Plastic surgery disasters.
It’s not uncommon today for folks to try and hide the ravages of age with miracle creams and elective medical procedures - tummy tucks, collagen in the lips, fat sucked out of your ass. It seems as if any time insecure celebrities reach a certain age, they have to undergo some skin “reinvigoration” procedure to make themselves palatable to a new generation of consumers.
But no matter how much you try to make yourself look younger, it’s impossible for your age not to show through. Despite all the money your grandma spends trying to make herself look like Lindsay Lohan, she’s still your cookie-baking, lazy-eyed granny underneath it all.
Arkanoid DS is no exception to this rule. This classic arcade game has gone through hours of painstaking surgery to make itself look as shiny and new as possible. And it does look new on the outside. But is this beauty only skin deep?
Unlockable background graphics, ships (called VAUS), and bonus sounds are great and really add to the customization. The only problem is that these sparkly baubles do nothing to enhance the actual game experience other than serving as a distraction. And since you have to play through the game in order to get the credits which you use to unlock said features, you could be done with the game before you ever get to them.
The story is that you are a pilot of one of these tampon-shaped VAUS and must save fellow pilots who are lost in space. You accomplish this task by breaking blocks of varying colors with a ball that is constantly ricocheted off your VAUS.
That’s about it, really. The only notable change made to the classic gameplay would be the inclusion of barriers. In the original Arkanoid, if you failed to hit the ball with the paddle, it would fall into the abyss and you would lose one of your lives. In the facelifted version, you can now set between one and five barriers below your line of fault that bounce the ball back. When you run out of them and miss, it's game over. While this is a great idea in concept, all it really means is that your lives have become barriers and that there is no break in the action. It does make the game a bit more intense, since the ball’s momentum does not go away like it did when you lost a life, but it’s still nothing groundbreaking.
I also have to compare this game to Space Invaders Extreme, since they both launched at the same time with the intent of revamping a classic arcade title. While SIE has added tons of new things graphically, they also gave the game a huge overhaul with new waves of enemies and distractingly bright backgrounds. Arkanoid just adds the graphics.
Don’t get me wrong, though. The game is still as much of an awesome classic as it ever was. I’ve had both a great and frustrating time with some of the levels. It’s just very, very hard to change or even “tweak” something with such a basic concept, and the developers didn't.
The two-player mode only has (fittingly) two modes that get repetitive quickly. You can either play to see who can clear the board first or who can destroy all the blocks of a specific color first. I know, deep, huh? While there were a few intense rounds, it gets old quick. I’m kind of surprised they didn’t think to create a Pong-like mode or a Warlords-type game. It's should have been obvious.
There are a lot of levels and many ways to customize your backgrounds and VAUS, but if you happen to be old enough to remember what an arcade machine looked like back then, you will feel like nothing has really changed. But that could be a good thing. Do you really want an Arkanoid game that’s nothing like the original?
In fact, this revamp probably came out only because it is a timeless game that is being introduced to a new generation of gamers. It is still an enjoyable experience; it’s just nothing new. And I think that’s okay. Nowadays, it's too common for marketing to put a Doritos-super-mega-ultra-extreme (to the max) branding on everything to make it seem more exciting that it really is, when all the time it’s the same flavors and ingredients that have been in the chips you’ve been eating all along.
If you play this game you will have fun... and that’s that. It will not win awards for innovation or originality, but that’s not what it's about anyway. The Japanese version came with a special arcade track ball controller that they opted not to include in the American version, which I think is a shame, since the retro-vibe of the control would’ve definitely breathed in a little more nostalgia.
Arkanoid DS is a great old-school title, but it comes off as trying to be a hip skateboarding, Pepsi-drinking old dude that just needs to wear his age proudly. Grace and age go hand in hand and that needs to be recognized by Taito and Square-Enix. After all, who wants their friends ogling at their grandma’s brand new double D’s?