Nintendo has a knack of doing things a little differently. And this time they’re applying that unique take on the world by combining video games and exercise. It’s of course not their first foray into this mashup and historically, Nintendo has had a pretty committed desire to keep their players active and healthy. 2008’s Wii Fit was a massive success for the company and there’s no doubt a few of you out there that have a Wii Balance Board hiding somewhere under a couch. This time, however, by using the unique capabilities of the Joy-Cons and accompanying ‘Ring-Con’ peripheral, Ring Fit Adventure stretches past Wii Fit by embracing both sides of the ‘video-game/exercise’ equation more whole-heartedly. Thanks to a full story mode, the wonderfully addictive RPG-loop feels familiar and more satisfying, motivating you not only to get active but also keep with the exercise regime for longer. In a world where video game-themed exercising exists, Ring Fit Adventure is definitely something unique and special.
I’m an active person that just doesn’t enjoy the gym. I love playing sport and have a weekly indoor soccer game but outside of that, I cannot motivate myself to exercise just for the sake of it. Sure, the rush of endorphins that regular gym-goers enjoy or that ‘runners-high’ is good, but to me, it all just feels too pointless. I need external objectives; score a goal, swing a bat. Of course, that also means I’m not as fit and healthy as I would want (and probably should) be. And so it’s quite cool to report that Ring Fit Adventure finally made me do something I don’t think I had previously managed my whole life – enjoy over two-weeks worth of daily exercise.
Thanks to a full story mode, the wonderfully addictive RPG-loop feels familiar and more satisfying, motivating you not only to get active but also keep with the exercise regime for longer.
Having first tried Ring Fit Adventure at a Nintendo launch event, my early exposure to the game was through the fun (but tiring) mini-games. They each focus on one body zone(abs/arms etc) but introduce the exercises via a simple game mechanic like collecting coins or avoiding bombs. While I quickly broke a sweat, playing with a group of people was more about the competitive element (comparing high scores or number of Ring-con squeezes) giving it an active party-game feeling. It was enjoyable but it felt a little limited and gimmicky. And while I was quite impressed with the tech, and how much of a workout I had gotten after just a few moments of play I wasn’t sure if this would really keep me exercising on an ongoing basis. Happily, that preview belied the more impressive in-depth story-driven single-player Adventure mode that really makes all the difference.
Break a sweat
You get going by setting up your player profile (inserting information about your age, gender, weight and also adjusting your difficulty setting based on your goals). It’s a very simple process and also can be changed at any point if you feel like having a more/less intense workout. It’s a great feature to customize exactly how much of a workout you want and meant that my wife and I were able to set up very different profiles based on our preferences. You then jump into the gameplay. The premise and accompanying mechanics are pretty straightforward – you team up with a powerful ‘Ring’ that enables you to ‘fight’ using different level-based attacks. With these abilities, you must travel to different worlds, defeat enemies, increase your XP and ultimately defeat the wicked weight-lifting dragon, Dragaux, before his evil influence spreads across the land. Standard RPG-fare, right? Well, not quite…
With the Ring character as your own personal trainer and some quirky humour along the way – you really feel motivated to keep going.
Rather than simply press some buttons on a controller – the game will have you running on the spot and performing series of different exercises to fuel those attacks with one Joy-Con strapped to your leg and the other to the Ring-con peripheral you’ll be squeezing and swirling along the way. It may not seem like much but I remember that after my first 20-minute session, even though the initial range of attacks were pretty limited, I was completely drenched in sweat. However, in that time I had also gained some XP, revealed more of the story and even unlocked new abilities… And I was hooked. I finally had a reason to exercise I could get behind.
A full session
What really works is that the game itself has been designed and fleshed out to feel like a real RPG and not just an exercise programme behind a shallow game facade. The exercise-focussed world is a little contrived but no more so than the many quirky RPG worlds in other games. There are fewer characters and the variety of enemies is not massive, but it really feels lived in and bigger than I would’ve imagined. The worlds have a very distinct linear design aimed at moving you from point A to B, but they are quite beautiful and when combined with a little voice acting, cosmetic upgrades, a substantial progression system and even some side-quests and power-ups it all make this feel like a ‘proper’ game. Just one you that physically move a lot more. And with the Ring character as your own personal trainer and some quirky humour along the way – you really feel motivated to keep going. And there’s a lot to get through…
The game itself has been designed and fleshed out to feel like a real RPG and not just an exercise programme behind a shallow game facade.
While this is a game that it’s almost impossible to binge, after sinking well over 10 hours into it – I still have not reached the end of the story mode. And while I have to admit that the story gets weaker after about 8 hours due to some repetitive character use, the game elements improve. An hour or two into the game – a new strategic element means you have to decide which ability to use depending on the enemy you are facing. Later (at about the 7-hour mark) just when you think your character is fully-powered, a skill tree with upgradeable abilities becomes available. I’m just continually impressed and surprised at just how much content the ‘game’ side of things Ring Fit Adventure offers. And the way the game then integrates with the exercise is fantastic. Perhaps the simplest and best example of this is the offline Multitask mode – a mode where when the Switch is off (or asleep) you can still use the Ring-con, complete some simple squeeze/pulling exercises and then have those count for XP, currency and even powerups in the story mode. The game and exercise are sides of the same yoga mat.
The way it tracks and presents each stretch, squat and pull you manage after each session really motivates you to keep trying.
Now, as a video game reviewer, I can’t tell you much about whether the exercises I was doing were any good. but after a couple of weeks, I can talk to my experience of them and ultimately their effect. At the start, it’s tough but approachable. I felt like I could perform each exercise to an acceptable degree and usually, the challenge lay in the number of reps required and not the exercise itself. This changes over time and more difficult poses and activities are added but whenever I encountered something new the provided instructions and on-screen visual guides really help you along.
In my specific case, I quickly learned that while I could manage leg and arm exercises quite well, years of semi-professional hamburger-eating and sitting at a computer screen meant that Yoga-poses and core-related stuff were much more of challenge, especially for a short, stretch-resistant man like myself. Yet even after only two weeks, even those exercises became more manageable and I feel like I’m already a little fitter and more limber than I was.
And that’s what really clicks in Ring Fit Adventure for me. Outside of sport, it’s the first thing that I found that provides me with the motivation to keep exercising every day. And thanks to its variety of exercises – it’s introduced me to the ‘gym experience’ in a way that I find way more accessible. The way it tracks and presents each stretch, squat and pull you manage after each session really motivates you to keep trying. The Adventure mode on its own is not going to be the best RPG you’ve ever played… but it still manages to feel like a game because of the care in its design and the variety of familiar features it employs. Plus, even once the seemingly never-ending story mode is complete the added Quick Play options which allow you to set specific exercise sets bring this game longevity and wonderful customizability and the mini-game experience even introduces party-game elements you can enjoy with friends and family.
I feel like I’m already a little fitter and more limber than I was.
I really enjoyed my time with the game and usually, we’d only think of releasing a review after completing a game. However, Ring Fit Adventure falls into a different category. And while I think I now know enough to give you a good idea of what to expect – I’m determined to keep playing and perhaps a few months down the line to add to this review with some more longtime results. For now, though, Nintendo has managed to try something different and provide a really great experience. While these days I’m a lot sweatier than I usually am after a gaming session I’m also feeling a lot fitter and more energised. And for those that need some motivation to get fit, Nintendo’s new take on the genre provides a little unexpected jolt into action that I can heartily recommend.