An Interview With Narita Boy’s Director On Metroidvanias, Immersion, And The 80s

Narita Boy – the 80s-styled platformer from indie developer Studio Koba – launched last week, receiving mostly favorable reviews, including our own. From its pixelated, neon aesthetics to its surprisingly emotional underlying story, Narita Boy is an unapologetic love letter to the 1980s that will definitely invoke moments of nostalgia for those who experienced the era.

Recently, Ed Fornieles, Studio Koba director, sat down for a chat with TheGamer to talk about what inspired Narita Boy, the obscure nature of the game, and his appreciation for the game’s community, with Narita Boy being the first title for Studio Koba.

[TheGamer] The game takes place in the 1980s and that inspiration is clear. It seems to also toe the line with the aesthetics of the cyberpunk genre. Was this intentional or is that sort of just the inherent nature of the 80s?

[Ed Fornieles] “Once you dig into the 80s, you can find these references and these inspirations, but the main idea wasn’t to make just an 80s game. I was kind of looking back on my own experience, my own nostalgia, the feeling I got when I was 10-years-old. That was the main core to create my world.

“But of course I wrap it up with a lot of references. Also, I was in Japan, which inspires me a lot. My wife is Japanese. Right before starting Narita Boy, my first son was born. I wanted to kind of iterate on this idea of being one person, but with two universes. That was the core idea.”

This is a Metroidvania by nature, is that correct?

[EF] “We don’t want to say Metroidvania because there’s a lot of Metroidvanias out there. They are doing an amazing job. I say Narita Boy is an adventure with some touches of Metroidvania. Of course, there’s some backtracking there, and of course, there’s some upgrades – weapons and inventory. We could say it’s a Metroidvania, but we didn’t focus on the canon of Metroidvanias and would prefer to [call it an] adventure because it’s kind of focused on the story and the adventure itself.”

I think what’s most intriguing to me while playing is that although I understand the overarching narrative, I still have no idea what is going on in the Digital Kingdom, which ultimately makes me want to keep playing to learn more. Am I missing something, or was this sort of abstract and strange experience intentional?

[EF] “Yeah. I mean, the abstraction is intentional. We like to leave some gaps that people fill with their own interpretation. We demand some investment in order to follow the story. Even the text is kind of Neuromancer style. It’s not easy, but we demand this little effort in order to get better immersion in the game – to go deeper and deeper in the abstraction.

“It’s what I was aiming for to look for a strange, weird mystery to engage people, to keep exploring, and to get more knowledge of what’s going on there. Yeah. It’s completely intentional.”

So far so good, I’d say. I think the first flashback scene where you meet The Creator’s mother and father had me hooked right away.

[EF] “We are very glad because many people played through the game and they had all sorts of memories. They were kind of touched and they had very emotional moments, kind of tears dropping. It was kind of the intention to connect on a very deep level with the player, to make something meaningful. And that was the idea. I’m happy you got it.”

With the Kickstarter campaign being successful, it’s obvious that you’ve had support from the get-go. How has the community feedback been during development since the goal was reached?

[EF] “From one side, we are super sorry. It’s our first game, and we could write an encyclopedia-long postmortem about all the things that don’t work. They have been very patient, our publisher and our backers. We’ve been always saying thank you to them for their understanding. We did our best, but you know, there’s too many things on the plate. Sometimes you have to develop the game. Sometimes you have to change your cap and you have to be kind of a community manager and try to explain to them why we are delayed.

“The best reward for us right now is that the people, the backers, as far as we know, that they’ve played the demo and say that we fulfilled their expectations so far. It’s the best reward we could have from them.”

What’s next for Studio Koba? Are you all in on Narita Boy right now, or are there other future projects already in the pipeline?

[EF] “I’m a fountain of ideas. I have a lot of weird ideas on paper. But right now, I’m focused on the backers’ rewards, which includes a comic, which, because I’m comic artist, it’s a good opportunity to kind of expand a lot on Narita boy. Right now, we are focusing on that and will maybe take a rest after [the release].”

Well, congrats on everything. Is there anything else that you’d like fans or potential players to know?

[EF] “For potential players, I would like to tell them that Narita Boy is something quite original. There’s a long playlist of games people want to play. It looks very 80s, and there’s a lot of 80s games out there, but it’s kind of a different proposal. I wanted to make the game I would like to play. I really recommend it if they want a different proposal where two universes are playing out in dreams and so on.”

A big thank you goes out to Ed for taking the time to talk with us, and Team17 for coordinating the interview!

Narita Boy is available now for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

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Sam has been writing for TheGamer since early 2018, earning the role as the Lead Features & Review Editor in 2019. The Denver, Colorado-native’s knack for writing has been a life-long endeavor. His time spent in corporate positions has helped shape the professional element of his creative writing passion and skills. Beyond writing, Sam is a lover of all things food and video games, which – especially on weekends – are generally mutually exclusive, as he streams his gameplay on Twitch (as well as TheGamer’s Facebook page) under the self-proclaimed, though well-deserved moniker of ChipotleSam. (Seriously…just ask him about his Chipotle burrito tattoo). You can find Sam on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as @RealChipotleSam.

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