Get out the Power Pad and run until your lungs wear out!
To Beat: Finish Tournament Mode
To Complete: Finish both Tournament and Olympics Modes
What I Did: Completed the game
My Difficulty: 2/10
Video: World Class Track Meet Tournament and Olympics
This is a special day for Take On The NES Library for two reasons. First, this is the first Power Pad game I have covered here, and with that comes both a history lesson and technical details of what the Power Pad is and how it all works. Second, World Class Track Meet has some history of its own that ties in with the most expensive NES licensed cart, by far, and the only one that I don’t own for myself.
The discussion for World Class Track Meet begins with Stadium Events. Maybe you’ve heard about it? Stadium Events was developed by Human Entertainment and published by Bandai. This developer was known as Sonata at the time of this release and renamed themselves Human Entertainment in 1989. The game was first released in Japan in December 1986, then on the NES in North America in September 1987, and finally in Europe in 1988. It is the second in a series of ten fitness games in Japan called Family Trainer that utilized a special floor mat controller also called the Family Trainer. Bandai branded the controller and game series for the NES as Family Fun Fitness. However, only two games were released under Family Fun Fitness banner: Athletic World and Stadium Events. Athletic World originally came in a big box set with the controller, but Stadium Events was only released as a standalone title and therefore you had to already own the Family Fun Fitness mat to play it.
It was around this time that Nintendo decided to recall both the Family Fun Fitness sets and Stadium Events so that they could rebrand it as a first-party product outside of Japan. The Family Fun Fitness mat became the Power Pad, and Stadium Events became World Class Track Meet. Both the controller and the game function exactly the same just with different names and branding. The Power Pad with World Class Track Meet were quite widespread, selling both separately and bundled with the NES console in the Power Set. Stadium Events however had very limited sales due to both its brief availability and reliance on the Family Fun Fitness set. It is unknown how many copies still exist today. Some have guessed around 200 copies, and though I suspect there may be more it’s still a rare game regardless. A loose cart of Stadium Events is valued somewhere around $10,000 today, while complete and even sealed copies are worth at least three to four times that. I have all the other NES licensed carts, but I don’t plan to buy Stadium Events unless I get some enormous windfall of cash or get ridiculously lucky and find one for cheap.
The Power Pad itself is a pretty large floor mat controller. It measures a little over three feet long and a little under three feet wide when completely unfurled, and it is made of two layers of gray, flexible plastic with twelve pressure sensors in between. The sensors appear on the mat as large buttons and are arranged in three rows of four buttons each. Just like the Zapper peripheral, the Power Pad is connected to the NES on the second controller port. When you apply pressure to one of the buttons, usually by standing on it, the NES will detect that the button is pressed. I don’t fully understand the technology of it, but I do know that it is a little more complicated than handling the standard controller because the game has to be programmed to read twelve simultaneous button states on just the one controller port as opposed to eight on the regular gamepad.
The other interesting thing about the Power Pad is that you get a different button layout depending on which side of the mat is facing up. The Power Pad is clearly labeled either Side A or Side B. Side A only uses eight of the twelve buttons. The four corner buttons are neither labeled nor utilized whenever a game is designed for Side A. All the remaining buttons are blue except for the two red center buttons. This side of the Power Pad was not often used. Side B is the one most players remember when they think about the Power Pad. This side uses all twelve buttons and each one is clearly marked with a number from 1 through 12. Blue buttons are on the left side and red buttons are on the right side.
World Class Track Meet is an exercise game that simulates four Olympic events: The 100M dash, the 110M hurdles, the long jump, and the triple jump. This game uses Side B of the Power Pad. Two players can race in the 100M dash and 110M hurdles at the same time by using both the left and right sides of the Power Pad, while both the long jump and triple jump are single player only. Each of these events can be played on its own. There is also a Tournament mode which is for one player against computer controlled runners and an Olympics mode which can support anywhere from one to six players. To beat the game, you must complete the Tournament mode. All other modes are exhibition only, but I figure it doesn’t hurt to also compete solo in the Olympics.
To play, you will need to plug a standard controller in the first controller port and the Power Pad in the second port. The controller is for choosing the game mode and any other information. These controls are not really intuitive. The title screen displays all six possible game modes. Press the Select button to toggle the cursor one at a time between all six options, then press Start on the one you want. If you choose Tournament, it goes directly to gameplay. For all other options, you are brought to a name entry screen. First, choose how many players you want. Use Left and Right to move the selection arrow and press Select to input your choice, then press Start to proceed to the actual name entry. There will be empty names displayed for each player and names can be up to ten characters long. Each player is also assigned a color. On this screen you are controlling two cursors at once. One is the pink selection arrow at the bottom for choosing letters and the other is the blinking cursor underneath one of the characters in the names at the top. Use the D-pad to move the pink arrow and choose a letter, and press Select to input that letter. This writes the letter into the name underneath the blinking cursor and moves that cursor one space to the right. To position the blinking cursor, press A to move it one space to the right and B to move it one space to the left. The idea is to input one name and then press A enough times to position the blinking cursor to the start of the next name in the list. I know I explained it poorly, and like I said it’s not intuitive, but you will get the hang of it. Finally, after all the names are set, press Start to jump into the game.
