Australia, January 3, 2008 - New hardware announcements always make me giddy – mainly because of the new gaming possibilities that they afford. Something as potentially innocuous as a new input method can completely change the way we play games; just look at motion sensitivity for proof. But the Wii Fit Board is something else. It uses weight and feet as key factors, and can be combined with the Wii's remote and nunchuk combo for full-body control. For a game like Wii Fit, the potential is obvious. But what else could Nintendo's little white platform be used for? What genres does it lend itself to?
Tai Chi / Kung Fu:
If Nintendo is looking to appeal to a more casual, senior market, it would be wise to consider a version of the popular slow martial arts practice tai chi for its console. Using on-screen versions of the movements, seniors and curious parties could perfect the smooth flow of the controlled kung fu movements, aimed at strengthening muscles in a low-to-no impact way.
To attract a broader market, a version of the game could also offer more traditional Kung Fu basics that teach basic level martial arts and self-defence moves. We're a little more sceptical whether or not the various classification boards would take issue with something perceived as teaching home martial arts, but then again, it hasn't stopped DVD martial arts sales. Perhaps there is a market for this kind of thing after all – and if any company has the chutzpah to bring a title like this to market, it's Nintendo.
This game must, I repeat, must be made. Someone come and run with this concept. Remember how cool Rock Band's drumming was? Well, how about this. Take the remote and the nunchuk as your drumsticks. Then, using the face buttons or D-pad, you can determine which tom-toms or cymbals you want to hit as you swing your hands around, rock-god style. That's your arms sorted.
So Rock Band might not come to Wii, but that doesn't mean we can't have a kick-arse drum game of our own...
Now, your feet control the high-hat and bass drum. You'd simply need to step down to activate ether one, and the placement of these could be interchangeable or completely remappable, based on personal preference. The other possibility is a soft, blunt-ended stick combo that can be struck against the surface of the board, with each quadrant representing a different type of drum skin or cymbal. It's not quite Rock Band on Wii, but if handled the right way, we think this could be an addictive alternative to drum simulation on Wii.
There are two sides to this– one, a Dance Dance Revolution-style rhythm game that takes advantage of foot placement on the board surface. The four quadrants on the board could easily make a forward/back, diagonal and side-to-side movement sequence possible. Hand movements could be introduced with the remote and nunchuk, and the whole thing could be set to tracks supplied on disc or downloaded through Nintendo's rapidly improving and expanding online service. That's the easy, predictable dancing game option (and likely one that's already being considered by Konami, if we're lucky).
The other, more 'alternative' option is a formal dancing application that teaches you basic ballet, dance step sequences, balance skills and light movement controls, aimed at girls, seniors and those who want the depth of a dance class in easily-digestible game-form. The Wii Fit board seems like the right tool for the job, given the units' ability to sense weight and pressure location on it surface; it could tell the difference between a well-balanced and centred pirouette and a lousy oaf in a tutu. Much like the IGN AU crew end up after a big night on the town.
Snowboarding and Skiing:
This one is a given in a lot of ways. Wii Fit actually contains a leg-flexing Ski Jumper mini activity, but we're envisioning these two snowfield pastimes as fully-fledged games. There is a skiing game planned by Namco Bandai called Family Ski, but the details are sketchy. We're assuming the pressure sensitivity of the Wii Fit Board is going to be perfect for the more gentle movements of skiing, but we think there'd need to be more advanced controls for tighter turns, crouching and jumping.
This might apply more perfectly to the snowboarding genre, given that it only requires a single surface on the snow, as opposed to two skis. Shigeru Miyamoto was quoted as saying at E3 2007 that snowboarding would likely be the easiest fit for the platform too. Was that a subtle hint that Nintendo has some plans? Well, what famed snowboarding franchise does Nintendo own? It's called 1080 Degree Snowboarding and a Wii iteration with Wii Fit Board use sounds like it could make a lot of sense. Here's hoping that someone is working on a version as we speak.
Four quadrants means four deck sides. Couple that with Wii remote use and steering via the nunchuk's stick and you have yourself a kick-ass skating game that has the potential to rival the best the genre has to offer. By standing in the centre of the board and tapping down or leaning along the edge of the platform, you could kickflip, spin, rotate or tweak the deck in a variety of ways, just like the real thing. By learning simple sweeping foot movements to simulate real tricks, the Wii Fit Board might just displace EA's skate as the number one skating game available.
Imagine a true board-based skating game on Wii. *drools*
For those looking for more depth, kicking and movement controls, as well as precision tricking, could be assigned to the Wii remote and nunchuk too. Taking a leaf from Tony Hawk's book, the game could even cut away to a close-up of the deck that could be rotated in the air with the control stick and flipped or tweaked with the Wii Fit Board. Like snowboarding and skiing, we're guessing some dedicated developer is toying with skateboarding. If not, then dear lord, someone get on this quick.
This one is a little more of a stretch, but still within the realms of the possible. With two angular, spring-loaded pedal attachments, the Wii Fit Board could easily become an analogue pedal base to be used in conjunction with the Wii remote for steering. The harder you push, the more the board senses the pressure and the greater you accelerate or brake. This idea really hinges on the ability to manufacture the pedals, but we think it's doable.
Square Enix was one of the most unlikely supporters of the Wii Fit Board when it was announced last year. The company even went on record stating that, while it had no intentions of bringing the world of Final Fantasy into the fitness scene, it was intrigued with the notion of using weight and balance as key mechanics in RPGs. That raises all sorts of nifty ideas. Imagine having to cast spells based on the alignment of your body, arms and legs? Or having to interact with the world by ducking, leaning and hopping (gently, of course) on the board surface? Who knows what Square Enix could be cooking up in their clinical-white development rooms?