By Isaac Espinosa
Grasp your Ring-Con, and travel through an adventure of fitness and excitement! That’s Nintendo’s hope for Ring Fit Adventure, a brand new fitness game developed and published by Nintendo. Their interesting riff on a Pilates Ring, the Ring-Con, allows for an exercising experience that combines elements of role-playing games with effective workout routines. And while the idea of an Exercise RPG sounds pretty strange, I can assure you that it’s definitely a worthwhile effort.
While the game offers an assortment of options to properly exercise, the more serious fitness comes from Adventure Mode. In the story, you play as an ordinary exercise enthusiast. Your avatar stumbles upon a special ring that pleads with you to destroy the strap that binds it. Unfortunately, ripping the ring free unleashes a large monster named Dragaux that sets out to invoke his true power and grow even stronger. However, tearing the strap also awakens a spirit within the ring that syncs with you and enables you to turn your exercise into energy and power. With this newfound strength, you and the ring set off to take down Dragaux and stop him before the dark influence he creates consumes the world.
As previously mentioned, Ring Fit Adventure somehow creates an RPG out of an exercise experience. Adventure Mode’s running and battling sections lets you gain experience and level up your character in order to prepare for the coming adventure. The running sections require that you use the leg strap that comes with the Ring-Con to measure how fast you race across the road. You can also press the Ring-Con in to shoot fiery blasts at boxes or other obstacles, or pull it out to suck in passing coins or medals and collect more experience points. Sometimes you will even have to squat to use springs, or lift your knees to maneuver through certain terrains such as swamps. These sections allow for cardio practice, and are a great way to ease into the game.
It’s battling, though, that truly creates a tough, intense exercise experience. Occasionally, enemies will block your path and initiate a battle. You can damage them by using one of the many attack options. Each choice requiring a certain type of exercise, such as overhead presses, squats, or even overhead hip shaking, which has you hold the ring over your head and shake your hips. Most of these attacks also have a cooldown of one or two turns, which makes the workouts both exciting and diverse: you’re not just repeating one attack for each battle. And you can defend yourself with the Ab Guard technique, pressing the Ring-Con into your stomach to limit the damage you take from enemies.
One aspect of the game that I found very useful was that each exercise specifically details which muscles each attack will work on by using a diagram that demonstrates these muscles. I was happy to gain a solid understanding of the benefit of each exercise.
At times, the exercise and cardio in Adventure Mode can be too intense, especially for someone like me, who doesn’t exercise much. This probably wouldn’t be an issue for more experienced trainers and exercise enthusiasts, but those of us who want a tamer routine can choose Ring Fit Adventure’s minigames, which provide multiple ways to rank your progress and help you learn how to improve. There’s even a multitask mode for the Ring-Con that allows you to turn the Ring on while the Switch is off, and do some pulling and pushing reps. I appreciated these less strenuous options.
All in all, Ring Fit Adventure perfectly balances the best parts of an RPG and an exer-game to create an experience that will have enthusiasts returning daily for their work-outs. And the game also throws plenty of helpful words and tips your way, convincing you not to give up. When you tire, those words are super helpful to keep going.
Isaac Espinosa is a New York Videogame Critics Circle Intern. He’s the Founder of the Lehman College Videogame Critics Circle.