Exercise for the sake of living a healthy lifestyle or getting jacked has never been a strong enough motivator for me to do it. Many forms of exercise aren’t fun in and of themselves. However, if the exercise is tied to some sort of sport, game, or activity, I’m more likely to buy in. For example, I never could find the motivation to run for the sake of running, but I’ll hightail it in a game of basketball.
That philosophical difference between running and playing basketball is largely the same thing that separates Wii Fit and Ring Fit Adventure.
Wii Fit deserves a lot of credit for the advent of gamifying exercise. Yet in all honesty, it didn’t take the concept very far. Save for a handful of short-lived mini games, the brunt of the Wii’s wildly popular fitness title centred around tutorials for each exercise. Novel for its time, but sorely lacking in gameplay as a motivator. I ditched it long before achieving any sort of physical benefits because it ultimately proved to be exercise for the sake of exercise.
Ring Fit Adventure goes much further in its approach to gamifying exercise. At its core is a lengthy RPG with many of the trappings one would expect from a video game. Dozens of levels to traverse. Enemies to fight. Items to collect. Experience points to earn. New moves to unlock. One would almost confuse it for a regular video game if it weren’t for all of the exercise it has you doing.
That combination of exercise wrapped in a traditional game framework creates a surprisingly compelling video game and workout. I’m more willing to high-step when my character is trudging through mud. I clench my abs extra hard when blocking enemy attacks. It makes sense for me to pull the Ring-Con controller during the game’s running phases to collect coins, even when the coins don’t seem to be mission critical. Even the goofy victory pose at the end of each level feels satisfying, especially after knocking Dragaux down a peg. In spite of my distaste for traditional exercise, I’ve adored my time with Ring Fit Adventure for everything it does to make working out play like an actual video game.
Though I’m not very far into the game’s campaign as of writing, it’s already shown me how it’s going to keep me engaged over the course of many sessions. Besides wanting to see the story from beginning to end, you’ll unlock new exercises along the way, helping players keep their workouts fresh. Furthermore, there are unique gameplay wrinkles added to each new world, from new obstacles to overcome, to mini games that also find a great balance between entertainment and exercise.
Speaking of which, the workout it provides is no joke. While you’re given a ton of leeway to tune the duration and intensity to your specifications, the game’s level structure cleverly guides you through a full-body workout. On the move, you’re jogging or high-stepping in place while squeezing or pulling the Ring-Con to interact with the world. During battles, you’re performing a series of exercise moves that inflict damage on your enemies while also working every part of your body. Everything is well-paced in a way to work your whole body in a safe manner while still making you work a sweat.
As a perfect compliment to the game’s compelling software, you’ll control the action with the Ring-Con and leg strap. The former is a special Pilates ring that the right Joy-Con connects to. In tandem, they read when you move, squeeze, or pull on the ring. Strapped to your left leg is the left Joy-Con. Between the two, they give you 40 different exercises to perform. This approach feels like a much better input for exercise than the Wii Balance Board, as it allows for a wider range of exercises that work the whole body. Just make sure to lock the strap in real tight to prevent it from slipping around.
Though I’m a ways away from finishing enough of the content within Ring Fit Adventure to provide a proper review, my early impressions of it are glowing. Pairing exercise within the context of an RPG proves to be a winning combination. It’s motivating me to get active in a similar way that sports or video games inspire me to take action. Remains to be seen if it’s enough to carry me through the full campaign and beyond, but I’m excited to find out and work up a sweat along the way.
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