Welcome to my new series: Why It’s Good. In these articles, I will be dissecting the good out of various video games and placing them on a simple, yet delicious, platter for you to enjoy.
Wii Fit, and the rest of the Wii series of games, is incredible. There is an unexplainable magic to some of Nintendo’s releases during the Wii days, mixing arcade simplicity with physical tangibility through Wiimotes. Making Grandma play on the “Nintendo” was no small feat, but of course that magic couldn’t, and wouldn’t, last forever.
I would wager that the Wii series of games peaked at Wii Sports Resort and then spiraled down with the siren tune blaring away (Wii U Wii U Wii U). And yet, from the graves of Wii Sports, Wii Play, Wii Fit, Wii Party, and even Wii Music, hope sprouted in 2019 when Nintendo dropped a quirky little video of people exercising with a plastic circle.
This was it, the glorious return of Wii Fit, I could finally be healthy, thanks to Nintendo.
Shortly after that mysterious video, they formally revealed Ring Fit Adventure, a turn-based RPG exercise adventure featuring a pilates ring and a leg strap. That is amazing, and might I say‒genius. Think about it. Turn-based RPGs are slow, asking you to methodically choose and execute from a list of moves. Fitness perfectly fits into that idea because each yoga pose, arm exercise, rhythmic workout all take time to execute in the real world.
The structure of the adventure asks the player to physically run world to world, defeating enemies through this combat, while chasing after Dragaux. Toxic gym culture manifests into a massive ripped dragon for this game’s Bowser stand-in, giving the adventure a “story”. Overall, Ring Fit Adventure sounds extremely good as a fitness game on paper, but how well does it execute this idea? Very well, of course.
Video games about real exercise are a good idea, because by existing within a largely sedentary hobby, they encourage people who might be susceptible to an unhealthy lifestyle into working out while gaming. Ring Fit Adventure surpasses every preceding exercise game by doing a truly great job of encouraging exercise. It approaches the line between game and exercise with such delicacy, being loaded with game-y incentives to keep the player going while also not being afraid of tiring them to their limit.
The titular adventure is exactly what you’d expect. Each world is a pretty hiking trail that the player jogs through, while engaging their arms by pushing and pulling on the Ring-con to interact with the environment. While this offers a decent workout in itself, the trail is also littered with monsters; run into them to begin a battle. Similarly to “real” turn-based RPGs, you see the monsters in a row and your options to defeat them. It has some unique complexities, but the real attraction of the battles are guided exercises. This is where everything in Ring Fit resides. There are a ton of exercises that act as attacks, ranging from planking, yoga tree poses, timing-based aerobic moves, to even a simulated bow. More is more with exercise options because, as the game explains, diversity is a key factor to an effective workout. While I think it would be a greatly appreciated addition if they added more in an update, the current lineup of exercises is more than sufficient. You could probably make Ring Fit Adventure your exclusive workout regimen for the rest of your life and be pretty healthy (Editor's note: Please consult with your trusted health professional before making Ring Fit Adventure your lifelong exercise regimen).
Expanding on that hypothetical, you might be wondering how much content Ring Fit packs, because longevity is critical for any sort of work out program, video game or not. How long is the adventure? Well, as a workout program? Very, exceedingly long. As a game? Too long! I think it’s silly when people attempt to review Ring Fit Adventure because as a game it is pretty mediocre, stretching the same content out for hundreds of hours alongside what is quite literally the worst RPG story that I have witnessed. But this isn’t just a game and those qualities that would be unattractive in a game critique are actually what makes Ring Fit so great. It’s long, dude. While actively playing the game at least five days a week, it took me about six months to reach the “end” of the adventure, and I’m the only person I know that has gotten anywhere near there. That alone should be impressive enough to tell you that this game has killer longevity, but it pulls a sneaky hit after the credits roll with an expansie New Game+ mode that continues the story, essentially doubling the length of the game. I’m still working through that, so for all I know there’s a New Game++.
If you aren’t in the mood to adventure alongside the characterization of the Ring-con, “Ring,” there are also custom modes and quick play modes that offer customizable workouts and short bursts of leaderboard-based exercise. I found myself attracted to these side modes almost as much as the main campaign because of how refined and quick they are. Sometimes I don’t have the time to play a game that happens to be exercise, so it is appreciated to have an option to just do some exercise within a game because it’s familiar structure and helpful guides make exercising noticeably easier.
Nearly every exercise utilizes the unique Ring-con, which I somehow haven’t explained yet. It’s a glorious product. It just feels so solid and cute. It’s just a squishy plastic ring that uses a Joy-con controller to sense movement, strength, and even heart rate. While some exercises such as mountain climbers don’t utilize it, most of the activities are essentially holding the ring at different angles and pulling or pushing in different ways to work different muscle groups. It’s great! It’s good!
On top of all the “gamey” stuff, Ring Fit shows that Nintendo worked with some real health experts while crafting the game. It is loaded with health tips, advice, form tutorials, and generally gives off an intelligent vibe with that Nintendo charm. It wants you to be healthy, and it caters surprisingly well, even asking if it's being too overbearing or not. Combined, it drives home the idea that this package isn’t a “game first, exercise second” or even vice versa; this is a video game exercise program in every sense of it that doesn’t lean too hard on either side like every attempt that came before it.
This final note has a smooth, delightful truth to it that I have never been able to utilize with any other game: this isn’t a taste-based video game product, so I don’t have to say “eh well, yeah I don’t know, you’ll probably like it but I don’t know you, but who knows” and blabber on about subjectivity. Ring Fit Adventure is good, full stop. If you are a human, this game is for you and you will like it, sweat with it, and appreciate it. If you aren’t, can you take me to your home planet please?