- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Ultimate Kick Boxing Fighting Arena, by Naki International, stand-alone product for PlayStation entertainment consoles, $39.99. The video game gets more physical, thanks to a new peripheral that might give couch potatoes a reason to exercise. Through the use of a 4-foot-by-3-foot rectangular pad and four plum-size sensors attached to their wrists and ankles, gamers enamored with 3-D fighting titles can become part of the action.

The Ultimate Kick Boxing Fighting Arena (UKBFA) comes to life through standard wireless technology commonly used in cordless phones. A receiver attached to the pad has a 6-foot cord that connects directly into the PlayStation, while the four sensors act as the transmitters. The sensors, which rely on common button batteries used in wristwatches for power, send out radio frequency signals that transmit the player’s movements to the mat, which then relays the information to the game console.

Basically, any fighting game that translates the square, circle, triangle and X buttons of a typical PlayStation controller into on-screen kicks and punches should work with the UKBFA sensors. In addition, the mat becomes the controller’s directional pad to efficiently mirror a player-character’s movements.

Strictly for the advancement of investigative reporting, I humiliated myself in front of family members by becoming part of Namco’s year-old title, Tekken 4 (rated T, content may be suitable for persons ages 13 and older, $49.99).

For those unfamiliar with the Tekken franchise, the game allows up to four players to engage in 3-D combat under the guise of entering the deadly King of the Iron Fist Tournament. Ten brawlers are available from which to choose and range from a Masters of the Universe Skeletor type named Yoshimitsu to the hulkified brute Craig Marduk.

Players can follow story lines, practice moves, enter versus modes and even participate in a wonderful fighting gantlet called Tekken Forces through this extravaganza, which boasts superb graphics and a dizzying number of combination moves.

After hooking up the Velcro-strapped sensors, turning them on, positioning myself on the mat and shaking a bit, Bruce Lee style, to get the sensors communicating, I selected the survival mode, which means entering matches against random opponents until I lose.

I chose the leg-whipping Christie Monteiro — a buxom female adept at the fighting style of capoeira (Brazilian martial arts) — as my on-screen presence. For the first time in my history of playing fighting games, I feared having a heart attack rather than getting blistered thumbs.

Through Christie, I managed to swing, kick and jump my way to winning eight straight matches, in the easy mode, before collapsing on the floor, screaming for oxygen.

Out-of-shape humans beware. The battles translated from screen to appendages will induce a heart-straining workout after about 15 minutes. Sweating and thirst will be inevitable, so be ready to pause and have a gallon of water and a large towel handy to handle the buckets of perspiration generated.

Older adults seeking to appear hip to their offspring definitely should give the UKBFA a try. Forget Pilates, “Sweating to the Oldies,” yoga and anything Suzanne Sommers sells. Just buy two of the pads and challenge a family member for a ludicrously intense workout and an exhilarating experience.

Remember to allow for about an 8-foot-by-8-foot play area and try to set up on a hardwood floor. The pads have a tendency to slip a bit on carpeted surfaces, especially during major combat maneuvers. Additionally, when buying multiple pads, make sure the frequency numbers, clearly labeled on the package as 1, 2, 3 or 4, are different. UKBFA pads with the same number will not work together.

I found the UKBFA to be far superior to working with a Dance Dance Revolution mat (another game genre that uses a sensor pad, but it involves matching on-screen foot moves) for exercise. I actually could watch what my character was doing rather than simply trying to mimic a series of directional arrows careening across the screen.

Naki International has done an excellent job of bringing the future of virtual reality to the present.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington DC 20002; or send e-mail ([email protected]washingtontimes.com).

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