Remember Wii Fit? Man, that was a pretty fun way to delude myself into believing that I was getting a reasonable amount of exercise. All those delightful little activities that gamified physical exertion, bound to the somewhat cumbersome but absolutely integral Wii Balance Board accessory. Which, I might add, doesn’t work properly on my condo’s carpet. I got really into Wii Fit three or four times, always quickly falling off the wagon, like you do when you’re as lazy and unmotivated as me.
My favourite exercise on Wii Fit was the Rhythm Boxing, where you’d use a combination of the balance board, wiimote, and nunchuk to simulate beating up a robotic punching bag. It wasn’t overly challenging, and was kind of slow since it was simon-esque, where your trainer would call out a sequence of moves which you’d then have to copy. I tried to put wrist weights on my arms to get more out of it, but that ended up somehow making my punches harder to read. Accelerometers! They’re weird!
Fast-forward to earlier this month when this demo for a game called Fitness Boxing shows up on the Switch eShop. In the summer months I likely would have ignored it completely, but now that we’re in the middle of winter where I’m getting little exercise and trying to avoid a never-ending tidal wave of holiday junk food, I decided to see what was up. Oh lordy-loo, was I ever in for a nice surprise!
Fitness Boxing, as it turns out, is a game developed by Imagineer and published by… Nintendo? This becomes very obvious when you see that the game’s menus are ripped almost directly from Wii Fit. The overall style and green-and-white theme were immediately familiar. I’m pretty sure that even the fonts are exactly the same. So that’s a good start. Clearly Nintendo had a hand in guiding this project along, so there’s likely going to be a good level of polish to it. What sets it apart the most, in non-gameplay terms anyhow, is that your trainer is no longer a pale mannequin. Despite the title screen’s featureless lady, there’s an actual character named Lin, who is animated quite poorly and has a noticeable Japanese accent. I find her surprisingly charming, but you can unlock five other trainers if she’s not doing it for you.
So the gameplay, it’s got a similar framework to Wii Fit, where you do a daily check-in exercise and are then free to play around as you want with the other modes. But this one’s all boxing, all the time! And also, the call-and-repeat format is axed in favour of a much more fast-paced system that plays just like any other rhythm game. You’ve got two scrolling tracks on the screen, and various symbols will scroll by. Your job is to deliver the correct type of punch with precise timing, all to the beat of the music. It’s a lot of fun! They also get your lower body moving by having you change up your stance once in a while, and encouraging you to bob back and forth to the beat. The best part is that the only accessories you need to play are the joy-cons; I’ll never have to pull out that awkward balance board again.
While the workouts are very fun on their own and high-score mechanic gives you something to strive for (besides better physical wellness), Fitness Boxing has another trick up its sleeve to keep you coming back for more: a constant stream of unlockables. From songs, to workout routines, to new clothing options for your trainer, it seems like there are a ton of things to unlock in this game. Some are gated behind good performance, and some are based on checking in for a certain number of days. I’m sure they won’t be a long-term draw, but just the idea of so many things to earn has me very invested in the idea of purchasing the full version. What can I say? I just love amassing collections of pointless virtual junk!
As for the music… that’s the one part where Fitness Boxing really falls flat. There are twenty popular songs to punch along to; I think that I genuinely like four of the tracks and despise roughly half of the list. The nice part is that they’re all vocal-free, electronic covers, so even the worst ones don’t grate on me as much as they could. Did I think I’d ever find myself getting fired up to Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger”? Not in a million years, but it happened! 20 songs also seems like a very limited selection; and I really hope that there are a few DLC songs in the pipeline, but don’t actually expect to see any. Maybe if the game gets really popular, but that seems unlikely.
If it wasn’t clear before, I’m pretty well sold on buying the full version of Fitness Boxing when it comes out in January. I’m not 100% on board yet, but it seems likely. The demo version has already run its course, since they give you a very limited number of plays (three daily workouts and ten “free play” sessions), so we’ll have to see if I’m still interested come next week, or if the excitement has already passed by then. But I sure had a heck of a lot of fun with the demo!