QJ.NET invades FriiSpirit

FriiSpirit - Image 1Ever wanted to know what a gym full of Wiis would be like? Well, you’re in luck, because we went ahead and found out for ourselves (so you could, too).

Check out just where QJ.NET went in the full article, and how it could take the videogaming world by storm.

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We all know that some of today’s consoles perform other functions – other than being just a game console itself. The Sony PlayStation 3 doubles as a Blu-ray player, the Microsoft Xbox 360 as a music player, the Nintendo Wii as a light exercise machine. But have you ever thought of taking one of those extra functions and taking it to the next level?

That’s what the girls from FriiSpirit, an establishment in the Philippines, did with the Nintendo Wii – as they built up a business with the motion-sensing console’s waggle mechanics as their foundation. In short, they made a gym that exclusively features the Wii as an exercise machine. Awesome.

It boggles the mind, we know! A gym that doesn’t have any heavy-duty exercise equipment at all, and only the underdog of the seventh gaming generation (as far as graphics is concerned) as its main draw? Preposterous! And yet, it’s became an outright phenomenon not only with the tech-enlightened yuppies of this generation, but also with the young’uns and their respective parental units. With curiosity (as well as the aspect of participating in its first-ever Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock tournament) lighting a fire under our asses, we went ahead and sent over a few of our local representatives to investigate.

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It took some doing to convince them to tear themselves away from their daily Halo 3 and Super Smash Brothers Melee tournaments – our Philippine team takes its videogames very seriously – but with some cajoling and flat-out harassment, we finally got some people inside.

So, what did they find out?

FriiSpirit. That’s the name of the gym. Owned by five enterprising entrepreneurs (all of them female, to boot) with a taste for some next-gen gaming, FriiSpirit serves all comers: the young, the old and the Wii-curious. And they do it it in style – from the photographs we’ve been sent, along with the feedback that the correspondents were giving, it seems that FriiSpirit breaks the mold in terms of fitness-centric establishments (as well as videogame cafes).

Tucked away beside a very busy thoroughfare (and facing one of the Philippines’ most prestigious colleges, Ateneo de Manila), FriiSpirit sits on the other side of Katipunan Avenue, where some classier digs can also be found. At first glance, it looked more like a posh, alternative-rock cafe than anything else – but stepping inside, you immediately know that it’s something special. Proof? When our correspondents walked in, they immediately saw a full library of the Wii’s biggest titles at hand, ready and waiting to be picked (this includes the excellent Super Mario Galaxy and Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, to name a few).

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Not only that, but they were just about to hold the first-ever Guitar Hero III tournament as well – something that they’ve been advertising both outside the gym itself, as well as through fliers and on the internet. It’s also to note that the titles on display were clean-cut retail copies, and certainly not bootleg ones – a stark contrast to the article that our very own Glen D. made about piracy being prevalent in Southeast Asia.

While these may all be trivial details, it lends to the fact that FriiSpirit’s owners take the business with the Wii very seriously. All the Wiimotes have jackets on, even! Good on you, FriiSpirit!

While the place definitely has a club-like atmosphere to it – the correspondents noted how FriiSpirit had a black-and-red motif, with a bit of white trim on the sides – there’s definitely a feeling of coziness to be had. The staff, as well as the owners, are friendly, accommodating, and more than happy to help you – be it with something as trivial as helping you sync the Wiimotes, or even give you a little tutorial as to how to play safely.

And if you do get a bit peckish or thirsty after all that Wiimote-waggling (our correspondents saw Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock and Wii Sports as popular choices), then FriiSpirit has your back, serving up quite the tasty and healthy menu to satisfy your cravings. They even serve the eats directly to where your party is playing, so there’s no need to put the Wiimote down! Awesome service, indeed.

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So they’ve got the place, atmosphere, staff and food right – but what about the actual, end-user experience? Well, we thought we’d go and quote our correspondents ourselves. Get it straight from the horses’ mouth, and all.

QJ.NET: Okay, guys. Out with it. What was it like to waggle in FriiSpirit? Good points, bad points, anything memorable? I know you guys had fun, out with it! Let us live vicariously through you!

Correspondent A: FriiSpirit is a different animal altogether. Having a Wii at home just won’t cut it as an excuse not to visit this place. Right off the bat, widescreen projectors already gave me my money’s worth. I’m not even raving about the food, the relaxed atmosphere, and the sense of community yet.

Guitar Hero III and Wii Sports are the cafe’s flagship games. Great choices, really. One can just de-stress there all day – that is, of course, if one can secure a Wii. With word of mouth having gone frantic about the place, there have been more and more days when FriiSpirit has more than what they can handle.

QJ.NET: Very astute answer, Correspondent A. A bit crunchy, somewhat vanilla, but definitely good news. What about you, Correspondent B? What do you have to say about FriiSpirit?

