The Xbox Live Arcade and PSN are home to several unique and worthwhile releases that have been lovingly and painstakingly tweaked to ensure they're the best they can be. And then there are a glut of quick and dirty ports. Some of them come equipped with glossy HD aesthetics and others are straight transplants from system A to system B. Konami's The Simpsons Arcade Game is one of the latter, a simple, lazily ported classic making an appearance on the digital download scene for the convenience of gamers who'd like to play the game in an otherwise lawful manner than tracking down a ROM.
The Simpsons Arcade Game originally hit cabinets in 1991 during the initial Simpsons craze and enjoyed critical success and fan attention due to its then innovative brawler mechanics and items that characters could use as weapons, now standard in the dying brawler genre. Players could also team up and launch an offensive on enemies, and these elements were rare in the days of 16-bit classics. So the game was actually fantastic take on the genre on its own back in its heyday, and is praised today as well for its accomplishments.
This port takes all of what made the original enjoyable and gives new players a glimpse at the era's impressive technology, but simply does little with it. And when you get started and realize the limits that actually come with playing such a dated brawler, it quickly becomes far less palatable, even if you take it at face value. There are only really two buttons to worry about, and the "high-definition" graphics play a miniscule role in upscaling or improving the game for a modern audience.
To offset the lack of new or interesting additions, Konami has added unlockables – one that allows players to play the Japanese ROM of the game that sports cool tweaks for gameplay, and beating the game with each character nets you some cute extras like character artwork and promotional arcade flyers. But other than those small augments there's really no reason to keep coming back for more after you inevitably complete your first half-hour to hour play-through (if it even takes you that long.)
No leaderboards or local multiplayer are puzzling omissions, and the meager online multiplayer options that is included is riddled with glitches and slowdown that make it nearly impossible to find cooperative partners or other players at all. At the time of this review I found hardly playing this classic arcade brawler, and probably for good reason – it's not aged well.
The Simpsons Arcade Game is another barebones port that probably should have been left in the early 90s as a testament to how well brawlers could be – or at the very least released at a budget price. With scarce features, buggy online multiplayer, and a curious lack of effort in upgrading the visuals for modern displays it's a hard sell at its current asking price, though it might be worth a pick-up if it's ever discounted, like the previous X-Men arcade effort and all before it. It's a real shame, too, as Konami could have done so much with this ambitious title.
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