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Now you're playing with power!

A less than successful accessory for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It looked something like a Twister mat. The idea was to combine the fun of video games and the drudgery of exercise but not too many kids were interested in that combination.

Nintendo packaged the Power Pad with its base NES system in 1988 and added World Class Track Meet to its classic Super Mario Brothers/Duck Hunt cartridge that came with the system.

One side of the pad had a 3 down and 4 across grid of dots, two columns of blue on the left side for Player 1, red on the right for Player 2. This was the side used for the Track Meet game. The opposite side had 8 dots: no dots on the corners and all blue except for the center two red dots in the middle row. This side was designed with the "game" Dance Aerobics in mind, which may have been the genesis of Dance Dance Revolution.

The most effective way to win Track Meet with the Power Pad was not to simulate running in any normal fashion but to repeatedly stomp your feet or simply to use your hands to pound the dots, thus defeating the purpose of the pad. It was too small for two non-grade school-sized people to play at the same time. Usually a Power Pad session just ended with your parents complaining that you were being too loud, or in my case, my dog going into a long barking fit because he hated pounding noises.

Games that used the Power Pad:

Friendly warning from the Power Pad Instruction Manual:
Persons with heart, respiratory, back and joint problems, or high blood pressure or under a physician's direction to restrict activity should not use the Power Pad without a physician's advice. Pregnant women should not use. Serious personal injury can result.

The Power Pad brand dance mat for the Nintendo Entertainment System has twelve sensors arranged in a 3x4 grid, which the player steps on to control the action on the screen:

          |                        |
,---------+---------.    ,---------+---------.
| POWER PAD  side B |    | POWER PAD  side A |
|  (1) (2) (3) (4)  |    |      (O) (O)      |
|                   |    |                   |
|  (5) (6) (7) (8)  |    |  (O) (X) (X) (O)  |
|                   |    |                   |
|  (9) (10)(11)(12) |    |      (O) (O)      |
|                   |    |                   |
`-------------------'    `-------------------'

Most games used side B, with the numbers on top. A few games turned the pad over to side A, whose markings lack numerals and lack markings for spaces 1, 4, 9, and 12 entirely (but they still send a signal). There is a third possible configuration, which no official game used, but which may be useful for homebrew dance simulation games in the style of Dance Dance Revolution: side B rotated 90 degrees anticlockwise, placing sensors 4, 8, and 12 toward the display.

| ,---------------.           | ,---------------.
| |  SIDE B       |           | |  SIDE DDR     |
| |  (4) (8) (12) |           | | (Sel)    (St) |
| |               |           | |               |
| |  (3) (7) (11) |    ____   | |  (X) (U) (O)  |
`-+               |    ____   `-+               |
  |  (2) (6) (10) |             |  (L)     (R)  |
  |               |             |               |
  |  (1) (5) (9)  |             |      (D)      |
  |               |             |               |
  `---------------'             `---------------'

Hardware interface

The following assumes familiarity with NES programming, especially the contents of my writeup in 2A03.

To read the Power Pad, first write 1 then 0 to $4016 (as for joypads). Then:

$4016 (read): Player 1 Power Pad (rare)
76543210
   ||
   |+---- Button state, in order 2, 1, 5, 9, 6, 10, 11, 7
   +----- Button state, in order 4, 3, 12, 8

$4017 (read): Player 2 Power Pad (most common)
76543210
   ||
   |+---- Button state, in order 2, 1, 5, 9, 6, 10, 11, 7
   +----- Button state, in order 4, 3, 12, 8

Remember to save BOTH bits that you get from each read.

But if you actually do try to make a dance game for the NES, you'll have to put in a special mode for emulators because of the unavoidable audio latency that Microsoft Windows imposes. For example, on my system, FCE Ultra delays audio by 100 milliseconds; to compensate, delay the spawning of arrows by six frames.

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