Platform: Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: eShop download
Category: Other, Music, Sports, Training
No. of Players: up to 2 players
Release Date: December 04, 2020 (Worldwide)
Boxercise is by no means a new concept. It originated in the UK in 1992, with boxing coach Andy Wake leading the charge and in no time at all, this “high-intensity interval training” boxing-based workout, gained in popularity and like most things, started getting its own video game adaptions.
One of which being the first Fitness Boxing game by developer Imagineer, with an initial release on the Nintendo Switch on December 20, 2020 for Japan and 16 days shy of two years, not only has a sequel been developed, it’s already out now and off to a decent start. Still, is this a true-blue sequel, or just a Deluxe version with additional content? Let’s dive in and find out!
In a world where Ring Fit Adventure doesn’t just exist but is an insanely popular fitness RPG that’s close to breaking 6 million sales worldwide, 6 cheerful instructors band together once again, inviting 3 new friends to tag along, to bring boxing-based exercise to the Nintendo Switch.
By throwing one punch at a time, they will stop at nothing in their efforts to encourage and support players in letting out some pent-up rage, all whilst moving to a steady beat and wage war against the unavoidable weight gain that comes with this seasonal time of year. It’s time to bring the Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom!
As an exergaming title with boxing in its name, Fitness Boxing 2: Rhythm & Exercise is a fitness game with a huge focus on you guess it, boxing. Holding the Joy-Con in the palms of your hands with the L and R buttons in reach of your thumbs, players must perform a variety of movements and punches to get the best possible score they can in each workout.
Players will be told what positions then will need to assume for the basic stance and how to stand when inside it, how to sway to the rhythm and bend your knees. All of this is covered in the game’s useful tutorial that begins as soon as you start playing, introducing players to new instructor Janice, but if you have already played the demo, you can skip the tutorial in the full game.
Something that players will be introduced to via the tutorial, however, is an on-screen box consisting of flashing footsteps, flashing with the purpose of helping players to maintain balance and show what foot they should be balancing on and when. This is a new feature for the game is subtle, but highly useful and helps correct one of the criticisms for the previous title. Now, as for the more obvious things players will see on-screen, are two bars where actions will scroll up from the bottom and pass through a target box.
Should you strike a punch or action movement with perfect timing, you can score a Perfect, with an OK being the result of punching too soon or too late. A miss, however, occurs when you fail to perform the action and the better you do, the more points you will get, giving you a higher score for each workout. There is also a gauge around the two on-screen target boxes, which once filled thanks to actions correctly performed, players can then enter a Zone State to earn double points and watch the background change as well, to match the zone state.
As for the actions themselves, these range from simple jabs and straights to uppercuts, hooks, body jabs, body hooks, body straights and body uppercuts, but there’s also weaving, ducking, stepping back, swaying back and more.
Just like with the previous game, perfectly executed movements are not an actual requirement as standard jabs and straights will easily suffice for every punch going, and a simple shake being enough for weaving to register, so even though you can opt to play Fitness Boxing 2 properly, there is still the option to sit on your sofa and play half-heartedly.
CONTENT & FEATURES:
For the most part, Fitness Boxing 2 has pretty much the same content and features seen and utilised in the previous title. There is a Daily Workout mode where players can set a specific goal such as stamina building, fast-paced gameplay to get moving and general maintenance. You can also opt which part of the body you want your exercise to focus on, include or exclude stretching and set a preferred duration.
Players are free to do the daily workout as much as they want but to really make the most out of your exercising routine, you can always opt to check out Free Training. Stretching, be it light or through, is optional, but there are a total of 30 exercises available, playable across two main difficulties (low and high), resulting in a total of 180 stars for players to earn.
Of course, not every exercise is available from the outset, as players will need to play through those available to them, to gain access to more, all whilst being able to select what songs they wish to listen to, (be it on normal or fast speed,) unlock additional music tracks and just be able to work out in a manner more befitting what the player actually wants to do, be it on your own or with a friend.
For even more from Fitness Boxing 2, there is a basic training menu where players can learn how to hold the Joy-Con properly when exercising, consult the basic rules, what are the 26 actions players can expect to perform, and access combinations.
A nice little part of the game that provides you on details on each combo players will have to perform, whilst also a scoring rate is on show for the last 100 times you’ve performed a specific combo and how many times you’ve done each one.
There’s also a My Data section where players can check out their play report, a very informative piece of kit that covers punches thrown, estimated calorie burn, exercise duration, fitness age, weight, BMI, body parts trained and how many times you’ve listened to each song. Although, for the players who choose to import their data from the previous title than that information will also be shown in your play report as well.
Also, in My Data, players can access a graph related to their progress, check out the game’s song list and register your favourite titles and there is also the option to enter in your data with regards to age, height, current weight, desired weight and the option to set a password.
Then we come to settings where players can adjust the game to better suit their preferred experience, adjust timings and set a very useful alarm, so should you ever wish to have your Switch remind you that it is time to work out, you can do just that on any day of the week, at your preferred time.
The game’s biggest addition, however, is its new achievement-based system. I have yet to access the full list of them, but there are more than 122 of them, with myself being at 44% completion and there is a whole host of ways to meet their prerequisites.
Some ask you to collect a certain amount of stars on different intensities, others will ask you to throw thousands of punches and some are so easy, all you have to do is play dress-up with the game’s 9 instructors, which brings us to the purpose of these achievements.
