Watch the video review on Youtube
Hello everyone! I’ve put a lot of effort into making a review of the recently released Ring Fit Adventure for the Nintendo Switch. Rather than just dump it into the void, I felt that I wanted to advertise it a bit and therefore I post it here as well as youtube in the hopes that someone still reads this blog and might give me a pity view.
What follows is really just a transcript of the above video but after the bulk of the text, I’ll also be writing some up to date impressions since I’ve played a little more since the video review was finalised.
Just a disclaimer: I bought this game myself (it wasn’t a review copy) and I have no affiliation with Nintendo or their partners; neither am I affiliated with any news media corporations. All footage in the video was either captured by me or taken from Nintendo’s pre-release footage of the game. Images in this article which are not of my own creation have source references where I believe them to be necessary.
I completed the entire game in an any% manner and at the time of publishing this review, I had finished about 4 of the New Game + worlds that unlock after the main adventure is completed. I haven’t read any reviews from professional games journalists, but given how much exercise is necessary to complete this game, I doubt any of them experienced as much of it as fully as I did.
My history with fitness
When it first released back in 2008, I got very invested in Wii Fit. In part because at that time in my life, I had just started to go through a strange fitness and exercise obsessed phase but also partly because I was a massive Nintendo Fanboy.
The appeal of Wii Fit, as someone who was at the time quite motivated to exercise, was that I could tailor my own exercise regimes from the comfort of my own home, without any need to go to the gym (something that to this day I have still never done). The feedback on whether you were correctly performing a technique and the scoring of parameters such as your balance in Wii Fit, while not always entirely accurate, is helpful, and the ability to see which muscle groups are being used and being able to see explanations from all angles, rather than fro m the back of a crowded pilates class, is fairly useful.
Revisiting home exercise with Wii Fit U earlier this year, I started to analyse its shortcomings. I’m no longer as driven to exercise as I was as a teenager and therefore I find it difficult now to get motivated to do the same old routines over and over. There’s really only 13 worthwhile muscle training exercises in Wii Fit U and getting through them all will take about 30-45 minutes, depending on your difficulty settings. While I get some enjoyment out of this sort of training, it isn’t really enticing enough for me to want to experience it over and over since it feels more like a chore than a fun exercise activity.
Obviously, Wii Fit and its sequels have a variety of more interesting activities to help you burn calories, but many of these barely feel like a workout. Jogging has always been one of my favourite activities in Wii Fit as it’s quite fun to explore Wuhu Island’s various routes by overtaking your guide and chasing after a dog or cat at specific points during your run. The disappointing thing about this is that there’s only 6 distinct routes to take on the farthest distance setting, and seeing the same sights over and over again gets dull for me,. I thought that the orienteering mode added in Wii Fit U would help to remedy this, as it’s like jogging but with the objective of finding characters dotted around the map from a reference photo, but the game’s insistence that you run at a snail’s pace or “you might injure yourself” and the inadequacies of the gyro control for turning, make this a lot less fun than it should be.
As for other worthwhile aerobic exercises, I can say that the only one that feels like a good workout is the hula hoop (registered trademark). The step aerobics, step boxing and dance games all feel like variants on the same theme and don’t do much to raise the player’s pulse rate or break a sweat.
The majority of the balance games on offer are more suited to being fun party games than actual exercise, as very few of them offer any sort of work out with one or two notable exceptions such as the core luge.
Wii Fit’s issue is that its fun activities are separated from its workouts and therefore there’s little to make you want to come back to it if you aren’t exceptionally motivated to exercise. While the ability to tailor a workout and get some modicum of feedback on your performance is nice, the breaks in between each exercise can be lengthy and often leads to me adding in some dumbell exercises in-between my planned workout so that I have less down time between planned sets. I think that the biggest issue might be that the low amount of content means that it’s difficult to play the game for more than an hour without getting bored from repeating the same exercises.
So I fell out of love with Wii Fit U and my weekly workouts using it became monthly and then dwindled away to nothing. Luckily, Nintendo announced this year that they’re bringing out their next fitness product: Ring Fit Adventure, which looked a lot like it might fix the issues I have with Wii Fit. A lite RPG story with multiple worlds to explore and content which should last roughly 90 hours‽ If that doesn’t automatically sign me up then I don’t know what will…
Image taken from Verge article.
