During the golden age of video games, in the 80s, the gaming landscape was completely different, both for the companies and companies involved in this world, and for the video games themselves. Very few series born in that era have somehow managed to maintain their relevance: Pac-Man is an example, but really it is an exception to the rule.
Mostly the video games born in that era have also remained confined to it, and when they come back they do it more to make us relive those glorious years than to propose something new.
Arkanoid is a game that fully falls into this category: the historic progenitor, dated 1986, literally wrote part of the history of the videogame medium, and the name Arkanoid is part of the collective memory of gamers, even those who have never played it. Although there have been attempts to revive the title over the decades, Arkanoid has never managed to come back in great shape.
Also, for this reason, we were very intrigued by Arkanoid: Eternal Battle, a title developed by Pastagames and published by Microids, available on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.
The game proposes to give a modernization to the Arkanoid formula, throwing us into battles with 25 players. Let’s see together how it went.
Endless clashes in space
Let’s start with the basics: for those unfamiliar with Arkanoid, it has a very simple premise: it is a game with fixed screens, where we will move a small bar to push a ball towards blocks arranged on the screen, with the aim of eliminating them all without the ball over the line of our “field”.
In the story of the game, the bar actually represents a vessel (called Vaus) expelled from the mother ship (the Arkanoid of the title) in an attempt to repel the attacks of a mysterious space entity called DOH.
In this Arkanoid: Eternal Battle (only Eternal Battle from now on) we will find four different game modes, but which all share the same basic gameplay: in each of them our goal will always be to push the ball back to clear the levels of blocks. The rules of the game and the aesthetic sector will change, obviously updated compared to the original. So let’s see what the four proposals of the title are.
The first mode is the one that gives the title to this edition (which you can retrieve on Amazon), namely Eternal Battle. It is a 25-player online mode, the one on which the developers have focused the most.
The idea is that of a battle royale in the wake of Tetris 99: playing your game, you will have to try to survive longer than all the other players, finally remaining the last in the game to win.
Unlike what happens in Tetris 99 we are not eliminated by “losing” Arkanoid, ie we will not be eliminated when the ball crosses our line, destroying the ship. Eliminations take place at regular intervals, and the player left with the fewest points is eliminated: for this reason, obviously, it is important to “die” as little as possible, to continue to score points and keep yourself in safe positions in the rankings.
There is something new compared to the classic Arkanoid also in the way of playing. First, the screens have a completely different aesthetic, with vibrant and bright colors, with dynamic backgrounds. Furthermore, at the level of gameplay, several variables are introduced.
For example, we will be able to obtain different power ups: some will allow us to have three balls in play, others to have a longer spaceship, others to create “shields” that prevent the ball from falling, and more.
Taking up the comparison with Tetris 99, here too the 25-player battle is indirect, that is to say that everyone plays on their screen, and the interactions are limited to marginal influences, such as power-ups that will cause disturbances to the other players.
And here we come to the first big problem that afflicts this mode. If the idea on paper could work, and in part it is, in Eternal Battle it seems to play alone most of the time.
This is because we only see our screen, with no trace of the other players: we can see the screens of the two players next to us in the ranking, but nothing else.
This means that the only way to know how others are doing is to check the rankings, seeing only their scores and placements.
In addition to this, there are also few ways to interact. It is rare to find debuffs to throw at other players, it is not possible to select a specific opponent. In general, it is as if 25 people are playing Arkanoid by themselves, only occasionally remembering each other’s existence. And it’s a shame because the idea on paper could have been interesting – and in certain situations it works. When you are on the verge of elimination, for example, the screen begins to turn more and more red, creating adrenaline-pumping moments that we never expected to see in Arkanoid.
Unfortunately, the flaws don’t end there. The other, great lack of Eternal Battle is structural: it is not enough to defeat 24 opponents. Once left alone, we will have to face DOH, the antagonist of the game.
Losing at this stage will simply mean being defeated like everyone else. This ends up making the experience very frustrating: the game runs slower than in other battle royales (since eliminations follow predetermined times), plus there’s always the risk of reaching the end and then being left with a handful of flies.
To this we add one last, decisive factor: the game servers are practically empty. About a month into launch, we had to race CPU bots almost exclusively, because no one was playing Eternal Battle. Considering the game also has cross-play, that’s a really worrying sign.
As for the technical aspect, the game runs smoothly (as expected), without any particular hitches. We tried it on PlayStation 5, but it should also run well in its “minor” version, the Nintendo Switch (you can retrieve the OLED version of the console on Amazon).
Arkanoid in all sauces
Now we come to the other three modes. First, we have another multiplayer mode, called Versus. In it, we will be able to challenge up to three friends (locally or online) to Arkanoid, using all the power ups and modifications also present in the Eternal Battle mode. Provided you have friends to play with, it’s a fun mode, which loses originality and adrenaline compared to the previous one but gains in immediacy.
The other two modes present are dedicated to the single player. In Neo, we will be able to face the classic Arkanoid in a modified version, with a renewed view, new power-ups and modified levels. Finally, in the Retro mode we will have the immortal original Arkanoid to face for an experience in full 80s style.
If we are dwelling little on these three modes, it is because there is very little to say: these are three reinterpretations of the classic Arkanoid, for better or for worse.
Looking at the complete package of Eternal Battle, it is clear that the main attraction of the title should be precisely the mode that gives it its name – and, indeed, it is the one that most deserves attention, just a pity that things don’t quite work out, for the reasons we talked about.