Been a Long Time…

My goodness, it’s been a while. The last time I posted on here was back in September of last year, when I covered the 30th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. This year, I’m going to make an attempt to blog more, either about video games or photography (perhaps both, which would be best).

I’ll see you all out there on the blogosphere soon. Hopefully, very soon. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

The Simpsons Arcade Game

It’s been a rough go of it these last three-plus months since I last blogged, and save for a few posts on my photo blog and this article I did with my man Maestro over at Blister, I haven’t been blogging much at all. All apologies, I had to get back with it. Twenty-five years ago to the day, The Simpsons, one of my all time favorite shows, made its debut. In celebration of the enduring TV legacy of Springfield’s finest– Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie– we’ll be looking at the first video game based on the series, Konami’s 1991 arcade title. Now, I’ll turn it over to MC Al Gore (thanks to twister5voy) to kick off the festivities!

The origin of The Simpsons goes back to the 1980s, when producer James L. Brooks, then working on the Fox television variety series The Tracey Ullman Show, decided that the program could benefit from some animated segments. Brooks, familiar with the comic Life in Hell created by cartoonist Matt Groening, sought out Groening to do the animation. Initially, Groening planned to do the shorts based on Life in Hell, but decided against it when he discovered he’d lose the publication rights to the comic. Instead, Groening came up with the idea of a family (inspired by his own family) just before his meeting with Brooks. The characters consisted of balding patriarch Homer, tall-haired Marge, brazen brat Bart, gifted student Lisa and the ever adorable infant Maggie. Groening’s idea was accepted, and in 1987, the first batch of animated Simpsons shorts debuted on air.

In the beginning...

In the beginning… Pic comes from knowitalljoe.com

The animated shorts were well received, and two years later a Christmas special called “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” (which tells the story of the family dog, Santa’s Little Helper) became the first full-length Simpsons episodes to air on television. In January of 1990, The Simpsons officially kicked off the remainder of its first season.

In the 25 years that The Simpsons has been on the air, the show has been wildly successful, earning numerous awards and receiving critical acclaim. A staple of international popular culture, The Simpsons has been huge in merchandise, with comic books, action figures, apparel and of course, several video games.

Released in March of 1991, The Simpsons arcade game is a side-scrolling brawler developed by Japanese company Konami. The plot of the game is rather bizarre, even for a Simpsons adventure. For some reason, Waylon Smithers, the loyal employee/servant of billionaire Mr. Burns, steals a diamond for his boss. As he’s fleeing the jewelry store, he literally runs into the Simpsons and the collision causes the diamond to get stuck in Maggie’s mouth. Smthers kidnaps Maggie, causing her family to give chase.

Players can choose from up to four Simpsons characters: Homer, Marge, Bart, or Lisa. Each character has a unique form of attacking: Homer punches and kicks; Marge wields a vacuum cleaner; Bart swings his skateboard and Lisa uses her jump rope. The action is similar to Konami’s previous four-player brawler, 1989’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Players battle a host of wacky characters, ranging from suit wearing goons to a boss fight with a maniacal bowling ball, throughout 8 levels set in the Simpsons’ hometown of Springfield (although the level Dreamland is actually a dream). There are a few bonus stages in between levels, which feature tasks such as using a pump to blow up balloons or slap one’s character in the face to wake him or her up from Dreamland.

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Pic comes from yakuzagames.com.

Following its debut in the arcades, The Simpsons was ported onto some of the gaming platforms of its time, specifically DOS computers and the Commodore 64. In 2009, Electronic Arts Mobile published a truncated version of the title (which only featured Homer as a playable character) was released for iPhone. In 2012, the game was re-released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 via Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, again published by EA. Versions of the game have also appeared on BlackBerry and Windows Mobile phone.

The first time I played The Simpsons to remember it was most likely in a Chuck E. Cheese somewhere, maybe the one in Melrose Park, Illinois. I was a kid, maybe about nine or so and was completely blown away to see a Simpsons game which let me play out a wacky adventure in a digital Springfield. Everything about the game, from its art style to its sound design (which features voice work from the show’s cast), captures the spirit of the series, making it a joy to play. Mostly.

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Family time! Pic comes from twistedjunk.com.

Despite all of the fun to be had with The Simpsons, it was no easy experience for me. I think the farthest I ever got in the game on my own was the second level, and I didn’t make much progress upon getting there. I rarely played the game in group too often, but the one time I did I think we made it to… the second level. Like any challenging arcade game, completing The Simpsons definitely required some serious token commitment.

Actually now that I think of it, The Simpsons was one of the first arcade games I actually saw someone complete in person. I don’t remember where this was (it may have been at Chuck E.C.), but I do remember a group of teen-aged guys pulled their wits and resources together to beat the game. I remember they blew quite a bit of money on tokens, at least around 15 bucks. It was worth watching it though, because I got to see the ending of the game without spending that amount of money.

Fortunately, today’s world features beercades, wonderful establishments that combine the arcades of old with the now grown-up kids and alcohol of today. Some of these beercades have the game set to free play, which allows people to play them without the use of money. Should I find a Simpsons arcade game at one of these places, I’m going for the win. Yeah, playing the game on free play is probably close to cheating for you sticklers out there, but that was the only way I beat Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Here’s to 25 years of animation’s favorite nuclear family! And due to the glory of syndication, I’m sure The Simpsons will be around for 25 more and then some time. Until next time.

