Arkanoid DS Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Arkanoid DS Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Blockin’ the Kasbah!

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.

Arkanoid DS screenshot

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.

Arkanoid DS screenshot

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.

Arkanoid DS screenshot

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.

In all single-player game types, blocks will randomly drop power-ups. These falling goodies will augment your VAUS by increasing or reducing its width (a VAUS with reduced width increases point totals), giving you a laser cannon, multiplying the Energy Balls, increasing or decreasing their speed, allowing you to catch the ball and re-deploy at your leisure, giving you an automatic warp to the next level, etc. Using power-ups in Arkanoid DS is not only important but also quite fun.

Arkanoid DS screenshot

In multiplayer modes (and Vs. COM), players will also be able to catch power-ups to help their cause. But this time, power-ups are used not only to buff themselves but also to hinder their opponents’ progression. Multiplayer game types include two and four-player Bust All and Bust Color (clear all bricks or all bricks of a specific color respectively). Multiplayer can be accessed via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection or locally through DS Wireless Communication capabilities. Doing so allows you to play with fellow countrymen over the internet or with friends either at home or online. One thing that is certainly praiseworthy is the ability to play multiplayer with up to four players with just one DS cartridge via Download Play. This makes Arkanoid DS quite family-friendly, as kids and parents stuck in a speeding car during the Summer road trip can have some serious competitions without having to break the bank on multiple carts.

The presentation of the title is very nice. The visuals are solid for the DS. Plus, all the customizable graphics and unlockable sprites are a nice feature. This also extends to the greatly varied musical selections. Furthermore, the beginning of each level is marked by the classic Arkanoid theme that helps to root the game in the tradition of its predecessors.

All in all, Arkanoid DS is an excellent handheld title that will resonate with casual gamers, arcade aficionados, and nostalgic gamers. Some may find the gameplay mechanic to be repetitive and even dull, but the majority of gamers should be pleased with the quick, intuitive play and multiplayer options. Arkanoid DS is a game I can highly recommend for anyone looking to beef up their gaming-to-go library!

The visuals are clear as a bell on the DS, with a bunch of customizable options. 4.5 Control
The stylus controls are great. Arkanoid DS for North America misses out on a perfect score because the paddle peripheral is not available. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
There are tons of varied musical tracks to open up. The beginning of each level is classic Arkanoid. 3.5

Play Value
Gameplay is quite enjoyable in short bursts. Some gamers may find it either too easy or too repetitive.

4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Gain power-ups to help you clear stages faster.
  • Multiple gameplay modes add to the fun.
  • Up to 4 people can battle head-to-head via DS Wireless play!
  • Challenge other players using the Nintendo Wi-Fi network!
  • Only one cart is necessary for Wireless DS Single-Card Download Play!

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