During a brief time playing with Ring Fit Adventure, a new peripheral-slash-software crossover in the same vein as Nintendo Labo, Nintendo folks stressed one thing above all else: this is a game first, and an exercise device second.
They told us that while we were doing overhead presses to attack color-coded enemies, oblique twists to row across the water and pectoral presses and pulls to put the beating on a horde of moles in the game’s exercise-focused version of whack-a-mole. They insisted it wasn’t an exercise peripheral while we jogged in place, and again when the game wanted us to do a 30-second plank to attack a jacked crab. (Yes, one of the enemies is really a supremely muscular crustacean.)
On one hand, it seems ridiculous that Nintendo doesn’t want you to acknowledge that a game built entirely around exercise isn’t about exercise at all and yet, it makes sense that Nintendo doesn’t want you to focus on the workout – that thing that so many of us begrudgingly drag ourselves out of bed for at four o’clock in the morning … I mean, who’d buy an $80 (£65, AU$125) add-on for Nintendo Switch for that?
No, Nintendo wants you to focus on how surprisingly fun the game is. The extra dose of endorphins at the end of every level, in Nintendo’s opinion, is just an added bonus.
The Ring Fit vs a traditional gym
Where the Ring Fit game deviates from Nintendo’s workout projects of years past is that this time there’s more focus on the game aspect and less of a focus on using the peripheral as a platform for other games to tap into. In fact, as far as we know right now, the only game that uses the Ring Fit accessory is Ring Fit Adventure.
Despite its singular focus, however, the Ring Fit peripheral seems well designed: You attach the right-side Joy-Con into the rubber ring, while the left Joy-Con goes into a pouch that straps around your left leg. The Ring’s level of resistance can then be set to match your fitness level, and the game will ask you how much of a workout you’re looking for every time you start it up.
Using just the two Joy-Cons and the Ring Fit, Nintendo can measure your acceleration, angle and position you’re in, plus use the IR sensor to track your heart rate. It feeds all this data into the game, which it then translates to role-playing game-like stats such as damage output.
It should go without saying that, without the game, the ring peripheral doesn’t really work. That’s why Nintendo told us that it’s only selling a physical version as part of a boxed set. There’s one mode that lets you take the ring with you around the house to do a small workout, but otherwise the Ring Fit is directly tied to this one game.
Admittedly, Nintendo wouldn’t get away with convincing people to focus on the game if the game wasn’t surprisingly addictive and decently complex. Thankfully, everything we’ve seen so far has proved that Ring Fit is all that and more.
The central premise of the game is that there’s an evil villain named Drago who represents everything we all hate about gym culture. He’s snobby. He’s critical. He’s egotistical. He’s the guy at the gym who grunts, leaves the machines sweaty and offers improper advice to anyone around him.
Your goal is to take him down by battling against a horde of aggressive creatures, all of whom are susceptible to one of five color-coded skills that target different exercises. The muscle crab we mentioned earlier is weak against abdominal skills, while other creatures might be susceptible to skills that workout your legs or arms. The last two skills, yoga and general fitness, combine different muscle groups and work against different colored enemies altogether.
Final Fantasy meets Wii Fit
Because Ring Fit Adventure is an RPG, however, there’s also a numbers component behind every attack – and you’ll need to craft items and level up your attacks to do more damage.
That said, there are four main parts to the game. The level overview screen is where you’ll spend most of your time and it allows you to outfit your character however you’d like and plan your attacks for the next level.
Once you pick a level, you’ll be asked to start jogging – this moves your character on a set path where you can collect coins and items by aiming and squeezing or stretching the Ring.
Run far enough in a level and eventually you’ll come up against the enemies we mentioned earlier. Each of the themed worlds have different enemies, and you’ll have to pick the right attacks to take them down. After you beat the enemies and make it through the level, you’ll get experience points which then level up your character, making your attacks more powerful and putting you one step closer to beating Drago.
Last but not least, if you exit the story mode you’ll find mini-games and a freeform workout mode that lets you eschew the RPG elements and allow you to focus on specific areas of your body – or simply enjoy the wacky mini-games the development team cooked up.
As a successor to the Wii Fit, Ring Fit Adventure shows a lot of promise. The renewed focus on the game aspect means that you’ll almost ignore the fact that you’re working out and will be more likely to return to it day after day.
The game’s $80 (£65, AU$125) price tag seems like a bit much to pay for an admittedly niche peripheral. But, considering that’s only about the cost of three months at a gym or a few workout DVDs, Nintendo might have finally cracked the code on finally getting casual gym-goers like us into fitness.
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