Arkanoid (Taito, 1983)
August 28th, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

When I finally sold Xenophobe, it took all of two seconds to figure out that I needed to have another game in there. This is because I have a serious problem. I have the arcade collecting bug and if I don’t watch it, it will destroy my life and relationship.

Arkanoid will always be the most special game for me, and not just because I made it from wholly separate parts. You may not necessarily think of Arkanoid as a special game – in fact, in Fallacy of Dawn, I made a joke when the characters are in the burrito line that Delarion overhears someone talking about converting an I, Robot into an Arkanoid, and that makes him violent – but for me, this machine is the exception.

Arkanoid was close to someone very special to me, but the game also fit my own main criterion: I like owning games that have a unique control structure.  Arkanoid’s spinner is unlike every other spinner ever made, because of the gears. The gears! The resolution offered by Arkanoid is highest of any Classic Era spinner. We tried to play it in MAME, using the excellent Apache Push/Pull USB spinner, and that someone very, very close to me (who had played it often when she lived in California) told me that it just wasn’t the same.

I also learned that Arkanoid was never sold as a dedicated unit in the US. Operators simply converted other games to Arkanoid. This was gonna work great for me, because it gives me a chance to use a bit of creativity in getting this thing together.

I was able to buy an old “The Pit” cab from pacray out in Longmont. He sold it to me with a monitor and power supply, so for $75 I think I did all right. (I was going to get a Happ Vision Pro for the monitor, but this one ended up working just fine.) Cabs aren’t as common as they used to be, what with people being able to trick them out into MultiGames that generate over a thousand bucks, so it was nice of Ray to help me out.

I bought the board and wiring harness off eBay. I picked up a spinner from Ray, but also had an extra in the eBay purchase. At this point, I sort of had an idea of what I needed to do to make the thing work: get the wiring harness into a control panel, and get power to the board.

And in just a couple of years I had learned enough to be able to DO just that. Arkanoid just takes +5, +12 and ground, and I was able to bring that from the power supply to the harness. I was totally psyched when I started it up for the first time after wiring it: I had taken a bunch of parts and assembled an arcade game. For me, this was Frankenstein bringing forth his monster.

 From there, I got some molex connectors and built a little interface that got the controls working. There were some difficulties along the way – like when the entire control panel came loose and ripped the wiring apart because I did not bolt it down – but by and large it was a pretty smooth project.

And do you know what really made it all worth the while? I shall tell you. I shall be happy to.

One night, a few months ago, that special someone and I had a craving for some Arkanoid at the same time. You can continue your game in Arkanoid. It’s a pretty cool feature.

We started playing with the first level. And we kept going. We’d take turns – as soon as one of us died, the other would take over. If one of us died really, really quickly, we’d look up and see the other one nodding. Yes, you may continue. That didn’t count.

We got through the first ten levels. We started seeing what Arkanoid had to really offer. I noticed that new power-ups won’t be generated if the cyan multiball power-up is in play. I noticed that while a power-up is actually in the process of dropping, no more will be generated by the game.

And I noticed that I was having an amazing time with that special someone as we both took steps to “solve” a game created over two decades before.

We stopped at around level 21. It was so awesome, in the low light of the den, to hear nothing but the game and be with her and just whack a ball along an x-axis. There are 31 levels in Arkanoid, and that was the perfect amount to leave: enough that we could replicate our accomplishments the next time out without too much difficulty, but enough where there would still be a lot of new, previously unseen, fun to be had.

Things did not work out between us, and we will never get to the end of Arkanoid. And I think, for that … and a million other reasons relating to the whole (waving hands) thing, I will always be sad… but this sort of relates back to the post I made on the website a couple days ago. The part in Arkanoid where I really stopped playing is when all the light went out in my life.

And it’s for that reason that Arkanoid is therefore the most special.

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