I was saddened to hear that a much-loved family member is ill and has to go away for major surgery. Luckily it has complete coverage, including ambulance service to and from the surgery center, so it's not going to bankrupt us, but still. We're assured if there are any problems with the procedure our family member will be replaced with a new one, and although it won't have the same memories as the old one, we can download them from the intertubes and we shouldn't be able to tell the new from the old. Before you tell me that I've been reading far too much science fiction and have confused the future with reality, I should explain this family member is only a family member in the loosest sense of the expression. I'm talking about our superbly fabulous gaming system, the Nintendo Wii.

My family has been a gaming family forever. I'm old enough to have been severely annoyed when pinball games were pushed out by such lame games as Asteroid and Pong. I rolled my eyes at Donkey Kong and didn't find a video game I liked until Centipede and then I was the queen of the high scores. We ended up owning just about every system out there but at heart I've always loved Nintendo best, not just for their games but because they used to have a free hotline where you could call up and talk to a game counselor who could walk us through a particularly nervy bit of whatever game was currently owning us instead of the other way around. I was a little taken aback when I heard the price tag of the Wii, significantly more than we've ever paid for a console before, but in the end I gave up and tracked one down, finding a used system still under warranty for a decent price. Getting it used was actually an advantage because new Wiis are still extremely hard to find. I was at a large game store chain on Thursday just in time to hear a customer get the news that there weren't any in the store or indeed in any of the stores in our area.

One of the complaints I've heard about the Wii is that it has a funny controller. It does have an unusual controller, nicknamed the Wii-mote, with another attachment called the Nunchuk, but it's easy to master. For straight out of the box intuitive gaming, especially for the non-gamer, Nintendo's biggest emerging market, you can't beat the Wii. No matter how fumbled footed or ham fisted you are, you can be up and bowling or playing tennis almost immediately with the Wii Sports Pack (bundled with most systems.) I've never been much of a sports fan lately but I've been playing Wii Sports for 45 minutes a day three to five days a week. A friend of mine was teasing me for not getting out and playing a real game of baseball but I don't think he realizes the Wii version is a dream come true because it eliminates my basic fear of the game; getting hit in the face by the ball. (Worse, when I was a little girl someone threw the bat and hit me in the face hard enough to break my glasses. That is so not a problem with the Wii Sports.) And don't even get me started on the boxing, there's no way I'd try this in real life. I'll stick to pummeling an imaginary opponent, thank you very much.

I've also been extremely pleased with the Wii fitness test, which gives you a score that is age based, ranging from 20 to 80. I'll admit I've had a particularly bad day where I missed every single baseball and fell over while bowling, scoring an amusing age 72, but I've also scored in the low 20's, which is my oldest son's age. If you're interested in using the Sports Pack to increase your fitness level traineo.com is a good site to track your workouts and includes a Wii workout in their extensive lists of different types of exercises.

Nintendo is working on something else for gamers who want improve their agility, balance, stamina and strength. A new title called Wii Fit is in the works, with release in Japan just in time for Christmas. It comes with a special balance board and will allow the gamer to do all kinds of things from yoga to pushups to hula-hoops. Some of the moves I've seen in videos are straight out a recent physical therapy session I watched that focused on improving lower back stability, something that anyone who works with computers would do well to incorporate into their daily routine. With Japan's aging population I've been extremely interested to see Nintendo respond with games designed to keep the population in tip top shape, both physically with titles like Fit and mentally with games like Big Brain Academy.

Of course Nintendo hasn't forgotten us hard-core gamers who love first person shooters, puzzle games and RPGs. We've been playing quite a few other games like Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and Super Paper Mario and we've already got a deposit down on Super Smash Brothers Brawl, a game that looks like it's going to be almost too much fun to be legal. We'll be taking a look at some of these games in the coming weeks as we approach the holiday season.

One-Paragraph Review

This week's one-paragraph review is from Paul Muolo who says, "'Under the Blacklight' - Rilo Kiley -- I won't pretend that I know much about RK's history or roots but I've heard a few of lead singer Jenny Lewis' solo tunes and decided to take a chance on 'Under the Blacklight' and I'm glad I did. This is a pop album that crosses over (on occasion) into soul, alt-country and funk. It's polished and well produced but without being stifling. Think of Fleetwood Mac in its hey day and you get the picture. And not surprisingly, the LP was put out by Warner Bros., the big Mac's label." Have you got a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me and I'll run the most interesting ones. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.