Arkanoid DS Review
Can Taito go two for two in its arcade to DS remakes?
June 13, 2008 - Taito's Arkanoid isn't much more than a blatant rip-off of the classic Atari Breakout. But back in the day it was a good blatant rip-off of the classic Atari Breakout. But oh how the mighty has fallen: the newest addition to the series is Arkanoid DS, a touch-screen compatible version of the design that misses the mark completely. Okay, Arkanoid DS isn't terrible but for a game that has other excellent versions to live up to, the Nintendo DS version was clearly handled by a group that didn't understand what made the original game so worth it as a Breakout clone.
Arkanoid DS released in Japan with the Paddle Controller, a spinner peripheral that mimicked the original arcade game's weighted knob for controlling the left and right motion of your on-screen paddle. It was very exciting to see that Taito was, potentially, taking the Nintendo DS game seriously if they were actually taking the time to create a peripheral for it.
But once you played the game it's easy to see just how bad of an "Arkanoid" game it is. The Paddle peripheral is absolutely fantastic: the knob has great weight and interfaces with the system and game extremely well. But the gameplay is so far away from the original Arkanoid. The sound effects and power-ups may have matched the arcade game but the same action is nowhere near the original.
On the DS, the designers went with the "use the two screens as one display" route, which – if done incorrectly – is just asking for problems. It's done incorrectly: the designers put too much dead space between the two screens, so the balls vanish into the void for slightly too long when traveling from one screen to the other. It's something you can adjust for, but it really screws with your timing when anticipating an incoming ball dropping down from the top display.
But the real kicker is the insistence of a bordered game screen. Action takes place within walls that extend inwards from the edge of the screen so much that you lose valuable gameplay real estate. Your default game paddle size is a good 25% of the width of the entire arena, which makes it extremely difficult to fail in Arkanoid. To make things worse, if you let a ball drop past your paddle, it stays in play thanks to a forcefield at the bottom; your "lives" are counted by how many times you bounce the ball off this electric field. These two elements combined make Arkanoid DS an absolute joke as a challenging game. It's just too easy to be fun.
The version Square Enix has released in the US is just a localized version of the Japanese version, but with the all-important Paddle Controller removed from the equation. Support is still in the game, but Square Enix clearly doesn't want to front the expense of such a focused peripheral. Without it, you're missing the one element that would have made the game slightly worthwhile. Without the paddle the game is a barely mediocre touch-screen controlled Breakout copycat, and in this "Breakout copycat" category there's plenty of better competition: Nervous Brickdown comes to mind first. Heck, even the passable first-generation Break 'em All beats the pants off Taito's offering.
It's a shame, too, because on top of creating the Paddle Controller the designers show some level of interest and competence by also offering extensive multiplayer options, even going so far as supporting the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.
It's amazing to see how far Taito can span the gamut in the same videogame generation: Space Invaders Extreme, released at the same time as Arkanoid, is easily one of the finest classic remakes we've ever played on the Nintendo DS. And Arkanoid? It's easily one of the worst. The Paddle Controller was the only thing this title had going for it in its Japanese release, and with it taken away in the US version you can see that Arkanoid DS just doesn't have what it takes to be the true Breakout clone.
zen_music - I don't recommend this game at all, but since its Square Enix related, I'll give you some feedback.