Hey folks, it’s time again to get impossibly nerdy and talk wrestling and video games all at once. As I mentioned in previous Game vs. Reality articles, wrestling games were once locked into covering a specific, narrow chunks of whatever promotion they had managed to license — a game that came out around Christmas might, if you were lucky, be based on the characters and storylines from the first three-to-six months of that year.
So, rather than simply reviewing old wrestling titles, I’m going back, comparing the wrestling game to the specific time period it was covering, and declaring an ultimate and definitive winner. The soul-wrenching decisions continue…
Before we begin, make sure to hit those share buttons. Old wrestlers! Video games! And this week, The Simpsons! You know you like all this stuff, so do it up!
The Simpsons Wrestling (Playstation)
I thought I’d mix it up a bit this week and look at a wrestling game that doesn’t feature any actual wrestlers. Of course there’s been countless unlicensed wrestling games made over the years, but it’s hard/impossible to do the game vs. reality comparison thing when a game’s based on nothing. In the case of The Simpsons Wrestling we at least have an established license to compare to, so to hell with it, let’s haul ass to Lollapalooza!
There have been a boggling array of video games based on The Simpsons extruded over the years, and with one exception (the original Simpsons arcade game) they’ve pretty much all been lousy. Even when The Simpsons was great the games were awful. No, trust me, go back and play that game you’re thinking of bringing up in the comments — without those rose-colored ’90s glasses you’ll realize I’m right. The Simpsons Wrestling was no exception to this rule. Boy howdy, was it no exception to the rule.
Yes, these are the game’s actual graphics.
Now, I’m not quite sure why they decided to make a Simpsons wrestling game. I suppose it was 2001, pro-graps was still popular, but some of that Attitude Era stink had wafted away, so it was okay for a respectable media franchise like The Simpsons to associate with wrestling. Also, making a skateboarding game probably would have been too hard.
The game had a passable roster of 16-characters featuring the expected faces and some quirky choices like Bumblebee Man and Professor Frink. Sadly George H. W. Bush isn’t in the game so you can’t recreate the best fight scene in Simpsons history. Also, I don’t think you can make this happen…
Even more painful than it looks.
…so we’re off to a bad start.
The game’s graphics are astonishingly bad. They characters look like they’ve been rendered by a five-year-old who may have never watched The Simpsons. Take a second to rubberneck at this roadkill…
To put that eyesore in context The Simpsons Wrestling came out in 2001. Halo came out in 2001. Soul Calibur came out in 1999.
The game’s controls are the opposite of most bad wrestling games, which tend toward the clunky and unresponsive. No, The Simpsons Wrestling is far too responsive, with a light brush of the d-pad sending you hurtling legs and arms akimbo across the ring. You basically have three levels of striking attacks, which you’re allowed to spam ad nauseam. I believe you can do a small handful of grapple moves, but good luck pulling them off, since they’re incredibly slow and can be interrupted by a simple punch. Ultimately though, the best move is the jump, which immediately fires your character 10-feet straight up in the air, where you’re free to treat your opponent like a big, jaundiced Koopa Troopa by bouncing on their head indefinitely. So yeah, not great, but between the uncontrolled barrelling around the ring and constant erratic jumping, it’s a pretty decent Kofi Kingston simulator.
Sorry Kofi, but I had to make at least a glancing attempt to tie this back to real wrestling.
The game does feature the real Simpsons voice actors, but they neglected to also pay any of the writers, so their lines are as generic as possible. They even got the legendarily cranky Harry Shearer, and a desultory “excellent” is all we get from Mr. Burns. What a waste.
Modes? Haha, come on now. There’s only two — a basic single-player tournament and two-player exhibition matches. It’s a near 100% sure bet you’ll run out of patience before you see everything The Simpsons Wrestling has to offer, but still, the lack of content is pretty galling.
So yeah, this game was a particularly dark mark on The Simpsons’ already badly smudged video game legacy. This game is what people who don’t play games, but hate them anyway, think video games are. This is a game so bad not even prime-era Simpsons could properly make fun of it.
Also, why didn’t they just make a Bonestorm game? Why did they never make a Bonestorm game?
The Simpsons (Season 11)
The Simpsons Wrestling came out April of 2001, which means its release coincided with season 12 of the TV show. Of course it takes around a year to make a video game, so it’s doubtful the developers were inspired by anything past the 11th season.
Not to get too dramatic or anything, but, ahem, the 11th season of The Simpsons is, without a doubt, the worst…season…ever. Okay okay, there’s probably been some completely unremarkable season in the 14-years since season 11 that was ever worse, but I’ll never hate a season quite as much as season 11.
I actually physically morph into Comic Book Guy when thinking about season 11. It’s not pretty.
This was the season where you can palpably feel the writers are not only burnt out, but have really come to resent the world they’ve created. During seasons 10 through around 12 all the major Simpsons characters transmogrified into twisted fun-house versions of themselves and they haven’t turned back since. Homer went from a simple-minded everyman, to a superpowered, job-swapping, violent asshole. Lisa went from sweet, smart, misunderstood little girl, to a shrill 50-year-old liberal scold in an 8-year-old’s body. Bart went from a clever, fast-talking underachiever to a childish booger-lovin’ brat. I could continue, but suffice to say, every major character changed so radically that most ended up literally the exact opposite of who they were during the show’s glory years.
Of course we were still only two or three years removed from said glory years back during season 11, so the writers could still pick their asses up off the ground and do a good episode if they wanted to — Take My Wife, Sleaze (the biker episode with John Goodman) and Behind the Laughter are classics. Unfortunately for every good episode there were two or three all-time sh*t bombs. Like, what about that episode where they get a horse (for the second time)? Or the one where they kill Maude Flanders for no good reason? Or that awful episode where Lisa’s the president that’s so bad it makes all the past “speculating about the future” episodes look worse by association? Or that spring break episode? Ugh. Uuuuuugggghgghh.
Season 11 of The Simpsons?
And Your Winner Is…
Tough call, but ultimately I have to go with the one that makes me less sad. The Simpsons Wrestling was tripe, but I’d been swallowing Simpsons video game tripe for a while. Season 11 of The Simpsons was the death knell of a show I worshipped. A show that shaped my sense of humor and is largely responsible for this whole writing snarky things gig I’m doing today. The Simpsons Wrestling was a travesty, but Season 11 of The Simpsons was a tragedy. Another verdict well-rendered…
The Undisputed Unified Champion (This Week): The Simpsons Wrestling
Anybody else subject themselves to The Simpsons Wrestling or want to reminisce about lousy Simpsons games in general? Just want to fill the comments section up with out-of-context Simpsons quotes? Have at it!