EA Sports Active

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working on trying to get myself into shape. Or rather, some shape that wasn’t just ‘round’. Cutting out chocolate (except when thoughtless fucks come over to stay and bring us presents of giant bars of Dairy Milk). Cutting out fizzy drinks (except when we throw a party and the thoughtless fucks don’t drink the mixers). And generally just watching what I eat. And, as a bit of an experiment, I’ve been trying out EA Sports Active.

I’ve tried Wii Fit and found it to be a total misnomer. Wii Balance might have been a better name, since that seems to be all it’s concerned with. I still use it for its daily “Body Tests”, which measure your weight and BMI (and also still finds a way to work “balance” into the equation), but apart from that, _Wii Fit _was a non-starter in my house.

EA Sports Active, on the other hand, has been a huge hit. It actually gets your heart pumping and I’m loving the way it feels like a genuine training session. Or at least, like a more intense training DVD. I’m halfway through my first “30 Day Challenge”, and there hasn’t been one time where I’ve thought “I can’t be bothered with this”, so it can definitely be called a success.

That’s not to say it’s perfect.

  • Enough with the fucking lunges Christ on a bike. Every session has a minimum of three or four batches of lunges. Even last night, where the trainer says “Today we’re going to focus on your upper body!” had five sets of lunges. I’m sure they’re great for my fitness, but let’s mix it up a bit, please.

  • Why can’t it weigh me? I’ve got a Balance Board. It knows I have a Balance Board. Why the hell can’t it weigh me using the Balance Board? Right now, I do my body test using Wii Fit, get my weight from that and manually input it into EA Sports Active. This strikes me as just a silly oversight. Although it also seems like none of the Wii fitness games offer this, apart from Wii Fit. Maybe this is a Nintendo-mandated omission?

  • No abdominal exercises Weirdly for something that presents itself as a rounded fitness program, the game doesn’t even try to give any abdominal exercises. Apparently, these will be coming later in an add-on pack.

  • Crappy resistance band The resistance band they supply with the game is not only light as to be almost completely ineffectual, it also is made of a crappy material that will snap if you look at it wrong. My advice would be to buy yourself your own resistance band and use that instead.

Apart from these fairly minor complaints, I’m really happy with EA Sports Active. It’s not a complete workout package, but it’s not really meant to be. It’s intended to gently ease people into regular exercise and to compliment a broader, more comprehensive weight-loss and exercise regime.

Now I just need to stop people bringing me chocolate and I’ll be laughing.

Sonic and Mario... together?

If we weren’t but a few days off from April Fool’s day, I probably wouldn’t have such a hard time believing this. This is the video equivalent of the Beatles teaming up with the Rolling Stones to form the world’s greatest band. Why, there’s no way this could not be awesome!

Uh…

TOKYO (March 28, 2007) - SEGA® Corporation and Nintendo Co. Ltd. today made a historical announcement that two of the biggest icons in the entertainment industry, Mario™ and Sonic™, are joining forces to star in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games. Developed for the Wii™ video game system and the Nintendo DS™ system, this momentous agreement marks the first time these two renowned stars have appeared together in a game.

Published by SEGA across Europe and North America, and published by Nintendo in the Japanese market, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games will be available for Christmas 2007 and is licensed through a worldwide partnership with International Sports Multimedia (ISM), the exclusive interactive entertainment software licensee of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

In Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, players will compete in events that take place in environments based on the official venues of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Using a supporting cast of characters from the amazing worlds of both Mario and Sonic, gamers will be able to compete as or against a range of lovable personalities including Mario, Sonic, Luigi™, Knuckles™, Yoshi®, Tails™ and more. Innovative usage of the Wii and DS control systems to maneuver a favourite character will allow players to race the likes of Mario and Sonic down the 100m track, engage in exhilarating rallies in table tennis and churn water in a swimming heat, all while competing for the much sought after gold medal.

“We are thrilled to partner with Nintendo and ISM on this groundbreaking title,” said Hisao Oguchi, President and Chief Operating Officer, SEGA Corporation. “For the first time, two of the world’s greatest games' characters come together to compete in the world’s greatest sporting event and we couldn’t be more excited.”

“Mario and Sonic have been respectful rivals since the early days of video games,” says Shigeru Miyamoto, Senior Managing Director and General Manager, Entertainment Analysis and Development Division, Nintendo Co., Ltd.. “In fact, for a long time they have been discussing the possibility of one day competing against each other. Now that they have been given the perfect opportunity to meet at the Olympic Games, we may finally learn who is actually faster, Mario or Sonic?”

