Developers promise new title is “an adventure game first and foremost.”

Despite more or less creating the standard template for modern video came controllers (a pad with thumb-operated directional control on the left, large face buttons on the right, and smaller buttons in the middle), Nintendo has always been willing to go far outside the box in terms of controller design. But even by those standards, gamers were surprised when images of a new Switch peripheral that looks like a rubber hoop surfaced last week.

After giving us all ample time to scratch our heads, Nintendo has now officially unveiled the new controller, called the Ring-Con, and its first supported game.

As some had speculated, the Ring-Con, which works in conjunction with a Leg Strap, is Nintendo’s hope to repeat the success of Wii Fit of video game/exercise program crossovers Wii Sports and Wii Fit. The interface works by putting one of the Switch’s detachable, motion sensor-equipped Joy-Con controllers into a compartment on the Ring-Con, and the other into the leg strap, which goes around your thigh.

The Ring-Con comes as part of a bundle with the RingFit Adventure game, in which you set out on a quest to defeat the “evil bodybuilding dragon Dragaux,” and Nintendo has put a surprising amount of effort and care into crafting the framing device for its series of fitness lessons and challenges. There’s a map screen with branching paths from which you select quests, and once you begin the game switches to a behind-the-should perspective as you move your character through the environment by jogging or high-stepping in place.

In broad terms, the Leg Strap tracks the speed and intensity of your leg movements, translating that into the appropriate amount of forward motion for your character. The Ring-Con, meanwhile, is used to control your character’s arm movements and posture.

While RingFit Adventure might look like just a Temple Runner-ish obstacle course at first, Nintendo is insistent that this is “an adventure game first and foremost,” and that “you’ll use your whole body to explore the world [and] battle enemies.” That’s right, in true action RPG fashion, RingFit Adventure has encounters with hostile monsters, and the only way to defeat them is through the power of exercise.

In these “Fit Battles” you can select from over 40 “Fit Skills” to attack your enemies. Each Fit Skill is a basic exercise motion, and they’re grouped into four categories (arms, core, legs, and yoga) which are in turn color-coded, with different monster having weaknesses to different skills, much like elemental weaknesses in a traditional RPG.

At the end of each victorious battle or successful quest, you’ll gain experience points which translate into attack and defense stat improvements (which the game fittingly calls “gains”) and also allow you to unlock new Fit Skills. Meanwhile, RingFit Adventure also gives you a status update on your progress here in the real world with estimates of your heart rate and number of calories burned during the session.

Better form (achievable by following the on-screen advice) during the exercises leads to more powerful attacks, and there’s also a defensive pose that reduces the damage you take when it’s the monsters’ turn to go on the offensive.

All that effort into making sure RingFit Adventure feels as much like a fun game as a healthy exercise session is part of Nintendo’s plan to make the whole thing something that players will want to come back to, making fitness entertainment instead of a chore. The developers even say the Ring-Con, which adjusts to the amount of force it’s squeezed with as well as the direction it’s moved in, can be adjusted to make the in-game exercises more or less challenging, so that people of all fitness levels can enjoy the game without feeling like they’re wasting their time. RingFit Adventure also has modes that let you jump straight into the exercises without any of the adventure game trappings, for those who’re focused purely on fitness or just don’t have the time to mix gaming into that particular day’s workout.

It’s a little surprising to see Nintendo rolling out a new peripheral that absolutely requires the use of the Switch’s Joy-Cons, considering it’s just one week until the company is rolling out a new variant for the system, the Nintendo Switch Light, which does away with them entirely, under the logic that there’s a sizable portion of the market that has no interest in paying extra for detachable motion controllers that don’t add much to the vast majority of games.

However, it’s clear from the tone of the video for RingFit Adventure that hard-core gamers aren’t the target market for the game (there’s a definite infomercial vibe, and if the game was coming out in mid ‘90s, you can be sure the two enthusiastic presenters would be gushing about how it’s “interactive”). Instead, it looks like RingFit Adventure is another attempt by Nintendo to appeal to people outside the core video gamer demographic, and the Ring-Con/Leg Strap/RingFit Adventure bundle’s price of US$79.99 (or 8,618 yen in Japan) is pretty reasonable for a package that includes both a game and peripheral.

RingFit Adventure is scheduled for a simultaneous release in Japan and North America on October 18.

Featured image: YouTube/Nintendo
Top image: Nintendo

Insert images: Nintendo, YouTube/Nintendo
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