February 17, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 76  

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SPORTS

Once upon a time...
Nintendo Power Pad

By Aron Yeomanson
Gazette Staff

As my grandmother lay writhing in pain on the family room floor, she couldn’t help laughing at my younger brother’s lack of hesitation in continuing her quest to be the world track champion.

“No Gramma, you’re gonna beat Horse!” he exclaimed, wasting no time in taking her place running and jumping on the seldom remembered phenomenon that was Nintendo’s Power Pad.

Paying little attention to our grandmother’s injury, he concentrated on the task at hand. His six-year-old eyes were wide with the anticipation of every hurdle while his legs pumped in an indescribable fury. After all, we had never beaten Horse before.

The year was 1991, the game was World Class Track Meet, and my Grandma’s pain was the result of suffering one of the only video game related injuries of all time. After having thoroughly impressed her grandsons, she had broken her ankle after jumping on the ill-placed rectangular piece of plastic that served as a housing for the power cord.

Created in 1988, the Power Pad was Nintendo’s attempt at combining the wonderful world of video games with physical fitness (there was no such thing as the Atkins diet back then). The square mat had a series of circular ‘buttons’ on which players placed their feet in an attempt to make their on-screen counterpart mimic their actual physical moves.

Unfortunately, very few games were created for use with the Power Pad. Titles such as Athletic World, Eggsplode, Dance Aerobics and Street Cop gained some praise, but the most popular game was the aforementioned World Class Track Meet.

The object was simply to beat your opponents head-to-head in various track events such as long jump, triple jump, the 100 metre dash and my grandmother’s nemesis — the hurdles. Possessing two different play modes — the multi-player Elimination Mode and the single player Tournament Mode — World Class Track Meet had something for everyone.

Elimination Mode allowed up to eight players to compete against each other in various events, making the Power Pad a viable party time activity. Who wouldn’t want to watch their friends jump up and down like idiots while trying to achieve greatness in Nintendo athletics?

Tournament Mode, on the other hand, was for the player who couldn’t resist the prospect of challenging the game’s best characters for a crack at the World Title. Competing in the legendary Nintendo Stadium against such aptly named athletes as Turtle, Cheetah, Bob Cat and Horse, you were forced to ignore the characters’ lame text phrases, put your head down and hope to be the first to cross the finish line.

For those who can’t fathom the awkward combination of sweating and video games, you could always avoid physical activity (and broken ankles ) by simply pounding the Power Pad with your fists.

Like Nintendo’s Power Glove, Power Pad never really caught on. Likely failing due to a lack of compatible games and the sheer wackiness of the concept of exercising while gaming, the Power Pad will undoubtedly go down as the closest early video games ever came to actually being sports.

 

 

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