< Spencer's Note: Due to technical difficulties Vyse's article on Arkanoid DS was cut off at the break. It's now fixed so please check it out. >
One of my philosophies in gaming is that the better the controller, the more immersed the player will be in the game. That’s why I believe that people love game specific peripherals. I mean just look at the popularity of DDR and Guitar Hero. People love them because the accessory that they use with them adds a feeling to the game that the system’s default controller can’t give them. I love these sometimes crazy accessories as well. I’m always looking for new methods of control for my games. For this reason, I jumped immediately at the chance to play the Japanese-only Arkanoid DS, which was designed for use with a new peripheral: the DS Paddle Controller.
When I first got my package from Play-Asia, I didn’t even look at the game. I tore open the oversized DS box and went straight to the Paddle Controller (which had its own smaller box within). I wanted to be sure that this accessory wasn’t developed cheaply in any way. I’ve been disappointed in the past with the quality of some accessories, even official products (I’m looking at you N64 pad!), and I just had to see if Taito did their job right. Cherubs sang from the heavens and leafy glades rose from my floorboards, springing forth fauns who played lutes as I first touched the Paddle Controller. Yes, the interface device was damn good, exceeding my expectations in every aspect.
What makes the Paddle Controller so special is its build quality. The knob on it is probably the most perfect recreation of an arcade spinner I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. The paddle controllers on the Atari 2600 were good but not perfect. They had a limited range of motion and just didn’t have that arcade feel. The DS Paddle Controller turns all the way around and the knob coasts on ball bearings, still spinning after a good amount of force. It feels JUST like the arcade version of Arakanoid’s spinner, only the knob’s a tad smaller and made of plastic. My biggest fear was also relieved: the Paddle Controller is made to fit in the DS’s GBA slot (as the DS Rumble Pack does) of both models of DS. I think my only reason for still owning the original model DS is so I have an excuse to be bitter when accessories come out that aren’t made for it. However, Taito made sure I didn’t have to shake my fists at the heavens. I’ve never bought an accessory I’ve been happier with than this one. The controller also comes in four different colors (white, black, pink, and silver) for those of you who want to buy the game and controller separately, however you won’t get the price break of the game and white controller bundle that I bought.
So I cleaned up my puddle of drool and I finally decided to play the game. What can I say? It’s Arkanoid. It’s still the same Breakout clone with a soul. I’ve loved the game ever since I first played it and I love it now. The Paddle Controller performs exactly as it feels. I can make the slightest adjustments for accurate ball placement and I can make mad spins to the side for a save all with no problems. Arkanoid DS is technically speaking a new game and not a port of the arcade classic, however the game includes no new power-ups or extreme changes in how it’s played. The gameplay is true to the original, just with different levels and modes. The Completion Mode is your standard break all the bricks mode. It’s simple, but enjoyable. The best part of the game, aside from the gameplay, was the fanservice. For instance, one level had the bricks arranged like Bub from Taito’s famous Bubble Bobble series. The music is all CD-quality tunes that were enjoyable ranging from smooth jazzy stuff to some Guilty Gear-style rock. My favorite tune by far has to be a vocal J-pop techno remix of the Arkanoid theme. I almost snapped my DS in half with glee as I heard it. Simply amazing.
The game also has some other modes like a Wi-Fi Vs. Mode and a Quest Mode where you must complete missions within a time limit. All of these modes are pretty much just variations on the original Arkanoid gameplay and really don’t offer anything new to the series. If I have to say that this game has any flaw, it’s lack of innovation. However, I highly recommend this title for its arcade authentic gameplay with the amazing Paddle Controller. It’s a shame that Taito has no current plans to bring the title stateside, however you’ll need no knowledge of Japanese to find your way through the game and enjoy it. I can only hope that Arkanoid DS be localized for the US someday and that Taito make more games with the Paddle Controller in mind.