Planks are hell.

I'm just gonna put that on the table now. It's not new information, it's not something you're going to be surprised by, you've heard it from plenty of sources over the years since planks became an exercise, but it's true.

They fucking suck.

But okay, let's talk about my journey with Ring Fit Adventure. This isn't quite a normal review, because it's not quite a normal game. It's a lifestyle thing, in a way that my experience with typical Forever Games have never really locked in the same way.

Over on the left is the earliest post-workout screenshot I took of my own data. And this is where things get not only important, but interesting.

There is a game though

Before we dive in, quick overview if you just paid zero attention to Nintendo's stuff and yet somehow got here. Ring Fit Adventure is a fitness RPG. When you get the game, you can only get it physically, because it comes with a leg strap that one of your Joy-Cons will slide into, and a special pilates ring, the Ring Con, that your other Joy-Con connects to. (The Ring Con is actually super clever; It's got a piezoelectric strip in it, which means it actually changes conductivity when it's bent or flexed. So because moving the ring around, the Joy Con connector actually has conductors, and can pull a signal and thus tell how much you're squeezing or stretching the ring, with a lot of detail)

So you've got this big ol' ring in your hands and a Joy Con strapped to one leg, and the game makes you run through fields on these linear paths. It's a lot like those auto-runner games that were really popular for a minute, except...Not...Automatic.

Manual runners.

And then you'll inevitably run into an enemy. And what the game does is, you have your classic turn-based combat, but instead of just selecting attacks and hitting A, you select attacks...And each attack makes you do a series of reps of an exercise. Like making you do squats to crush a foe with leg strikes, or repeatedly squeezing the Ring Con for arm strikes.

And you get XP for defeating enemies, and for the moves you use.

They have not messed around here in gamifying fitness.

There's even an actual story, where you have to help Ring defeat the buff dragon Dragaux before his darkness spreads and corrupts all the land. It's all kind of cheesy, but put together with so much charmthat you want to see what happens next. (I mean, how can you not love the Sportans?)

That said...Well, okay, let's talk about my personal experience and journey with Ring Fit Adventure. Which doesn't actually start with booting up the game.

It starts with finding the damn thing.

Precious treasure

So, Ring Fit Adventure was formally released back in October of 2019, nearly a year ago as I write this article.

It sold out in about five minutes.

I'm not sure why Nintendo thought this would be an obscure item. Did they overshoot with Labo and so decide to play it safe? Maybe. I mean, at the time, it wasn't that huge of a deal. After all, their associated factories would surely be able to get another batch out fairly quickly for that Christmas rush, and then they could do another print run if there was still interest, right?

Ah ha.

Ah ha ha.

Ah ha ha ah ha ah ha ha ha ha ha.

Have you met my nemesis, their name is 2020.

Two things happened, both because of the pandemic. First, a ton of manufacturing in Asia as a whole, just straight-up shut down. Second, huge swathes of people across the world got quarantined, put under shelter-in-place style orders, and all the gyms were closed.

You, ah, may be seeing the problem.


I spent about six months hunting for this god damn game, checking rare-item sites and stock-checkers and small towns out of the way and just doing everything in my power to find this stupid thing.

But, I found it. Pulled out of a box by a clerk before it even hit the shelf, I claimed it, bought it, took it home, and got to playing.

Oh god, my legs

So turns out I have all of the fitness of a marshmallow.

A marshmallow that was left to soften in the noonday sun.

I am basically a jelly that has figured out how to type.

And Ring Fit Adventure made damn sure I knew that from the very first session I had. My body ached, my legs felt like they were going to fall off, I was barely able to even walk the next day. I way overdid it.

To say nothing of my second session, which included the first boss battle of the game.

But I persevered. I kept fighting, and pushing. And bit by bit, I improved. I started to push the difficulty up. I started to go at it longer. My sessions improved, my form improved, I'm starting to get genuine results! Over here to the side, you can see one of my more recent sessions, one of the longest ones I've had.

...I mean, then I came up to this little mountain town to get some work done, brought my Switch, and my session length dropped by a third. But hey, that's life, you know? Whether it's the change in environment itself, the less oxygen from being a thousand meters higher above sea level than I was this time last week, or just the fact that I unlocked planks right before I left...

The point is, I had to learn to listen to my body on this, because trying to get proud and push through would just put me in a world of hurt.

The long road

That's the thing that's interesting about fitness in general, isn't it? You have to learn dedication, but also patience and respect for your own limits. You simply can't do all-nighters on working out. There is no "do all the homework the night before it's due" with this. You can't slam out six hours of fitness the night before your checkup, that's not how it works.

Getting Ring Fit Adventure took me months of patience and checking and being ready to claim an opportunity when it arose. It also meant, once I had it, weeks of carefully and patiently improving what my body is capable of.

It stands as quite a contrast to the way my anxiety-addled brain often works. With things often feeling both impossibly long and unbearably immediate, I've had a lot of struggle with the idea of just slowly, patiently doing the work. It's a steady process that takes, not just dedication and focus, but a specific kind of dedication and focus. The kind where you come back to something again and again over time, rather than burning through it as hot and fast as you possibly can.

I'm not gonna sit here and claim Ring Fit Adventure is unique in doing this, of course. Most any of the big fitness games could have achieved the same: Fitness Boxing on the Switch, any of the Just Dance games if I got on with their song list better, ye olde Dance Dance Revolution. Hell, we could have gotten here with apps, or youtube videos, or those DVD fitness sets.

And while fitness is obviously a good thing, it doesn't even have to be that. I could have potentially gotten the same thing out of, like...Juggling. It's about the patient, dedicated mastery of a skill that can't be forced or sped up or shortcutted. (Trust me, speaking as a recipient of the incredibly janky "Gifted And Talented Education" of the 90s, I know all too well about shortcutting one's way to results.)

Victory pose

So, I've been kicking this article around for a few days now, as I write this paragraph. Chewing on my thoughts on Ring Fit Adventure, and the way it's fit into my life, and the benefits that having something like it brings. And I think that's the part that's important. Something like it.

Like, I like Ring Fit Adventure as a game. If it's sitting on the shelf, it's probably one of the best fitness-games currently available. There's other options on the map for quality of core gameplay, of course, and some of those might even work better for you in the actual moment.

But nothing I've experienced does as good a job of making itself part of your life. A thing you come back to repeatedly, that you actively progress in and learn from. Having some in-game numbers go up, having a loose but viable story, and having the game's steady encouragement to keep coming back and making it that routine...That's what separates it from the pack, for me.

That's something I know I needed. I needed a routine.

Speaking personally?

I really needed something that told me when I fell, it was okay to just get back up and try again, and actually meant it.

It might seem silly, but...In a time when I'm straining to keep it together even as I need to push and expand to new heights, having Tipp and the narrator be happy to see me each workout day...It, it helps keep me coming back and moving forward, you know?

And I think that, however we get it, is something we all kind of need right now.

...Planks are still fuckin' brutal, though.