A neo-retro journey through a handcrafted pixel art world full of wonder and skill-based action combat.
Developed by Studio Koba and Published by Team 17, Narita Boy is the type of game that gives you the puzzle pieces and trusts you to put them together. This Metroidvania-esque action adventure wears its influences on its sleeve, and more than does them justice. Crisp two-dimensional action gameplay, breathtaking visuals, and a fantastic soundtrack immerse you in the Digital Kingdom.
You play as the titular character, Narita Boy, tasked with unlocking the powers of the Trichroma to restore the Creator’s memories. Standing in your way is Him, an evil program who has returned to consume the Creator and spread his evil to the real world.
First and foremost in an action-adventure game is the combat. Narita Boy’s chosen weapon is the Technosword, which he uses to slice and dice his enemies into bits in gorgeous 2D animation. In traditional Metroidvania fashion, you unlock new abilities and use them to overcome previously insurmountable obstacles. A steady supply of new ways to dish out technicolored badassery keeps the combat feeling fresh for the game’s twenty-ish hour story.
The combat feels slick and demands precision. This isn’t a game where you can get away with mashing buttons. You need to remember patterns, recognize openings, and think on your feet if you want to survive against Him’s evil forces known as Stallions. As you unlock the powers of the Trichroma, Narita Boy can tap into the yellow, blue, and red energy to deal massive damage to enemies with different color affinities. However, while in that state, enemies of the same color also hit harder. There’s a constant risk versus reward where you can either slice through enemies like butter, or be cut down in seconds.
Of course, an action game would be nothing without amazing boss fights. And Narita Boy delivers in spades. No two fights feel exactly the same and every single one presents a serious challenge. There’s a heaping helping of minibosses to stand in your way as well. You have no choice but to get good at the game, or have your progress halted for hours.
As fun as it is to play the game, it would be missing something if there wasn’t an interesting and mesmerizing world to get lost in. The devs behind the game painstakingly created and painted every single asset individually. You can’t fake the kind of passion that was put into Narita Boy. Every area of the game is unique and beautiful. The bright neons of the Trichroma permeate throughout the world. There’s a level of polish to the game; the little things, like the streaks of color that follow the Technosword, that makes Narita Boy feel special.
The level design of the game is fantastic as well. The game doesn’t hold your hand. It simply gives you an objective and sends you on your way. Levels are crafted to naturally guide you on your journey, and force you to experiment with your new found abilities. Though Narita Boy focuses on combat, platforming sections sprinkled throughout the game offer a nice change of pace. There are plenty of pitfalls, traps, and puzzles to rack your brain and test your reflexes.
The yellow, blue, and red houses of the Trichroma feel alive. They’re not simply dungeons for you to explore and overcome. They’re living, breathing societies that have been ravaged by Him and his Stallions. The NPCs you come across aren’t just fodder to assign an objective or be killed off by enemies. They have their own lives and motivations. Their world has been turned upside down by Him and it’s up to Narita boy, and by extension, you to set things right.
Now, a game can have great combat and stunning art; but what makes or breaks the atmosphere is the music. Narita Boy’s 16-bit soundtrack is moving, exciting, and sets the tone of the game perfectly. Almost as if it was a soliloquy; the music masterfully expresses the range of emotions you experience throughout your quest to restore the Creator’s memories.
And that’s the whole point. You don’t just play as Narita Boy. You lose yourself in him. This faceless program is the perfect avatar for the player to project themselves onto. As you unlock the memories of the Creator, you grow to empathize with him. If nothing else, this game makes you feel something. It moves you.
There are always nitpicks to be had, but none of them are so jarring that they take away from the game. Occasionally you’ll feel like you dodged an attack but get hit anyway, and on the Nintendo Switch, loading screens can be a bit long sometimes. Minor things that don’t detract from the overall experience.
Narita Boy captures the kind of magic that only passion projects developed by a small team of creatives can. Like Celeste, Undertale, and Hollow Knight, Narita Boy makes a strong case to join their ranks as an icon of the indies.
-Tight, fast-paced gameplay
-Unique art style with breathtaking visuals
-Amazing soundtrack that captures the tone of the game perfectly
-Occasional weird hitboxes
-Long load times on the Switch
5 out of 5.
Review key provided by Team17. Narita Boy releases 3/30/2021