Narita Boy has a world of synthwave, 80s tech, and retro-futurism that shouldn’t be missed. It’s a game that isn’t afraid to jam-pack its run time with a cascade of enemies, bosses, and exciting gameplay mechanics. All while having an excellent feeling combat system that sadly doesn't reach its full potential.
Pushing three colours to their absolute limit
Narita Boys 2D action-adventure platforming washes over you with its sea of synth-wave, gorgeous pixel art, and eye-popping colour combinations. The game's Digital Kingdom evokes a sense of scale, regional difference, and long populated civilisation.
That civilisation is all based on 80s technology: clunky computer screens, giant electronic hardware, and a whole lot of wires. Narita Boy uses this retro-futurism as its base but still showcases a plethora of its own alluring ideas, and ends up with an aesthetic that’s more than the sum of its parts.
This all blends together through the otherworldly synth-wave music, and a story filled to the brim with alien phrases like ‘Houses of the Trichroma’. There’s also a really nice balance between Narita Boys intended aesthetic, and marrying that with established fantasy and science fiction tropes.
The narrative does take a bit of time to get your head around, with info dumps and lore taking precedent over the more personal story. But once you start to fit all the pieces together, you’re met with a world that just begs to be explored and understood.
A Techno-Sword dance of style
Narita Boys beat ‘em up style combat is at its best when it asks a lot of you. The handful of moments you combine all your moves and abilities into one seamless flow of colours and weighty attacks, needing to take a breath when it’s all over, is the game at its peak.
I needed more of that. This isn’t to say the individual elements of the gameplay are bad, far from it, but just that I saw the potential and wanted more.
The sense of progression from enemies, powers and abilities is great. You’re constantly seeing new opponents and being given new ways to dispatch them. The game spaces all of this out really well across a decent run time (I clocked in 11 hours), meaning it’s constantly fresh.
There’s also a lot more bosses than I expected. Each one with well thought out designs and a good set of moves to overcome. Some of them are much more visually interesting and demanding, but at the rate you face them, this balances out well.
Narita Boy keeps throwing interesting variables at both you and the enemies you face, I just wish it had more of a chance to really explore how that could all come together for action-adventure goodness.
Stuck in the Past
The main issue I had with Narita Boy is one that was flagged by loading screens early on, yet isn’t given any sort of in-game adjustments, on the Xbox at least.
There are some flashing lights, and no options to change them, meaning some players could go into the game and suffer. I’m not prone to photosensitivity and even I had a few moments where I had to squint because my eyes hurt.
It wasn’t unbearable or remotely constant, but I hope around launch there’s a patch that lets you turn the flashing off completely.
After a slow start, Narita Boy engages with a unified and engrossing aesthetic, along with a surprisingly varied combat system. But that system is not pushed to its limits enough, and there are some minor photosensitivity issues. That said, Studio Koba has made something truly special that shouldn’t be missed, especially if you have Game Pass.
Reviewed on Xbox Series S - Review code provided by the publisher