Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Gaming After 40 Video Podcast #44: Power to the Pad!

The always sporadic, occasionally entertaining Gaming After 40 Video Podcast is back, with episode #44 - Power to the Pad!

A little behind-the-scenes note here... I usually write each podcast script in the pending blog post, then delete it after the video is shot, edited, and ready to post.  But it occurred to me recently that a transcript would be of use to readers who aren't in a position to view the video, and for Google keyword search purposes.  The on-camera segments usually morph a little bit at recording time, but rather than clean up the script, I'll just leave my inconsistencies on display for everyone's nitpicking pleasure.  (On that front, I will also note that after I got everything edited, I noticed that the "rock" I refer to in Super Team Games is actually a huge ball.  All I can say is that I was playing the game from some distance away on a small screen, capturing the NES output to my laptop while the camera was on me, and it looked like a rock from where I was standing!  Even when I was editing the footage, I was so focused on syncing up the two video streams, that I didn't notice the error.)


Hello, and welcome once again to the Gaming After 40 Video Podcast.  Current generation videogame systems have brought motion controls into the mainstream, but attempts to translate body motion into gameplay go way back.  In 1987, Bandai produced the Family Fun Fitness floor-pad controller for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System.  Soon after its American release, Nintendo acquired the marketing rights, making the original Bandai products instant collectors items that are very rare today.  Fortunately for this podcast's budget, Nintendo re-released these games as part of the Power Pad lineup.  There were a total of six games released for the American Power Pad -- 11 in Japan -- and in this episode, we're going to take a look at all of the US titles.  It's not going to be pretty.

Game commentary V/O:

Athletic World -- Bandai developed most of the Power Pad games, though several, like Athletic World, were published by Nintendo in the US.  This is a collection of simple running-and-jumping contests -- the player gets to jump hurdles, run from aggressive animals, explore dark passages, and leap from bridges to logs, hopping on one leg.  It's fun, but there's not much to do after we've sampled all of the events.

Dance Aerobics -- Dance Aerobics is totally 80s, with an animated aerobic instructor who puts us through our paces with her scratchy digitized voice.  It's a genuine workout -- I contend that no human being can do this thing with his or her leg.  We can fake the game out by just stepping on the pad as required, but the scoring doesn't disqualify us for abject failure, and it's still entertaining to try to pull off the correct moves.  I'm sorry you had to see this.

Super Team Games -- The Power Pad isn't really big enough to accommodate two adults, but that's the intent of Super Team Games.  We can play against a CPU opponent, but that doesn't make the game any less frustrating -- we have to run an obstacle course that includes such soul-destroying events as carrying a crab and walking sideways for what feels like hours, and pushing a huge rock.  Sisyphus, we feel your pain!

World Class Track Meet - As Bandai's Stadium Events, this extremely rare game is worth tens of thousands of dollars, but re-branded as Nintendo's World Class Track Meet, it's common and dirt cheap.  This was the pack-in game for the Power Pad, and it's very simple -- we run into the screen in simulated 3-D, jumping as necessary to simulate a series of track events.  It's easy to cheat at the long jump and triple jump, by simply jumping off of the Power Pad altogether.

Street Cop -- I like motion controls a lot when they work, but Bandai's Street Cop demonstrates why many games still need traditional controls.  It's not easy to get our valiant little policeman from one place to another -- simple actions like turning around and throwing a weapon require awkward, non-intuitive steps on the Power Pad.  Please excuse some used-cartridge Nintendo glitchiness here, which gives the impression the cops are armed with napalm grenades.

Short Order/Eggsplode -- Short Order/Eggsplode was the only Nintendo-developed Power Pad title; it's a fast-paced double-feature that's a lot of fun in short bursts.  Eggsplode plays like whack-a-mole, with exploding eggs that have to be defused by stepping on them -- I had a great time trying to keep up.  Short Order isn't as successful -- it's basically a Simon-style repeat-after-me exercise, and we have to jump on two buttons simultaneously to add ingredients to a burger.  It's too easy to misplace a jump, breaking the sequence and interrupting the flow of the game while we try to get back on track.


Was the Nintendo Power Pad a success?  Its time in the spotlight was brief; it arrived in the US in 1988 and saw six games released through 1989.  But like most console peripherals, it didn't last; Capcom's 1992 Olympic Games cartridge didn't support the Power Pad at all.  Still, Bandai saw fit to revive the Power Pad with its recent Wii Active Life series, and Konami's Dance Dance Revolution franchise owes it a technology debt.  So it wasn't a total waste of crinkly plastic.

This has been the Gaming After 40 Video Podcast.  Please vote for us on iTunes or follow us on YouTube, and check out our blog at  Thanks for watching!

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