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Aug. 23rd, 2008

Wii Fit and Rockband

About two weeks ago my mom decided that our family needed both games and got them.  Why, I'm still very shaky on.  She doesn't like video games...or at least she's never shown any interest and has often shown contempt for them any how.  She's never bought a system or game before (my brother and I have done  the buying or gotten them as joint Christmas gifts).   She often shows annoyance about the space, care and storage of them. 

What I do know though is that about a month ago she started asking about them.  She started with DDR (which we have 1 and 2 for the ps2 and still play often).  Of all games, she seems most indifferent to those two games, perhaps even interested from a technology standpoint.  How sensitive is the pad, how much weight can it take, what are the differences between pads, how about the lag time from tv screen to game console (there isn't any for us, there was some briefly when out gaming tv got a mega upgrade, but I have a geeky friend or two and now my brother has a few tech loving friends who were more than happy to come explain what was wrong, fix it and show us how to fix it should we need to again.  I know the new games have easy ways to go and do this, it was a little tougher with an older game though).

I was more than happy to jump from DDR to Karaoke Star and from there to Guitar Hero and while neither of these games are my thing I was more than happy to go into geeky in depth detail about their equipment, reviews, pros and cons, fan base, what impact these kind of games had for video games (as I see it) and what now.  Which my mother not only endured but seemed interested in and of course eventually lead to Rockband.  I suspect that she was always only really interested in Rockband and Wii fit, but wanted to make sure that her reasons held true by someone who, admittedly knows more and has more experience and more access to other gamer thoughts.

Of course while I don't like Guitar Hero I love Rockband.  My reasons for this are mostly about the team/community thing with Rockband, but they also relate back to me not enjoying the fake guitar thing at all.  I love the drums and singing, but I won't do the guitar if at all avoidable.   In my opinion, Rockband is the superior game because there are different ways to play, because there the whole fantasy band thing going on and what not.  It also helps that while in Guitar Hero I constantly fail out and struggle to figure out the mechanics, in Rockband I have time not only to learn what I'm doing on drums but to relate that to the sounds of different parts of drums, and really be able to pick that out and break down aspects of the songs in the game and songs I just hear around on the radio. Rockband doesn't deserve all the credit on this of course, I have years of competitive training on the French horn and trumpet in a band setting, marching band setting (one that was a the time the best in the northeast), woodwind quartet, brass quartet, and French horn quartet.   Still, my rythem and ability to pick apart percussion is with a lot of help from Rockband.  It makes me wonder if I should give the guitar another shot because if I could pick it up, I'd probably be able to pick out distinctive chords when I was done (assuming that the relation to button pushing relates to chords and notes the way drum tapping does).

I don't think the singing component is as advanced on Rockband as either drum or guitar, but it's still nice.  It's always pleasant when a machine or person confirm that I'm not tone deaf and can do a decent job matching the actual singer most of the time.   It was also neat because what I thought I could do voice wise was pretty much exactly what the game told me to do.  I'm no singer, I don't have the range or the voice for it, but at least what I think I hear probably is about what it is.

Another comment, I might make just because, is that Rockband seems more geared towards men and women than just men too.  I think the representation of male to female characters is more or less even and the women aren't always or even usually (from what I've unlocked which isn't the whole game or even near it) dressed in skimpy clothes.  I mean there are more songs sung by men than women and there are more bands made up of mostly or all men than there are of women, but the main stream industry is very much the same.  They did feature a couple of women's hits too, though I was disappointed to not have found any of The Cranberries or Kittie so far cause I think both could be fairly called mainstream, but maybe they are too old?  And a lot of people seem to not like The Cranberries, even though they kick ass and a lot of people's problems with the band would go away if they listened to the right Cranberries song.  Ah the peril of being to versatile a band, people hear one song and assume you don't have anything to offer.

