Monday, October 15

Review: Mark of the Ninja Remastered [Nintendo Switch eShop]


There’s something about the trend towards remasters, especially with the Switch, that’s fascinating to watch. While obviously every game getting this treatment will come out the other side graphically updated and sounding as good as ever there are simply games that immediately show their age, through either tone deaf story beats and dialogue or through their gameplay or controls simply not standing up well to the test of time. In the case of Mark of the Ninja Remastered, it’s in a class that stands apart. While some improvements to the resolution were in order to ensure it would look crisp as possible its animated visuals were never much of a concern, what makes it a stand-out is that even after so many years the stealthy gameplay it offers is still among the best ever and it will absolutely go toe to toe with any current title without flinching.


While the story itself may stray a little towards silly, with its mystic tats that give you power but will slowly corrupt your body and mind, there’s never any doubt that its gameplay is all business. Against well-armed personnel your job will be to infiltrate various strongholds and get things done while relying on the shadows for protection. You may be lethal with your sword at close range but you’re not bulletproof so stealthy killing will be your key to success… and then being sure to try to hide the body somewhere to help avoid being detected. Once you’re up close on your adversary you’ll need to quickly watch for the direction to press while hitting Y, failing to execute this properly will end up allowing the guard to make some noise and potentially alert others to your presence. Fortunately their attention spans are extraordinarily short and within a short time everyone will resume their normal patterns but since only a few bullets will take you down keeping things quiet and yourself out of the light are always a priority.


As you progress you’ll accumulate new gear that will help you out, whether by taking out lights, distracting the guards with noise, or making use of some other ninja skills. Fortunately you’re very nimble and able to climb walls, grapple to new spots, and even move along the ceiling in places so you’ve got the tools to avoid detection, the trick is in using them correctly. If you’re really up to the challenge and plan your route carefully you’ll even be capable of playing things as a pacifist, sparing guards instead of dispatching them, but that would rob you of the pretty satisfying animations of you taking them down in a bloody fashion. All of this would fall apart if it weren’t for the spot-on controls, which respond well and help make you feel powerful when you use them effectively. In handheld mode some of the smaller details can be tougher to make out but performance on the go remains solid and look great, though I found I needed to adjust my gamma levels pretty significantly to see well.


If you’ve played and enjoyed Mark of the Ninja before, rest assured, it’s just as great as it was then and if anything it’s now easier to appreciate how well-made it was by the fact that nothing has really surpassed it since. If you’re new to it and enjoy either some challenging stealthy combat or even going the extra mile to elude all detection nothing really does it better. Where other titles succumb to a variety of pressures and collapse in their old age Mark of the Ninja has aged like a fine wine.


Score: 9

Pros:
  • Remains a true reference on stealth gameplay done right
  • Tight and responsive controls put the pressure on your skills rather than your patience
  • Once you get rolling you’ll have several options to consider when either avoiding or dispatching your foes, adding to the enjoyment

Cons:
  • The enemy AI isn’t anything special, and this may be the only area where expectations may have evolved since the time of its original release
  • In handheld mode some of the fine details are tougher to make out, making it a bit less ideal as an option