My very first home game console was the Atari 5200, and one of the games I had for it was Super Breakout. It’s a simple ball-and-paddle game, although slightly upgraded from the original Breakout. Still, I always found it a little too simple, so it didn’t really hold my attention for long.
However, I fell in love with Arkanoid when I played it in the arcade. Taito’s rendition of the ball-and-paddle concept took it too a whole new level, adding all kinds of extra gameplay elements, as well as a strangely epic-feeling sci-fi story.
It begins with the destruction of a mother ship called Arkanoid, and a smaller capsule ship called the Vaus manages to get away. During its escape, it gets trapped in a bizarre space warp filled with colorful blocks by an evil moai called Doh.
All right, it’s not exactly Star Wars, but it sets the stage.
Rather than simply bouncing a ball around, Arkanoid adds several power-ups you can collect, such as a laser, multiplying the ball, being able to “catch” the ball, expanding the Vaus, and so on. Each level in the game features a different formation of blocks, and some blocks take several hits to destroy or are even indestructible. There are also some enemies that float around the play field, and while they don’t cause any harm if they touch the Vaus, they can cause the ball to bounce in unexpected directions. All of these elements add some much needed depth to the gameplay, but it still remains simple enough to be addictive.
Arkanoid was such a leap forward from Breakout that it pretty much created its own sub-genre. Any time a Breakout-style game comes out that has power-ups and other gimmicks, it’s usually referred to as an “Arkanoid clone” rather than a Breakout clone.
If you manage to beat Doh and escape the space warp, the Vaus is sent back in time to be reunited with the Arkanoid. But as we’re informed by an ending message, “the real voyage of ‘Arkanoid’ in the galaxy has only started……” And thus, there have been several sequels over the years, such as Revenge of Doh, Arkanoid: Doh it Again, Arkanoid Returns and Arkanoid Plus!, among others, although they all pretty much stick to the same formula. The original game was also ported to numerous home platforms, but most people might remember the NES version which came with its own “knob” controller (a valuable collector’s item these days).
In a way, Arkanoid was to Breakout what Galaga was to Space Invaders: a logical enhancement to a solid core concept. And like Galaga, it still holds up great today. It’s definitely worth getting stuck in a space warp filled with colorful blocks in any incarnation you can find it in.