The Simpsons is 30 years old today. On April 19, 1987, the world met the titular family through a series of shorts delivered by the Tracey Ullman show. The jokes were very un-Simpsons-like and the character models shook like cubes of solidified chicken fat, but those bulbous eyes and those murmuring, gravelly voices kindled a spark in America's soul.
I grew up with The Simpsons. My school would buzz with excitement every Thursday (for the brief period when Fox aired The Simpsons on Thursday night instead of Sunday to assassinate The Cosby Show). I guess growing up in the shadow of the cartoon phenomenon warped my sense of humor a little bit. Well, that and learning to read via my father's MAD Magazine collection.
Adi Shankar wants it to happen, but there are many reasons why an ultra-dark take on the Mega Man franchise is the least necessary thing in the universe.
The Simpsons and the video game industry matured together; they're bosom buddies. You'll find Simpsons games of varying quality on most major consoles, starting with Bart vs the Space Mutants for the NES. Space Mutants' baffling premise, slippery controls, and infuriating level design made it clear about three minutes into the game that Acclaim had no idea what to do with the Simpsons license. The publisher seemingly figured if the game had the Simpsons name, and if Bart could move left-to-right without devolving into horrifying NES tile garbage, people would buy it.
Depressingly, Acclaim was right. I attended a lot of sleep-over parties as a girl, and whenever the host's Mom and / or Dad rented a game for the evening, it was invariably Bart vs the Space Mutants. Well, not invariably, but it sure feels like I gave up way too much of my childhood watching my friends stagger through the game, mumbling "Wait, am I supposed to—?" while trying to suss out Bart's goal in the very first level.
Though I've mostly lived a good life, I've experienced my share of small, relentless disappointments that gradually formed my Patronus (a chain-smoking fox). Bart vs the Space Mutants was one such disappointment, and it was a significant one. I've already talked about how video games captivated me when I was a kid, but Bart vs the Space Mutants quickly taught me some people were interested in making games for a quick buck, and not much else. They didn't want to tell cool stories, or offer you a fair challenge. You just handed them your cash and got a piece of garbage with Bart Simpson's face on it. Boo-urns.
But as tempting as it is to climb a cross and weep for the naivety of my schoolyard chums, I can't really claim any kind of superiority. Though I detested Bart vs the Space Mutants, I played the hell out of its sequel, Bart vs the World. I finished it. Then I collected all the secret items and got the best ending.
Though Bart vs Za Warudo's level design is a touch better than Space Mutants', the game is by no means good. It's playable. That's the best compliment I can offer it. It also changes the Simpsons' title theme to match whatever part of the world Bart mucks around in, so that's something. I guess.
Thanks for the memories / hard lesson about corporations' thoughtless pursuit of profit, NES Simpsons games. I'm off to rinse my mouth out with some Ducktales.
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