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Review of Zumba Fitness for Wii

Update 11/2011: For those of you curious about the issue of overzealous lawyers trying to shut down my YouTube account, I contacted the lawyers via email and got no response; later, I challenged the DMCA takedown order and again they failed to respond, meaning my YouTube account has been restored to good standing. Thanks to everyone for your good wishes and support in the comments!

I’ve since posted a review of Zumba Fitness 2 for Wii, which was released last week. I’m happy to say that a lot of the issues I reported below with the original version have been resolved. So I wholeheartedly recommend it if you’re a Zumba fanatic. Let’s just hope the overzealous counselors accept my endorsement with a little more grace this time!


Original post follows:

For almost a year now, many of you have been asking about Zumba Fitness for the Wii. And as we approach Christmas, it’s easily the second most-searched for title on this site (next to EA Sports Active 2).

For those of you who don’t know, Zumba is a fitness craze started by dancer Beto (choreographer for Shakira, among others) back in the 1990s. Since then, it’s swept the world. Zumba classes are given in more than 90,000 fitness centers worldwide, and over 10 million people have tried it. In fact, one just opened up just around the corner from my apartment!

Zumba is a simple concept. Standard aerobics exercises become repetitive and stale. But , you can latin dance moves and have fun? I’m happy to say I finally received my review copy, and have put the game through the motions, so to speak.

You start out by putting the belt on. It’s not the most solidly constructed belt in the world, but it gets the job done. You fit it around your waist (it looks like it’ll accomodate anyone with as much as a 40-50 inch waist), and secure it with velcro. There’s a pocket in the front in wich you put your Wii remote, vertical and facing forward (you need to take the protective plastic cover off before and after putting it in the pocket, which is a bit annoying, but luckily I had a used Wii remote I wasn’t using, so I just used that).

The starting menu is simple–you use the arrow buttons on the Wii remote to choose from the options (I’m guessing they chose not to use cursors knowing that people would be wearing the belt while navigating the menus).

The options are: Create / Edit Player, Play, Workout Calendar, and Extras. You can start dancing single routines immediately, but in order to access most features, you’ll need to create a player.

The player creation is pretty quick. You enter your name, and select your difficulty level (easy, medium, hard). There’s a bit of sloppy programming, in that there’s never confirmation that you’ve successfully created a player (you get sent back to the “Create” button), but when you go back to the Main menu, you’ll see a bunch of new options open to you: Tutorials, Zumba Party, and Zumba Class.

Tutorials

The Tutorials are broken into several parts. Learn the Steps lets you learn a wide range of Zumba steps, including:

– Calypso (Basic)
– Calypso (Single Single Double Pump)
– Calypso (Basic with a Travel)
– Cumbia (Basic)
– Cumbia (Machete Step)
– Cumbia (Sleepy Leg)
– Merengue (March)
– Merengue (Que Te Mueve)
– Merengue (Pump)
– Reggaeton
– Reggaeton (Bounce)
– Reggaeton (Single Single Double Basic)
– Salsa (Travel)
– Salsa (Forward and Back)
– Salsa (Cuban)

The tutorials were pretty weak. The graphics weren’t very impressive, but that’s understandable given the limitations of the Wii (it’s tough to get high quality full-motion video on the Wii, which is required for learning Zumba, so they made the instructor a glowing silhouette). The real weakness of the tutorials was that you really weren’t “taught” anything. It’s up to you to figure out what the on-screen instructor is doing and to mimic her moves. The biggest annoyance is, no matter what move you make in response to the on-screen instructor, the system will tell you “great!” and then move you on to the next step. You can see what I mean with this Salsa Tutorial:

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I’m guessing that the developers who made this game heard all the negative comments about games like Just Dance not picking up moves correctly, so they went too far in the other direction and decided that it’d accept ALL moves. I would much preferred to have had the instructor showly break down the moves, step by step, and let me decide if I understand them and want to move to the next step, rather than ingratiate me by telling me I did great when I didn’t.

So ironically, in order for me to use the tutorials effectively, I had to take the Wii remote out of the belt. I started the tutorial, and mirrored the moves of the on-screen instructor until I learned the move. Then, when I was ready for the next move, I’d pick up the Wii remote, waggle it a little. At that point, the game would tell me “great” and go to the next move. This worked well for me with the Reggaeton tutorial:

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Ridiculously oversensitive Wii remote aside, as far as the tutorials themselves they were pretty good. They broke each dance move into different steps which start with basic movements and get progressively complex. I felt that as long as I used my approach, I was able to learn a lot of the basic Zumba steps.

Zumba Party and Zumba Class

It took me a while to figure out the difference between “Zumba Party” and “Zumba Class”. From what I could figure out, they’re pretty much the same, except that Zumba Party is a more compressed series of 10 levels (which you unlock one by one by completing it). These are the levels for Zumba Party:

– Beginner 20 minute Class 1
– Beginner 20 minute Class 2
– Intermediate 20 minute Class 1
– Intermediate 20 minute Class 2
– Intermediate 45 minute Class 1
– Intermediate 45 minute Class 2
– Expert 20 minute Class 1
– Expert 20 minute Class 2
– Expert 45 minute Class 1
– Expert 45 minute Class 2
– Zumbathon

Zumba Class, on the other hand, consists of many more levels.

– Beginner 20 minute Class 1
– Beginner 20 minute Class 2
– Intermediate 20 minute Class 1
– Intermediate 20 minute Class 2
– Intermediate 20 minute Class 3
– Intermediate 45 minute Class 1
– Intermediate 45 minute Class 2
– Intermediate 45 minute Class 3
– Intermediate 45 minute Class 4
– Intermediate 45 minute Class 5
– Intermediate 45 minute Class 6
– Expert 20 minute Class 1
– Expert 20 minute Class 2
– Expert 20 minute Class 3
– Expert 45 minute Class 1
– Expert 45 minute Class 2
– Expert 45 minute Class 3
– Expert 45 minute Class 4
– Expert 45 minute Class 5
– Zumbathon

In each “class”, you’re basically go through a series of Zumba workouts, one after another, until you hit about 30 minutes. As you hit the right moves (or rather, as the system interprets you hitting the right moves), your on-screen character will turn green and you’ll see a progress bar on the bottom fill up. Successfully finish a class, and the next one will unlock.

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The difficulty levels are a little confusing. You can choose Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced when you set up your character. But in addition to this, you can unlock Night Club, Factory, Rooftop, and Stadium levels. And in addition to this, you can select Beginner, Intermediate, and Expert Classes.

Having said all this, Zumba is such a fun way to exercise that the idiosyncrasies of the game can’t stop it from being fun. My recommendation would be that if you haven’t learned Zumba yet, you probably won’t master it from this game–in that case your best bet is still to go to a class with instructors who can give you real feedback. Also, just as with Just Dance, you need to set your expectations properly. This game will NOT capture your motions 100%. As long as you can live with that, you’re in for a ball.

On the other hand, if you’re an avid Zumba dancer, this game will definitely help you hone your skills and get you in shape on those days when you can’t make it to the gym or can’t afford going every day. As of December 2010, I see that Zumba is sold out all over the Web, which is a great sign that the game is a winner.

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