Title - Arkanoid - Doh it Again (アルカノイド DOH IT AGAIN)
Developer - Taito
Game Type - Action
Catalogue No. - SHVC-A6
No. Of players - 1 or 2
High resolution scan pack download

Arkanoid: Doh it Again contains all of the things one would expect when a game that is part of a longstanding series comes out on a new and more powerful system: more levels, new enemies and power-ups, improved graphics and sound, and dumbed-down gameplay.

Arkanoid has been described as the outer-space version of Breakout, a game in which you use a paddle to bounce a ball against bricks and break them all to advance to the next level. Earlier versions of Arkanoid hinted at a sort of vague galactic threat, led by the head alien named Doh. In Doh it Again, this is expanded. We are actually treated to an introductory story scene where we learn that the “paddle” is actually a ship sent to scout out a new planet. The ship runs into problems however, as wave upon wave of blocks hinder its progress, sent by the nefarious Doh.

The cutscene is nice because it gives the game some context; as well, there is a background scene that changes every few levels (such as a spaceship firing lasers or a space station) and gives an idea of the epic battle that is supposedly being waged in the game. These little touches help strengthen the outer-space atmosphere and give the player something to look forward to, knowing that the scenery will change the farther you advance.

The power-ups from NES Arkanoid, which come in the form of little lozenges that appear when certain blocks are hit, are carried over in the new version with some changes and additions as well. The laser, sticky paddle and elongated paddle are pretty much the same, but the lozenge that gives you three balls at once now gives you about eight, and there is a new kind of lozenge that creates an energy barrier at the bottom of the screen which prevents the ball from falling through once. There are also a few new kinds of alien, including one that can absorb the ball and spit it back out at a different part of the screen. One of the best new features is the addition of more levels, to a total of 99. There are also “boss battles” after a certain number of levels where something is actually shooting at you as you try to hit it with the ball—a nice way to mix up the gameplay.

The sound is also vastly improved over the NES version, and borders on actually being enjoyable. The trademark little ditty that begins each stage is still the same, however the in-game sounds are more varied. There is still no in-game music, but instead each different coloured block has its own musical pitch, so that every time the ball bounces off something you a combination of different tones that can even begin to sound melodic at times.

Unfortunately, there are some technical glitches. Sometimes the ball will actually travel through the brick without breaking it. (This is very rare, however.) Occasionally I’ve also seen a ball fall through the energy barrier that was supposed to have been able to reflect it. Another rather more major fault is that the ball can get stuck in an endless loop of bouncing off gold bricks and walls (gold bricks cannot be destroyed and therefore act as barriers.) This happened to me once and I sat waiting for the ball to come back down before finally realizing that it was repeating the exact same pattern every time and wasn’t going anywhere. There was nothing to do but reset. It’s too bad that the game didn’t come with some sort of “tilt” feature.

One of the biggest complaint about NES Arkanoid was that the ball was too fast and the paddle was too slow, resulting in a lot of missed balls. They tried to address this in Doh it Again and succeeded in only halfway doing so. The paddle is still fairly slow, but pressing the wonderful L and R buttons give it a nice boost of speed which comes in very handy if you’ve misjudged the angle of the ball and have to zip back underneath it before it plummets past. And the ball definitely isn’t too fast anymore. It isn’t the least bit fast. In fact, it’s too slow now. In the NES game the ball would start out slowly, then rebound off a few bricks and in no time be ready to break the speed of sound. In Doh it Again, the ball starts off slow, rebounds off a few bricks, and gets bumped up to medium slow, which makes it much easier to control but a lot less exciting.

Overall, Doh it Again is a great SNES remake of Arkanoid which made all the right upgrades to the right areas without totally butchering the game by trying all sorts of new-fangled innovations. The 99 levels will make any Arkanoid fan very happy. Unfortunately the rather lethargic tempo makes reaching the 99th level quite a test of endurance.