Editorial

Revisiting Ring Fit Adventure: How Nintendo helped me get in shape

Many Nintendo games are known for their status as evergreen titles throughout a console’s lifetime, and often beyond that. Sure, Nintendo isn’t alone in that, but it’s evident that Nintendo’s games continue to play a key role in its success even late into a console’s life. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, a 2017 port of a game originally released in 2014, still sold nearly two million units in the first quarter of Nintendo’s fiscal year.

Even then, you can usually tell how successful a game will be based on its first few weeks and months on the market. So, when Nintendo launched Ring Fit Adventure, even though I praised it a lot in my review, I didn’t really think it would have that kind of lasting appeal. Turns out, I was wrong. When Nintendo reported its financial results in August, it said that Ring Fit Adventure had sold over four million units as of July, with 1.17 million units sold between April and June. More recently, Ring Fit Adventure even surpassed physical unit sales of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in Japan, and though the Zelda game is also available digitally while the former isn’t, that’s still impressive.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many of us to spend way more time at home, and made it harder to go to the gym or even just go outside altogether. I’m sure that played a big role in driving sales during this year. Personally, I’ve used the game as my main fitness tool, and looking at how it’s become an integral part of my routine and how much it has helped me, it’s easy to see that the success is deserved.

Background

Let’s rewind a little bit. I had loads of praise to give Ring Fit Adventure when I reviewed it, but I frankly fell off if it in the weeks and months after that as I got busy with other things. I tried doing it every now and again, but that alone wasn’t doing much for me. In April, I decided to start working with Neowin full time, and I coincidentally decided it was time to commit to a fitness routine.

I started playing Ring Fit Adventure roughly four days a week, starting with the goal of reaching 10 minutes of active time (as measured by the game) each day, scaling up from there. Currently, and for most of the time I’ve been playing, I always aim for a minimum of 25 minutes of active time measured by the game, which takes me about one hour of real time to do. I also started doing bike rides almost daily - you can see what they look like in my smartwatch reviews – and I started being a bit more careful with what I eat (but not that much). Ring Fit Adventure isn’t the only thing I’ve been doing, but it’s definitely felt the most intense.

The result? When I started this routine, my scale said I weighed 95kg – roughly 209lbs. As of the time of writing this, the scale points to 80kg – 176lbs – and in many (or most) situations where I’ve met acquaintances or family members, they’ve pointed out that I look a lot slimmer. I don’t mean for that to sound like bragging, but it’s something I haven’t felt or heard in many, many years. I’m very happy that I’ve been able to use this game to not only stay in shape, but get in shape, and I’d like to talk about why it’s so great.

Nailing the basics

As I talked about in my review, the adventure mode is what makes Ring Fit Adventure so much more useful for me. What it does so well, in my opinion, is how it takes the core of what makes a videogame compelling – which is the sense of progression and purpose – and builds an experience completely based on fitness around it. Sure, fitness itself should give you a sense of purpose, but when you’re starting out, it can be really hard to understand how much progress you’re making or if it’s helping you at all. The story in the game isn’t some stellar plot with twists and turns, but it gives you a clear mission - stopping the very muscular Dragaux from spreading his dark influence over the world. And making your way through the game to get closer to him is what drives you to keep coming back and exercising more.

The regular stages in the game are courses which you have to run through, and as you progress, more means of traversal appear that force you to exercise in different ways. You may need to press in on the Ring-Con to jump, or push it against your stomach while twisting your hips to paddle along a river on a boat, and things just get more intense as you go. You may need to squat repeatedly, hold a pose, or press the Ring-Con behind your back to move along specific tracks. Simply moving through a course can feel pretty exhausting.

But that’s just scratching the surface of what Ring Fit Adventure does. In these stages, you’ll run into monsters, and that’s when the real workouts begin. Battles against these monsters work similarly to role-playing games like Pokémon, albeit a bit more simple than what you’d find in traditional games. To attack, you need to perform a specific number of reps of an exercise (or “skill”, as the game calls them), and the exercises fall under one of four categories – arms, legs, abs, and yoga. Of course, monsters can also come in different colors, representing each category. This means that, if you want to win, you’ll want to use the skills that are stronger against that type of monster, thus encouraging you to exercise different muscles.

I’d say Ring Fit Adventure does a great job of balancing the traditional game mechanics with the fitness experience so that it’s engaging enough for those familiar with gaming without warding off people who haven’t played a videogame before. The simplistic nature of the combat makes it so that anyone can understand when it’s better to use a certain skill over another, but there’s still some depth to it – some skills can only be obtained by buying them in the skill tree, and because you can only have a limited number of skills available at any given time, it encourages you to plan for which skills you want to add to your roster so that you can win battles more easily.

