Virtually Overlooked: The Power Pad games

Welcome to our weekly feature, Virtually Overlooked, wherein we talk about games that aren't on the Virtual Console yet, but should be. Call it a retro-speculative.

When the exciting (to us, and ironically so) news of a Wii version of the Family Trainer and Athletic World appeared, our thoughts turned toward the past. That's sort of our thing, you know? New games make us think about old games, old games make us think about old games-- sometimes snack foods make us think of old games.

But we have plenty of reason to look back here: the new Family Trainer is a functional duplicate of the original Family Trainer/Power Pad, and Athletic World is a sequel of sorts to one of the few Power Pad games. We doubt it will work out this tidily, but it's possible that the new Family Trainer will be able to work as a Power Pad for NES games on the Virtual Console. So, let's look at the lineup and see if there's anything worth laying a mat out for! (Hint: kind of?)

Athletic World:

Three of the Power Pad games were collections of sporting events. Athletic World included Hurdles, Hop a Log, River Rafting, Animal Trail, Rafting, and Dark Tunnel. The games were at least themed interestingly in this collection (except for Hurdles, which is ... Hurdles), and you raced against a turtle in every event. If Athletic World has a theme, it's 'athetics and cute animals.' We like at least one of those things.

Dance Aerobics
When it came out, Dance Aerobics was largely ignored as just a weird NES game (although, judging by the wide availability of used copies, enough people bought it). Now, after the rise of exercise games like the DS' Dokodemo Yoga and the massive success of Dance Dance Revolution, it seems terribly ahead of its time. Dance Aerobics would have been the world's first rhythm game if it hadn't waited patiently for you to make every move. With its onscreen Power Pad display, it also makes a nice way to test your controllers.

Short Order/Eggsplode
For as much promotion as Nintendo did for the Power Pad (including packing it in with NES systems), they only ever developed one Power Pad game, relying on Bandai for the rest. Nintendo's sole Power Pad cartridge contains two games, Short Order, in which you step on buttons to build hamburgers, and Eggsplode, in which you step on bombs before they explode underneath chickens. It's too bad that Nintendo, who seemed to get that the Power Pad could be used for more than simulating running or jumping, didn't continue to make creative use of the Power Pad.

Super Team Games
Another running/jumping sports collection, this game focuses on races of different varieties. You run and jump over stuff. Sometimes you run into a big, heavy ball to make it move; sometimes you run sideways in a crab-walk event.

Stadium Events/World Class Track Meet
The most common Power Pad game is also one of the rarest NES games. World Class Track Meet was bundled with the NES and the Power Pad on a combined Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt cartridge. But before that deal was made, Bandai released the game as Stadium Events along with a "Family Fun Fitness" pad, but only to a few Woolworths stores, and only for a short time. The game has gone on to sell for ridiculous amounts of money, thus proving that only boring games become collectible. Not to say that there's anything wrong with World Class Track Meet; we're just more likely to pay up to five dollars for it, rather than thousands.

Oh, it's races and hurdles and stuff.

Street Cop
Street Cop approaches real-game-ness. You're still using the Power Pad to run, but it's in pursuit of criminals, who you then bop with a billy club. It's like a regular game, only it hurts your legs more!