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Mark of the Ninja: Remastered (Switch) artwork

Mark of the Ninja: Remastered (Switch) review

"Mark of the Ninja Remastered is the prettiest version yet of a stealth game made for people who don't like them."

I feel like playing the typical stealth-oriented game must qualify as some sort of torture, and I've never made a secret out of it. But I played Mark of the Ninja Remastered when it released on Nintendo Switch recently, and I surprised myself by having a genuinely great time. The title let me enjoy the satisfying parts of being a ruthless assassin without frustrating me with the unpleasant stuff. I definitely recommend it.

Mark of the Ninja Remastered is, as the title suggests, a remastered take on an earlier game. The original version debuted on Xbox Live Arcade in September of 2012, and eventually expanded to Mac and PC. Before then, developer Klei Entertainment was known for its work on the Shank titles, which I gather are quite good. Since 2012, though, the studio mostly seems to get recognized for Mark of the Ninja even though it also has produced modest hits such as Invisible, Inc. and Don't Starve. There's a reason for that: ninjas kick butt, and here you get to be one.

Mark of the Ninja: Remastered (Switch) image

Most of the stealth games I've played in the past, even some of the ones that irritated me the least, have been three-dimensional excursions. Mark of the Ninja gets the job done with only two. Action is viewed from the side, with the camera pulled back far enough that you can often see a lot of what's going on around you and plan accordingly. You're not omniscient, though, and enemies might still surprise you when they emerge from shelter. For instance, they might come strolling through a door that was closed, and there's no real way your character would have known they were there unless he got close enough to produce audible footfalls.. which is certainly taken into account. Foes can hear you if you run around and make noise, and dogs can sniff you out even when you find shelter behind a potted plant and the guys with flashlights don't notice. So there's a bit of realism there, and it makes environments feel like places that might genuinely exist (as much as impregnable fortresses in a ninja action sequence ever can).

Your adventure through those environments begins as you wake to find your village of ninja warriors being invaded by armored soldiers with automatic weapons. They're indiscriminately shooting anything that lurks in the shadows, which will include you if you're not careful. Certainly, their targets include the guy who bravely rings the bell to sound the alarm. He gets gunned down immediately. You don't want to share his fate, so you follow your newfound friend, a helpful ninja named Ora. She points you to powerful equipment and offers the sort of general advice a tutorial might, but without getting annoying like a Hylian fairy.

Mark of the Ninja: Remastered (Switch) image

Throughout the campaign's remainder, you spend more time alone than you do with a tour guide. You seldom have to worry about peaceful solitude, though, because your goal is to venture deep within heavily populated enemy territory. You are, after all, the last hope of your clan. Your body has been infused with ink that grants you power so tremendous that eventually it could consume your very mind. Before that happens, though, you mean to save your people from a danger that threatens to end them. So you sneak through the shadows and you chop up a lot of adversaries who clearly had it coming. You satisfy objectives and grab scrolls and always you move closer to the final moments of a story you know isn't likely to end happily.

Mark of the Ninja features a variety of ways to solve most problems, which is one of the things I like most about it. I also appreciate that the available approaches are about equally viable. If you want, you can fell goon after goon, leaving a bloody trail in your wake (or just hiding the bodies in dumpsters and the like when evidence becomes inconvenient). A more passive method is also fine. Vents aren't just a good place to hide bodies; they also let you sneak past sentries and security lasers. At the end of each stage, your score will be tallied and there's clearly not a lot of room for error, but you can squeak across the end line whether you exercised restraint or went after everything with a pulse like an angry chef with a Ginsu knife chopping up a cucumber. If you get spotted during your adventure and successfully fight your way to safety--which is totally doable in a lot of cases--you just have to settle for a lower score and maybe try again. Or you can try again from the last checkpoint instead, if that pleases you more. This is my idea of quality game design, because you're never punished unnecessarily for a mistake.

Mark of the Ninja: Remastered (Switch) image

Besides taking advantage of the architecture in the sprawling environments, you'll rely on a growing assortment of tools and skills. As you gain points by clearing stages, you can invest in superior stealth moves and more lethal and creative kills. For instance, it becomes possible to grab a corpse, toss it to a grapple point and then let it hang there to serve as a ghoulish distraction for any men still patrolling the area. Or you can equip spike traps and deploy one near the base of a slope, knock out a spotlight by tossing a throwing star at it, then watch as a guard comes to investigate and stumbles across your lethal surprise. Warning: Mark of the Ninja Remastered is rated "M" for "Mature."

