To anyone who's been following us over on our Twitch channel, first off...thank you, and we hope you've been enjoying the ongoing content we try to provide for you daily over there!
Secondly, you'll know that since the beginning of 2019, I've been hosting a weekly fitness/chat program called "DEE Fit," where I've been regularly utilizing the subject of this particular review to both engage with Twitch chat in a more active manner while also meeting some baseline health goals that I set for myself as a result of the past two years. (Namely, start undoing the damage that ongoing stress and poor eating had undoubtedly been doing...and get some good exercise in while I’m stuck working on stuff at DEE HQ.)
While still deciding how I was going to approach this desire to do unorthodox gaming-based fitness back in the latter part of 2018, I had originally intended to build it all around the forerunner of this game now that I had the means to...i.e., using the Nintendo Wii and Wii Fit for the similar purpose. However, with my then recent acquisition of the Nintendo Switch and discovery of the impending release of the game, I tinkered with the demo before committing not only to the full-price purchase (more on that later), but to running a weekly show built around this WHILE forming a weekly workout routine in the process.
While many other outlets chose to review it ASAP (as is typical for this type of media), I opted to write about it now that I've had it as a more regular routine that I've been monitoring as part of my "accountability" segment at the top of each broadcast, so I feel I have a MUCH clearer picture of the games strengths and shortcomings beyond the basic gameplay, and hope to convey them with extended personal experience.
So where to begin? Let's start with the fundamentals: this is a fitness game built around use of the Joycon motions sensors to generate basic ultra-light resistance training, and stimulate overall cardio and, based on your settings, total-body engagement. The "gameplay" comes from rhythm game-style accuracy measurement, particularly during the "combo rushes" that tie together the exercises at various points. It also has customizable trainers (4 female, 2 male), and incentivises both successful performance and regular workouts both with gear for the trainers as well as music and routines for the player.
The game, though manual entries and helpful visual stats accessible at any time, tracks your progress through caloric loss per session, which you can do either as a daily workout based upon criteria you pick, or as standalone workouts with a variety of settings; the latter can even be done in a co-op mode, though full disclosure that this will not be covered here as I've never had the opportunity to use it during my entire time spent with the game, and my main focus here is how it works as a proper fitness aid which isn't entirely possible in co-op settings.
The daily workouts are a standard routine set that include a warmup, about four or five separate modules (if you're doing 45 minute workouts like I am), and a cooldown. which is basically another round of the warmup routine. Throughout, you'll build on certain skills, culminating in one or two "combo rushes" that count substantially for your score and serve as the "completed combo" for each routine. Everything is done twice as you'll be switching sides for maximum balance of physical exertion and general proper workout setup. (You'd be shocked at how even "professional" facilities omit this in the name of simplicity for their classes, regardless of skill level!)
Every time you unlock a new routine or move that goes into the routine, you get the opportunity to practice before jumping into a scored routine, which I highly advise you do even if you're a more advanced practitioner since this is where the game reminds you it's a GAME, and you sometimes need to do things a particular way to ensure the Joycon registers your movement.
The game does do an EXCELLENT job of adjusting to your playtime/skill level, and I've enjoyed the increased complexity and variety of the routines that I've been unlocking as I progress. (Many of them are effective for fitness goals and practical for introducing basic self-defense concepts, which is a GREAT bonus as well if you're unable to regularly work with a coach of any sort.)
At present, the music selection tops out at about 20 songs (I, personally, tend to rely on about 6 of them regularly) with no way to add more music in via DLC or anything else. While I'm very satisfied with the broad categories of music included, as well as how well each works for sometimes nearly hour-long cardio workouts like ones I used to teach myself as a martial arts instructor, this is one of the biggest issues I (and other reviewers/players) have seen with the game itself. While I'm one to regularly decry DLC and other such content in other games, this is VERY much one of the exceptions to the rule as I'd happily shell out extra cash to remedy to extend the overall lifespan of the game beyond a full-priced followup (or something of that nature).
