The next Nintendo craze is just around the corner - here's our first impressions...
It simply shouldn’t happen. Videogames are famed for turning kids into overweight, slovenly lay-abouts with zero motivation; the act of playing them is supposed to pile on the pounds, not shed them off.
However, having blown away all reasonable expectations with the Wii and (allegedly) helped to keep our minds in check with the best-selling Brain Training series, Nintendo is keen to change this preconception with Wii Fit, a videogame that not only entertains but also keeps you in prime physical condition.
The game was released before Christmas in Japan and has quickly stormed to the top of the sales charts. It comes complete with yet another unique Wii peripheral in the shape of the Balance Board. This pressure sensitive device can pick up even the slightest movement and change in posture and is the ultimately the key to Wii Fit’s appeal.
The Balance Board
Initial reports regarding this innovative accessory were worrying – many people said it would be too light and would end up skidding across wooden floors. Others said it wouldn’t accommodate heavier gamers (and we know there’s a lot of those around) and many questioned the build quality of the device.
Now it’s finally here we can confirm the Balance Board is a triumph of typically robust Nintendo engineering. It’s certainly heavier than we expected and is unlikely to fly across the room should you accidentally kick it during some particularly vigorous exercise. Although Nintendo recommend that no one over 136kg steps onto the board, we’re pretty sure the company is erring on the side of caution (although please don’t hold us to that – we don’t really want thousands of busted Balance Boards on our conscience). As for the technology itself, the sensitivity of the Board is nothing short of breathtaking. It accurately senses even the slightest change in weight distribution and marks yet another brilliant piece of Nintendo hardware.
Unsurprisingly the actual games contained within Wii Fit are short and sweet, much like those seen in the all-conquering Wii Sports. What you have here is an assortment of 40 different activites based in four key areas: muscle conditioning, aerobics, yoga and balance. The tasks themselves are pretty simple but as we’ve come to expect from the Big N they’re well conceived and aren’t going to get too dull too soon.
For those of you that worry about Wii Fit turning you into a sweaty, breathless wreck the fact that some of the tasks are actually quite laid back should come as welcome news. Like most good exercise, various events in Wii Fit are actually aimed at improving muscle control, co-ordination and reaction time rather than tiring you out physically.
In an evolution of the fitness mode seen in Wii Sports, your performance in each of these areas is noted on your performance chart where you can find out what your 'Wii fitness age' is as well as getting depressed by the fact that you're well over on your BMI (Body Mass Index). This is where Wii Fit becomes both scary and devastatingly brilliant at the same time; here is a game that tells invariably tells you that you’re overweight but then offers a tangible reward scheme to encourage you to do something about it.
We’ve recently seen Brain Training get something of a kicking from scientists that take issue with claims that it can improve your intelligence, and to be perfectly honest we can see the same thing happening with Wii Fit. This game is not going to replace trips to the gym; the tasks on offer are nowhere near as demanding as a proper workout but it’s still arguably better than nothing and what’s more it’s actually entertaining and enjoyable (whereas the idea of spending hours in a leisure centre populated by oiled-up bodybuilders definitely isn’t).
Questioning if Wii Fit will repeat its impressive Japanese commercial performance here in the West is kind of like asking if it’s going to get dark tonight; it’s inevitable. This is a product that will capture the minds of Wii owners worldwide, no matter what gender or age they happen to be. To put it bluntly this is a licence to print money for Nintendo, as if the company doesn’t have enough of those already.
Wii Fit Screenshot
There’s no word on US/UK pricing as yet although with the Japanese price roughly working out to about £35/$70, it would be reasonable to expect something around £49.99 in the UK and around $69.99-$79.99 in the States.