Review / Narita Boy: sublime artistic universe for this captivating retro-futuristic adventure
PCPS4 / PS5SwitchXbox One / Series X|S
It’s time to dive into an original universe that seems familiar with the indie game Narita Boy. A project that first saw the light of day via Kickstarter with reached goals and reasonable promises, and that can now be discovered on PC and console.
Please note that this is not a AAA game developed by a team of 200 people around the world, but a game designed with a lot of love (and pixels) by a team whose core is composed of 7 people (Studio Koba).
Narita Boy should captivate you with its retro atmosphere and simple but effective gameplay.
Narita Boy is a completely assumed tribute to Tron and the 80s. Instead of surfing on the vibe of this cinematographic monument with a few winks, the game doesn’t hesitate to go straight to the point, as proven by this cover of the game which uses the codes of the poster of the film 100%.
But if Narita Boy was inspired by Tron, it is not a simple plagiarism but an original way of revisiting the concept of the virtual kingdom, the hero coming from reality to save this world and the AI that wants to conquer the universe or almost.
Admittedly, this fantasy of travelling through the computer universe hasn’t had many successful representations since Tron (we could talk about Matrix) and so it’s with open arms that you can welcome Narita Boy if the retro-futuristic atmosphere and the concept of the “digital frontier” is your hobby.
“A digital frontier. I tried to picture clusters of information as they moved through the computer. What did they look like?”. Every time I listened to music from the game or started my game, I had this phrase in my head.
Narita Boy is a young boy who gets “sucked” into a game he is playing by his computer. He is the only person able to save the digital world from the spread of virtual enemies that are ravaging this pixelated universe.
The first observation is that the world of Narita Boy is a rich and complex environment. It’s full of NPCs who will explain where you need to go, how you can evolve your character, or the details of how evil has spread through the source code of the digital realm.
If the basic principle is simple, that is to say to traverse the 3 chromatic regions to reach the capital and destroy the threat which is there, there is an impressive number of places where it is necessary to go in order to advance in our adventure. To travel through the kingdom you have to find keys that are often guarded by bosses and other not-so-frequent enemies, which forces you to explore (in a very simple way) the world around you.
It is a pleasure to discover the levels that follow one another because the scenery is simply magnificent. The artistic direction of Narita Boy is undoubtedly the big plus that makes this game stand out.
The pixel art universe has a retro effect that respects the rules of the genre by adding visual effects to give a “cathode ray TV” effect to the display. The pixels are “blurred” like they were when you were launching Sonic on your MegaDrive and that’s what makes the universe magical.
This retro feel is accentuated by two things and the first is the music. Composed by Salvador “Salvinsky” Fornieles, it perfectly fits the universe with its electronic melodies. We are in a bewitching universe that reminds us of Daft Punk’s (and Tron’s) sounds or of Kavinsky.
And in addition to this really perfect music, there is an attention to detail in the winks that can be found throughout the universe.
For example, our hero will be able to surf on a floppy disk and it’s quite funny to think that young people under 18 might not even know what it is for.
So Narita Boy is beautiful, but it’s also fun. Our hero fights against waves of enemies, and to get out of it you don’t have several weapons, but several different attacks.
During the adventure, we learn new fighting techniques that allow us to break our opponents’ defences, break their armour or dodge their attacks.
Narita Boy is armed primarily with his sword which can also be used as a shotgun if you wish (rather handy), and offering only these two weapons is sufficient as the idea is to make the most skilful use of the skills you learn during the adventure.
Indeed, in addition to this simple gameplay, it gets a little tougher with the possibility of summoning a kind of deity temporarily.
The game plays heavily on the three primary colours of yellow, red and blue, and some enemies will be flagged with one of these colours. You can then invoke the power of a colour to do more damage to enemies of that colour.
Be careful though, because the game is double-edged. You inflict more damage but so do the enemies, so it’s double or nothing depending on your combat skills.
The combat phases are dynamic because Studio Koba had the good idea to create a large number of enemies. Each new opponent has its own pattern and you have to adapt to each one.
For example, one enemy will create a shockwave on the ground when he strikes with his sword and you will have to avoid him. Another will levitate and shoot laser beams at you. While it is difficult to understand your opponent’s fighting style right away, it is easy to pick up once you have defeated the first enemy.
On paper it looks simple enough, but it gets complicated when you face 3 or 4 different enemies and have to manage them all at the same time.
Your character does not regain life over time, and this is where the game gets complicated. To heal yourself, you have to fill a “power” gauge by hitting your opponents. Once this gauge is full, you will have to concentrate for a few moments without moving to regain a point of life, during which time you will be vulnerable.
You might as well tell you that in the middle of a fight you’ll have to be good at timing, otherwise you’ll regenerate one point of life while losing three others.
The game is full of good ideas and magical moments. Successful artistic passages where you go through the game in a different way for a few moments. Whether on a digital animal, in a giant robot or surfing on a floppy disk.
It takes between 6 and 7 hours to complete the game entirely, discovering all the skills and hidden objects. You can start the adventure again if you haven’t fully enjoyed the world of Narita Boy, as it would be a shame to miss out on all the background that the game offers.