When a rogue computer program is unleashed, it initiates a safety protocol. This protocol sees the inhabitants of a computer world, call upon the prophesied Narita Boy, who is tasked to save the Digital Kingdom. A young boy from his 80’s era house, is transported into this cyber world via his computer and becomes Narita Boy. Gifted with a powerful weapon called the Techno Sword, you start your journey to eradicate the evil HIM program, finding the creator’s memories and defeating HIM’s minions, known as Stallions.
Right Out Of The 80’s
The Digital Kingdom is beautifully rendered in a pixel art aesthetic, as backgrounds, animations and characters have an old-school 80’s vibe. Saturated in blues, reds and yellows, the world would remind you of the cult hit Tron. As the neon hues and kicking synth soundtrack eminent throughout the game, Narita Boy is fantastic to look at. Its art style also uses visual filters, with grainy CRT overlay, as if you are playing a classic arcade machine or on an old monitor.
As mentioned above, the soundtrack is fantastic throughout. A mix of calming snythesizer background themes, are mixed went thumping electronic sounds during boss fights. There are even a number of classic adventure-esque themes, with a synth twist. You’ll easily have a number of the tracks stuck in your head by the end of the game.
Around The World
Narita Boy is a action platformer, that has you engage in combat, light exploration, key collection and sees you unlocking the memories of the program’s creator, in order to open up new parts of the world. As you progress, areas are split into hub like levels, where you complete tasks, read some techno-chat and take on a number of varying enemies. Complete each hub, unlock a memory of the creator and move onto the next area. Rinse and repeat.
While initial gameplay may seem like a Metroidvania experience, many of the levels fall flat and feel more like tedious backtracking. Platforming is minimal and some what clunky, as you will have to jump, dodge and dash over hazards or pitfalls. The player will learn a number of new moves and combat abilities, but are almost used immediately after acquiring them and rarely utilised to find hidden areas or new parts of previous levels. Modern games, like Guacamelee!, better integrate new moves, handle exploration and allow satisfying hidden secrets to be earned.
There are a number of vehicle-like sections, that are little more than hurdle jumping or have you avoiding falling into water. Thankfully these sections are brief. Some further exploration, comes in the form of portals dotted around the game or secret rooms. You will have to find a simple 3 shape code to access portals or push a number of buttons, to open the secret rooms. They don’t really add too much extra to the package, expect for an additional creator memory and a Trophy/Achievement.
Die By The Sword
Thankfully, combat is a bit more palatable. For the majority of the playthough, you will use your Techno Sword to defend yourself. Starting with basic strike moves, you will have to slash enemies a number of times, while avoiding their attacks. As you progress, you will unlock dodge moves, powered strikes and pinpoint amour braking maneuvers. Your sword will also allow you to charge up a shotgun-like blast, which can be used in single bursts or charged to give a devastating blow to several enemies at once.
New enemies are introduced at a steady rate and consist of ground and aerial based enemies. Dodging projectile attacks, melee strikes and avoiding defensive shields, will have you use a number of dodges, shoulder barges and jumping techniques. Many of the encounters can be finished without using these moves and many of the techniques aren’t necessary at times. There are a number of boss battles too, but are never too hard to overcome. Most have you dodging attacks and waiting for an opening to strike.
Overall I enjoyed Narita Boy, looking and sounding great. I looked forward to entering new areas and hearing the soundtrack. While combat is better in other Metroidvania style games, it was easy to learn and never felt too difficult. It is, however, the level design that lets down the package as a whole. If the world was more inserting to explore and some hidden areas and bosses were available, I would have enjoyed it more.
With a short 6-7 hour campaign, you can get through it swiftly. A possible sequel could fix some of the problems, while taking on more 80’s inspired game mechanics. I played on a PlayStation 5 and there were no hiccups or gameplay bugs, that stood out. Trophy hunters will find this one easy enough to platinum too, but may take a couple of playthroughs, as there is no level select and auto-saves.
The Power Of The Techno Sword
The art style and music are high points. Combat is fine, but it's let down by simple level design. A short campaign allows its positives to outweigh the negative. Worth a play if you are into 80's inspired platformers.