Review: Arkanoid Plus! (Nintendo Wii)

Arkanoid Plus!
Developer: Taito Corporation
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: Block Breaking Puzzle
Release Date: 09/28/09


Is there a series I love more than Arkanoid? From the arcade to the NES, from the Super NES to the Nintendo DS, and now on the Wii, Arkanoid has been a constantly pleasing series. Does the Wii iteration live up to the classic status previous games in the series attained? I guess that’s what I’m here for, eh?

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Story/Modes
The story of Arkanoid Plus!, as it has been with every other Arkanoid game, is both brief and impenetrable. All I know is that there is a planet and some invaders and some blocks and all of this is an excuse to call your paddle a Vaus and pretend it’s a space ship. Fine by me. The paddle is a space ship called the Vaus and the blocks are Arkanoids and the weird Easter Island statue at the end of the game is DOH. What, you want Shakespeare? Dude, it’s a game about breaking bricks with a ball, not a play.

Honestly, I had forgotten about the plot trappings of Arkanoid since I finally retired my copy of Arkanoid DS. Truth is, no one is playing this, or any other brick game, for the plot. I know I play it for the brick breaking, even if it’s a game as lovely as Shatter.

There are Arcade, Time, and Versus modes. Arcade is where the majority of the action is, as well as the classic Arkanoid gameplay. There are 61 stages in the initial mode, but a booster pack is available for the very reasonable price of 200 Wii Points. After clearing a stage, you can go left or right to the next stage. Time mode is the usual, in that I never play anything with the word time in the description outside of what’s required for this review. I am, by nature, slow. I’m sure that if speed is your thing, this mode is great shakes. Versus Mode, however, is very cool. Against either the AI or a friend, you try to annihilate all the blocks while sending power downs and more blocks their way. It is fun against the AI, but it shines with a second player. The dynamic is similar to Puyo Puyo or Super Puzzle Fighter. In fact, since this is a 600 point game, I’d venture to say it’s worth that for just the Versus Mode.

Graphics
Look, Arkanoid games are not known for pushing the graphical power of any system they are on. Truly, the graphics have not changed much since the NES days. I’m okay with that. The bells and whistles of Shatter left me wishing that game had simpler backgrounds, so it would be hypocritical of me to attack this game for maintaining its Spartan sense of design. Everything is crisp and clean and firmly two-dimensional, and that is how it should be. This game could most likely have come out for the Super NES, but I hardly consider that an insult when the gameplay is so good.

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Sound
The music is there. Really, it is. I do not remember it, but I am sure I heard some at some point. That is not to say that the music was bad, just unimpressive. On the other hand, the sound effects are untouchable.

“Why?,” you ask, most assuredly.

Because there is a pantheon of classic video game sound effects and the Arkanoid standard ping and crack sounds are definitely in the upper echelon. I am so used to them that I actually have trouble with similar games because those sounds are absent. Dumb, I’m sure, but it is something I have run into multiple times.

Control and Gameplay
The quality of the controls truly depends on what your expectations are from Arkanoid Plus!. Those expecting a Wii specific, tilting or motion-based control scheme will be left wanting. The thing is, the same folks who complain when a Wii game lacks these sort of controls also tear apart games that have less than perfect integration of these gimmicks. I was perfectly happy controlling this game with a Wimote turned ninety degrees. The control is spot on and perfect. Played with a Classic Controller, Arkanoid Plus! is as smooth as you can imagine, and the controls are dead on target. Whether this is a function of over twenty years of development or due to the quality of this specific team of developers, I cannot complain one bit about the way this game plays.

Replayability
I have owned an SNES copy of Arkanoid: Doh It Again for the better part of 15 years. It was, along with Parodius and TwinBee: Rainbow Bell Adventure, one of the most used games in my collection. Only the portability of the DS iteration allowed it to displace the SNES edition in my heart. That reign was short lived, as Shatter and, now, this game have eclipsed it. Will weeks, or even months, go by without me playing Arkanoid Plus!? Most likely. Will it be one of the most played games on my Wii? Definitely.

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Balance
The learning curve for Arkanoid Plus! is pretty much as easy as possible to pick up. If, after the first stage, you have not picked up what is going on, I would be left to wonder how it is that you managed to turn the system on.

Originality
This is a sequel of a sequel of a sequel of a port. So, no, it is not the most original thing since the invention of the wheel. It is, however, a nice refinement of a classic game.

Addictiveness
Long after I have forgotten the next half dozen or so games I play, I will still be going back to Arkanoid Plus! Each mode offers a unique challenge and it is a nice way to kill 15-30 minutes. It is already a part of my gaming habits, and will remain something I go back to time and time again.

Appeal Factor
Do you like 2D games and breaking bricks with a ball? Do you like Wii games that don’t require you to mime dance moves to hit bad guys with a lightsaber? Do you have opposable thumbs? If so, have I got a game for you!

Miscellaneous
For 600 Wii points, 800 total if you spring for the extra stages, you get a perfectly executed game from one of my favorite genres and franchises. It plays so well with the Wiimote that you do not have to feel bad for not having a Classic Controller for a second player, because they won’t need it.

The Scores
Story/Modes: Good
Graphics: Good
Sound: Above Average
Control and Gameplay: Unparalleled
Replayability: Unparalleled
Balance: Very Good
Originality: Bad
Addictiveness: Unparalleled
Appeal Factor: Good
Miscellaneous: Good

FINAL SCORE: VERY GOOD GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
There are not a lot of series’ I follow closely. Arkanoid is one of them. Arkanoid Plus! sums up what I love most about Arkanoid games and does so with style and panache, along with a price that cannot be beat. Were it up to me, I would take a dozen more games like this a year rather than the hugely bloated blockbuster titles that flood the Christmas market. This is good, old school fun for cheap. Buy it already!