Review – Narita Boy
There are so many movies, shows, songs, and games focused on 80’s nostalgia nowadays that I’m pretty sure we’ve already filled our quota for that decade’s revival for the next twenty years or so. Between Stranger Things, The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights“, Ready Player One, and much more, it’s hard to come up with an 80’s-inspired product that feels truly original nowadays. Narita Boy is one example of that. It’s by no means an innovative take on the trend, as it drinks from the Tron fountain to an unapologetic degree, but it’s still worth giving a shot. Just mind the fact that it’s a very flawed title.
Narita Boy‘s somewhat convoluted story revolves around the titular hero fighting through hordes of enemies inside a Digital Kingdom within an old-school computer game. He is trying to save the land from the clutches of HIM (not related to the Finnish band) and restore the memories of the game’s creator, who takes the mantle of a god-like figure within the setting in a similar way to James Halliday in Ready Player One. You’ll also be greeted to a nonsensical amount of technobabble and invented terms that are here to basically make things even more incomprehensible than they already are.
Story-wise, Narita Boy isn’t very brilliant, but you can pretty much ignore it and enjoy the game for what it truly is: a super stylish metroidvania packed with tons of audiovisual elements taken straight from every single 80’s cliché you can imagine. After a brief introductory section in which you’re unable to defend yourself against HIM’s minions, you’ll eventually grab the legendary Techno Sword and proceed to mow down everything in sight.
The combat is slick and stylish. Your sword packs one hell of a punch, transforming all kinds of enemies into piles of data. You can charge your sword attack in order to blast anyone near you with a home run bash and you can also use a limited supply of shots inside your blade, transforming it into a shotgun. You’ll constantly pick up new moves to increase your arsenal and it feels great. Narita Boy nails the metroidvania progression system like few games do. You’ll crave for enemies to show up because it feels great just to tear them apart.
That doesn’t mean the gameplay is flawless. Sadly, despite featuring a great combat system, Narita Boy‘s controls are a bit confusing and feature a noticeable amount of input lag. That’s not really an issue during combat, as mashing the Square button like a lunatic will still be the solution to 99.99% of encounters. However, when there’s platforming involved, things become infuriating. The game also lacks a map feature and forces you to backtrack throughout levels way too often. It’s a terrible combination.
Being so inspired by all the cheesiness of the 80’s, one can only imagine that Narita Boy nailed its visuals and sound design, but only one and a half of these statements are correct. First of all, the soundtrack is damn amazing. It’s exactly what you should expect from a game about being inside a virtual gaming world in the 80’s: loud and abrasive synthwave with electronic bass lines that make your room walls shake like an earthquake. Its sound effects are also loud and goofy, just like they should be. I have little to complain about the sound design as a whole. However, there’s the issue with the visuals…
Don’t get me wrong, Narita Boy‘s graphics are actually… excellent. It’s really well designed, with immaculate sprite work and animations, and truly creative backgrounds. But the game is a freaking eyesore, like very few I have ever seen. The problem lies in the game constantly blasting strobing lights at you. It’s way too bright and far too abrasive. If you’re photosensitive, either turn your TV’s brightness down or avoid this game completely. I’m not photosensitive and I still got fed up with jolts of light blasting my eyeballs every few seconds, so one can imagine what this can happen to more sensitive people.
By no means is Narita Boy a bad game, but it’s filled with way too many incoveniences that tarnish what could have easily been one of the best indie games of the year. It’s certainly enjoyable in its current state, not only as a stylish metroidvania game, but also as one hell of a synthwave treat to your ears. But its noticeable input lag, nonsensical plot, and most importantly, its overabundance of flashing lights got on my nerves pretty quickly. If you decide to pick this bad boy up (and you’ll certainly want to if you’re a fan of 80’s nostalgia), consider grabbing a Switch copy instead. You’ll probably be able to deal with the strobing effects more easily on a smaller screen.
Believe it or not, Narita Boy is a gorgeous game featuring excellent sprite work and animations. Sadly, the game is overloaded with strobing lights and irritating effects that are basically a photosensitive nightmare.
The combat is really satisfying, but the controls suffer from a noticeable amount of input delay. The control layout is also a bit odd.
Narita Boy‘s synthwave soundtrack is absolutely pristine and its loud sound effects are really impactful.
Fun Factor: 7.0
Even if its combat is incredible and its setting is downright unique, Narita Boy is hindered by its confusing plot, backtracking, and its annoying visual effects.
Final Verdict: 7.0
Narita Boy is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.
Reviewed on PS4.
A copy of Narita Boy was provided by the publisher.