Well, maybe the unwaveringly manic smile of the man they hired for the pre-release video…
So I pre-ordered Ring Fit and decided in the meantime that I’d make some sort of video, to officially get some thoughts out there for anyone who might be interested. Part of this will be working out whether or not Ring Fit is a good fitness aid. For reference, the day before Ring Fit Adventure arrived at my house, I was a 6 foot tall, 68kg man. I take regular exercise in the form of Jiu Jitsu training 2 to 3 times per week for roughly 3-5 hours total exercise per week as well as jogging a few miles a week as well. My weight is usually fairly stable, ranging between 66kg and 72kg. I can’t remember the last time it was much outside of that bracket and even when I overindulge, it tends to return to about the midpoint fairly quickly without much need for a change in diet or increase in exercise. I think I probably have my metabolism to thank for a lot of that.
Here’s where the actual review begins
It was almost immediately apparent upon starting Ring Fit’s Adventure mode that it was going to provide me with a lot of what I felt was missing from Wii Fit U. Within my first 30 minutes of play, I felt more tired than I had at any point during the previous day’s multiple hour Wii Fit session. I tapped out after about 2 hours of playing (roughly 54 minutes of in-game exercise time, which is handily tracked for each play session). For comparison, the first time I got back into Wii Fit after a long hiatus, I was able to do about 3 hours’ worth of play before stopping.
Ring Fit runs you through a quick series of tests before you can get started with the adventure. It tests your pulling and squeezing power to gauge the maximum force you can exert and also asks you how much exercise you normally do and your intended level of exercise. This sets two values for you: The amount of force you need to maintain while doing attack techniques in order to do maximum damage, based off your maximum force score, and a difficulty from 1-30 which corresponds to the number of reps the game will get you to do of each exercise when attacking. The difference between difficulty 1-30 is pretty huge, since you’ll be doing 2 reps of a typical exercise at level one and 37 at level 30, combined with a longer hold time per rep as you increase the difficulty.
This is a stark contrast to Wii Fit U which won’t unlock higher reps of an exercise until you have completed it a few times, regardless of how fit you are or what you think your ability is.
During the main gameplay loop, you’ll spend your time doing aerobic exercises such as jogging, sprinting and high knees running in order to move through the mostly linear paths. Occasionally you’ll stop running in order to open a chest, break a rock or to access one of the game’s more novel forms of transport. All actions in the game, both inside and out of combat, are based on your body’s movements. The gyroscopes in the joy-cons will sense jogging and squatting motions as well as your upper body’s position as you twist or turn. The ring-con peripheral is used to detect pulling and squeezing. If you’re ever confused, there’s always a handy visual representation of your current exercise displayed at the left hand side of the screen.
The paths will occasionally branch, but this just results in a reward such as money or items for taking the upper route vs falling to a lower one. Some early levels will also tease you with routes that are inaccessible until you gain the ability to do a double jump.
Enemies will block your path in most, but not all, of these jogging routes. They can be avoided through use of well timed jumps, but you’ll miss out on gold and experience points. Touching an enemy will bring you into a turn based battle.
Ring fit starts you off with 4 exercises to use for attacks in battle and you unlock more as you explore the world, level up and complete side-quests. I’m a little disappointed with the low number on offer at the start, as you only get to work a few muscle groups until a little later in the game, but it wouldn’t really be an RPG without some sort of progression and skill unlock system and besides, if I just wanted to exercise then I could do it in one of the less fun modes. As you level up, your base stats will increase and once you reach level 40, you start earning skill points for leveling up, which can be put into a skill tree to unlock things like extra slots for attacks in battle, new exercises and bonuses to your stats. This skill tree continues to expand as you reach higher levels.
There’s a surprising amount of strategy to be had when it comes to battling, which becomes more layered as you progress further through the worlds. After the game’s second world, you’ll unlock the ability to do more damage to enemies if you use attacks based on their colour – red are best dealt with by arm exercises, yellow by abs, blue by legs and green by yoga. Some attacks will also hit multiple enemies at a time. In many cases, you’ll want to target a specific enemy to take it out before the rest of a group; for instance: the Yoga Mat based enemies are able to heal themselves and other monsters, dumb-bell type enemies will often telegraph that they are charging up for a more powerful attack and Megaphauna can buff their party and summon back-up.
