Ring Fit Adventure review – fit for purpose
Nintendo are trying to make you fit again, but Ring Fit Adventure is no boring Wii Fit sequel, it’s a bona fide role-playing game.
Looking back at the Wii it’s very hard to determine exactly what lasting impact, if any, it had on the video games industry. It was the best-selling console of its generation, soundly beating the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and yet its follow-up was the disastrous Wii U. It popularised the concept of motion controls and yet apart from a few spirited examples on the Switch the concept has now been roundly rejected by mainstream gaming.
Together with the DS, the Wii also made hits of several ‘non-games’, from Brain Training to Wii Fit. These were titles that featured little to no traditional gameplay and were instead presented more as self-help tools, with the fact that they were running on a video game console effectively irrelevant. But despite what you might imagine Ring Fit Adventure is not an attempt to return to those days, in fact in many ways it’s the absolute antithesis of Wii Fit.
Ring Fit Adventure is a video game first and foremost, a Japanese role-playing game essentially, just instead of selecting attacks from a menu you do battle through the medium of keep fit exercises. It’s the sort of idea only Nintendo would contemplate but as bizarre as it sounds it works extremely well, as both a piece of entertainment and a way to make exercise seem more fun than another depressing trip to the gym.
Ring Fit Adventure is not an especially complicated game, but it has such a peculiar set-up that it can be difficult to explain. The first thing to realise is that this is not a game you can buy digitally and nor is it something that will work without two Joy-Cons – so Switch Lite owners should beware. It comes with two peripherals: the Ring-Con and a Leg Strap. The latter is exactly what it sounds like and is simply a little pouch you can slot the left Joy-Con into and then tie to your leg.
The Ring-Con is about the size of a steering wheel and works like a Pilates resistance ring, in that there’s quite a lot of give to it but it does take some effort to squeeze or stretch it into an oval. It also has a socket to attach a Joy-Con, so that the game always has a surprisingly detailed idea of what your body is doing as you play.
There are numerous mini-games and keep fit exercises you can do separately, if you’re short on time, but the meat of Ring Fit Adventure is its story mode. Not that the game has much in the way of plot but for the record you’re battling a dragon that’s also a fitness freak and which you accidentally released into the world.
For obvious reasons this is not an open world role-playing but instead an on-the-rails one. Each level has you running along a set course, where you can move automatically or jog on the spot to make your character move. This all works something like a late era arcade game, as you move along a linear path and have to avoid obstacles or use some kind of device to get past them. So, for example, you might need to jump on a zipline or paddle a boat across the water; or use the Ring-Con to jump or shoot out a blast of air.
Although there are resources to gather as you go, and experience points to earn for everything you do, the role-playing aspect really comes to the fore when you meet some enemies, which is presented just like an old school Dragon Quest-esque battle system. As you’ve probably already guessed this involves you performing some kind of short exercise routine, like squeezing or pulling the ring (often in imitation of a bow and arrow or some other form of attack) or holding a well-known Yoga pose.
But there’s more to it than that, as once you’ve learnt the basics the game starts introducing concepts such as matching certain enemies and types of moves together, which works like matching environmental attacks in a normal game – except here it’s particular colour-coded exercise moves. Some exercises have cooldown times, so you can’t keep using them, while others heal or buff you.
There’s also a skill tree to work your way through and what are essentially potions, just in the form of soups and smoothies. And while it’s not exactly armour, different outfits can change your attack and defence stats. There’s even level grinding, if a new level seems to hard and you want to go back and procure more in-game currency or ingredients from an earlier stage. So while calling it a role-playing game may seem a bit of a stretch at first it’s actually fairly involved.
The game is fully aware of how peculiar an idea it is and there are plenty of customisation options to make it as relevant to your needs as possible, as you determine exactly how much pressure is needed to use the Ring-Con and the general level of exertion you’re comfortable with. New moves get introduced the further you progress, and you can fine tune your move-set so that ones you want to concentrate on appear more often.
As peculiar an idea as Ring Fit Adventure is it carries it through impressively well and somehow manages to make the idea of a fitness role-playing game feel like a sane and normal thing. There are some issues with repetition, particularly in terms of the backdrops and the wearingly unfunny dialogue, but fundamentally the mixture of role-playing and fitness works and is entertaining enough to get you interested in the wider world of both.
Ring Fit Adventure review summary
In Short: A vastly more interesting experience than Wii Fit that’s good enough to get RPG fans interested in fitness and fitness fans interested in role-playing games.
Pros: The role-playing elements are impressively involved, including experience points, skill trees, and relatively nuanced combat. Exercises are as demanding as you want and the Ring-Con works perfectly.
Cons: The levels can get repetitive and there was no need to make the story and dialogue quite this silly and uninteresting.
Formats: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Nintendo EPD
Release Date: 18th October 2019
Age Rating: 7
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