Of Love & Nostalgia
HIGH Unique art direction that brings back memories.
LOW Too many fetch quests — better to call the game Errand Boy instead!
WTF No remappable controls again!? Why does this keep happening to me?
Narita Boy is the first game from Studio Koba and tells the story of a programmer who tricked by his own creation. The world he’s built – The Digital Kingdom – is under attack by a program called HIM that puts the programmer into some sort of deep sleep. Now, the Digital Kingdom and the programmer need a hero. Enter Narita Boy.
Before going further, it’s impossible to talk about Narita Boy without first mentioning its art direction and aesthetics. From the lights of the digital world to the mesmerizing tone of the synthesizer, every moment pays homage to the neon-hue pop culture of the ’80s. The game even has a ‘soft’ CRT effect that makes it feel as though it’s being played on an Apple II from the dawn of the digital era. The effect can be turned off, but I would guess that those old enough to recognize it for what it is will leave it on.
As the savior of the Digital Kingdom, Narita Boy will feature 2D action and platforming through different landscapes while fighting HIM’s minions. The story feels heavily influenced by famous science-fiction works (most notably the seminal Tron) but it’s not only about digital life and a computer-based world. At the heart of Narita Boy’s narrative lies a very personal and sentimental story about love, loss and hope, and this emotional atmosphere will power players through sections that are sometimes filled with overly-complicated coding and programming references.
Mechanically, Narita Boy is quite generous in offering different types of enemies and asking the player to master different skills to beat each of them. For instance, there are some that should be attacked from behind or some that have shields that require special moves to break. This variety in enemy types ensures that the combat side of the experience never becomes monotonous. (Note: Narita Boy does not support mouse use and the keyboard buttons are not remappable, so the combat might be notably more difficult without a controller.)
Unfortunately, the quest design of Narita Boy isn’t as strong as the combat. The story unfolds through a series of fetchquests where the player will go from point A to point B, grab a key and then return to point A while killing a bunch of enemies on the way. This type of task is already naturally boring and repetitive, but Narita Boy takes it to the next level by omitting any maps or waypoints! I often ended up cluelessly wandering around the Digital Kingdom while hoping to find the door for the key I just found. Quest descriptions are also too vague, which adds to the confusion. How am I supposed to know what to do by reading nothing more than “Save the Motherboard” or “Find a way to enter Royal Stables”?
Narita Boy’s retro style is its main selling point. It’s almost like a documentary on the early days of videogames when their creation were labors of love and dedication from passionate geeks in a garage, not industrial products focus-tested by mega corporations. Although it falls short of being a masterpiece, it’s got more than enough appeal to come recommended to those who have a soft spot for the period.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Studio Koba and published by Team17. It is currently available on Switch, PS4, XBO and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and was reviewed on PC. Approximately 7 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T for Blood, Crude Humor and Violence. The enemies in the game are pixelated humanoid figures and hitting them causes splashes of blood-like matter. In some instances, body parts are dismembered by laser attacks from Narita Boy. Other than that, there’s not much to worry about.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game has no spoken dialogue so, all the communication happens through text and subtitles. These subtitles cannot be resized or altered. No audio cues are necessary for play, so this game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable, although there are three different preset control schemes.