The general idea in all gameplay modes is to run on the mat as fast as you can. For single-player, you will want to use the blue side of the mat. When you choose an event, it doesn’t begin right away. This gives you an opportunity to stretch, rest, coordinate in a group game, or whatever. The event will begin when all active players stand on two buttons of the same color in the same row. Stand still and wait for the starting gun if necessary, then run in place on your two buttons to run in the game. You may choose to run on any of the three rows on the mat, and whichever pair you choose influences your top speed in the game. As player one on the blue side of the Power Pad, your character runs the fastest when you use the top row buttons 1 and 2, the middle row buttons 5 and 6 are average speed, and the bottom row buttons 9 and 10 let you run the slowest. In multiplayer games, you can enforce using certain rows of buttons as a handicap to help even out the competition. Aside from running, you will also need to jump in place for some events.
The 100M dash is the most basic event. The top of the screen shows all the data, beginning with the name of the event and player names. You can also see both a timer and current running speed for each player, as well as a progress bar with tiny runners to show how both competitors match up during the race. At the bottom, you see both runners sprinting into the screen. There will always be two runners shown during this event; if there’s only one player the right side will be computer controlled. After you stand in position on the mat, the referee will appear and fire a pistol to signal the start of the race. Start moving too soon and you get a false start penalty, and three false starts gets you disqualified. Other than all that, just tap those floor buttons as quickly as you can!
The 110M hurdles is similar in structure to the 100M dash. You race against the computer or another player with all the same on-screen indicators as before. Naturally, in this event you must sprint and then jump over hurdles as they come into view. This can be a little tricky to get the hang of because you need to jump earlier than you might think to properly clear each hurdle. Running into a hurdle just slows you down, so for the best times you shouldn’t knock any over. This is also an event that is more difficult while running in the fastest position simply because the hurdles can come at you so quickly.
The long jump in a single-player only event. Here the second runner’s information at the top of the screen is replaced with the distance for each of three attempts. Stand on the mat with both feet in the desired starting position to trigger the starting whistle. Then run in place up until the white line approaches. Jump in the air just before you cross the line and see how far you go. Successful jumps will display the distance reached and it will be recorded in one of the spaces up top. If you forget to jump, accidentally cross the line before jumping, or fail to plant your feet back on the buttons, it is considered a foul and doesn’t count. Your score for the event is the furthest distance out of those three attempts.
The triple jump is set up the same way as the long jump with one runner only and three attempts. This time when you reach the line, you must jump three times consecutively. I’m not completely sure about this, but I believe the idea of effective triple jumping is to jump, land and jump off one foot, land and jump off the other foot, and land at the end with both feet. That seems easier to do while actually leaping forward versus jumping in place on the Power Pad. Fortunately, World Class Track Meet is pretty lenient with the jumping technique. You can land on both feet each time and jump again even after a noticeable delay and you will still perform a decent jump in the game. The best of three attempts is your score for the round.
The Olympics mode is a competition of all four events for one through six players. The races are run two at a time, and the jumps are done one player at a time. Times and best distances are recorded and given a score from 1 to 100 based on the world records for each of those events as of 1982. Then the sum of all four events for each player is the total score, and the highest score wins. When three or more players complete the Olympics, the winners are displayed on the podium as well as displayed on the final scoreboard, whereas for fewer players you just see the final tallies on the board. There’s no ending in this mode for single-player, so it’s not really required to beat the game even though I did it anyway.
The tournament mode is one player only. You will race against six different competitors: Turtle, Bear, Horse, Rabbit, Bobcat, and Cheetah. The mode starts against the slowest competitor, Turtle, in the 100M dash. Win that race and then you go up against Turtle in the 110M hurdles. If you win both races you get a medal and move on to the next opponent. This continues until all six opponents are defeated or you lose a single race. There are no continues in the Tournament so you need to win all twelve races in a row. You get medals for beating each of the first three racers, and you get trophies for beating the last three runners.
