Nintendo [https://crunchbase.com/organization/nintendo]has a long history when
it comes to exercise-driven games. I?m dating myself, but I can say I remember
playing Track & Field on NES with the Power Pad. How far we?ve come!Ring Fit
Adventure [https://ringfitadventure.nintendo.com/]is a full-body workout for
grown-ups, but fun, gentle, and ridiculous enough to forget it?s exercise.
The game and accessories wereannounced in September
[https://techcrunch.com/2019/09/12/nintendo-shows-off-exercise-powered-rpg-for-switch-ring-fit-adventure/] , coming as a complete surprise even considering Nintendo?s constant but
hit-and-miss attempts at keeping its players healthy. What really threw people
off was that this game actually looked like? agame. And so it is!
Ring Fit Adventure has you, the unnamed and (naturally) mute protagonist,
journeying through a series of worlds and levels chasing after Dragaux, a swole
dragon who?s infecting the land with? something. Maybe he?s not wiping down the
equipment afterwards. Come on, man.
Playing with these virtual versions of the controllers gives you a real feel for
how solid the motion detection is.
Anyway, you do this by using the Joy-Cons in a new and strange form: the
Ring-Con and leg strap. The latter is pretty self-explanatory, but the ring must
be explained. It?s a thick plastic resistance ring that you squeeze from the
edges or pull apart. It detects how hard you?re squeezing it through the other
Joy-Con, which slots into the top. (The strap and ring grips are washable, by
The two controllers combined can detect all kinds of movements, from squats and
leg lifts to rotations, presses, balancing, and yoga poses. You?ll need them all
if you?re going to progress in the game.
Each level is a path that you travel down by actually jogging in real life (or
high stepping if you?re in goo), while using the Ring-Con to interact with the
environment. Aim and squeeze to send out a puff of air that opens a door or
propels you over an obstacle, or pull it apart to suck in distant coins. Press
it against your abs to crush rocks, do squats to open chests ? you get the idea.
I haven?t gotten this one yet, but it looks handy. I could use a stronger
arm-based multi-monster attack.
Of course you encounter enemies as well, which you dispatch with a variety of
exercises targeting different muscle groups. Do a few arm presses over your head
for some basic damage, or hit multiple enemies with some hip rotations. Each
exercise has you do a number of reps, which turn into damage, before defending
against enemy attacks with an ?Ab Guard.?
The ring and leg strap seem almost magical in their ability to track your motion
in all kinds of ways, though some are no doubt only inferred or fudged (as when
you lift the leg without the strap). A missed motion happened so rarely over
thousands of them that I ceased to think at all about it, which is about the
highest compliment you can give a control method like this. Yet it?s also
forgiving enough that you won?t feel the need to get everything right down the
millimeter. You can even check your pulse by putting your thumb on the IR sensor
of the right Joy-Con. Who knew?
As you progress, you unlock new exercises with different uses or colors ? and
you soon are able to fight more strategically by matching muscle group coloring
(red is arms, purple legs, etc) with enemies of the same type. It?s hardly Fire
Emblem, but it?s also a lot more than anyone has every really expected from a
The red guys are like, ?yeah? do him first.?
In fact, so much care and polish has clearly gone into this whole operation
that?s it?s frequently surprising; there are so many things that could have been
phoned in an not a single one is. The exercises are thoughtfully selected and
explained in a friendly manner; the monsters and environments show great
attention to detail. There?s no punishment for failure except restarting a level
? the first time I ?died,? I expected a little sass from my chatty companion,
Ring, but it just popped me back to the map with nary a word.
Throughout is a feeling of acceptance and opportunity rather than pressure to
perform. You can quit at any time and it doesn?t chide you for abandoning your
quest or not burning enough calories. If you decide not to do the warm-up
stretch, Tabb just says ?OK!? and moves on. When you perform a move, it?s either
?good? or ?great,? or it reminds you of the form and you can try again. Whenever
you start, you can change the difficulty, which I believe is reps, damage, and
other soft counts, since it can?t increase the resistance of the Ring-Con.
There?s no pressure to change your body and no gendered expectations; Your
exercise demonstration model/avatar, Tabb, is conspicuously androgynous. Your
character is a pretty cut specimen of your preferred gender, to be sure. And
Dragaux himself is a sort of parody of oblivious, musclebound gym bunnies (?He?s
working out while planning his next workout,? the game announced one time as he
skipped an attack to do some bicep curls). But even he, Ring mentions at one
point, used to be very insecure abouthisbody. Importantly, there?s nothing about
the game that feels targeted to getting a certain type of person a certain type
I?m not a trainer or fitness expert, but so far the variety of exercises also
feels solid. It?s all very low-impact stuff, and because it?s resistance ring
and body weight only, there?s a sort of core-strengthening yoga style to it all.
This isn?t about getting ripped, but you?ll be surprised how sore you are after
taking down a few enemies with a proper-form chair pose.
If you don?t want to play the adventure mode, there are minigames to collect and
short workouts you can customize. Honestly some of these would make better party
games than half the stuff on 1-2-Switch.
As I?ve been playing the game and discussing it with friends, I found myself
wanting more out of the game side. I?m hoping Ring Fit Adventure will be a
success so that Nintendo will green light a new, deeper version with more
complex RPG elements. Sure, you can change your outfit here for a little extra
defense or whatnot, but I want to take this concept further ? I know the
fundamentals are sound, so I?d like to see them built on.
It feels like until now there have been few ways to really gamify fitness,
except the most elementary, like step tracking. The two separate motion
controllers and the smart ways they?re used to track a variety of exercises
really feel like an opportunity to do something bigger. Plus once people have
bought the accessories, they?re much more likely to buy matching software.
My main criticisms would be that it?s a bit limiting at the beginning. There?s
no choice to, for example, prioritize or deprioritize a certain type of
exercise. I could probably stand to jog more and do arm stuff less, and I
dreaded having to resort to squats for the first few worlds. And the constant
instruction on how and when to do everything can be wearing ? it would be nice
to be able to set some things to ?expert mode? and skip the tutorials.
The game and accessories will set you back $80. If you consider it simply as
buying a game, it?s an expensive gimmick. But I don?t think that?s the way to
think about it. The target audience here is people who likely don?t have a gym
membership, something that can cost $50-$100 a month. As a fun and effective
fitness tool that does what it sets out to do and does so in a praiseworthy way,
I think $80 is a very reasonable asking price.