Fans of Nintendo have come to expect many things from the company. Chief among these expectations is a certain level of quality, both in software and hardware. Nintendo games are still good generations later, to the point where a DS game from 2009 still costs full price on eBay. Nintendo consoles, meanwhile, gained a reputation for being sturdy beyond belief. This led to the creation of a fan joke about Nintendium, a supposed super material from which all Nintendo products are made. Well, now I'm convinced Nintendium is real, and it's all because of Ring Fit Adventure.
Rise Of The Ring-Con
Ring Fit Adventure is currently being sold as a bundle package for $79.99. That gets you the actual game, a fitness aide combined with an RPG, and the Ring-Con. The Ring-Con is a plastic ring controller that follows in the footsteps of the Wii Balance Board. That is to say, it has a shot at being incorporated into other Nintendo Switch games as a mini-game tool, but is mostly meant to work with its bundled game. There's also a leg strap. Once the player slips a Joy-Con into each peripheral, the fitness can begin.
Before I get into the fitness game, however, I want to praise the construction of the Ring-Con. Ring Fit Adventure often asks you to squeeze the Ring-Con. It's how you confirm things on the menu. Pulling on each side to stretch it is how you go back. Several upper body workouts revolve around squeezing the Ring-Con as hard as you can. Never once during all of this did I feel like I was pushing too hard. If anything, I felt there was more give in the ring and that I needed to pump my game up.
The leg strap deserves mention as well. It's essentially like one of those fitness armbands people put their phone in while at the gym. I know it's been done before, but I still appreciated how the pouch was made of a fabric that absorbed my sweat so that it didn't get all over my precious Joy-Con. Both the leg strap and the Ring-Con are high-quality items and definitely worth the extra $20 Nintendo is charging for them.
Fitness Can Be Fun?
Nintendo is known for its quality products. It's also known for being a weird company. These are the people who brought bongo controllers, heroic plumbers, and a robot co-op player to gaming. So, perhaps it was inevitable that the ring-based fitness game would also be an RPG. An RPG where you wield a magic ring that powers up when you work out and tasks you with defeating a buff demon and his army of workout-inspired monsters.
The story of Ring Fit Adventure is all in good fun, and it knows it. It blends RPG tropes and fitness aesthetics into a smoothie of silliness. You attack monsters shaped like kettlebells by choosing a workout. The body type associated with that workout, say legs for squats, appears in spectral form under the enemy. As you do your workout, the spectral leg will instantly buff up and hit the monsters. When it's the monster's turn to attack, you have to hold an ab exercise to conjure a six-pack made of energy to block them. Progressing soon becomes a fun game of finding out what other ridiculous mashups this workout world holds.
Of course, enticing players to come back achieves this game's true goal: getting people to do daily workouts. I'll admit that I needed an excuse to get back to it; I canceled my gym membership recently for personal reasons and gave into the sedentary lifestyle of a writer. Discovering what silly character or idea comes next, or to unlock more clothing for my character, provides just the motivation I need to willingly spend 30 minutes to an hour getting sweaty. Ring Fit Adventure is also very helpful in tailoring the workout to my preferences and needs. It reminds me of my daily progress, pushes me to up the difficulty level, and customizes my cool down based on whatever workouts I focused on that day. By disguising working out as a game, and a fun one at that, it makes it feel like less of a chore to do those difficult first reps.
But Does It Work?
Obviously a few days of workouts aren't going to create any visible effects. And the game isn't built to turn players into bodybuilders. The workouts provided by Ring Fit Adventure are the basic things you do at home without specialized equipment. Upper body consists mostly of squeezing the ring, lower body is a lot of squatting at first, there are ab crunches, several yoga positions, and jogging in place. The game gives you the option to track your progress via heart rate, and for the most part, I've done "moderate" workouts. I haven't been burning calories galore or building much muscle. It seems more like the purpose is to get people moving.
That's honestly enough. The people who want to workout hardcore are going to go to the gym. Fitness video games like this or Just Dance are targeted towards crowd who don't normally go to the gym. From my personal experience, it's doing its job even if I know I won't get a six pack doing it.
The biggest negative is that I fear the content won't be enough in the long term. I haven't reached the end of the story, what with an hour a day playtime, but so far, the simple RPG setup emphasizes silliness over any kind of character development. While I don't need an epic narrative in my fitness game, I do wonder how long this basic tale can reasonably play out. And what happens after? Will I be dedicated enough to create my own custom workout? Or will the indestructible Ring-Con collect dust in storage next to the Wii Balance Board? The future, like my exercise plan, is best taken one day at a time.
A Switch copy of Ring Fit Adventure was purchased for this review. Ring Fit Adventure is available now for Nintendo Switch.