Great video game where you have to use a paddle shaped thing to bounce a ball around an arena, knocking out bricks and getting all sorts of spiffy power-ups that make your paddle bigger, smaller, causes the balls to reproduce, gives you trillions of balls, etc. Has a great sequel, Arkanoid II. This game was ported to just about every platform in existence; so far I've only played the Apple IIgs version.

The game has an amusing story to it concerning spaceships and an evil being determined to rule the world, but that's just icing; this is really Atari's Breakout on steroids.

Assorted trivia regarding Arkanoid:

* It was released in 1986 by Taito, and licensed to Romstar for release in the US.

* Many bootleg versions appeared after its release. These typically changed the copyright notice from "Taito" to "Tayto" (which is an Irish potato chip manufacturer).

* The original did not support cocktail mode, but the bootlegs usually did. As a result Taito released "Arkanoid Tournament" in 1987, which was simply the original with cocktail mode support.

Arkanoid isn't just an arcade game. It is an icon. Arkanoid is the uncontested king of the ball and paddle arena. Ball and paddle games have been around since the early days of Pong. The clones came quickly, Puppy Pong, Leader, Quadrapong, Aztec Princess, Breakout and hundreds more were made in the 70s. Then the genre kind of died for a while, until 1986 when Arkanoid brought about a new era of colorful ball and paddle games with varied gameplay and powerups. Titles like Goindol, Block Block, and Ghox were soon to follow. But none of those were quite as magic as Arkanoid. Arkanoid did it right the first time, and the others were merely imitations.

Gameplay is colorful and very simple. You just move your paddle back and forth at the bottom of the screen using a spinner control. The object is to knock out all the blocks at the top of the screen. There are usually a few oddly shaped enemies wandering the screen in an attempt to impede your progress, but your biggest enemy is really yourself, as it is fairly easy to miss the ball by making a silly manuever. Some of the bricks contain power-ups, like multiball, a larger paddle, or my favorite, the blaster. All you have to do is eliminate all the blocks on the screen by either hitting them with your ball, or by shooting them with the blaster power-up. Then you move on to a new screen which is slightly more difficult than the last one.

If you ever get tired of Arkanoid then you try out the sequels, Tournament Arkanoid, Arkanoid - Revenge Of Doh, and Arkanoid Returns.

Hardware information

Arkanoid was sold pretty much exclusively as a conversion kit through a licensing deal with Romstar. A scant few were shipped in "Taito Classic" cabinets, usually the white ones with the black stripes. But even these "dedicated" Arkanoids were just unsold older Taito titles that had the Arkanoid kit factory installed. You are far more likely to find this title in a Romstar cabinet, or in almost any other cabinet imaginable.

The original version of Arkanoid did not support cocktail mode. But the quickly released bootleg version did. Almost all Arkanoid cocktails are bootlegs. The easiest way to tell is by looking at the title screen. The bootleg version shows a "Tayto" copyright. Taito fixed this problem a year later with Tournament Arkanoid which did support cocktail mode, but they were too late, because the bootlegs were already widely distributed. There is also an alternate Arkanoid bootleg called "Block" which displays a "Game Corporation" copyright, and allows you to select the level that you begin the game at.

The Arkanoid control panel featured a blue overlay and had a single optical spinner mounted in the center of the panel, with red fire buttons on either side. The spinner is one expensive replacement part, expect to pay over $100 for a new one. The high price is the bad news, but the good news is that Happ Controls still sells the exact same model spinner, which is available at www.happcontrols.com under part number 95-0931-00.

Where to play

Arkanoid was so popular that you may actually be able to find a real machine to play on, although I haven't actually seen one in a few years. If you wish to play at home you can try the Nintendo Entertainment System cartridge, or any of the various ports or clones. You can even use the MAME emulator, but using a mouse to play is not nearly as fun as using a real spinner control.

This is a great choice for any arcade game collection. If you are going to buy a ball and paddle game, then this is the one to get. High replay value, combined with decent pricing, makes this game a real winner in my book. Pricing seems to vary from around $200 to $400 USD, with location and condition being a major factor.

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