As fun as previous Konami brawlers ported by Backbone Entertainment have been, nobody would accuse the ports of being anything more than workmanlike in quality. I can't say the developers have gone above and beyond the call of duty here, but they have at least improved on past ports' weaknesses. Take the difficulty, for example. TMNT: The Arcade Game was a bit too tough for some co-op teams with its shared 40 life limit and no online freeplay option. But X-Men: The Arcade Game was too easy, allowing less skillful players to spam their mutant powers ad infinitum. Here, you can set the game type to free play, quarters (each player gets only 10 credits to complete the game), or team quarters (players share a pool of 40 credits). The latter modes provide incentive for skillful play. On a similar note, the one-life Survival Mode returns as well.
The Simpsons Arcade suffers from a widescreen border that is startlingly cromulent in appearance, but it makes up for that blunder by including the largest selection of extras of any Konami brawler so far. Like X-Men, players can select between the US ROM and the subsequent Japanese revision (after beating the game once). I actually like the Japanese version better this time; it’s got more weapons and health pickups, an improved scoring system, and several other minor changes. Clearing the game with each Simpsons family member unlocks arcade flyers, a list of every character cameo, a music test, and a sound test.
The co-op features here are pretty much identical to those of X-Men, other than supporting four players instead of six. You can play with any combination of four people offline or online. If anyone completes the requirements for an Achievement or Trophy, everybody gets credit for it. Online is still a bit laggy (Backbone, remember) but enjoyable when everyone’s connection is decent. Good news for players bothered by the lag: the sole multiplayer-specific Achievement doesn’t require online play.
While every Konami arcade beat-em-up is special in its own way, The Simpsons Arcade Game is probably the best one I’ve played. Its curious yet reverent use of the license, stellar graphics and sound (for the time), team-up-moves, and multitude of weapons all make for an experience that stands the test of time. Some folks’ll never want to spend ten bucks on a game they can beat in 30 minutes – and then again, some folks’ll. If you love the genre or even just The Simpsons and have a friend or three to play with, you’ll get plenty of repeat playthroughs of The Simpsons Arcade in the years to come. It sure beats hunting down an actual arcade machine!
Editor's Note: The Co-Optimus Co-Op Review of The Simpsons Arcade was based on the XBLA version of the game.
The Co-Op Experience: Up to four players can take on the roles of Homer, Marge, Bart, and Lisa as they fight to rescue baby Maggie. 2-person team-up attacks allow members of the family to do extra damage together.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.