The Simpsons

Here’s a hidden gem for some of you retro gamers out there – The Simpsons Arcade Game.

Developed by Konami, it shares a ton of similarities to their other beat’em up games, such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle series. In fact, it’s practically the same exact game with Simpsons paint over it.

And that’s not a bad thing!

Originally made in 1991 upon the advent of the TV series’ popularity, console gamers were given a treat in 2012 when the arcade-only title was ported to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (via Xbox Live Arcade). This review focuses on the PS3 version specifically.

The first note I want to make is that The Simpsons is not a remake like my earlier review of Turtles In Time: Re-shelled. It’s also not upconverted or altered for HD gameplay. The developers took, what I feel is a wise decision, and simply windowed the game into an HD frame which resembles the original arcade bezel.

The rest is a straight playthrough of the arcade game in all its glory, showcasing one of four characters you can play with: Homer, Marge, Bart or Lisa. With the exception of Homer, each of the other characters uses a weapon in their arsenal. Bart has a skateboard, Lisa has a jump rope and Marge, um, has, a, uh, vacuum cleaner… yeah…

Two players can also team up for tandem attacks, with Bart and Lisa holding hands, screaming like little kids and giving a clothesline to oncoming bad guys.

That’s not all, as the characters can also pickup items such as a slingshot, signboards, bowling balls, or even Santa’s Little Helper to hurl at enemies which range from guy in navy blue suit to guy in gray suit.

Okay, it was a 1991 title, so the palette swap ninja deal is still in effect, but overall, without any real protagonists in the TV series, the game script does a decent job of creating an environment where it makes sense to have the family members beat up on someone else in order to retrieve Maggie – who was kidnapped by Mr. Burns’ lackey Smithers.

While that’s contrived at best for a plot, the game is a lot of fun to button smash through and still relieve nostalgia that’s still applicable to the TV show today.

There are several Easter eggs throughout the game too, with subtle details such as Moe handing out life-replenishing drinks at his tavern in one stage, or a bear escaping in one level only to see it resurface as a boss in another.

In-game options allow you to change characters on the fly if you get bored too.

Upon beating the USA version of the game you also unlock the Japanese version, which is altered for their region in several ways, including being easier to beat – though each ROM type allows for “free play” so you aren’t restricted to a finite amount of continues. (You can see how many quarters were probably eaten up back in ‘91 by playing the free mode too!)

For fans of the show as well as the Konami style beat’em up games, this is a can’t miss game. Unfortunately, it’s been removed from the various console stores, so you may have to find another method of playing it – I’m also lucky enough to have a local arcade nearby which still has a working cabinet.

It’s that enjoyable of a game to seek out and play.

DuckTales: Remastered

Were you a fan of the DuckTales cartoon growing up? Were you a fan of the original DuckTales video game on the NES growing up?

If you answered yes to either (or both) of these questions, or have any such affection toward Disney properties, I urge you to seek out this game!

Published on several systems by Capcom, I gave this classic reboot a spin on Sony’s PlayStation 3 and wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I was practically floored at how faithful it was to the original while bringing that game into the present day with HD graphics, audio voiceovers, and some slick retooling of a few stages (and bosses) that felt exactly like the original game even when it isn’t!

The only thing that might get on your nerves with this game is that it’s short while also being monotonous. The boring parts come with long stretches of animated cutscenes, that while entertaining, could wear you thin. (You can, however, skip them if you like.)

Yet, there’s replay value to this title as well, with a vault full of goodies showcasing items from the games and TV show. Heck, you can even take a dip in, and swim in Scrooge’s vault too! (Which is novel for about the first time only, but still, a cool touch.)

Retro gaming fans shouldn’t dismiss the era of reboots with this game. It’s worth picking up and playing, especially if you were a fan of the game or cartoon.

Killzone HD

For whatever reason, the original Killzone is a game that flew off of my radar even when it was initially released for the PlayStation 2 back in 2004. I’m not sure why, either, because I have a love for First-Person-Shooters: at least decently good ones, that is.

Killzone is centered around an odd storyline of world governments and an Earthly wasteland. You can pretty much sum it up as rebels versus the empire, though it’s not Star Wars-like in anyway. In fact, the game was released to be a “Halo Killer”, that is a flagship title on the PS2, but I have a feeling the adult-oriented content may have kept those expectations grounded.

Years later, the game received a high-definition refresh on the PlayStation 3, which is the version I opted to review here.

Now for the good: the game looks really impressive with the HD refresh. You can tell, especially with the cutaway scenes, that it’s an older title, but that really doesn’t take away from the enjoyment. The visuals, along with the soundtrack, are great.

The voice acting, along with the (in my opinion) unnecessarily added swearing (i.e. the “adult content” I mentioned earlier) gets repetitive and could be done without… though it does lead to a few laughs throughout.

Gameplay-wise, the game will have some frustrating moments. There are obvious squeeze points that force you to use more strategy, a specific weapon, or to conserve ammo. You can carry up to three weapons, and sometimes dropping one weapon in lieu of another may leave you almost empty-handed in certain situations.

The weapons often have secondary features, and as customary in these games, some are better at closer distances, load faster, etc. None of that is a shocker.

Grenades are also a part of the game, though I found them to be aggravating to aim properly. In fact, the controls are the biggest caveat in this game as the button layout doesn’t follow your traditional FPS pattern in some cases. Even reloading or trying to melee attack an enemy can be quirky at times.

In all, the game isn’t something to really be a downer on. I checked it out because of having it on my bucket list for so long, and having seen it spawned a slew of sequels. Playing a remake of a game two generations after it’s initial release, I won’t comment on any of its shortcomings as that would be unfair.

The only thing I can say is, the game does feel as if it becomes a chore to complete after you reach a certain point. A surprise or two here or there helps keep you into it, but I can see why it was never a true “Halo Killer” after all of these years.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled

It certainly feels strange acknowledging this as a “retro game”, however, it’s even stranger to think this game is already ten years old!

Is a decade long enough to call something “retro”? Well, it doesn’t matter, because this title was a modern-era remake of Konami’s classic second TMNT entry in the arcades: Turtles in Time. Of course, Turtles in Time also saw a famous console release on the Super Nintendo back in 1992. Then, it was considered one of the greatest beat’em up games and to this day still is.

The “Re-Shelled” entry takes that formula and cranks the volume knob until it twists off, complete with a totally redesigned, high definition presentation using the TMNT series’ style and voice actors at that time. The result is a trip down memory lane that feels like deja vu, but is far from being old hat.

As before you control one of the four turtles: unlike some of the other console editions, there doesn’t appear to be any advantage to using one of them over the other, meaning no special abilities for say, Donatello over Leonardo, in this one.

The game plays like the original: hoards of enemies fill the screen and it’s your job to defeat them. Many of the nice touches of the arcade game are still here, but none of the special SNES additions made the cut.

This is a pure remake of the arcade game only.

Regardless, it’s cool seeing the newer 2003 cartoon styles placed into the old environment. Oftentimes you’ll forget that the game is a remake, as many of the enhancements are enough to only bring back nostalgia in key spots.

If you’re a Turtles fan and haven’t played this, I highly recommend it. Especially if you were a fan of any of the Konami beat’em up games that were all the rage in the arcades throughout the early 90’s.