Lately, I’ve been playing and reviewing a lot of simulation games. As much I love strategizing and taking things slow, I’ve been craving something more finger-heavy and faster-paced. And nothing – absolutely nothing – could have fit the bill more than Narita Boy. As a 90s kid, Narita Boy is the full-neon “quintessential” 80s experience I never knew I needed in my life. So, in this Narita Boy review, we’ll take a look at a shamelessly self-indulgent fast-paced experience with more depth than you expect.
Narita Boy Review: Much More Than A Platformer
Narita Boy is a curious action platformer that delivers the ultimate 80s experience (for all of us who don’t actually know what the 80s were like). The core gameplay is nothing risky or new; it is a 2D pixel-art action platformer with dashes, combat, and linear gameplay. However, the game feels like nothing I’ve played before.
The game follows you, the chosen one, inside Narita Boy, the flagship game of the Narita One console. In that world however, things digital and real are interconnected and things in the game can affect real life. You are on a quest of returning the stolen memories of the game’s creator so he can defeat HIM, the main villain.
The minute you go into the game you know you’re up for something special. After a short intro, you start the game as a weirdly designed stick figure into a fairly normal platforming game. But that all changes when you get hold of the techno sword. This all happens exactly as you’d think – with synth blasting through your ear, and scanlines and neon colors invading your screen.
Rest assured, every platforming section, boss fight, and flashback will be accompanied by enough pure style to keep you entertained for hours on end. At least it did for me for all 9 hours I played to write this Narita Boy review.
Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Roads!
The Narita Boy experience is one hell of a vibe. The real highlight of the game is how it all fits together. I tried to break down all the awe-inspiring elements of the game in this Narita Boy review, but in the end the game is so much more than the sum of its parts.
The first thing that will capture your attention as you go into the game is the visuals. The art direction of this game is something else. Its awe-inspiring neo-retro aesthetic is a treat through and through. Every new area and every new scene is a wild land of 80s-inspired backdrops and character design. The visual effects are also equally inspiring and satisfying to watch over and over.
Soundtrack Good Enough To Play On Repeat
But maybe I lied when I said that the visuals hit you first. It’s more of a joint attack between the visuals and the terribly catchy soundtrack. In all its neo-retro glory, the soundtrack never indulges itself too much and is always context-aware. And there are a lot of tracks, all of them bangers.
It All Works Together
While all of this serves to draw you in, it’s the story itself that keeps you going. When I say story I don’t necessarily mean the plot. The plot is excellent, don’t get me wrong. It may be a bit confusing, but it’s still good. What I mean by story is just how the game unfolds for you.
The aesthetic, soundtrack, and general feel of the game takes an otherwise standard hero-saves-the-day plot and transforms it into something – dare I say – touching. Yes, the game was silly, over-the-top, and incredibly indulgent but I never felt at any moment that it was too much. It is kind of like 75% cocoa dark chocolate, only with a lot more flashing lights.
Let’s rewind a bit here. The game consists of two overarching storylines that I will try my best not to spoil. The first, that of Narita Boy, is the classic chosen-one narrative that you love to live, but feel silly about. The second is a bit more human. It follows the life of Lionel, the genius programmer behind Narita Boy (the game) and Narita One.
While the Narita Boy narrative progressesnormally through playing, the Lionel storyline is exposed in one of the best ways I’ve ever seen in gaming. The story is unlocked in a series of memories that are nothing short of genius. The somber music, tinted screen, and succinct monologue of the 13 memories make each one genuinely touching. Not very long into the game, I found myself wholly motivated to keep playing just for these memories. What makes these great is that between each memory and the next you are hacking and slashing your way through ridiculous levels, dialogues filled with silly nonsense jargon, and funky synth-heavy tracks. Each memory presents a new chapter in an engaging story, but also a relief that lets you not overdose on the 80s edge.
I’m Not Bad, I’m Just Drawn That Way
But all this high praise does not mean that Narita Boy is a perfect game. Far from it actually. While the game carries you through a remarkable experience, it seems to rely too much on its abundance of style.
A Platformer With Floaty Controls
When it comes to gameplay, however, the game can be a bit on the mundane side. The first, and perhaps most deadly, sin comes from the game’s movement. To put it bluntly, Narita Boy is a platformer with floaty controls. It’s easy to not notice it at first with the game’s satisfying animations, but after a while you’ll notice platforming is nothing but frustrating. Luckily, there are not that many platforming sections.
What there is a lot of, however, is combat. Combat is not perfect either. I wouldn’t call Narita Boy’s combat shallow or boring, but it is bogged down with a lot of flaws. The impact of every hit and blow is super rewarding, but it can’t really carry fight after fight against simple enemies and one-trick bosses. Another thing I particularly disliked was the new moves you would unlock only to have to use them against a single specific enemy and that’s it. It made enemies feel less of a challenge and more of monster-shaped puzzles.
Why Are There Puzzles Here?
Finally, on the point of puzzles, this game had some and they all felt out of place. The puzzles were just flat out uninteresting and repetitive. The one or two types of puzzles in the game seemed like they were tacked on last-minute.
Undoubtedly, I thoroughly enjoyed my nearly 9 hours with Narita Boy. I loved the story and lived the experience eagerly despite all its flaws. Whether it was the soundtrack, visuals, story, gameplay, or a mix of all of them, Narita Boy has a magical charm that you can only experience first-hand.
In short, Narita Boy is a near perfect experience and a serviceable game. It has so much style that it’s easy to think of its flaws no more than silly quirks.