Review: Dragon Marked for Death (Switch)

Another fascinating and innovative game from Inti Creates!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 05/01/2019 10:45 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Wonderful presentation; interesting narrative; unique multiplayer experience where the different character classes really mesh well together; visceral combat
Poison Mushroom for...
Single-player seems to have been given less attention than multiplayer; playing along can become very difficult without access to the abilities of the other character classes

Inti Creates is a name that many a Nintendo fan knows and adores. The studio has been producing some of the highest quality games and series on Nintendo platforms for years now. Mega Man Zero. Azure Striker Gunvolt. Blaster Master Zero. Mighty No.9. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon. It’s a long and impressive list that continues to grow with each new release. Dragon Marked for Death is the latest impressive game from Inti Creates, mixing action-RPG combat with the studio’s usual stunning production values. While there are a couple of flaws that hold the experience back a bit, Dragon Marked for Death is a bold multiplayer-focused adventure that any Switch owner should be excited to play.

From a narrative standpoint, Dragon Marked for Death does a lot to differentiate itself from previous Inti Creates games. Storytelling is very much a part of what Inti Creates does best as a developer (just look at the wealth of narrative in the Mega Man Zero series, for instance, or Gunvolt), but in Dragon Marked for Death there’s a darker tone than is typical from the studio. The issue of xenophobia is especially prevalent, embodied by the feud between the Dragonblood Clan (the heroes) and the Medius Empire (the villains). It’s largely a superficial examination, but the atrocities that are committed by the Medius Empire add an edge to the constant conflict within the game that makes things feel more personal as the story unfolds.

As a gameplay experience, Dragon Marked for Death is a polished 2D action-platformer. There are four classes from which the player can choose: Warrior, Empress, Shinobi, and Witch. Interestingly, there are two ways to purchase Dragon Marked for Death if you opt for the digital version of the game. The Frontline Fighters edition contains the Warrior and Empress classes while the Advanced Attackers package contains the Shinobi and Witch classes. It’s not entirely clear why Inti Creates opted to go this route other than to entice players with an appealing $14.99 price tag for each bundle. While it sounds good on paper, ultimately fans are going to want to have access to all four classes simultaneously.

It’s entirely possible to play Dragon Marked for Death solo, but it becomes rapidly evident that the game is meant to be enjoyed in multiplayer. The reason for this is that each character class operates at maximum when joined with at least one other type. Warrior and Empress classes provide basic melee attacks that are best suited for average and newer players, while the Shinobi and Witch classes offer more complex and nuanced attacks and handling. If anyone does opt for buying a single bundle, keep in mind that the names of each aren’t window dressing, but rather actual accurate indicators of the content within. Frontline gets players right in the face of the enemy while Advanced Attackers is a much more complex and indirect way of fighting. One last word on buying options: if you elect to spring for the physical edition at $49.99, you get all character classes, all DLC, and a special Striker Gear pack loaded with level 10 goodies. It’s arguably the best purchasing option and offers the most complete experience, and it’s available in stores now.

One might expect this to be a single-player friendly affair, but in reality, that mode seems to have been a second thought in the minds of the design team. It might sound disheartening to hear that the game is best in multiplayer, but this aspect of Dragon Marked for Death proves to be its greatest selling point. It’s easy for other players to drop in and out, and the interplay between each class of character is sublime. Dragon Marked for Death does an exceptional job of allowing players to approach it from a myriad of different gameplay styles. The Witch class, for instance, is arguably the most complicated to learn with her various magical spells and their accompanying control inputs to memorize. Yet, for those willing to invest the time, the reward for mastering the Witch is a character rich with diverse attacks and who feels delightfully powerful.

At the same time, though, it’s not like single-player is impossible. The same fun, satisfying combat is present, alongside the gorgeous pixel art. Any of the four classes can be selected when playing solo, as well. The problem is that it can feel limited being restricted to a single class when there are challenges that almost demand a second class type as backup. Despite this drawback, however, there is a great deal of empowerment and pleasure to be derived from overcoming obstacles that are easier with a second player in tow. I largely played Dragon Marked for Death alone and was quite happy to grind out victories without leaning on anyone else. Still, most players are likely going to want to try and bring in a friend to get through Dragon Marked for Death.

I touched on this a moment ago, but not enough praise can be lavished on how great Dragon Marked for Death looks. Inti Creates has some of the cleverest designers in their employ; the creativity on display here is a real treat to behold. For instance, the different character classes all have a point on their bodies that’s part dragon. This lends the characters a truly primal ferocity that makes watching them deliver streams of attacks against foes feel very satisfying. All of the sprite work is intricate, bold, and electric. Lately, there has been a lot of focus in the game development community on recreating the days of 8-bit video games, but the more advanced pixel graphics of Super Nintendo and beyond are ripe for the sort of continued exploration and innovation that studios like Inti Creates are renowned for. Dragon Marked for Death is gorgeous.

While there might be some relative shortcomings in its single-player mode, Dragon Marked for Death more than makes up for them with its exciting and creative co-op multiplayer design. Players can hop in instantaneously and help the Dragonblood Clan level up and take on its enemies. There are multiple different versions of the game to get, but ultimately fans are best off buying either the physical edition or both digital bundles in order to get the full, proper experience. It’s tough playing solo, but the multiplayer is so well done that it compensates for this one area of weakness. Definitely keep Dragon Marked for Death on your radar if you’d like a game to play with friends that’s outside the norm.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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