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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Despite what you may initially think, combining a fitness game with much-loved manga and anime series Fist of the North Star isn’t the completely left-field crossover it appears to be. In fact, it’s not even the first game based on the IP that makes the player swing actual punches.

Many years ago, this writer used to regularly frequent the Trocadero in London (RIP) to play the brilliant Fighting Mania: Fist of the North Star, a Konami arcade game where the player had to put on boxing gloves and punch six pads which would come out in various patterns. It’s not an exaggeration to say playing it was a regular highlight in this writer’s life at the time, despite not having much interest in Fist of the North Star.

What we have here, though, is instead a spin-off of Imagineer’s Fitness Boxing series, which has already had two more straightforward entries released on the Switch. The twist, naturally, is that instead of having inoffensively pleasant trainers teaching you how to jab, hook, and uppercut your way to better physical health, this time you’re led through your exercises by a big anime sod with arms like cartoon hams.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

At first, your trainer is Kenshiro, the series’ main protagonist and a man who either has a comically tiny head or an obscenely large chest (most likely the latter). If his words of wisdom (such as “always focus on your abs”) don’t hit the spot with you, with regular play you can tick off achievements which earn you Fitness Points, which can then be used to unlock other characters from the game as instructors, including Mamiya, Rei, Thouzer, and Raoh.

Daily Workout is the Fitness Boxing Fist of the North Star's main mode and lets you set a few parameters designed to give you the type of workout you’re looking for. You can choose how active you want the exercises to be, which parts of the body you want to focus on, how long you want each daily route to last, and whether you want to include stretches or turn them off (so you can do that weird thing where you annoy your family and friends the next day by saying “oooh, my arms and legs ache with all that exercise I was doing yesterday”).

If you’re the rebellious type and don’t like the idea of being forced to take on a set daily routine – even if that routine is handed out by a man who looks like he could turn your ribs into soup by blinking at them – there’s also Free Training mode, where you can choose to take on any of the game’s 30 routines (some of which are initially locked), with three intensity levels.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

So far, so Fitness Boxing, but there’s one mode that’s unique to this version, simply titled Battle. This lets you take on a series of enemies by performing the right type of punch to the beat, before eventually unlocking the ability to take on a more advanced enemy one-on-one. In fairness, it’s more or less the same thing as the normal exercise routines, just presented in a more entertaining way to make it look like you’re actually beating people up instead of having Kenshiro just shouting “one, two, three, four” at you.

Since it’s still Fitness Boxing at its core, the issues we had with that game and its sequel still apply here, no matter how appealing its makeover is. There’s still a disappointingly small selection of music to exercise to: six actual Fist of the North Star songs, and 14 ‘original’ tracks that feel suitably appropriate but are nevertheless disappointing for a series that’s known for having a badass soundtrack of its own.

It also still suffers from occasional instances where the game doesn’t quite detect your punches, which can be a bit annoying when you’re trying to get all ‘perfect’ ratings during a routine. It’s your typical Just Dance syndrome where the Joy-Con isn’t capable of perfectly reading an uppercut or a hook and so the game doesn’t always register your interpretation of it.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Of course, the counter-argument is that, as in Just Dance, it should be understood from the get-go that the movements you’re expected to perform can’t be accurately tracked, and that the whole point of the game is the simple act of taking part (and, in this case, getting fit by pretending to punch anime guys in the chops). As rhythm game fans who can’t relax if we can’t accurately register each hit though, we say “pfffft” to that.

Ultimately, then, your mileage with Fitness Boxing: Fist of the North Star will vary depending on parameters that are very similar to those of Imagineer’s mainline entries. If you’re willing to forgive a game that won’t always track every punch perfectly and accept that the main point of the game is to work on your fitness and have a bit of fun doing so along the way, then this might be worth a look.

Similarly, you also have to be prepared to have the sort of tolerance for repetition that most exercise programmes require. With 30 routines and 20 music tracks to choose from, there’s some variety here but given that this is something that’s designed to be used on a daily basis you’re looking at a month or two before things are going to start feeling a little repetitive.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Given the relatively basic nature of the gameplay, there’s an argument to be had that you could save $50 by just watching boxing fitness routines on YouTube. If you feel like adding gamification to exercise will make you more likely to commit to it, though, this is as good a place to start as any (even if Ring Fit Adventure, while more expensive, gives you more of a workout).


Like the standard Fitness Boxing titles, Fitness Boxing Fist of the North Star is a straightforward enough exercise game that will give you a workout if you commit to it. Despite its fun tie-in, however, the very basic gameplay combined with the limited number of routines and sparse music selection means you're going to need a strong tolerance to repetition.