You can create smoothies when outside of combat which have effects like buffing one exercise colour or giving you a defence boost. Where this gets interesting is when you start to unlock smoothies which change all skills to match their colour. This can be really beneficial because if you get sick of doing squats, for instance, then you can make your arm skills blue. If you end up in a battle with the wrong skillset equipped, it might just bail you out.
The gear you wear will also give bonuses in battle such as a percentage boost to one colour of skills. Some sets will even give bonuses in the field such as faster running speed and health back from high knees jogging.
Bosses will sometimes challenge you with a special move as well, which will often involve you breaking thrown objects by squeezing out blasts of air at them or holding a sustained exercise to win a power struggle. This does a lot to make the boss fights feel a little more unique.
You aren’t given a break during enemy turns either. You can decrease damage taken by putting up a good ab guard by squeezing the ring against your midriff.
Skills go on a cooldown for a couple of turns after use, which is a good way of getting the player to cycle through activities and focus on different muscle groups. I tend to start off with a few exercises I find tiring and then move on to something like a yoga pose to get some stamina back. You can also pause at most points during a battle, even mid-attack. You don’t even need to press a button, the game will just let you leave the ring-con while you go do something else or take a break to recover if necessary.
An issue I take with the combat system, however, is that the damage skills do does not seem to correlate to how hard the exercise is to perform. To play optimally, it would make more sense to use the higher damaging skills, without giving every muscle group a good workout. The damage bonus to coloured enemies does away with this issue a little, but in boss fights and against neutral coloured enemies, this doesn’t really apply. I feel as though 26 reps of overhead presses should do more damage than 40 of high knees, because it feels like I’m putting in more effort with the press. You later unlock level 2 and 3 versions of the same exercises, which are performed in exactly the same way, but do more damage; however, level 2 skills are much stronger than the most powerful level one skills and when all your skills reach level 2, you’re left with the same problem that some are just more powerful than others. Although skills go on cooldown, which stops you from just doing the same one over and over, these are rarely unusable for more than 3 turns.
This could maybe have been remedied by letting players choose how many reps of each exercise they want to do, in exchange for more or less damage output.
There’s a few issues with the combat system other than this: I didn’t have to use healing skills at all during the game. It seemed like a waste of a turn to heal when instead I could just drink as many smoothies as I wanted and attack in the same turn. Since smoothie ingredients are abundant, I never felt the need to hold back on using my healing items. The only time I feared that I might lose a fight was about 2/3rds of the way through the game when I came up against a boss who locked my ability to use smoothies for a couple of turns. I scraped through and although it did lead me to reconsider having at least one healing move on standby for boss fights in future, I still never needed them. As a result, there were a few exercises I never tried out and it would have been nice to have the option to use these as attacks instead of heals, or even as a way to apply debuffs to enemy creatures.
My final issue with combat is that a lot of the moves rely on you switching sides half-way through your reps. If you defeat an enemy before the transition, you may end up only working out one side of your body. A better solution would be to have you finish your exercise, regardless of if the enemy is defeated and then just have the enemy fly off after finishing.
The sound design during fights is very clever. The game’s soundtrack is quite catchy, if a little repetitive, but it has a good rhythm to it which helps with workouts during fights. Depending on what type of exercise you are performing, the song will adapt to make it easier to get the rhythm right. Fast, repetitive motions come with a clapping metronome-like percussion line whereas music takes on a more ethereal quality during yoga poses, which helps to encourage the player to slow down their movements.
The game does a very good job, just via sound, of making you aware when an attack is fully charged and whether you are in the correct position to get maximum power. A little “Shwing” noise will indicate that you’re in the best position, have reached maximum force or that you’ve charged a yoga pose enough. There’s also a distinct audio cue when it’s time to complete an action. As well as all of this, your sidekick, Ring, will give you encouragement, exercise tips and will help to keep you in time.
I really enjoy exploring the world of Ring Fit because it’s quite pretty and a lot of the enemies have really fun and cute designs. The Kettlebells look like dogs and are aptly named Kennelbells, Belldogs and Pitbells and I love the resting animation on the Puffersquish. There’s a lot of character in the animations and the enemies always look fearful in anticipation of your incoming attack. It’s just a shame that towards the end of the game, rather than change the enemy designs slightly again as had been done previously, the enemies just gain a dark aura.
