For many of us, video games are an escape from reality. Just by pressing that controller button you are able to step away from your harsh daily life, and become a warrior, a superhero, anything but yourself, maybe even … a Narita Boy!
Today’s game aims to do something special, almost evocative. Drawing heavily from the 80s aesthetic, it manages to transform the concept of escapism into the world within the screen into a fantasy retro futuristic legend. Even the gameplay itself feels like a hybrid between metroidvania influences and equal amount of linearity enough for Narita Boy to establish its own identity between other retro inspired games.
Narita boy is now available for PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (Tested) and PC. [Also included with Xbox Game Pass for PC]
Narita Boy Review
I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to create my own game someday. Drawing out the fictional experience I have always dreamed of, and sharing my tiny world with others. I always believe that every game creator leaves a part of themselves within their own creation, and its up to us the players to figure out what they wanted us to see, or maybe what they themselves needed to hear, from someone else who cares about them.
Narita Boy is that kind of experience. It is actually a story about a game within the game itself. About a programmer who concealed many secrets and memories within one small game cartridge, too many of which proved to be the source of deep trauma for that designer. In the boots of our hero, we will have to bring peace to the jumbled mind of the creator and find the scattered pieces of his soul.
Never look back in Narita boy
It’s really hard to even try and scratch the surface of a game such as Narita Boy, as it puts you on a journey through five digital worlds with a deep and rich history like none other. All the characters are actually codes or software programs written for specific purposes, but here you look at them through the lens of creative imagination that easily grabs your attention and immerses you in the mind of their own creator.
Your job is to collect the broken memories (shaped like floppy disks) from the different stages, and obtain new tech moves that help you progress further into the different stages. It is worth nothing thought that like any metroidvania styled game, there will be a lot of going back and forth and to reapply these new found techniques to doors and paths which were beyond your reaching during your first visit.
The point of difference here is that the idea of a retrospective journey only takes places in every individual stage and not the game in its entirety. This means that at the end of each digital stage you will move on and never return to where were you before, and that is the reason why we chose the word “Stage” to describe how the world is designed, despite the word “metroidvania” ‘s usual implication of a vast interconnected world from start to end.
You might feel the game is slightly linear because of this, but on the other hand it does a lot to simply the experience of metroidvanias to new players, and moments where you will be forced to backtrack will be extremely rare. Also in that regard it creates a better story flow and a fluid transition from any section to the next will always happen.
A more streamlined experience
The memories you find gradually starts to take shape into a coherent and intriguing backdrop to the creator’s life, his career in programming and how his discoveries ruined his life through stunning pixelated models and dioramas you walk by as the accompanying narrator and wonderful soft music lends a magical twist of feelings to the whole thing.
As you progress, you will be gifted with several power ups and new fighting moves every half an hour or so, and you will reach the ending with an array of techniques that you can immediately put to use with practice and training instead of collecting and grinding for skill points. Almost every type of enemy has a different method for dealing with them, weather it means dribbling, spinning or smashing shields. There is no loss or gain from the usual action so you can treat any battle as a challenge in the way of reaching the goal and nothing more.
There are also plenty of bosses, maybe three or four in each world, and many different groups of enemies. Also You will have to keep your eyes peeled for the icons hidden in the background to unlock teleport stations and other useful features. All of this is hardly complicated but when combined with the artistic sense of the developer and how they excel at using the already found foundations of pixel games to create an unusual yet nostalgic atmosphere is somewhat unparalleled in today’s gaming scene.
A breathtaking world
Narita Boy is just visually amazing. The Digital Kingdom is a world filled with stunning artistic trends, vibrant use of colors, unique creature designs, and dozens of polished admirable pixels. From a simple glance at the ecosystem and character designs you can easily comprehend the concept of a digital reality colliding with fantasy and coming to life.
Every things is picturesque, brimming with life and meaning that directly translates into the mind of the player instead of just reading about these impressions in notes and hidden diaries. The soundtrack is also emotionally stimulating, much like the style used in games like Hyper Light Drifter and Celeste. There’s an incredible ingenuity in composing each tone to be carefully resonant with the topics being discussed or the responses we get from looking at the wonderful imagery of this unique realm.
Some activities add a certain playable variety to how we immerse ourselves in the game such as riding or surfing, However these moments are few and far between, and in general its not much of a repayable experience. It excels at giving you a 8-10 hours of a unique blend of many pop culture influences from the east and west, but there is not enough incentive to revisit the digital kingdom after everything is all over.
Yet, and just like how we would like video games to be, Narita Boy succeeds the difficult task of remaining imprinted on the player’s mind even after its completion. Much credit is owed to the artistic direction and the creative mixing of many nostalgic influences that feels organic and mechanical at the same time. Everything always feels credible and captivating, and it maybe one of the few experiences I got close enough to the mind of the developers, and succeeded in seeing the history of gaming and pop culture from the love only found in their eyes.
- Gorgeous and Meaningful pixel art
- Fast paced gameplay that rewards individual skills
- Simplified metroidvania experience that is equally accessible for all player skill levels
- A unique story with backdrops to many pop culture references and influences
- Special techniques are of limited use depending on the stage
- No rewards from enemies despite their large number and variety
- Not much of value in replaying the game