D’oh!

 

Batman at the Arcade

Batman’s legacy in video gaming is a long one, starting with his first appearance on the gaming computers of the 1980s to his upcoming role in Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Knight, which debuts on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and personal computer later this year. Batman’s tenure in gaming is not just limited to the home market, however. The Dark Knight has starred in a few arcade games over the years, a history we’ll look at today.

Batman (Atari, 1990)

Based on the 1989 Tim Burton film of the same name, Atari’s Batman is a single-player side-scrolling brawler that pits the Dark Knight against arch-criminal Joker and his henchman in Gotham City. The game features several levels based on locales from the film, such as the Axis Chemicals factory and Flugelheim Museum. Batman fights enemies with punches, kicks, and gadgets like his Batarangs (his signature boomerang-like projectiles) and gas grenades. During certain levels, Batman can drive the Batmobile or fly the Batwing.

The game’s story, told through a series of cutscenes, consist of stills and audio from the from the film. Audio clips from the film (mainly quotes from either Batman or Joker) also play at times during gameplay.

This is a game I really didn’t know existed until a few days ago. If you’d like to see some gameplay footage, check out YouTube user Nz0x’s video below. Picture comes from arcade-museum.com.

Batman (Data East, 1991)

This is primarily a video game blog, but since we’re focusing on the arcade it’s only right to include other types of games on this list. Batman is a Data East pinball machine based on Tim Burton’s 1989 film. The game features sounds, music and art inspired by the film, with painted portraits of the movie’s stars found on the machine.

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Batman was a favorite of mine as a kid, and I played it often at the Chuck E. Cheese in Melrose Park. The sounds and the music of the game captivated and excited me, motivating my play throughout every turn. It’s not the most fully featured pinball machine, but it does have a Batcave, Flugelheim Museum and a Joker ramp. The Joker ramp, found at the top left of the machine’s table, was a picture of the villain’s face with holes cut out in place of his eyes and mouth. If the ball lands in of those holes, it activates a taunt shown on the screen found at the base of the game’s backbox (the large square box at the top of the machine, as seen in the above picture).

Here’s a video of the game in action, uploaded by YouTube user lettucekl. Picture comes from fungus-amugus.com.

Batman Forever (Sega, 1995)

One of the many pinball machines released by Sega throughout the 1990s, Batman Forever is based on the Joel Schumacher film of the same name.

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Batman Forever tables featured the color themes of the movie, as well as portraits of the film’s stars on the game table and the game’s outer shell. It has more features than its aforementioned Data East predecessor, among them six flippers, multiball, a Batwing cannon (which fires pinballs), and play for up to six players.

This is yet another arcade game I scarcely remember seeing as youth, but from what I’ve seen of it on it the interwebs, it looks like a cool machine. For footage of the game, check out the video by YouTube user tattyadams. Picture comes from ipdb.org.

Batman Forever: The Arcade Game (Acclaim, 1996)

Acclaim had a checkered history with the Batman franchise. In 1995, the company released Batman Forever, a beat-em-up action game for the home consoles of the time. The game was a disaster, criticized for its bland action and poor controls.The next year Acclaim released Batman Forever: The Arcade Game in the arcades.

Similar to its console cousin, BF:TAG is a beat-em-up for one or two players. As either Batman or Robin, players must battling supervillains Two-Face and Riddler and their army of thugs.

The game eventually appeared on the Sony PlayStation, Sega Saturn and personal computer. The console versions of the game are actually quite rare and very expensive to purchase brand new. For gameplay of the Sega Saturn port of this title, watch YouTube user RaSanBR’s video, provided below. Picture comes from gamespot.com.

Batman (Stern, 2008)

This 2008 pinball machine by Stern combines elements from the two Christopher Nolan directed Batman films at the time– 2005’s Batman Begins and 2008’s The Dark Knight— into one game. The artwork features portraits of the stars from both of the films, though the overall theme comes from The Dark Knight.

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This machine contains several unique traits, including a crane which holds an extra ball, figurines of the Joker, Scarecrow and Batman, a toy Batmobile and a mini playfield at the top of the game table just to name a few. The game features a variety of audio clips inspired by the films, including a version of the theme by the films’ composer Hans Zimmer.

Batman was in the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association’s (PAPA) 2012 tournament. Below is some footage of the game being played during the qualifying round of that PAPA tournament, uploaded by YouTube user CGR Pinball. Picture comes from pinballnews.com.

Batman (Specular Interactive & Raw Thrills, 2013)

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The latest Batman-themed arcade release, Specular Interactive and Raw Thrills’ Batman focuses exclusively on the Dark Knight’s greatest gadget: the Batmobile! An open world action racer for one or two players, Batman tasks the Caped Crusader with fighting three supervillains– Bane, Joker and Mr. Freeze– on the roads of Gotham City.

Players have their choice of 11 different Batmoniles, ranging from the Cadillac-based car of the 1966 TV series to the Tumbler of the Nolan films. Each Batmobile has an array of weapons, including missiles, machine guns and large Batarangs.

I haven’t seen this game in person yet, but I’d love to try one in the future. A game about the Batmobile just sounds like a fun time. Posted below is a YouTube video of the game, uploaded by its developers Specular Interactive. For further information on the game and its creators, do read this article from Complex. Picture comes from videoamusement.com.

That does it for this segment. There are only a few days left in April, so I’ll try to get as many posts up on Batman games as I can. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels