Nintendo has a long history when it comes to exercise-driven games. I’m dating myself, but I can say I remember playing Track & Field on NES with the Power Pad. How far we’ve come! Ring Fit Adventure is a full-body workout for grown-ups, but fun, gentle, and ridiculous enough to forget it’s exercise.
The game and accessories were announced in September, coming as a complete surprise even considering Nintendo’s constant but hit-and-miss attempts at keeping its players healthy. What really threw people off was that this game actually looked like… a game. And so it is!
Ring Fit Adventure has you, the unnamed and (naturally) mute protagonist, journeying through a series of worlds and levels chasing after Dragaux, a swole dragon who’s infecting the land with… something. Maybe he’s not wiping down the equipment afterwards. Come on, man.
Playing with these virtual versions of the controllers gives you a real feel for how solid the motion detection is.
Anyway, you do this by using the Joy-Cons in a new and strange form: the Ring-Con and leg strap. The latter is pretty self-explanatory, but the ring must be explained. It’s a thick plastic resistance ring that you squeeze from the edges or pull apart. It detects how hard you’re squeezing it through the other Joy-Con, which slots into the top. (The strap and ring grips are washable, by the way.)
The two controllers combined can detect all kinds of movements, from squats and leg lifts to rotations, presses, balancing, and yoga poses. You’ll need them all if you’re going to progress in the game.
Each level is a path that you travel down by actually jogging in real life (or high stepping if you’re in goo), while using the Ring-Con to interact with the environment. Aim and squeeze to send out a puff of air that opens a door or propels you over an obstacle, or pull it apart to suck in distant coins. Press it against your abs to crush rocks, do squats to open chests — you get the idea.
I haven’t gotten this one yet, but it looks handy. I could use a stronger arm-based multi-monster attack.
Of course you encounter enemies as well, which you dispatch with a variety of exercises targeting different muscle groups. Do a few arm presses over your head for some basic damage, or hit multiple enemies with some hip rotations. Each exercise has you do a number of reps, which turn into damage, before defending against enemy attacks with an “Ab Guard.”
The ring and leg strap seem almost magical in their ability to track your motion in all kinds of ways, though some are no doubt only inferred or fudged (as when you lift the leg without the strap). A missed motion happened so rarely over thousands of them that I ceased to think at all about it, which is about the highest compliment you can give a control method like this. Yet it’s also forgiving enough that you won’t feel the need to get everything right down the millimeter. You can even check your pulse by putting your thumb on the IR sensor of the right Joy-Con. Who knew?
As you progress, you unlock new exercises with different uses or colors — and you soon are able to fight more strategically by matching muscle group coloring (red is arms, purple legs, etc) with enemies of the same type. It’s hardly Fire Emblem, but it’s also a lot more than anyone has every really expected from a fitness game.
The red guys are like, “yeah… do him first.”
In fact, so much care and polish has clearly gone into this whole operation that’s it’s frequently surprising; there are so many things that could have been phoned in an not a single one is. The exercises are thoughtfully selected and explained in a friendly manner; the monsters and environments show great attention to detail. There’s no punishment for failure except restarting a level — the first time I “died,” I expected a little sass from my chatty companion, Ring, but it just popped me back to the map with nary a word.
Throughout is a feeling of acceptance and opportunity rather than pressure to perform. You can quit at any time and it doesn’t chide you for abandoning your quest or not burning enough calories. If you decide not to do the warm-up stretch, Tabb just says “OK!” and moves on. When you perform a move, it’s either “good” or “great,” or it reminds you of the form and you can try again. Whenever you start, you can change the difficulty, which I believe is reps, damage, and other soft counts, since it can’t increase the resistance of the Ring-Con.
There’s no pressure to change your body and no gendered expectations; Your exercise demonstration model/avatar, Tabb, is conspicuously androgynous. Your character is a pretty cut specimen of your preferred gender, to be sure. And Dragaux himself is a sort of parody of oblivious, musclebound gym bunnies (“He’s working out while planning his next workout,” the game announced one time as he skipped an attack to do some bicep curls). But even he, Ring mentions at one point, used to be very insecure about his body. Importantly, there’s nothing about the game that feels targeted to getting a certain type of person a certain type of fit.
