Now that I’m past the point of debilitating soreness, Ring Fit Adventure has become a regular part of my weekly routine. On average, I’d say I probably play Nintendo’s game/exercise hybrid five times a week. Since I started it just over a month ago, it’s been the perfect way to get some high intensity workout with regularity and without taking up too much of my time each day.
But as I’ve progressed through its worlds, I’m finding the game side is starting to clash with my exercise fairly frequently as the levels become more challenging, often arbitrarily so.
To break down Ring Fit Adventure for you, the entire story mode is divided up by worlds divided up by levels filled with enemies you fight in turn-based combat all driven by sets of real-world physical activity. That means you’ll deal damage by doing squats, stretches, or even yoga poses. The various foes you’ll fight are sorted by colors which have a correlating part of the body, giving them a type of weakness akin to elemental damage in RPGs like Pokemon or Final Fantasy. All of this is measured by motion controls with an accompanying leg strap and ring peripheral that you attach the Switch’s joy-con controllers to.
All of this is well and good. It’s incredibly effective and creates an accessible way for people to exercise from the comfort of their own home and the RPG-like systems it has in place help to encourage progress and regular use.
Now that I’m several weeks in and the game side is ramping up, however, these same systems that got me hooked on Ring Fit Adventure are actively halting my progress. Both in-game and in getting my regular exercise.
A lot of these issues arose within the same week, so I’ve been moving more slowly through levels than I have before. The first instance of the game upheaving my established workout routine was in a boss fight, where the character I was fighting was able to attack me in three consecutive attacks. To defend yourself in Ring Fit Adventure you have to hold the ring against your abs and squeeze in. I could tell I was squeezing in enough to defend against the most possible damage because my character was lit up to show I was perfectly executing the action. But by the end of those three attacks my character was defeated. This was from full health to zero health in one turn.
This meant stopping my workout to go back to a village, stock up on healing items, then sell more of what I had to buy an item to at least ensure I would have a second chance at the fight.
As of this writing, I’m stuck on a level that I have to complete without using any healing items. There are three combat encounters at minimum, but I don’t have the abilities that can take out all the enemies across the entire sequence before they take me out. Not without a means of recovering that doesn’t require items. There are exercises I can do to recover health, but they often aren’t in line with the exercise plan I’d put in motion that day.
Because of how enemies and challenges are set up, Ring Fit Adventure is often encouraging (if not outright requiring) you to focus on certain areas of the body to progress. In earlier worlds I could spend an entire day of playing focusing on my arms, as enemies and traversal exercise would focus on those specifically. Then the next world would be designed for me to focus on legs, giving me both a dedicated leg day and also a break for my arms after they’d received so much attention the previous day. But later worlds haven’t kept to that same system. Instead, there’s a focus on more holistic routines, but without that same dedication I’m feeling like I’m not noticing the same results day after day.
These kinds of detours, altering of strategies or regrouping after a lost fight are normal for most RPGs, but Ring Fit Adventure is a game that’s real-world results are more important than any in-game challenge. The level design that made it easy to work Ring Fit Adventure into my schedule and to feel a sense of accomplishment both in and out of the game feels like it’s rapidly disappearing the more I play it. Now I suppose if I want to get anything out of it, I’m going to have to start playing by its rules, not by mine.