Saturday, February 6, 2021

Review: Fitness Boxing 2: Rhythm & Exercise (Nintendo Switch) (Updated)

By it's own merits Fitness Boxing 2 can't hold out against the fitness giant that is Ring Fit Adventures, but it doesn't have to. It's not out there to be a major weight loss tool and the overall game doesn't present itself as a tryhard. What it does is in the very title: it's a score-based game that grades on how accurate each punch and motion is performed to the beat of music. It's simplistic in it's nature but can be a beast that will bite if pushed too hard. Out of curiosity, I played the easiest exercise on No Mercy difficulty with the song in fast mode. Needless to say it kicked me as I went down. Each jab, straight, uppercut, hook, and every other motion is scored on how accurately timed each punch is thrown, it all comes together in a fun way that will leave you wanting to play more to get a better score.

Before and after each daily exercise, the game has the player warm up by doing various stretches. Halfway through each exercise the game switches from Orthodox footing (left foot forward) to Southpaw (right foot forward) and repeats the punches and motions, so rather than just working one side of the body the game evens out the actions on both and pushes the player to stay on guard with how certain punches are thrown. There is an option for free exercising which lets the player pick which routines they want to perform, several can be added to a list for a complete workout, this doesn't include the stretching which is an integral part of a workout. Instrumental versions of songs such as It's My Life by Bon Jovi, Hot N Cold by Katy Perry, and Venus by Bananarama are played during exercises and can be sped up to twice the speed for an added challenge. 
In-game achievements are awarded for various things such as working out 10 times with a certain instructor, unlocking all the music tracks, throwing 5,000 perfect punches, and even stretching a certain number of times. These achievements grant you tickets that are used to unlock new clothes for the instructors, adding a bit more depth of customization. From a small, thin-framed girl to a hulking weightlifter, there's a choice of nine instructors to serve as a guide and can be switched from the main menu. The instructors themselves are nicely modeled in variety and aren't overbearing, they never get caustic over a missed punch and offer encouragement at all times. With the customization options of clothes, skin tones, hair, and even eye colors, they can be personalized to suit anyone's tastes. 

The game uses a Fitness Age calculator which tallies up the perfect and OK hits, and takes into account the misses to determine just how well you moved during the workout session. It mentions a few times that it's not a way to gauge how fit you are in real life. The fitness age also doesn't determine which exercises you do and the game will have you on a steady course to unlock the harder routines. The biggest sin that the game performs is that it doesn't take your height and weight into account when doing certain exercises. If you're overweight and can't move well, it will have you doing ducks and dodges on day 6 of the dailies, leaving it feeling a bit impersonal with how it handles each player.

As with every game, there are downsides and they are scattered throughout, not just in the gameplay itself. For starters, there will be a lot of times when punches don't connect with the timing. This is due in part to the Switch controller itself: it has trouble recognizing motions coming so soon one after another, it's most noticeable on the harder difficulties where the action can be almost nonstop. The game doesn't berate you for missing these but it does affect the overall score and Fitness Age.
There is a certain lag in performance when the game starts issuing combos to be thrown at the halfway and end points of each exercise. Originally the game lagged overall and timing was slowed down but after the last patch the timing was increased, so now punches need to be thrown faster. As of writing this review, a perfect balance will have to come at a later date. Another problem comes with just how repetitive it can get after just one month. There are only 20 licensed instrumental songs, 3 originals, and 5 backgrounds to choose from This can easily be fixed by adding DLC but that possibility remains to be seen.

Another problem with the Switch controllers and recognizing motions is that it doesn't understand full body movements, so things such as ducking, dodging, and foot movements aren't translated unless you move the controllers to match these motions. In an effort to counter this, Imagineer added in the options a selection screen where automatic scoring can be turned on for these full body movements and even for the punches if those are too hard for some players. It feels like a cheap way to get past but at the same time it's almost necessary after you realize that, like I said, the Switch controllers don't recognize full body movements.

The biggest overall problem is "the entire game" itself. From many other reviews you'll find that this is almost the exact same game as the first with a few added bits. What could have been DLC to make the first game a richer experience is instead packaged as a new $50 (USD) entry to the series (something I've spoken about my disdain for in the past). It's a steep asking price but if you want to wait for it to go on sale, then don't bother. If you're not serious enough about exercising that you want to wait just to save a few dollars then that money would be better spent on a gym membership. It's not so much a game as it is a tool that can be used if you're looking to get more movement in your daily life or to finally start a fitness routine. It's not a bad game, but looking at the overall package it becomes apparent that it's not really needed when there are other tools out there that do things better. Ambition alone is not enough.
Keep Playing.
UPDATE (v1.1.0):
Imagineer has addressed some of the previously mention concerns and have two graphical options: light stage animations which means no visual overload from the background, as well as simpl, which uses the background from the main menu. Bigger icon sizes as well as the combo lane are now a pinkish color instead of yellow (which blended in with several stages). "Punches Thrown" has been changed to "Number of Actions." These are welcome changes and improve the accessibility even further for those who struggled before. A new trainer, Guy, has been added for free as well as the original Japanese VOs for each trainer. The paid DLC music pack 1 sounds akin to music heard in a DDR game while the second music pack features themes based on the trainers and is a welcome variety.
While the game could still use a few more personalization aspects, these updates prove that the devs have listened to feedback. It can only get better from here.