The named characters you meet along the way are often endearing and you’re never too far away from some sort of exercise related pun. Characters have names like Dashley, Allegra and Abdonis, you’ll converse with Sportan Warriors and later chapters take cues from classic stories such as the wings of icarus and the wizard of oz. Many characters make repeat appearances and they’re all infused with a fair amount of character. I found that I liked most of the characters in the story, even Ring whose cheery personality I initially thought might get annoying.
One thing that can really break immersion though is that many of the courses across different worlds are exactly the same, just at a different time of day or with a few extra obstacles to smash through. There’s a few common themes for levels, such as factory, marshland and hilly grassland, which I don’t mind being reused, but the issue is that you might see the exact same level geometry two chapters in a row. It’s more of a problem in the earlier chapters as later on the game starts to layer more obstacles and depth into the paths you take, including a heavier emphasis on platforming once you can double jump, but you’ll still see repeats of the levels without any of the more interesting gimmicks in the later chapters as well.
Other than running and battling, there are also twelve fitness themed mini-games, each with Novice and Advanced difficulties, which can add a little extra variety to your journey. Some of these, such as thigh rider, aerochute and bootstrap tower represent a fairly good workout while also being fun and a little challenging to get a perfect score on. Some are just plain fun, like robo-wrecker – a whack-a-mole-esque game, and Squattery Wheel in which you squat and squeeze to shape clay. To be completely honest though, most of them aren’t really engaging enough to be repeated more than a couple of times in quick succession as a handful of tries will likely net an S rank. Some like bank balance and gluting gallery are easy enough that I had perfected them within two or three attempts and the advanced level did little to make them seem any harder. These are however definitely a better workout than most of the more party focused mini-games in Wii Fit.
It’s fun to break up your journey with them occasionally, especially since you’ll often be rewarded with a useful item for completing them.
Some of the movements displayed in mini-games show up in later jogging routes of the adventure. The bootstrap tower climbs are the most obvious example of this. It’s a shame that thigh rider and aerochute couldn’t be expanded and utilised as movement mechanics in the core game as well, since this could have added a little more variety to the main adventure.
All of the mini games can be played from the quick-play menu, presumably so they can be shown off in a party atmosphere, but I wouldn’t say that the replayability of any of these is enough that it’ll capture the attention of a crowd for long. Part of this is because you have to take the games in turns and doffing and donning the leg strap between each player is a little annoying. If the mini games could be played by multiple people simultaneously then it would be a lot more fun as a group. You can also challenge your friends to see how many times they can pull or squeeze the ring con in a set timeframe and see how many of certain exercises you can do before getting tired. Again, I don’t think that these would be the most fun thing to do at a party.
Villagers will present you with sidequests as you complete events in each world. Generally, these are just to return to a level and complete it again with an added challenge such as sprinting through a cardio based level in a certain time limit or breaking a certain number of crates before reaching the goal. For minigame focused side-quest, you are most often tasked to achieve a certain score within a set time limit or without touching any bombs. I found these most often to be quite repetitive and quickly stopped taking them unless they offered a useful reward such as items of clothing, new fit skills or stat boosting items. An issue with this approach though, is that some sidequests aren’t available until you complete earlier ones in the chapter. I was rarely short on cash or ingredients, so those didn’t make for a great incentive to repeat the same level I had just run through. In fact, by the end of the game I had enough money to purchase all available outfits that I had skipped along the way.
In terms of the length of the game, it will vary greatly depending on your exercise difficulty setting. Lower difficulty means fewer reps which means a shorter campaign as battles take less time. My battles always seem to drag on because I have my difficulty set quite high (initially at 24 and later increased steadily up to 28 for the last few worlds). This means I’m doing much more muscle training than cardio. If you simply want to go for a jog while experiencing a cheery story, you could slide the difficulty right down and just sprint through the adventure.
My total adventure time came in at roughly 38 exercise hours which correlated to about 75 real-time hours of play. Somewhere between 1 and 2 exercise hours of this play time was spent replaying levels and mini games to get additional footage for this review. If I had completed every sidequest then it would have added 2 or three more exercise hours at most. If I had played on the hardest difficulty from the start of the game then I could definitely see the 90 hour figure from the pre-release article I mentioned earlier as entirely accurate.
