Released simultaneously with another Taito revival, Space Invaders Extreme, Arkanoid DS is an attempt at trying to breathe life into an old arcade classic. When Arkanoid was originally released, it was essentially a clone of the Atari classic Breakout. Despite this shameless copying, Arkanoid became quite a hit and Taito duly ported the concept to pretty much every home format you could mention. Now it's the turn of the DS and this time around the developer has added touch-screen controls, hoping to bring the old fashioned game back to its former glory on a modern platform. Sadly, they didn’t quite succeed.
The main objective in Arkanoid DS is to use a paddle to bounce a ball upwards to break blocks at the top of the screen. Eventually the ball will fall back down and it is your task to bounce it back up again. Once the ball hits the paddle, it will make its journey back up the screen to break even more blocks until you've cleared the entire display. Occasionally power-ups will fall down after a particular block has been destroyed. To activate the power-up, you will need to catch it before it disappears into the abyss below; should the ball drop into this void then you lose a life. The power-ups do all sorts of weird and wonderful things to your paddle like making it magnetic so that the balls stick to it, but they may also increase the number of balls on the screen.
The developers of Arkanoid DS utilized both of the Nintendo DS’ screens to play the game. It sounds like a pretty smart idea on paper but in practices it's less impressive. As the ball travels between the screens it has to pass through the space where the hinge that joins the top and bottom displays of the DS, meaning that for a split second your ball is invisible. That split second could be the deciding factor in whether or not you manage to rebound your ball back up the screen, and when you're at a particularly taxing section of the game, this can obviously cause problems.
It gets worse. Instead of allowing the entire two screens to be played with the game, Taito thought that two borders down either side would be more appropriate but that also means that roughly half your play area is gone. Additionally, your paddle is positioned very high, giving you less time to respond when your ball is on the way back. A force field at the bottom of the screen bounces your ball back three times should you miss it but after that you are out of luck.
Arkanoid DS lets you go online with the game and play against other people using either friend codes or simply by playing against a random player. You can go head to head with up to four players. The game keeps track of how many blocks your opponent has destroyed and negative power-ups are passed onto your opponents, with you getting to keep the beneficial power-ups. We're always glad to see online multiplayer modes being featured in games but in the case of Arkanoid DS the core gameplay is so poor that you're unlikely to find many people to play against.
The graphics may look clean and crisp at first, but after a while they get really repetitive. Why not have some animations in the background instead of just a still image? Fortunately the audio fares much better. It is almost as though Taito took the original sound and musical score and modernized them. The best sound effect is a cool retro-sounding click that chimes in whenever the ball hits either a block or the side.
In Japan Arkanoid DS came bundled with a Paddle Controller. This spinner peripheral mimics the arcade version’s weighted knob and is used to move the paddle. Taito put considerable effort into making it, but it is not included with the western versions and you can’t buy it outside of Japan. The only way to get it is by importing one. With the Paddle Controller, Arkanoid DS is barely passable; without it, it's even less appealing.
Arkanoid DS disappoints in so many ways. Even with a retail price of $19.99, the game is just not worth picking up. If you're looking for a great remake of a classic arcade game, then pick up Taito's other retro remake - Space Invaders Extreme. As it stands, Arkanoid DS is a pitiful attempt at reviving a well-loved classic that deserves better than this.