Arkanoid ranks highly as an arcade classic, despite being a takeoff of Atari’s Breakout. The plot of the game revolves around the planet Arkanoid and eight satellites that orbit it. Each of these satellites is powered by the light of an alien hero. One day, the heroes of the satellites are all called to one of them, Ananke. A rift in space opened, drawing in seven of the heroes, leaving only the hero of Ananke behind to defend Arkanoid from an evil alien horde using the spacecraft Vaus.
The gameplay is simple and straightforward: use a paddle (as is the case in Arkanoid series, Vaus) to bounce the ball around the field and destroy all the bricks to advance to the next stage. Certain blocks like the silver blocks require two hits to break, and gold ones can’t be broken at all. Some blocks drop items like paddle extensions to make hitting the ball easier, laser gun upgrades to shoot blocks, the ability to catch and re-launch the ball, multi-ball upgrades, slowing the ball’s speed, and turning the ball into a megaball able to shred through blocks without bouncing off them. More uncommon abilities include reducing the size of the paddle which also doubles the points earned, the vanish ability which causes the ball to clear all blocks of a single color on the next bounce, and the rarest of all, a warp ability that automatically clears a level.
The single player experience consists of clear, quest, or versus the computer modes. Clear mode allows the player to traverse the seven invaded satellites, each with five stages. The end of the game consists of a battle and freeing the alien heroes from their captors. There are branching paths along the way, each with a different set of stages all leading up to a slightly different ending. Each ending gives a hint to unlocking a bonus, so be sure and pay attention during each ending. Quest mode allows replay of levels cleared in clear mode, each with a specific puzzle or objective such as clearing all blocks of a designated color, clearing all blocks, using a limited amount of lives, and so on.
The VS COM mode consists of two submodes: a race to clear all blocks of a certain color from the field, or a race to clear all blocks. In versus games, ball speed reduction and paddle size reduction power-downs still appear, but affect the opponent’s field instead of the player’s own, as well as other items to make more blocks appear on the opponent’s field. The game also has local and wi-fi multiplayer for 2 to 4 players, with the same modes as the previously mentioned VS COM game. The multiplayer experience is a bit limited, what with only two modes of play. However, playing with friends via the WFC is still enjoyable.
While playing through most of these game types, the player can accrue “game points.” These points can be traded for extras to enhance the game experience: backgrounds, sound effects, frames that shape the field, music tracks, block shape, and even the type of Vaus used to launch the ball. Probably one of the most amusing things about the game is that some of the levels, custom backgrounds, sounds, and block types pay homage other Taito games such as Space Invaders, Bubble Bobble, Exit, Lost Magic, Legend of Kage, Darius, and more.
Arkanoid DS is a wonderful game experience with a great presentation: it’s the classic game with all sorts of new levels and a wonderful soundtrack. For all its positives though, there’s a bit to frown upon. It feels a bit incomplete, for one thing. The lack of variety in multiplayer modes can get boring somewhat quickly. Also, the original game had a bonus minigame called Uranoid that could unlocked with a special code on the title screen; this seems to have been removed from the US version. Also, what happened to the paddle controller from the original version? There was a special attachment that could be plugged into the DS’s GBA slot to be used as an alternate method of control rather than using the stylus or control pad. The last gripe is how come there’s no stage builder? Granted, there’s only 3 types of blocks to build stages with, but all sorts of interesting structures could be put together. As far as nostalgia value goes, the game certainly has that angle covered, so it’s definitely worth playing for awhile.