What’s more is that the game isn’t over when you reach the credits. After finally beating Dragaux, you unlock harder versions of all the original worlds, with the difficulty scaled up to match what your suggested level is at the end of the main game. The advanced worlds don’t add any additional strategy or enemies, from what I’ve seen so far, but there’s new dialogue during story moments and new gear to collect as you revisit these older areas. While it doesn’t change much about the game, it’s nice to have some incentive to continue playing past the game’s natural conclusion, rather than having to start over again from scratch in order to re-experience the world.
If for any reason, you want to forego adventuring and just do a set of exercises, you can also put together your own routines or work through bespoke ones already programmed into the game. As you follow these through, the game will score your performance. Exercise time and calories burned, as well as total reps completed, are all added to your totals from adventure mode, which is nice.
There are some limitations to this mode though: You can only save 3 routines at a time and each of these can only hold 10 exercises. Personally, I would prefer to be able to make longer sets and save at least 4 so that I could separate out abs, legs, arms and yoga.
Summary and Conclusions
I’ve really enjoyed my time with Ring Fit Adventure. It’s definitely a lot more fun than Wii Fit and probably the most fun I’ve ever had working out. Although the battles would sometimes drag on for a bit too long, I never felt bored for any extensive period. There were definitely days where I wanted to play more of the game because I was enjoying myself so much, but I had to stop because I was just too tired to continue.
In terms of how effective it is as a form of exercise; I can say that I have felt my stamina improve which can be quantified by the fact that I’ve been able to play for longer at a time and on a harder difficulty level since starting. My arms definitely look more toned than they did before starting but I’m not too certain about my abs or legs. The thousands of squats and hundreds of Russian twists I’ve performed have likely had some beneficial effect on those muscle groups though.
In terms of weight loss, I measured myself after 2 weeks of an average of 2 hours Ring Fit Exercise Time per day. This was while trying to keep my diet and other levels of exercise (such as the aforementioned jogging and jiu jitsu) the same. The result was 3 kilograms weight loss. It’s probably the lowest I’ve weighed all year so it’s definitely been effective.
With all that said, I wouldn’t advise anyone to go as hard at this game as I did. I went at it full force with the goal of writing and editing this review as quickly as possible, while also trying to get the full experience. I think that it would be much better to do an hour or two, two to four times per week in order to have rest time between sessions and not to tire yourself out. There were days when I would wake up aching all over because I was pushing to get through this game as fast as possible.
A slower schedule will also allow you to savour the game and take it at a good pace, finishing a chapter or two per week.
I think the game is a great way to exercise for anyone who possesses low to moderate levels of fitness. If you already go to the gym a few times a week then it’s unlikely to push you as much as it pushes me, but it might still be a fun way to burn some additional calories or work out some different muscle groups if you normally only focus on one.
I’m certainly going to continue with Ring Fit Adventure over the next few months, albeit at a much slower pace. I want to see everything that the New Game Plus mode has to offer and when I’m done with that, I may even start the game over again and set myself additional challenges such as not using smoothies in battle.
I hope that this game sees some real success and that Nintendo makes a sequel or spiritual successor at some point in the future because I’ve really enjoyed it and I’d love to see what else the ring-con has to offer.