I’m not a trainer or fitness expert, but so far the variety of exercises also feels solid. It’s all very low-impact stuff, and because it’s resistance ring and body weight only, there’s a sort of core-strengthening yoga style to it all. This isn’t about getting ripped, but you’ll be surprised how sore you are after taking down a few enemies with a proper-form chair pose.
If you don’t want to play the adventure mode, there are minigames to collect and short workouts you can customize. Honestly some of these would make better party games than half the stuff on 1-2-Switch.
As I’ve been playing the game and discussing it with friends, I found myself wanting more out of the game side. I’m hoping Ring Fit Adventure will be a success so that Nintendo will green light a new, deeper version with more complex RPG elements. Sure, you can change your outfit here for a little extra defense or whatnot, but I want to take this concept further — I know the fundamentals are sound, so I’d like to see them built on.
It feels like until now there have been few ways to really gamify fitness, except the most elementary, like step tracking. The two separate motion controllers and the smart ways they’re used to track a variety of exercises really feel like an opportunity to do something bigger. Plus once people have bought the accessories, they’re much more likely to buy matching software.
My main criticisms would be that it’s a bit limiting at the beginning. There’s no choice to, for example, prioritize or deprioritize a certain type of exercise. I could probably stand to jog more and do arm stuff less, and I dreaded having to resort to squats for the first few worlds. And the constant instruction on how and when to do everything can be wearing — it would be nice to be able to set some things to “expert mode” and skip the tutorials.
The game and accessories will set you back $80. If you consider it simply as buying a game, it’s an expensive gimmick. But I don’t think that’s the way to think about it. The target audience here is people who likely don’t have a gym membership, something that can cost $50-$100 a month. As a fun and effective fitness tool that does what it sets out to do and does so in a praiseworthy way, I think $80 is a very reasonable asking price.
The mobile version of Nintendo’s iconic racing franchise, Mario Kart Tour, will soon support multiplayer races, bringing the game closer to its competitive roots. A limited multiplayer beta test is planned for December, just in time for holiday laziness, but only for paying subscribers — the rest of us will have to wait.
Mario Kart has had a focus on multiplayer since its first (and best, in my opinion) appearance on the SNES, with multiple modes available pitting players together in real time. So despite Mario Kart Tour’s general excellence as far as gameplay and variety, players have been disappointed by the lack of that core aspect of the game.
Sure, you can post high scores and best times, but that’s nothing compared with the feeling of coming from behind in a hard-fought race and beating out half a dozen tough competitors.
Well, players will soon have that opportunity — if they happen to be Gold Pass subscribers. That’s the subscription tier that gives access to extra content in the “free to start” game, and will be a requirement to join the beta.
Naturally this will provoke ire among players who feel they are owed not just a free game, but a free game that gives them everything they want for free. And in fact they may eventually get that, but it’s probably smart for Nintendo to limit this experience at first to paying customers so they can stress-test, balance gameplay and so on. A subpar multiplayer experience is a good way to turn off otherwise interested players.
Still, this feeds into a larger dissatisfaction among gamers with Nintendo’s online and multiplayer strategy. The subscription service required for many popular games on the Switch comes with a selection of Nintendo and Super Nintendo Games, but beyond that the benefits are minimal, and features standard on other platforms for years — voice chat, for instance — are absent or long in coming.
At only $20 a year it’s hardly a big investment, but subscription fatigue is growing among tech-savvy consumers and they are cutting things out where they can. Hopefully Nintendo’s offering will solidify and survive.
Nintendo’s North American Switch unit sales have already surpassed the lifetime worldwide unit sales of the Wii U.
The company announced Thursday that they had sold 15 million units of the popular handheld console in North America, further noting that the Switch had been the most popular console in the US for 10 months in a row, according to the NPD Group.