In battle, Ring Fit Adventure is very well thought out in how it guides players when doing specific exercises. In addition to motion sensing, each exercise is visible with on-screen poses you can follow along, and the game also reminds users to watch their posture during certain exercises, which has really helped me with things like keeping my back straight, and I’ve become much more aware of my posture even when I’m not playing.

The game is also great because it doesn’t just tell you what exercise to do, it tells you how to do it. When it tells you to squat, it’s detecting how much you’re bending your leg to know how low you’re going. You also have to hold the position for a few seconds to attack, and the game can also track that. This all makes sense and you’d probably expect it from a game like this, but I appreciate it tremendously because it truly feels like the game knows the best way to make exercises effective. If I was doing these exercises by myself, I’d probably make each rep last half a second or stopping pushing as hard halfway through, which wouldn’t be as beneficial to me.

A long adventure

This is mostly praise I had given the game back when I reviewed it, but one concern I always had in the back of my mind, even when I started my routine earlier this year, was that the adventure mode would be too short, and that I would lose motivation after that. The game offers custom workout modes and you can create your own routines, but if the adventure mode ended quickly, it would still be hard to force myself to create and stick to those routines because I wouldn’t be feeling that much progress. It takes time for someone to be able to get into that spirit.

Thankfully, I’ve been consistently surprised at how long the game lasts. Many times I’ve thought “it’s going to be over soon”, but it just keeps going, and even after months of playing the game, I’m not done with adventure mode. To me, this is fantastic, because I’m now at a point where I’m much more comfortable with exercise, and I know that when I finish the adventure, I won’t have a problem creating a routine and sticking to it.

A couple of things contribute to this. First, a key element of adventure mode is the difficulty level, which lets you fine-tune how intense you want your workout to be. Increasing the difficulty level doesn’t make enemies stronger, but it does make it so that you have to do more reps of an exercise when you use a skill, though it will still deal the same damage. This means you spend more time exercising without moving too far ahead in the story.

Each time you play, the game asks you if you want to change the difficulty level, though you can ask it to stop doing so. For the majority of the time I’ve been playing, I had the difficulty set to level 24 but I left the prompts on, so I recently increased it to 25, and it can go even higher if you want it to. I’m currently sitting at over 36 hours of exercise time in the game, and I’m still in world 19 in the game, and I don’t know how many more there will be.

Another thing that helps is the fact there’s more to adventure mode than just the main story. In each world, there are a few extra things you can do to get more exercise time. There are some standard levels that are optional, some mini-games that have you perform certain exercises with a different gameplay loop, or gyms, where you just fight a horde of enemies or do a number of exercises focused on a specific kind of training.

There are also side quests from characters in each world, and they usually involve beating a level or mini-game while meeting certain conditions, fighting a specific type of monster, and so on. I love completing as much of the game as possible, and it’s a great excuse to get more exercise time in.

What's next

I’d love to go in-depth about the rest of what the game has to offer, but I’m focusing on my personal experience with it, and like I said, I’m still making my way through adventure mode. However, I do plan on finishing it eventually, and when I do, I’ll have to create my own routines. This lets you combine sets of different exercises – like squats, knee lifts, and planks – along with mini-games or jogging courses, resulting in a custom workout that suits your preference. When the game launched, you could only create three different plans at time, but Nintendo has updated the game since then to allow users to create up to 20.

My goal is to create at least six plans – two focused on arms, two for legs, and two for abs. Depending on how long it ends up taking me to do a full plan, my goal is to combine them in a way that allows me to work out different parts of my body in rotation while still achieving the 25 minutes of daily active time I aim for. Now that winter is approaching, I may also need to start exercising for longer with the game, since I don’t really want to be riding my bike in the rain.

All in all, Ring Fit Adventure has been nothing short of a wonderful experience for me. Now, it’s not perfect in the way it controls, and sometimes the motion controls can be a little finicky, but that barely devalues what has become an absolutely essential part of my life. If you’re struggling with staying active during the pandemic, and as it seems that we may be restricted for a few more months, I recommend this game now even more than I did a year ago. It’s a great gift for yourself or for anyone you know that may be looking for a way to get in shape. It's currently available at Best Buy for $79.99 in the U.S., or at Amazon in the UK for £64.99.

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