This was not only my first time playing through World Class Track Meet, but also my first Power Pad game completion. I bought my Power Pad for $20 at the monthly flea market in my area several years ago, and it came in a white box with the Power Pad labeling on it. That day I also saw a boxed Power Glove from the same seller for probably the same price, but I passed on it in favor of the Power Pad. That was a mistake looking back, and I wonder if I just didn’t carry enough cash with me that day because I should have just bought both. Still, a boxed Power Pad for $20 is not a terrible price. I didn’t even bother trying it out when I bought it, rather I stuffed it in storage for a couple of years. It’s in good shape and it works fine. I don’t remember where I got the World Class Track Meet cart, but it’s common and cheap anyway.
Before playing this game, I broke protocol and looked up what kind of times I needed to achieve in this game to succeed. I try to avoid doing any kind of research like this, but I justified it this time for two reasons. The first is that I wasn’t too sure if I would physically be able to beat the game in the first place. I am by no means an athlete and never have been, plus I just turned 34 years old and I’m not getting any younger. I would say I’m in average shape, maybe a little overweight but not too bad. The other reason is that I have to be considerate of my other family members when I play something like this. I do most of my gaming at night after my wife and daughter are asleep, and it wouldn’t be good for me to be shaking the house and waking them up while I play late at night. My setup at home is favorable for this though, since my gaming TV is in the basement with a concrete floor under the carpet. I can’t be stomping around super hard, but there’s a good chance I could play and be quiet enough to go unnoticed. Anyway, the point I’m really trying to make here is that I don’t want to be experimenting around with this game just in case I disturb anyone sleeping. When I play, I want to get right to it and minimize the possibility of being a bother to my family.
As it turned out, those above points were non-factors. I played the entirety of the game during my lunch hour from work at home while my wife and daughter were out of the house, and I didn’t have any trouble beating the game in one attempt. It all comes down to beating Cheetah at the end. I don’t know if his times are consistent or not, but in my game he ran the 100M in 9.88s and the 110M hurdles in 14.70s. I decided to give my all on each and every race. Unfortunately, I ran out of breath trying to do all these sprints and it took me quite a lot of rest in between tries just to muster the strength to keep going. It’s really an exhausting game to beat even though it wasn’t that tough. I was consistently running the 100M in under seven seconds, so that mode was trivial. The hurdles were tougher but I still managed to win every race by at least a second or so. I started doing the hurdles in the medium speed position to work on my timing, but there I would not have been fast enough to beat Cheetah. For the fifth run of the hurdles I switched over to the super speed position in the top row and clocked in under 14 seconds, which was good enough. There is really no reason in single player to run in either of the slower positions, and there’s no shame in beating this kind of game in the easiest way available.
After the tournament, I also completed the Olympics mode by myself. I scored 379 points out of a possible 400, which I think is pretty good for one attempt. I might have scored better if I played it completely rested. I was gassed by the end of it all and I pushed myself just to have the final event, the triple jump, over with. This is a very short game to complete. My video of it is around 20 minutes long with most of that being unedited footage of waiting while I rested and caught my breath. I thought the game was easy to complete for myself, but what happens if you are unable to do this fast enough? Depending on your fitness level, it could possibly take weeks or longer to improve enough to win at World Class Track Meet. I’m no fitness expert so I’m just speculating on that. I don’t know how to effectively assign a relative difficulty to this game, and so I arbitrarily decided on 4/10.
I played the game as it was designed to be played, but there are a few ways to cheat at the game that I bet many people would think to try. One common technique is to get on your knees and use your hands to slap the buttons. You can cheese the long jump and triple jump by jumping completely off the mat and back on quickly enough to trick the game into thinking you jumped super high. You could also hold onto a bar or piece of furniture or something when you jump to push yourself up higher. Finally, if you are really brave in a two-player game, you could try shoving your opponent off the pad entirely to gain an advantage. I don’t condone this in any fashion and you are entirely at your own risk if you do this!
Another little tidbit about World Class Track Meet is that it is one of the few NES games that doesn’t have a box to go with it. The game cart was bundled with the Power Pad and was not sold separately. The game also appeared as part of a triple combo cart along with Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt as part of the Power Set, which included the Power Pad along with the console, controllers, and the hookups. That combo cart also doesn’t have a box. The manual for World Class Track Meet is also the manual for the Power Pad itself and is branded as the Power Pad manual. These are the kind of oddities that somewhat complicate things for full set collectors.
Today, both the Power Pad and World Class Track Meet are nothing more than a novelty. There just weren’t very many Power Pad games released to go with it, and World Class Track Meet itself is a very basic experience that isn’t all that fun. The idea of fitness games peripherals still lingers on. Dance Dance Revolution would become a huge cultural phenomenon years later, and Nintendo themselves eventually came around to the idea again in the form of Wii Fit and the Wii Balance Board. Therefore, World Class Track Meet has some historical importance, but doesn’t offer much else.