By Stewie Sutherland
While Sony and Microsoft are boasting the most powerful machines, the richest, state-of-the-art graphics and some of the world’s most innovative software titles to date, Nintendo have branched away from mainstream gaming and established themselves as a true Family console in the process.
This is nothing new of course: family has always been Nintendo’s watchword, a position they’ve been crystal clear on for many years now. Since the happy days of Mario’s platforming adventures, they’ve changed the way people view a “family system”, with motion controls and games that are not just games the latest weapons at their disposal.
And around Christmas of ’07, no product was in demand quite like their “exercise game”, Wii Fit. An outside-the-box idea that quickly grew until it became the third most sold game in history. Now that its sequel Wii Fit Plus (WFP) has become available, I went to pick up my own copy and find out if the latest healthly-lifestyle game could live up to its reputation.
First off, let’s look at the stats. Wii Fit Plus is less of a sequel, more of an upgrade. The original workouts, yoga positions, activities and features are waiting right there on the disk for you in case you’ve decided to hold out until now to see what the fuss is all about. People who own the original Wii Fit will be treated to a more in-depth explanation by the game’s avatar, a talking Wii Balance Board.
All previous data for Wii Fit is transferred immediately, so all your hard work and effort that you’ve put in already will follow you across, and you’ll soon be given a quick tutorial on the new features. These include 3 new Yoga Positions and 3 new Strength workouts (all 6 of which are labelled for Advanced users), as well a new menu with all 15 new activities that have been included. It’s here that you’ll spend the first few hours; while the original Fit would make you work to unlock it’s few and fun mini-games, everything is already waiting in the Training Plus menu.
Looking closer at the new activities, returning athletes may notice some similarities. Balance games like Table Tilt and Balance Bubble (both would have you stand still on the Balance Board and tilt your body to direct the movements of Mii-themed balls in obstacle courses) have returned, this time much harder to give any centre-of-gravity expert a run for their money. Jogging is back as well, this time paired with a memory game.
Nintendo have made the virtual landscape a fun place to explore, and this time they want to make sure you’re paying attention! Rhythm Step has also been given a glittery upgrade called Rhythm Parade, where a person marches up and down on their Board to a beat and shake both Wiimote and Nunchuk to lead a band. Building a chain adds a more musical cast behind you, while missing cues will take them away. I had problems with this one, mainly because at 6’2”, the cable connecting the devices in my hands just wasn’t long enough for me to make a decent shake of the Nunchuk, and would be counted as a miss, so if your tall or you just have long arms, you might want to consider a wireless one somewhere down the road. (Ah, Nintendo, you sly dogs!)
More relaxing games are available, like Tilt City, which uses both Board and Wiimote on a night-time animated city skyline, complete with neon search lights and fireworks that trigger as you balance both your body and your hands to make balls slip down their coloured chutes. It may sound a little silly, but Nintendo make the play through a thing of beauty, akin to Boom Boom Rocket, and you’ll soon realise that tilting your body one way and your hands another is like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time: soon enough you’ll be doing one or the other.
For people who want something more challenging, there is an Obstacle Course that’s very Super Mario Galaxy themed, and a lot of fun to run across. Snowball Fight is a fun extra where you can lean from side to side to peek out from cover, and use the Wiimote’s aim to launch snowballs at the different Mii’s you have saved on your system. It’s a fun little something for people who enjoyed Link’s Crossbow Training.
Noticed yet that Nintendo like to reference their other big hits? If you pay attention and notice the Mario Sprites on the Fit Island where you’ll spend time running, jogging and cycling, it’s pretty clear, but who can blame them? The game that will rob you of any and all respect from your friends and family members however is Bird’s-eye Bull’s-eye, where you control a chicken by flapping your arms and tilting your body for direction. It’s a fun something that really shines when someone else is playing it, but let’s be fair, that won’t happen until you get up there and have a go first.
While you’re playing the new features and games on Wii Fit Plus you’ll notice an interesting extra called MET’s. These record the intensity of your activity, which the game can calculate by how you play, how much you weigh, and how long you play for. A bright diagram explains this in detail for you when you first start to notice, but in English it accounts to a Calories Burned counter.
WFP will tell you this magic number after every activity, and the total has been added to the Daily Tally, represented by the Fit Piggy (Bank). It takes this to the next step, giving you a basic idea of how much you’ve lost when you check (after a fun play on the new activities, I’ve burnt through 122 Calories, equal to 120g of Mashed potato with butter, apparently), but in that last push for completion, you can also set a calorie goal. Represented by 12 different icons of food, from lowest to highest, you can set any of them as a target and after completing an activity or exercise, the calories you have burnt off will be deducted from that target. I was surprised to learn that Milk had more than Cola!
A very big addition (and probably the main reason people will buy Wii Fit Plus, aside from being able to weigh your baby and pet now) is the WFP Routines. Nintendo have gone ahead and already set up a basic set of 3 exercises, activities and positions intended for different goals. These are split into 4 categories: Lifestyle, which features workouts to help alleviate back pain, or maybe just to help you relax, Health, which features workouts that focus on making you leaner and trimmer, Youth, that tends to appeal to older players who want to improve posture and body, and finally, for the girls, Form, that works the figure, hips, arms and behind.
All 4 categories have 3 different focus groups, and each group has 3 different activities, each rounding out to about 8 minutes of working out. You can also combine different sets, to create a quick 20 minute routine to improve the areas you’re targeting first. You can also, in a separate menu, now create your own workout from the different Yoga and Strength activities, and the game will play your chosen selection in order. It’s a nice addition for people who prefer to do things quickly without the pauses and breaks that the original Wii Fit would force on a player while they chose their next exercise.
Unfortunately, Wii Fit does still have its weighing problem: the balance board cannot distinguish between a person’s excess weight and muscle mass, both of which will weigh pretty much the same. A lean footballer or athlete that can bench press with ease can hop on the board and be told by the game they’re overweight or even obese when they don’t have an ounce of fat on them.
It’s here that we must remember that Nintendo quietly focused this towards people (and gamers who spend a bit too much time on the couch) that probably have a bit of improving to do. I went out and found different blogs back when I first got Wii Fit, surprised by how many people were brave enough to show photos and post a detailed record of how much they’d use the workouts, how they would change their routines, and so on and so forth. What was more surprising was that a lot of these people were showing quite an overall improvement. I’ve heard personally that the way to go when approaching this one was to have an open mind and remember to do the Yoga stretches and poses as well. (This one was stressed to me: I must have had a pretty disbelieving look on my face at the time.)
Overall, I’d class Wii Fit Plus as a must have if you’ve tried and enjoyed the original. The new games to play define why people buy a Wii mostly, featuring innovative motion sensitivity without being ridiculous. Nintendo clearly meant for WFP to reward prior players too: if you’re new to the series, buying both the game with the Balance Board will set you back $110 Australian, while the disc alone will only cost $23 RRP. (Editor’s note: A quick glance at amazon.co.uk/.com shows a similar price difference, £74.99/ £17.96 in the UK and $97.99/ $19.49 in the US respectively).
While it won’t replace a gym, the Wii Fit Plus will give a person a decent workout if they take their time and follow it steadily. It’s a perfect tool for people who are just starting to take an interest in fitness, or if someone is maybe too shy to head to the gym just yet. The different activities and games it has too are just plain fun. If you played and enjoyed the crossover game Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games you’ll find the same style waiting in the flashy new Skateboarding activity, with the extra self-satisfaction on knowing your burning away some calories too. It’s a cushioning system: it might not get you just where you want to be, but if you give it a chance it might just point you in the right direction.
8 OUT OF 10