Looks awfully familiar, doesn't it? Did I play Breakout first, or was Arkanoid the game to give me my block smashing fix? To tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself...
You've seen Arkanoid, I guarantee. It's the one that looks like Breakout, but you get power ups. If Breakout is everywhere, then Arkanoid isn't too far behind - and I only say that because I don't think the Google Breakout easter egg included power ups.
Release the balls.
Much like Breakout, your goal is simple - remove every block from the board by smashing balls into them like a single player Pong. Unlike Breakout however are a number of tools at your disposal, in the form of power up pills that fall from some of the blocks.
Collect a power up and your paddle - or, for those of you heavily invested in the plot of Arkanoid, your ship, the Vaus - gains whichever ability is contained within. The Vaus may increase in size, the balls may slow down, you may even grab some laser guns to speed up the destruction and havoc you cause. No power up list is complete without a multi-ball however, which Arkanoid dutifully includes.
Like many players throughout the decades, the best way to see what power up does what is to just grab them and see what happens. Learn by doing and the skills you'll need to progress through the 32 rounds (35 on the NES, which I'm playing) will come. Make it to the 33rd/36th round and you'll face 'DOH', the boss. That's right, blocks aren't good enough, there's a boss fight to cap it all off.
Not that I'm any good to get there myself...
If you don't see a Round counter on the screenshot, then I was watching the computer play in demo mode. Some interesting looking stages ahead, complete with enemies of some sort. Most interesting.
I'm sure with practice and patience and just better decision making I could get through the levels. The NES port makes things a little trickier by not having the ability to continue after you've lost your three lives, but it's still plenty playable.
However, these days, no matter what version of Arkanoid you pick up and play, you'll likely encounter an issue worth talking about: analogue vs digital input.
With digital input - from my D-pad getting piped through to an emulator via USB, for exmaple - the paddle moves at one speed. That comes with its advantages of course - a kind of on/off, stop/start for players who want that kind of control - but it also comes with an important disadvantage, namely that it wasn't the input that Arkanoid was designed for.
Analogue offers smoother movement, giving the paddle a bit of character, almost. Instead of jabbing left the right number of times to meet the ball, you'd have to actually control how far the paddle moved. It required a bit of skill. Arguably not much more skill, arguably a different skill, but a bit of skill nonetheless.
The NES decided to deal with this problem with an entirely new controller designed for the game - so exclusively designed for Arkanoid that only one other NES game took advantage of it.
I don't have that luxury. It's digital or nothing.
But that is not to take away from Arkanoid at all. Far from it. Arkanoid is as playable today as it was in the mid 1980s, and it'll be as playable in another thirty years too. It has the lasting appeal of Breakout and Pong because it was not only built on top of those titles, but improved upon them.
You can clearly see the evolution of these games, yet I can't think what the next game would take and improve from Arkanoid. The third dimension could work, but could just as easily work against it. How far can you refine a classic title before you've gone too far and ruined it?
If you want to answer that question, be my guest. I'll just be playing Arkanoid while I wait.
That other NES game to use the Vaus Controller? Another Taito title, Chase H.Q.
Arkanoid, developed by Taito Corporation, first released in 1986.
Version played: NES, 1987, via emulation.