Struggling to keep to your New Years’ resolutions in to February? This spiritual successor to Wii Fit beats it in fun and intensity.
It’s no secret that, for many people, Christmas, and the winter period, isn’t just a time for giving – it’s time to pack on the pounds. The amount of food I consumed over the festive period was probably enough for two of me, so when I saw Nintendo’s new “Ring Fit Adventure”, I knew I should give it a go.
A spiritual and long-awaited successor to Nintendo’s Wii Fit series, Ring Fit Adventure is a fitness role-playing game (RPG), combining turn-based battles against fitness-themed monsters (think frog-looking dumbbells and stingray-style yoga mats), and trying to beat the main boss ‘Dragaux’, an evil dragon whose goal appears to be… bodybuilding?
Ring Fit’s story is light but engaging. In the beginning of the game’s ‘Adventure’ mode, you are fooled in to freeing the evil Dragaux from the confines of your voice-acted soon-to-be-partner, Ring – imaginatively named after, and bearing striking resemblance to, the game’s real-life plastic pilates ring (or, Ring-Con, as the game calls it).
Unlike Wii Fit’s Yoga and Muscle exercises, set in a clinically white environment with yoga and muscle exercises led by an equally clinically white instructor, which were overshadowed by its much more colourful but arguably less intensive balance exercises, Ring Fit integrates yoga, muscle, and aerobic exercises in to its dynamic story mode, making every Squat, Plank, or Ring Pull in to an attack against a comedically designed monster, rather than another boring exercise.
The exercises are tough – but Ring Fit checks that you’re not over-exerting itself, advising you that you can adjust the difficulty level every time you start the ‘Adventure’ mode and reminding you to stay hydrated and to take breaks often throughout the story.
Those who have played RPGs with turn-based battles before will be immediately familiar with the battle system used in Ring Fit – something that may be to Nintendo’s strength, helping to get gamers to exercise more. But this is far from a hardcore RPG – the game explains and introduces concepts as it progresses, rather than all at once, to avoid overwhelming even more casual players.
Whilst I grew to find the voice acting encouragement of “Fantastic”, “Awesome”, etc. motivating, some may find it grating – the good news is that the settings of the game include separate volume controls for the Music, Sound Effects, and Voice – meaning the voice acting can be switched off. Those who are worried about the noise of jogging on the spot in the story will also be pleased to find out the game has a ‘Silent Mode’, allowing you to squat, rather than jog, to progress. I would have preferred if there were an option to mute all sound effects except for ones related to timing your exercises (I’m a big fan of the in-game music, my flatmates sitting on the sofa not so much), but I can deal with the sound of coins jingling over my own music if I must.
One of Ring Fit Adventure’s biggest strengths, its appeal to gamers, could also be one of its biggest weaknesses – the game introduces and explains ‘Smoothies’ (a way restore health and legally enhance your performance) and clothing items which boost your Attack and Defence fairly early in the story. Not having enough ‘Smoothies’ led to me losing the battle with the boss in the third level, despite not making any mistakes in the actual exercise. This may put off some players, but you still level up when you lose, and losing just means you will have to come back to fight again, meaning more exercise – hardly a disadvantage.
The innovative use of the Joy-Cons in this game show the power of the Switch’s unique design – the infrared camera at the bottom of the right Joy-Con becomes the game’s heart rate sensor, and the small size and attachability allow the right Joy-Con to sense movements and strength with the eponymous ‘ring’, whilst left Joy-Con to be attached to the leg with a leg strap, even if it does have a tendency to slip down a bit sometimes.
Overall, the game has been a great way to encourage me to exercise more this year, and I can’t see myself putting it down any time soon – from what I’ve heard, there’s still plenty more levels, and therefore squats, to go before I get anywhere near to finishing the main story. The ability to create or follow routines of exercises outside of the adventure mode further adds to the game’s replayability. Like any form of exercise, it’s unlikely to impact you immensely unless you can also make wider lifestyle choices as well (time to cut down on the chocolate bars), but Ring Fit Adventure has certainly gone a long way to encourage me to start – I can’t see that I would have been doing forty-plus squats in my living room before I got it.
8.6/10. An excellent game, Ring Fit Adventure is let down slightly by early level grinding and slightly repetitive boss fights and levels, but shines through with its variety of exercises, minigames, monster designs, and the fact that it makes exercise fun!
Photography by Jack Morter.