We played Nintendo's weird new fitness game and we're still sore.
Given the phenomenal success Nintendo found with Wii Fit--the series has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide--it comes as no surprise that the company would continue dabbling in fitness-inspired games. Last year saw the release of Fitness Boxing, and next month will bring Ring Fit Adventure, a clear spiritual successor to the Wii Fit line. Much like the hit Wii game, Ring Fit comes packaged with an unusual peripheral that translates exercises into in-game actions, but the upcoming title differentiates itself from Nintendo's previous fitness experiments by marrying exercise with stronger, RPG-inspired gameplay hooks.
We recently had a chance to go hands-on with Ring Fit Adventure at a demo event in New York. The centerpiece of the game is the titular Adventure mode, which takes you through a series of linear stages laden with obstacles, collectible items, and enemies. To maneuver through these levels, you strap the left Joy-Con to your leg and jog in place; the quicker you jog, the faster your on-screen avatar will move. As you play, you also hold the game's signature accessory, the circular Ring-Con, in your hands like a steering wheel and use it to perform in-game actions. Despite its simple appearance, the Ring-Con is actually an electronic device that can register your inputs. Squeezing it will fire off a gust of air, which can destroy certain objects and reveal hidden items, while pulling it will vacuum up coins and other collectibles.
As you make your way through stages, you encounter obstacles that require an extra bit of effort to traverse. Come to a staircase, for instance, and you'll need to do knee lifts to climb it, and you can fire a gust of air at the ground to propel yourself over chasms. As someone who can admittedly stand to hit the gym more, traversing stages in Adventure mode certainly felt like a proper workout and caused me to work up a sweat, but most intensive were the Fit Battles.
While venturing through a stage, you occasionally run into monsters blocking your path, triggering a turn-based battle. During these encounters, you select from a series of different "fit skills," then use the Ring-Con to perform that exercise and attack the foes. Perform the exercise in time with the on-screen prompts and you'll deal extra damage. Each foe and fit skill is also color-coded, lending a bit of strategy to battles. Attack an enemy with a fit skill of the same color and you'll inflict even more damage. During the enemies' attack phase, meanwhile, you'll need to press the Ring-Con against your abdomen to execute an Ab Guard; the longer you press it, the stronger your defense will be. Even in the few basic Fit Battles we played, it was easy to see how intensive these encounters could be; it took numerous reps to whittle down the monsters' health, and each fit skill has a cooldown timer after it is used, forcing you to switch up the exercises you do while battling.
Your progress in Adventure mode is tied together by some RPG elements. Defeating monsters and clearing levels will net you experience points, which in turn level up your character. Much like in a proper RPG, your stats increase as you level up. You'll also gradually unlock different gear for your avatar, and the collectible ingredients you find in stages can be turned into smoothies, which confer buffs and other beneficial perks. Together, these elements help gamify exercising in Ring Fit Adventure, giving you more of an incentive to stick with the game than Wii Fit did.
As in Wii Fit, however, if you simply want to jump into the exercises without having to play through the Adventure mode, you'll be able to create a "fitness playlist" to customize your own routine. The game also features a quick-play option that lets you jump into short exercises that focus on specific muscle groups. Rounding out the package is an assortment of different mini-games that can be played using the Ring-Con. We only got to sample one of these during our hands-on session, but it was a fun take on Whack-a-Mole, requiring us to turn the Ring-Con and squeeze or pull it to smack robots that popped out of different holes.
Whether or not Ring Fit Adventure will be compelling enough to encourage players to lose weight and get into shape remains to be seen, but the fact that I'm still sore from my time playing is certainly proof that it is at least putting my fitness to the test. Ring Fit Adventure launches for Nintendo Switch on October 18. The game retails for $80 and comes bundled with the Ring-Con and leg strap accessories. However, much like the Nintendo Labo line, it isn't suited for the new Nintendo Switch Lite, as it cannot be played in handheld mode and requires you to slot Joy-Cons into its corresponding accessories, so if you're interested in picking it up, you'll need to have the standard Switch model.