – Loganius. If they fail they get thrown in The Pixel Pit and receive eternal damnation. Let the trials begin.
I have been a huge fan of Konami over the years. The Metal Gear games are some of the most brilliantly crafted and engaging of any generation. Silent Hill 2 was a relentless and unnerving journey through the trials of the human psyche. I also spent many an evening sitting on the couch with my friends playing multiple games of Pro Evolution Soccer when it was the go to football game prior to FIFA becoming as big as it is.
So it is quite sad to see where the company finds itself nowadays, sitting on it’s intellectual property and not using them for new video games. Instead Konami use their IP’s as facades for money hungry Pachinko arcade machines. Ironically it was the arcade at the turn of the 1990’s where one of their most famous video games was most prominent. It is this game that finds itself being judged today. That game being the arcade game entitled – The Simpsons (begin chorus, separate clouds…you know the drill).
“Welcome to my world!“
I’m sure everyone knows what The Simpsons is, as it’s biggest show of all time when measured by seasons, with a run that is still going today. Back in 1991 the show was in it’s infancy. It had just gone from being a short animation on the Tracey Ullman Show to a fully fledged prime-time sitcom. The show was a massive hit and merchandising for the show rocketed. And, as always, the world of video games had a hand in this.
Multiple games were released on the consoles to varying criticisms, but the arcade game we’re talking about today is one of the more well known variants of this franchises step into the binary world.
The game is a 1-4 player side-scrolling beat ’em up, similar in vein to Konami’s other popular game of the time, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game.
The graphical style is closely similar to the show, but because of the time the game was released, the show had yet evolved to their now recognisable look. Because of this the animation style of those early seasons look rudimentary in comparison. Therefore it is a game that is unmistakable for it’s time but character models and voices would seem off to anyone who has only seen the later series of the show.
“Let’s get ’em Dad!”
The story is swift in getting going from the very press of the start button. Weyland Smithers is in process of robbing a jewelers of a giant diamond at the seeming behest of his boss Mr. Burns. Despite Smithers’ known loyalty to his boss this does seem out of character for the timid Smithers we find in the show. This is because of Smithers being based on his character in There’s No Disgrace Like Home – an episode that critics have stated show many characters acting differently to their performances in later episodes and seasons.
During his robbery, Smithers bumps into the Simpsons family and the stolen diamond goes flying into the air and lands in baby Maggie’s mouth as a substitute for her pacifier. Instead of taking the diamond out of her mouth, Smithers kidnaps Maggie (clearly the easiest option?) and runs off with baby and diamond in tow. This is where the game begins, with the Simpson family determined to save Maggie.
You can choose between four characters, that being Homer, Marge, Bart and Lisa. Each character has a weapon of choice to attack with. Marge has a vacuum cleaner, Lisa has her skipping rope, Bart has his skateboard and Homer…..well, he just punches.
When two characters stand close to each other, they can mount a double team attack, such as Homer and Marge holding each other’s ankles to roll around the screen. You can also see Homer placing Lisa on his shoulders so they can strike at two different heights. There are melee weapons that can picked up and used such as bowling balls and hammers also.
Interestingly the Japanese version of the game has slight differences to the Western release, most noticeably that include projectiles in the form of small scale nuclear bombs that clear all on-screen enemies.
“Hey that’s my sister Mister!“
The opening level of downtown Springfield is a typical beat ’em up opening stage of urban streets. Most of the enemies are unexplained random designs of characters that have never been seen in the show before or since. These are relatively easy to defeat, as is most fodder in games like this.
Reaching the end of the level (and subsequently most levels that follow) triggers a boss battle, with the first boss being a huge wrestler that the Simpsons have to take down. There are also mini games played between stages that require players to mash buttons in competition with each other.
Subsequent levels incude the Disney inspired KrustyLand, the zombie filled horrific Springfield Cemetery and the strangely underground located Moe’s Tavern. There is also the bear-filled forest of Springfield Butte, the surreal sleep-state of Dreamland, the bustling building of Channel 6 News and of course the final level of Springfield Nuclear Power Plant.
At the end of the final level the Simpsons must initially defeat Smithers and then subsequently Mr. Burns. Homer’s boss uses a technological advanced mobile battle suit equipped with a variety of dangerous weaponry. Once Mr. Burns is defeated, Maggie puts her pacifier in his mouth and the Simpsons go home, ending the game.
“When will I learn? The answer to life’s problems aren’t at the bottom of a bottle, they’re on TV!”
For me the game is a fun little beat ’em up that is a typically designed arcade game of the period. They were usually developed to be unfairly difficult for the sole reason to accumulate money from the player or players playing. The graphics are in-tune to the show and the music and sound design is recognisable. The basic gameplay is also easy to learn from the start.
I feel this game just about deserves it’s place in The Vault, garnering the same score as my previous entry in Aladdin. However, whereas that game was a 7 closing in on an 8, this is a 6.8 that was rounded.
Just like most arcade games, if you have the unlimited credits available, it’s a game that anyone can beat. Skill is not needed as much as button bashing is used and, because of that, learning patterns is not a requirement and so the longevity of the game suffers. But the fun presentation gives it that slight boost and The Simpsons finds it’s rightful place in The Vintage Vault.