We know Nintendo is no stranger to the world of fitness games. After Wii Sports burst onto our screens in 2006, a whole swarm of fitness ‘exergaming’ titles were unleashed during the Wii era, including the more popular titles like Wii Fit (2008), Ubisoft’s Just Dance (2009) and 505 Games’ Zumba Fitness (2010), to the downright weird celebrity tie-ins like Get Fit with Mel B (2010) and Jillian Michaels: Fitness Ultimatum (2011). Almost a decade later, the latter titles are still on sale without, may I add, a bargain bucket price tag. Exergaming titles were used as a way for couch gamers to loosen up their muscles, exchanging their salty snacks for a sweaty workout. Fast-forward to 2019 and we’ve already seen some smooth moves on the Nintendo Switch with Arms and Fitness Boxing. But can Ring Fit Adventure stand the test of time? We find out in our hands-on preview.
Developed by Nintendo EPD and produced by Kouichi Kawamoto (the brains behind Brain Age and Nintendo Labo), Ring Fit Adventure contains the software, Ring-Con and Leg Strap accessories for £69.99 (GBP) or $79.99 (USD). During the one-hour hands-on session, we tried out the first three levels of World 1 and another level that’s roughly halfway through Adventure mode, alongside testing our mettle at a few minigames and simple exercises.
Before getting started though, we had to answer a couple of questions relating to our gender (there’s also an option for those who’d prefer not to say), age, weight and how often we exercise. Answering these enables the software to accurately calculate the impact of your exercise through calories burned and heart rate. After making sure the Leg Strap was adjusted correctly and fitted comfortably on the left thigh, the software measures your light and quick jogging speeds. The Ring-Con will also measure your push and pull power. At this stage, it’s recommended to use only half your strength power. Why? Because the game accurately senses your push and pull movements, so if you don’t equal your original strength power your attacks will be much less effective.
From here, you can choose between Casual, Moderate, Intense and Extreme difficulty settings. You can recalibrate these difficulty settings at any time too, making it easy to adjust these during your workout. For now, we choose casual and later pick up the pace to moderate so we can feel the burn. And, as wellbeing comes first, Adventure mode will always ask if you want to warm-up and cool-down every time you access the mode, though it’s optional.
Shortly after picking character preferences, you’ll need to watch a five-minute cutscene. Choosing to ‘watch later’ means you’ll have to watch it before the next level anyway, so you may as well get comfy and crack open the water (wine?). It’s during this segment you’ll be introduced to Ring Fit Adventure’s key characters; your synchronised ‘talking head’ pal, Ring, and the buff body-building antagonist dragon, Dragaux. In order to stop Dragaux from spreading his dark influence across the land, Ring enlists your help to defeat the dastardly dragon and his cronies before it’s too late. Where’s Spyro when you need him?
The first couple of levels introduce the basics. Start off with holding the Ring-Con directly in front of you and break into a nice, gentle jog while taking in the luscious greenery and the beautiful cel-shaded textures. Pushing in with the Ring-Con will activate an air blast, so turn your upper body from side to side to shoot wooden crates on the left or right to obtain items or gold coins. Pulling out with the ring will activate a suction vacuum and turning from side to side will pull in gold coins or experience medals en route. You can also jump to avoid obstacles or propel yourself over large gaps by holding the Ring-Con face-down and pushing in, releasing to return to the ground. And, if you feel the calibration is out of sorts, you can reset it by holding the ring face-down at your hips.
By itself, the Ring-Con looks a bit weird. But when in use, it feels comfortable to hold and natural to use. Smaller hands (like my own) may feel the grips on the Ring-Con are too big to hold for sessions longer than 30 minutes, however. The Leg Strap fares better and is much more comfortable to wear for longer play sessions. But depending on the type of sports attire you’re wearing, the Leg Strap can slip while running or doing leg lifts, no matter how tight the Velcro holds. It’s a pain to readjust as you’ll have to put the Ring-Con down in between enemy battles to keep it in place. It would be nifty to have different lengths of straps too; small, medium and large would fare better to accommodate a range of body types.
At its core, Ring Fit Adventure is a fitness RPG. During the second level, we encountered our first monster; a cute one-eyed miniature dragon that seems to be the offspring of Mike and Celia from Monster’s Inc. Defeating these enemies with pre-defined exercises with the Ring-Con and Leg Strap will earn you experience, levelling up your character and increasing your health, the number of exercises you can perform and the money you earn during battles. You’ll only have access to four exercises at the beginning (Squat, Chair, Overhead and Leg Press), but eventually you’ll be able to unlock up to 40 different exercises, selecting up to six of them at a time. The Bow, Thigh Press and Overhead Pull are all core techniques that can be unlocked later in the game and are neat to use against enemies, often doing damage to multiple enemies at once.
Since battles are turn-based, you’ll need to defend against monsters too. Using the Ring-Con, rotate it so that the cushion is resting on your stomach, press in and hold. This is what’s known as an Ab Guard. The harder you press and the greater your posture, the better your defence will be. In the later stages, you’ll be able to use smoothies to restore your health too. It’s critical that you hold good posture during the boss fights with Dragaux, mainly since he’s such a hard hitter. These battles are great fun and a nice pace-changer mid-route.
Outside of Adventure mode, minigames such as Robo-Wrecker – where you use the Ring-Con as a virtual whack-a-mole device – and shooting wooden boxes to get the highest score in Crate Crasher are fun diversions from the core game. Quick Play mode also means you can go up against family and friends to try your best at doing as many ring presses, pulls and more in 20 seconds. Trust me, it’s not easy.
Feeling a bit worse for wear after our one-hour play session, Ring Fit Adventure is certainly an intuitive game. With its high sensitivity, it picks up on the smallest of motions, which is great for a fitness RPG and our muscles. The outlook looks good for Ring Fit Adventure, but let’s see how it fares after a week or two.
A one-hour preview session was held by Nintendo UK and included a copy of Ring Fit Adventure for preview purposes. A full review of the game will be published in due course.