Narita Boy was released in 2021 by Studio Koba. It's a single-player action-adventure game that follows your classic “save the day” gameplay. The story follows the creator of Narita Boy, a gaming console, who creates a popular game also named Narita Boy! While all goes well in the creator's reality, the virtual one is in despair without the help of their future savior, the only playable character. You play as a Narita Boy whose main objective is to save the Digital Kingdom in his virtual reality.
Rewinding The Clock:
This game’s aesthetics are off the charts. Based on a retro 80’s reality, the landscapes mimic that of an old-school video game. This eye candy is a definite nod to these older games. The world looks and feels like something that you can find on an Atari or SEGA. This game portrays a modern rendition of this nostalgia and comes with its personalized soundtrack. Keeping up with the 80’s theme, the music follows that era’s techno-pop. Listening at first reminded me of the game Party Hard (2015) which also displays a similar feel to Narita Boy.
Despite the game’s ability to showcase a visually and audibly stunning game, the story and gameplay are what the reviewers believe lacked the most. Taking a look at what players had to say; the story was simple but was told difficultly. Trying to keep up with this programmed world, the NPC dialogue was 'annoying' to read through because of their “non-standard” English way of talking.
This made the story difficult to understand at times. On the other hand, once the player can understand the dialogue, the story can be described as “intriguing” and “touching.” Could this be a case of personal preference or something that needed a double take?
Another popular review was the gameplay and controls. The majority of players left a bad review on this aspect of the game. The audience felt the world was created to be open with back-tracking included, but that’s not the case. Players felt deceived into believing they were entering a Metroidvania when in actuality there was only one path that Narita Boy could walk. The controls were also questioned. Narita Boy seemed to “pick and choose” when it wants to perform specific movement actions like dash and uppercuts. This caused the players to grow to dislike the game's mechanics.
This game is beautiful and I love the idea of playing a game that’s within a game. It reminds me of Uncharted 4 with their Crash Bandicoot easter egg. The story was cute. Though I was sometimes confused, finding my footing again was fairly easy. This game feels like Studio Koba put a lot of love into their work, I can feel it.
Food For Thought:
Even with numerous negative reviews of Narita Boy, it still managed to receive a 9/10 on Steam. Gameplay, visuals & sound are the most important aspects when it comes to developing a game. When one is underperforming it can hurt the other two, but that’s not what happened here. Narita Boy has received an abundance of players not liking the gameplay, but loving the stylistic visual and audio choices.
This opens the discussion of, “Is it enough?” Undoubtedly, hard work and love went into the soundtrack and visuals, but is that all a game needs to succeed? Narita Boy pushes this narrative. So I leave you with this, which would you rather play; a visually stunning game with sub-par gameplay or a game with amazing gameplay/story with mundane, lackluster visuals?
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If you like Narita Boy
Party Hard (2015)
Haiku, The Robot (2022)
Nuclear Blaze (2021)
Echo Generation (2021)
If you're looking for something different
Paradise Killer (2020)