For every one you complete, you can earn yourself 3 Outfit Tickets, which can be used to purchase new clothing items for the instructors so you can dress them up in even more ways, making for a much easier means of unlocking outfits compared to the unlock requirements utilised in the first Fitness Boxing game.
Only, Fitness Boxing 2 has more than just base game content to offer as there are also two free DLC packs available, that allows players to access a higher intensity of gameplay, as long as they are exercising with instructors Lin and Evan.
Just because the voice talent giving life to the instructors might not be winning any rewards any time soon, it’s nice to see how each character has been expanded somewhat, with the three new instructors bringing some form of a personality to the table.
Janice has actually grown on me and has since replaced Martina and Lin as my preferred instructor, but just in case Janice isn’t as commanding as she could have been, thanks to the No Mercy DLC for Lin and Evan, both characters have new facial expressions and accompanying dialogue that will startle players as they go from supportive to serious in no time at all.
Of course, the only way to hear their taunts and teases is to do a workout with them, on the new No Mercy intensity setting, but players will need to download the FREE DLC to access and experience it.
Where Fitness Boxing 2 really comes into its own, however, and properly sets itself apart from its previous entry in this series, is a much better selection of music. Featuring three original tracks, which players can listen to, with video capture supported, there are also 20 other tracks all consisting of hit pop songs from multiple decades.
From Pink to Bananarama and Justin Bieber to Steppenwolf and Bon Jovi, the song list is a much stronger offering this time around and regardless of what speed you choose to listen to them on, these adapted tracks make for easy listen.
Sure, you can’t video capture any exercise you do whilst listening to them, but it’s great to see Imagineer was able to put together a stronger performance this time around and as always, there’s still the option to mute the game entirely and just play your preferred artists and style of music, in the background.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE:
On a visual perspective, while the instructors themselves don’t look too particularly different in terms of a visual upgrade, some of their movements look better animated this time around and the three new instructors are a welcome addition, helping to expand on an already diverse lineup.
Where the true differences start to become immediately apparent, however, is essentially in every other aspect of the game. From the character selection screen to instructor customisation, the game’s many menu screens and instructions, everything is just so much cleaner.
In some regards, the developer has opted for a less is more approach and it’s actually done Fitness Boxing 2 a favour. Sure, the game is limited in its variety of stages as there are only a total of 6, but at least this time, the stages are interactive and can put on a bit of a show, what with minor changes here and there during normal play and then suddenly kicking things into high gear whenever players enter a zone state.
Now, if you dislike throwbacks, it can be a bit disappointing that for the older instructors that some of their outfits are the same as those that were in the previous title, but they do have no clothing choices this time around as well, with plenty of new and interesting clothing items for the new instructors with more clothing options becoming available the more you progress.
Sadly though, while visually Fitness Boxing 2 has made some leaps and bounds over the original, there are some performance issues at play in the form of the occasional stutter when things are intensifying, which can cost you a Perfect, resulting in an OK or a Miss.
It’s a shame to have gameplay be impacted like this, especially in single-player mode, but at least it’s not something that excessively happens, even when having a friend play along with you. Interestingly enough though, weaving does seem a lot easier and responsive this time around.
Although I am partly saddened by the fact that the multiplayer mode where two players could fight against each other, has since been removed from this instalment, there is plenty to love about the things that did make it in.
For starters, let’s dive right into accessibility. This time around, for the players who really suffered with performing certain movements in the previous title, or wanted to do them, but were unable due to existing injuries and conditions, Action Assist is now a thing.
With it, struggling and movement impaired players, can now activate it, so as to get an automatic perfect when it comes to ducking, weaving, body punches, steps and sway backs. This way, if you can only comfortably throw hooks, jabs, straights and uppercuts, your overall performance will only now be based on what you can do and ignore the things you can’t do.
What’s more, as someone who really dived off the deep end with the first game, weight loss and fantastic results were never something I really achieved, but at least with a rewarding achievement system at play this time around, things are different now.
Even if players not able to lose as much weight as you wish they could, every time you see one of those achievements appear in the top right corner, telling you you’ve met the conditions of another on, you always feel like you’re achieving something.
For everything you do, this game has a means of rewarding you, be it more clothing items unlocked, for you to purchase with your tickets. Be it more exercises to try your hand at, more songs to work out to and even just collecting more start on said exercises.
This time around, the majority of the instructors might be saying the same old encouragement with the three new ones also chiming in, but the game actually does feel like it is supporting the player all the more, with the developers being more onboard as well.
Sure, it’s a shame that perhaps this game could have done more to carry over a player’s progress from the title, say having more clothing options unlocked from the outset for the returning instructors, but the reality is, even in just 10 hours, you can unlock more content than you ever seemingly could in the original Fitness Boxing game.
One big negative, however, is players can no longer access the game’s calendar like they could in the previous title and see how their day-to-day performance is measuring up, as the game gives them estimated projections based on when it thinks they will meet certain punch goals and when more unlocks will become available.
While the subtle differences might seem minor upon initial inspection, the truth is Fitness Boxing 2: Rhythm & Exercise is a game far deeper than most gave it credit for. The small changes throughout make this game far more accessible than its predecessor and just because it’s not an all-out multi-fitness game like Ring Fit Adventure, it doesn’t make it an exergaming title not worth playing. So, if you want to try your hand at boxing without getting a gym membership, make sure you step into the ring with this one.
THE VERDICT: 7/10
*A download key was provided by the Publisher for the purposes of this review
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