'Narita Boy' on Xbox Game Pass is a hack n' slash retrowave fever dream

Narita Boy Review
Narita Boy Review (Image credit: Windows Central)

Xbox Game Pass features some of the best Xbox games out there, with new additions weaving in every month. Beyond some of the heavy hitters like the huge influx of Bethesda games following Microsoft's acquisition, there's a smorgasbord of high-quality indie titles hitting the platform to supplement those bigger releases. One such game is Narita Boy, a title I downloaded on an 80s-inspired whim, after seeing its thumbnail. And boy, am I glad I did.

Narita Boy plays like a retrowave fever dream, washed in cathode radiation and sublime pixel art. Here's why this hack n' slash-heavy, Metroidvania-lite game should definitely be on your radar.

Into the Digital Kingdom

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Without spoiling too much, Narita Boy kicks off at a computer desk, as a programmer types away into a big old school computer. Something goes wrong with his code, however, and a red sprite appears onscreen. With his memories erased, beings inside the computer initiate the "Narita Boy" protocol and digitize a local boy, transporting him inside his computer. It's a familiar movie trope, but the way Narita Boy builds its world is uniquely detailed and cohesive, marrying pixel-style graphics with punchy 80s-style synthwave overtures.

Narita Boy's visuals make me feel like I'm raiding the vault of some expensive NFT crypto art gallery.

Sucked into the computer, Narita Boy finds himself the unlikely hero of the Digital Kingdom, a world comprised entirely of highly-spiritual computer programs, who lead a meditative monk-like existence. However, evil programs called the Stallions have erased "The Creator's" memory, and it's on you to explore the realm, uncover the Creator's history from within the computer's memory, and bring the fight to an entity known only as "HIM."

At the outset, the game bombards you with in-world lore and apocryphal terms. It can be tough to keep up, but after a while talking to the game's digital denizens, you'll be a veritable expert.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Every corner of the game feels lovingly hand-crafted with minimal repetition. Every room has a unique pixel art setpiece or character interaction to enjoy, even if it's only there to give you a key. Narita Boy's visuals make me feel like I'm raiding the vault of some expensive NFT crypto art gallery, with something new to discover at every turn.

Weilding the Techno Sword

After meeting with the Digital Kingdom's elders, you're rewarded with the fabled Techno Sword — a weapon only an outsider can wield. This sword serves as your primary mode of attack while doing battle with the rogue programs that infest the land, with tight hack n' slash combat that feels as satisfying as it does nuanced.

Narita Boy's swordplay is easy to learn, but the subtleties reveal the studio's thoughtfulness and skill.

Some attacks produce a light knockback effect, which can be weaved nicely in your strategies for counter-play. Narita Boy's swordplay is easy to learn, but those subtleties reveal the studio's thoughtfulness and skill. It has been a pleasure to learn. Learning enemy attack patterns, ideal dodge opportunities, and specific counters are satisfying without being too taxing, and the generous checkpointing system means you're never thrown too far back away from the action.

As you explore the game's world in more detail, you'll unlock new skills and powers to help you along the way. A nifty shoulder barge is important for stunning blocking enemies, while an aerial attack serves as a traversal ability and counter against flying adversaries. Some of the more powerful skills include a laser beam that devastates enemies in a line in front of you, and the Taiyon Beam, which summons a companion to bombard your enemies with explosives.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

I'm only part of the way through the game so far, and I've already been impressed by the large variety of enemy types and mechanics the game has thrown my way. There are standard zombie-style enemies, heavies that wield giant swords, and warlocks that fly around and spawn bats. The further into the game I get, the darker the enemy designs seem to get too. I'm now facing off against skeletons, crucified corpses strewn up on digital crucifixes, and twisted abominations with guns for arms.

The game also has a decent variety of boss battles. I've fought a shadow with a rainbow face, screeching pixels across the screen. I've gone toe to toe with a living "Glaucoma," which spewed its digital guts across the room while spawning angry maggots. The game's horrors and their designs seem tied to the "Creator" and his memories, which you uncover as you explore the game's world.

You should definitely try Narita Boy

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Thus far, Narita Boy has been quite linear in its structure, with some minor backtracking after unlocking certain keys and gaining new powers. I'm not sure it quite reaches the level of a true "Metroidvania" but it doesn't need to. The areas in the game are diverse and varied enough in their designs to keep things interesting, even disregarding the intriguing story.

Narita Boy is a tremendous first outing from Studio Koba.

Indeed, the deeper I traverse into the Creator's memories, the more I feel emotionally tied to the setting. The Creator certainly seems to have a dark past, and unlocking the true nature of this digital universe he has created is driving my intrigue in unison with the tight combat and intriguing art.

Narita Boy is a great example of a game I might have missed entirely were it not for Xbox Game Pass, and I'm oh so glad I didn't. Make no mistake, Narita Boy is a tremendous first outing from Studio Koba.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!