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Another nice step forward for Zumba Fitness for the Wii
on November 12, 2012
The first thing to know about Zumba Fitness Core for Wii is that it's really "Zumba Fitness 3". Supposedly, the word "Core" in the title connotes that this version of the game focuses on your abs, but the choreography seemed to me no different than what you'll find in earlier versions or standard Zumba classes. My impression is that the name was probably more of a marketing move than anything else; they could have called it "Zumba Fitness Cardio" and no one would have known the difference.
In any case, just as with the previous versions of Zumba Fitness for Wii, you'll need a belt to hold your Wii remote as you dance. There is a belt that comes packaged in the box, but if you want to play with multiple players (the game supports up to 4), each player will need their own belt. You really don't need to buy additional belts from Majesco; any belt will do as long as you can tighten it enough to securely hold your Wii remote at your waist level.
One very, very important thing to remember is that the Wii remote needs to be positioned with the buttons facing out (towards the TV) and the remote right-side up vs. upside-down (i.e., with the A button on top). If you stick your remote in the belt the intuitive way (upside down), the game won't track you at all. There was so much confusion about this in past versions that this time they've included a little video on it to show the right way to do it.
The first thing you do is set up your profile. Strangely, it doesn't let you use your balance board to detect your weight. Worse, you input your weight in the most painful way possible--by starting at about 100 pounds and pressing the button for what feel like an eternity (in my case at least) to get to your actual weight.
The first thing I tried were the tutorials, which aim to teach you some of the basic steps you'll use throughout your workouts. One reason why Zumba in general is so popular is you're doing what look like pretty elaborate dance routines, but at their core (no pun intended) are basic classic dance steps that you learn and find yourself using over and over. In this case, you'll learn four basic steps for Salsa, Merengue, Samba, Bollywood, Reggaeton, and Cumbia respectively. Mastering these 24 basic steps will serve you well as you play the game. The tutorial is done very well--you start off by watching Beto break down the steps in slow motion, and once you get those steps down you can see and try them at actual speed. I like how when you view the dance steps at full speed, the animated Beto will throw in flourishes that take the dance step beyond the mechanical and show you how to put some artistry into them.
One of the key things I look for in any Wii game is how good the motion detection is. In the first version of Zumba Fitness this was not good at all. The second version improved it. I think it's safe to say that this third version is probably as good as it's going to get on the Wii's technology. I tried to deliberately "fake" the system out by sitting on the couch and waving the Wii remote in my hand, but the game would have none of it. It was only when I stood up and danced with the Wii remote strapped to my waist that I started getting points.
Having said that, the game is pretty lenient with scoring. When I danced to the same song on the Xbox version and the Wii version, the Xbox version gave me 3 stars out of 5 vs. the Wii version which gave me 4s and even 5s out of the gate. As much as I'd love to think I'm a dancing machine, I think it's more a reflection of the Wii's not being able to detect certain kinds of movements as well as the Kinect, such as intricate foot movements or any kind of arm movements, and so none of those things are reflected in the Wii's scoring. At the end of the day, all it can really do is judge where your hips are at any given point, and assume that if it's in the right place the rest of your body must be too. So while it's still pretty accurate (you still need to dance a pretty spot-on performance to get 5 stars), for a lot of things you're pretty much on the "honor system" to do them right. Incidentally, while the Xbox excels at accurate tracking, the Wii version does have something that the Xbox version doesn't do and probably will never do: allow for 4-person simultaneous play.
There are 33 songs to play, 17 of which are licensed tracks from artists such as Carlinhos Brown, Enrique Iglesias, Sean Paul, Kat DeLuna, and Karmin. They span a huge number of genres from African to Bollywood to Polynesian Rhythm to Reggae to the more traditional Latin dance moves such as salsa and samba. The songs range from low intensity to high intensity (where some of them will literally have you grasping for breath if you're not in shape).
The graphics were improved with Zumba Fitness 2 and this version improves on them even more. You can choose from eight venues to dance in, such as a nightclub scene to an amphitheater to exotic locations such as Las Vegas and Hawaii. Each song is presented by a different Zumba personality, such as Kass Martin, Tanya Beardsley, Nick Logrea, Loretta Bates, Gina Grant, and Beto. As with the previous games, you mirror the moves of your onscreen trainer as precisely as you can.
You can play virtual Zumba classes, which basically string together a number of individual songs for short classes (about 20 minutes), mid-length classes (about 45 minutes) and full-length classes (about an hour). One thing new to this version is that as with real Zumba classes, you start off and end your sessions with lower intensity songs to properly warm up and cool down respectively.
There are a lot of great features of the game which inspire you to play over and over again, something you need to do in order to see your workouts result in weight loss and better health. The Progress Tracker is much improved in that you can visually see graphs of your score, time played, accuracy, and calories burned by day, week, or month; it's definitely a good feeling and pretty good motivation to see those graphs filling up. There's also a lot of a great unlockable video content and achievements that'll incentivize you to keep working out.
Zumba Fitness Core doesn't quite take the place of a real Zumba class; there's only so much technique you can learn from a two-dimensional video game, and of course you don't get the social component of taking classes with a real instructor and a real class. Having said that, it's a great introduction for those new to Zumba, and it's also great to use if circumstances (e.g., the weather, your work schedule, your wallet, etc.) don't allow you to take as many real classes as you'd like. While Zumba exercise is not for everyone, if it's for you, I think you're going to enjoy this game.