“The Olympic Games represent the true spirit of competition and passion,” said Raymond Goldsmith, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of ISM. “Bringing together intensely competitive and fun characters like Mario and Sonic in an Olympic setting helps showcase the sports of the Olympic Games in a new and compelling way for all generations."

A Sober look at the Nintendo Wii

Now that I’ve had my Wii for almost two months and the shock of the new has worn off, I think it’s time to step back and take a good, hard look at the system and see what needs to change before it can become… ahem“the most successful console of all time."

“Hey, what’s your friend code?”

True story: I was listening to someone I know on the radio today talking about the Vista launch - the presenter mentioned that he was crazy about the Xbox 360 and said that they should swap gamer tags. “Sure,” my friend said, “I’m $foo.” Now, I can guarantee he’ll have a few extra friends on Xbox 360 tonight. People he could play games with in the space of a few minutes. Leaving aside all other parts of their latest console offering, Microsoft nailed the online aspect. They made it ridiculously simple for people to find each other and play online.

Nintendo’s online strategy has been built around the idea of protecting children from sexual predators. The idea being that if you make the system ridiculously cumbersome, the sexual predator will lose interest and go back to stalking teenage girls on myspace. So we’re left with the following: If I want to add you as a friend, I have to give you my 16-digit code, you put this into your Wii, and then you have to give me your 16-digit code and I have to put this into my Wii. Except we can’t actually exchange codes over the Wii, so we have to find some other way of getting our friends codes to each other. But once we have independently added each other, that’s when the fun begins! We will be able to… well, we can’t play any games together yet, because there aren’t any games to play online yet. We can send each other messages, I guess. And send each other Miis (those cute characters that are popping up everywhere). Apart from that, uh…

The exchange (and entry) of these 16-digit codes is so awkward that I have actually traded Wii friends codes using Xbox Live. If that doesn’t set alarm bells ringing in Nintendo HQ, there’s something very wrong here.

And to top this all off, Pokemon Battle Revolution – the first online-enabled Wii game – will require an entirely new, completely separate code for friends to play with each other. I mean, good grief! Iwata-san, protecting children from online predators is commendable and all, but surely the rest of us shouldn’t be punished as well?

And now even big developers are telling Nintendo that the Wii “Friend code” system is broken and dumb. So there’s hope yet.

Post-launch Game Drought

Zelda aside, there hasn’t been a single truly compelling purchase for the Wii since it launched. Wario Ware: Smooth Moves is a fun diversion, but the system already has a bunch of games based around mini-games, so it’s hard to get excited about a bunch more. The upcoming release pipeline is pretty bleak, with no real excitement until Mario Galaxy in June. Until then, we get a bunch of lackluster third-party titles and ports from other systems (Price of Persia being a port of the PSP version(!) of the game).

Come on Nintendo, people knew there was going to be a bit of a drought while you found your feet. People still went and bought the system on the promise of something remarkable. How’s about you live up to that with more than just mini-games?

Features Removed From Virtual Console Games

When I first spoke about the Wii’s Virtual Console in December, I said

But the games that you play on the Virtual Console will be pixel-perfect versions of the games you played on your NES, SNES, N64, Megadrive or PC Engine. As the man says: Nothing added, nothing taken away.

Turns out this isn’t quite true - Nintendo removed expansion port functionality from Nintendo 64 games on the Virtual Console, which means that you can’t save data on some games (such as ghost data on Mario Kart 64), but more importantly means that there will be no rumble in VC games, despite the presence of a rumble motor in the Gamecube controller. These may be relatively minor issues, but all the same, as someone who is being asked to pay unreasonable prices to play these games, the least I can expect is the same experience. I mean, it’s only right. Right?

Misc issues

  1. Wireless out of the box! Always-on technology! Why can’t these two things come together and give me an experience where my Wii doesn’t have to do a 15-second connection test each time I connect to the Wii shop?

  2. We’re no longer dealing with bricks-and-mortar distributors and export laws, so why can’t I buy games from the US Virtual Console shop? Why are Nintendo only going to allow me to buy games that were originally released in Europe? Playing games that were never released here is half the reason I love emulators so much.

  3. I was going to make a joke about straps here, but then I figured, nah…