Although the game features its share of sterile and fairly standard environments, now rendered with higher resolution and detail than they were a half-dozen years ago, there also are moments of sheer beauty. I suppose there's something to be said about sneaking up behind a guy and running a sword clear through him while blood sprays everywhere, but I'm talking more about moments like the one when I perched in the limbs of a skeletal tree silhouetted against a backdrop of steel skyscrapers rising from foliage. I let myself pause to enjoy the vista. Then I dropped down and slaughtered the two guards who were too busy being evil minions to properly appreciate the splendor around them.

Mark of the Ninja: Remastered (Switch) image

Not every moment in the game comes down to violence, though that's certainly the trend. When you want to obtain scrolls and enjoy the proverbs they contain, you often have to seek out a special hidden room and shrine where you will be rewarded for exercising a little more restraint. As you approach the shrine, you face a challenge that typically requires you to think outside the box instead of just swinging a sword around. You might have to move crates or manipulate lasers, for instance. Or you might have to descend a vertical shaft, dangling from precarious perches so you can toss stars and disable fuse boxes. Then again, you might have to drag corpses around and pile them in a heap at the base of some high ledges. Nobody's perfect.

Mark of the Ninja Remastered features the visually enhanced entirety of the original Mark of the Ninja, which was already a fairly lengthy adventure, and it bundles that meaty campaign with that an additional stage that originally was available only as DLC. There's also some developer commentary, if that's your thing, which was apparently prepared for the original Special Edition. The added bells and whistles are all well and good. They ensure you're getting the total ninja package, but they doesn't impress me as much as the fact Klei Entertainment managed to put together a satisfying stealth game that doesn't constantly make me wish I were playing something else instead. Even if you share my typical aversion to sneaky-sneak, I suggest you give this one a try sooner rather than later. As long as you're 17 or older, I mean. If you're under that age, forget everything I just wrote.


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (January 06, 2019)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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If you enjoyed this Mark of the Ninja: Remastered review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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Masters posted January 07, 2019:

Good review. I like the line about the fairy. You mention that you might 'go loud' for an entire level but probably your score would reflect that you didn't do things stealthily and you might then retry the level. Does that mean your progress from level-to-level is gated by a certain score threshold?
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EmP posted January 07, 2019:

You can get a big points bonus if you go the entire level without being seen. Or by not killing anyone. Or by killing everyone. The game doesn't stop progression, but the amount of different ways you can get through levels is massive, and the game bends over backwards to reward you for it.

I played the hell out of this back on the 360. Spent hours replaying levels, going on massive killing sprees where I threw the dead bodies of guard's slaughtered colleagues at them to freak them out, or strung them up on lampposts for the world to see. Then I'd dive right back in and see if I could beat it on full stealth. It really is the kind of excellently constructed game that can devour your evening.
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honestgamer posted January 07, 2019:

No, it doesn't mean that. You get skill points you can use on upgrades based on how many score thresholds you pass, but there are enough skill points that you can generously upgrade yourself even if you're missing some markers. Thanks for reading!
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Zydrate posted January 07, 2019:

I should probably get this for my new switch. There's not a lot on the console I'm interested in and I don't really see myself sitting down for an entire session to play it on my PC, but might be a fun game to have while being an introvert at a party, or just out and about.
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honestgamer posted January 07, 2019:

Switch has around 1500 games available for it now, including a lot of the most intriguing games you'll find on other platforms such as PC and PS4, so make sure to dig around a bit before writing the platform off as largely uninteresting. With that said, Mark of the Ninja would be a great addition to most libraries, if you like ninja and action games. It's $19.99, which gives a lot of people pause, but I think worth the price of admittance!
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hastypixels posted January 18, 2019:

I'll admit that Mark of the Ninja isn't my cup of tea, but your review was quite entertaining. "Forget what I just wrote" ... yeah, ratings. The label's on there... to be sure...

@Zydrate: Yes the Switch lacks long form Triple A's, but I'm confident the console's library will catch your interest. Look how quickly the defenders jumped out, huh?

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