List of nitpicks that didn’t make it into the video review
- The game constantly feels the need to remind you of how to do exercises:
If you haven’t played the game in a couple of days then it will tell you how to do basic things like victory poses at the end of levels and will force you to play a 10-15 second tutorial for each mini-game
It may be for calibration purposes, but you’ll often be shown the tooltip for how to ab-press on enemy turns even though you’ve done it 10 times already in the fight
- Some of the exercises just don’t feel like they pick up my movements very well; although it may be the way that I’m performing these actions
Mountain climbers and revolved crescent lunges were the worst offenders
- The game will ask you after about 10 minutes of exercise if you want to take a break and cool-down and it will keep asking you after every level you complete until you eventually finish
More than one time I have accidentally said that I do want to finish because it is the default selection
- I think that the pulse rate monitor is pointless and that it doesn’t work very well and I rarely used it
ShinyMissingno likes it and uses it after almost every course
- Character customisation is very limited: It’s just eye, hair and skin colour (other than clothing)
- I found it quite difficult to make sure that the leg strap wouldn’t just spring open as I was exercising and I’d often have to re-strap or re-adjust it
- The game’s online ranking system stopped updating for me and I couldn’t tell if I had reclaimed my #1 spot for hours exercising by the time my review was finished
Little bits of praise that I didn’t include in the video review
- The game offers to do a warm up and cool-down stretching with you before and after every session
These were actually really helpful and helped to prevent and reduce my levels of pain
- The game gives you extra tips on nutrition and healthy living
- Multi-task mode lets you earn experience just for squeezing the ring while doing something else while watching TV
- As well as time exercising, the game also tracks calories burned and total distance jogged
- Late in the game, some animals and robots from the mini-games appear as enemies in battle
They don’t change anything strategically but it’s nice to have a little visual change in the enemies you are fighting
- If playing with sound off, it’s fairly easy to tell when you have completed a rep of an exercise through the joy-con’s vibration
- You can fully adjust volume levels for BGM, SFX and Voiceover
Post Review Content and Impressions and additional bits and bobs
I didn’t go into any details on the silent or assist modes in the bulk of the review. In silent mode, you move through the world by doing little squats instead of running on the spot. Everything else is performed as normal and it’s up to you to choose exercises which don’t make much noise. I tried this while at my parents’ house so as not to disturb them in the morning when I woke up early with an urge to exercise. While not as intense as jogging on the spot, the knee bobbing gets the job done.
If you have a bad back, bad shoulders, bad abs or bad knees, the game has some assist mode options that allow you to use button presses, rather than exercises, to perform movements through the world. It doesn’t change anything in battle, so you still have to pick moves yourself that you are capable of, but the game can be played to completion by people who don’t have the use of their legs, for example, by activating the knee assist mode.
Image shamelessly stolen from laurakbuzz because I was too lazy to boot my Switch
The New Game + is very much just a re-tread of things you’ve done before. Since you’re better equipped for the first few worlds compared with how your skills were at the same point in the first run, you really blitz through these levels. I’m now playing on difficulty 30 (and I was on 28 when I finished the game) which feels like a big step up. Bosses have a lot of health in NG+ and therefore the battles with Dragaux can take a long time.
There aren’t any side-quests in NG+ which means that worlds feel less padded and it will probably be quicker to complete over all. All new armour sets are the same as the ones you unlocked in each world on your first go around but they’re called things like “Blue Aurora II”. There are new smoothie recipes to unlock though but I haven’t found any yet which have cool new effects.
You can still go back to the main adventure to mop up side-quests you may have missed and you can re-experience the game’s ending and credits at any time by beating the final level again. The credits are quite cool because the music changes in them dynamically if you push or pull the ring-con.
Some of the side-quests haven’t unlocked for me in a few worlds. It may just be because I need to complete other side-quests first, but there’s also some which are locked behind a level requirement. When you hit the required level, special battle challenges open up in some worlds.
I’ve talked with ShinyMissingno about her experiences with the game and she’s been taking it slower on my advice, doing a few hours a week across a few sessions. She’s also enjoying it a lot. She tells me that she has had a little more trouble with boss fights due to a shortage of healing smoothies and tells me that she has been using the healing moves that I ignored. She has a tendency to play a little more cautiously than I would though, so it’s understandable that if you were over-cautious with healing, you may need to resort to healing using exercise techniques. I was also quite over-leveled for most of the main adventure. From about world 10 onwards, I think I was about 10 levels higher than the recommended and by the end of the game, I was 31 levels higher than recommended. This comes from a combination of doing a lot of the side-quests, wearing Exp boosting fitness gear and daily use of the “Multitask mode” which allows you to earn bonus experience, money and smoothies from pulling and squeezing the ring-con while your switch is in sleep mode.
overall score: 7 brides for 7 brothers
For reference, that’s less than 7 Samurai but more than 7 Pounds and it’s somewhere about the square root of Se7en
Thanks for reading or watching this review. I might do more in future if I get inspired to do something again.
I haven’t really proof-read this too hard but I might come back and do it in future. The bulk of it probably reads a bit weirdly because it was written for voice-over rather than for readability as a blog post. I may also periodically update my post-review impressions.