The Simpsons was a four player arcade game released by Konami in 1991. It allowed you to take control of four "wacky" characters (Homer, Marge, Lisa, and Bart), on a mission to rescue "Maggie" who has been kidnapped by the evil Smithers.
This was one of the most successful arcade games of the early 1990s, and it was ported to several different console systems and was even available for MS-DOS based computer systems (the ports play pretty much the same, but are lacking in the area of graphics and sound).
Smithers bumps into the Simpsons family after pulling off a diamond theft, and the diamond ends up in baby Maggie's mouth. Smithers opts to grab the baby and make his escape, and it is up to the rest of the Simpsons family to save her.
You begin the game by selecting your character, from either Homer, Marge, Lisa, or Bart. You may get to select from a menu, or each character may have a specific joystick that controls them, it all depends on which version or port you are playing, in the dedicated four player arcade version each character has a specific joystick. Each character acts a little bit differently in the game (and they each have a different weapon), Marge has a vacuum cleaner, Lisa (my personal favorite) has a jump rope, Bart has a skateboard, and Homer fights with his fists. You fight your way through the town of Springfield battling goons, thugs, zombies, drunks, firemen, and a whole host of other enemies. At the end of each stage you will face a "boss" character, before finally facing Mr. Burns at the end of the game.
The game itself had great graphics (which looked a lot like the work of Matt Groening, although he didn't actually participate in the creation of this game), and wonderful sound (much of which was done by professional television voice actors such as Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, and Yeardley Smith to name a few). The levels are full of wonderful little details and jokes (such as a poster in the game advertising the game, which shows a smiling Homer Simpson playing a Simpsons arcade game). One feature that the casual player may miss out on is the ability to "team up" with another player and do some really funny combination attacks (which are only mildy effective, but are fun to watch).
This is a beat 'em up game at heart, and if you like that kind of game, then you will love this one. I have found it is easiest to defeat the enemies by attacking them one at a time, just keep hitting them until they go down. The enemies do not tend to attack very often, so you can usually just walk up to them and take them out. On the other hand, groups of enemies are best handled with hit and run tactics, just don't let yourself get surrounded.
There were several distinct versions of this game available in the arcade, the four player dedicated cabinet, the four player conversion kit (designed to retrofit Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but a lot of them ended up on Gauntlet machines too), and the two player conversion kit (designed to retrofit almost anything). The only real difference in gameplay between versions was the maximum amount of players.
The Simpsons dedicated cabinet was fairly large and had an oversized control panel (to accomodate four players). The sides were decorated with painted sideart showing all five members of the Simpsons family scampering around (Homer seems to be stepping on the tail of the family cat). Some cabinets may have this same scene as a large sticker, instead of it being painted on (I have only encountered a single stickered one, but reproduction stickers are now available, so they will probably become more common than the painted ones). American machines are usually blue in color, while the European ones were usually white. The marquee shows a family photo and has a "The Simpsons" logo done in yellow. The control panel repeats the graphics from the marquee and has four joysticks (one for each player), each of which is a different color. Different Simpsons machines will have different sized monitors, although 25" and 32" were the most popular sizes available.
Moving on to the interior of the machine, the game itself runs on a pseudo-JAMMA compatible circuit board. The board itself will plug into a JAMMA wiring harness, but it has a second harness to accomodate the controls for players three and four. The games Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Sunset Riders, and Bucky O'Hare are fully compatible with this extended harness, and will plug directly into a Simpsons cabinet without modification. The game's code itself runs on a pair of processors, a Z80 and a second processor that is labeled a KONAMI (which appears to be an encrypted 68000 processor). Oddly enough, this is different hardware than Konami's other four player games from that era, I am unsure as to why they designed a new (weaker) platform specifically for this game.
Setting the difficulty on the game at the maximum, and then starting a four player game will result in a screen so clogged with enemies that it is difficult to move (as the game changes the amount of enemies based on the difficulty and the number of players).
Where to play
You can play this game on most older console systems, or you can play the original arcade version using the MAME emulator. The original machines are also still fairly easy to locate out in the real world, so you should have no problem finding a place to play this title.
The Simpsons is a really fun game, but I feel it is a bit overpriced for the average arcade game collection. This game still makes money for arcade operators out in the real world, so they tend to be expensive. You may want to consider simply buying a "The Simpsons" JAMMA board and refitting an existing game, just be aware that the common four player board will work in a standard JAMMA cabinet, but you can only be Marge or Homer (as Bart and Lisa are players number three and four).