My mother had more reservations about the Wii fit and I understand why that  would be.  She is very overweight.  Plus when we introduced her to DDR and how many people used it for weight loss, she tried it, but found the cheap dance pads we bought too nerve wracking to use and the more expense ones cost prohibitive.  Add to that my mother's complete lack of rythem, beat, pacing, tempo, or timing and DDR qucikly becomes another overly frustrating work out regime. 

She was worried Wii fit would be like that for her too.  I pulled a couple of articles I'd read from sources that are consistently helpful for me about other skeptical overweight buyers who really liked the game.  They found the  board steady enough for them and the games were challenging without being exhausting and almost all the reviewers found one game to be their "work on it" game and one to be their "good at it" game.  

It must have done the trick for her because the next day my brother was setting up the game.  We've had it a week and my mother loves it so far.  To be fair, my mom tends to work on a diet or exercise anywhere from a week to a month and a half before giving up so we'll have to see.  On the other side, my brother, father, and I are also rather enchanted with the game.  I have to be honest, I was pretty skeptical of the whole concept.  I love DDR, but I felt like the Wii Fit might just be stretching with the wole "it's a Wii, look at all the nifty different things it can do"  nifty and new do not mean good, fun, or worthwhile.  Don't get me wrong I love the Wii and for the most part I like the games too.  But I found the promo Wii Sports CD to be too gimmicky and I sort of felt that Wii fit would fall into that category.  

It doesn't I love so many different aspects of the Fit.  

First of all the board is a huge improvement over the soft DDR pads.  I know they had hard ones to but creating only hard pads for the Fit was a smart move.  The look makes it match right in with the rest of the system and what not.  

Another thing I like is that you can download the Fit program into the Wii so no matter what other CD is in there, someone can always get to the Fit.  This is especially important for people like my mother and father.  We let our game CDs get mixed into the wrong cases and they sort of scatter everywhere and what not.  My parents are still adjusting to playing on a game system at all, they don't need the aggravation of tracking down a CD, finding the right equipment form to play (we have controllers everywhere for anything from the 64, ps2, cube, or wii and we have several different kinds of we controllers and steering wheels for different systems and DDR pads and that crossbow thing...tons of stuff , what can I say my brother and I can't not try it).  I know it's a little thing and my parents are very technology savy, but it's still a lot to get used to and if you aren't sure about something that little whatever can be off putting. 

And the layout!  The game is so clean, I really like every aspect of that.  I like the cartoon wii fit board.  I like it's little voice.  I like how clean and crisp everything is.  I love the loading area where they have that cute androgenous body being scanned and the green light that shows where your center of balance on the pad is.  I love the choices of personal trainers and I think that both male and female trainer walks the fine line between pleasant graphics and voice and creepy/ too human/ too inhuman.  I love the little piggy bank that tracks your quality hours on the system, it's so cute. 

   I like the little games and challenges.  I love that I can go head to head with the rest of my family (minus my sister who thinks the Wii Fit is only for people who don't want to do real exercise) over scores and un-lockables.  I am the hula hoop champ by the by and I just reclaimed my balance superiority in the bubble challenge.  I even like the Wii step even though I hate the stair master and think that comparisons to DDR and Wii Step game are unfair both to DDR and the Wii Step.  (I still like DDR better, but the step game is still cute and endearing in its own way).

The only thing not to like about the Wii Fit is the price and even that, for what it is, isn't too bad.  If I were going to pick a game, it would be the Wii Fit, but some of that has to do with the fact that I don't have enough friends to make as much use of Rockband as I would like to and I don't really enjoy playing single player.  My bro and I still play and sometimes my mom or dad will join in if they are in the area.  While that's nice, it isn't always what I'm looking for.  It's weird to be the expert and the best at the game.  I'm used to being that one subpar person who you know, is tolerated partly because of other redeeming qualities and partly because you know I make everyone feel good about their ability.  Le sigh.  Well, when I move in a few weeks I know right after I get a job it will all be about a video game system and making friends to play with.  I love gaming with the bf, but I love having a larger gaming community too.  Something I'm bound to miss now that I'm out of college and away from easy gamer access.