Narita Boy review: Lost in cyberspace

Studio Koba's action-adventure game Narita Boy takes players deep into a digital universe.

3

Studio Koba’s Narita Boy is one of those games that just feels rooted in nostalgia. From the bright and pixelated art style to the retro synth soundtrack, this game just screams the 80s. Although it’s an incredibly visually pleasing experience, Narita Boy’s core mechanics can feel pretty paint-by-numbers.

A new Oasis

Narita Boy’s story centers on Narita One, a gaming console conceived and developed by a man nicknamed “The Creator.” Following its release, The Creator is hailed a mastermind and is celebrated by many. Sound familiar? Narita Boy is heavily influenced by Ready Player One, another modern era work of fiction that doubles as a love letter to the 80s. When an adversary goes in and begins to erase all of The Creator’s memories, the Narita Boy protocol is put into place in order to stop this enemy before it’s too late.

The developers do a pretty solid job at building this universe and lore through character dialogue and storytelling. The way people talk about The Creator and his creations, you can see the influence he’s had on culture. It gives a real sense of weight to the stakes that the game presents to you.

Digital artscape

Jumping into Narita Boy, I was immediately impressed by the game’s artistic presentation. The retro synth soundtrack is groovy and energetic, really complimenting the game’s vibrant and colorful visuals. It’s evident that a lot of care was taken into the game’s art style, as the hand-drawn pixelated animation is incredibly stunning. There’s even a fuzzy border on the outside of the frame to make it appear that the game is being played on an old television set. Even as someone who was born far after the 1980s, Narita Boy hit me with a strong wave of nostalgia.

The varying environments in Narita Boy’s digital landscapes are also bolstered by the game’s use of color and light. There’s a solid distinction between each location, keeping things fresh as you progress through the story, whether it be a peaceful temple or dark forest. Even the effect of a sword swinging, or a character leaping into the air is fully detailed down to the pixel.

Keep it classic

Ironically, Narita Boy also feels extremely retro and old-fashioned in its combat. Throughout the game players wield the Technosword, a blade capable of dealing out some serious hurt. There’s a wide variety of enemies to fight and defeat across the Digital Kingdom, each coming with unique abilities and behaviors. This includes the deadly DragonBot and Black Rainbow. Players must read and react to patterns accordingly in order to succeed. It’s a similar model to many adventure games, but nothing about it really feels new or inventive.

Platforming is also a strong element of the gameplay in Narita Boy. The game will often task the player with overcoming a series of obstacles in order to progress to the next stage. I wasn’t particularly bothered by the platforming, but it definitely felt a bit off at times. Because of the character’s speed and lanky design, there were times where what happened on screen didn’t always feel reflective of my input. But as with most platformers, I got more adjusted to it as I went on.

Powering down

Narita Boy is a game that takes such a strong influence from so many past works, it can often feel a bit derivative. However, that doesn’t stop the game from being enjoyable, as there’s plenty of unique challenges to overcome as well as some solid lore-building. It’s gorgeous visual design and soundtrack will be enough to entice anyone familiar with 80s pop culture, and could prove irresistible to those that have a fondness for the era.


This review is based on a digital Steam code provided by the publisher. Narita Boy is available now on PC, Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch for $24.99.

Contributing Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Star Wars nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

Review for
Narita Boy
7
Pros
  • Artistically stunning
  • Smooth hand-drawn animations
  • Fleshed out universe
  • Large variety in enemies and locations
Cons
  • Game is derivative both thematically and mechanically
  • Platforming can feel off at times
  • Combat is fairly basic
From The Chatty
  • reply
    April 7, 2021 11:00 PM

    Donovan Erskine posted a new article, Narita Boy review: Lost in cyberspace

    • reply
      April 8, 2021 1:10 AM

      The game style looks amazing, haven't tried it yet though but it is free on gamepass.

      • reply
        April 8, 2021 7:22 AM

        It's good. As Donovan mentions the atheistic is spot on but the game play feels a bit monotonous or lacking at times compared to the game's luminaries such as Hollow Knight.

        I'm enjoying my time with it but I'm glad it was free on game pass.

Hello, Meet Lola