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May 2021

Narita Boy

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Team 17
Developer: Studio Koba
Release Date: March 30, 2021


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Switch/PS4/XOne Preview - 'Narita Boy'

by Cody Medellin on Feb. 18, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Narita Boy is a side-scrolling mystical techno-tale, a heart-felt love story to the 1980s.

If you took a cue from popular media, the 1980s are still a major source of nostalgia, whether it's a remake of '80s television shows or movies. Narita Boy is another game that leans heavily into the '80s but does so in a way that even those who are tired of the time period will still find it fascinating.

Part of that fascination comes from the story, which gains inspiration from the likes of Tron and The Last Starfighter but shares copious amounts of lore in a relatively short time span. Things start with the creator of the new machine Narita One and his hit game Narita Boy, both of which become huge success stories. One night, the creator is kidnapped by a digital being known as Him and sucked into his own machine. At the same time, an ardent fan of the game goes to bed, but his machine turns on by itself. He is also pulled in and awakens as the fabled Hero, tasked by Motherboard with recovering the memories of the Creator while obtaining the Techno-Sword to put a stop to Him and his Stallions. There's plenty more to the tale, but that blurb is enough to get players interested in where the title is going.

Beyond the story, the core gameplay is a hack-and-slash platformer. You're initially capable of some basic sword combos, but everything is initiated with one button instead of separate buttons for quick and heavy attacks. Holding down the button gives you the chance to perform a giant swing, but you can't store the ability for later use, so it's a "use it or lose it" deal. Your sword also lets you use it as a shotgun or a beam cannon if you want to spend all three shells at once, and you don't have to worry about picking up ammo since it regenerates over time. You also have a dash move that lets you go through enemies and cross over large chasms.

Based on the demo, the combat is wrapped up in a Metroidvania-style adventure that seems focused on exploration and a decent amount of combat. You get a couple of sequences where you can't move forward until you defeat the enemies in an area. There is a good variety to the enemies, which include a boss fight against a character named Lord VHS that wields a giant hammer and produces rainbow-colored shockwaves on the ground. It feels good with crisp and responsive controls and a forgiving system that lets you continue immediately from the spot where you died, whether you lost all of your health or fell down a pit. The demo does a better job of selling people on the world and the lore, since it's so extensive that you can't help but wonder where it'll lead, especially once you start delving into memories to see flashbacks about the creator's upbringing.

The presentation fits the modern throwback aesthetic quite well. Graphically, Narita Boy mimics the style of titles like Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery, with your character having a blob of a body with gangly limbs. He moves well, while the environments give off a crunchy, unfiltered pixel look that fits the cyberspace storyline alongside the synthwave soundtrack. All of this is wrapped up with a full CRT look (minus the scanlines) but complete with the curvature on the sides and the faint afterglow of every element that's visible once you reach darkened areas. There are a few areas with lots of flashing white lights, so those who can get seizures should be warned beforehand.

Like many demos presented during Steam's Game Festival, the only date given for Narita Boy's release is a vague 2021, but articles hint at a release date in early 2021. That's going to be a relief, since we're interested in seeing where the story goes, and we're hoping to get more early looks at the game in the process.

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