Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventure doesn’t need long to get players sweating.
Which is a good thing, as exercise games requiring mandatory physical add-on features that come in costlier than normal games always risk coming off gimmicky, if not overlooked.
Not here. Ring Fit Adventure is a full-blown exercise gauntlet and true gym companion featuring a Ring-Con and Leg Strap combo. Those gadgets blend well with a solid RPG-type experience and some sheer fun gameplay to forge Nintendo’s best health-oriented hit since Wii Fit.
Presentation and Gameplay
Ring Fit Adventure is a charming, colorful-looking game with lots of emotion and detail to keep things engaging.
And engaging is the key word here, as making exercise fun isn’t exactly something anyone has nailed down perfectly for a long time, inside of video games or out. But the visual feasts for the eyes thanks to a cartoonish style makes it all come together nicely.
Players will traverse plenty of varied landscapes over the course of a story billed as more than 100 levels in 20-plus worlds. These span grassy planes with interesting scenery to muddy swamps and more. It helps the sound design matches the world, with some of the early cutscenes giving off some almost Legend of Zelda-ish vibes. The sounds and chatter quickly become pleasant background noise and don’t impede on the monotony of working out as it is, which is half the battle.
The overall premise is simple. Players slot one Joy-Con into the Ring-Con and another into the Leg Strap, which fastens around a thigh. The ring is tense and the main function of the gameplay. A player’s character navigates a set course throughout varied environments. Turn it and squeeze to send out fireballs. Turn it down and squeeze to jump, for starters. The Leg Strap detects walking, running and jogging.
It doesn’t stay that simple for long, of course. Longer jumps require longer squeeze. Getting up stairs requires high-stepping. Environmental interactions like cannons require squats. Stringing this all together is an absolute blast that requires reaction times and starts shaving calories quickly. Reaching the end of one level leads to the next, and players navigate the worlds via overworld maps reminiscent of Mario games.
Within the world navigation are the battles against monsters that almost have a Pokemon vibe to them. This is a turn-based RPG at this point. Players select an exercise, and their performance during reps dictates how much damage they dole out. On the defensive, players must turn the ring and squeeze it into their stomach, bracing for and withstanding attacks.
The integration of RPG systems here is both unexpected and ends up defining the experience in a great way. There are color-coded attack types to worry about, more unlockable moves, unlockable outfits and ingredient collecting to craft buffs.
This hasn’t touched on the story itself, though that ends up taking a backseat quickly for non-children players. After finding a talking Ring, players set off in pursuit of the big bad Dragaux, a muscle-laden bodybuilding dragon. It’s exactly what it sounds like, though notably, it has that same Nintendo charm and DNA that makes all their games memorable.
But the real meat of the experience is the RPG systems within, which end up pairing nicely with a sense of real-world progression in the health realm. The game manages to never feel like a poor time investment and it is going to take a long, long time for players to beat the story mode. This isn’t just inflated by players only physically being able to do so much per day—there’s just a lot of content here and little of it feels tacked on to draw out the experience.
With an unexpected in-depth package to complement the exercise side, Ring Fit Adventure hits on some surprising notes with an engrossing game-y side of things.
Switch Functionality and Fitness Potential
This is an impressive feat for Nintendo from a functionality perspective.
Getting the game up and running isn’t difficult. Assembling the Joy-Cons is intuitive and becomes second nature almost immediately. And the functionality does some unexpected things. It’s never hard to feel vibration from the controller strapped to the ring, for example. And that same Joy-Con can measure heart rate.
Also intuitive is simple navigation. Players can use the ring functionality to get through menus and dialogue, or simply press buttons normally on the Joy-Con attached to the ring.
As an exercise device, Ring Fit Adventure is surprisingly capable. Upon initial boot-up or character creation, players enter status such as weight and height, then the game puts them through some stress tests such as pulling as hard as they can on the ring to measure strength.
It’s a rather robust, customizable experience that does a good job of accurately tailoring the experience to each person’s physical capabilities. It ends up tracking results and details by the days and months quite well, too.
Within the game, charts and step-by-step instructions do a good job of helping the inexperienced keep pace. It isn’t perfect, as universal exercise practices aren’t realistic, but the game does a good job of keeping things safe and sweaty while the calorie counts climb.
If players don’t fancy the story side of things, they can also attack the exercises in quick play guided fitness routines and party activities. Straight-up choosing a set of body parts to work is there, too.
There isn’t multiplayer here, nor is there an option to go at it without the accessories (understandable, but needs said).
Also baked into the functionality side is a mode called Multitasking, which enables progress with the ring to be tracked and accredited to players—even with the Switch console powered off.
In the long run, this isn’t going to be any sort of gym replacement, nor is it advertised as such. But it’s an incredibly fun complement at worst. It has all-encompassing appeal that helps welcome the rawest of the raw to the scene and will put the athletic types to a strenuous test. There’s a little bit of something here for every sort of player, with some impressive functionality and tech reinforcing the whole experience.
It’s fitting Nintendo has forged a smash hit with Ring Fit Adventure, as previous forays into making exercise fun have quickly been quite good.
But Ring Fit Adventure is on a whole different level of quality in this arena. The Nintendo flair longtime fans of the company have come to expect is weaved throughout the game. And for those who classify exercise games on any console as potential shovelware, the shock of quality and actual fitness value here should register as one of the year’s top surprises.
Thanks to the Nintendo polish and a superb ability to adapt the experience to each individual user’s fitness level, never mind the RPG-styled replayability layered throughout, Ring Fit Adventure is more than just a stellar addition to the Switch’s library. Viewed as a whole, it’s a feat for the genre and can serve as a fun, albeit important, tool for a gamer’s lifestyle.