Has anyone else in this city experienced the thrills and joys of the Nintendo Power Pad?
Europeans may recall its sister product, the colorful, interactive Family Fun Fitness mat, which, like the Power Pad, was wired with (then) cutting-edge movement sensors. Both devices provided competitive, humorous exercise outlets for the whole fam. Born in the late 80’s, these wonderful gadgets were, to my knowledge, the first and only of their kind.
“Power Pad Day” used be the highlight of my week—my friends and I would gather in front of the basement TV, ceremonially unroll the sleek, smooth electronic mat and stomp our ways to virtual Track and Field victories. Indeed, it was the classic Nintendo Entertainment System that provided us with our favorite form of indoor fun. We would scheme for hours on end: how to master the triple jump? The hurdle relay? Can we “trick” the system by sneakily stepping off of the Pad, thus extending our Long Jumps to superhuman distances? Oh, the possibilities…
After its seven year tenure, the Power Pad was (circa ’95) sadly discontinued (in conjunction with its game system counterpart). But I, of course, proudly looked after our NES and beloved PP through my late teens; for, though my brother and I were privy to the graphic wonders of N64, nothing compared to a bit of old-fashioned, World Class Track Meet fun.
You can imagine my devastation when my mom “accidentally” sold “that old thing?” at her annual garage sale just before I left for college. Dear mother, you’ve purged a sacred relic! Oh, the times we could have had in the college dormitory lounge…where on earth would I find another Power Pad? More importantly: when would Nintendo come to its senses and put its coolest gaming accessory back on the market?
I had long given up hope on any potential Power Pad resurrection until just days ago, when my PP prayers were seemingly answered in a big, glorious flash of white. I was ambling along the South Bank of the Thames, soaking in the bright, afternoon sun, when suddenly, I saw a sign! Or rather, a huge, white cubical structure, surrounded by a bustling group of people, dressed in matching white suits…
No, I am not blogging from some sacred gateway to Heaven (though how cool would that be?). I had, however, encountered a futuristic, techno-glamorous playground—the official UK launch of Nintendo’s “Wii Fit.” I gazed up at a group of actors, who, comfortably nestled in an enormous, two-tiered display of faux living rooms, were testing the hippest exercise gaming device on the market, their candid efforts broadcasted on two enormous, adjacent flat screens.
Could this be? The Power Pad, finally reborn?? I was giddy with excitement—I had to get a closer look.
I made my way to one of several Thameside testing stations, where a jumpsuit-clad demo guy fitted me with a pair of free Wii socks. Hot damn.
But I was quickly disappointed to find that the Fit Board was about the size of my bathroom scale. How could this mere “balancing” platform rival the stomping, jumping excitement of the Power Pad?
Finally, it was my turn; I could select from a dozen or so activities, including Yoga, Step Aerobics, Soccer, Hula-Hooping, etc. Which was the best, I asked? The chipper demo guy insisted that I try the Ski Jump, his favorite.
Ski Jump, you say? More like Ski, umm, Squat and Stretch? For there is, I soon learned, “no jumping allowed” on the Wii Fit board. The device aims to improve one’s balance/weight distribution, with a little red dot gauging players’ centers of gravity through the duration of each activity.
For the Ski Jump, I was required to bend my knees and shift my weight increasingly forward throughout the descent; my “jump” involved straightening my legs and balancing on my tip toes until my little cartoony skiing man landed safely on the other side.
I invited the demo guy to perform the tricky movements with me…
Apparently, we looked like complete idiots, because the press started bombarding us with flashes (you can see one photographer in the background if you look closely).
An amusing moment indeed; however, I’m sad to report that my Wii Fit trial was, overall, a letdown.
Sorry, Nintendo. Your jumpsuits and demo dudes are awesome, but I still await a true PP resurrection.