In an unusual decision, Fitness Boxing has gone old-school anime! I suppose it’s not a huge surprise, between modern anime like How Heavy Are The Dumbbells You Lift? inspiring people to get to the gym and Hajime No Ippo probably inspiring more than a few people to try boxing back in the day. But will Fitness Boxing Fist of the North Star capture people’s hearts in the same way?
Can’t Teach The Fist of the North Star
Sadly, this game can’t teach you the Fist of the North Star. But the protagonist of the anime series reassures you that he can teach you to exercise. And if you don’t want Kenshiro, you can unlock several other instructors from the series as you play. All the while they’ll be giving advice and encouragement.
There is a minimal amount of story, which essentially amounts to introducing bosses (who are often unlockable instructors) via manga panels and a voice-over.
Time to Workout
Fitness Boxing Fist of the North Star is very much ‘Fitness’ over ‘Boxing’. It has a variety of exercise modes, with the main battle mode focusing on making motions in time to a rhythm, which is as set as a metronome. The fighting here is more theme than anything.
There are three modes to go through – battles, daily workout, and free training. Each one of these has several options or unlockable levels. I was impressed by just how many combinations there are, and how well it introduces new elements as you play.
Battles and all boxing exercises work essentially in the same way. It instructs you to make a fist around the joycon, to take a certain stance, then the motion you need to make will appear on a rail. The icons move at a set speed rather than in time to the music, and it suggests bouncing on your feet to keep time.
While it starts simply with just basic punches like jabs and straights, it eventually throws in more complex moves like hooks, uppercuts, and ducks. You need to perform these at the correct time to knock down enemies. Combinations of these are repeated and characters often use dialogue to let you know what’s coming, so there’s plenty of warning.
It throws in a few boss fights, but despite adding some gauges, showing an enemy special move, and adding in a ‘defense mode’, these essentially work the same way. Whether you’re knocking down dozens of random enemies or a boss and whether attacking or defending, you’re doing exactly the same motions to the same patterns on rails. The only real difference in mechanics is that boss fights let you try to punch the enemy 100 times at the end. It’s a pity that they didn’t take this chance to add something new.
The daily workout takes you through some warm-up stretches, a short boxing exercise similar to the battles but without an enemy on screen, then the same stretches again to cool down.
The stretches work nicely to get ready. They don’t need the joycons. It’s just a model of your chosen instructor, who explains how to do the stretches and shows an example. It’s easy enough to mirror them to get ready and they’re not too difficult. While they do show you what to do, there is no way for the game to detect if it’s being done correctly.
While I say it’s not too difficult, you can choose to raise or lower the difficulty level of the workout. You can choose light, regular, or heavy and each takes different amounts of time.
This mode has some helpful features. It lets you stamp a calendar (by slapping an enemy’s head amusingly enough) to mark whether you did today’s workout. There’s an alarm feature too, which vibrates the joycon and lights it up at a set time on certain days if you set this.
Free Training includes three modes; Exercise, light stretching, and thorough stretching. Stretching is as described above, while the exercise mode contains 30 different boxing programs within it, focusing on different movements. Many of these need to be unlocked by receiving certain scores in other levels, which helps a sense of progression.
Unlocks, Missions, and Progress
As you play, you’ll earn points. Even more of these are earned when completing daily missions such as getting 500 perfect hits or completing 2 workouts. Achievements earn a bonus too and there are plenty of them to get while playing, mostly focusing on milestones. These were always nice to see pop up, as I felt progress was being made often.
These let you unlock new instructors, outfits for them, and songs. Many of these need to be unlocked via playing a certain level before becoming available to purchase.
I personally didn’t mind too much about unlocking instructors or outfits, but I suppose it’s a nice feature if you like a certain character. Songs on the other hand were something I enjoyed. It has some fitting rock-style music to go along with the exercises. Each level lets you choose which song you want to play or recommends one.
As well as unlocking the above, you can see your progress via data and charts through the menu. This is great to keep track of how well you’re doing over time. It also gives you a brief summary of your workout at the end of each level – though I’m fairly skeptical of how accurate its fitness age is. It usually puts me as more than a decade younger than I am, even when I’m more the sitting-around type.
Customize Your Exercise
Before I get into the negative (and there are definitely negatives), I’ll take a moment for some praise. The customization in Fitness Boxing Fist of the North Star is surprisingly good.
Can’t do ducking, weaving, body punches, step-backs, or more? Or just don’t like them? You can turn on a setting that just lets these be marked as perfect. As this is more of a self-motivated scoring system, it’s not a problem, and it makes it more accessible.
Was that a Hokuto Hyakuretsuken or a Jab?
The main issue with Fitness Boxing Fist of the North Star is a big one and one that reaches through all modes other than stretches.
It often relies on you to genuinely follow the instructions. Kenshiro may tell you to twist your body while you uppercut or add more power to the final punch, but it has no way to tell whether you’re doing that.
Even worse, whether it’s due to the limitations of the Nintendo Switch hardware or how the detection is set up, it often just seems wrong.
It can tell me to jab, straight, hook, then uppercut, but will still detect as perfect if I jab, straight, jab, straight. If I actually hook or uppercut, it seems to not detect at all about 10% of the time. Ducks are even less likely to detect, occasionally acting as if I hadn’t moved at all.
As an experiment, I played levels with only different types of punches but used the joycons like drumsticks. It worked.
Wallet Destroying Fist
While the above is the main issue, there is another. Fitness Boxing Fist of the North Star is just too expensive for what it is. At approximately $50 USD (or £40 GBP), it’s one of the priciest fitness games on the Nintendo Switch.
It exists at somewhat of an awkward price point. Pay slightly more and Ring Fit Adventure with the accessory is a better option. There are quite a lot of similar titles that cost significantly less too, such as Knockout Home Fitness. Really into your fitness and want to invest more? Then the Meta Quest 2 is a far better option with titles from FitXR to Dance Central VR or Space Channel 5 VR.
The issues continue with the presentation of the language.
Audio only comes in English, French, and Italian dubs. While usually, I’d want Japanese audio for an anime title, it’d not work well here, as there’s a need to listen to the audio cues for hints of what the next combo will be.
Unfortunately, the English dub is not great. The speech sometimes sounds stilted and I caught a couple of slips that sound like they came from a non-native speaker that diverge from what the subtitles say. Not to mention, there’s a notable pause whenever subtitles change from one line to the next. Usually, this is fine, but not when the sentence is broken up into more than one line.
In further language issues, the few story scenes have white text over mostly white manga panels. This is difficult to read sometimes. On the subtitles for the in-game dialogue, it sometimes cuts off the last part of the sentence.
There are certainly some positive elements to Fitness Boxing Fist of the North Star. It encourages progress, uses unlocks well, and demonstrates stretches in an easy-to-follow manner. Sadly, the issues with the core gameplay and the price point make it difficult to recommend.
For some casual exercise and at a lower price-point, then it might be worth picking up, especially if you’re a fan of Fist of the North Star. But there are better options out there.
WAIT FOR SALE ON FITNESS BOXING FIST OF THE NORTH STAR
Many thanks go to Imagineer for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.
Copyright Information for Fitness Boxing Fist of the North Star – Added by request of publisher
©2023 Imagineer Co., Ltd.
©Buronson & Tetsuo Hara/COAMIX 1983 Approved No. EB-212
Nintendo Switch is a trademark of Nintendo.
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A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.