At long last, Arcade1Up is putting its The Simpsons arcade game cabinet up for preorder on August 16. The previously announced cabinet was first revealed during E3, though it was unclear when it would actually be available for purchase after briefly disappearing from the company's website. Now, finally, you'll have the chance to get your own. What's more, we've already had our hands on a prototype version. I had the opportunity to play an early take on the new Simpsons cabinet to get an idea of what to expect from Arcade1Up's next release, and came away largely impressed.
First and foremost, it's important to note again that this prototype of the Simpsons cabinet was unfinished. The artwork, which you can see in the photos below, has not been finalized, and the cabinet's final shape has slightly changed. This particular cabinet did not include the Wi-Fi functionality or the second included game, which is Simpsons Bowling. The only playable game was the classic Simpsons arcade title, which took me roughly 38 minutes to complete in a single-player game.
If you've ever owned or played an Arcade1Up game, you have some idea of what to expect. These are smaller versions of the classic arcade cabinets you know and love--roughly 75% of their original size--giving you the chance to build a home arcade without spending thousands of dollars on the machines you covet and without taking up quite as much space in your home as full-sized arcade machines would.
Let's start with the game itself. The Simpsons arcade game is an all-time classic Konami beat- 'em-up that was released just two years into the TV series, back in 1991. Now, 30 years later, The Simpsons is still on TV every single week and the game remains just as fun now as the first time you sank way too many quarters in it attempting to save Maggie from Smithers. It's hard to imagine Mr. Burns' lackey as we know him now kidnapping a child, but he's a seriously dastardly villain in the game.
While playing Arcade1Up's Simpsons, I couldn't find any differences from the original game on the software side. You will, however, notice some of the controls are laid out a bit differently, which has its ups and downs. Homer's (player 2) buttons have been slightly reconfigured to make room for the trackball that's included for Simpsons Bowling, but it doesn't impact the playability of the character at all.
Marge and Lisa's controls have also been slightly augmented. If you remember the original cabinet, those two characters (players 1 and 4) had controls that faced the sides of the cabinet, allowing players to stand on the side so it didn't get too crowded in front of the screen. Here, their controls are front-facing, meaning all four players should be standing in front of the screen for the best hands-on experience. Squeezing in four people could be a bit tricky given the smaller size of this cabinet, though no more so than any of the company's other four-player releases.
As for how the game looks, the colors are vibrant, which likely isn't something you'll find to be the case if you come across the original cabinet. Having recently played one myself, the original cabinet's CRT monitor image was dull with faded colors and some blur--something common on older monitors given how many parts can wear out. Playing on Arcade1Up's LCD monitor was a definite upgrade in that department, even if on a smaller screen. The sound isn't upgraded from the original cabinet, but that's not a bad thing. The music, voices, and sound effects from The Simpsons have been recreated here and sound just like you remember them.
As a taller person, I had some difficulty seeing the full screen while playing the game standing up, which is a problem also seen on some of the company's other recent offerings. I measure in at 6'3" and standing at the prototype cabinet left me unable to see most of the top half of the screen unless I backed away from the controls. Playing that far back from the cabinet with outstretched arms wasn't as comfortable as I would have liked. Chances are you'll find similar issues if you've over six feet tall, due largely to the angle of the screen, which sets the top half back deeper into the cabinet. It's not an issue I have with my NBA Jam cabinet, which has a screen angled in such a way to be easily viewed, even if you happen to be quite a bit taller than the cab itself. However, according to Arcade1Up, the final cabinet shape is about 5% different than the one I was supplied. Based on the images below, it looks as though the final design's marquee doesn't stick out quite as much as the prototype. This may end up making the issue a moot point for all but the tallest players, as the screen won't be obstructed by the marquee if they're closer together.
Even still, my issue was remedied by using the stool from my NBA Jam cabinet, which stands 29.5" tall. The stool left me at the right height to easily see the screen and play the game. Thankfully, there will be a version of The Simpsons released with a stool. Other recently announced games Street Fighter II Big Blue Edition and Turtles in Time will both be packaged with one. However, this is only a solution if you are playing alone, as four people can't fit stools in front of one cabinet.
When it comes to the cabinet's visual design, the art is simple yet timeless. Like the original game, it's bright blue with an image of the Simpson family. The marquee on the game lights up, and the control deck art looks very close to the original cabinet, right down to the instruction panels. The prototype featured an on/off toggle switch for power and the same volume switch from other recent cabinets (push it to the left to increase volume, to the right for decreasing). The deck also includes the previously mentioned trackball and a "Live" button, which you'll use to play against other users over Wi-Fi.
As for the stuff that wasn't in the prototype, that will likely be the biggest selling point. While The Simpsons arcade game is a blast, it's a relatively short play and without the obstacle of scrounging up more quarters holding you back, it's pretty easy to blaze through. The option to play with others over Wi-Fi, though, adds a fair amount of replayability. Likewise, Simpsons Bowling--like many sports titles-- is bound to be pretty replayable. Whether it's beating your personal best scores, scoring victories over friends, or finding new challengers over Wi-Fi, it's easy to assume that game will be the cabinet's most-played title. The Wi-Fi capabilities couldn't be tested on this cabinet, but the user interface looked similar to what the company used for NBA Jam, complete with leaderboards.
All told, the prototype of Arcade1Up's Simpsons cabinet I played shows a lot of promise. While the prototype might be a tougher seller for taller customers who could have some difficulty seeing the top half of the screen, the reshaped cabinet and the ability to your desk chair or one of Arcade1Up's stools should be an easy enough fix. The prototype played for this piece may have only included The Simpsons arcade game, which has limited replayability, but the addition of another game and Wi-Fi capabilities being available for both titles on the retail version of the cabinet will add a lot of value. Will it be worth adding this one to your collection? That depends on how much you love The Simpsons. If you, like me, spent far too much money trying to beat the original arcade game as a child, though, it's certainly tempting.
Note: This story has been updated to include mention of the now-announced second game in the cabinet, The Simpsons Bowling.
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