Narita Boy | Review | Nintendo Switch

  • Developer: Studio Koba
  • Publisher: Team17
  • Release date: 30/03/2021
  • Price: £19.99/ $24.99
  • Review code provided by Team17

Introducing: Narita Boy Review

Soak up some retro aesthetics and swing your techno sword to save the Digital Kingdom! Narita Boy is the debut title from Studio Koba, best described as a side-scrolling, puzzle-solving adventure game. This title immediately caught my attention during its reveal at the Steam Games Festival – let’s find out what it has to offer us.

Welcome to the Digital Kingdom

The story has us playing as Narita Boy, a child kidnapped into his computer Tron-style by protective programs after things start running amok. An evil program called HIM has taken over one of the three houses of the Trichromia – a large pillar of the three colours red, blue, and yellow – that balances the Digital Kingdom. 

After somehow assaulting the guy behind the world, called the Creator, HIM rises from the program that handles junk data to become an evil and twisted program. He uses an army of Stallions, programs linked to the house he has taken over, to try to capture the other two houses in an attempt to rule over the Digital Kingdom. As Narita Boy, we are tasked with stopping HIM and restoring the backup memories stored in the computer to the Creator.

I’m Firing My Laser

Narita Boy has some basic side-scrolling controls. Just hack your way through set spawn encounters and jump over the ones you can’t destroy. It does add a bit to this. You have a dodge that goes through enemies. Though it seemed like if you weren’t right up on the enemy it didn’t usually work. You also have a shoulder charge, primarily used for bashing shields away. The game gives you an uppercut sword swing attack as well, but the Switch controls just didn’t always input that during battle. Ultimately I found it easier to just dodge through enemies and swing at their back. 

There is this aura power-up ability you get from the different houses. It was an interesting risk and reward mechanic. If you powered up to one of the colors, you would hit enemies of the same color harder. Usually this killed those enemies in one or two hits. however, the risk was that those same enemies would hit you harder. Depending on the enemy they might even one-shot you. The last combat tool at your disposal was a shot/beam mechanic. The shot was pretty close range, similar to a shotgun blast, and it was often better to just swing your sword over using it. I did like the tri-colored face beam a good deal. It was a full screen shot that, while leaving you vulnerable, killed most mobs that were hit by it.

Traverse with Skills

Most of the combat abilities served a dual purpose however. They were used in traversing and some simple puzzle solving. Your original jump is not that high, but the uppercut serves as a double jump. The dodge could be used in the air to dodge hazards, usually spike traps, and jump over large chasms. Lastly, shoulder charging was used to break down purple walls and open up new paths. I actually enjoyed the dual purpose of these mechanics because it allowed me to use actions I normally wouldn’t have. Plus, I found it more creative than just going with standard traversal tools like double jumping.

You get access to a stag, a horse and a robot suit to help too. The stag is only used in a short story driven cut scene and you don’t get to do anything with it. The horse was used to cross a large expanse of desert in a mini-game, and the robot suit was also used sparingly. I felt that these were interesting parts in the story, but sadly they just weren’t used enough to really go anywhere.

Retro Style Graphics with Simple Puzzles.

I was enamored by the retro graphics from the moment I started the game . It reminded me a lot of older arcade style side scrollers. The charm of these graphics wore off quick. The muted colors used in some of the areas made it hard to see higher ledges. Plus some environments used the same background color as the enemies you commonly fight. Though I feel the puzzles bothered me more. Basically every puzzle boiled down to take these symbols, color and shape, and teleport with them. It was not very creative nor engaging to me.

Exploring the Creators Memories

I wanted to touch a bit more on this specific portion of Narita Boy. The idea that we are restoring the Creator’s memories through the computer made no sense to me, but I loved how it was done. We got to see the backstory of the Creator as we locate each sealed memory. This helped me identify more with the Creator and motivated me to want to restore his memories. It also helped to break up the pacing of the overall story.

Pacing and the Story

This game’s pacing is really slow. There is a lot of backstory dump from NPC’s, which occurs for long stretches of the game. Plus, the game boils down to find a series of keys and fight a boss in each area. Though this game screams metroidvania with how often it wants you to backtrack around the area you are currently in. It sadly doesn’t deliver on this as each section of the game is kind of stand alone.

I had a big problem with the restricted fight sections of the game. Primarily you will fight a series of enemies in restricted fight windows, similar to an old beat ’em up. This was a little sad to see though. One of the things I was most excited for was the flashy, sword swinging combat in this game. But to boil it down to primarily those restricted sections just hurts the game more than anything else.

Final Thoughts.

Narita Boy has a charming aesthetic. It’s graphics and music really put you into a retro side scrolling mood. You will love this game if you love games with a lot of story or retro styled graphics, but the pacing for the game is dreadful at times. The controls can be shaky and the puzzles just felt like an insult to the target audience.

Pros:

  • Short playtime
  • Retro style feel
  • Good music

Cons:

  • Pacing is too slow
  • Art style made platforms harder to see
  • Fighting regulated to small areas and boss battles mainly

Verdict

Narita Boy will have you romping through a retro digital world. And you might get to fight some things when the story says so.

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