Moving forward one step at a time
When Wii Fit launched, it kicked off the fitness craze in gaming for better or worse. Soon the Nintendo innovation (much like many of its other innovations) was being duplicated and improved upon everywhere. As motion controls became prevalent on every system so did fitness games. Nintendo attempted to keep up with Wii Fit Plus, which took the now embarrassingly bare bones Wii Fit and at least let you piece together a work out. It didn't really push Wii Fit up to the level of the fitness games around it, though.
Part of this was, of course, the fact that Wii Fit's idea of fitness is a lot more relaxed -- it focuses on stretching, balance, and core instead of working up a sweat and toning your biceps into Popeye levels of muscularity. The other part, however, was the fact that the game, for all its mini-game fun, just wasn't that robust in its overall fitness features. Wii Fit U aims to change that.
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Wii Fit U (Wii U)
Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No. 5, Ganbarion
Release Date: November 1, 2013
MSRP: Free for one month ($19.99 for full game with Fit Meter)
Things are much improved from the previous Wii Fit iterations with more workouts, a dance mode, a personal trainer mode, improved games, more focus on mental fitness, GamePad incorporation, and the Fit Meter. That final object might come as a bit of a surprise to some who haven't been keeping track of Wii Fit U (or Dale's weekly updates), but the game incorporates a little doodad that tracks your daily movement like a Nike Fuel Band or a Jawbone Up. This alone is a sign at how much Nintendo was actually trying to push Wii Fit into a legitimate healthy lifestyle platform, but it definitely isn't the only sign considering just how much more robust Wii Fit U is.
Of course, being more robust than something that could be used to define a lack of robustness doesn't actually make you truly robust so let's start with what's lacking: there aren't many new yoga or strength training exercises. Almost every one of these exercises is from the previous games so there will be very little shake up in your workout in that department. Thankfully, you can transfer your data from Wii Fit and thus not have to be locked into redoing all the beginner level stuff. For some reason it does occasionally make you go back through the workout explanation, but everything is skipable so it's never a pain. It will be familiar though. Other than a slight redesign to the trainers and the admittedly helpful highlight of targeted body parts almost all of the voice work and actions are exactly the same. Nintendo did almost no advancement in these sections.
That's probably because they were advancing almost every other part of the game. The most welcome addition if you're using the game for exercise or stretching is the Personal Trainer mode. Probably the biggest gap in the previous games was that they gave you a bunch of exercises and mini-games and then just basically told you to figure it out for yourself. Plus featured some structured exercise, but not much. Personal Trainer changes this, allowing you to choose the amount of calories you want to burn or the length of your exercise. Then, using the types of workouts you've told it you want, the system will put together a routine for you. The routines are always unique (or have been so far) and give you plenty of variety.
Then there's the Fit Meter. This circular gadget clips onto your waist band and is really nothing more than a pedometer and altimeter. For 20 bucks, it isn't a very good one at that. You can easily fake it out by shaking the device back and forth to garner more steps and the altimeter seemed wonky at best. However, if you don't already have a nicer pedometer it will do the trick and even if it isn't the most accurate altimeter it is cool to see how far you've moved up and down. The data your Fit Meter collects can be imported to Wii Fit U and then your calories burned are tracked and you can see your activity graphed pretty nicely. More importantly, though, you can use your steps and gained height to unlock things!
Of course, as gamers, we all have the uncontrollable urge to unlock everything ever so it's a solid motivation to get moving or at least shake your Fit Meter back and forth quickly (cheater). You unlock these things through the Fit Meter Challenge, which has you walking famous distances (the Great Wall of China) and climbing famous objects (the Statue of Liberty) with the stats you import. Sadly, all you get to see are some crappy world map graphics as you do this despite the fact that Wii U has a really fantastic Google Maps built in that could have made the walks actually something interesting to do other than seeing your Mii hop around a map.
But maybe you aren't buying Wii Fit U for fitness. Maybe you're buying it to play games. Well, that's kind of dumb, but we'll run with it. There just aren't that many new mini-games this time around if you exclude the dancing portion. Notable letdowns are the rowing game, which as a rower, I can tell you officially sucks, and the luge game, which has you sitting the board and hurting your back and abs trying to steer. Highlights include a racquetball game that involves both movement and strategy and the surprisingly addicting trampoline game where all you do is time ever-higher jumps and lean back and forth to make sure you hit the center of the target. Seriously, it sounds idiotic, but you'll just keep on doing it until you actually jump off the board in excitement of landing your Mii dead center and the game kicks you out (that board is damn sensitive).
The online aspects of Wii Fit U should also be mentioned even though their robustness is, well, it's on level with most of Nitnendo's online offerings. You can join Gyms, which are groups of Wii Fit U users. Doing this populates your screen with Miis in that group and you can check out their stats while also seeing the group's overall stats. You can also join one of the big national gyms or, if you have friends, create one of your own. It's possible to share every single detail of your workout on Miiverse pretty easily as well, which is actually a nice feature if you want to brag a bit.
Since it is such a big new part of the game, the dancing modes should be mentioned, but they are almost relentlessly worthless to anyone who has played any other dance game on any other platform. While they do get more challenging as you unlock higher modes there's no licensed music, no dance moves you'll recognize, and very little in actual enjoyment or fitness to get out of them. At the sake of full disclosure I will admit to being a rhythm-less white nerd, but I've enjoyed other dancing games despite sucking at them completely so I can safely say it wasn't just my lack of ability to find a beat. On top of this, if you want to fully use the dance mode you'll need to have four controllers at the ready (Balance Board, 2 Wiimotes, GamePad). That's eight AA batteries!
So a major addition to the game just isn't that good, but it's OK because that really isn't the star of Wii Fit U. The new exercises, mini-games, and Fit Meter aren't either. The best thing about the game is its simplest new feature: the fact that you can do almost everything while watching TV.
Sure, this is easily achievable with a tablet, an app, and your television, but then you're cutting out the motion controls and balance board that make videogame fitness a different beast from an app. You can also use the GamePad as a camera in mirror mode. With this you set it up in its stand pointing at you and then you can see yourself (embarrassingly) on TV. While you might realize just how much of an idiot you look like it's particularly helpful for knowing if you're keeping your form correct.
In fact you could probably say that for almost every aspect of Wii Fit U Plus. There's almost always a better product out there that does one element of what this can do in a far superior manner, but nothing else that has the whole package. Considering that right now you can download the game for free and simply buy the Wii Fit U Fit Meter for $19.99, it's a pretty cheap package at that. Buying all the separate, but better, items that would do what Wii Fit U does would definitely start to run you up into hundreds of dollars.
Applying a score here is a little tough. If Wii Fit U gets you motivated, moving, and helps you lose weight then it's easily a 10 out of 10. That's the goal and if it works then it works. As the next game in the franchise, Wii Fit U definitely moves the series forward about a million steps, but it's a million steps that have already been taken elsewhere. Wii Fit U brings the series up to date as a fitness game, but doesn't push it any further.
Meanwhile Wii Fit U's mini-games are fun, but still suffer from being single-player/non-simultaneous multiplayer and there just isn't that much new stuff. If you're looking for something that will keep you motivated and get you moving, it could definitely work and the Fit Meter is an extra level of motivation, but if Wii Fit didn't do it before then I'm not sure it will work for you now. The good part is that the game is free until the end of the month so you can find out for yourself.
Wii Fit U reviewed by Matthew Razak
A solid game that definitely has an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.
How we score: The Destructoid Reviews Guide