This number brings NA-specific sales well past the 13.56 million units sold of the company’s previous-generation console, the Wii U.
While the Switch lags far behind the PS4 and Xbox One in lifetime sales, it’s important to realize how old those other systems are — hardware refreshes aside. The Xbox One and PS4 were released in 2013 and the Switch was introduced in 2017.
The Switch is likely still early in its life cycle — the company just released the $199 Switch Lite which cuts down on some functionality and focuses wholly on portable gameplay.
A common refrain has been that there are too few titles available on the Switch, while I still that’s definitely true, Nintendo announced that 14 titles had sold more than 1 million copies, with four of its own games (Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate) selling more than 6 million copies.
As of June 30, 2019, Nintendo has sold nearly 38 million Switch consoles worldwide.
In a way, these new wireless controllers from 8BitDo kind of defeat the purpose of the Switch Lite. So, why do I kind of want them? Honestly, I’m pretty enamored with the new, more portable version of Nintendo’s wildly successful console. As I noted in a recent review, it’s exactly the take on the Switch I was looking for as a TV-less frequent traveler.
The idea of an accessory that’s roughly half the size of the Lite kind of goes against the whole bit about “built-in” Joy-Cons. Also, the Lite doesn’t have a built-in kickstand, so you’re either finding a way to prop it up or playing it flat on a table. Neither scenario is ideal, and yet here I am, thinking about shelling out $25 to augment my setup with a matching turquoise version.
Life comes at you fast.
The controller actually sports two D-pads, rather than sticks, which is nice for all of those NES and SNES titles that have been added to Switch Online. Honestly, my Switch playing has been like 95% A Link to the Past since I started testing the Lite. The controller is up for pre-order now through Amazon and set to start shipping at the end of October — plenty of time for me to come to my senses.
Let me preface this by saying: I realize that I’m not necessarily the target user for the original Nintendo Switch. First: I don’t own a TV, and haven’t since high school. Second: I travel all the time for this damn job.
The combination of these things have made the device’s convertible form factor a bit of a nuisance. It’s big and heavy and the Joy-Cons semi-frequently slip off during game play. And while I’ve occasionally considered playing it in convertible mode, with the kickstand up, controllers detached as the console sits on, say, an airplane tray table, the capability ultimately isn’t worth the trade-offs.
It seems odd that “built-in controllers” is listed as a feature on a gaming console, but, then, I suppose it kind of is.
That’s all a lot of words to say that I was excited when the rumors around the Switch Lite first dropped. That enthusiasm carried over to a recent hands-on with the device. And now, here we are. Honestly, the Switch Lite is pretty much what I’d hoped for.
The Lite is noticeably smaller and lighter than the standard model, even without having both models handy, but here’s a shot from our hands-on for reference:
Of course, the form factor is still considerably larger than a majority of smartphones, which, at the end of the day are the Lite’s true competitor when it comes to mobile gaming. But Nintendo’s put a focus on first-party hardware, and the value of that proposition has played out remarkably well during the Switch’s nearly three-year life. Nintendo’s line has always been about making software for the hardware, and that certainly follows with the Switch line. It’s hard to imagine most of these first-party games successfully making the jump to mobile intact.
Nintendo certainly did right by the color scheme. As I wrote in the hands-on, the hardest question for me wouldn’t be whether or not to purchase a Switch Lite, but which color to get. Nintendo made the choice easy, sending a turquoise number in for review. The gray and yellow are also quite nice in different ways, but I was already leaning in that direction.
The portability’s the thing here, but shrinking the device down comes with some compromises. In addition to the loss of dockable TV versatility, the screen has been shrunk down from 6.2 to 5.5 inches (the resolution is the same admittedly unremarkable 720p). This is mostly noticeable in places like the menu, where the font has become more difficult for my aging eyes to read (the menu UI, admittedly, could still use some work). Longtime Switch players will notice the difference during gameplay, as well, but you’ll adjust soon enough — especially if you’ve grown accustomed to playing games on your phone.
