Review – Fitness Boxing: Fist of the North Star
I may be critical of the building quality of the Joy-Cons, but I love when developers still try to come up with neat ways to take advantage of their above-average motion capabilities in innovative ways. If I champion for VR immersion, I cannot ignore the less-immersive brother that paved the way for that to happen, after all. Coming from Imagineer, the same people behind both Quest 64 and the Nintendo Switch’s only curling simulator, comes Fitness Boxing: Fist of the North Star, and yes, it is exactly what the title may imply. It is an educational fitness simulator themed after one of the most violent manga in history.
I actually really like fitness-based video games. I used to think they were silly and unreliable, like Wii Fit, but games like Les Mills Bodycombat, Gorn, Creed, and even Just Dance have proven that games can be fun and still make you lose some extra calories in the process. What do all of those games have in common? The answer is simple: motion controls and some kind of immersion. Fitness Boxing: Fist of the North Star follows the same pattern, using the manga’s premise to basically trick you, to disguise the fact it wants you to do some exercise with an ultra-violent (but heavily toned-down, in this case) premise. Somehow, it actually worked, believe it or not.
This is a straightforward fitness training that teaches you how to do some muay thai stances and punches, then telling you to complete some music-related stages by punching accordingly to the rhythm. The music you choose isn’t exactly relevant, because you will barely pay attention to it. It’s not bad, but your fitness instructor (be it Kenshiro, Raoh, or anyone else) will keep shouting motivating nonsense or your typical “one-two, one-two” on top of it. In the most wholesome of ways, which makes everything even more surreal.
I was impressed with how much voice acting was included in Fitness Boxing: Fist of the North Star. Kenshiro will teach you everything you need to know, motivate you, even tell you that your punches are better than his (you damn liar), or tell you to drink some water. Yes, in a Fist of the North Star game. Hilarious in a quasi-lynchian kind of way. There are lots of different languages to choose from, but sadly, there is no Japanese in this particular port. I would have loved to hear Kenshiro say his classic “omae wa mou shindeiru” at the end of an exercise, but sadly, you’ll have to deal with a lame “you’re already dead”, or its Italian equivalent.
As for the game itself, man, it does work. It’s so silly it’s 100% captivating. The main exercise mode is a bit bland and slow-paced, since the game does force you to do some stretches before and after a session, but the Battle mode, where you’re given a set amount of enemies or bosses to defeat in a specific amount of time, all while performing the specified punching patterns, is great. It’s the kind of silly surrealism that makes a workout session fun, making you forget you’re even working out in the first place. The controls are also reliable, and the usage of the Joy-Cons is excellent.
But how to make a player keep on investing his/her time on a workout simulator daily? Simple: unlockables. Fitness Boxing: Fist of the North Star is chock-full of unlockables, ranging from outfits for your instructors (I gave Kenshiro the dumbest CrossFit dudebro tank top imaginable) to new songs and characters to interact with. Fitness Boxing: Fist of the North Star gives you just enough credits per session to make you feel motivated enough to do yet another round: not a lot of credits to make the game feel patronizing, but more than enough to avoid making the game feel overly grindy and annoying.
This game is unbelievably silly, almost to a surrealistic degree, but man, it works. Fitness Boxing: Fist of the North Star is a fun mixture between a workout session you can take with you on-the-go and a fun homage to one of Japan’s most famous franchises ever. It looks the part, sounds the part, and its controls are way more reliable than I was expecting. Sure, there is no blood, gore, or a Japanese voice actor shouting “omae wa mou shindeiru” at the end of a session, but Imagineer still managed to incorporate enough elements from two completely distinct worlds in a fun, albeit slightly pricey package. Still less than a gym membership, though, so think about that.
A bit repetitive, but it looks the part. Seeing Kenshiro wear a dudebro tank top is almost worth the admission price. It also runs extremely well, considering it’s the NintendoSwitch we’re talking about.
A neat usage of the Joy-Cons’ criminally forgotten motion capabilities. It’s responsive and intuitive. The game does a pretty good job at teaching you the most basic elements of boxing/muay thai.
Good music which is hidden beneath a sea of motivational voice acting. While not bad, there is no option for a Japanese dub. That means no “omae wa mou shindeiru”.
Fun Factor: 8.5
It’s silly as hell, to a nearly surreal degree, but as a workout simulator meant to trick you into burning some calories, it does a magnificent job. The main exercises are way too slow-paced, but the battle mode stole the show, in my opinion.
Final Verdict: 8.5
Fitness Boxing: Fist of the North Star is available now on Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of Fitness Boxing: Fist of the North Star was provided by the publisher.