Ring Fit Adventure is a new exercise game from Nintendo that comes out for Switch on October 18. After playing with it and the Ring-Con peripheral, we think it might be a surprise hit.
The best thing I can say about Ring Fit Adventure is that it makes exercising fun, to the point where you might forget that you’re working out. Nintendo’s upcoming Switch game brilliantly marries mini-games with fitness similar to the company’s own Wii Fit series.
The major difference is that in this case, you have a different peripheral and there’s an emphasis on role-playing and loot grabbing, whereas Wii Fit for the Wii and Wii U (despite having mini games of its own) was more about replacing the real gym with a virtual one. Ring Fit Adventure is more like a game, and having played it for a little while, Nintendo’s definitely achieved something special.
Built Ring-Con Tough
Before completing a single mini game, I had to get my hands on the Ring-Con peripheral to measure its toughness. The verdict? Pretty, pretty, pretty tough! Nintendo would not comment on what alien material it harvested in order to forge this device, but insisted that Ring-Cons back at HQ were put under constant stress. I didn’t brutalize this one in the 30 or so minutes of play, but the thing held up surprisingly well with every squeeze and pull. It’s also relatively small and easy to store. In all, I’m not too worried about Ring-Cons snapping from overuse, at least not initially.
What’s also impressive, aside from the Ring-Con’s apparent durability, are the one-to-one movements between what you do in the real world versus the hero’s on-screen actions. Nintendo achieved this by putting one Joy-Con in the Ring-Con, and then another in a Leg Strap; the strap is so light that I forgot I was wearing it. This isn’t new technology. Nintendo capitalized on motion control with the Wii remote and then improved upon it via the Wii MotionPlus. It’s just cool to see Nintendo find new ways to build upon groundbreaking tech from ten-plus years ago.
Another realization about Ring Fit Adventure, and this will likely be a deal breaker or maker depending on your interest: there is no sit-down mode, at least from what I could see. Playing this game means being on your feet (or butt) and either jogging in place or performing an exercise to win battles and complete mini-games. There doesn’t appear to be any way around this.
A Unique Fitness Journey
Of course, the gameplay is what makes Ring Fit Adventure unique. The idea is to work up a sweat and burn calories while having fun, starting with Adventure mode, where you set off through a fantasy world to defeat a body-building obsessed monster. Think of this as a cross between an endless runner and an RPG. You make the character move through the world by literally jogging in place and high stepping to climb stairs. While you jog, you’ll see crates and other objects in the environment, and you’ll want to press in on the Ring-Con to unleash a blast of air that busts things apart and adds gold coins to your inventory; immediately stretch the Ring-Con to collect these items. What do you buy with virtual loot? Cosmetics for your character. Outfits, mostly. But you can also unlock ingredients used to create smoothies that will boost your character’s abilities.
The running portion of the game is straightforward. The only frustrating part is that there’s no way to walk backwards. Fortunately your character jogs as fast as you do, so if you’re a completionist we suggest slowing your pace to avoid missing stuff. Even if you do, Nintendo broke up Adventure mode into levels, so you can always go back.
Jogging to move works surprisingly well, but so do the Fit Battles, which comprise the turn-based portion of the experience. Similar to traditional RPGs, you’ll attack and defend against a variety of enemies. To do this, you perform fitness-based attacks called Fit Skills, of which there are more than 40, including the Bow Pull, Overhead Lunge Twist, and Thigh Press. One of them forces you to not only squat but hold the move in place for a brief period of time. Doing one squat is a challenge, but staying in that position for two to three seconds? Do this enough times and we guarantee that you’ll feel it tomorrow.
Perform the Fit Skill successfully and you’ll unleash an attack that’ll knock out your opponents, and you’ll maximize damage by matching the color of the on-screen Fit Skill with the color of an enemy. As for defending against attacks, you’ll press the Ring-Con against your abs to create a shield, where the harder you press inward, the less damage you’ll take.
Winning battles earns XP that will let you upgrade your character’s skills, and here’s an interesting feature… you can gain XP without even playing Ring Fit Adventure. The offline Multitask mode lets you perform exercises with the Ring-Con while the Switch is off. You can earn a maximum of 500XP in one go. From there, log into the game to tranfser this XP, and set the counter back to zero, whereupon which you can exit the game and go for another 500XP. It’s a fun way to keep burning calories without playing.
Expanding Your Skill Set
If you finish Adventure mode or need a break (Nintendo says that it will take several months to beat Adventure if you play for 30 minutes per day) there are a wealth of options that put the Ring-Con to excellent use.
Quick Play contains a series of addictive exercises like the Pectoralis Major Challenge, where you rapidly press in and then stretch out the Ring-Con to score points in a limited amount of time; you can also compare high scores with friends and other people online. Additionally there are Mini Games that feel more game-centric. We checked out the clay mini game, where you see an image of a shape and then must recreate said shape with squats. Definitely not as easy as it looks because you’re not only squatting but also adjusting the height and intensity of the exercise to sculpt the clay. We failed big time, but it’s less about in game results and more about doing the exercise. And depending on your level of determination, you might play this one mini-game for 20 minutes. That’s nearly 20 straight minutes of squats! A person might not do five minutes of squats at the gym on his or her best day.
Watch Out, Peloton
With a holiday season full of big games, don’t sleep on Ring Fit Adventure. Much like Labo, Wii Fit, and other unconventional creations, Ring Fit provides a uniquely Nintendo experience that might surprise everyone who grabs hold of the Ring-Con. I also think that non-gamers (especially those already addicted to exercise) will immediately fall in love with it.
With that in mind, the thought of running on a treadmill right now seems dreadful, but jogging in place to find loot and then fighting monsters with a thigh press is the sort of exercise I can get behind. If you agree, Ring Fit Adventure will release for the Switch on October 18.