Team 17 didn’t exactly need to establish itself as a king of 2D platforming games, as it had previously struck gold with its lovely Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. But now it’s gone the extra mile, establishing a Metroidvania-style adventure that’s sure to strike a chord with both fans of the genre and those who live for retro-fueled visuals and tunes.
Narita Boy stemmed from a Kickstarter project created by Studio Koba, with Team 17 picking up the publishing rights. And it’s a hell of an addition to its roster, a game that, despite some minor setbacks, delivers some butt-kicking goodness that puts it near the top of the Metroidvania heap. In fact, it’s worth buying for the music alone, a collection of synth tunes that will have you wondering what kind of magic is behind the keyboards. Seriously.
The game is Tron-esque, in a way, with a teenage boy trapped in a virtual world, forced to attempt to track down The Creator in the hopes of possibly escaping. Along the way, he learns about this person’s essence, and how it ties in with his humble beginnings in Narita – in Japan. That explains the title, for those of you wondering what a Narita is.
There’s a little Star Wars in there as well, as the boy is armed with a Techno Sword. With it, he can fend off attackers and use special techniques to carve them up, including swift uppercuts and combo strikes. These are especially useful against bosses, who definitely pack a punch – something Metroidvania fans should be used to by now. But fortunately, you have some cool defensive techniques, including a slide that’s really handy for avoiding incoming strikes.
The gameplay works remarkably well for Narita Boy, though it’s definitely on the hard side. Still, after exploring a few areas, you should become used to what’s on hand, as well as what you can unlock over the course of the game.
All that really stands in the way is Narita’s need for backtracking. It can get a little old at times, especially as you run across the same area multiple times. But the game as a whole is still very well designed, and a lot of fun to play.
Where its treasure really lies, however, is within its presentation. I’ve already told you about the majesty of the soundtrack, which is really something else when it comes to nailing down its synth core. It sounds great, like something out of a classic 80s sci-fi film of sorts, with a few tunes that match the mood the Creator has set here.
And the visuals are lovely too, with 8-bit style visuals with a CRT TV-esque approach that really emulates the classics of old. We’re talking Out of This World sort of vibes, but obviously with something that’s far smoother. The effect is outrageously cool, especially when it comes to boss battles. They’re just so well done, you’ll be in awe after they wipe you out the first time around.
There are more than enough Metroidvania games to recommend at the moment, but Narita Boy deserves a nod. It doesn’t quite have all the momentum it needs to beat the legends, but it deserves a spot on the list of best games in the genre for sure. The presentation alone is wow-worthy; and the gameplay continues to impress as you go along. Narita-ville definitely feels like a great place to visit.