Review code provided by Klei Entertainment.
Ninjas make anything cool. This is fact. Games about ninjas tend to be cool. Mark of the Ninja Remastered is one such game. But how cool is it? Quite, actually.
Mark of the Ninja follows the story of a nameless ninja—but he gets the moniker of ‘Champion’ from some characters. In modern times, the evil corporate figure Count Karajan attacks the Hisomu clan with his private military group, and the Champion must embark on a journey to claim his head alongside a companion known as Ora. To aid in this quest, the protagonist has received the eponymous Mark of the Ninja, a tattoo which grants superhuman abilities at the expense of their sanity; madness enhancement, if you will. As the plot progresses alongside the effect of said madness, things get…complicated.
You’ve certainly heard this kind of story before, but to its credit, the story gives its all to be engaging and well-paced, with surprisingly good cutscenes and voice acting. Every stage has a short cutscene to set the mood very well, and even after the level begins dialogue is plenty, most of it being Ora functioning as the exposition/tutorial fairy. For a remarkably simple plot, it’s delivery is better than what it has the right to be.
The simplest way to describe Mark of the Ninja is Metal Gear but with ninjas. No, really. You hide in the shadows, you take down enemies silently, you crawl in vents, you get around laser tripwires, hide bodies, distract guards with suspicious noise, upgrade your stuff like in later games, point is, if you are a stealth game veteran than most of this will click real soon with you.
But of course, Mark of the Ninja has its own unique traits as well. Being a ninja, the Champion is blessed with far more mobility than your Snakes and Sam Fishers, being able to scale and jump off walls, quickly grapple to high vantage points, and run at the expense of being louder. Certain spots let the champion dangle from a chain like Spider Man, granting more options for stealth kills or objective completion. Levels are meticulously designed around this mobility, offering multiple options for getting from Point A to B. And that’s without the gadgets, which are your standard stealth fare. Throwing knives for destroying lights, distracting guards and causing noise. Actual noise makers that distract guards even harder. Smoke bombs for clearing lasers and escaping enemies in a pinch. Spike traps for guard elimination, and more.
Having this amount of options gives the game a huge amount of variety in terms of how you want to complete it, and there’s clearly some excellent thought put into it. Are you a pacifist or genocidal ninja? There’s bonuses for either. Do you like to explore? There’s hidden artifacts to collect, challenge level entrances to find, and ways to exploit the environment. Are you one for specific bonus objectives? Each level has three and completing them will be needed for upgrades. Mark of the Ninja covers its bases and then some.
All of this is complemented by perfect control. When you die or make a mission failing mistake, it’s on you. Everything has been designed for you to master and experiment with as you go along. A difficult but rewarding to master gameplay system makes Mark of the Ninja very addicting and fun, an impressive feat for a stealth game.
You may have seen this coming already, but Mark of the Ninja’s presentation is drop dead gorgeous. The visuals almost look like they’re ripped straight out of the works of Genndy Tartakovsky; better known as the creative genius behind Samurai Jack. And the effort cannot be understated, as it makes a game that’s already fun to play a marvel to simply look at.
The audio deserves praise as well. There’s little music in Mark of the Ninja, but it makes up for this with incredible ambience. Sound mixing is done in a way that makes the atmosphere of sneaking around incredibly tense, making your hands sweat as you sneak around and selling the overall tone of this quest. It all pays off if (and when) you mess up and get spotted; it’s legitimately heart pounding once the alert music plays and you’re scrambling to hide. Amazing.
One knock against the game overall would be the framerate. It works; but it’s inconsistent. Cutscenes run at 60 FPS while the actual game runs at 30. The game is well constructed enough that it’s forgivable, but the dissonance is rather glaring, and something that should be fixed with a patch.
The jury seems to be obvious on this one given what’s been said up until now. If you’re searching for not just great stealth games, but great games in general on the Switch, then Mark of the Ninja Remastered is a must buy. It’s fun, it’s fun to look at, the story is better than it has a right to be and there’s replay value after you beat the game. Among the smaller titles on the eShop, this is a definite standout.