There aren’t enough ninja games, in my opinion, like Mark of the Ninja. While there is certainly a fanbase for the ninja mythology, few games have been able to stand out, other than arcade classics like Shinobi, Tenchu and possibly the Naruto series – if you’re committed to the franchise. Mark of the Ninja is undoubtedly up there as one of the best ninja games. It isn’t a new title, but making its way to current gen systems, including the Switch, as Mark of the Ninja: Remastered, it is a title worth having on your trusty portable. Who doesn’t want to assassinate wrong ‘uns on the train commute home?
Initially released in 2012, Mark of the Ninja: Remastered by Klei Entertainment is a welcome addition – featuring extras from the special edition, including the DLC. It came out on the Switch (and other current gen systems) in 2018, but as with most titles found on the eShop, appears to have been buried a little. In case you missed it, read on.
Hidden Dragon, Shouting Tattoo
It would be somewhat unorthodox if you didn’t play as a ninja in a game called “Mark of the Ninja”, so without any element of surprise, you play as a ninja. Your character doesn’t have a name, but he certainly has a distinguishing feature: a prominent tattoo. This tattoo has a lot of mystery surrounding it. It allows for your character to have heightened senses and reflexes – making you one formidable foe. The tattoo comes with a catch, however. All those who have had the tattoo descend into madness. Your ninja clan has a bit of a heritage, and in the past, there have been mighty warriors to emerge, only to become mad with power. On that basis, those marked with the tattoo agree to kill themselves on the first sign of insanity. Sounds like a plan.
Awakened by your female ninja companion, Ora, you must take revenge on the corporation responsible for attacking your clan and abducting your sensei. You employ traditional methods of stealth, espionage and takedowns against a modern private army, armed to the teeth with advanced technology. As you progress, your character finds out more about the tattoo’s origin and a little bit more on his sensei and the future of the clan.
For Once, Stealth Is Key
Unlike other games that insist that stealth is the way forward, you must hide in the shadows in Mark of the Ninja. Machine guns are simply much faster and efficient than a sword head-on. Also, numbers make a difference too. Of course, if you prefer a more gung-ho approach, then the upcoming The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors may be more up your alley. No doubt you know a little bit about ninjas, i.e., they don’t do kung fu, they aren’t programmers, and they aren’t tanks either. Ninjas were about espionage, and if an assassination was the goal, they needed to remain undetected and not take a samurai head-on. The same applies in this game – the more you avoid conflict, the more likely you’ll get through the levels.
Your primary weapon is the sword, but you could argue that it’s your skills that are more important – hiding behind plants or in bins, outside of spotlights. Of course, you can eliminate spotlights too so that it’s harder for guards to find you, but this alerts them and can increase their numbers temporarily.
Out of the Darkness Comes the Ninja
For a game mostly set at night, the graphics and colours are relatively vibrant. The actual character animations are excellent, and at times it looks like you’re watching a cartoon. A takedown of one of the many guards cuts to a relatively gruesome animation that looks pretty cool. Between missions you have some classic cutscenes, and the illustrations are brilliant. The overall presentation of the game is outstanding. During loading screens, we have tool tips for some of the weapons and their uses too. Movements are slick, and for a 2D platformer, the ninja jumps over objects, climbs up walls and makes good use of crawlspaces through the level designs.
There are a couple of approaches you can take to each level, though not as much variety as The Church in the Darkness, and the solution often means throwing a kunai, disabling a security system or throwing a smoke bomb or some other stealth-type approach.
Mark of the Ninja: Remastered has an excellent learning curve/difficulty level. The challenges increase accordingly to the items and skills you unlock, but you never feel overwhelmed with everything. From the outset, you can see the line of vision of each enemy so that you can plan your course of action. Mark of the Ninja: Remastered is essentially a platform game that applies a degree of strategy. For the completionists, there are numerous challenges throughout each level and collectibles too. A lot of the collectibles are relatively straightforward to obtain, but the challenges may require a couple of attempts. There’s a ranking system based on how many enemies you have killed, the number of times you were spotted and much more.
If you didn’t play this game the first time around, then I suggest playing the Switch version as this is a decent game to play on the go. The graphics are top-notch, and the gameplay matches this, which is essential. Even with the many challenges, it’s a fun game. Sliding down a grappling hook to take out an enemy Spider-Man style is fantastic.
Developer: Klei Entertainment
Publisher: Klei Entertainment
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch
Release Date: 9th October 2018
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