The battery, too, is smaller, down to 3579mAh from 4310mAh, per FCC filings. Even so, the company is claiming three to seven hours of battery, compared to the original Switch’s 2.5 to 6.5. That slight upgrade appears to have been accomplished through a combination of a less power hungry (smaller) display and a more power efficient processor. The newer version of the classic Switch, meanwhile, sports a 4.5 to nine-hour battery. Given that a truncated life was the first gen’s biggest complaint, I’d have hoped that the company would have made battery progress on both sides — but you can’t win them all, I guess.
The headphone jack stayed put for the Lite. So, too, did the microSD and game card slots. Physical media isn’t quite dead in the gaming word just yet. The kickstand is gone because, well, there’s really no point without the detachable Joy-Cons. The other key physical difference is the addition of an omnidirectional D Pad, replacing the less-useful four arrows. I’ve honestly grown fairly accustomed to using the left stick for basically everything. Still, the arrival of the Lite’s D Pad is timed nicely with the addition of NES and Super NES titles to the Switch Online library. The button’s usefulness on standard Switch titles is a lot more limited, however. The pad also felt a bit softer than I was anticipating — something that takes some getting used to.
The Switch’s real killer app, however, is price: $200 feels just about right for the console. That’s down $100 from the standard Switch. Couple that with the surprisingly affordable $4 a month (or $20 a year) for Switch Online and you’ve got a pretty killer deal for a platform in its third year of life.
Forced to choose between the two models today, I’d almost certainly go for the Lite. Though I would grit my teeth a bit at the idea of sacrificing a couple of hours of battery life in the process. Of course, not everyone is me (thankfully). Most of you, for instance, are normal, well-adjusted people with television sets in their homes, and moving to the Lite means sacrificing the Switch’s namesake and most innovative feature.
As someone who spends much of his life on subway cars and planes, this is the Switch I (and others, I’m sure) have been waiting for.
Nintendo has been at the crossroads of video games and fitness since the famous Power Pad for the NES, and the Switch is the latest to receive a game powered by physical activity: Ring Fit Adventure. And it actually looks fun!
In the game, you’ll jog in place to advance your character, and perform various movements and exercises to avoid obstacles and defeat enemies. Your quest is to defeat an “evil body-building dragon” who has disrupted the peaceful, apparently very fit world of the protagonist. Sure.
The game comes with a pair of accessories: a ring and leg strap, each of which you slot a Joy-Con into. The two controllers work together to get a picture of your whole body movement, meaning it can be sure you’re keeping your arms out in front of you when you do a squat, and not phoning it in during leg raises.
The ring itself is flexible and can tell how hard you’re squeezing or pulling it— but don’t worry, it can be calibrated for your strength level.
Interestingly, the top button of the controller appears to be able to be used as a heart rate monitor. That kind of came out of left field, but I like it. Just one more way Nintendo is making its hardware do interesting new things.
There look to be a ton of different movements you’ll be required to do, focusing on different areas of the body: upper, lower, core, and some sort of whole-body ones inspired by yoga positions. Ingeniously, some enemies are weak to one or another, and you’ll need to use different ones for other scenarios, so you’re getting a varied workout whether you like it or not.
Meanwhile your character levels up and unlocks new, more advanced moves — think a lunge instead of a squat, or adding an arm movement to a leg one — and you can get closer to the goal.
There are also minigames and straight-up workouts you can select, which you can do at any time if you don’t feel like playing the actual game, and contribute to your character’s level anyway.
The idea of gamifying fitness has been around for quite a while, and some titles, like Wii Fit, actually got pretty popular. But this one seems like the most in-depth actual game to use fitness as its main mechanic, and critically it is simple and easy enough that even the most slothful among us can get in a session now and then at their own pace.
Ring Fit Adventure will be available October 18 — no pricing yet, but you can probably expect it to be a little above an ordinary Switch game.
You can watch the full-length walkthrough of the game below, but beware — the acting is a little off-putting.