It’s 2021, but it by some means nonetheless looks like we’re within the Eighties. We’re at a cut-off date the place those that have been born or grew up within the ‘80s at the moment are expressing their love for the last decade via the humanities, leading to cultural behemoths like Stranger Issues and Ernest Cline’s Prepared Participant One. Sadly, nostalgia has usually seemingly taken priority over good storytelling, leading to some quite questionable throwbacks (taking a look at you, Mr. Cline). Fortunately although, with so many ‘80s-themed books, films, and video games to select from lately, it’s gotten extremely simple to filter out the nice from the poor.
Let’s be clear proper from the beginning: Narita Boy is a nice recreation. It’s an action-oriented Metroidvania that completely leans right into a heavy ‘80s, Tron-like aesthetic, however by no means lets it overshadow the world or its characters. The pixelated visuals really feel retro and but distinctly fashionable on the identical time, with lovely animations, daring setting design, and an elective CRT filter that enhances the general tone of the sport (although can often really feel a bit an excessive amount of). For newcomers of the Metroidvania style, Narita Boy isn’t essentially the most accommodating title to start out with, however it’s actually one which rewards persistence and exploration.
The overarching narrative sees you tackle the position of Narita Boy, who should traverse the Digital Kingdom inside a online game to battle the forces of HIM, a virus that has stolen the reminiscences of The Creator, the sport’s, uh… creator. HIM deploys its minions referred to as Stallions all through the world, and it’s your job to acquire the legendary Techno Sword, take down the hordes of corrupt enemies, and restore The Creator’s reminiscences.
Narita Boy wastes no time in easing you into its surprisingly advanced world. It drops you in with nearly no build-up or introduction, and also you’re left to discover the setting and meet its many strange digital inhabitants. There’s an abundance of seemingly nonsense names and phrases like ‘Son of Trichoma’, ‘Creator’s Tears’, and ‘Citadel of King *NumStr the Horseman’ (no, actually). It will probably all really feel a tad overwhelming at first, however as you make your manner round, every narrative thread begins to fall into place, and also you’ll end up considering “ah, so that’s what that’s!”
On the flip facet, there’s completely little doubt that the sport might have made a couple of quality-of-life additions to the gameplay and construction to make issues slightly extra digestible. For instance, there’s completely no map to talk of, and whereas the environments are hardly as advanced as your common Castlevania, as an example, there are fairly a couple of doorways and passages so that you can get misplaced in. When half the sport entails accumulating Techno-Keys and having access to new areas, a map – or on the very least some kind of information – might make all of the distinction. As well as, the NPC dialogue is purposefully imprecise and obscure, which for essentially the most half is nice, however there are undoubtedly a couple of moments the place you want a personality would simply say “go right here, do that… off you pop!”
The place the sport actually shines is in its glorious fight. Early on, you’ll choose up the Techno Sword, and from there you’re regularly launched to increasingly more strikes and skills. Attacking enemies feels fluid and intuitive, and the dodge mechanic not solely helps you to keep away from enemy assaults, but additionally locations you behind the enemy, supplying you with an incredible opening to launch a counter-strike. Along with commonplace melee assaults, it’s also possible to utilise the techno sword as a shotgun, unleashing main harm upon one enemy. Alternatively, you’ll be able to maintain down the ranged assault button and fireplace off a devastating beam of vitality that can wipe out most enemies in a single swoop. Naturally, this takes up valuable bullets that slowly reload over time.
As you get additional into the sport, you’ll then achieve entry to ‘Wild Hearth’ skills, which are available crimson, yellow, and blue varieties. Activating these enshrouds Narita Boy in flames, boosting his assault harm in opposition to enemies of the identical color kind. It comes with an enormous trade-off, as your defence in opposition to these enemies additionally takes a giant hit, so whereas there’s undoubtedly a temptation to run in with reckless abandon, you’ll should be cautious and maintain your guard up always. Every Wild Hearth skill additionally helps you to name upon one of many three ‘Dudes of Trichoma’, who act as non permanent familiars to assist you in battle. Utilizing them requires a specific amount of vitality, and are finest saved for moments of desperation.
The vary of enemies you’ll come throughout is huge, and every kind has its personal energy and weak spot. Some merely shuffle alongside and flail their arms at you in a largely futile try and deal harm, whereas others can fireplace projectiles, explode on impression, or morph into even larger, stronger variations of themselves. The sport persistently introduces you to new enemy sorts, and never a single one feels prefer it’s overused. The boss battles particularly are actually epic; you’ll be going in opposition to every part from a dragon to a pleasant French dandy, and these segments are backed up by actually superior backdrops and sweeping, synth-heavy music.
There are many surprises throughout your journey via the Digital Kingdom. We’d be remiss to spoil them right here, however evidently, you received’t spend your entire time strolling by yourself two ft. The pacing of the expertise is masterful; you’re always shifting from one fascinating location to the subsequent, and if it weren’t for the occasional second of frustration on the recreation’s imprecise directions, it could be completely ruddy excellent. It’s all anchored by a surprisingly considerate story, and the segments the place you successfully relive The Creator’s reminiscences are significantly spectacular.
In the end, there’s little extra we are able to say besides simply get Narita Boy downloaded ASAP. In case you’re a fan of Metroidvanias or, God allow you to, the continued ‘80s fad, you then owe it to your self to play this recreation. Its world-building and razor-sharp fight make it extra than simply “one more ‘80s throwback’, and we are able to’t wait to see what the builders do with the idea sooner or later.
Narita Boy joins a plethora of leisure franchises that pay homage to ‘80s tradition. However the place others have failed, Narita Boy transcends its inspiration with distinctive world constructing, a fancy but considerate narrative, and beautiful fight gameplay. It often feels slightly too imprecise and summary in its construction, and in the end this holds it again from being a real masterpiece, however should you’re eager for a nice Metroidvania title, then Narita Boy is totally what you’ve been ready for.