~Saving the world, Narita Boy, save the world, Yellow Red Blue, always be true, Techno Sword~
Narita Boy from Studio Koba and Team 17, is one of the best games of 2021. There are very few titles that have as much heart as this one and there’s a lot to be said about Narita Boy. So what about it exactly makes it excel? Settle in because there’s a lot to talk about here.
Narita Boy thrusts players into the role of a kid that gets sucked into his video game console one night. Upon entering the Digital Kingdom contained within the console, the eponymous hero discovers that he’s been summoned by Motherboard to help save the world from an evil entity known as “HIM”. In the Digital Kingdom, Narita Boy has to wield the Techno Sword and help restore the Creator’s memories by finding and cleansing 13 memory fragments from data corruption.
The plot thickens with the introduction of the Trichroma – Yellow, Red and Blue. The three major houses of the Digital Kingdom that, when synced up in harmony with each other, maintain order. Things go awry when the red house gets corrupted by HIM and his “Stallion” scourge. The Stallions are now currently wreaking havoc across the Digital Kingdom.
The Techno Sword mentioned above was forged by the three houses of the Digital Kingdom to prevent HIM from taking over. Narita Boy retrieves the sword quite early in the game and players will use it to battle the Stallions. Narita boy’s adventure consists of fighting through the Digital Kingdom while learning more about the world in the process.
Gameplay in Narita Boy is rather simple. It is a sidescroller platformer at its core and as such, players will have a lot of jumping and exploring to do. Once you obtain the Techno Sword, players will be able to perform a simple sword slash combo attack. They’ll also be able to charge up a sword swing and perform a blast-like swing attack. Additionally, players can fire up to 3 shotgun-Esque rounds from the Techno Sword too. This projectile attack can also be charged up to fire off a Trichroma beam that deals massive damage in a straight line in front of Narita Boy.
With the Techno Sword in hand, Narita Boy sets forth into the Digital Kingdom’s three houses to defeat the Stallions that are laying siege to them. Using the attacks at your disposal, you’ll face off against different types of Stallion units as you quest your way through the game world. Enemies early on in the game are quite easy to beat but as you progress to the later stages, the tougher variants present quite a challenge due to their special abilities and other features. There are a lot of enemies in the game and the game introduces each enemy type by name the first time you encounter them.
The pacing in Narita Boy is excellent. The game never feels like it drags or is a chore because it pushes you to learn more about the world and progress further. As you make your way through the world, you’ll come across the Creator’s memories. These break up the game into easily digestible segments. It’s a tad formulaic in this regard but it works incredibly well in expanding upon the story and driving the gameplay forward.
When you cleanse a memory and view it, Narita Boy is transported to a flashback of the Creator’s life. In these flashbacks, you’ll learn more about the Creator himself and how his life ties into the Digital Kingdom. The memories masterfully weave together the stories told by the citizens of the Digital Kingdom and the Creator’s actual life in the real world.
As a platformer, the puzzle-solving elements of Narita Boy are slightly lacklustre with very simple code based teleporters to interact with. This is coupled with a lot of backtracking to open previously locked doors. As you progress deeper into the game, you’ll end up unlocking even more abilities that are necessary to continue the story. Narita Boy will soon be able to perform additional sword attacks or will be able to call upon an ally to help. The core gameplay is great in this regard and is highly reminiscent of titles such as Metroid, in which defeating bosses and exploring, leads to upgrades that help you progress.
Narita Boy does however have two major stumbling blocks. One is the fact that the game does not feature a map. While this might seem like a small problem, it does ultimately lead to confusion as to where to go and what to do. The second major stumbling block is that there are times where the game does not really allow you to go back to a previous area. This means that if you miss out on a collectable, you won’t be able to get it in your current playthrough. There are only 5 collectables in the game in the form of floppy disks so be sure to search high and low for them otherwise you’ll have to try again in your next playthrough, unfortunately.
An important aspect of Narita Boy which some gamers might find challenging is the “Floaty” controls. Getting used to jumping, walking and running takes some trial and error and the starting section of the game is quite unforgiving since there’s a lot of jumping involved. Once you do get used to the controls though, chances are you’ll love the gameplay. Sword slashing hordes of Stallions is incredibly enjoyable throughout the entire game if not sometimes too easy in certain sections.
Narita Boy features some rather dastardly boss battles that some players might struggle to defeat but the game is not extremely difficult. Trial and error is key to succeeding and thankfully, the developers have opted to give the player an infinite amount of lives. You just simply respawn at a checkpoint upon dying. Speaking of checkpoints though, there are some sections in the game where the checkpoint location might be infuriating. There’s a particular segment that stands out where the nearest checkpoint places you right before a challenging wave of tougher enemies. You’ll have to play extremely safe to get through this section without dying and it will definitely take a few attempts.
Graphically, Narita Boy features breathtaking pixel artwork throughout. The effects are incredibly flashy and the animations are superfluid. The game world never ceases to amaze you and there are numerous sections that have gorgeous backgrounds that truly convey the uniqueness of each of the three houses of the Digital Kingdom. Players will really feel as if they are adventuring through a vast, epic world and therein lies much of Narita Boy’s charm. If you suffer from photosensitivity though, you’d best heed the warnings at the start of the game and on the loading screen. Narita Boy has a lot of flashing lights in some parts of the game.
When you combine the brilliant visuals with an absolute masterpiece of a soundtrack, you have a recipe for success. Narita Boy’s combination of visual storytelling, actual storytelling (through text when you interact with NPCs), the synth-heavy soundtrack and the gameplay makes for one of the best games of 2021 already.
Overall, Narita Boy is highly recommended. If you’re a fan of side-scrolling platformers, this game will definitely keep you entertained. The Digital Kingdom is incredibly beautiful and the game features plenty of moments that will keep you coming back for more. The gameplay might be somewhat of a mixed bag with a couple of missteps with regards to the difficulty curve and the controls but once you’ve got the hang of it, this is a game that is incredibly worthwhile. We just wish there was a New Game Plus mode but alas this isn’t the case.
You can purchase Narita Boy on Switch here for £19.99
Available on PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Xbox Platforms
This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game.
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