Correspondent B: It’s pretty much what Correspondent A said – why didn’t I get A? – in the sense that it’s a gym that focuses entirely on the Wii experience and delivers it faithfully and lovingly. The projection screens are awesome, there’s loads of space to play around in, the seats are these huge and comfy beanbags that you can easily shuffle around for more room – everything makes sense, and everything clicks. I can’t figure out why this is the first time we’ve seen something like this, when all the innovations they’ve made in terms of delivering the entire experience are pretty much no-brainers.

One thing I particularly like is the food. Along with a gratuitous amount of playtime, we were treated to some of the tastiest (and healthiest) chow a gamer could ever feast on. And we washed it all down with a generous helping of very cold (and very delicious) iced tea. Not only does FriiSpirit get you moving AND having fun, but it also gets you snacking on some chow that’s a tad bit healthier than your usual game fuel.

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QJ.NET: Good eats, huh? Awesome on all counts. And what about you, Correspondent C? Do you have anything to contribute to the class discussion?

Correspondent C:

QJ.NET: Okay, fine. Be like that. See if I care.

It’s to note that these particular correspondents of ours are quite finicky with their waggling experience, so if they like it, chances are it’s actually pretty good. Now, we get an in-depth look at the inner workings of FriiSpirit, courtesy of a very candid interview with two of its owners – namely Ms. Andrea Jalandoni and Ms. Jazmin Dela Cruz.

We sort of feel sorry for them, having to put up with our correspondents’ pestering – but they proved game enough to fill us with info. Oh, and a little bit of trivia – this was after the Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock Tournament, where both Correspondent A and B joined in on a whim (and summarily blew it on the elimination round). Better luck next time.

So, what did we learn from Andrea and Jazmin? Quite a lot. The idea of having a gym with Wii consoles as the exercise machine stemmed from Andrea purchasing a Wii of her very own, and getting hooked on Rayman’s Raving Rabbids. With the owners being pretty much friends to begin with, and the Nintendo Wii being the party animal it is, they began liking the idea of a Wii-centric fitness center. After researching on how one could make it possible, as well as a lot of elbow grease and financing – FriiSpirit came to be.

Being an equal-opportunity console man, Correspondent B asked about the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and whether they were considered to be part of FriiSpirit’s menagerie of exercise machines. The answer was no – it seemed that while both machines DO offer better gameplay in terms of visuals, they didn’t offer the same type of get-up-and-move gameplay that the Wii did, as well as garner players from all ages (we’re talking about the gaming bug spreading from kids to their parents, here).

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We also got a look at just what sort of gaming demographic that the gym itself handles – and it seems that FriiSpirit is big amongst the casual crowd. This is verified, as we found out that the hardcore titles for the Nintendo Wii (Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption) aren’t as popular as, say, Wii Sports or Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. Speaking of which, RedOctane‘s fret-diddling rhythm epic gets a LOT of playtime – so much that they decided to hold a contest on that very day the interview was held. Couldn’t it have been a Mario Strikers Charged contest, Correspondent C asked? Ah, well.

From FriiSpirit’s demographic, we move on to what sort of plans the owners have for their own piece of wiimote-waggling heaven. Specifically, what they think about Wii Fit, and if they’re going to get copies of it – seeing as the gym IS all about fitness through waggle, after all. Their answer? Yes, they ARE going to buy into the Wii Fit craze – but not right now, as Nintendo has yet to release the NA version of the game. Until then, we’ll just have to wait.

Correspondent B then busted out more questions – one of which queried about how the decision for the unique furniture came to be (i.e. the horribly-fun and disturbingly-comfortable giant beanbag sofas). Both Jazmin and Andrea fielded this one, answering that not only were they easy to move around, in case the players needed some extra waggle room, but they also gave players a lower (and better) seating height, if they wanted to play while sitting down. Plus, it made everything just a bit safer, as those of us who have Wiis of our own know that furniture and waggle often mix with painful consequences. I still have bruises all over my arms, myself.

Jazmin Dela Cruz (left) and Andrea Jalandoni (right) - Image 1

With the day slowly winding down and the humiliation of losing in a Guitar Hero III tournament (which was held on the Medium Difficulty, for crying out loud) our correspondents then decided to finish up by asking about the origins of the gym’s name.

Andrea and Jazmin gamely provided us with the name’s first incarnations – the first being Wiird World. Everyone liked it, except for their attorney – who warned that there could be legal implications, as it has the Nintendo Wii trademark name at the very front. After a lot of revisions (as well as suggestions from the correspondents themselves, namely Frii Lunch, Frii Parking, Frii Load), they decided on FriiSpirit, and we have to say, it’s a catchy alternative.

And with that, the interview ended. With full stomachs and bruised egos, our brave correspondents bid goodbye to the owners of FriiSpirit, promising to visit again in the future. And while we can’t stop ragging on them for losing on the Guitar Hero III tournament, we also can’t help but feel just a tad envious that they managed to spend time in what could be one of the coolest gyms ever.

In any case, expect more articles about this budding phenomenon – and if you’re in the general area, why not give them a visit? Tell them that the guys over at QJ.NET sent you, and maybe you’ll get to challenge Andrea in a Guitar Hero III match.

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