Fitness-oriented videogames have been around for a while, and Nintendo is one of the more prominent names working on that kind of experience - something you’d expect, seeing as motion controls have been a staple of Nintendo hardware since the Wii.
Ring Fit Adventure is the first title of its kind on the Nintendo Switch, and even for Nintendo, it’s a noticeably new take on the genre. While titles like Wii Fit Plus or Wii Fit U (which is the best video game name ever, by the way), work more like minigames, Ring Fit Adventure builds an entire adventure around the concept of exercise, and I think this might be the best approach to a fitness game yet. It’s also the hardest I’ve had to work while playing a game.
The Ring-Con and leg strap
Let’s start by taking a look at the hardware that comes with the game. The leg strap is just that, and it has a slot where you can place the left Joy-Con so it tracks your leg’s movement. There’s nothing too special about it, but you can adjust the tightness of the strap at will, the materials seem to be pretty durable, and it’s machine-washable. It does, unfortunately, seem to slide down your leg while working out, which can make tracking inaccurate if it gets too loose.
The more interesting part is, of course, the Ring-Con, which is its own input method. You slide in the right Joy-Con, but your interactions are tracked by the Ring-Con itself, and it works very well. Again, the materials seem to be very good, and most of the structure of the Ring-Con has this very soft rubber feel that feels very nice to the touch, and it requires a surprising amount of strength to push and pull on it. Despite that, I’ve never felt like I might break or damage it, and it seems pretty resilient in the time I’ve had with it.
Also worthy of note, there are fabric handles on the sides where you’re supposed to hold it, and they’re removable, which is important since you’ll probably want to wash them every now and then. On the top side of the Ring-Con is the slot for the right Joy-Con, which leaves the buttons accessible for some interactions while playing the game.
For the majority of the game, the two components are used at the same time for controlling the game, and together they make for pretty accurate tracking. Of course, you can always try to trick the game, especially since the leg strap can only track one leg, but if you’re trying to cheat out of exercising, you probably don’t want to spend $80 on this game. Tracking can also become somewhat inaccurate if you stop in the middle of an exercise and get in a position that's not expected for that specific exercise. It fixes itself between exercises, though.
What sets Ring Fit Adventure apart from previous fitness games from Nintendo is, well, the adventure. Typically, fitness games are focused on mini-games or short, self-contained periods of exercise, and the only incentive you really have to keep going is fitness itself. Of course, that should be a good enough incentive, but as someone who often chooses to spend time sitting down playing games, the lack of an in-game goal makes it hard for me to stay motivated with fitness games. Ring Fit Adventure gives me a lot more motivation to keep exercising than something like Wii Fit Plus did.
In adventure mode, you play as your choice of a male or female character and their partner, aptly named Ring, in an attempt to stop Dragaux, a dragon that’s weirdly obsessed with working out. To progress through the adventure, you jog in place to move within the game, and you can use the Ring-Con to either expel or suck air in, which can be used to jump, destroy obstacles, and collect coins.
As you move through levels, you encounter enemies, which you face off against in RPG-style battles where your attacks are completely based on different kinds of exercises, which is where the real workout happens. You start off with a small set of moves to choose from, but you unlock more exercises as you move through the game, and you can have up to six of them available at any time. You can configure your moveset between levels. Each exercise falls under one of four categories - legs, arms, abs, and yoga poses, and this becomes important when you unlock color coding, which makes it so that specific kinds of exercise are more effective against certain enemies. This can grant you an advantage in battle and force you to diversify your workout.
You also get to choose your difficulty level in adventure mode, which adjusts how intensive the workout will be. Initially, this will be set automatically for you, based on a few questions such as your age, weight, how often you exercise, and how hard you want to work. You can change this manually later, and the game also prompts you to adjust the difficulty at the start of every session. Changing the difficulty setting changes how many reps you have to do of each exercise during battle, so you can have something that fits your goals, whether you’re young and used to working out, or a little older and just trying to stay active.
The game also keeps track of how long you’ve been active while playing, which is different than your total playing time. It only tracks the time when you’re actively doing some kind of exercise, so your active time will be much lower than your play time. You’ll also get estimates for the distance you’ve run and the calories you’ve burned, and at the end of each level, you’ll also be prompted to measure your heart rate, which uses the IR camera on the right Joy-Con. This will estimate how intensive your workout has been.
I have to say that, to me, this game is a real workout. I usually finished my sessions with around 15 to 20 minutes of active time (which almost always took upwards of one hour), and I would be sweating profusely when I was done, to the point where my clothes stick to me. After my first day, my muscles were seriously sore, too, thanks to my lack of practice prior to starting this game. I haven’t had enough time to completely vouch for its ability to help me lose weight, but it certainly makes me work hard, and I really do feel it in my muscles when I’m doing the exercises.