This immediately leads me back to a major flaw with the game that I've been building towards since the beginning of this review, and that is that for a full priced Nintendo Switch game, we're presented with a very paltry assortment of music, all of which is essentially watered down karaoke instrumentals and not even the original music. Logistically (and legally, based on my own experiences having to deal with the process of licensing music), it's understandable why they went with this: it's MUCH harder to adjust loops with original versions of a track given the amount of options the game throws at you for workouts, and it'd make the game prohibitively expensive to not only produce but to sell. (Recall, this isn't "Just Dance" being backed by UbiSoft money- this is basically Nintendo outsourcing Wii Fit on a budget to a company that made "Quest 64" and specialized in doing Japanese ports of Western titles like Wolfenstein 3D's SNES port.)
Furthermore, the game voices for English language, while appreciated, are also just straight up awful; flat, canned performances REALLY don't help the workout and because the game is clearly designed for Japanese first, even the character models don't sync up well either. Thankfully, the option to switch languages is there, and the trainers are MUCH more bearable in Japanese...besides, chances are you're mentally tuning them out anyway if you're in the midst of an intense workout.
That said, we're already paying an extra $10 more than what the game feels like its worth since it feels rather light on options with no foreseeable way to expand it. Not to mention, the limitation of ONLY being able to throw punches, and by proxy building the additional full-body mechanics off of, essentially, one form of physical activity, makes it VERY difficult to sell people on this game, myself included. Frankly, if it weren't for my past experiences allowing me to easily rationalize the price to my actual exercise output prior to starting this game, I would have quickly been among those to tell you to skip this and hit a gym for a cardio kickboxing lesson.
But with that in mind, this is where I feel the game excels and becomes a sleeper-hit purchase for the Switch: it WORKS.
Granted, this is in part because I've been able to maximize the workouts by drawing upon past experience/knowledge to increase the impact of each technique, as well as adjusted my diet to a degree to meet my personal fitness needs. However, because the game is build around solid physical mechanics (even if the limitations of the Joycons do make it a little irritating to adjust for at times), I'm legitimately getting benefits from it even before factoring those extra pieces of knowledge in. While my weight loss hasn't been staggering (I've lost a net of about 1lb over the two months of use as of this writing...more on that shortly), this has also come with the benefits of increased stamina/lung capacity as compared to when I began the program, a confirmed reduction in my blood pressure, and a general toning that is slowly, but surely, beginning to appear; I'll likely revise this article once I get some annual bloodwork done in April to confirm how it's impacted things compared to my results the previous year when I was at PEAK lethargy/unhealthiness.
Add to this that I'm now feeling and seeing definitive muscle buildup which has been increased since I introduced weighted 1lb gloves to the mix, and it's safe to say that with a little ingenuity and dedication, this game goes from being a simple "gimmick" game to a legitimate workout supplement. Plus, as teased above, I'm attributing part of my meager weight losses to the fact that I may have actually been building muscle since the introduction of the weights and adjusted my diet again to compensate for the new needs; muscle IS heavier than fat, after all!
(I should also note the weighted gloves do sadly exacerbate the gameplay vs. proper technique issues with the Joycons, as my performance stats have been making clear, hahah.)
Most surprisingly, when paired off with the modern day streaming culture, you suddenly have a way to shed the boredom this game has unfortunately baked into itself with the same efficiency you can shed some light pounds with a dedicated balance of diet and usage. (Or more, if you decide to break out the DDR pad and make that your "leg day", hahah.) As I've been doing myself, I've turned the more aggravating parts of gym culture, i.e. having to deal with strangers who you probably don't feel inclined to talk to past the workout, into a fun means to chat with friends while I get in a good workout by way of Twitch streaming. Talk shit, get fit indeed.
So. After over two months (if we count the demo run), and 3x weekly 45-minute workouts (sometimes more, on-camera and off), how do I feel about Fitness Boxing as a whole?
As you can tell, nitpicks aside, pretty positive! While I would encourage picking up the game on a discount of $39.99 or less due to the limitations of the upper body-centric exercise range and inability to add new music, I cannot advocate for it harder as a good baseline program to either build from or supplement your current routines. It may be far from perfect, but it still does a damn good job for what it's built to do. I truly hope Nintendo either helps Imagineer enhance the game over time, pump out a sequel, or take it as a basis for a new generation of Wii Fit.