|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Taito||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 17, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Based on Atari's Breakout, in 1986 Taito released Arkanoid to the arcade world. The intelligent block-breaker had gamers advancing from level to level in a platform-like spaceship known as the VAUS. The concept was simple but had mass-appeal. Twenty-two years and several iterations later, Arkanoid has released for the DS and it faithfully represents the old classic while employing new features that enhance play.
Disappointingly, the North American release of the DS exclusive, while quite good, does not ship with the paddle control attachment that accompanied the Japanese SKU. Nevertheless, the controls and presentation are very good. On a high note, the addition of customizable options, unlockables, online play, and downloadable play through one DS cart make Arkanoid DS an excellent portable gaming option.
Arkanoid DS allows players to control their VAUS with either the face buttons or the stylus. While functional, the face buttons can't compare to the sensitivity and ease of the stylus. In fact, arcade veterans will find the controls to be so effortless that the game's challenge is not particularly steep. That being said, this also makes the title very accessible for gamers of less-than-expert skill levels. Most unfortunately, the sweet paddle attachment that bundled with the cartridge in Japan has not come to the West. In other words: as good as it is, hardcore players and collectors may want to stick Arkanoid DS on their import list. Furthermore, the peripheral is compatible with Space Invaders Extreme, another great Taito title, and it really makes both games that much more enjoyable.
Controls aside, gameplay in Arkanoid DS is a relatively complex, block-breaking affair where falling power-ups and increasingly difficult levels will have you frantically whisking your VAUS from left to right to keep the Energy Ball bouncing and your score increasing. In Clear Game, if you clear all the breakable blocks, you will proceed to the next level. After completing all five levels that make up a stage, you'll proceed through the game via a branching system. There are a total of 28 stages; players will have to best seven to reach the end. After completing each stage, tidbits of dialogue are revealed. As such, solving the riddle at the final stage is made much easier if you actually take notes on what was said. Additionally, those that successfully best all 28 stages will be treated to a secret bonus.
Finally, players will continue to accrue points as long as they advance without losing all their lives (represented by Barrier strength). The game will allow you to continue if you do die, but your point total will go back to zero. For players on the go, you'll be happy to know there is a save feature, which allows you to start your game at the beginning of the last level you started.
All players are able to adjust several aspects of the game in order to tailor it to their ability and style. For example, those that are keenly interested in high point totals can adjust the speed of the Energy Ball or put the Barrier strength down to zero. By doing so, if you let the Energy Ball go by you, you will lose without a second chance. However, the increased difficulty will net you double points, which leads to larger totals that can later be uploaded to the leaderboards via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. On the other side of the spectrum, those who are more interested in unlockables and customization have tens of items, music, sprites, backgrounds, etc. they can unlock and then use in the level decorator to add their own touch to the game.
There is also Quest Game, which is most similar to challenge modes in other titles. Players will be faced with a series of tasks that vary from level to level. For example, you may have to clear certain colored blocks in a time limit or all the blocks within a rebound limit. If you indeed pass the level's challenge, then the cleared objective will be demarcated on the zone menu. The last single-player game mode is Vs. COM. This gives players a taste of multiplayer competition when no one's around to play or they're away from an internet hotspot.