Dance Aerobics is a good excuse to break out your leg warmers

Dance Aerobics Header

C’mon! Let’s go!

With every year that goes by, I am in worse shape than the year before. Not that I’ve ever been the picture of health, but I do fine. I walk (ten steps) to work. My diet is well-balanced (pizza). I get plenty (an excess) of sleep. However, after getting on anti-anxiety medication a few years back, I gained a few (40) pounds and haven’t been able to shed a single one of them.

I’ve tried all the hottest exercises: Wii Fit, Ring Fit, uh… walking my dog, getting out of bed, making tea. However, they all tire me out and take time out of my busy napping schedule. So, I thought, “what would get me to commit to a workout?” Obviously, that’s going to be if it’s part of an 8-bit retro game. That’s something that can definitely get me to commit (for maybe an hour.)

Dance Aerobics Power Pad Jumping

The controller that lets you slap the floor

Dance Aerobics was originally released in 1987 in Japan as Family Trainer: Aerobics Studio before reaching North America in 1989. Family Trainer sounds hilarious to me. It’s like a class you’d take your uncouth family to in order to teach them the proper use of a salad fork.

It was made for use with the Power Pad, which was originally designed and released by Bandai. Nintendo brought it to North America and published all the games under their name. The Power Pad is a plastic-y mat that you spread out on the floor. There are two sides, and Dance Aerobics uses side B, which presents you with a four-by-four grid of buttons to step on. If you’re thinking of those Dance Dance Revolution mats for console, you’re extremely close.

If you’re unfamiliar with aerobics, it’s a type of exercise where you move. I don’t know how to describe it otherwise. As the name implies, dance aerobics ties dancing into it, but not in a fun way. It works! It was popular in the ‘80s and is still around in different forms. I mean, it was even in Wii Fit, and I was great at it.

Dance Aerobics other foot

Jump up, jump up, and get down

I’m not so great at Dance Aerobics, but I found it difficult to figure out what the pad wanted from me. It shows what buttons are being detected, but the only demonstration of where the instructor is stepping is in the ghost of the pixellated ‘80s that moves on screen. They’re on a mat, as well, but it’s upside down, and the numbers are really low resolution. This may not seem like a huge problem, but it screwed me up a few times.

It also expects you to jump, jump, jump around, and the mat is really picky about when your feet are on and off the mat. Listen, Power Pad, I don’t have a frame where I just hang in the air. Cut me some slack if I’m off by a beat. I have to watch where my feet are landing because there’s no texture to the mat. I don’t even know why it’s judging me like this. I’m just trying to work out. Why do I get a game over if I “miss” too often? That’s not very supportive.

Dance Aerobics Mat Melodies

May you never dance another aerobic again

I could get to the fourth routine before the Power Pad’s judgment became too much for me. Technically, I could just skip ahead by hitting select on the controller, but cheating in exercise is just cheating yourself. Also, Dance Aerobics suggests that you only play for one hour per session. I made it about 45 minutes, which is the same thing as an hour, just with my self-mandated 15-minute break.

There are other modes to Dance Aerobics besides just working out. There’s a subheading for pad antics which is just depressing. One of them lets you play music on the power pad, while another asks you to play along with “tunes.” You can fail at music, too, just in case you thought you could get non-judgmental gameplay out of Dance Aerobics.

Finally, there is aerobics studios mode, which is sort of what you graduate to after you complete the normal routines. Here, you just select how long you want to work out for and follow along as best you can. You can fail this mode too, but it’s slightly more lenient. I don’t know what crawled into the normal mode’s protein drink, but I don’t work out to be judged. I work out because I’ve been judged.

On the Power Pad

Like a pot roast in church

So, after 45 minutes, I was sweating like a pot roast in church. I’m not sure whether this says more about the effectiveness of Dance Aerobics or my current physical condition, but I’m leaning towards the latter. I write about video games. I only need strong finger muscles and carpal tunnels made of steel.

Really, though, Dance Aerobics isn’t that bad. I just don’t know why they let you fail. Imagine getting kicked out of a yoga class because your tree pose looks like crap. It’s hard to work out when you keep getting sent to the game-over screen. Sorry I landed my jump out of time. I have yet to master gravity.

Of course, nowadays you have a lot better options if you’re going to work out at home. But do any of them use the Power Pad? Actually, since we’re on the topic of Power Pad, I have Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix around here somewhere, and it’s probably both more fun and more effective at making me sweaty and tired.

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Zoey Handley
Zoey is a gadabout gaming hobbyist. She's been playing video games all her life and is a lover of both new and retro games. She enjoys digging in the dirt and picking out the games that are perfectly fine if you clean them up a bit.