Quick play, custom workouts, and multitask mode
As much as I love the adventure mode, the story has to come to an end eventually, and there have to be more ways to stay active. There are three other modes: Quick Play, Custom, and Multitask.
Quick Play mode is split into three categories itself - Simple, Minigames, and Sets. In the simple category, you can challenge your self to do as many reps as possible of specific kinds of exercises using the ring. For the majority of them, you’re given 20 seconds to do as many reps as possible, and you get ranked based on how many reps you manage to do. You can then compare your score with friends. There’s also a couple of endless challenges, where the timer counts down whenever you’re not moving, and you have to do a rep to reset it.
Then there are the minigames, which take different kinds of exercises and give them in-game contexts, such as collecting coins, dodging bombs, and defeating robots. These minigames can also be encountered during adventure mode, but they’re easy to access from here. Finally, the Sets category has a long list of sets focusing on different parts of your body, like legs, upper arms, abs, core, and many more. Each set contains six different exercises, which you have to do multiple reps of. It’s an interesting game mode if you want to focus on specific parts of your body.
Custom mode is pretty straightforward in that it basically lets you create a custom workout plan. You can have up to three different plans at once, and creating them is a pretty simple process. You can start off based on one of the sets mentioned above, and add or remove exercises to your preference, or start from square one. You can add different exercises and minigames to the routine, choose the order you want to do them in, and how many reps you want to do of each exercise (or the difficulty level for minigames).
Finally, there’s Multitask mode, which I ended up making more use of than I thought I would. When you turn off the Switch (or put it in sleep mode), you can slide the right Joy-Con into the Ring-Con, press the analog stick down, and it’ll turn on so you can use it independently from the Switch. Doing this, you can do some level of exercise while doing something else, so if you want to watch some TV and still be active, the Ring-Con can still record it. The reps recorded while in Multitask mode can give you an experience bonus for adventure mode when you get back into the game.
In this mode, the Ring-Con only records when you pull or push on it, so there’s no real condition to what exercises you can do aside from that. You can work your arms, or hold the Ring-Con between your legs to work your thighs. Also, I found out during this mode that the Ring-Con has a built-in speaker, which allows it to beep when it registers a push or pull, and then beep again when the default position is restored. That’s all you’ll get from it, which might explain why there’s no speaker grill or anything that could help the sound quality.
I want to highlight a couple of smaller, but interesting things about this game. A while back, we reported that Nintendo had implemented an alarm functionality into the Switch's operating system, but there was no software that made use of it. Ring Fit Adventure is the first game to do so, and it lets you set alarms so you don't forget to do your exercise. Alarms can be set for each day of the week at whichever time you prefer.
When the alarm time comes, the Switch will beep and ring, and it will turn on the notification LED around the HOME button on the right Joy-Con. It will vibrate about five times, but the light will keep flashing a little longer; then the alarm repeats itself after five minutes, and again after 10 minutes. Regardless of when you pick up the console, though, you'll be prompted to open the game right away, instead of going into the HOME menu.
I also think it's worth pointing out how Ring Fit Adventure treats user profiles when compared to every other game on the Switch; you won't be prompted to choose a user when you first launch the software, and instead you do it inside the game itself. For Adventure mode, you choose the user before you start working out, but in some modes you do the workout first and then choose which profile to link the workout to. This makes it a lot faster to switch (pun absolutely intended) users, which enables the party-like scenarios Nintendo uses in its marketing videos for this game.
Ring Fit Adventure turned out to be a much more intense game than I thought it would be. I owned Wii Fit back in the day, and that didn’t make me work nearly as hard. To me, the biggest advantage this game has over that title is that it has an adventure mode, which gives me an added incentive to work harder and try to progress in the adventure. As I said, fitness itself should probably be enough motivation, but it usually isn’t, so this really helped me.
But Ring Fit Adventure goes beyond adventure mode, and it does offer you more workout options for when you’re done with that. I especially love how many different sets you can get in Quick Play mode so you can focus exactly on what you want to train, and the ability to create custom workouts is also great. I also have to appreciate the quality of the construction of the Ring-Con, which offers a lot more resistance than I expected and forces me to work very hard.
If you’re looking for a way to stay active, I’d say Ring Fit Adventure is a fantastic offering, especially in the cold and rainy winter days when it isn’t a great time to go outside and exercise. For $80, it’s certainly one of the more expensive Switch games out there, but I’d say it’s worth the price for the right audience. I know I’ll be trying to play this on a regular basis going forward.