Last weekend, for the first time in my life, I felt guilty that I had not trained. In Ring Fit Adventure Nintendo's latest fitness experiment, I spent nearly two weeks establishing a routine. But I was sick and just could not muster the energy to run 10 minutes on the spot. The idea of doing squats or thigh presses made me weak. But as I lay in bed chugging cough syrup, I also realized how much the game had changed my attitude in such a short time. I never trained and felt guilty about having a weekend off.
Ring Fit Adventure is a game based on one of Nintendo's biggest hits. In the heyday of the original Wii, Wii Fit millions of users had the idea of watching TV. But although it's from Nintendo, it was not exactly what you would call a video game. It was more of a playful fitness aid. Meanwhile, Ring Fit Adventure is definitely a game ̵
So what exactly is Ring Fit Adventure ? It's a combination of a game and peripherals. In terms of hardware, you get two main parts: a leg strap and a large resistance ring. Each of these components is connected to a Joy-Con controller to measure and track your movement. They are both high quality add-ons that have grown from what I have been able to give them in the past two weeks. I've had occasional leg strap problems but it's easy enough to tighten even while I'm lunging. Likewise, the ring – called the Nintendo Ring-Con – is a sturdy accessory. It's really hard to pull and squeeze it as often as possible in certain exercises, and it has withstood everything I've given it.
The setup for the game is appropriately ridiculous. You play as a silent hero in a fantastic empire that is threatened by a bloated dragon made of spandex. As in many games, you move across a large map, from level to level, to achieve different goals. There are towns and businesses, enemies and equipment. You can even collect ingredients to make magical potions, which are of course called smoothies in the game. It's all very familiar if you have ever played an adventure or role playing game.
But things are very different as soon as you actually start playing. One of the first things you do in Ring Fit Adventure is the encounter with a sentient ring called … ring. It serves as a combination of sidekick and personal trainer, helping you with a steady stream of tips and encouragement through the game. Here's how it works: When the leg strap is taut and the Ring-Con is held in front of you like a steering wheel, jogging will move you through the plane. You will encounter obstacles that require different movements to overcome. To jump, you point the Ring-Con down and press; To go up the stairs, lift your knees while jogging. You can collect coins at the edge of the path by extending and absorbing the Ring-Con, and you can destroy obstacles such as boxes by squeezing the ring and venting a powerful puff of air.
That may not sound like this It's difficult, but it can be difficult, especially as you have to remember all the inputs quickly without having to take a break from running. Of course, more interactions will be added over time. Eventually, you will do squats to jump higher on trampolines and turn your body to paddle a boat. Levels can take anywhere from two to ten minutes, and I sweat regularly after two or three.
Then there are the fights. In addition to going through each stage, you also have to fight against bad guys. The enemies are adorable versions of fitness equipment. a kettle bell with a pose or a cute yoga mat with doe eyes. Battles are turn based as if you were playing Final Fantasy in a gym. To attack, choose from a series of different exercises. Then you do repetitions – that can mean squats, a warrior pose, or planking – that damage your enemies. When it's your turn to fight back, hold the ring against your abdominal muscles and press it for the duration of the attack to create a shield. This process repeats until one of you no longer has any health.
Added a strategy layer that forces you to try different exercises. Most enemies have a color, and the exercises are similarly colored. For example, leg-related exercises are blue, while yoga poses are green. So if you come across a blue kettlebell, you probably want to make some crunching on the thigh. This is especially important for bosses who have huge health bars. If you have no strategy with regard to your attacks, you will have a hard time. The more you play, the more exercises you will unlock, lest you make the same yoga pose every time you encounter an angry green gym ball.
What is perhaps the most surprising is that both halves of Ring Fit Adventure not only work well together, but feel fully developed for themselves. I really enjoyed the carefree RPG gameplay, and especially the world, which is a charming place full of wordplay, although it was very general at first. Somehow, though it always shouted at me, I never got tired of Ring and his very helpful positive reinforcement. At the same time, when I play, I really feel like I'm training. It was a fight at first, but I could feel smarter with each passing day. I could do more and felt better afterwards. (A nice touch asks you everyday if you want to increase or maintain the challenge so you can speed things up at your own pace, but that also means you are not forced to test your limits, you have to decide for it.)
Also important: The game is easy to integrate into your life. Since each level is only a few minutes long, you can train quickly on a busy day, but you can also string together a few if you're looking for something more intense. The game even warns you when it thinks it's time to take a break. Ring Fit Adventure also supports multiple accounts so that multiple people in the same household can use it. This tracks their efforts and tailors the experience to their needs. There are also mini-games (more on this tomorrow) and customizable exercise playlists for those who do not see the thrill of a multi-hour roleplaying game.
The best thing about the game, however, is that it's just fun. I'm a little doubtful about measuring my calories and heart rate, but I do not think the details are that important, at least to me. Instead, the most important thing is how it changed my way of doing sports. It is no longer a chore. By transforming the experience into something that I am very familiar with, namely, a nerdy role play. Ring Fit Adventure gave me a structure that made sense and that I enjoyed. The result is that I did not want to stop once I started playing. I have missed three in the last 14 days and feel guilty about it too. This is a pretty decent progress for someone who generally shuns the gym.
That does not mean that there are no problems. As I said, I'm not really sure how exactly everything is. After each workout, the game logs your heart rate through the IR sensor of the Joy-Con and it never seemed to be exactly how I felt. I got relaxed readings when I was barely able to breathe and said I had had an intense workout as I blew through a level. Likewise, there are some elements of the RPG experience that do not work well with training. In particular, working through levels of experience by repeating levels, or going through optional ancillary tasks, can be very tedious if you are forced several times in the game, and those long, strenuous boss battles are unbelievably frustrating when you die. I also had some problems with certain exercises that did not recognize my movements, which is a common mistake in motion control games, but it is particularly annoying to not get credit for hard physical work.
I can not tell you that Ring Fit Adventure is a suitable replacement for going to the gym or a way to really get in shape. What I can say is this: It's a sophisticated, fun game that feels like a real workout, and for me it has become a way to integrate physical activity almost seamlessly into my life. Even if I sit here and write this, I feel like I only used 20 minutes today. The good thing is that compressing another 20 is pretty easy. I just have to kill a couple of yoga mats.
Ring Fit Adventure will launch on the Nintendo Switch on October 18th.